Naive, Scammed, Abused

Warning! Really long, rambly post ahead!

I mentioned Brittani Louise Taylor in two previous posts from 2012, which was about 800 years ago in blogging and social media years. She still remains one of my favorite YouTube personas because of her unflagging optimism.

For a few years, I took a break from YouTube but recently Googled the names of all the old personas I used to watch just to get caught back up. Kind of like stalking checking in on old friends.

A lot had happened to Brittani in the time I had ceased to watch YouTube. She got engaged, got pregnant, had the baby… But then her fiance Milos mysteriously disappeared from her videos. Brittani’s YouTube audience then waited about a year for her to reveal any information about the breakup, and she finally told the whole story in her book, A Sucky Love Story, which was published in December 2018. Because she wrote a book, one would think that this had been way more noteworthy than the typical breakup.

Indeed it was.

Turns out that Milos had lied about almost everything. He was already married, not actually a doctor, faking cancer, addicted to pornography, and quite possibly part of the Serbian mafia! He even scammed Brittani out of a lot of her money because he never actually worked at all, and she feared that he would kidnap her son and take him to Serbia, and she would never see him again. Almost sounds made up, right? Possibly a ploy to gain money via book sales and YouTube views? If the latter, it’s probably justified to some degree because she’d certainly want to regain some money after getting scammed.

This post is not a review of the book per se, but a cautionary tale about a cautionary tale. Brittani stated in a video that her primary goal in writing the book was to raise awareness of abuse and try to help others who are in similar situations—a noble cause. In reading reviews of the book, I somehow stumbled across a gossip forum whose members were saying that what Brittani experienced was not really abuse because almost no physical abuse happened (aside from a bent pinky finger).

That made my blood boil. Abuse is abuse. Emotional abuse is one of the most insidious kinds because it’s not immediately obvious that it’s happening. Before you know it, you end up ensnared in the web of a person who uses you and doesn’t care at all about your happiness or needs. This person proceeds to cut you down and make your life a living hell, while you are so intimidated that finding a way out of the situation can seem nearly impossible.

The members of the gossip forum even blamed Brittani for staying with Milos for so long and accused her of staying with him because (1) he looked good and (2) he supposedly had tons of money. Kind of a low blow to lay the blame on a victim of abuse. Maybe those factors were reasons she was initially attracted to him, but no one can help the reasons they are attracted to someone. Over time, the worse the abuse gets, no amount of justification and your original reasons for starting a relationship with someone cease to matter at all.

In a past relationship, I was in an emotionally abusive situation, and that’s why I sympathize so much with Brittani’s story. You do hesitate to call what you have experienced “abuse” because you are not being physically hurt, but it is abuse all the same. You wake up one day and realize that you’re not the same as you were before, and the reason is that the person you are with—someone who supposedly loves you—has brainwashed you into believing that you are unworthy.

You do a lot of backtracking and looking into the past, trying to figure out if it was your fault for winding up in such a situation. You wonder what will happen if you try to escape. You might make a plan for such an escape, and the plan may fall through, or you may actually go through with it. When you do break free, it is like an immense weight being lifted from your shoulders, and the full realization of what happened to you—to your mind, your emotions, and your self-worth—hits you. You can have your life back again. But you blame yourself. You feel the need to tell everyone you know about what happened, just so they understand why you have been so different. You feel the need to justify your relationship with the abusive person. “I was stupid.” or “He tricked me.” or “He wasn’t who I thought he was.”

To make a long post even longer, I was “triggered” (I hate using the word, but it’s the only one that fits.) by listening to Brittani’s story, and I was “triggered” again by the gossip forum. Even if the details of a relationship and its demise are laid out in a book, you can never accurately judge a relationship unless you are one of the two people in it.

However, judging solely from what the book says, it seems to me that Brittani wanted love over all (and who doesn’t?). She was tired of working and making a life but not having anyone to share it with. She turned to the Internet to find someone because it is incredibly difficult to meet a person “organically” in real life these days, especially if you’re an introvert or are very busy. She found someone who checked all the boxes and treated her right. Everything seemed to be moving along fine… until it gradually became undeniable that she had to get out.

In the book, Brittani acknowledges that hindsight is 20/20. There are always red flags. You may dimly recognize them when they present themselves, and you’ll probably hear that little voice in the back of your head warning you, but you dismiss all the warnings because you just want to be loved, damn it. You set your sights on a person, you tell yourself that you will weather every storm, you will make whatever sacrifice you have to, and you will change yourself to become “better” or “perfect” for this person. But they will not do the same for you.

I find that it is pretty much useless to tell someone to watch for warning signs and red flags because a person may recognize them as such but dismiss them anyway. (“But I love him!” or “He will change someday.”) Escape strategies are probably the better thing to teach teenage girls or anyone who is in a new relationship. Always Google a person and do whatever you can to find out if they are who they say they are. Do a background check and don’t feel guilty about doing it. You’re looking out for your own safety. Internet dating is not to blame.* You can just as easily meet a creep in real life.

By her own account, Brittani was naive and didn’t have a great track record with relationships in the past. Her naive, bubbly, sweet personality portrayed an innocence that was very easily taken advantage of. It is sad that innocence, a good quality, is almost a negative quality in the dating world. You don’t want to be too innocent, but you don’t want to assume the worst of a person either. It is a fine line to tread.

The bottom line… learn how to escape from a relationship with a toxic person. Once you have a plan, enact it as soon as possible. Do. Not. Feel. Guilty. For. Getting. Out.

Turning back to the content of the book itself, I found it to be an easy read (because of the writing style, not the subject matter). Brittani’s sunshiny persona is obvious throughout the book and even on the front cover. The members of the gossip forum had issues with that, too (“How can an abuse victim be so happy?), and all I can say about that is… it is probably just her schtick as a YouTube personality. If she were to write a dark, dismal tale, it wouldn’t fit with the rest of her content, so she attempted to find humor in the situation. And once you are out of such a situation, you actually can see the humor, if there was any there at all. It certainly doesn’t mean that abuse is a laughing matter, just that a tale can be told from any number of perspectives. If Brittani wanted to cast it in a darker light, she definitely could have.

*But I may be biased toward the good side of Internet dating because if not for the Internet, I would never have met my husband. I mean, come on… how are two socially awkward nerds supposed to meet in real life?

Joyful, Odd Course of Events

The reason I’ve been MIA lately is because my son was born on January 5, which was two weeks before his due date. I’m actually glad he arrived early because he weighed 7 pounds and 14 ounces at birth and was 21.5 inches long. Had he waited till his due date, he most likely would have been 9 pounds or more… and I don’t think my body could’ve handled it. I’m not sharing his name here for privacy reasons, but everyone says it’s a nice manly name. 🙂

They say labor pain is the worst pain ever. Now that I have actually given birth, I am allowed to have an opinion on that, but I don’t know if I agree. It was a pretty awful pain, but it is an “organized” pain, if that makes sense. The simple fact that the pain had a purpose made it easier to get through. The weirdest part about it was sleeping between contractions and actually having dreams.

They also say that a child is a source of joy. My child was born with a disease of the intestine that was not foreseen before birth, so we were in and out of the hospital for all of January until today. To make a very long story short, the baby needs to have a colostomy bag until he is 6 months old, at which point he’ll have surgery to fix his large intestine. After that, he will be like any other kid. All of this did not diminish my joy in the knowledge that my son is actually here, that he exists, and that he is a charming little soul. But hospital stays are depressing even without the postpartum hormones, so I can’t say that the entire experience was joyful.

So that was the past month in a nutshell. What an odd course of events. If I were to imagine in 2009 what my life would look like in 2019, I certainly wouldn’t have imagined it like this (in a good way).

Too Much Stuff

The area where I live is constantly under construction because it’s highly sought after. We still have relatively low taxes and house prices compared to a lot of other up-and-coming American cities.

Most of the time, construction is annoying, ugly, and loud. Sometimes it’s exciting, like when a store comes in that I will actually go to. But lately, it seems like giant storage units keep getting built. The nice ones where you can keep your stuff in a climate-controlled environment, like Ample Storage or CubeSmart.

I understand the point of storage units as a temporary solution when you are moving or dealing with the possessions of a relative who passed away. However, on the whole, I have always hated storage units because to me, they mean that you have too much stuff and instead of paying to store it when you most likely won’t look at it again, you really should sell it or donate it or throw it away.

One of the few TV shows I like is Storage Wars, in which a group of crazy people bid on abandoned storage units in the hopes that they will find treasure that they can sell and make a higher profit than the other crazy people who also bid on storage units.

Although it is a lot of fun to watch these crazy people find cool and rare stuff in the storage units, the show also makes me depressed because the original owners of the storage units had so much stuff that they actually had to pay to keep it somewhere. Much of it is mundane, like clothes and sports equipment and children’s toys—stuff that probably could have been gotten rid of rather than confined to a storage unit.

Storage units also remind me of my grandma, who put a lot of her stuff in storage because the places she lived didn’t have space for it. I remember the depressing times that were spent going to the storage unit (not one of the high-end ones) and sorting through all of her things, which were mostly costume jewelry and clothes that had gone out of fashion a long time ago.

My grandma was born before the Great Depression hit, and because she was a child of that era, she probably wanted to keep everything in case something happened to the stock market again. But as she got older, the stuff presented a burden. It exhausted her (and probably made her feel sad) to go through it and relive the memories attached to it.

Being there as my grandma went through her things made me resolve to never acquire so many items that I would have to store them outside of my house. I don’t often buy “things” for me or “decorations” for my home because when I walk into a retail store, I imagine most of the stuff in there 10 or 20 years from now, sitting in someone’s garage or storage unit, abandoned and forgotten.

Also, I don’t see the point of buying new household items and decorations when I am set to inherit much of my mother’s (and probably mother-in-law’s) things when they eventually downsize. My mother always reminds me, “You’ll have all this stuff when I’m dead.” I keep remembering my grandma sitting amid her pile of stuff at the storage unit, exhausted and depressed, and honestly, I just feel bad.

As the old saying goes, “The more you own, the more it owns you.” “Stuff” can enhance your life, but I feel like most of the time, we would do well to think twice about what we buy and whether we really need it, or if it will just end up sitting abandoned in a storage unit or garage for many years.