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?

Upon Re-Reading the Harry Potter Series

Not too long ago, my husband was going through the remainder of his possessions that were left in his parents’ attic and found the entire Harry Potter series, so he brought them home and I started reading them.

I absolutely loved the series when it first came out and obsessively read the first four books over and over (I didn’t own the last three) until I practically had them memorized. But when I went to college, I was finished with the series and didn’t pay any more attention to it beyond watching the movies (and I hardly remember the movies).

So these are my main impressions after not having read the Harry Potter books for a number of years:

(1) It’s a great story. The plot is well done, and I have always liked how things that don’t seem to have much significance suddenly become significant later on. J.K. Rowling is a master at “planting” items or people in the plot.

(2) It’s still impossible to put down. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I plowed through the books as though I had never read them before. In a way, this is almost annoying because you want to keep reading so badly that it’s hard to take a step back and savor the books. I suppose that’s why they get read multiple times.

(3) I don’t know why the haters say the series is poorly written or bad. Yes, J.K. Rowling does have some annoying quirks to her writing (using em dashes and ellipses too much is one that comes to mind), but what author doesn’t? I stand by my statement of some years ago that Harry Potter is not “literature” per se, but it is a good, classic story. Just because something’s not “literature” doesn’t mean it’s trash. Everything has a purpose.

Maybe after this, I should re-read the Chronicles of Narnia series (another that I dearly loved) and see if it’s held up well over the years. I already tried getting back into the Dragonriders of Pern series a while back and found that it had no appeal to me whatsoever (and I was absolutely obsessed with those books in middle and high school).

Thursday Three #43

  1. My thought on the Kavanaugh affair (well, on sexual assault in general): I honestly feel like some women are crying wolf for various reasons. It seems like something accidental or even looking at a woman the wrong way is now considered sexual assault if it is a painted a certain way. If that is really the case, then high school was one long, drawn-out assault, and practically every high school boy is an assailant. True, drawing the line is difficult, especially when it’s one person’s word against another’s, but the definition of “sexual assault” unfortunately tends to be flexible.
  2. Parenting books. Usually, if I tell someone I’m reading a parenting book, they start laughing because there is apparently nothing about parenting that can be learned from a book. But I find them useful because they seem to give at least an idea of what to expect, even though all the ones I’ve flipped through come with the caveat that “every child is unique. Don’t freak out if he or she doesn’t meet each milestone exactly on time.” OK. Easier said than done, I guess.
  3. Everybody needs to read We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. I’ve read a lot of “realistic fiction,” but this book is by far the most realistic of all the realistic fiction I’ve ever read and one of the better books I have read so far this year. Yes, it is incredibly sad, but it’s sad because everything in it is true. Nothing is sugar coated. The book is pretty long, but it is actually a fairly quick read.