Entertainment and Current Events

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?

Journal

Turning Points and Comfort Zones

I remember thinking, in the days leading up to high school graduation, that this was it. I would never come back here. My shadow would never darken the halls, my laughter and teenage angst would no longer fill them. I would never again see all of the spaces in the school that brought me comfort or reminded me of bad times. Never again would I run my fingers over the graffiti-covered tables in the vocational building. Never again would I run the track or race around the halls as I so often had. Never again would I stand on the balcony outside the cafeteria and wait for my crush as early morning light filled the courtyard and reflected off the windows of the school buses.

Similarly, I remember days leading up to college graduation, when I was stricken by a similar feeling. The “end of an era” feeling, the one that also contained hints of trepidation as I crossed into the unknown future. Part of me wanted to graduate; by that time, I was sick of writing papers, but at the same time, I knew I would miss it. In fact, I already missed the quiet “reading days” before exams, when I would wake up very early in the morning and go to the lounge above my dormitory (dubbed “the cloister”) just to write. I knew I would never again have that same purity of solitude.

The feeling came back again when I left my first “real-world” job in favor of the “better life” granted by a white collar job. I was there for only nine months, starting in August and ending in May, so it had that same “school year” feel. Hopefully, I would never again work in fast food, but I was grateful for the experience because it taught me more than I had learned in all my years of high school combined. The day after I left that job, I started my new job, where I am today. The world of fast food was so different from the world of office work that I felt like I was starting over again. The useless drama was gone. There was no clatter of pizza cutters and no messy soda spills and no customers threatening to come back with a gun if they didn’t get their discount.

The job is sterile. Everyone is just like me: quiet and reserved. If I pass someone in the hall, they do not regale me with stories of the sexual exploits they had over the weekend. “How are you?” “Good. And you?” “Fine.” And the occasional “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” “Yeah. I went to the art museum.” “Nice.” After working here five years, I have a strange feeling of simultaneous comfort and discomfort. It is my dream job. I sit at a desk all day and correct grammatical errors and meet my deadlines. I’m lucky if I speak to someone once a day. Ninety-five percent of communication is through email. No one reveals much about their life outside of work. Yet everyone is so quiet and calm that sometimes I want to scream and throw things in the air just to watch the chaos unfold that would have gone down at my old job every day.

Anyway, the real reason I write this post is because I am again at a turning point and moving out of my comfort zone. Today I’m getting married, which is still strange to me because I honestly never thought I would get married. But sometimes the person you are meant to be with just appears out of thin air. This is how life goes. This is growing up. This is change. I’m not whining that it will be hard because I know it will be hard. It will be fun and chaotic and quiet and calm and crazy and sad and happy and everything else because that is the nature of it. I have chosen, and I would make the same choice again if given the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am joyful and happy that I finally get to take this step—and I get to take it with my best friend at my side, which makes it that much better. But I am processing the fact that my house is now “my childhood home,” where I will return on occasion but never again lay my head down in. I am processing the fact that I have to do things as a true adult with no real oversight (except by the government, but that can’t be helped—they’re everywhere). But the most important thing to process is that it’s no longer just “me,” it’s “we.” And that will take a lot of getting used to! 🙂

Religion

More Reasons I Give Up Music: Sacrifice and Love

Lent is almost over, and I’ve done what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years or so: giving up music. (I also gave up caffeine, so if any of this post is incoherent, that’s why.) The ultimate goal of this annual Lenten sacrifice is to get myself to the point where I cease to listen to popular music at all. I did pretty well at that for about nine months last year, but the silence got to me, and I had to fill my head with something that wasn’t useless worries. Nature abhors a vacuum, as they say. So the music turned on and my brain turned off.

Anyway, as I’ve said on here before, the point of making small sacrifices for Lent is to train yourself to become more self-disciplined and to get more used to making sacrifices, so that if the opportunity to make a huge sacrifice comes, it will be second nature to be selfless. This may be a profoundly negative outlook on life (or maybe just a product of me reading far too many books about World War II), but I always think about what would happen in a pre-apocalyptic scenario where food and water are scarce and the world as we know it essentially shuts down because of a great war or natural disaster. Would I be able to sacrifice for the people I love (or even the people I dislike or just tolerate), or would I become bitter and angry over the loss of modern conveniences and necessities?

The other, less dramatic reason I give up music is because most popular music is, objectively speaking, garbage. Much of it talks about “love,” but it’s a manufactured, clean, processed, idealistic, happy-go-lucky, purely hormonal infatuation that makes no effort to get through hard times and does not last. Many “love” songs are about the honeymoon phase of a relationship, before reality sets in and both partners become visible for who they actually are. Young people mistakenly believe that infatuation is love and that the type of “love” that is portrayed in music and movies and TV shows is real and lasting.

I, being more sheltered and naïve than most teenagers, used to believe this. That if you loved a person, you would constantly be infatuated with them, that my relationships would never be like the “bland,” “stale,” unsmiling, everyday thing that exists between my parents or my friends’ parents. Music got into my head, and to this day, I believe that I subconsciously absorbed the message that love is superficial.

Now I think that love, more than anything, is perseverance. It’s getting up in the morning and choosing to love your partner. As the cliché goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time and practice. Love involves sacrifice for the greater good of the relationship or for the greater good of the other person. It is hard to sacrifice when you have been single and done things your own way for many years, but one can train oneself in sacrifice. There is hope.