This Is Us

The Price of Male Shame

My own feelings paled in comparison to the men in my life

Maya Novak-Herzog
Human Parts
Published in
10 min readAug 31, 2020

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Photo dated to 7/15/2020 of a window with slightly light pink sky.
All photos by author

The language I have to discuss my experiences feels like a very gender essentialist view of human beings in many ways. Because this is my blog, I do not have language outside of my own experiences to express them otherwise. In no way does this encapsulate the range, depth, and complexity of human experience, particularly in regard to gender.

When I was in the 8th grade, I fell in love with my dad’s friend, Patrick. Patrick was 6’5, 250 pounds, and 42 years old. I was so in love with him. He would come over to the house, and I would perch on my computer in the living room, listening to every word he and my dad would say in the kitchen. Sometimes, if my dad stepped away to the bathroom or took a phone call, he would come say hi to me, ask me what I was doing on the computer, tell me about his daughter. “How old are you?” he would ask me every time. “13,” I would answer. And every time his response was, “I have a daughter your age.” I never met her.

Eventually, Patrick added me on Facebook. I was so giddy when he messaged me. He said hello and, once again, asked me how old I was. 13. We messaged back and forth the entire evening. He asked me about school, my parents, what I wanted to do when I grew up, if I had a boyfriend. I was so worried he would fall asleep or want to end the conversation; I tried my best to entertain him. At 3 a.m., he asked for my phone number. “Can I call you?”

We started to talk every evening on the phone. I wanted to be interesting to him. He wanted to know all about my exploits. “Do you have a boyfriend, Maya? Am I boring you, Maya? Are you a virgin, Maya? What do you like, Maya?” I didn’t have any exploits yet, so I started making them up. Elaborate stories about sneaking out of my house to lie with boys, gruesome accounts of the things I would do to him. Graphic details. I knew everything because I was a voracious reader. I read Cosmo, Go Ask Alice, Gossip Girl. My mom was constantly fretting about why my books had 16+ age ranges when I was 10 years old, but I loved to read, and I wanted to learn. So I would read, and I would recount these stories back to Patrick every night, pretending they were about me. In my stories, I was a ravaging…

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