One time, when I was in high school, I caught a really bad cold and my voice got all deep and raspy. Some random guy in my social studies class told me I sounded sexy and I was actually flattered, despite feeling miserable.
Now, there’s no denying that Janis Joplin had a sexy, raspy voice, but I’m no Janis Joplin. I don’t spend my evenings smoking and belting out tunes. This fractured voice was not my own.
What he was telling me was that he found this broken, strange version of myself better than my real self. He was also saying that he was not concerned about me as a person, but only how I could be of service to him. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand that and I thought, “This is not the real me, but I will take the compliment.” I even wondered if it was possible to keep this new, illness-induced tone.
But now, as a grown woman, I say to him, “I am not here for you. I reject your false admiration, your misogynism masquerading as a compliment. I will not live damaged for your benefit.”