The Wolf Theory
Growing up I was constantly told that “it’s a dog-eat-dog” world. It led to a distorted perception of myself, of society and of myself among society.
There’s an old Latin saying that goes Homo homini lupus est. “A man to a man is a wolf.”
As I’ve grown up I’ve realized that unknowingly I’ve taken this saying as a subconscious belief, distilling the overall message delivered to me in my childhood by my parents.
“People are evil,” “everyone has ulterior motives,” “they will try to use you and then throw you away,” are some of the ideas I internalized as a kid from what my mom used to say to us. Everything was a battle, and we were constantly being judged, used, cheated, and manipulated. Every moment was the moment before catastrophe and the loss of everything.
Homo homini lupus est didn’t come from nothing, apparently. This theory has a long history that goes back hundreds, maybe thousands of years, to the time in evolution that men hunted and protected territory to stay alive. As in most of the animal kingdom today, ‘sharing’ was not a thing, and men hunted for themselves (and their children). Competing over food in the struggle to survive, the more superior hunter-gatherers ended up feeding themselves and their families, leaving the weak and the old behind to die of starvation. There is fossil evidence of people who died from open wounds after they were literally stabbed in the back while hunting. Rivalry was real – think Real Housewives, only less somewhat violent!
When I was old enough to leave my parents’ home, I took Homo homini lupus est with me. It left me lonely, secluded. I’d say it was “us vs. the world,” but it was really “me vs. the world.” I had no trust in people, and from the tiny little incidents like a cashier who took her break just when I was the next in line, to bigger things like a friend who simply disappeared from my life – for me it was all the same: I have to struggle to be seen, I have to struggle to achieve justice for myself, I have to struggle to be… just a regular, decent person. And I have to do it alone. And, as I looked around, it seemed to me that meant something was terribly wrong with me.
I remember myself pondering, even as a small child, the idea of how I see myself vs. how I’m seen by others (as an aside, these days it feels as if nothing exacerbates that feeling for the world more than Instagram and its siblings). To be honest, after millenia of therapy and life’s experiences I’m still not sure I understand how I’m seen by others. When I get the nerve to ask people directly, I don’t trust that I’m hearing the truth. But I know that for years and years I’ve been feeling small, ugly, uneducated and unworthy. Just like the weak and the old in caveman days, I’ve felt that my inferiority leaves me behind, and that I am in a struggle to survive. My biggest fear, to this day, is being homeless, friendless and helpless. It’s like I’m constantly in a power play and I’m losing. Perhaps if I’m more aggressive, more manipulative, more wary, I think. Some of my inferiority came from my shame in who I am: not good looking enough, not funny enough, not bold enough. I was living the Wolf Theory even though I was not competing in a hunt and frankly I wasn’t completely sure that my perception of who I am was right anymore.
Here’s a bumper sticker for you: When you assume something, you look for facts to back it up – real or perceived. You’ll find a way to make your assumptions a reality.
Party of One
On New Year’s Eve I was in Tel Aviv without Alex and the boys and I went to an old friend’s New Year’s Eve party. When I got there, I quickly realized that it was a bunch of gay friends who know each other, sitting in circles, smoking and chatting among themselves. Despite me being very shy and full of social insecurities I made a few efforts to start conversations, but it didn’t go so well and I ended up sitting there by myself. I felt like I didn’t belong.
Shortly after midnight I decided to end my suffering on a high note (of unpleasantness?), which was telling the host, my only friend there who was so busy being the host, that I was leaving.
“You can’t find yourself here, huh?!” he said, and inside I thought “OMG, my awkwardness was actually seen from the outside.” But as I made my way home in the rainy night, I started to think about the gap between the storm of shame and inferiority that was inside me and what was seen on the outside: perhaps my shyness and lack of mingling was interpreted as snobbishness? Both have similar physical traits. Perhaps some of them knew about me living in Los Angeles or saw me on social media and thought that I’m the one who was too fabulous? (the ‘big lie’ of Instagram), or maybe… I was just a regular (perhaps cute) gay that they were shy themselves about opening up to.
This issue of perception, how I see me, how I see the world and how the world sees me, stores within itself the biggest obstacles we human have to face: shame, judgement, the need to belong and the need to be loved. We are not hunters anymore running after beasts with spears (the only spears we use are Britney). We are social creatures who look for security, joy, comfort, and the freedom to be who we are. And it seems like the only way to get what we want to go is to keep talking and facing our obstacles until they don’t threaten us anymore.
And maybe it wouldn’t hurt if I were to share some of the meat I kill with others, proving my parents were wrong about how much humans have evolved.