Have you ever seen the 1944 thriller Gaslight? Charles Boyer is trying to drive Ingrid Bergman crazy. More accurately, he is trying to make her believe she’s crazy. He needs her carted off to an asylum and out of the way so that he can find and steal the cache of jewels that belonged to Ingrid Bergman’s murdered aunt. (And guess who killed Aunt Alice?)
How does he make her believe she’s crazy? He denies she saw the things she knows she saw. He denies she heard the things she knows she heard. He tells her it’s her nerves. He tells her she’s overwrought because of the tragic death of her beloved aunt. He tells her that her imagination is playing tricks on her. (What? You can’t remember removing that picture from the wall? No, there isn’t anybody walking around upstairs in the locked-up-tight attic. And, no, the gaslights are most certainly not flickering from bright to dim and back to bright.) When the man whom she loves and trusts repeatedly denies that she has seen or heard what she actually has seen or heard, Ingrid Bergman begins to doubt her own senses. When the man whom she loves and trusts repeatedly tells her that she’s crazy, Ingrid Bergman begins to believe that she is crazy.
Gaslight Theater Trailer
Charles Boyer was doing nothing new. Since the first woman complained to the first man about leaving his bear skins littered around the cave, one of the most popular ways that men fail to accept responsibility for their actions is to call their women crazy when those women call them out. It’s a nasty variant of kill-the-messenger. You know what that is: instead of addressing the poor choice that I’ve made, I instead lash out at the person who’s accusing me of that bad choice. Men do it so often that–with due credit to Charles Boyer–it now has a special verb: “gaslighting”.
Guys, if you want a happy Valentine’s Day, you won’t “gaslight” that woman you adore. You won’t disrespect her by hijacking a discussion about your poor choice and turning it into a debate about the deficiencies in her mental, hormonal and sexual well-being. Man up. Avoid saying any of these ten things. But if you do, don’t be surprised if you’re met with one of these ten tart-tongued replies.*
- You’re crazy.
Well, sometimes the right path seems crazy to someone who’s crazy himself.
- Calm down.
It’s hard to calm down when you give me so many reasons to be angry.
- Did you start your period today?
No, but now that you mention it, did you know that Sheldon Cooper says males progress through a 33 day hormonal cycle similar to females?
- You’re such a witch.
Witch is the only reasonable response to jerk.
- You’re hysterical.
Yes, I have a great sense of humor.
- You’re not thinking rationally.
It’s nearly impossible to respond in a rational manner to illogical behavior.
- Are you feeling OK?
No, I have a pain in the butt that’s been giving me a lot of trouble lately.
- You’re such a drama queen!
Speaking of drama, have you ever seen that murder thriller Double Indemnity?
- You just need some time in the bedroom getting wild.
I sure do, but I’m having trouble finding someone who has those kind of skills.
- I’m outta here. I’ll be back when you’re thinking more clearly.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
.*My thanks go out to a good friend for her help. She had way too much fun coming up with the ten tart replies to the ten gaslight comments.