Illustration by Ryan Alexander-Tanner

I WAS A CHUBBY, loud, exuberant, burgeoning bon vivant of a child. I charmed adults with trivial trivia. I delighted classmates with witty well-timed observations in the middle of a third-grade lecture on the Iditarod. My teachers gushed to my smiling parents, my parents gushed to my smiling aunts, my aunts gushed to their smiling neighbors... those neighbors probably kept that shit to themselves. I was WEALTHY with grade-school currency, cousin, WEALTHY with it.

Then, middle school happened, and that currency was worthless: I wasn't chubby; I was fat. I wasn't witty; I was obnoxious. My Jeopardy prowess didn't make me interesting; it made me a nerd. Nobody gushed to anybody.

The system wasn't about impressing adults anymore. The system was about impressing your peers—really—it was about trying to sleep with your peers. In middle school the slow march toward FUCKING begins in earnest. That was not a pursuit in which I had the privilege of advantage. Nobody wanted to sleep with me then or through high school, and I couldn't blame them—but the isolation felt real. You are being personally oppressed by a system that rewards... I don't know, abs? Scented body spray access? Whatever it was, I didn't have it.

It hurt SO FUCKING BAD. I pined for girls and settled for being their friend, which was still wonderful, but even that friendship crashed into me with the full weight of my inadequacies behind it. It felt terrible knowing there was something fundamentally wrong with me, something that made me the person who the girls complained to... not who they complained about. It's a cruel trick—your world is so small at that point in your life, but your experiences are so massively formative. I felt marginalized. I felt oppressed. I was a white dude with two working parents.

When you're an incredibly privileged white dude, there isn't a lot you're supposed to say about issues that affect the people you're oppressing with your very existence. There are forces within you, beyond your control, that seek to perpetuate that oppression. Even a dubious response is a luxury that a person of color, a woman, someone from the LGBTQ community extends... and they don't owe you even that; hostility is a more logical response. This isn't me kneeling before the throne of political correctness or even reciting a codex of phrases that allow me to pass safely through the realm of "social justice"—this is simply me stating what I perceive to be true.

I also know this to be true: Once upon a time I was someone saying "not all men." I was someone who was hurt by being "friend-zoned." I was a low-key version of some of these assholes who protest all-female comedy festivals and rally on about "Gamergate" online. I was lucky enough to encounter a few wonderful women who educated me with EMPATHY. It can be hard to hear that you're part of an oppressive system when all you've done that day is eat breakfast and go to a shitty job. It's true, but it's hard to hear.

Be angry, be righteous—every movement needs Malcolm and Martin—but if there's ANYTHING I can say to help move things forward, just remember that these assholes on the internet are wrong... but underneath it all they are hurt, damaged humans, just like the rest of us. Sometimes it's worth it to appeal to that human. @IanKarmel