Appearances can be deceiving.
When a man comes over to talk to me, I can't always speak my mind. What I want to say is often not what someone else wants to hear, and I learned early in life that men who don't hear what they want to hear often get angry. Maybe that anger will manifest as a low grade displeasure, but maybe it will escalate to speaking loudly against me in attempts to humiliate or hurt me. Maybe it will end with him badgering me about it until I change my mind, possibly even chasing me around right then and there.
In attempts to avoid unwarranted verbal attacks and ensure my safety, I don't usually speak my mind with men I'm not very close to - I de-escalate. I laugh at his inappropriate statements towards me. I choose not to give constructive criticism when something is already just good enough. I don't defend myself when I'm right.
Especially when he's new to my life because I haven't seen how he reacts when other people, particularly women, say something he doesn't like. Especially when there is no other way to work on something I believe is very important than to work with him. Especially when he's in a position of power relative to me because I can't predict how it will affect a dynamic I have no choice but to put up with.
And most of the time, I don't even notice that I'm doing it, but it always feels terrible.
I can't make a big deal out of it though, probably not even to you - what if he hears about it? He'll come back upset, maybe even more upset than if I spoke up in the first place.
I probably don't tell you.
So you see him sitting down next to me at events, and I don't put up a fuss because I don't want to disrupt what's happening around me. You see him make a joke about me, and we look friendly because I let out a reluctant laugh. You see him coming to chat with me when we're all leaving something, and I weakly smile because I know listening to what he has to say will make it easier for me to leave and get to any of those million other places I'd rather be. You see me doing something for him because it takes less time and emotional energy to do it than convince him it's okay for me not to.
You think we're friends.
I'll panic when I run into him next, and I'll probably de-escalate the situation again. Your narrative about how we get along will get another story. My world will get a little smaller because you won't believe me when I say there's a problem.