On learning to live with (and love) yourself
Not everyone is brave enough to uncover her fragile self to the world. Luckily, there are some who do it for those who never dared. And yes, at some point, they put words in your mouth pretty well. Sometimes, you feel like being kindred spirits with a stranger simply by sharing similar experiences. I’m glad to have stumbled upon this.
Some time last week, Kathy Gener posted a link to an article on The Cut that hit home — not just for me, but apparently also for a whole bunch of female friends on my Facebook timeline who read through it and commented on it. It was a question sent in to Ask Polly (Heather Havrilesky), who gives thorough, sensible, snarky, no-bullshit advice. Someone wrote in to ask: "Why don’t the men I date ever truly love me?" and while I have not dated enough for this to be a recurring problem (I was in two long-term relationships; I’m pretty damn sure they loved me), parts of her response to the question really stood out:
A lot of women out there are afraid of being something. The template for us is pretty clear: We are meant to have clean skin, a pleasant demeanor, and a nice rack. I’m not speaking up against nice racks, Lord knows. But there are lots of ladies around me, everywhere I go, who hesitate to say what they’re thinking and feeling. They go with the flow, they never make waves. And eventually, they don’t even seem to know what makes them who they are. They live to serve. They read the books that other people are reading. They say the pleasant things that other people are saying. They never put their needs first, unless it indirectly serves someone else — a manicure, some highlights. They make sure everyone around them is 100 percent satisfied. Like grocery-store managers. Like customer service reps. Like masseuses who also give free happy endings.I used to date men who were obsessed with their creative projects. After a while, I realized that I didn’t want THEM. I wanted to BE them. I thought being close to that energy might be enough. I thought that being loved by someone who was willing to give himself completely to the creative process was enough. I met a musician once who was consumed by his creations. I put him on a pedestal. I had so much crazy lust for him, it was almost stupid. But it wasn’t him — I hardly knew him — it was his focus, his total involvement and belief in what he did, that made me crazy. I wanted to have that kind of passion for myself.
Oh my God, this is me in a nutshell. I think that, over the years, I’ve grown so afraid that people won’t like me for me that I’ve essentially forgotten huge parts of who I am. I want so much to be liked that I have kind of buried the bits of myself that I don’t really like because I don’t want anyone else to see them.
I know deep down that I am headstrong and demanding, that I’m earnest and enthusiastic and probably a little too innocent for my age, that I wear my heart on my sleeve, that I’m still a dreamer, and that I know what I want (and more importantly, know what I deserve). But in the recent past I’ve been afraid to make that known because I’m scared to come on too strong, scared to scare people off. In many ways, I’m capable of being a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, but I forced myself to be in ways I wasn’t entirely sure about because I thought that was what people wanted. And I realize that was the completely wrong way to go about life. I don’t think I could have kept up that façade for very long. I wasn’t being entirely myself, and that wasn’t fair to me or to the people I was pretending with.
And I must confess that I have probably dated more musicians than I should have because my lack of a creative and emotional outlet has always been my frustration. "I thought being close to that energy might be enough" is so true, but the thing is, it wasn’t enough. I need to find my own passion and pursue it instead of latching on to someone else’s. In my head, I keep complaining about always being on the sidelines of my own life; the outside looking in, watching things happen to other people. I can’t keep waiting with my fingers crossed that it will finally be my turn.
I’ve had a few deep and drunken conversations with Kathy about life and love. We’re not particularly close, but I always seem to be more than a little inebriated when I see her at gigs or at Future, and she knows a little about what I’ve been through and understands almost completely what I continue to go through, so she sent me links to previous Ask Polly answers on The Awl. And I read them all, and they were all great, but there was a particular one that really hit me like a sledgehammer to the face.
Ready to move
I am ready to move forward. Countdown to Sept 10 begins. There’s no turning back.