All my single ladies (and, hell, even not single ladies--maybe not even only ladies?), put your hands up. Mangled four-year-old Beyonce reference FTW!
I'm sure that I've plugged The Hairpin plenty of times in my life but not enough (what's a girl gotta do to get you guys to beg me to write for you, already? I suppose I could start by reading about their submission policy but I'd prefer personal solicitation on their part. I mean, really.). I take this opportunity, now, to share with you a Q but most specifically the A from this week's edition of Ask A Lady. Even if the question doesn't have universal appeal--I have such a crush on the rightness of this answer. A Lady is a smart lady. What I mean by that is that I've been saying this for years. But without the references to vagazzling and Alan.
I'm 25 years old and have a great job, great friends, and a great relationship with my family. I live in my favorite neighborhood in my favorite city in the world. I have a lot of hobbies and interests and I've finally learned to enjoy working out. I have a good life, is what I'm saying.
The problem is that after a painful breakup in the spring (and even a little before then), I've realized that I'm deeply insecure when it comes to men. This leads me to make terrible decisions, like pre-emptively rejecting guys I actually really like because I'm so scared they'll reject me, or dating guys I don't really like for way too long because any male attention is better than none. I can't act normally around men — I feel sometimes like a dog begging for scraps. I guess at heart I'm terrified of ending up alone, even though, as a feminist, I'm quick to say that being single is not the most horrible thing that can happen to a woman (and I believe that! Just not for myself).
So, I decided that I wouldn't date anyone until I could work that out and 1) become truly happy with my single existence, and 2) learn to see men as human beings and not as the owners of my self-worth. Unsurprisingly, it's a lot easier said than done. As a small example, a man at work is starting to show interest in me, and even though I know he isn't right for me, I'm finding it hard to discourage him.
Do you have any tips? How do I do this hard work?
Dudes! Can't live with them, can't kill yourself because then how would you meet dudes?
How you become happy with your single existence: Go to the spinster tent — you know, the purple and gold one on the lushest hillside, appointed with tapestries and rugs lovingly woven by generations of our foremothers — and spend your days gardening and reading poetry, and then dance joyously into the night to the sound of a thousand timbrels.
No, screw timbrels. Screw destructive Eat, Pray, Love vagazzlery. You can’t catch happy, even in India, and you can’t hide from sad. Happy is a feeling, not a status. It arrives more often and lingers longer when you aren't afraid of it leaving (a lot like dudes, go figure). Everyone, seriously, stop sweating happy. Let’s try “dealing.” Why do you have to be truly happy being single? Being single can really fucking suck sometimes. (Everything can, differently! Being alive: No one’s gotten it right yet.) Feel lonely! Dislike that feeling! Crave even imperfect romantic attachment!
But do — do — find a way to take it a little easier on yourself? If someone told a friend of yours she was like “a dog begging for scraps,” you would say that person was. . . a jerk? A bad, bad jerk. There’s a bad, bad jerk in the corner of your head, and you have to find a way to leave the room when she starts to run her mouth. Worst case scenario, you are a genuinely rotten and pathetic person (you are not. Pretty much everyone is just normal). OK. Well, you still have to haul your rotten, pathetic self through space and time somehow, and dwelling about how much you suck isn’t going to help you do it. PS, I have a jerk in my head too! He mostly bothers me about work-related stuff, and his name is Alan. I literally sit around my office telling an imaginary person named Alan to stuff it. And I’m not that good at my work right now! But fuck if I’m gonna let Alan get nasty with me about it — what has HE done lately? Stuff it, jerks!
Oh but the jerks in our head! Rivaled only by the jerks in the real world. Yes. The glazed eyes of people who want (or, god, worse, DON'T WANT) to fuck us are a warped mirror. You'll either grow out of the obsessive primping before it or become a Real Housewife, but who wants to wait to grow? What can we do NOW NOW NOW to care less about whether boys think we are pretty or not? Normally my advice would be "I dunno, just try to have ugly friends so you are always the pretty one?" but you said something smart that I want to come back to: that you want to "learn to see men as human beings."
That's why I wonder if your "no dates until I transcend" policy is the right one. If it sounded like you were getting involved in totally off-the-grid self-damaging stuff, maybe, but you sound pretty normal-crazy, and even if you didn't do anything I think you'd hit the standard giving-less-of-a-fuck milestones which occur in ages divisible by 6 or 9. In the meantime, though. . . men ARE human beings, pretty typical ones, mostly, and I've found hanging around them is a good way to get a sense of that. Why do you have to discourage this dude who seems into you at work? Why can't you just relax into the idea "I am being flattered. Flattery, unsurprisingly, is pleasant"? Yeah, yeah, then he asks you out, then you say, I don't see us like that, then he says, but you let me say nice things to you, and then you say, yeah, it's nice to hear nice things! And if he's like BITCH LED ME ON, well, then you'll know you were dealing with a jerk. Name the jerk in your head after him!
What you're really asking for is a source of validation other than — and more powerful than — the validation you get from dudes. Maybe, if you tried really hard, you could care less about dudes and more about being Best at Work, Knower of Best Bars, whatever — there are infinity unsuccessful ways to try to live in other people's minds, and maybe one of them will work for you. I don’t know, though, I think you need to learn that dudes don’t know what they’re talking about — in an adorable, chaotic, human way! — and I feel like talking to them is a good way to learn that. Engage in good faith and men will lose their imaginary power — and gain a whole new charm? — the more you are in the world with them, ask questions, challenge, coax, flirt, annoy. That's the "work," being in the world and asking why? how? why? you want to WHAT? over and over like the spiritual toddler you are. Upshot: I would say don't touch a dude's penis until you have made a point of asking him five involved, intrusive questions ("do you think I'm pretty?" doesn't count). Baby steps, girls! Baby steps.