photo courtesy of the author
Eyes feeling tired? Take a listen to the full essay below. I'd love to read it to you.*
*I hope you'll excuse the few, minor flubs. What can I say, sometimes the truth is imperfect.
I know how I looked. I was cool, low maintenance. I could hang with your friends and beat you at bowling. I made odd pop culture references and quoted movies your last girlfriend never wanted to watch. You didn’t have to call me, or text me, or contact me all day, every day or even for days at a time. I let you do your thing. I laughed about (but somehow made it seem like I never physically did) urinate, defecate, expectorate, flatulate, ... any of the “ates”. I wore trendy rompers and made it seem like I actually wanted to sit at your weird friend’s house for long periods of time while you guys got high and listened to music. I was fun, funny even. And I was nothing like your last whatever-it-was. She was crazy. I was different.
I was easy.
And I was. I was all of those things for you. But at what cost? Because later, as we both discovered, there was a hidden fee to dating the cool girl; an underlying contract, that when asked to fulfill, you couldn’t remember signing.
You see, unbeknownst to both of us, while I was satisfying all your fantasies of the perfect girl, while I was molding myself to be flawless in your eyes, while I was denying every part of me to satisfy every part of you; I was secretly hoping all over you. That’s right, hoping all over you. Like vomiting all over you, but with my hopes, dreams, completely unrealistic expectations, and a very one-sided perception of what was actually happening between the two of us.
So, I sort of don’t blame you. For patting my leg in the car on the way to the airport (instead of like, I don’t know, responding with words) when I said I wanted to be with you. For somewhat vaguely responding to my first super vulnerable email. For slightly hinting at the fact that you received the care package I sent from New York, while simultaneously never actually acknowledging whether or not you, a-number-one, liked it or, b-number-two, might at least be a little grateful for it. I don’t blame you for pretending you never actually received my second super vulnerable email … which was especially awkward because you definitely emailed me a few days after I sent said second super vulnerable email … from the same email address I sent both my first and second super vulnerable emails to … I mean, I don’t really want to get into this here, but I am still just not entirely sure how you “missed my email.” Your words. Not mine.
... I became too busy planning our amazing life together to actually
Anyway. Look, I get it. The truth is, you didn’t ask for any of it. You didn’t make promises you couldn’t keep. You didn’t make any promises at all. In fact, you barely said anything. And I read, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” And I suppose I have to admit, here, that I also saw the movie. All signs pointed to you being just not that into me. Any sane person would not have sent the second super vulnerable email or would have gotten the hint when you stopped messaging her on Snapchat. (Or gotten the hint when that was your ONLY method of communication, period.) Any woman with a little awareness would have read between the lines (literally) and chalked up our time that summer to exactly what you thought you were signing up for: a little fun with a super easy chick, that is definitely going to be a distraction and is certainly not crazy.
But my hope (read: the little voice inside me that kept saying, “don’t worry, you’re the exception to the rule!”) got the best of me. And I became too busy planning our amazing life together to actually stop and have an adult conversation about whether or not you were planning to be a part of it … our life together, that is.
Side note, our life together was pretty cool and included a backyard, which coincidentally looked a lot like the backyard from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s W spread circa 2005-ish, one of those stainless steel outside barbeque things to put in previously mentioned backyard, a trip to Italy and 1.5 kids. Not bad for two almost complete strangers, am I right?.
What I’m trying to say is, “I’m sorry and you’re off the hook.” Not that you knew you were on the hook. Unless you interpreted my ghosting you as the hook, which it definitely was. Which I suppose makes you far more aware than you actually led on … so good work there.
Was it easier to blame you? To chalk you up to a jerk or one of those dudes who drives around with his cab light on when he’s not actually ready to pick anybody up?* To think I did nothing wrong and you did everything wrong? Yes. But that wasn’t fair. Because what I figured out, what I am still trying to say is, “it wasn’t your fault.” How were you supposed to know the girl who sold herself to you as the cool girl, the low maintenance girl, the easy girl, the not-like-any-of-the-other-girls girl would turn into just that?
But before you forward this on to all your guy friends as proof you were right all along (you did nothing wrong and girls are, and have always been, crazy), I want to stop for a second and acknowledge that while my hoping all over you wasn’t your fault, I’m not sure it was entirely my fault either.
... as long as we keep telling them their only choices are to be good and stay quiet, to be nice and stay small, they are going to continue to hope, and hope, and hope all over the place.
Stay with me now …
I did that. I hoped all over you. If I had been aware of what I was doing, I would never, never … have sent that second email. (I need to be honest here, I definitely would have sent the first, but sending the second email was a bad choice. Just ultimately poor judgement). But seriously, I would never have consciously done that to you. It was the opposite of cool.
But what I’m trying to understand is this: why did I want to be the cool girl in the first place?
I’m trying to understand why I wanted to think it was cool you smoked weed all the time. (Like really, all the time. BTW is that an LA thing or is that just an addiction thing?) Why I wanted to never poop, or pee, or disagree, or laugh louder than you. Why I really, truly wanted to be the girl who had zero needs, and wants, and expectations, and standards, and boundaries, and desires of her own.
And at the same time, I’m trying to understand why you wanted me to be that girl, too.
I’m trying to understand why you wanted me to not have an opinion … about anything. Why you were too busy loving how you looked in my eyes, to take the time to question whether or not I had a reflection of my own. Why you wanted me to be so goddamn easy.
And I don’t think this is just a “me” thing. I don’t think I’m the only woman who believes, at one point or another, the sole way to find a partner is to fetishize herself and cut off circulation to her brain. I don’t think I’m the only woman who still refers to herself as a girl while writing essays about herself. Who feels lobotomized and angry and unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Who feels like a hamster stuck on the proverbial wheel of life; running, running, running toward a destination unknown and unachievable, unsure and unaware of how she even got on the wheel in the first place.
And I don’t think this is just a “you” thing. I don’t think you’re the only man who feels confused when out of nowhere the woman who said she didn’t care about where she wants to eat, or what she wants to do, or where she wants to go, sends you a three page email telling you she is in love with you and wants to have all your babies.
I think this is a “we” thing.
Because as long as we (not just you and me, but you know, the larger “us”) keep telling our young women and girls (through our actions, our words, our behavior, our messaging, our attention and mostly our inattention) that they aren’t allowed to have bodily functions, or swear, or talk loudly, or have an opinion, or dare to dream, or take what’s theirs; as long as we keep telling them they aren’t allowed to be that size, or wear that color, or be that color; that they aren’t allowed to have pimples there, or wear those clothes, or say yes and then say no and then say yes again; as long as we keep telling them their only choices are to be good and stay quiet, to be nice and stay small, they are going to continue to hope, and hope, and hope all over the place. (And I’m not talking about a little spit up here or there. I am talking about the projectile hurling of hope all over every and any unsuspecting, undeserving person in feeble attempts to fill the black holes that have replaced their collective and individual understanding of themselves.)
And maybe if I had been taught to know, own, accept, and speak what I want, I wouldn’t have needed you to ask me in the first place.
So no, it wasn’t your fault. But, buddy, it wasn’t mine either. Yes, I sold you a bill of goods, but you, sir, bought that bill of goods, sight unseen. And by never asking, inquiring, probing, into me as a person, as a human being, you got exactly what was coming to you … a whole lotta hope. Hope on your shirt and hope on your life. Hope in your inbox and mailbox. Hope on your sheets and on your sneakers. (Also coffee on your sneakers, which, honestly, I’m still pretty embarrassed about. They looked expensive. I was nervous.)
I guess we didn't know any better. Just like we have to teach our girls to have a voice, we have to teach our boys theirs isn’t the only one in the room. And maybe if you had been taught to ask what I want, I wouldn’t have regurgitated it all over you in vulnerable emails you didn't ask for and pretended not to receive. (Well, OK, fine, one, you only pretended not to receive the one.) And maybe if I had been taught to know, own, accept, and speak what I want, I wouldn’t have needed you to ask me in the first place.
So, again, I’m sorry about the time I hoped all over you. If it’s any consolation, it really had nothing to do with you at all.
*Shameless Sex and the City reference: Season 3, Episode 8 - "The Big Time"