Wednesday, August 24, 2005
LOVE IS NOT ALL YOU NEED, GODDAMN IT!
"I suspect that your boyfriend is with you because he likes you lots and he's getting laid, not because you're incredibly special to him, he loves you, and he's committed to making your relationship work no matter what. "
I'll tell you what - as a male, I'll try "not to cultivate and feed the notion that teenagers and very young women are the ultimate tasty treat" if you, as a female, please stop holding the (trumpets) RELATIONSHIP as the end-all be-all of human existence. Relationships are a part of life - they're not the meaning of life.
Don't get me wrong - I'm all for commitment and intimacy. It's the "no matter what" bit with which I take serious issue. I have a theory that if our young girls weren't raised with this idea of the relationship as the holy grail of human life, they would be a hell of a lot happier. Hell - maybe our culture does it by design to keep the ladies down. I blame the Reagan era.
Relationships are supposed to enrich your life, not replace it. The prioritization (not sure if that's a real word) of the relationship over all else just doesn't make sense in a well-rounded, balanced and happy life. Sex, love, work, family, fun - they're all parts of a good life. So why is the love part the answer to all of our problems? We've got to make our current relationship work... no. matter. WHAT!
Thanks for listening. I really like your site and your stuff on Salon.
I understand, wise honky. The problem is, guys in their 20s and 30s have a habit of going out with women for as long as is convenient, regardless of their feelings. Many guys fall out of love (if they were ever in love) but don't have the rocks or the will to move on, even though they know the relationship isn't one that they want to last. Once a woman has gone through this a few dozen times, she gets a little more stringent in her demands.
Honky girl asks how committed honky boy is, honky boy offers wishy washy reassurance, buys himself another 3 months - or, if honky girl has bad PMS, another month. The truth is that, wherever love is on honky girl's priority list, she may really, really not want to date Yet Another Wishy Washy Guy Who Doesn't Know What The Fuck He Wants Or Who Is Only Mildly Interested In Her. Let me repeat: Her desire to go out with someone who's enthusiastic and passionate about her does not necessarily reflect her absurdly fucked up and skewed priorities, it may simply reflect her desire to live a full, romantic exciting life filled with intimacy and the company of someone who thinks she's swell. Yes, she may say things like We. Must. Make. This. Relationship. Work. Or. Else., but that's just because she knows the guy's not in the game, and she's in the Angry Phase, a necessary step that comes right before Moving On.
Is love too high on honky girl's priority list? Well, that depends. If she's 18 or 22 or 26 and she's obsessed with marriage, I'd say it's probably a little too high - but that's my call, and it's really up to her. Love was way, way too high on my priority list when I was younger, but what can you do? It was an escapist thing - I wasn't sure what else in life was worth getting riled up about.
On the other hand, being 32-39 years old and being focused on finding the right guy, the one who's interested in starting a family or whatever else, is not remotely tweaked or odd or screwy to me. I mean, if you want to bear offspring before you're 40, then you have to get serious about this shit in your 30s. It's important to keep in mind that adoption and a million other options are available to you, and that (this is my personal slant) buying a house and adopting a dog and focusing on your own shit are all ways of having a good, full life without waiting for the holy grail of marriage to make your life look "right." In fact, I want to strongly recommend that single women in the 30s consider saving to buy a house - maybe when the current real estate bubble bursts a little, they'll have enough for a down payment. You can often get by with putting down just 5 percent, if your credit is good. If you need to get a roommate to afford it, get a roommate.
But back to the matter at hand: Settling down is going to be important to lots of us, because it just is. We're fucking women, for chrissakes. Personally, I would love to be the woman who wants to travel and paint and cook and have a steady flow of lover boys. Yeah! But that's not me. I'm fucking jealous of those women, and I believe them when they say they don't give a fuck about marriage or kids. Hurray for them, they rock, I want to be them. But I'm not them. I like the idea of a family, plus a few dogs. As a result, I've been a hardass about relationships since I was about 29. I don't want to waste my time on someone who's not right for me, or who isn't completely into it. Oh, I have wasted my time, don't get me wrong - I just try very hard to move on quickly ("quickly" meaning "after 2 years" in most cases).
Is that lame? What's lame about making sure that you get what you want from life? Why should anyone be embarrassed about going after what they want, whether it's big fake tits or a house by the shore or a hot fireman (I know, redundant)? What's embarrassing is shuffling around, living some mediocre, half-assed existence where you don't have what you want and you complain about it constantly, or you don't have what you want but you pretend it's just fine, or it'll do for now, or we all have to compromise in one way or another, or maybe it'll get better next week. Whether it means moving to another city or dumping your boyfriend or hiring a better couples' therapist to work things out with your wife, admirable actions are those that move people closer to the lives they want.
And even though I would, if I could, go back and change my priorities when I was younger, even though I would shake myself and say, "You don't need to base this decision on HIM - he'll be gone in 6 months! Do what YOU want to do!" I suspect that I wouldn't listen to me anyway. Lots of women care a lot about relationships a little more than is perfectly healthy. They just do. All the women I know care a LOT about love. It's not something that's easy to change, and look, the women I know who are really happy are the ones who've acted in accordance with their desires, who have been honest about what they want, without shame.
Here's the other thing: It's hard to get a life when you're with someone who's wishy washy about you. If you have to tell your girlfriend to get a life, chances are that should include getting rid of you. Why don't you do her a favor and break up with her instead? She's obviously not earning your respect, with all her focus on relationships and not enough focus on her own thing. She'll probably only straighten things out once she's free from the blah feelings that accompany being with someone who's on the fence.
I get your point, Naysayer, I really do. I just keep thinking about the women out there who care a lot about love and can't find men who feel the same way. That gets under my skin. I want those women to make themselves happy and everything, sure, I want them to paint and travel and save money and have great friends and all that stuff, but I also want them to find love, because love is the best. Maybe those are my skewed priorities talking. So be it, honkwinders. I stand before you a deeply flawed motherfucker.
Friday, August 12, 2005
BOOTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
I have been discussing this issue with a couple friends for a little while now, and I don't feel any better. Help?
I have a lovely boyfriend of about a year and a half. He looks at naked, seductively-posed girls on a certain website just about every time he visits the internet. He also openly admires women on the street, and used to share his opinions of their attractiveness level with me until one day when I told him I was tired of having my attention directed in this way, that is, into a way of viewing the world as a candy shop waiting for appraisal of relative sexiness.
I told him that I understood he was oriented this way, but that I found it exhausting and annoying, and that I prefer to walk through the world without that kind of focus. I told him that if some human specimen was particularly interesting and striking, I could admire it with him, but that I did not think it appropriate to draw my attention to every garden variety hot young thing that drifted into his radar. I don't need to hear about it, I said.
He understood, apologized, and has since cooled it on the constant hunt-and-rate game.
This level of irritation--this insecurity it has evoked in me--coincides with a transitional period in our relationship when things have become less secure. We are working back from a crisis during which he believed we should separate, and I'm trying to restore my trust in his commitment. It will take time, as I'm as filled with abandonment issues as the rest of us. But in the interim, this naked-girls-that-are-not-me thing is like a thorn in my side. Now, he has always looked at this particular website; we used to peruse it together. When things are thriving between us, I feel no threat, no violation, no discernible twinge. I understand I am attractive to him and I understand the difference between admiring other women's forms and wanting to be in a relationship with them. But on the off weeks, the times when we are just a bit distant, just a bit groping-to-find-purchase, and I am just a bit allowing-fears-and-doubts-to-funk-me-up, this really bothers me.
We go several days without having sex; I'm not feeling very desired, but these almost-anonymous girls-next-door are still receiving his eager attention.
Okay. So I want to be the person who feels sexy, is sexy, and enjoys the beauty of the female form as much as the next guy or girl without feeling...jealous? Am I jealous? I want to be confident and laughing and...perfect? I don't know. I don't know if I'm being too hard on myself, if I should allow myself a healthy dislike of these minor-league extracurriculars and not feel inadequate for that, or what. Guys are visual, lots of guys look at naked ladies, blah blah. Is it something a pretty great woman just learns to let go of? I mean, I can't make something he's always enjoyed off-limits. I don't want to be that kind of partner.
Sometimes I get mad that I don't enjoy the equivalent. I don't get off on looking at picture after picture of hot naked guys, so there's no flipside. It feels unbalanced, like I have to find a way to be okay with this, but he doesn't have to stretch in any similar way. I love sex, but I really don't think much about it with anyone but my boyfriend. Is this a matter of evolutionary crap? Mostly, how do I stop the gnawing feeling and learn to love the bombshell? I'll never be the hottest thing around, and I'm only getting older, and older and older, than the image of ideal hotness that remains, unchanged, in my partner's brain. I feel that if I don't find a way to come to peace with myself and all the sexed-up, hotter-than-thou imagery that has become wrapping paper for the natural landscape, I will just get more and more depressed over time. Sometimes I feel that the way he views the world contributes to the body-image stuff every woman deals with by simply living in this culture, and I get mad. Women are objects, goes this way of perceiving, and while I like a good object every now and again, I have become more self-conscious since being with him than I used to be. I fucking hate it.
Is every man like this? Would I feel more valued and less threatened with a different variety? I've had more unconventional boyfriends before, and I didn't go through this. Of course, I wasn't as attracted to them and their trail mix.
I really wish I didn't care. Help me not care.
Help me not care? Help me to become a pet rock instead of a human being? No thanky, honky.
But let's start by reviewing something you said a few paragraphs back:
"We are working back from a crisis during which he believed we should separate, and I'm trying to restore my trust in his commitment."
When you say "we" are working, do you mean the two of you are working on this, or do you mean you and some imaginary version of your boyfriend that you've created in your mind are working on it, one who's just around the corner and will be here any day now, one who's mature and dedicated and has lots of reassuring things to say, one who thinks you're a lot more appealing than the random chickies on the street, or at least cultivates that attitude because he loves you?
When you say "I'm trying to restore my trust in his commitment," does that process include him telling you that he's committed to you? Does that include the words, "Trust me, honey pie, I'm totally committed to you. My previous misgivings were for naught, and now I know what I want: you, you, you, baby! I want you!" Or does that process consist of you, alone in your room, crying yourself to sleep at night for feeling less valuable than some random broad on the street, and then assuring yourself that your boyfriend really is committed to you, he just has a lot of trouble expressing it. That poor guy, he just has trouble focusing on a woman who's living and breathing and standing in the same room looking right at him! If only there weren't all those other women on his computer screen, those women frozen perpetually in far less comfortable positions, squatting and sticking their asses in the air and choking down big cocks for all posterity!
Ahhh, yes. That's where it all falls apart for most of us, doesn't it, girls? The part where checking out random preening whoreburgers veers suddenly into the much ballyhooed whoreburgers-gagging-down-horse-sized-dongs territory. I get a sympathetic choke reflex just looking at those poor drooly slutmunchers, their eyes glazed over in some stray-dog trance.
Far be it from me to cast aspersions on the sucking of cock, but there are limits. No woman is a slutmongering island, and no man can expect to be knee-deep in visual vag (pronuonced "vaj" as in "The Red Vag of Courage") around the clock and still get laid by the same loyal woman-friend regularly. OK, maybe some men can expect that, but do you want to be that girl? The answer is that you might want to be that girl, if not for the fact that your boyfriend is not actually all that committed to you and basically wanted to dump you not so long ago. Let's lose the polite tones and call a spade a spade. You might love being that girl if you had a clear sense that he could appreciate that you were way more sweet and lovely and appealing than every third jerk on the street in a tank top.
Your boyfriend is a type, the type who thinks that every vaguely youngish, perky-ish form with a not-completely-heinous face attached is worthy of comment. Forget that she's 12 years old, or has moo-cow titties and back fat. That's what I can't abide. And don't remind me, guys, that this is the way men think, that you're all walking around in a haze of imaginary fucking around the clock, that you can't help but picture plundering the preteen with the Hello Kitty purse on her bunk bed. If you're not shitting your pants every few hours, you have some semblance of self-control. We all know you're visual and you like fucking a lot and it's totally different for you, and we like that about you. But the notion that you simply can't refrain from ripping the clothes off every woman you see, throwing her across a dining room table, and doozing her from behind in your mind? That's idiotic. It's a myth perpetuated by a culture of instant gratification, one that tells you that you have a perfect right to remain an emotional infant. And look, I'm not a man. Maybe every last one of you is tormented around the clock by such thoughts, and it is totally beyond your control, and you'd become a serial killer if you even tried to repress those fantasies. If that's really the case, then it does seem like a big mistake that you're the ones at the helms of most of the free nations on the planet, but even so. Fuck it. We don't want to monitor your thoughts. It's your problem, not ours. We've got our own goddamn problems. You just have to ask yourself how satisfied you are in your relationships if your fantasy lives are far richer and more fulfilling than your sex lives. And also, do you really want to be that guy who's daydreaming about his preteen daughter's best friend? Oy. As I said, there are limits, and if you're happy with your sex life and your main squeeze, it makes sense to enjoy whatever fantasy life you want, but at least try not to cultivate and feed the notion that teenagers and very young women are the ultimate tasty treat. Just because our moronic culture feels that way, that doesn't mean you have to buy it hook, line, and sinker. You're not powerless, chumpy. (That goes for you, too, Unhappy Trails, because you're buying into that idiocy just as much as he is. You're only as sexy as you think you are. Even if you're not sexy at all by traditional standards, I'd suggest you learn to cultivate the illusion that you're the sexiest thing since sliced Brangelina. For your sake, not for his. This is about you, remember? Stay focused, damn it.)
But back to blaming your boyfriend for everything, because that's more fun: Hey look, what about concentrating on the conversation for a second, dickweed? How much does it fucking suck to walk down the street with your boyfriend when all he does is scout for hotties? I had a boyfriend like that. Snore fucking city. I mean, here you are, the one who butters his motherfucking bagel, and you're getting checked out by just as many guys as there are girls that he's checking out, AND - bonus - you're the one who's actually fucking him. Can he focus his attention on you while you're around? I mean, is that so much to ask, guy? Can't you take a nice walk, alone, later, and stare at tits that aren't half as sweet as mine until the moo-cows come home? Jesus fucking Christ. I'm glad I'm not going out with that guy anymore.
You know what? You have a right to feel shitty. You're with a guy who's not with you, not really. But - uh oh! - lest we get too righteous, it's time for more review:
"It will take time, as I'm as filled with abandonment issues as the rest of us."
Oh really? Just how filled with abandonment issues are we? Because it seems to me that you're just filled enough to be slightly more attracted to men who are likely to abandon you. Not uncommon, not at all, I'm just saying. And you mentioned that you went out with unconventional guys who didn't eat women alive with their eyes, but that you were less attracted to them. Hmm. Maybe because they liked you more?
I know tons of women who can't be with men who really love them, because those men don't seem nearly as interesting as men who partially ignore them. I think women get confused and think that as long as they're not dating "bad" guys, they're dating good guys who are good to them. Wrong. Distracted guys who are getting laid but still rank strangers on the street constantly and yank it to hot sluts around the clock are not really all that "good." I suspect that your boyfriend is with you because he likes you lots and he's getting laid, not because you're incredibly special to him, he loves you, and he's committed to making your relationship work no matter what.
Just like some men need to refocus themselves from fantasizing about a kaleidoscope of hot sluts to paying attention to actual human beings if they want rewarding intimate relationships, you need to refocus yourself from being tormented by distracted, disinterested men to spending time with men who like you, who are focused on you, who are capable of commitment and intimacy. Same old shit, I know, but this refocusing process is fucking hard. It's tough to like someone who likes you back. Ultimately, you're just as bad as your dumb boyfriend: You get distracted. You want to be with someone who doesn't think you're all that great, because that's what you're comfortable with, because your parents half-ignored you, or weren't there for you, or whatever the fuck.
What do you really want, though? Because you're actually allowing yourself not just to be neglected, but tortured, and at some level, you think it's all your fault that you're not "cool" with it. Only you know what you should and shouldn't be cool with - don't let anyone tell you what's OK and what's not OK for you. I'm not saying you should indulge your jealous side, I'm just saying you shouldn't completely fucking ignore the voice inside you that keeps saying, "This is not fucking right, this doesn't work for me, I feel ugly, I feel invisible, this is devastating, this fucking sucks."
In summary, your boyfriend is not BAD, all men are dirty little hogs humping away at every side of ham they see, at some level, and that's part of what our inner whoreburgers like about them. However, you really aren't getting what you need, and I feel pretty certain that you'll never get what you need from him. You have to decide that you deserve more, and you have to figure out how to look for more, and then tolerate and even enjoy more once you find it. You have to shift your focus from this need to chase, you have to try to enjoy men who pay attention to you and listen to you, as unfamiliar as it feels. That's a lot to ask, and you're probably pretty young, so you have plenty of time. Even if you're old you have time. Just lose the guy, ok? And when I say "Lose the guy," I don't mean "Give the guy a self-righteous lecture on how you deserve to be with a guy who loves you, who's committed to you, who can see how beautiful and special you are, and then, when the lecture is over, decide that everything's ok and you feel better now and should we order Thai and rent a movie or what?" Take it from someone who once delivered a rousing 8-month lecture series titled "Why I Am Fantastic And Special And Worthy Of A Commitment And Your Inability To Commit Reflects Your Immaturity And Inadequacy As A Human, And Yet, All You Have To Do Is Make The Vaguest Grunt of Love And I'll Take That As A 'Yes, I'm Committed To You' And Then We Can Reconnect The Feeding Tube And Live (Un)Happily Ever After." Speaking tours suck.
So dump him. It bears repeating: The right plane can't land if the wrong plane is blocking the runway. What you really want, in your heart, is to find the right plane. That's why you can't handle anything these days. You know you've got a big old honkin' whore-hungry wrong plane in your runway. Get air traffic control on that shit, and move the fuck on. As long as you continue dating some imaginary version of your boyfriend, you're living in a fantasy world just as much as he is.