Thursday, March 09, 2006

One False Move, And The Girl Gets It

I have not lived a life completely unexamined.

I start this post by making that point completely clear, because I don't want to appear to be entirely, totally lame. Not that you haven't figured out already that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about myself. I have not one, but two, blogs in which I write extensively about the world and, more importantly, my place in it. I like to think that its because writers write what they know, and what do I know better than how things look from my perspective. But I suspect I'm merely deluding myself on this point, and am, in fact, gloriously,unrepentantly self-involved.

But I am not so blind that I can't see when a real issue raises its ugly head. I can see when I'm doing it all wrong. I'm just not sure how to fix it, that's all.

It's about me. And men. And me and men together. And this tendency I have when combining the two, which I find is quite irritating. As I beginning to date someone, or even just converse with him casually, everything starts out fine. I'm charming. I'm funny. I'm my usual irrepressibly sassy self. But as the exchange continues, I find I'm editing myself. I'm listening to what he's saying, and then trying to give him back what I think he wants. I'm terrified he'll discover something about me that doesn't match or agree with something about him. Religion, politics, basic life philosophy. One little slip that indicates that I hold a differing opinion, and I'm so off the list. What list, you ask? Oh, you know... that list. His list. His list of women he finds acceptable.

I know this is only an issue with my romantic relationships because I don't do it with women, or gay men, or married men or men I meet that I'm not attracted to sexually in the least. I only men who strike me as potential "date material" get to see this especially unattractive, wishy-washy side of me. I begin to make assessments of myself in reference to him, to decide if I'm smart enough, funny enough, liberal enough, enlightened enough, well-read enough. And I usually fall far short of where I think I should be.

The really sick, sad part is (you're thinking, "There's an even sicker, sadder part than that which she's already expressed?" aren't you? Don't lie. I can tell by your snorts of disgust), I end up weeks or months later, after things have fizzled (for how could they not when one of the parties begins to discard who she is in favor of who she thinks he wants?), I go back and do the relationship autopsy, only to discover that, as cute and great as he was, he wasn't cuter or greater than I (Well, really, who could be? I ask you. See? Why can't I have that sense of confidence with him, for cryin' out loud?).

This is, in no way, his fault. It's all me. I hear my father's voice ("No man will ever love you because you are just like your mother, and as soon as they get to know you, they'll run away"), or my ex-husband ("You were lucky I married you -- no one else would put up with you"), or some other past man in my life who was more than willing to tell me that whatever it was I had or was, it wasn't enough -- or perhaps it was too much. All lies, of course, since a couple of really good men have loved me, and plenty of people in my life suffer me with little side effect.) Still, it's those voices -- those auditory ghosts that still haunt me -- that make me feel like I'm just too much trouble as I am. So I have to change. Or be alone. Up until now, I've chosen alone, because its easier, and it isn't a lie.

I tell you all of this because I sense it happening again. I sense that as I converse with someone -- someone whom I find interesting and a little edgy and a touch neurotic, but charming nonetheless -- I'm checking his tone, checking mine, going over what he said, making sure I match it, or reflect it. I'm delving and researching, doing a little detective work,trying to suss out what he desires. And until now, I haven't even been aware I was doing it. It's one of the things that makes dating such an unpleasant experience for me. I feel like I'm being held hostage, at gunpoint, by a crazed madman. One slip of the tongue, one move out of line, and I'm a goner.

"One false move," as they say, "and the girl gets it."

So, I usually end up not calling someone back, or not following up on a second date. Or worse yet, he never asks for a second date, because the first one was made so uncomfortable by my attempt at camouflage. Of course, this only happens if I like someone, so I've had plenty of invitations to second dates with men I don't find attractive in the least. Because with men I only find pleasant, but for whom I'm not sexually attracted, I can be my usual, devil-may-care self who is merely who she is, and everyone else can like it or lump it.

What an unpleasant thing to discover about yourself! And what a challenge to keep from doing it! Because it means that, somehow, I'm going to have trust someone I barely know to have the style and good taste to stick it out and believe that doing so will be worth the effort. And it means that I have to take it as a sign, if he doesn't, that he wasn't the man I thought he was. They so frequently aren't the men I think they are. Of course, since I'm too wrapped up in pleasing them to stop and get to know them, I really can't blame that on them, can I?

Well, this has been a productive day. Paid my rent, gave the cat his medicine, returned three signed contracts to the other side, had an enormous, life-changing epiphany....

I don't know about you guys, but... I'm exhausted.



  1. im not liking ex-hubby's or pops comments NOT COOL! and not true!!!!!!!!!!1

  2. Yeah, well, I know Dad said it because he was pissed at my mother. And I know the ex said it because he was pissed at his mother. so, that's why I really need to erase the tapes, if I can.

    Because, really, when they said it to me, they were talking to someone else.


  3. Dr. Freud5:43 PM

    And when you are trying to please other men, you are really trying to please daddy by denying your mother's influence on you, that is, an independent, thinking woman which you clearly are. A nice little viscious circle, yes?

  4. Oh, yes. My mother was nothing if not an independent thinker.

    And the circle, vicious though it may be, is officially broken.


  5. I'll take your word on the "circle" being broken. It sounds like you are in the midst of a thorough self-examination--and more power to you for the effort.

    I enjoy your blogs, though sometimes I find myself at odds with you--but you always keep me thinking, and for that I am grateful. I mostly enjoy your artistic side and your personal posts. Keep up the great writing.

  6. As I read this post, I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading something I'd written and somehow posted in my sleep on one of my own blogs. You wrote this, but it was about me. Entirely and completely. Dammit. What ARE we going to do about this problem?

  7. Deirdre, I think I'm writing about all women raised inside of a patriarchy who have learned at an early age that pleasing men and making things easy and okay for men is the ticket to a cushy lifestyle (or so we think).

    As soon as we can cast off the last remnants of believing that the men in our lives deserve things to be easy (which may not even be something that they want, incidentally, because we just do it automatically without asking them), then we can stop doing it and maybe get accepted for who we really are.


  8. You're right. I really think this is a universal female phenomenon. We have to keep remembering that there might just be real Mark Darcys out there. We'll know it when he says, "I like you very much. Just as you are."

  9. My father's mantra was "IF you're not careful you'll end up just like your mother. (A fate worse than death apparantly.) and be careful how you treat me because you'll end up treating your husband that same way."

    Neither of these turned out to be true incidentally. I did meet my Darcy, who told me I was brave and strong and that he wanted to be with me, even over my tearful protests that, "NO I'm not, I'm weak, you are going to be so disappointed when you find out that I'm not who you think I am, you should just leave now."

    He didn't, and it turned out he was right, I just hadn't had the space to see what he saw before then. And I don't treat him anything like my father, I respect him far too much for that to happen.

    SO I got lucky, but the point is that the tapes are lying, but they seem true if you can't escape them.