What is love and what is merely a fantasy? That my friends is the question I’ve been wresting with lately, and I’ll tell you why:
Over the years I’ve come to discover that I am a perfect candidate for sad men to project their delusional fantasies of women onto. They flock to me because I’m nice, I’m pretty, I’m approachable, I smile a lot, and I’m always on the move; never planning to stay in one place for too long. This combination makes me both pleasant and unattainable, which is apparently what these sad guys never knew they needed – until I showed up, and then they did.
Upon meeting, we speak briefly about some surface-level stuff, I laugh at one of their jokes, I look them in the eyes, I’m kind to them… and then just like that – bam – they’re completely in love with me… except for they’re not; they’re in love with the idea of me, and more specifically, the idea of what that type of woman can do for them.
Without any warning they become completely obsessed with the imaginary stories they’re writing about who I am and what I can bring into their lives. What a “girl like me” can do for them. I represent something far beyond any form of reality to these guys; I’m a fantasy. I’m the strawberry-flavoured bubble gum that is going to fill in the cracks of their broken life; the manic pixie dream girl they’ve always wanted, delivered straight to their doorstep – with no strings attached.
I can spot these men from a mile away. They have empty, hopeful puppy eyes that look right through me, and endless amounts of time to spend following me around. They’re completely enamoured by me before they know anything real about who I am. They use words like “perfect” and “special” and “not like other girls” before they ask what part of the world my accent is from or what my interests are. They profess their love and affection before knowing anything real about me at all; because they don’t care who I am – I could be anyone – the only thing they care about is what they think I can do for them.
In these men’s eyes I’m a perfect little dream – bubbly, polite, beautiful, and mysterious. I’m a pretty blank canvas with kind eyes that they can attach all of their hopes and dreams onto, wrapped up tight in a bow, with a cherry on top.
My presence becomes a bright beacon of light and excitement in these men’s mundane lives, and they cling to me in hopes that I will pull them out of their stale reality. To them I represent a chance at a life they always wanted but never thought they could have… that is, until a beautiful woman like me came along and handed it over to them – doing all the work they never felt like doing for themselves, picking up the pieces of their broken life, putting it back together, stroking their ego’s, and smiling while doing it.
These guys pull me tightly into their grasps without a warning or option to turn away; what I want has never occurred to them. They claim me, slapping their name across my forehead, and locking me in their desperate, lovesick prison. This all happens so suddenly it makes my head spin with a mix of confusion and all-too-familiar-dread – a heavy knot forming in the pit of my stomach.
I never agreed to be a part of their fantasy. I never wanted this, asked for this, agreed to this, but here I am with the crushing weight of their expectations placed on my back. Being forced up onto the pedestal they’ve created for me, a beautiful illusion only they can see, with nowhere to go but down.
With each passing minute, I can feel the heat of these men’s delusions slowly tightening their sweaty grip around my neck. Their famished, desperate eyes are eating me alive – licking their lips and salivating – caging me in with their fantasies, and drowning me in the visions of who they are sure to become now that I’m in their lives; now that I have made anything possible.
Meanwhile, I am gasping for air and scrambling to detach myself; to wretch myself free, to scream, to run, to escape this hell-hole I’m being forcefully shoved down into. Their dreams are my nightmares.
These men don’t understand it when I pull away from them. I’ve blindsided them – they’re confused. They need answers from me; endless explanations of how and why I could do this to them. How I could take everything away without consulting them… How I could change my mind… How I could suddenly be so cold.
I tell them I don’t owe them any explanation.
These men don’t like this. They don’t like it when I say no. I am not the type of girl that says no – not to them. I am there to say yes. My role is to please and to listen and to delight – that’s it. No is not an option. No is not a word that a pretty mouth like mine should be saying. No is not polite.
They’re sad, they’re angry, they’re hurt. I’ve hurt them…. I need to understand how much I’ve hurt them. It’s not fair what I’ve done to them. I’ve upset them. They are devastated and they do not deserve this. They treated me like a princess… like the princess that I am!! I am their princess – their’s. How dare I not consider their feelings! How dare I act so selfishly!!
How dare I choose myself!!!
This affection – this sick and twisted infatuation that they feel towards me is a wet and heavy type of feeling. It’s not romantic; it’s desperate and slimy – like humid, sticky, influenza-infected breath slowly creeping down my neck – breathing their stale heat onto my skin, too close for comfort.
This lust they feel is rooted so far from reality that it’s destined to fail from the very beginning, because no version of real-life could ever compete with the perfect delusions inside their head. As a result, any human qualities I display inevitably clash with their perfect visions, and send them into a fit of furious rage and utter disgust.
Then just as fast as it started – their affection for me bursts into flames, burns up, and dies an angry, resentful death. A death that is my fault. A betrayal.
Suddenly I go from being the most perfect, precious woman they have laid their eyes on to the coldest, cruellest, nastiest bitch these men have ever had the unfortunate luck of encountering.
How much of a wicked, frigid catastrophe-of-a-woman must I be to turn down the affection of someone as selfless and caring as them, anyway?
What is wrong with me? Who do I think I am?? Why do the nice guys ALWAYS finish last!?!?
I’m a slut… most likely – that explains it.
A disgusting, insecure tease.
Not worthy of their time, anyways.
A dumb, dirty, heartless whore.
Gross, awful, difficult.
Not capable of love.
Daddy issues, probably.
Full of herself, shallow, insane, worthless.
What these men don’t understand – what they are missing – is that I possess all of these qualities and none of these qualities, all at once, all the time, depending on who it is that’s judging me… and guess what?
I don’t care who I am to you.
I don’t care that I’ve hurt you, threatened your ego, or made you feel insecure. I don’t care that you wanted more than I was able to give you. I don’t care that your expectations weren’t met, and I don’t care that I’ve let you down.
I am not a ride to be taken, a high to trip on, an experience to be bought, or a boost of creative energy. I am not a pill you can pop, liquid courage, or magic fairy dust. I will not take you on a ride and show you new worlds. I am not a tool to be used, I will not fix your life, and most importantly…
I am not yours.
I am a human person with complex layers; some are pretty and some are not. I am proud of this, proud of my human-ness, my gritty parts, my bad sides. These are important to me because they are part of who I am – and I like who I am.
So here is my unsolicited advice for these sad men with the puppy dog eyes (or anyone at all) :
If you want to form real and intimate relationships with others, you have to embrace the whole of who they are and not only the pretty parts.
You have to provide this person with a space where they feel safe to reveal who they are to you, on their own terms, without expectations. You have to enjoy spending time with them because you actually like who they are, and not only what you perceive they can do for you.
You have to show up, be vulnerable, be honest, and reveal yourself in return – without an agenda. Lay it all out there, and let them decide what they want to do with that. Give the other person a choice to leave or stay, and respect their right to choose. Understand that they know what’s best for them and you know what’s best for you.
Contrary to what every blockbuster movie and sappy love song says, humans are not one half of a whole, floating around aimlessly until we find the other piece to complete us. No, we are already whole, complete beings – right here, right now – every one of us. Everything we need in order to move forward and thrive is already within us; we just have to be brave enough to uncover it.
In order to do this we have to create a space inside ourselves where it feels safe to reveal the deepest layers of our being – our soft and ugly parts, our pain and shame – without judgement or expectations, and release them (if it was stored with pain, it will release with pain – this is okay). From this space of non-judgement, we are free to dig around in our most hidden parts, see what we find, lean in with curiosity and compassion, feel the feelings, pull close what serves us, and release what doesn’t.
This is how we love ourselves wholly and fully – embrace what is actually there, not only what we wish was there.
And this is my questions for you… aren’t you worthy of this kind of authentic love? Aren’t you worthy of being seen, fully and completely by another person – by yourself – and being accepted for that? None of us are perfect, but aren’t we valuable and loveable regardless??
I know it is absolutely terrifying to dig deep inside and stare the stuff we hate about ourselves head on. I know it feels like doing that might destroy you, and maybe it will, but I promise the person who is revealed on the other side of those ruins will be worth it.
So here’s a thought to consider…
Maybe we cling so desperately to a perfect ideal of others for the same reasons we cling to a perfect ideal of ourselves – because we are afraid. Maybe looking past the surface of another person and into their true being is terrifying because it forces us to do the same. Maybe the reason we are unable to see and love others fully is actually because we are unable to fully see and love ourselves.
Maybe this is okay.
Maybe everything we feel is okay. Maybe this is all part of being human, this struggle, and maybe we all share in this experience – the one in which we come to understand that after everything we have been through, we are worthy of love and belonging. Maybe that’s the point of this life – to love and be loved – to uncover our true selves, layer by layer, the pretty and the not-so-pretty, and to form loving relationships with others who are doing the same.
Maybe we don’t need to cling so hopelessly to a picture perfect ideal of who we think we ought to be. Maybe we are actually enough right now, right as we are, and maybe we always were.