It’s hard to think about without wincing but sometimes my mind wanders and I think of the stupid things I’ve done to get men to love me.
How I’ve shushed that voice inside me that protested. How I’ve talked my way around it. How I knew going in that it was a bad idea but how I convinced myself that no matter what at least I’d get a good story out of it. It’s always worth the story, right? Yeah, sure, may be. But you don’t just carry the story with you and break it out at parties and then put it back in its case and back on a shelf until the next time you need it. You carry the shame too, and that shame will creep up on you and buckle your knees in the shower or in long walks across parking lots when your mind wanders. Is it still worth the story then? Yeah, sure. May be.
There was this one man who came after me like a bull running toward a billowing red flag. That’s how it felt to me. It was exhilarating. He must have smelled the sadness on me, a bloodhound hunting the lovesick. He made me his mark and he must have known I’d think it felt so nice to be marked that I would go along with what was a very bad and very hurtful plan for everyone involved. He must have known. He must have laughed to himself at how easy it was. Maybe he did.
There was this one man who spent many of his waking hours and of some his sleeping hours radiating a disdain for me that was palpable. You could walk into a room and feel it. I could walk into a room and feel it. He told me when I confessed my unhappiness that we had made our bed and even though we weren’t happy, we needed to lie in it. Forever. Because that was the right thing to do. I imagined myself dying a withered and dried-up husk of a person. Sometimes I think about what life would be like had I stayed and lived out my life pushing that boulder up the hill. The thought errors out every time. It cuts to a “footage not found” screen. Maybe that man would have grown to love and respect me with time.
I’m thinking about these things a lot lately because of how so many of my past relationships contrast so sharply with the relationship I have with the man I am going to marry. All that time I spent positioning myself so that I could lap up crumbs of an aloof man’s affection; what was I thinking? Who was I? Why was I so sure that I had to settle for whatever I could get at that moment because it was pretty unlikely that I’d ever find more? Why did I need to self-loathing to play out externally as a relationship with another person? What did I actually learn from any of that, other than don’t do that again, dummy?
I’m under no illusions that marriage will be easy. But to be stepping into it with someone who has never once made me question my self-worth feels like a revelation, a sunrise, a new notebook, a popped cork. There is magic and comfort there, with room to grow and without fear.
It’s exactly what I have been pining for my whole life.