When I was young, I wanted to fall in love. Until I didn’t.
I don’t know when it started. Maybe when I noticed the cute little blonde fluffy girls getting all the attention from The Only Boys That Mattered. I didn’t actually like them myself, personally — they smelled bad, they scowled, they posed, they threw fits over nothing. They scared me. But I knew I was supposed to like them. And I knew that their decisions about which girls were worthy of their time Meant Something. I knew that being liked by these boys, was the same thing as being likeable.
I learned as an adult that the only way to make these boys like me was to not like them. Not being liked made them work hard for my approval. Not being desired made them invest in my pleasure, which otherwise would have been irrelevant in their eyes. I learned in other words that playing hard to get was the one move sure to win.
Why did I want to win their attention, win their approval? I’m not sure. I never did figure that one out.
There are so many other boys I missed out on in the meantime. Boys I actually liked. Boys I could have convinced myself I loved, with just a little bit of luck. Boys I might have dated, perfectly happily, for a few months or a few years. Boys who actually would have respected me. Boys I could have learned to trust. Perhaps.
It is a difficult thing to look back at a life and realize that everything I thought I knew about love, I learned from Friends and from watching my parents and from fanfiction and from Nora Roberts. Mostly I learned that for women, True Love is the end of the story. I did not want my story to end. And so, I decided not to fall in love.
Correction: I learned I was not worth loving, from my parents my town my culture my religious and ethnic community my so-called friends. I learned to hide everything I was under a milquetoast layer of ‘good enough.’
If you are nothing, then nothing about you is lovable. On the other hand, nothing about you is despicable either, and the world will stop punishing you for existing. Maybe.
I gambled on this hope, and I lost.
I did not wish to pursue those other boys because I did not wish to compete with these girls with their fluffy wide-open hearts, their guileless gazes, their parents who loved them, their siblings who were their biggest fans. I was a dark and stormy night. I was Meg Murray and I had not got beautiful yet, or actually I always was beautiful which is why the blonde girls hated me, except I was also Jewish. I suppose those white golden boys thought that meant they had a right to take whatever they wanted from me. I suppose it rather struck right to the heart of their entitlement when I insisted they were wrong.
I had self-confidence, once. They say girls do, until we turn 11 or 13 and grow breasts and face boys with their stares or harassment and teachers with their stares or harassment and schools with their dress codes which are another kind of harassment.
I had never learned to protect myself because no one in my life protected me. I was not mentally disabled but I did not know I had the right to say no. If you were me, you would not know you had the right to say no.
Human relationships require one puts oneself in the other person’s shoes and who would ever want to be in my shoes?
Power does not experiment with feeling powerless. Without either the skills to succeed or the community of people eager to help me do so, I became a loser. I became a loser as early as the second grade. I did not know how to make friends because I could not open my mouth without the truth rushing out, and if you cannot open your mouth then you cannot speak. I did not speak until I was 14 and even then I do not think I said anything particularly interesting. Feminism gave me things to say but it was decolonizing theory that taught me to say them. I am still learning anticapitalist theory to learn how to say them.
I find it hard to believe sometimes that anything else is possible but this. I love many people now and they love me back, I am pretty sure, I am pretty sure these days when my mother says she loves me that she really means it. I am not sure she would love me if I told the truth. I am never sure anybody will love me if I tell the truth.
The couple in the hotel room over my head are having sex. I thought if I could be in a bed and feel safe it might be easier to tell him the truth. Speaking is challenging when you speak from the margins. If you try not to sound angry, you just wind up sounding crazy. If you sound angry, they say you are threatening and dangerous. There is no room to be a passionate or vengeful woman. There is no room to be a woman and a person.
When I was a child, I wanted to fall in love. I did not know it would hurt that much. If I had known, I still would have done it.
I wasted very much of my life doing things I thought were normal just to do them. I ran away when the black wolf who is my shadow self came up and touched my self. I named myself “Wolf” to sew on my own shadow.
How am I doing?