In my sorority, I was known as the girl who was going to New York, who interned at Cosmo and was forced to stand in the back of the rows at recruitment because I couldn’t (and can’t) clap on the off beat. At the college newspaper, I was the bubbly intern turned reporter turned lifestyles editor turned associate editor for content that was never taken as seriously as I wanted to be – mainly because I never projected myself seriously – a lesson I’ve come to cherish in my professional career. In my family, I was the oddball cousin who went against the norms of the rest, who went to college, achieved a degree and headed to chase a dream instead of racing down the aisle and into labor.
And in my circle of friends, from the start of college until right up until…um, now – I was the ambitious, fearless, friendly, and confident gal who could do anything. Anything that is except keep a man. Or as my best friend A’s said after a particularly rough breakup: “Why can’t you ever just make it work with someone? Where do you find these guys?”
I tried, I really did. With each of them – Mr. Fire, Mr. Rebound, Mr. Idea, Mr. Fling, Mr. Smother and the rest – to make it work. I logged overtime in baking, cleaning, sporting sexy lingerie and being readily available to pet or to sex-away worries and stress. And then I was too available. I’d attempt at playing the game I was so good at, the book that I could write now on how to attract a man (and perhaps I will write it) and how to get him to approach you. I’d lure one in, hold him captive in my mystery until the subtlety gave away to reality, and there I was exposed, naked in all forms reasonable (and unreasonable), waiting for him to accept or reject my affections. But I was always something – too good for them, not good enough. Too much to handle or far too needy. Swimingly sweet or a wannabe-New York-bitch with an agenda. I told them what they wanted to hear and then all of the things they didn’t. I was this and that, that and this, over and over again, up until I graduated from college, fled the mountaintops to rooftops, ended things with Mr. Idea, and decided New York would be different.
I could make it work in New York. I would make it work in New York. This was where I was supposed to be – the rest of those dudes, stuck in North Carolina, stuck in finance jobs they consider big money and big deals in Charlotte – they just weren’t for me. They may had walked all over me resentlessly and maybe I had let them on numerous occasions – but not anymore. I was in New York and if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere.
And so dating turned into a challenge. It became a sport I played throughout the week, developing new tricks and tactics along the way. I had a strategy, I figured out my best angle, my best feature. I found ways to cover up flaws and discovered sentences that all men like to hear, regardless if they’re Jewish, Italian, single, married, straight, flamboyant, consistently hard or hard-of-hearing. I mastered The Look, I signed up for free online dates for the weeks when I ran low on a free dinner evenings, and when it all became too much, I’d take a night off with Chinese and Merlot, watching Hulu in my panties.
But then I would start to like one of the many bachelors. I’d grow a little attached, I’d find some element of them attractive and irresistible, and then atlas, I’d have hope that I could make it work with one of them. I could be the woman they wanted me to be, I could be all of those perfect, dreamy qualities they always imagined a woman would be. If they’d let me, I’d take my sweet Southern grandmother’s advice to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a well, you fill in the blank, in the bedroom. I’d find a way to keep them close to me, to make them fall in love with me and then I’d actually make it. I’d have one of those relationships that works and I wouldn’t be that girl anymore. I wouldn’t be the one of my friends who was scarily always single, yet never lacking a date.
That was all fine and dandy until the men would resist. Until they’d have excuses or let me know they only wanted to sleep with me and if I wasn’t looking for something casual, I should look elsewhere. And so I would, but I always found myself in the same situation again and again, until I had a moment of realization. I tend to have the best of these when I’m walking the streets sans iPod or when I’m in the shower, left to only the device of my rambling thoughts. And that’s where I was, curled up in an old Victorian tub that needed to be scrubbed, my arms wrapped around my legs, crying and wishing I could just make it work. Just once, I begged to some unnamed wise character of the universe. If I could just make it one time, I wouldn’t need a second chance. I’d get it right and that’d be that. I wouldn’t have to feel so disposable, so unwanted and undesirable if I could just make it work. Just once!
Looking up at the running water turning cold, it occurred to me that I wasn’t working. I was functioning, sure. I had a small pool of friends, a job in the industry I adored, a pseudo-studio in the pseudo-Upper West Side. On paper, my jagged pieces didn’t seem so rough around the edges. I seemed like any semi-adjusted girl who was somewhat new to the city, discovering what she liked and didn’t like, and making the rest up as she goes.
But did I want to make it up? Did I want to have to make something work with someone? Did I want to wear makeup to cover up the dark circles left from late night fights, not late night romps? Did I want to have to work so diligently, so intensely, so patiently to make a relationship last through the beginning stages? Is this what love is made of? If it is – why do I want it so badly?
Or could it be that what I wanted -what I still want – is to make myself? Not go looking for myself in the beds, the eyes and the empty promises of men who are saved and then deleted from my phone? Could I not make anything work with a man because I wasn’t working? Because I wasn’t a whole person, I wasn’t made up into the woman I wanted to be, into the me I knew I was meant to become? Had I allowed love to race to the forefront of my priorities and lost myself somewhere in the laps in between?
I had. And so, without knowing what else to do, I did the one thing that brought me comfort: I wrote. I wrote and wrote, I thought and thought, I chatted with my best friends and I picked the brains of the mentors I trusted the most. And I came up with this blog, a program of freeing myself from love addiction. A gradual way to detox myself…from myself. So that I could start anew, clean and unbothered by my tireless pursuit to make something out of nothing with men who should have never meant anything.
Nine months, nine steps, a new boyfriend (yes, I said it. Let’s move on, now), a well-read blog, a new apartment, a new sense of self, a new group of friends, a few freelancing gigs, one failed attempt at learning Italian, one deceased Beta fish (RIP in Giorgio), and a few lovely trips later – here I am. Not trying to make anything work. Not praying for things to work out perfectly and ideally. Not imagining my life or my love life as detrimental or possible to be classified into classified sections of “dateable” and “non-dateable.” Not hearing A’s words ringing continuously in my head when Mr. Possibility and I have a disagreement.
Nope. I’m just making myself into me. Into the me I want to be at any point, on any given day, without any notice or prerequistices. Because the thing I’d most like to be made into is the best version of me that I can be.