A good friend in college once admitted to feeling miffed when we were together in public because men sometimes checked me out instead of her. Apparently, she was attempting to build trust by revealing these monstrous feelings and I was supposed to be touched.
I won’t pretend to have been a saint at the time, somehow immune to male attention. But the last line of attack I’d have considered for securing guys’ interest was scorning my friends for taking it from me.
Still, like lotsa gals, much of my twenties was spent hoping guys liked me. A cute one would come ‘round and I’d feel pressured to become a sexier, smarter, sassier version of myself, all smirky and eyelashes aflutter. When dudes weren’t around, I was relaxed and keeping it real, praying for the day I’d be freed from stressing about being a hit with the boys.
I used to be afraid that day would never come. But yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
This weekend, a gal named Christina proved those days are long behind me. We met at a two-day writing conference. Christina was naughty librarian sexy with the kind of combustible “not quite sure who I am yet” energy that makes folks in their twenties both charming and exasperating. At breakfast, Christina formed a friend crush on me and a regular old boy crush on Billy, a handsomely tortured grunge king who had all the girls at the workshop in a tizzy. Ten years ago, I might have had eyes for Billy, too. Now, I’m wise enough to know self-important hot guys usually have little to offer, especially if they’re flirting with everything in a bra.
Christina wasn’t as wise. When Billy noticed her, she feigned indifference even though stars were shooting out of her eyes. When he walked away, her entire being deflated like a popped balloon. When Billy chose to spend his lunch sitting with a pretty blonde instead of us, Christina sat quietly seething as if plotting her next move. On the conference’s second day, she showed up in a low-cut shirt and bright red lipstick. Then she spent the day saying raunchy things super loudly and emanating a willful sexuality as if mind controlling the boy to come to her.
Christina didn’t seem smitten, she just seemed pissed. I assumed she wasn’t as much interested in Billy as she was bothered he wasn’t noticing her. Still, she didn’t care when I suggested the boy was obviously a player and not worth the effort. She didn’t buy my theory that not being desired by every male on the planet was no big thang and that all a gal needed was one decent man to love her. Ultimately, I stopped offering support altogether once the recurring question of the conference changed from “how can I be a better writer” to “why doesn’t Billy like me?”
Thank God I’m not there anymore. Really, it’s been ages. Sure, my relationships or attempts at entering into relationships haven’t always been smooth. But I’ve been myself every step of the way and couldn’t care less about any man except the one who makes my heart go boom. Even back in the day, when I was more concerned than I should’ve been about being the cat’s meow, I always knew there was more to life than boys.
Not long ago I met a woman in her fifties who had recently ended a five-year romance. The woman had no children and had never been married, though she’d had a bunch of boyfriends through the years. She proudly announced herself finished with men, finished with the anxiety of trying to appeal to them, finished worrying about whether she’s desirable.
I could tell the woman meant it. Like wives who finally divorce after decades in a rotten marriage, she looked forward to starting life on her own terms. On one hand, I envied the inner peace she claimed to feel. On the other hand, I was sad to imagine a life without love.
So, I’m glad to be way past the point of obsessing over boy love but pray I never arrive at the place where I’m glad to be out of the game completely. I’m not positive how to avoid such a fate, but there’s one thing I know for sure. Needing to be the prettiest girl in the room ain’t it.
[Image from vanityfair.com]