I was in my first ‘relationship’ when I was eighteen years old. It was a late summer romance that lasted until about the following spring. He was a handsome, nice, hard-working guy who was close with his parents and did his best to balance full-time school work and a part-time job. During my holiday visit of him and his family, I vividly recall one interaction. We were out the night prior and got up late. His mom was home and we were discussing breakfast. I remember one minute he was looking at me like I was sunshine, smiling at me and then, just before he got up to grab something from the coffee table, he turned to his mom and said these seven life-changing words: “Show her how I like my eggs.” I am not sure what prompted him to say this and if he felt that in some weird way I would find it endearing, but something felt ‘off’ about that to my eighteen-year-old Self, who did not have the language to articulate or even understand how she truly felt. Perhaps then, this blog post was born, when I was eighteen years old.
A single woman living alone in a big metropolitan city, with a stable job, hobbies and close friends, in today’s day and age, is, frankly, common. It has not always been this way, as noted in the workforce composition/proportion of men vs women, in the last century. Perhaps it is somewhat of a recent trend, of say the last three or four decades, that women have gained the courage to be even more independent from their ‘home base’ where they were raised.
Of course, not every woman who completes school and/or secures a job which provides her financial independence, acts on it by leaving her parental home, solo. Be it for cultural reasons or to save money so that she can become a homeowner on her own, some independent women stay home and I pass no judgement on them. I, however, live alone in an apartment with a view of the lake, that is walking distance to work. Okay, my entire life is within a 15 minute walking radius. I’ve worked really hard over the years to make my world an oyster, and I am extremely grateful for it.
Perhaps due to my strong independence gains, I’ve become less tolerant for interactions with others, and notably men, which simply do not nurture MY personal growth, but often leave me feeling….kinda motherly. I’ll admit, I have that motherly, nurturing thing inside my Self that comes out naturally, whether I am aware of it or not. I’d like to think I’ve become more aware and mindful of it, but it’s hard to be someone you’re not. And I like me. Unfortunately, I think that attribute of mine has played a role in the kinds of men I’ve attracted over the years. I’m not saying ALL of them, but there have been a few interactions I’ve looked back on which somehow illicit a feeling of nauseating panic and…a shudder that seems to always be paired with an involuntary ‘Ugh!’. Some were good people, but it was my allowing of some of the interactions which took place, the length of time I stayed in IT, how much precious energy I expended on these men, which lead to these internal reactions of my Self. I’m going to share a few of these stories because, well, there are lessons in them for every man and woman. And also, I am not the same woman who went through those experiences so my shame has turned into forgiveness, wisdom and love for my Self. You may relate to some of these….be it as the guy or the girl.
Mott Haven, Bronx. August 1979.
From The Faces in the Rubble, by David Gonzalez.
Confession: I posted this photograph because it represents what I’d love to experience: the two of us (the man I’ve yet to meet who will choose to be a part of US) dancing together, to a common beat…it’s one of my dreams. ;)
I’ll start with a choreographer who I met through a social network. He was charming, funny, sexy as hell, cool. We spent hours talking about life and seemed to have a lot in common in terms of our values and views of relationships. He had done a lot in his life already, as had I. He intrigued me. It was a long distance connection, and although based on previous personal experience I did not believe in long distance romance, I really liked this guy. He was exciting to me. He took an interest in me. He even flew countries on short notice to spend a few days with me, despite the fact that we had not spoken in almost a year at that point (back story: I had created a distance between us about six months into IT because of, let’s call it, a woman’s intuition). It felt like something too good to be true but I convinced my Self that this must be love. The time we spent together was magical and beautiful, but it felt to me that there existed a lack of something in his Self which he battled silently most of the time. And I found his silence to be loud and suspicious. A few months later, during our following, and ironically, last encounter, he acted out one of my deal breakers and made me end IT, for good. So at this point, this interaction had lasted over eighteen months and although I had learned so much from IT, I was exhausted. I had gone out of my way to welcome him with a home cooked meal anytime he made time to visit me. I allowed him to use my credit card to book his flight to come see me. I tried to please him and make him laugh because I wanted to see him happy. But he wasn’t. From the last time I had seen him, until he had paid me back for that flight, more than a few months had passed. And despite his emotional distance and unavailability, I wasn’t completely over this man at that point. It wasn’t that I felt he was the right guy for me – I had convinced my Self that he was. When I was finally over him, and this took a long while, I randomly came across a post on another social network (you never know who’s going to ‘like’ what, thereby showing up on your feed), of him and his girlfriend, dated around the same time he had flown out to see me. Suddenly, it all made sense. His distance. His moods. His unavailability. And I realized, I did not love this man. I just loved the excitement, I thought, he brought to my life.
I’ll skip to the lawyer, because this IT was short-lived. We met on the train platform on a hot summer day. Tall, dark hair, and handsome, he threw me some cheesy line I found cute. I found his mannerism boyish yet mature at the same time. He seemed like the no-nonsense type, so I gave him my number. And I was right – he contacted me later that same day. We met and had a great date on yet another hot, sticky, summer day. Over the course of his courtship, we went to the movies, the beach, went on excursions, he wrote me poems, discussed the future, how we’d deal with our cultural differences, our individual family relationships…it seemed mature. The first red flag was his initial suggestion he cook dinner for me at my place on our second date and have a sleepover. I wasn’t feeling his self-invite and simply told him that it’s too soon for me and I will inform him when I feel comfortable with having him enter my home. Had he not brought it up again, I may have been able to work through it. But the third time he asked, over our sushi dinner date, if he can come over ‘just to sleep next to me while cuddling and nothing else’, I snapped. I told him that it’s not his place to keep inviting himself over, but for me to extend that invitation should I so choose. (Of course each time he had done so, a seed of doubt that was initially planted by his first self-invitation, grew.) I did not expect nor anticipate his actual reaction, but it had ended THAT. This intelligent lawyer who took on human rights cases pro bono and was very convincing of his belief in gender equality, sent me a slew of emotionally charged messages in one of which he stated that my ‘rejection’ of his self-invitation to MY home, made him ‘feel emasculated’. In that one sentence, he ended IT…although he didn’t see it that way. I clarified it for him politely initially, and ultimately silently.
Now, the lawyer wasn’t the only one who had extended a self-invitation to my home, but I found his reaction most honest. There was this one guy who I went out with on less than a handful of platonic ‘dates’, who, on top of extending a self-invitation to my home, that seems to always come with dinner (which, in retrospect, I think I would have financed in his case), also thought that it would be fair if he did his laundry while at my place. And when I pointed out that he was trying to take advantage of me, decided that it was ok for him to continue IT without an apology or an acknowledgement that he overstepped his boundary with me. It took a long while for him to stop sending me messages despite my lack of response. At one point, I was concerned that this one may turn out to be a stalker, but I was fortunate he didn’t. I think….
There was also the artist, who I felt was a soul mate. We had this incredible connection. He made time for me. We did things together. He professed his love to me. He taught me a lot. We had deep conversations about life and shared secretes with one another that we hadn’t told a soul prior. We discussed the future. He told his mother about me and brought me around his child, whom I loved. It wasn’t until I felt emotionally invested in IT, that I found out he had a substance abuse problem. I had cooked for him, and paid for most outing expenses, because that’s what you do when you care for someone, right?? Besides, he was pretty much a single parent, as he had his kid for most of the week, so I thought that was right… Except it rarely made sense. Looking back on it now, I realize that he was someone who was so lost in his self-denied substance abuse, that I almost lost my Self in IT. And in all the ways it seemed like L-O-V-E, at the core of IT was a slew of justifications for self-destructive behaviour that had hurt me. To this day, I’m not sure he fully understood that but I did not stick around to make sure he got it. (When someone compares their chosen substance of abusive consumption to what coffee does for other people, it raises a huge red flag. And, despite your repeatedly expressed concern that it sounds like a serious problem they need to deal with, they not only continue their use more heavily but attempt to feed you words to try to convince you otherwise, you stop banging your head against that wall. It only hurts you.)
The last one I’ll mention is the student who was actually really sweet. And he came into my life at a time when I was finally ready to end my almost five-year ‘singlehood’ stretch. When I met him, he had a job, ambition, he was going to school, and had interesting perspectives. He was there whenever I needed him and he did his best to play the role of a mature man despite our age gap (I was older). As time went on, he quit his job and started hanging out at my place a lot. (Towards the end of it, even when I was not home.) Initially, I understood it as his attempt to spend time with me, but he didn’t exactly contribute to my home financially or domestically, and I came to resent it. Our parting was amicable but I was a little surprised when he called me a few months later, confused about why I had ended it. While we were in IT, I was too frustrated and annoyed with the situation to clearly express my feelings but when he had called me I was able to articulate my stance clearly: he made me feel like I was his mother. In fact I remember this one argument we had towards the end of IT, when I was at my limit of tolerance for his lack of ambition and motivation, where he wanted to add his boxer shorts to my laundry load and I refused it. It made me feel like I was in IT with a child instead of an adult and it completely turned me off. I have zero romantic inclinations towards children….which is how I ended up feeling towards the end of IT with him, towards him. And that was THAT.
I take full responsibility for the decisions I had made during those interactions, for my reactions and choices of words (or lack thereof). I also took many lessons with me from each of those situations (which, by-the-way, are NOT in chronological order), and have applied those lessons to interactions with men I connected with thereafter. I find many of those situations humorous now. I mean how else do you look back at someone you just met extending a self-invitation to your place for a sleep over AND to do their laundry during their ‘visit’??
You’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering sharing these stories on such a public platform, right? I see a lot of my old self in so many single, independent folks. And it’s not that they’re bad or interacting with bad people, it’s just that they’ve not fully understood or come to grips with THEIR self-worth. A person who understands and has complete knowledge of what they bring-to-the-table in any type of relationship – be it professional, friendship, platonic or non-platonic interaction – has developed an ability to not only listen to their intuition, but honour it and stand in his/her own integrity.
While recalling aforementioned stories, I remember my old Self; a generous young woman with a big heart, lacking a sense of her Self-Worth, with an underdeveloped emotional maturity, and a shortage of courage to uphold her Self-Love. I’ve not changed my Self, my integrity, honesty, transparency of who I am and what I stand for, but I have grown up. Everything I identified as something I lacked (such as emotional maturity) which I also want in a partner, I worked on developing in my Self. Sure, it took time and without a doubt there is always room for growth and improvement, but this has enabled me to make decisions with respect to my interactions with other people, much easier. It has also allowed me to articulate how I truly feel with not just a lack of fear, but mature confidence. And I’m feeling good (Nina Simone voice). :D
I’d like to honour my eighteen-year-old Self with these important words:
I like MY eggs mostly two ways – sunny-side up or soft-boiled. ;)