In 2013 growing tired of vehemently harassing a late-night lay who had made me feel stupid and reliably slut shamed me every time before and after sex, not really knowing I only needed his attention in order to Scorpion Sting his ass, I decided that I was finally ready to give up on the bullshit and try dating. The only problem was that I was going through a period where I didn’t like people very much. In fact I pretty much hated everyone. Each man I encountered was worse than the one before. No one met my standards. I’d fuck an arrogant preppy confident enough to pick me up knowing I was sober while he rambled on 6 cocktails deep, but each time while attempting a second go I found myself gravely disappointed with either his mind, the way he treated me, or even his next performance. Frustrated and rather lonely I realized I needed to start thinking about what I wanted in the first place. So I made a list. Of all the things that I was looking for in a man. Who he would be. How I would know. Until I meet this guy it’s one night stands with those drunken assholes only. They’re not worth the effort for anything more. I wrote about him a few nights in a row. I imagined he was British, thinking I was moving to London in 6 months, assuming all of those traits fit perfectly over there. I probably didn’t catch on that I just had to get the hell out of Lincoln Park. A few days later I met him. Not British. Not tall. Not clean shaven or dressed anything like a gentleman. We only talked for 5 minutes. But I knew I had to see him again. So I texted immediately the next morning. And made a new best friend.
I never really understood relationships. I had a hard time connecting with people. Anyone. For an entire lifetime. So when I made a list of my Perfect Man there were only two mentions of how he would relate to me. The most obvious was that he’d be a giver in bed - meaning he’d fuck me exactly how I liked to be fucked and he’d get off just as much knowing that he is pleasing a woman. The second was that he would understand my work and I’d finally have someone outside of my school to talk to about it. When I met my new bestie I didn’t dare discuss my own sex life knowing the danger in the topic, but I was in the middle of a big project that involved anonymous sexting so that naturally came up. He was really impressed - that this woman was exciting enough to sext with strangers. So I never talked about art again.
It didn’t matter. I’ve never connected with a man, a woman, a human being, to the degree that I did with him. We’d get together on a Friday afternoon, talk and talk and talk and on Monday morning someone would have to go to work. Sexless sleepovers were normal, cruel as it was. He had a brilliant mind. Mathematical and pragmatic, sure. I still adored his quick logic and insight into other people, myself included. He saw things in me, intellectually, that no one had ever seen before. Maybe the scientific side of my brain too that everyone had ignored due to how strong my creative pulse beats. Eventually the subject of sex did come up. It was inevitable. I was recounting the first time an ex lover slapped me, how it happened naturally from escalation and was the most erotic feeling I’d ever had. It must have been a thrilling tale, because he paused briefly with a pensive look in his eye, then leaned forward in his chair, struck me across the face, waited nervously for my reaction, I lunged at him, and the rest is history.
While we dated and I began to accept feeling feelings, I noted all the boxes he checked on my Perfect Man list. Loud, confident, the raconteur center of attention. Smart. Heavy drinker. Sexual giver. Similar taste in music. Will have dance parties with me in our underwear in the middle of the night. Makes me laugh. Laugh hard. The 6 months we spent officially together may be the best time I’ve ever had in my life. But when I lost my shit that one weekend and abruptly broke it off because he didn’t return a few text messages I found myself in a position that I hadn’t expected to be in half a year prior. And so devastated by what I had done, for the next 18 months while we struggled to make a decision, I continued down this derailed path I had unknowingly chosen at the start of our friendship. My world got pretty dark. Desolate. Empty as fuck. He was the only thing I had in my life and I didn’t even have him. The whole time I never understood that all I needed to get back was what I had given up the first night we hung out. Me.
We all have friends who do it. And we talk shit about other women when we see them doing the same with men we wish we had for ourselves: Enmeshing. Copying. Suddenly liking all the same things. Even looking similar. Logan Square itself is made up of an entire community of women appropriating men’s tastes and predilections. We judge and make fun of this but I’m not exactly sure that our assessment is on the mark. I’ve always thought that the motivation for melding with a man is to gain acceptance. To be liked. To be cool. Really I think women may just want to be agreeable because most men aren’t capable of understanding us and it’s harder for them to meet in the middle. We have to cross over to their side a little so things can run more smoothly. I’m not that shy in my claims that men are great big babies. They’re simple. Linear. Narrow. The female mind and emotional spectrum is so complex and multifaceted that there’s just no way she’ll ever be fully understood. And that’s fine. That’s why we have each other. That’s why men have Bros. But it worries me that we change ourselves or sacrifice things all together with the intent of coupling up. It’s evidence that we’re still living in a culture where male priorities dominate. That mathematical logic is valued over the abstract and multi-dimensional thinking that women are capable of. Emotional intelligence though studied and written about to much acclaim is still devalued and criticized when expressed through a female voice and rewarded when a man is strong enough to show he has depth. It’s from this pressure to be both desirable as the submissive woman but like-minded with your partner that we start to give up the things that make us exceptional and unique. Is love worth it?
I didn’t change myself for love. There was no absorbing of another person’s hobbies or interests with the goal of getting closer. I’m a bad liar, it extends to even pretending that summer fedora is acceptable in public. I never attached myself to his priorities, but instead I sacrificed some of my own so that I could feel more relatable. He didn’t ask me to. He was impressed with me the moment we met. Continued to be the more we got to know each other. But I simply wasn’t comfortable outshining him the way I did naturally, so I dimmed my light so we could share our glow. I dressed down. I left out conversation that I knew he’d never grasp. I dropped the topic of my creative pursuits. Eventually I dropped those pursuits all together. I had found my Perfect Man. I wanted to be compatible. I was desperate for it to work. He checked all the boxes! So what if I had to uncheck a couple of mine so we could be the right match. We overlapped in so many others, it hardly felt like a significant loss. At the time it was more important to have a companion. Completely ignoring my crippling fear of commitment that continued to creep into our daily interactions I vowed to make it work. He made me happy. For once I had found a man who wasn’t shit.
My lifelong identity as an artist was erased for the 3 years that he was in my crosshairs. Not having any clue what to do for a living I started from scratch with no real passion or drive and endless half-assed plans with no experience in anything other than the only trade in which I’ve ever been trained, the very thing I had given up to feel more level with him. My brain slowed. My energy lulled. I entered a mind-numbing depression that went unnoticed for far too long. My only priority was getting him back as if his smiling face would save me from my misery. It was the kind of codependence that I had feared since my earliest days of boy-journaling in the fourth grade. I never thought I’d actually let a man influence or replace my core sense of purpose. And after suddenly getting it all back a couple weeks ago, jumping into a new project and finally using my hands again - I can’t help but feel a little shame in how I lost myself to love.
Am I any better than the woman who copies her man? Starts liking sports, drinking whiskey, and dressing more masculine? I see twinning couples all the time. They’re everywhere. You know those ladies had a much different look and book of hobbies before they realized they had to start creating similarities with their guys in order to keep the connections alive. Even so they could find more ways to hang out. God forbid we try to get them to do something that interests our feminine minds. It’s hard to believe that I even altered my own wardrobe to create a balance between us. It no longer seemed appropriate to always look polished the way that I did. He doesn’t do it. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable with all of my efforts. The same way that I stopped wearing giant heels so that I wouldn’t be taller. We may preach our lady power but a lot of us still hand it all over because frankly men are too sensitive. It’s easier to make them feel special. And in a society where women are criticized for being dominant or outspoken we may even feel protected from scrutiny if we just let him have the upper hand. Even if it's as simple as having the ability to physically look down at us instead of up.
Well I’m done with it. What blows my mind in the whole matter is that I didn't want to be in a relationship from the start. And I still don’t. Why I felt that I needed to be the perfect companion to ensure a commitment is beyond me. It can only be the result of spending all that time swimming in a sea of mediocre assholes and without warning falling right into the hands of a wonderful, caring, fun, and happy man that I just liked too much to ever want to give up. But my biggest mistake of all was believing that he was my dream guy simply because he fit the traits of a fantasy I had just solidified that very week. Fantasies are fine. Knowing what kind of man you’re attracted to helps weed out the shitheads that aren’t worth your attention. But relying on check marks can get you into trouble. In fact, why make that list to begin with. Why not make a list for myself. Why not know what I’m willing to give up and what I absolutely will not sacrifice? After all I met my sexual fantasy last spring and spent our whole relationship trying to force him into those boxes not getting that I could have just been fucking him. Men take all shapes and sizes. Yeah there are way more Bros out there than any of us would like to believe. But it’s not our job to keep shifting with each new set of preferences that comes with the next partner. We’ll only be able to stay satisfied when we focus on our own shining lights. Wasting valuable energy on anyone else’s only ends with rendering us dim. And if you meet a man who would rather have a dull, simplified connection than bright and complex just because it makes him feel valuable - move on. You don’t need a list for the perfect man, that he knows how to see you is really the only requirement. We’re all worth love, but only for who we are at full capacity. And it’s no one’s decision but ours to demand it. Once we all start doing that well - we’re women - we can have whatever the fuck we want.