If you are reading this before reading the disclaimers from my last post, you should probably start there instead.
There are these years of my life that my sister and I refer to as “the bad years.” For me, the best of “the bad years” still had me sitting at 17 with 3 giant gaps in my teeth, the one I was born with and the two that were created when my baby teeth (mind you they were prominent eye teeth) that had not fallen out naturally had been pulled. I had braces to correct aforementioned teeth and a bright, wacky sense of style that never really fit in my rural environment. I was just starting to be allowed to wear makeup outside of special occasions, which meant I could finally cover up all that acne, but it also meant quite a bit of unfortunate experimentation. I was slowly increasing my confidence with my hair and starting to grow it out, but there was no one to properly do it and I didn’t know how to do it myself. I’d been recently permitted to start dating, but absolutely no one wanted to date me, which probably suited my parents just fine. Yes, I am describing the peak of “the bad years,” so perhaps that will allow you to get an idea of just how “bad” things could get. My life was the adolescent nightmare you see depicted in those late 90’s/early 2000’s teen movies before the girl gets the makeover. The difference was, I never got the makeover and I definitely never got the guy. I tortured myself for a very long time, believing that if only I had been prettier, if only I could find a way to make myself prettier, more appealing somehow, that men would like me.
That’s probably true in a sense. There’s plenty to back up the theory that the pretty girls actually do get the attention of more guys. I can’t subtract this reality from the equation, but then I got older and realized that my appearance wasn’t the only variable. Apparently, I had a difficult personality to contend with as well. For someone with a personality as strong as mine, it probably would have been easier to get a full face transplant than to act like the kind of girl the adolescent men around me were looking for.
So… I came up with a diabolical plan that I kept up for years. Except, I didn’t come up with it at all. It kind of just happened, and now with years of reflection, I can see what that poor little girl was doing. You see, I found a way to get boys to like me, in fact, I was an expert at it. No, they didn’t like me in the way I wanted, but maybe, just maybe, if I hung around long enough, someday they would. I became very skiiled at getting what is commonly now referred to as “friend zoned.” While their girlfriends were “moody,” I was reliable, sure and steady, tried and true. When they had relationship issues, I was a listening ear. I’d wait on them hand and foot AND always be up for a game of pick-up basketball or soccer. Feeling lonely during a relationship drought? I’d be the gal who always picked up the phone, who’d be ready and willing to go out to eat or go to the movies. Looking back, I ask myself if I was completely deluded. Then, I stop myself and remember I wasn’t. See, I often didn’t pay for those dinners or movies, I wasn’t the one scooching in closer, and I certainly wasn’t the one describing what a perfect girl I was or giving myself compliments for my appearance or outfits. As it turns out though, it didn’t matter whether someone was sending out mixed signals or if I was simply getting “the wrong impression.” At the end of the day, I still didn’t get the guy. When push came to shove, he was always walking away with another girl. When things were good, I wouldn’t hear from him, when things were not so good, he’d come back on the scene. And when he did, there I was, ready and willing to take him back. I wish I could say this happened once, or even twice. However, this didn’t happen just a couple times, this happened countless times over the course of decades. Decades I can’t and won’t get back.
Even though I can’t excuse the behavior of those males, my behavior is pretty inexcusable as well. It wasn’t honest. I had poor boundaries and those poor boundaries spilled into my other relationships. Worst of all, I began chasing people who were never right for me to begin with. You’re in a relationship? No problem, you won’t be forever. You’re a jerk who’s not going to treat me right? Not an issue, I don’t deserve to be treated right anyway. Aloof and disinterested? Just my type… It turns out, when you don’t like or respect yourself, it’s pretty hard to demand the respect you deserve from others. These were a different kind of “bad years” the years filled with what I now call “pseudo-relationships.” I’m thankful for healing. So many transformational moments (and people) have brought me to a place where most days, I love and respect myself. However, old habits die hard and it is still way easier for me to be “friend zoned” than to actually let someone love me, allow someone the opportunity to take care of me.
When it comes down to it, over the years, I have made myself far too accessible. I should have been more protective of my time and my heart. I have a dear, dear friend who constantly reminds me how many people I have in my life who love me and that I should only be giving my love and energy to those who will treasure it. I have come to believe she is right. I have to stop chasing. I can’t pick up the phone whenever it rings or return every text. If someone doesn’t have time for me in their best times, I can’t be their bright light during their worst. I can no longer brag about being “one of the guys” then cry that I’m not being treated like one of the girls. So, if you’re bored, call someone else. If you’re lonely, I’m not your gal. Need someone to talk to? I already have clients and I’m not your therapist. Getting better at saying “no” will hopefully allow me more time to say “yes.” Yes to people who are there through the good times and the bad. Yes to those who accept me for who I am even when my make-up is off the wall and I’m being completely over-the-top ridiculous. Yes to that sweet spot of true love and true friendship that is marked by warmth, and forgiveness, and consistency.
While accessibility can be a bit of a flaw of mine, there is one aspect that I never plan on letting go of. If you are there for me, I will always, always be there for you. So if you aren’t one of those “pseudo-relationships” I mentioned, don’t worry. If anything, you should be prepared for me to hold on to you a little bit tighter, because once you have tasted true love, you never want to let it go.