Wednesday, December 16, 2015

But now, I'm taking the game up, and the ace of hearts is high

We are conditioned to play hard to get, to act as if we are a prize to be won, to be unattainable and in doing so, make our attainment that much more desirable.  It's an age-old lesson, handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter, distilled and condensed in books like The Rules (which came out when I was in my mid 20s), and probably every other advice article in magazines like Teen Temptress.*

Play your cards close to the vest.

Don't call him; make him call you.

Be aloof; don't act like you like him, or he'll lose interest.  If you ignore him, he'll come running.

Make him jump through hoops to land you.

It's actually an awful way of thinking - it takes the humanity out of the equation. It ignores that what's involved, on both sides, is people who have feelings and desires and hopes. People who want to both love and be loved, to admire and be admired, to value and feel valued.  Instead, it boils things down to strategy and cunning, like an emotional game of Risk.

But nonetheless, it gets hammered home from an early age, through high school, through being in a sorority in college, through the post-college craziness of figuring out how to be a functioning adult in the world.

It gets exacerbated by disappointments and heartbreak.  When you've had your heart broken, there's a natural hesitation, a natural reticence, a natural caution that sets in - if you don't put yourself out there, then you're not at risk.  

And when you've spent years in a relationship feeling ignored and invisible and unworthy of love or admiration, a part of you starts to believe it, to internalize those feelings of unworthiness, even as your intellect says, "don't be ridiculous - of course you're worthy, of course you are desirable."  

It takes time, and some serious soul searching, and some cheerleading from your family and your close girlfriends, to start to feel deserving of love and affection again.  

And it takes wisdom, and experience, and maybe some suffering, to reject all of the conditioned attitudes about how you have to be, how you have to act, in order for someone to want you again.  To throw off the bullshit and embrace honesty and be open and plain about who you are and what you want.

Even though it has terrified me, I have broken every Rule.  I have been more straightforward, at this point in the dance, about my interest and desires than I have ever been in my life.  Partly because I don't have the energy or patience anymore to be coy or equivocal, and partly because I know that it's not just about me.  I'm not the only one who was in a relationship that made me feel ignored and invisible and unloved.  I'm not the only one who wants to feel desired and worthy.  I'm not the only one who doesn't want to be rejected.

I have to be willing to give as much, or more, than I get.

It's so fucking scary.  

*not an actual magazine

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