Thursday, May 8, 2014

"I love the person I've become, because I fought to become her."

When I look back at the past 15 years or so, I sometimes can't help but wonder where I went wrong with myself.  I mean, consider the fact that I didn't date in high school, I hardly dated in college, and I didn't date much after college, either.  There were guys interested in me off and on, and that remains the case, but the reality of it is, that interest rarely lasts for very long.  Why is that, I wonder?  Am I fundamentally flawed as a person?  So fundamentally flawed that no one wants to remain with me for an extended period of time? Now, when I am single again, it comes even more to the fore.  On paper, in theory, I am something desirable, something guys want, for a variety of reasons, I am discovering.  The past few months I have had adjectives applied to me that I don't recall having applied to me before.  Pretty, beautiful, gorgeous, sexy. When this is said to me, I feel like I should be looking over my shoulder to see who is standing behind me, that they might be talking to.  I am not used to being the pretty one.  I'm the wingman.  The character actress. The best friend of the lead.

Don't get me wrong, I am not fishing for compliments here.  I can look in the mirror, especially when I have makeup on, my hair done and the right clothes, and I can see that I am pretty.  I can see that there are things about me, my face, my hair, my body, that are attractive.  But, I look the same, more or less, as I always have.  There are an extra 20 lbs on my frame that weren't there last time, that I wish weren't there, but that just seems to add to the appeal, somehow. In fact, I discussed this once with a man I was seeing.  He mentioned something about it, and I said I didn't like it, the softness, the squishiness of my body.  And he said that it suits me.  The softness and the smoothness suits me.  I wonder how that is, because I don't feel like it does, really.  I feel like a firmness suits me better.  Tough and strong is what I want to be, not soft.

But, back to it.  In theory, yes, I can be appealing.  Pretty, curvy, red haired, intelligent, funny, strong willed, hard worker, honest.  All these things sound good, right?  And quite a few people seem to think so.  Until they actually have to live with it, spend time with it.  I am not stupid.  I know I am a pain in the ass, sometimes.  I know I can be difficult.  And then the perception starts to change.  An intelligent redhead sounds sexy.  Until she needs to be right most of the time.  A strong willed woman is appealing, until that strong will seems to be more stubbornness and an unbending attitude than anything good.  A hard worker is something everyone wants, until she demands the same hard work from you.  Then it gets annoying, and the payoff of those things no longer outweighs the demands they create.  The passion that everyone expects from a redhead becomes too much.  Too hot of a temper.  Too moody.  Too demanding.  Too....everything.

For a long time I tried to be not be so much all of those things.  Not so overwhelming to the person I was with.  And then, after my marriage ended, I realized that that is what I was doing and that it maybe wasn't a good thing.  And so, I tried to stop.

Then I tried dating again and I discovered that yes, men still think they love "redheads" in the all encompassing term.  And the same and other adjectives were applied to me.  You are fiery.  You are distinctive.  You are rare and honest and strong.  You are clever and intelligent and beautiful.  And are too much.  You want too much, you demand too much.  You are too raw and too honest, too discomfiting. You call people out on their harmless lies, you don't play the game.  You are too much to handle.

And, I thought, well, maybe I am too much of all these things, and I need to be less.  But maybe I don't want to be "handled".  I don't want to be put up with.  I like these things about me. And then, I started dating someone who did like all of those things about me.  He wasn't afraid of my intelligence.  He wasn't afraid of honesty and stubbornness and strength.  Perhaps because he was all of those things as well.  And it was going well and I was enjoying it so much, discovering that there was someone like that.  Not so much that he wasn't put off by my "me-ness" as much as that he was equally himself, and unapologetic about it. He was brilliant and clever and funny, he was kind and caring, he was motivated and driven and opinionated and a smart-ass.  He was well read and well educated, loud and silly and passionate.  Not to mention that we had a lot of similar tastes, in food, in reading, in politics, so the conversation was always good, always sparkling, always fun.  At least, from my point of view. And he challenged me, constantly. Not in a bad way, at least, not always in a bad way.  ;)  He made me think, he challenged how I viewed things and pushed me to reevaluate what I thought and why I thought it.  It wasn't something he necessarily did on purpose, that would be a bit condescending.  It's just what happened when we talked about things.  And I loved it.  When you have a personality like mine, a "redhead" personality, people don't challenge you much.  They mostly just get out of your way.   Don't misunderstand me, he had flaws, just like anyone else.  But, part of being in a relationship, whether it is a friendship or more, is finding someone whose flaws are bearable, and sometimes the flaws in a person make them even more compatible with one.  I don't want someone perfect, that wouldn't do at all.  It would give me an inferiority complex and make that person insufferable, really. When we were together, it was fun, it was lovely, but mostly, it was just GOOD.

And then...I was too much.  I wanted too much time.  I was too much of a risk.  And, it ended.  He ended it. And I was (and am) sad about it.  For all selfish reasons, if I'm honest. I think I got much more from him than he got from me and I am sorry to lose that.  I miss the stimulating conversation, the easy way we would lay together while he read me poetry, the debates.  And, I admit it, I miss who I was when I was with him.  I felt real.  I felt more ME than I have felt in a long time.  And, you know what?  It is a glorious feeling to feel like oneself. To be free and to feel like there might be a point at which you need hide nothing, and that it will be ok.   Of course, it never got quite to that point, but the possibility was there.  I don't doubt that our brief relationship had far less of an effect on him than it had on me.  I hope that it had a positive effect on him, but, I know it is nothing like it had on me.  I wonder why it did have such an effect on didn't last that long, really.  But, oh, I am not sorry it happened.  And, I think God puts people in your life, in your path, in MY path, for a reason.  And I am grateful.

And now?  I do not know, as I said in another post, if this is completely a good thing or a bad thing.  Because my standards have changed.  Not only my standards of what I expect in a partner, I want that level of intelligence and social responsibility.  I want that passion and motivation.  I want that...unidentifiable something...that Je ne sais quoi, that there was.  And, I don't know if I will find it again.  But, that's ok.  Because, I had it for a minute. And it changed my standards about how I want to be loved.  Cared for. And it opened my eyes again to what it is like to have it, to be me.  All me.  Real me. Loved as me. And real me is good.  And I did fight hard to become this person. I know I have flaws and I try to overcome them, but many of the things that others might consider flaws are parts of me that I fought for, and love.  I don't want to shut that me up again.

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