Maggie– I’ll answer your next question tomorrow, but first I want to talk about dating nerds and some other stuff.
Thanks to the commenters on yesterday’s post for the lively discussion/debate about gender, biology, and attraction! I really believe that conversations like these are the kind that will keep happening, no matter what. The terms change a little, but we’re always talking about sexuality. Kind of like we always talk about spirituality or God. There are just some subjects that people can’t get enough of. This is why I studied religion and sexuality in college and grad school. Because I am totally human, and I’m not even trying to fight it. My younger brothers tease me about it a lot. When people asked what their sister was studying they said, “God and sex” (or more explicit versions of this), just for the subsequent troubled expressions.
Yesterday’s conversation about attraction got me thinking about relationships, and then, because I’m ridiculously self-centered, I thought about my own relationships with guys (I never actually got around to kissing a girl at any point). And, because I try to stick at least mostly to the body image theme (we’ll see how long I can keep it up! No sex pun intended!), I thought about how my understanding of myself as attractive or unattractive has been influenced by romantic relationships.
This is something I don’t like talking about. Because I’m embarrassed. You’ll understand why in a second.
From the time I was fourteen or so, I always needed a boyfriend. For a lot of reasons. Here are some of the main ones:
- To make me feel beautiful
- To make me feel like I was part of a romantic and dramatic story
- I was bored
- I was scared of not being able to find anyone
See? It sounds awful, when I put it like that. Utilitarian. Then again, are teenagers really supposed to be profound in all of their motivations?
I had to have a boyfriend to prove I could have a boyfriend. It often didn’t matter who. So I always had a boyfriend. Often some poor guy who’d just been minding his own business, peddling off to his Boy Scouts’ meeting when I jumped out of the bushes, pulled him off his bike, and hauled him off to my lair. Check out how many gender violence clichés I just mashed together. Not sure where the Boy Scouts fit into it. No, but really, I usually found some nice, shy boy who other girls weren’t paying much attention to, and smiled at him a bunch until he fell madly in love with me. Then he’d be my boyfriend. And everyone would say, “What are you doing with that guy??” And I wouldn’t care, because he would tell me I was gorgeous and unique and amazing, and swear he’d never loved anyone this way. And it was true. He hadn’t loved anyone that way. Because no one else had given him a chance.
I think a lot of this is because I was homeschooled. I didn’t learn to pursue the “alpha” male. I wasn’t exposed to a peer group in which an alpha male was even present, most of the time. When I finally encountered one, at a summer camp, I thought he was laughable. He wore silly, “cool” clothes, and didn’t seem very smart, and wasn’t even as cute as some of the nerdy guys. He just acted very, very confident all the time. To me, his confidence was a clear warning sign. He was not going to fall madly in love with me and tell me how gorgeous I was. He had too many other girls to pick from, and he probably wouldn’t let himself be open and vulnerable with any one of them. What were the other girls looking for? I couldn’t figure it out. At that camp, I chose a very overweight guy with a sweet face who sang beautifully. I smiled at him until he followed me around everywhere. My friends said, “What are you doing??” Maggie was there. She can tell you. She’s still making fun of me for that.
So I’ve always chosen nerds. Dorks. Geeks. And that’s not just one of those things that I say to sound nicer. Or more indie. Or less stereotypical. I really have. At one point I briefly dated a muscle-y bodyguard who’d played a lot of football. But I broke it off pretty quickly. He wasn’t that bright and by then I’d gotten used to smarter guys.
I’m really trying to make some sort of point here, but feel like I might not quite reach it. Probably because I haven’t figured a lot of this stuff out myself yet. OK. Focus. OK. So here’s what I think I’m trying to say:
I dated nerds not just because they were nerds, but because they weren’t alpha males. Because I needed specific things from a relationship, and they could give me those things. But the part that bothers me is that I always needed those things from a boy. I left it up to boys to make me feel gorgeous and sexy and awesome. And as a result, I kept them around too long when I didn’t even like them anymore. I swapped them for each other without really noticing who was who. I convinced myself that it was always, ALWAYS better to be in a relationship than to be alone. Regardless of the relationship. Regardless of the other person.
Because ultimately, I was afraid that without a guy, I’d have failed a little, as a girl. So I failed to wait for guys I really cared about. I failed to trust my own beauty, separate from a guy’s desire for it. My beauty, in fact, got all tangled up in male desire.
Even now, many of my single friends complain of feeling unattractive when they don’t have a guy. As though only the most attractive women get the guys. I always felt that, and I solved the problem by always having a guy. So that I could never be unattractive. It didn’t work. But I did make a lot of nerdy guys temporarily happy.
Un-Roast: Today I love my thighs. They’re pale and they have a smooth look, and they’re proportionate to the rest of my body.
Everyone: Do you have (or did you used to have) a partner pattern? In what way is it dependent on your relationship with your appearance?