Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dating, Part 5 Million

The manhunt is over. What does that mean? Well first of all, I and my therapist of 11 years have once again realized that the idea of a relationship is terrifying to me. I recognize yet again that I expect being in a relationship to cause me to prioritize my boyfriend's needs and wants over mine, which leads to resentment and self-hatred for not treating myself well. I'll also feel guilt for not being the perfect girlfriend and resentment that he's not the perfect boyfriend, and my initial warm feelings for him will eventually turn into panic and fear that he'll break up with me, accompanied by the greater fear that he'll never break up with me. Driving all of this will be my abject terror that intimacy suffocates and kills, either figuratively or literally. I'm terrified of being erased.

The second reason the manhunt is over is that, as one male friend put it, having low self-esteem pretty much makes me "un-datable." Hearing it put that harshly hurt, but I admit that trying to find a long-term relationship just to bolster my anemic self-esteem is a doomed mission. Over the last 15 years, I and various therapists and professionals have also worked on hard my self-esteem problem, but obviously I/we haven't accomplished much. My low self-esteem isn't changing.

So, knowing there's little chance that these two extremely powerful self-blockades to romance will change anytime this decade, I give up the manhunt even more profoundly than all the hundreds of times I've given up in the past. As long as I feel bad about myself and am terrified of intimacy, there's no point in continuing to pretend I'm capable of any kind of relationship and there's no point in searching for "the right guy." All I've done for 10 years is reject all the men who want to date me, so why pretend I'm actually open to a relationship?

So, at the unmarried age of 38, I'm done. Now I'll find out what it's like to go grocery shopping, or to perform at a bar or to just walk down the street without keeping a lookout for possible dates. For over two decades, I've constantly kept a lookout for possible dates. I've constantly evaluated myself, sizing myself up from the outside, imagining how I look to men, wondering if I'm attractive enough to earn the attention I've constantly, constantly been seeking. Constantly.

No more. Spinsterhood 4 Ever. Now that I'm no longer grooming my body to attract men, I feel different about it. These days I'm currently enjoying not having to wear a bra all time because my chest is smaller from recent weightloss. I actually halted the weightloss in August because I didn't want to lose my curves, but now that I don't need them maybe I'll go for further weightloss. I'll see if I can get rid of my breasts altogether and never have to wear a bra again. I don't need my breasts or hips and no one else is using them (I remain indifferent to the idea of having kids), so why not just starve them away? Maybe I'd be more comfortable as a toothpick.

When a girlfriend points out that this plan is crazy, I realize just how little I occupy my body for myself. I now understand why wives stop wearing heels and uncomfortable underwear: if you're not trying to attract a man, why bother looking attractive? But if I no longer need to attract men, how do I dress? What does it mean to dress just for me? How do I separate what makes me feel good from what makes me feel good because it attracts men?

I don't know. I have no idea what to do with that focus that I used to use to constantly scan for single men. What's the point of getting up in the morning without that constant, noble, society-supported quest to find a permanent relationship? How do I act, eat or walk down the street just for me and not for the gaze of men?

And what do I do with the rage I feel because others get to have that falling-in-love kind of happiness, but I don't?

WARNING: I will direct this rage at anyone who suggests that now that I've stopped looking, now I'll find "Mr. Right." "Mr. Right" has never shown up any of the other hundreds of times I have given up and "he" isn't going to show up now that I wear my self-loathing and defeat on my sleeve, expressing my disappointment and disgust to any idiot who tries to approach me.

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