Photo of the author and her husband (who is not an asshole) on their wedding day.
Ten years after meeting him and seven after we said “I do,” I look at my husband — sometimes when he’s knee-deep into a heated rant about bad science, sometimes when he’s giggling uncontrollably over fart noises, sometimes when he’s playfully taunting our four-year-old with funny faces—and I think, “This is not the man I wanted.”
At 22, I sure didn’t want a super sweet goofball who wasn’t an emotionally broken, tortured soul that I could fix with my dog-like devotion and blind adoration. I did not want a guy with little romantic experience, which would make his choosing me feel like a default and not a victory. I wanted to come in like a motherfucking wrecking ball, but what fun is that with a man who has no walls?
My dance of seduction was one of infiltration. It is a technique that many a fat girl who has accepted her socially assigned role as that of a leper has found handy.
The first tenet is absolutely no flirting. You don’t scare away a guy by showing him that a fat girl dares to think she has a chance with him. This gives you the opportunity to close in and aggressively display your inner strengths — some of which are actual cool things about you, most of which are just behaviors to make him feel like the most interesting dude in the world, which he absolutely isn’t, but whatever.
If you had asked me back then if this is how I really wanted to navigate dating, I would say, “Of course not!” I didn’t really get a high out of chasing these kinds of people. Sure, the highs came in fleeting moments when they would let themselves be caught up in my covert romancing, but then I paid for it with crippling lows once they remembered my real role in their lives — that of doormat. Still, I chose this type over and over again. Something inside me had to like this special brand of torture.
Chasing assholes quickly became addicting. As it at one point felt like the only way for a socially devalued woman to go, it eventually revealed itself to be more about my conditioning to conquest. I never thought I could get anywhere just by being. I thought I had to get there by doing and earning. It’s a great work ethic, but it leaves your self-esteem in shambles.
My answer to this was to look for consistency and drive in other areas of their life. Did this person have passions? Were they pursuing them and if not, what was the damn good reason they weren’t?
Leaving this toxic methodology behind of course required a new level of confidence. At that point, I was still in the “faking it” phase. But beyond that, I also needed a straw to break the camel’s back. It came in the form of my best friend’s hot older brother.
After carrying on a casual long-distance arrangement for months, I watched him start to move on to someone else and slowly lose interest in me. This I was used to, but two things made this particular fuck boy different: he started it and he fucked like he meant it. I never had a truly giving lover before and never really had anyone blindside me with their sexual interest. But that couldn’t possibly happen to me. That only happened to skinny girls, right?
Then it ended, and that was it. I knew it even then in that very moment as I let myself get blackout hammered alone in my sister's condo watching American Beauty, waiting for him to show up and knowing he wouldn't. This was the worst heartbreak I had ever felt, and I was done. If I was ever going to feel this way again, it would be over actually losing something and not just the hopes and illusions of something.
Strong-arming men into loving me clearly wasn't working. Hunting and wearing them down was just wearing me down.
After months of licking my wounds, I decided to actually do the dating thing — and 10 years ago, the place to be was OKCupid. Putting myself out there with directness and intention was one thing, but what about the actual choosing of people to date? Wasn’t my picker broken, after all? When your instinct is to go after wounded men, how to you counteract that?
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Luckily, directness and a lowered tolerance for bullshit weeds out a lot of tragic man-boys. Who would have thought? Telling a guy straight-up that I was there to look for a relationship would usually force them to tell me they weren’t, and that was that. But another thing I wanted to avoid like the plague were fickle guys. These were the worst kind because they might want a relationship on Tuesday, but by Friday they realize monogamy is a social construct and not natural and they are more than happy to send you a few interesting links on that. Cool, bro. I’ll definitely read those.
My answer to this was to look for consistency and drive in other areas of their life. Did this person have passions? Were they pursuing them and if not, what was the damn good reason they weren’t? Basically, I wanted someone who knew what they wanted and walked towards it every day and could maybe bundle me up into that want. That’s how I found Mark.
For weeks, I still had to fight my badly-wired instincts that made me want to cut and run. “We’re too different. He’s nerdy. He’s never even listened to Tool.” Connecting with a person on real-life issues and not act like I was John Cusack in High Fidelity thinking the only thing that matters is trivial bullshit like listening to the same music — that was tough for me. It required a lot of growing up and sacrificing what I thought I wanted for what I knew I needed. Once I did that, I was allowed to fall in love for the first time. The last time. *crosses fingers*