I don’t want to write about men anymore but I want to shine the light in the darkest corner of my closet and realize the monster is not real. The monster I am afraid of right now is that there is never going to be a guy who doesn’t make me feel lonelier than I was before I met him, even while he is giving me everything I ask for as a partner. And the flashlight is talking about it out loud, where other people can hear me and maybe say ‘me too.’
I have a really hard time relating to men. I know women are supposed to be the mysterious sax but I understand women completely and fundamentally. Everything women do makes sense to me. I can look at a woman’s actions and see how 2 + 2 = 4. I can’t do this with men. When a guy describes how his brain works to me, I think I would have like 15 free hours a day if I were him. I think the experience of being inside a guy’s brain would be like drinking a margarita with my eyes closed on a sunny beach in a bougie Mexico tourist town.
I once made it to a third date with a guy before he asked what I do for work which I think of as totally insane but is actually very normal. This is related to an instantly and completely relaxing thought I tell myself of before a first date which is that I have nothing to be nervous about — he’s probably going to forget to ask me literally anything and monologue the whole time.
I don’t understand this if only because I would feel super embarrassed if I realized someone asked me a question and I didn’t ask them back — or if anyone perceived me as monopolizing the conversation and being The Chrissy Show instead of having a dialogue. It’s a feeling akin to excitedly opening up a Christmas present only to have an older family member remind you scoldingly, ‘There’s a card’. I understand what is leading to this dynamic — we teach women they’re supposed to care about other person and we teach men to lead and demonstrate their value to others — but it leaves me feeling empty just the same. The loneliness comes from not understanding and not being understood, and I fundamentally don’t understand talking about yourself to someone instead of spending your time talking with them.
I heard being a woman described once as having something like 25 tabs open at the same time on your internet browser. I get that. I can’t fathom what it’s like to just have one open.
I am a reasonable person so I can see the mistake I am making here. I am trying not to say “Yo, are men just dumb?” I know for certain this isn’t the case, but I keep asking myself the question anyway. One of my best friends is a guy who is much smarter than me, but he has 25 tabs open too. I get him. The answer could be as simple as the way I am using ‘men’ and ‘women’ in this entire essays and just words that describe two different kinds of people of either gender. Or maybe I don’t know the proper way to understand men because I think ‘smart’ and ‘relatable’ are static concepts that only fit into the box of what I have experienced those things to be as a woman. This is about me not understanding how not try to make everything exactly the way I think it should be.
If I’m on one end of a personality spectrum (what we’d stereotypically think of as feminine) then my life is going to be enriched and complemented by someone on the other end. I need the balancing energy of men — the way they are apathetic instead of constantly worried, confident instead of nervous, static instead of dynamic, hard instead of soft. The entire concepts that make them unrelatable are the ones that make me want to be around them at all, and the ones that make me valuable to them in this same way. These are the waters that nourish me and the waters that drown me.
And this is frightening because we are in this together. Life is a group project and somehow I perceive men not being as neurotic as I am like they’re not pulling their weight. It’s not that all this overthinking accomplishes anything, it’s just that imagining other people exist without it is very lonely making. Are they always going to think I’m silly for this? Do they perceive women as mental ward rejects who are always thinking and saying so much unnecessary stuff?? (At least the ones who write 2k words about their feelings with some regularity). And these creatures who think I am silly have so much power, which is collectively to withhold the thing you are supposed to be alive to do. If we’re not here to love each other, what are we here to do? Love without understanding and respect seems suspicious, like it’s the way men in the 50’s loved their wives without ever really understanding the way they were people too.
There are other things to occupy my time with: there is a whole life in just figuring yourself out, there’s spiritual stuff, there’s the act and the lessons of learning to love other people which is completely separate from however they think or act to you in return. But there’s also community, which is important, and requires the consent and participation of more than just you. And if you are a strong person you’ve spent a good deal of time learning how to only care about things you are in control of. This is one of the few things that you can’t fix with an internal locus of control, a truly maddening backslide into problems you can no longer bootstrap yourself out of.
So, I have to figure out how to think people who don’t do things my way are smart — maybe smarter than me. This is probably a healthy exercise for me to do in general. It’s good to see people as humans like you, deserving of love and respect and full of complex histories and emotions — especially those you are tempted to discount. But I’m tired of it being an uphill battle. I’m exhausted of the most vulnerable area of my life being one where I consistently do not feel seen and understood when the whole point of loving someone I think is to feel those things. And that’s my agenda — perhaps there are an inverse myriad of ways in which I am not fulfilling the things the men I date are hoping to be fulfilled by. I am trying not to make another mistake a lot of people make — which is to assume that because they are putting in effort and getting hurt, they are in the right and the other person is doing something wrong.
I have to figure out how to appreciate and relate to people who aren’t (mostly) just like me. I have to figure out how to disarm the part of me that assumes we all have the same values and motivations, or that mine are better than everybody else’s. I fundamentally want to date someone who is a good person, but what does being a good person look like to someone who grew up male and has a more masculine perspective on the world? Things that read as barbaric to me are probably not actually barbaric — but useful and utilitarian and employed by people who haven’t had the luxury of always having people look out for them.
You can’t go into the world with a stencil of what you want and then think less of people because they’re just doing their own thing. We aren’t made to fit into each other, we are made to challenge each other. And that’s more interesting, anyway. I just need to figure out how to let go of the way I think I need relationships to go in order to feel satisfied, without it feeling like I’m just giving up.