|(photo, mandie sodoma)|
I read your blog sometimes, and I noticed that you talk a lot about contentment, being single, all of that. I have a question. How do you long for something like a boyfriend, or a relationship, without becoming consumed by it? How do you stop yourself from measuring who you are, your worth, your sexiness, your intelligence or beauty or goodness, by whether someone wants to date you? I so often feel like I want a boyfriend not because of the guy, but because of what he could affirm for me, what he could reassure me about. I think this is probably not good, and ultimately, not how a whole person lives. What advice do you have for me?
Trying to Be Content, but Not Really There
It's a tough thing to live in bodies. They're visible. We can only imagine so much about them. They're pulled in different directions by gravity, and they're blown around by wind. Hair gets messy when it's wet, and when we're tired we get these puffy circles under our eyes like small dark half moons. We can't really help it - our bodies are our bodies are our bodies. They are the home we have been given. They are the home of our hearts, those trembling and strong and fierce things, and of our minds.
I used to think I would look at my body differently if a guy told me it was beautiful. I really did. I begged on my insides for compliments. I craved hearing, "You look great today," in that off-handed way that people say it on their way to Calculus or French. I would lie in my bed staring up at the ceiling and wonder if a boy would dance with my at the Valentine's dance, or if I would spend it in a circle of girlfriends shouting the lyrics to "Yeah" by Usher while wishing a boy would dance with me.
I sang a lot of Usher in high school, love. And I spent a lot of time measuring. How many boys had a crush on her, I asked myself. How many times had she been told she was funny and smart and cool? How many people wanted to be her lab partner in chemistry or play opposite her in the play? I noticed way too much in high school about that. I took these small lies into myself, that there was only so much admiration to go around, and if they didn't say it to me, it couldn't be true for me.
You're right: this isn't how a whole person lives. I'm already glad that you know this, that you write to me because you realize that you want to live differently, and you aren't sure how. When I was in high school I didn't realize there was a different way. When I was a freshman, sophomore, or junior in college I was just realizing that it could be different. I'm still at the very beginning, with you.
My advice is to take the tiny step forward of saying out loud to your mirror, "This is me." I want you to look at yourself, standing there, smiling or winking or yawning, and say it. This is me. Not that girl with the long brown hair, not that girl with the straight A's and a dictionary in her head. Not that girl who plays soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. This is you: raw and real, pulled around by wind and gravity, with your passionate beating heart and your laugh and your love.
You write worried that a guy doesn't see it, but I think the real problem is YOU don't see it. You can't look in that mirror and find the you that lives in you. So you get anxious - what if she's not there - and you start asking other people to find her. You say, "Am I beautiful?" a thousand times next to the mailboxes on the way to calculus class. You say, "Am I worthy?" to the smiling stranger on the Metro who doesn't even realize that his yawn and looking at his newspaper has potentially crushed your heart.
But the raw, real you is yours to find, not theirs.
You have the task of believing that you are raw, and real, and sexy and worthy, with no one else on the planet telling you it is true. Don't ask others to do your work for you, sweetheart. I can tell you a thousand times that you are. But it's not my work. My work is to fill you up with love and strength. My work is to tell you to get in front of that mirror. My work is to laugh with you about the way that I danced by myself in a corner eating potato chips at high school dances.
Your work is to find that raw, real you. Your work is to love her. Your work is to believe.