“He stood me up!” She says this into the phone before I can even say hello. I am fairly certain I am pissed (at him; at men in general) before I can even respond, she has gone on: “I can’t fucking believe this! I was going to make him dinner!”
I cringe at the word “dinner.” We had discussed this before, albeit jokingly, how one does not make dinner for a “temp,” our term for a boy with whom we are just passing the time while we wait for the boy we want or don’t yet have to pull his shit together and work up the cojones to be a goddamned man and realize that “relationship” is not some big scary cuss word, like “cunt”:
“Cunt” is a seriously fucked up cuss word; “relationship” is not. If only the difference were that easy to illustrate for boys.
As I think this, I can feel myself rolling my eyes before I can stop myself. I do that a lot -I think it; it pops up on my face. I can also be as impassive as a piece of frozen glass, but, apparently, I just look like a bitch when I do that. Whatever.
Oops. I rolled my eyes again. I hope my inner monologue isn’t bleeding into my conversation with [we’ll call her “Emily”], which, thus far, has consisted of her freaking out and me nodding and exclaiming supportively.
Fucking men. Why do we waste so much of our time on them? It’s not as if we can’t orgasm without them. Frankly, when my girlfriends are being really honest, they admit that the big O has either never happened for them, and/or it has never happened for them while some guy was grunting in and out of them while whispering/yelling, “Come with me, baby. Cooooooooooooooome with me.” That shit only happens in movies.
There it is. I just rolled my eyes again. What is “Emily” saying? Oh, come over for a beer. Shit. It is over 100 degrees outside. Fuck. To her, I agree with all sincerity, but my inner monologue, however, is slightly pissed -not with her, of course, but with the fucking waste of space male that is forcing me out of doors on a day when the heat index is approaching 110. What a fucking asshole.
“Is this all we have to talk about... [pause] …men?” I am sitting in [we’ll call her “Laura”’s] kitchen when she asks me this. She has just made me a very lovely dinner, but, as I ponder my response, I am gripped by a very strong feeling of deja vu. We’ve had this very conversation before, (or, at least, I have), perhaps the last time I saw her, which has been nearly half a year ago. Where does the time go? I sigh.
“We can always talk about politics, or the weather, or how work is going, but, honestly, we do talk about those things. And, the thing is, human connection is one of the basics of life -we are social creatures, after all. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with someone -it doesn’t make us ‘less smart’ or professional women. It doesn’t mean we’re not liberated, and educated, and interesting. It just means... we’re human. And it’s okay to want to be in a relationship.”
“Laura” nods in agreement. It is a blessedly beautiful day, a rare one for a city built on a swamp, where virtually every single day is an ugly morass of humidity or acid rain that makes my skin itch if I’m so unfortunate as to be touched by it; her windows and her deck door are both open, and there is a breeze. It feels wondrous.
“Laura” and I are marvelously well-educated and worldly women, but we, like all women, are marginalized by a socialization of the genders that hasn’t advanced since the Neanderthal days to keep up with our modern times. We want relationships, be they temporary or permanent, on our terms, but we are not likely to have them.
We are incredibly beautiful, and genuinely interesting, but sexism is the great neutralizer. No matter how far we’ve come, we are still stuck within a framework that rewards men (and punishes women) for hewing to a template that has never been honest about what it means to be a man or a woman who want sex and conversation, with a modicum -or more -of commitment. In a word, we are screwed, but no one is coming.
And we hate that show, “Girls,” but more on that later.
One of my favorite stories to share with other people, (usually other girlfriends, as we all sit around bemoaning the state of gender-political affairs), is a story that “Laura” told me, only it wasn’t a story -it was true:
A co-worker of “Laura”’s (a man) finally became engaged after years of “dating,” (by which I mean, “hooking up”). Everyone at work (of course) congratulated him. When it was “Laura”’s turn to congratulate him, though, the conversation took an interesting turn.
He and “Laura” are actually friends too -so they are not just co-workers -and the one thing we women have consistently discovered from the (heterosexual) men in our lives, (who, by mutual decision, will not be fucking us), is that such relationships tend to be the most honest when it comes to gender politics, because no one on either side has anything to lose, (that is, sex, which, let’s be honest: When you’re under [whatever age it is that people are when they stop wanting to have sex], sex is what you really want -good sex, and hopefully with someone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t a total asshole).
“Laura” congratulated this co-worker friend of hers, commenting that she (the intended) must really be an amazing girl, and he (the incipient beau) said, “No, she’s just okay.”
This response stopped my girlfriend in her tracks. Of course, their actual conversation was slightly longer than “congrats,” “she’s just okay,” but that was pretty much the takeaway. He told my girlfriend “Laura” that it was “time,” and that she (the intended) was essentially “good enough” [slash] “the girl who happened to be there,” (which would make a great title for a short story, now that I think about it), and all my girlfriend could think, she told me later, as we sat together across from one another at her kitchen table, was how he (the incipient beau) made it sound as though he had gone to IKEA for a kitchen table because it was time to upgrade from the card table he’d been using since college.
I pushed away the sweet chocolate treat she’d made for dessert, which was good, but too much for my lack of sweet tooth, and declared:
“ugh... I never want to be anyone’s kitchen table!”
“Me either!” “Laura” chimed.
But I was a kitchen table for several years. And my “boyfriend,” (god, how I hate that word), was more or less wallpaper -annoying, but wallpaper nonetheless; something that was just... there. Sure, he totally fucked up my life, but he managed to do so by barely registering on the Richter scale for me. If nothing else, one must admit, that’s quite an achievement.
And this is something else that one must admit too -that it’s nice to have that wallpaper, just as, I suppose, it’s nice to have that kitchen table. The problem is, it’s all so... impersonal. Anyone could have been my wallpaper -and anyone can be a kitchen table.
When I (ineptly) tried to commiserate with “Emily,” I made the comment that, as bruised as her ego and confidence might have been, with time, she will eventually see that the behavior of this asshat who stood her up -or of any guy who makes us play their game but then shits on us when we do, has nothing to do with us -that is, what he did had nothing to do with her. It wasn’t personal. He’d probably run this game a million times before her, and he’ll run it a million times after her. But, now that I’ve had time to really think about it, noting that “it isn’t personal” is possibly the worst thing in the world to say, and I am so sorry for it:
Human interactions are at their core personal, and yet we constantly circumvent this with the shittiest possible impersonal behavior towards one another.
Perhaps, if people really took the sacrifice and the time to be personal about their choices and their behavior, not just with respect to others, but also for themselves, then no one, guy or girl, would be running around, picking out wallpaper and kitchen tables that they only vaguely want and don’t need.
Everything matters, even the small things, and if they don’t, then your life doesn’t matter either -and you just wasted all your time.