I love men. I really do. They are a strange bunch of creatures, but delightful all the same. I love the way they look, all strong and square and masculine, even the ones who aren’t muscly body-builder types. In fact, I prefer the ones who are just average-looking. I love the way they smell when they’re all cleaned up and ready to go out. I love the way they sound, be is a grumbly bass or a smooth tenor or a ragingly gay twang. As long as what they’re saying isn’t completely douchey. Yes, men are wonderful.
I love men, but I have really bad luck with them. It goes back to my childhood, really, when my dad left. I was six. My Granddad became my father-figure. We were inseparable. Until he died suddenly a heart-attack when I was 7. And then when I was 8 my dad remarried and took my two older half-brothers (his sons from his first marriage who he’d left with my Mom when he ditched us for this other woman) to live with him. Tough way to start your relationships with men, eh? Made worse, of course, by the fact that I developed a lot of emotional issues that kept me in and out of therapy through elementary school and high school. Guys in high school don’t really want to date the crazy girl.
I love men, but through my twenties and into my thirties they never loved me. I broke my heart over guys time and time again through college and my twenties. I was the master of unrequited love. I could shine some seriously intense affection on the objects of my desire! Because there was just something about those guys that was fantastic. And then all my friends started to get married … and have babies … and not have time for me. I never got so much as a second glance from any of the men I fell for, pined for.
That’s when I felt the clock tick. That’s when I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. I’m not the kind of girl that boys go crazy for. I’m not gorgeous. I have an average body. I’m smart, too smart for them maybe. I have an over-active imagination. I get bored with men who can’t keep up with that. Not that I have much chance to get bored. I don’t have whatever spark it is that men are attracted to. I don’t have those pheromones. I’m not lovable.
I love men, but throughout my early life they made me miserable. The sheer volume of rejection I felt from not one, not two, not a handful, but the entire opposite sex was depressing. How is it that none of these wonderful, attractive, good-smelling guys cared two bits about me? I mean, I lived off of a steady diet of romance novels and if there was one thing they taught me it was that there was someone out there for everyone, right? How could I go on and consider this life a success without a man as my very own?
Well, I thought to myself with an enormous sigh, I have no choice. I’m not going to sit around here letting the thing I love keep me from being happy. I want more than that. I want to adventure, to travel. I want to WRITE. If I can’t have a dad or a Granddad or a brother or a husband to take care of me then I want to hold my head high and say that I can take care of myself in every way. I want to make my own decisions. I want to be the architect of my own happiness. I want to be me.
A funny thing happens when you define yourself by the things you love. It shifts your soul on some fundamental level. I grew up in a town where marriage is lauded as the most important and worthy thing that a person can do with their lives. Weddings are community events and girls quite often leave college to get married. I grew up believing that without a man I was a failure. I loved men but since I didn’t have one I wasn’t worthy of one. Then things changed. I don’t know if it was age or moving around a few time or coming to terms with my father’s betrayal. I don’t know if it was embracing the other things I love, like writing and theater and knitting and cricket. I don’t know if it was the catharsis of being accepted by my cricket team as their own and having an entire club full of (mostly married) men who love me right back. Something changed.
I am not defined by what I lack. I am defined by who I am, what I have accomplished, where I’ve been and where I’m going. I love men, but if they can’t see that then I can’t be bothered. And yes, there is a sort of bitter irony to the statement made by one of the (married) guys I was putting on a play with a couple of years ago: “I don’t get it, Merry, you’re pretty, intelligent, hard-working, easy to talk to … why don’t you have a whole line of guys falling all over themselves to date you?” I don’t know, Will, I don’t know.
I love men. I dream up wonderful male characters and write about them, describing them in great detail. I love to talk to them, even though I generally make a complete fool of myself over the ones that I still to this day get goofy crushes on. I still break my heart over the ones who don’t love me back. But I get over it and move on, write something or go to a cricket match. I love the ridiculousness of men, the douchey bravado that makes me want to shake my head and laugh, “Who do you think you’re trying to impress?” I love men who love their wives and families and go out of their way to make their lives better. Someday maybe I’ll find one of those for my very own, to be his very own. Maybe. In the meantime, I love me too.