Boy Crazy

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.


6 thoughts on “Boy Crazy

  1. This is so touching and powerful, I love how you describe the process and how you got to feel the way you do today. You ran the whole gamut of emotions and this is portrayed in a great way. I can relate to this and hope to find that balance as well. You are strong and inspiring! You have a way with words for sure. Beautiful!

  2. I spend time every week caring for my 91-year-old great aunt. She was a pillar for her entire extended family throughout her life and is loved by all, now that we take care of her instead of the other way around. She had a fruitful career and was an avid naturalist, painter, handy-woman, community volunteer and musician. But now, she tells me and her other caretakers that she thinks her life was “wasted” and worthless because she never got married. Sometimes I want to wring the neck of the entire community who taught her that she was nothing without a husband (thank you, lovely Bryn Athyn). I wish I could get this vile conviction out of her poor old mind and make her see how much she is loved and how much her life has been worth!

    • Oh my gosh, stories like that make me flippin furious! Obviously I know all about how that feels. I refuse to fall into that trap even though I was born and raised there. But the very most annoying thing of all to me is that it’s so hard to shake that imprint even when you know it’s poppycock. I was just reading today something about how the value systems we are raised with never truly leave us on a deep psychological, physiological level. I fall into the Bryn Athyn trap of thinking I’m worth less without a husband when I’m tired or sick or otherwise have my rational defenses down and I resent it SO much. We really need to find a way to educate the young women of the NC that the standard-issue interpretation of Conjugial Love is complete bunk and that our female lives are worth so much more than that!

      Okay, I’ll get off my soap-box and stop confusing the non-Swedenborgians who might be reading this now. 😉

      P.S. I still have to read your book! Is it available digitally?

  3. The book isn’t available digitally, but you can order a copy online here:

    Thanks for your interest – I think you’ll really enjoy it if you do end up reading it, and I’d always be interested in your comments. One of the chapters focuses specifically on the damage of lessons that tout marriage above all over life goals and uses.

    I am working on a new book about New Church women’s intellectual lives…that’s shaping up to be pretty interesting too.

  4. This is so beautiful and incredibly powerful. I definitely relate to it. I had a difficult adolescence, as puberty hit me with a vengeance. I was chubby, battling tons of acne, developed all sorts of weird body hair… and to top it off, I was smart and wore giant glasses. It was sort of like Mother Nature hung a neon sign around my neck that said “Ridicule me, please.”

    The guys in my class obeyed, and they were really vile, rude, terrible creatures. Still, there were a few that I was oh-so in love with, and I was shattered when they didn’t like me back. I ended up going to an all-girls’ high school, and while my self-esteem grew a great deal during that time, the intense belief that I would only be worth something if I had a boyfriend grew as well.

    It wasn’t until my last year of college when I read Bella DePaulo’s “Singled Out” that I changed my tune. DePaulo’s book is really awesome, and I highly recommend it. She takes the top myths about single men and women and thoroughly debunks them, using legit data and stats (she’s a social psychologist). She argues that, despite the myths, single people can and do live happily ever after. It’s something that I needed to hear, and so I started imagining what life might be like if I didn’t marry or have children. The resulting image isn’t so bad, and though I had a long-term relationship, I think I might be happier alone. Of course, my mom is convinced that the ‘right one’ still hasn’t come along, and that I’ll be married and popping out babies in a few years. Perhaps that’s true. But I’m not going to lament my fate if it doesn’t happen.

    Thank you so much for writing this post!

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