I spend so much of my time being all “Bitch please, I’ve got this,” but I’m going to be real here and say that I’m not a superwoman today. I don’t feel like a badass or a fighter. I feel like a hurt and confused teenage girl.
I feel like a fucking idiot.
I don’t know why there are certain lessons that just don’t get through to me no matter how many opportunities I’m given to learn them. I feel like I’ve come so far and learned so much in a lot of ways, have gained perspective and wisdom that I didn’t have 8 or 10 years ago. And I feel proud of that, because a lot of it was hard-won. But every now and then the universe gifts me with the realization that I have yet to learn how to stop letting men make a fool out of me.
I am the patron saint of second chances. (Pretty sure there is an actual patron saint of those, but you know what I mean.) And sometimes third chances. And fourth…
And you know what? I’ve given it a lot of thought today, and I can’t think of a single instance when I gave a man a second/third/fiftieth chance and was glad about it later. I’m looking at that sentence and it’s fucking horrible. And I can’t decide who comes out looking worse—me or them. I’m not a very good judge of character, it seems, but you’d think that over time I’d learn to be a better one. Because I’m not saying, and would never say, that men as a rule are rat bastards. The world is full of perfectly lovely guys. I just don’t seem to ever get involved with them, and that can’t be only their fault. I have to bear some responsibility for meeting these guys who seem okay at first and then do something kinda shitty, and I’m hurt and angry, and then I give him another chance because I don’t want to believe that he’s actually shitty, and then he’s shitty again, sometimes in exactly same way as the first time, and I’m like, “What the fuck? I can’t believe he did that shitty thing again after giving me absolutely no reason to believe that he wouldn’t!” And then I feel like a complete idiot, and hate myself on top of that because usually I still have a soft spot for the sorry son of a bitch even after all that.
A friend and I frequently refer to a quote that I think is by Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It’s good advice and I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to take it. Do I still think that little of myself after all this time? Did I learn nothing from 5 years with an abusive man who begged me for chance after chance after chance until he suddenly got tired of me and left? It keeps me up at night. I’m tired of the “There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just a pollyanna and that’s not a bad thing,” schtick. There’s nothing cute about a grown woman who lets men walk all over her. But I can’t stand the thought of being a closed-off, cynical misandrist either. I know there’s middle ground between those two things, but I haven’t found it. I need to figure it out, though, because as I was walking home totally crying but trying to look like I wasn’t, I noticed that this doesn’t ever get easier. This feeling of betrayal and disappointment mixed with self-loathing and blame hasn’t gotten any less awful since the first time it happened 20 years ago. So I think that, at 35, it’s finally time to give myself the gift of not allowing it anymore. It’s time to stop falling in love with potential and start believing people when they show me who they are—the first time, not the tenth.
It’s all easier said than done, because I date approximately once every geological epoch and it’s hard not to get carried away when the stars align and it looks like Something Might Happen. Habits are hard to break. But I know that while dating is messy because human beings are messy, every romantic run-in doesn’t need to end with me sobbing for hours and giving myself a three-day emotional hangover. I’m better than that, and while I haven’t found a man who can give me better, I can give me better. I need to do that as part of my self-care, because the last thing a clinically depressed person needs is a bunch of man-baby nonsense making things that much harder.
So tonight I had my little breakdown, and I’ll probably be sad and disappointed for a while because that’s what I do, but I’m determined to absorb the lesson this time.