A Word of Advice
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
I would say that when it comes to life advice, I am an expert in a few categories. I can recommend a really good fake tanner that isn’t streaky and lasts a long time. I can tell you where to get the best turkey and avocado sandwich in the United States (the Texas Wave at Hester’s Cafe in Corpus Christi, TX). I can also let you know that Birkenstocks don’t look good on anybody, and that is not an opinion, that is an established fact. A lot of superficial, but perhaps life changing if you have the right mindset, recommendations. But one thing I am not the authority on when it comes to doling out life advice is love. Some of my friends will come to me asking for relationship advice, not taking into consideration that I have never had a successful relationship, nor do I see myself ever being selfless enough to commit my life to someone else. I am truly obsessed with myself and only myself and I really don’t see this obsession ending any time soon.
But I digress. I do, however, think I am a queen when it comes to self-awareness, an underrated quality that plays into how we develop successful relationships. With this limited authority being out on the table, I would like to address a question asked to the Iris team via social media: “What do you do when you want a boyfriend but you don’t like any of the guys who like you?”
Let me start by saying that this question seems like it would be asked by a person with a lot of time on his/her/their hands. I need everyone reading this to know that THERE IS A FAMINE IN YEMEN, and although there may not be much we can do about this, I want to establish how small a problem this question is in relation to everything else going on in the world. But for the sake of this column, I’ll offer this advice.
This applies to seeking not just a boyfriend, but any significant other, regardless of gender identity. If you think that allowing someone else into your life in a romantic context is going to solve all of your problems, you’re wrong. If I had a dollar for every time someone I knew found a boyfriend, girlfriend, or any other permanent romantic presence by intentionally seeking one out, I would have, you guessed it, $0. Also, this question seems like one coming from a person who lacks self-confidence and is seeking fulfillment in something outside of their own being, which is absolutely the worst thing you can do if you are looking for something to make you feel complete and confident.
If I had a dollar for every time someone I knew found a boyfriend, girlfriend, or any other permanent romantic presence by intentionally seeking one out, I would have, you guessed it, $0.
A long time ago, someone established that success meant "the ability to find and maintain a romantic relationship with someone." If you could be in love, especially with a really attractive young man who went to the Comm School or had a law degree or some cheese like that, you, as a woman, were a success. OK, well, that is some patriarchal bs that makes 99% of women feel like failures. If this were still the standard that we judged people, especially women, by then I would be a failure, and I just don’t consider myself one at all. I’m not a scientist, a lawyer, or a doctor, but I’m a pretty good person who happens to find fulfillment in my own accomplishments, and to me, that’s pretty successful. I was also told by a homeless woman outside of a Whole Foods that I was “absolutely stunning,” and I did find fulfillment in this statement, but aside from this woman’s sentiment, this feeling should come from your own self, your own conscience letting you know that in everything you do, YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH because you love yourself and you love what you do.
My response to this question is not outrage or disappointment, it’s honesty. Before you can allow yourself to open your heart to anyone else, you must first learn to love yourself and all that you do—or at least, most of it. I realize that this is a lot easier said than done. Often I wake up in the morning and think, “Damn, today is just not my day to be a real person, and I hate that for me,” and I think this is ok, because I’m a flawed human and so are the rest of you. But in these flaws we find our unique being and take pride in the fact that no one can replicate who we are. If we find what gives us purpose and drives some kind of passion within us, fulfillment should come fairly naturally, and then the significant other we crave, the connection we hope for, WILL (possibly, maybe) EMERGE. Maybe you don’t like any of the guys who like you because you don’t fully like yourself? Maybe the significant other IS YOU, first and foremost? Maybe you need to grow into yourself, fully rooted, flaws and all, before someone REAL blooms in your heart. I mean real as in not some abstract stereotype of “boyfriend,” but another fully-formed, imperfect person who is drawn to how comfortable you are with yourself.
If we find what gives us purpose and drives some kind of passion within us, fulfillment should come fairly naturally, and then the significant other we crave, the connection we hope for, WILL (possibly, maybe) EMERGE.
Truthfully, sometimes it does take another person to show you just how imperative self love is to your own journey, but it’s the acknowledgement of this value and the realization that you are so much more than being called just "so and so’s girlfriend" or boyfriend or whatever you want to label yourself, that makes a relationship fulfilling and successful.
So, I’d like to finish this column by reiterating that I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE A BOYFRIEND. So maybe all of this is garbage advice, and you should toss it in your mental disposal (or compost it--maybe a seed of truth here?). But I would also like to make it clear that I have found happiness in my self awareness, and I find this to be an incredibly important characteristic of people in HEALTHY (not just acquisitive or possessive) relationships. If you don’t really want to go back and read this whole thing, then just remember this: our heart is open when we have enough love for ourselves to share with someone else. And with that, let the cheesegasm commence.