If Men Are Trash, I'm a Raccoon
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
For the most part I have good judgement when it comes to people. I have surrounded myself with a group of strong women who bring fulfilment to my life and build me up and support me just as much as I like to support them. These relationships are mutually beneficial, and I am happy that I can rely on these people in any difficult circumstance. Where my people judgment tends to falter, however, is when it comes to my taste in men. If I had a type, I would say it was like a rail-thin, 6”4, super lanky, one skipped meal away from being able to hide behind a telephone pole, hasn’t slept since March 2014, has a 2 pack a day type addiction to nicotine, quotes Tom Petty, only reads Vonnegut and Kerouac over and over again, spiritual but despises organized religion, washes his hair every 6 weeks kind of guy. Like a really young, really tired, really slim, and really existential Paul Newman. I’m not quite sure how I developed this kind of character to be my “Ideal Man,” but there he is.
My sister tells me I go for the creepers. My best friend, Mari, tells me that in my case it’s always ugly boyfriend season. My mom worries that I might not be putting myself out there to find someone “special.” My brother once told me that he would rather scoop out his eyeball with a spoon then have to deal with any guy I brought over to meet him. What this all boils down to is that I go for trash. And by trash I mean the physical embodiment of the emotionally unavailable loser who doesn’t know anything about women. For instance, when a guy goes for days without texting me, not even so much as a “How was your weekend?” that’s when I start to feel attached. It’s wild, I know, like how could being ghosted make me like someone even more? Romantic gestures? Ew, that’s a turn off and may as well be absolute garbage in my book. The inability to articulate how you really feel about me, constantly leaving me to question my own self worth and romantic value in society? Tell me where to sign up. A lot of people would refer to these behaviors as mind games, but in my sick twisted world, this is what I think of as romantic mystery. Am I aware that emotionally this is completely unhealthy and not a sustainable model for a stable and mature relationship? Maybe. But I can’t seem to shake this idea that my ideal man is the one who will always keep me at a distance, and I could be the one to change that about him.
I’ve thought long and hard about why this particular brand of trash is so appealing to me. I mean, I was raised on Jane Austen and Emily Brontë. I was always a firm believer that one day, some brooding young man would come out of the woodwork after months of treating me like dirt and then confess that the only reason he did this was to convince himself that he didn’t love me. But he really did, and then we live together forever in our Brooklyn walk-up where we drink homemade kombucha and shop exclusively at farmers markets. I was the Elizabeth Bennet and Catherine Linton of my own world, waiting for my Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff to treat me with so much disdain that their only motive had to be such an intense passion and love for me. And while I realize now that there aren’t any Darcys or Heathcliffs walking around UVA Grounds, this has always stuck with me.
What this all boils down to is that I go for trash. And by trash I mean the physical embodiment of the emotionally unavailable loser who doesn’t know anything about women.
What’s really troubling is that if someone were to treat any of my friends this way, I would be absolutely appalled. I would remind her that this “man child” is a turd and he needs to be dumped. Never in my life would I have kept silent as I watched my friend endure this kind of uncertainty or allowed herself to question anything about her own self-worth. So why is it ok for guys to do it to me? Why have I allowed myself to settle for anyone who would never want me to be a meaningful part of his life, as if I were disposable?
If there is one movie that has become my Bible when it comes to relationships, it’s the classic rom-com He’s Just Not That Into You. Why is this movie my go-to when reflecting upon my own romantic debacles? Because it’s simple, if he or she is not texting you, calling you, or really just acknowledging your existence, it’s not because he’s “busy” or “shy” or “lost his phone while escaping a devastating house fire.” It’s because he really doesn’t want to talk to you. And that’s not easy to hear, but it’s like what a good friend of mine told me once when she was very inebriated: “If a guy really likes you, he’ll walk across the room for you.” And no, that isn’t a very eloquent statement, at all. In fact I worry about how she came up with this. But if I were to translate her sentiment into something more articulate, it would be this: if someone likes you, they’ll make it happen no matter the circumstances. If someone wants to be with you, they’ll do what they have to do to be with you, and there doesn’t have to be a whole slew of mind games that comes along with this. Instead, it should be really straightforward and really easy to understand how someone feels about you because all they have to do is say it.
Love is really not complicated, and we, myself included, have to stop romanticizing the people who treat us so terribly. Self-doubt and crippling insecurity aren’t sexy. But you know what is? Honesty, emotional availability, and the willingness to be vulnerable around someone you really care about. Allowing ourselves to possess the kind of self love that keeps our heart open to this emotion is a lot easier said than done, and no, I’m truly not at the point where I can say that I’m willing to move on completely from chasing trash around like a raccoon that’s been starved for days. But I acknowledge that there is so much more out there in terms of romantic love than convincing yourself that a scrubby 22 year old who smells like tobacco and tells you he won’t be available on the weekdays is ever going to change for you. Because there is a 99.9% chance that they won’t. And you and I deserve a lot more than that.
Instead, let’s go for the person who genuinely wants to talk to us, who wants to hear what we have to say and looks forward to spending time doing absolutely nothing. The person who challenges you to be a more thoughtful and interesting person, who appeases our mind rather than our desire to chase something simply because it’s a challenge to do so. So that’s my hope for you: to desire more for yourself romantically, intellectually, emotionally, and everywhere in between. Because love, and even “like”, are worth so much more than a crusty version of Paul Newman who smells like the smoking section of a Golden Corral.