“I Put Myself Out There And All I Got Was This Essay”
A few nights ago I was catching up with a friend and inevitably began asking for a ‘status’ update regarding the girl he has been seeing for a few months now. Out of the goodness of my heart – and also in exchange for unlimited usage of his HBO GO account – he shall remain nameless. His response, however, will form the thinly veiled justification for this essay. Rather than providing me with any juicy details, or opportunities to give my unsolicited relationship advice, he casually responded with something along the lines of “yeah it’s cool, she’s really…..reasonable.”
Now dating, in general, has basically always been one fumbling guessing game, played out in the dark between two people and their baggage in a little rowboat, braving the murky waters of human emotion. It’s propelled forwards by the hope and promise of finding connection and affection, and then promptly dragged backwards by the fears and crushing disappointment that often come along instead. It’s complicated and hard to navigate, I get it. There’s dating, being exclusive, seeing other people, talking, seeing ‘where this goes’, and my personal favourite ‘hanging out.’
But reasonable, ladies and gentlemen. REASONABLE. How many times does the word
‘reasonable’ feature on any babymaking playlist created during the entire decade of the 90s? Zero. You can find an appropriate poem on a Hallmark card for your boss’s pregnant and grieving wife but how many will you find gushing over someone for being reasonable? Zero.
But was I surprised that he said this as though it was a compliment? Nope.
Reasonable means not asking the uncomfortable questions, going with the flow wherever it may lead, being low maintenance, and, of course, 100% truly and deeply ‘chill’. In this case, reasonable boils down to being half-heartedly desirable because it is convenient. Reminder: we are talking about a human being, not Uber, Netflix or GrubHub. We are talking about a grown woman who was not dreamed up by tech bros to offer you a convenient service (despite hundreds of years of history that could understandably lead you think otherwise, I know.)
Confession: I am not chill. I never have been and never will be . I am not easy going. I’d like to know where we’re going and why. Will snacks be provided? I know that most likely I will not mellow out with age. I will be a neurotic grandmother and the ghost with the unfinished business. Why? Because ever since I can remember, I have cared just a little bit too much. I overthink and I take the long way round. I read into things (I literally have a degree in it). Though I may convince you otherwise, I cannot, have not, and will not let things go.
Why is it then, that when dating, I reel in my emotions and expectations and become the ‘chill’ girl? By chill I should be describing that I have no 5 year plan and no checklist. I’m not looking for anything or anyone. I don’t wish for fancy dinner dates either (ordering wine for anyone but myself stresses me out). This should all mean I’m laid back about being open to seeing where something goes, and crossing the bridges as and when I get to them.
Instead, in practice, it translates to the reality that in this one area of my life, not only am I not asking to steer the boat, but I’m no longer even in the boat. In fact, I’m so chill, I’ll just nod my head in acknowledgement from the side of the damn pond. Because I’m cool. It’s chill. I’m chill. Whatever.
There are two theories as to why I become like this. The first is that I devote so much time and energy to my quarter life existential crisis that I literally ran out of fucks to give.
The second is that I fell into the trap of believing the overarching dating narrative that paints women as existing only to hold down, lock up, trap, or steal a man. The narrative that suggests single women are wallowing in the misery of being single, and being emotional and crazy when they aren’t. This theory is far more plausible, sadly, perhaps because we live in a society where less than a hundred years ago women were medicated and locked up for ‘hysteria’. And also maybe because we’re raised to believe our emotions are a liability, and that being loud, or opinionated, or difficult is not ‘feminine’ and therefore undesirable. So… let’s turn the volume down on any of that because a mediocre white male is probably saying something really important somewhere.
SO, given that I wish to commit to nothing including a phone contract, it is no wonder that in order to distance myself from that narrative, I took my unchill self all the way to the other end of the spectrum. On this side, your emotions have no validity because they do not exist. One does not simply go with the flow, one denies that such a flow exists altogether.
But here’s the thing. What is the actual point? By now, you’ve probably guessed that the title of this piece is a straight up lie. I’m not actually putting myself ‘out there’ or anywhere in fact, without wrapping myself up in total neutrality and a suit of armour made out of ‘k’ ‘cool!’ and ‘I don’t mind’ texts first. Shockingly, this is fun for no one, and whatever ‘it’ is inevitably fizzles out. The ‘how’s it going?’ texts slide down your inbox until you do it all over again with someone new. Maybe this time you’ll text back less frequently, or try a different pizza place, because that’s definitely maybe where it went wrong.
Every ‘situationship’ becomes entirely orchestrated around ensuring that I can always exit leaving relatively unharmed and, ideally, with the other person still thinking I’m basically the coolest person ever and not at all phased. There will be no communication and no accountability because there are always no questions asked. Maybe there was actually something there but both parties hesitated a little too long. We shall never know. But at least you didn’t rock that tiny little rowboat! Play on playa!
Contrary to popular opinion, being ‘chill’ doesn’t mean controlling an instinct to drag you down the aisle and have your babies because it’s not something trying to be attained exclusively by straight women. At it’s core, this obsession with being ‘chill’ is way of protecting yourself from your own human vulnerability. Instead of describing a fun and relaxed person, it has become a synonym for someone void of any real, unfiltered emotion.
But when you ignore these genuine emotions and continue to bite your tongue for fear of
being seen as, god forbid, vulnerable or somewhat invested, communication goes out the window. You don’t know what the fuck is going on. As the idea of anonymously emailing past lovers with your burning questions about what went wrong via surveymonkey crosses your mind, you pause. It’s chill. It’s whatever remember. Instead, you redirect your rapidly multiplying postmortem theories to everyone except the one person who may actually have had the answers. You ask the audience and phone a friend. Then they phone a friend. Together, you analyse the shit out of comma placement and read receipts. BAM. HELLO. In trying to avoid ‘‘crazy’, you reached that very destination and brought your friends along for the ride. Well played.
More dangerously still, acting unphased can mean plodding along with your mouth shut when every ounce of your female intuition is screaming “YOUR NEAREST EXIT MAY BE BEHIND YOU!!” But of course, you can’t make a thing out of ending something that isn’t a thing. You can’t tell someone they hurt your feelings because you have none, remember? I have seen women condone some ridiculous things because of this.
**The following are all true and sadly no male egos were harmed in the swapping of these stories**
You decided to flake on our date and not tell me because you fell asleep and also didn’t feel like it? No problem!
You, a 30yr old man, are going to ghost on me after we’ve dated for three months? Lovely!
You want to hug it out after breaking the news that you’ve actually got a girlfriend. After we’ve had sex? YOUSONOFABIT-YIPPEEE!
But why? Why does the potential of having affection for someone make you somehow less deserving of their time or respect. Why do we dish out bad manners in an attempt to be seen as easygoing? Worse still, why do we accept these bad manners with open arms for fear of being considered difficult or high maintenance for demanding anything better? Most of the time being chill is NOT about ignoring the desire to introduce you to grandma after the first date. It’s often hesitating to get out of a sinking boat for fear of sinking it and it makes NO sense.
We’ve been taught to believe that being ‘laid back’ and having a less-than-popular opinion are mutually exclusive. Have emotions by all means, but be careful where and how you let them show. Ask questions, but not too many because if you do venture outside of the chill zone, you will be immediately thrown back across to the other side of the spectrum to crazy bitch town. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. There are only two buckets in which your emotions may belong. This way of thinking, and consequently behaving, doesn’t affect just romantic relationships. It creeps into female friendships and seeps into workplace relationships too. In general, a lot gets left unsaid in attempt to remain ‘likable’.
Now before I go back to ignoring texts for approximately another 2.5 days, I will say this: rock the boat. Life demands communication and it demands accountability and it demands honesty. Be man or woman enough to own your emotions, or at least acknowledge them for the love of God, and ask for what you want.
And the next time someone treats you with less respect than a Jehovah’s witness at your door during the X Factor finale, please copy and paste the following: you ain’t texting no average bitch boy.