Thursday, April 13, 2006

Epiphany Flagg

[Someone's ringing my doorbell but I'm still in my robe (the one day I'm not actually dressed by now!) so I'm hiding out in the back of the house. Go away, mystery person!! I am inappropriately attired to receive you!]

[Which reminds me of the time in college that Jeannie lived upstairs from this really annoying and vapid girl, and once we were hanging out in Jeannie's apartment and we heard the girl come to the door and we hid in Jeannie's closet until she went away. Smooth move, Mature College Girls Who Have No Concept of Acoustics.]

[Are they gone? Okay. On with the epiphany.]

So, after the writing about the whole weight topic, it's still been floating around in my noggin', not least after reading others' insightful thoughts. I've also been edging around the whole "False Advertising" brouhaha (and if you don't know what that's all about, start here). All this stuff was fermenting somewhere in my synapses when the Ex and I had an interesting discussion Monday.

The gist of this convo was this: He thinks a woman he's with should always dress up--makeup, attractive (read: alluring) clothes, etc.--whenever they're together. This was a MAJOR problem area in our relationship, big surprise? Many accusations of "You don't make an effort to please me anymore." (And by the way, don't even bother ranting in the comments, because I am not judging his viewpoint, I'm just pointing out that it was a problem for me.) To which my response was, what am I, an accessory? And blah blah blah big giant rolling snowball of passive aggressive shite on both parts. He pissed me off by implying that my value was only in my appearance; I felt awful and passive-aggressively pissed him off by doing my absolute best to care even less; he felt unappreciated and passive-aggressively neglected me; and you can see where this is going. It was always a real problem for me that he seemed to put so much emphasis on my clothing or makeup or the way I waxed my eyebrows. But, and here's the thing, I never did anything about it.

So back to Monday. He's saying that this was a problem for him in our relationship and in relationships since, and why do women always do that? That women dress up on the first few dates and then stop trying, and when he complains, they say he isn't letting them be "who they are". I said, look, you are not asking for my opinion so I'm not giving it, and he said, no, I want to know what you think. So I said, "Most women don't just dress up like that all the time." He said, "Yeah, but they dress up like that around the man at first because they want to catch him, and then when they have they don't give a shit anymore." And I said, "I disagree, but in our case, I know that I came to resent your expectation that I do that because I felt like you didn't care about me unless I looked a certain way, and who is going to be beautiful on the outside forever? So if I was in a disfiguring accident or when I got old, you weren't going to love me anymore?" And he said, "That bullshit, to say 'I'm not going to try and please you because you care about how I look.' That's the only reason women dress up like that anyway." And I said, "No it isn't. There are other reasons that a woman would dress attractively, and just because she doesn't doesn't mean she isn't trying to be interesting or doesn't appreciate who she's with."

"Bullshit," he said, "What other reasons?"

"Women do it for themselves," I said, "because they enjoy it." "You're full of crap," he said, "That's like when women say they wear lingerie for themselves, that's bullshit. And there is not a man out there who doesn't want his woman to look nice." [Men? I'd love your honest opinions here, just for statistical purposes.]

Then we got called in to our meeting so that was the end of that conversation.

Okay. A couple things. First, I am not judging his opinion. I am sure he is not the only person, male or female, to hold that view. We simply don't hold the same view. I also think his view is colored by his history and his family, and I will say that yesterday he told me that he'd talked about this conversation in his therapy session and realized that his expectations were probably unrealistic and somewhat messed up. So I'm not going off on him or his viewpoint.

But second. Second. After this conversation, I suddenly got it. Sometimes it takes me a while, like several years in therapy and several decades mulling the thing over, but I finally got it:

I agreed with him.

I mean, I so DO NOT agree with him in the outside of my brain, but in the inside of my brain? Oh my god. This is the whole kernel! He used to get so entirely crazy if I dressed up when we weren't together--of course he did, because if a woman only dresses up for her partner, why would she dress up any other time? And if she only dresses up for that reason or looks good for that reason, and that reason is not there anymore, why would she take care of herself? And isn't the entire definition of what looking good is in the first place then under the control of her partner? And what if that definition is one she is uncomfortable with? And holy shit, could I be any more messed up?

But then it was like when I was a kid and couldn't figure out a homework problem and finally asked my mom for help, and the second she walked up to the table, I suddenly saw the answer. My brain is weird, what can I say. But as soon as this brick hit me on the head, it was all clear to me. I do enjoy looking nice, but there are different levels of nice according to how I feel. Sometimes, I feel like dressing up in heels and the full works. Sometimes I like the retro look. I like a variety of lingerie, from sporty to sexy. Me. ME. I like it. At times, I like dressing like a jock, or a Crunchy Girl. None is better or worse than the others. If I dress in jeans and an old mens' sweater, I am not an unattractive slob whom no one could ever find attractive. If I dress up in heels and a low-cut blouse, I am not a brainless slut who only wants one thing. I get to choose what happens to this outside part of me, how I dress it in flesh and in fabric, to please just myself, and it can change from day to day, and other people are going to interpret it according to their brains anyway, and I don't have to give a shit about that. I don't have to change the way I feel or the things I do or think or believe to accommodate them so that they will think I care about them or so that they will care about me. Because if I care about them and they can't get that? I can't fix that problem. And if they don't care about me or if they can't understand that my outside is not a permanent reflection of my inside? I can't do a damned thing about that either, honey.

The most interesting part? I haven't felt a craving for a fucking chocolate easter egg since.