I have a friend who claims she can have any guy she wants. And I’ve known her for long enough to confirm: She’s right. She’s attractive, flirtatious, super stylish and, in her own words, “know[s] how to manipulate men. It’s just so easy.”
Throughout the years, as her shyer and dorkier counterpart, it’s been fun and fascinating for me to witness her conquests and the lines of men begging for love at her feet. Always enthralled by her confidence, I relished in the privilege of receiving a freshly-baked batch of funny stories, straight from the source. Through her anecdotes, I have come to believe that love can truly be a game, may the better player win. But I have also seen her hurt and confused – not often, but at times – proving that no matter how good the player, setbacks are inevitable. However, in the history of her love life, there has only been one single guy she really wanted and couldn’t have. As in, they never began a relationship, and he slyly opted for someone else. Someone who, in many men’s eyes, would not be considered as “hot” and desirable as my friend. Yet to this one guy, it was the opposite.
And that’s the guy I want. Well, not him – I don’t even know him, he’s taken and was a jerk to my friend so HELL NO, BUT – I want the guy even the girl with the best track record of lovers can’t wrap around her finger.
Not because he’s better. He’s just more solitary. Tougher to crack. Good on his own and not swayed by a gorgeous girl because he’s the one who chooses the one girl he wants. And if he can’t have her, he’ll go back to bed alone. He’ll read a book or go for a run or play Fifa for all I know – but he won’t search for other love options in loss of his top choice. He may eat something else if they run out of his favorite dish at a restaurant, but he doesn’t compromise that way in love. In Diana King’s words “I don’t want somebody who’s lovin’ everybody.”
So I know: I want the impossible. The shy guy. The one who likes a girl so rarely that, when he does, it’s for real, and not because he’s been wooed by intentional charms. The guy that likes one girl and one girl only, and sees every other beautiful and witty woman as a great person but ultimately, a mere distraction to him. He’s focused. On you. Or in my case, on me.
Of course, in the absolute, this man doesn’t exist. Every man – and woman – has had his/her wonky moments where they just needed some attention/affection/sexual healing à la Marvin Gaye. Or they were bored. Come on guys, even the most principled among us have had their moments to add to the list of don’t put in my biography. They make us human, we were all teenagers once, or drunk.
Now of course, my maneater friend is a romantic too. She wants all of it – the intensity, the passion, the exclusivity. So even though we act differently, we ultimately dream of something quite similar. The main difference is, she goes after the possible while I sit on my lazy ass dreaming up scenarios that will never happen about people who barely know I exist and write letters I never send or, if I do, only years after the man and I have drifted far enough for entire states and countries to separate us and my confession has no larger effect than getting it off my chest, sans priest and hail marys.
No joke – I’ve actually sent a confession like this once. Three years after we were in the same city and were never even introduced, we just had mutual friends. The guy was flattered, of course (thankfully he wasn’t a sociopath) and even suggested we grab coffee if we ever end up in the same city again. Of course, we very likely won’t, and I’d also feel awkward bothering him again after even more time has passed. But before I sent the confession, in my mind I hoped he’d either be appalled by the randomness, or be so intrigued he’d fly to see me and we’d either hate or actually love each other. Of course, the reality was much more noncommittal and gave me that annoying slimmer of hope that leads to continued useless daydreaming – but I am confessing this silly story to show just the extent of my idealism and craziness when it comes to love.
So I continue to dream of this man I’ve never spoken to (yes, it’s a bit creepy), I imagine the hypothetical one coffee chat with him, the heart-pounding the seconds before we actually truly meet for the first time. But all this is more because of the rarity he symbolizes than because of who he is. For as we all know, I don’t even really know him.
So what made him so attractive to me that I couldn’t forget him even years later?
Yes, he is drop dead gorgeous (and the whole town acknowledged it) and he is even more specifically my physical type (seriously: if I had to draw my physical prince charming, this man would literally come out of my pen, head to toe, crooked smile to unruly hair strand). But while the physical caused the initial attraction, what let it remain for so long was his aura of unattainability. He wasn’t a serial dater. If he was, it was so low key that even our gossipy community had no idea. If anything, he had the reputation of being a bit “weird” for not sacking every girl in sight when, clearly, he could have (mostly) done so. Which brings me to my conclusion: Had he been the big player on campus, the loud party boy, the known flirt – keeping all other variables of his perfect face and beautiful physique stable – I would have forgotten about him faster than you can say Hey baby. I like him, to this day, because he’s the opposite of the player allure (which I never found alluring because it signifies a lack of pickiness to me). This guy is, officially, on very few women’s bed posts. Definitely no saint, but reserved about his conquests. Ultimately, how much he’s been around matters less than how mysterious he is about it. And this mystery, this bit of untouchable air, this ultimate confidence, are what keep me hooked.
The four authors of the bestseller How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are said “the Parisienne is in love with the idea of love more than with love itself.” Paris is the cliché city of love, but I recognize that definition applies to many European women, many alternative women, many ridiculously proud women… In fact, it describes all hopelessly idealistic, impossibly romantic, ridiculously proud women worldwide.
This is why the concept of online dating, for now, still irks the bejesus out of me. Since I’m not on the active search for a partner – like a little girl in her candy castle, I am daydreaming of the partner, – the concept of saying (aka swiping) yes to a handful of individuals, breaks my entire vision of unexpectedly zoning in on that one person and remaining spellbound. I know it’s theoretically no different from scanning a bar or checking out your workplace but even then – I’m never the type to find a few guys cute, it’s either one poor dude who happens to fulfill all my cloud 9 wishes, or none. Many days and nights, I will scan a “scene” and not find a single one. Because I’m not really looking – it just happens. One or none. Never “oh he’s cute, he’s alright” and then we’ll see. No: one single person, or none.
I was talking to my good guy friend about this a few months ago. My heart swelled when he said, “The first time I ever saw [my ex] was extremely memorable. I will never forget that night.” He smiled wistfully at the vivid memory. That’s exactly how it is for me. The few guys (less than a handful) who have ever truly struck me, well, I can tell you exactly how, when, and where I first noticed them. I can tell you how it felt when I saw them – this pang!, this zingggg, this [insert other random comic sound here]. The funny thing is, with all of them, I felt a pull of mutual acknowledgement which opened the floodgates of my fantasies. Let’s say those fantasies materialized in 3/4 of the cases, but not to what I hoped they would be. The ultimate idea is to find that same ‘zone-in’ factor of that first impression (‘zingggg at first sight!’) and have the subsequent story coincide closely with my initial romantic hopes. If that happens – he’s the one.
I realize the incredible pitfalls of this. I can’t forgive certain things out of the sheer fact that my illusion of romance has then shattered irreparably. If I ever feel like an option to you, I will never believe I am your priority ever again. Call me radical, I won’t contest.
Which is why, the second I found dubious messages on my ex-boyfriend’s phone, I was emotionally out of the relationship forever. That second, even though we officially took a few more weeks to break up. Now of course, many women will argue flirtatious messages to past booty calls in far-away cities (I know, the stupidity still baffles me) is a good reason to call it quits. But I know far more women than not who stayed with men who lied or cheated or put them down otherwise, ended up marrying those men, forgiving them, continue to live picture-perfect relationships on social media – and maybe even in real life, at least according to their ideals.
Part of me really envies these women. Their ability to move on, their recognition of the errors as human and not, as in my eyes, an act that breaks the most sacred part of love: Respect. My lover crumbles in my eyes because he disrespected me and, perhaps even worse, disrespected himself.
If he’s willing to embarrass himself in the context of us, he will never fully regain my respect for him again. I can tolerate and forgive, but I will never love him the way I want to love him again. Which is why I could also never be the intentional “other woman”. I’m too proud to be embarrassed as the outlet of a man’s weakest moment. To be the traitor of sisterhood, even to an unknown femme, is my worst nightmare.
I know, I know: Everyone makes mistakes. I mean, what would Hillary Clinton or Cookie Johnson say to all this?
The thing is, women like Hillary and Cookie got one thing right -life is easier with a partner, especially if he is successful and provides. Since I broke up with my ex, many perks are gone – the kind of perks that no woman in a long-term relationship can deny she’d be stranded without, now that she’s used to them. It takes a certain type of woman to choose loneliness over comfort as a byproduct of her moral stubbornness. At times, I do miss these benefits. Many every-day things have been a lot harder alone. I see my girlfriends living the comforts of a relationship and sometimes feel a bit sad. But I don’t feel sorry for myself because I fully recognize that I’m the problem.
You see, the combination of wanting a man who is unattainable and said man wanting specifically you, too, is something like one in 20 million.
Ok, so I’m not sure of the statistics, but basically, it’s extremely rare. THEN, if you do match, the chances of things working out are still slim. There’s a lot I can forgive – but I can’t forgive you betraying the pedestal of romance I put you on. It has nothing to do with your weird laugh or hairy back or obsessive behavior when driving – that’s all part of the pedestal, my love. Your tendency to sulk, you staring at impressive cleavage – it’s ok, I looked too! Your past experiments with shrooms, your admission to not knowing the capital of Bulgaria – not ideal, but I’ll look past it.
No: you fall off this pedestal if you betray your own confidence, your own exclusivity, your own mystery and the certainty that you are good on your own. And if you shall not be alone, your companionship is to be shared with me and only me, because damnit, you’re picky as fuck.
You’re picky and solitary by nature, just like me.
You’re hard on yourself and you need constant challenge.
You’d rather be alone than forgo what you most hold true.
Because when I’m in love, I only want you.