I'll admit, I like being one of the guys, and it's something that has always come really easily to me. I have five older sisters and really close female friends. When I was a kid I played with dolls and my favorite color was and still is pink. I'm not athletic and never really saw myself as a tomboy but I still fit in really well with guys. My male cousins A. and A. were two of my favorite playmates when I was a kid, which meant we played with Tonka trucks, played countless rounds of cops and robbers, smashed bugs to make secret potions, chased each other, played tricks on my older sister and played a lot of catch football. I also watched football and basketball with my brothers-in-law and my dad and learned all I could about sports so that I could talk with the guys at school. When I was in high school, some of my closest friends were guys and today I still have really close male friends and I'm even in a band with 6 other guys. It's like I get a free pass into Boy World. I get to observe the way men joke with each other, talk about women and walk in this world, and if there's anything I've learned it's that men are bred to walk, talk and think with total confidence.
One could say I possess a lot of qualities that are assigned to men (bear in mind that gender is a social construct, meaning men are taught to be assertive, outspoken, opinionated and intelligent - it isn't necessarily genetics). I like football and beer. I like hanging out with the fellas and I can hold my own in tough situations. Although I'm not always confident, when I am, I'm unstoppable. While these are positive attributes for men, they're a problem for women - I've been told on more than one occasion that because of these personality traits I come off as intimidating, and no man wants to date a woman who intimidates him.
Ohhhh, so that's my problem.
On more than one occasion I've written about Astro Boy. He was the first man in my life who verbalized the fact that he was intimidated by me and it was something he couldn't work through. He took a really long time to even admit this to me - he played the "I've been hurt before and can't open up" game (I've written about it before) and it wasn't until we started hanging out again in October that he admitted that I intimidated him. I began spending time with Astro Boy again shortly after I broke up with Freddy. It was the beginning of the strike and I wasn't ready to quit men cold-turkey. Astro Boy was a stepping stone - the equivalent to wearing a patch to quit smoking, and he was also comfortable, like a pair of old slippers after wearing high heels all day.
Because Astro Boy and I weren't exactly dating, he felt like he could open up in a way that he hadn't opened up before. He told me the main reason why he shut me out was because I intimidated him and he didn't know how to handle me. He said that the way I spoke, my independence and my intelligence were a problem for him. He said that he felt like he couldn't keep up with me. I asked him why he never told me while we were together and he said he didn't know how to say it - so instead, he was just really shitty to me.
While we were dating, Astro Boy dictated when we spent time together (which was way too much, by the way), when we went out, where we went, and the amount of affection he would give me - he consistently shut me out any time I wanted to talk about "us." I made countless excuses for his behavior and told myself (and everyone around me) "he's been hurt before, he'll come around, he's just getting comfortable with me." I refused to admit the obvious: he was a jerk, he treated me badly and he wasn't going to change. He finally let me down one too many times and I had enough, so we broke up. Months later, out of fear and loneliness after I broke up with Freddy, I reached out to Astro Boy. We became friends again and quickly slipped back into our pattern of spending way too much time together.
We stopped being friends when we were had a pretty intense discussion about dating. I thought he had changed and I figured hey, why not give it a try? I thought I wanted to build a relationship with him. I was on the rebound from Freddy, in the midst of a strike that I didn't really understand and I felt very confused, afraid and I desperately needed to make something work. When I suggested dating, Astro Boy reverted right back to his old habits of shutting down and then he shut me out completely. We stopped speaking and haven't spoken since - and I don't have the need to ever speak to him again.
Lets review: I had broken up with Freddy, gone on strike, began hanging out with Astro Boy again, spent too much time with him, heard (from him) that I was intimidating and then was subsequently shut out by him without so much as an explanation. I was alone once again and felt even worse than before. I thought a lot about what Astro Boy said about me being intimidating. I had toyed with the notion of changing before, but now I was taking it seriously. Maybe Freddy and Astro Boy were right - maybe I was too demanding, too independent, too outspoken. Maybe I needed to let men know that I needed them and that I wasn't as strong as they thought I was.
A friend of mine said that men need to feel needed, and when a woman doesn't need him, he looks for one who does. I began searching for ways to change so that men could feel more comfortable around me, but I quickly found that changing the things that Astro Boy identified as being intimidating are the things that are the very essence of who I am. Being at my lowest is what gave me the strength to begin pulling myself up. My independence or inability to make a man feel needed was not the issue with Astro Boy - I wasn't the problem. His own inadequacies were not my responsibility and he made a choice to let his insecurities get the best of him. That's on him, not me.
Basically, I didn't break him, so I didn't need to fix him.
Contrary to popular belief - I do need a man. I don't need a man to pay my bills or make decisions for me, but when I have a rough day I need someone to hold me and let me know everything is going to be alright. I need someone in my corner to cheer me on and clean me up when life sucker punches me. I need someone who wants to be my partner. I need someone who sees me and thinks "yeah, she's a pretty cool woman and I'm lucky to know her" instead of "she scares me, so I will treat her badly and tear her down so I can feel like more of a man." While this may not have been Astro Boy's explicit thought, it's what his actions demonstrated.
I'm not mean or demanding. The song Man Eater doesn't begin playing when I walk into a room. I am very loving and giving toward people I care about and while I'm independent and outspoken, I'm not a bully. I don't seek out to intimidate the men I date. If they are intimidated, that's their problem, not mine. These days, I am happier and stronger than I've ever been, and I would much rather be alone than change who I am because someone doesn't know how to be happy and strong in his own life.
Next time: The One That Got Away