Subtlety is possibly the worst invention in human discourse. Not because I think everything needs to be blatant and clearly visible to all, but because subtlety is often used as a way to make courage seem undignified. This occured to me while I was talking to a friend about relationships.
Here’s the definition of subtle:
“fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand”
And here’s how subtle is used, in human interactions:
“being intentionally unclear about a complex topic, to ensure you are not emotionally exposed”
Subtlety is literally about being a worse communicator. And people love to be subtle when they talk about feelings, about passions, about their own emotional growth and personal development.
Be nuanced, be precise, be specific. Don’t hide behind being vague or difficult to perceive as a way of cultivating a reputation or an appreciation for your worldview.
And people, please: when trying to let someone into your life, and into your brain, don’t use subtlety as an excuse for refusing to be understood. You might be a prize, but that doesn’t mean you should be a puzzle beforehand.
Bob Marley on how to love a woman
“You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect - you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break - her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”
It’s been my experience that the same is true about men.
(Boys are another story.)
Because if I were fat and still ate food the way I do (technique not quantity), I would get the most horrific looks. And I’d probably have the worst esteem issues. (Ok let’s be honest, maybe quantity also.)
Everyday I sit in the largest food court in America and eat my food. Generally speaking, there’s a bag of something that produces crumbs. Do you think I’m going to leave those crumbs in there? No. I proudly tilt my head back as I empty the bag into my mouth. Sometimes I look down and crumbs are scattered across my shirt. Let’s face it, if I’m thoroughly enjoying a food, I eat like a five year-old.
I don’t know how I was ever found attractive during a date. Let alone my first date with Jayson. Mexican food. Cheese. Enough said.
But here I am. A spectacle for all in my ankle boots, jeggings and puffy-shouldered top. Crumbs and all.
I have been talking to a newly acquired friend lately who’s going through a situation that’s all too familiar to me. After two years, and relocating to another state, she says she just doesn’t feel the same anymore. My heart breaks for him and I can feel his bewilderment and confusion as to what the future holds for him as an individual and as a partner in a relationship. Talking to him has brought me straight back to where I was right around this time 2 years ago.
After 4 years what I thought to be the love of my life took all of the plans we had and tossed them up in the air. Well, more like threw them against the wall and shattered them to pieces. The first round was a lot of every emotion one could possibly face. A year later all that was left was a guarded and fearful girl who really wished she could face the future and still have hope. A girl battered and scared but still in need of healing.This time is different.
I am amazed of all I went through and the strength of the human heart. It’s ability to hope, love, hurt, shatter, bleed, harden, heal from the inside out and break its shell to reveal a newly healed, yet still so tender, so hopeful and so loving of a heart as there once was. All the while baring its scars as a testament of its power and strength. Our hearts find strength in their fragility.
Amazingly, when I think back to that time now, I feel nothing but freedom and thankfulness that he was exactly who he was and did exactly what he did. I am a very different girl facing the world today. A girl full of hope, excitement and anxiousness, all tempered by patience, at the prospect of a love so deep, so strong and so pure that I would be willing to go through all of that over and over again. There is nothing more powerful than love.
(For inquiring minds, here’s my experience, cliff notes version at the bottom.)
I was browsing through Marie Claire one day, mainly looking at the pictures because I like to collage, when I can across the title of an article: Girls, Stop Being So Picky. Immediately I was curious because this article was in the Love/Sex section. The title of the interviewee’s book didn’t taste very appetizing as my tongue fed the words and my brain tried to digest them. Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough (by Lori Gottlieb).
Settling? Good enough? Not a word or phrase I was content with allowing to come into my vocabulary or even way of life. You see, all my life I was taught to have standards and to expect and live excellence in every area of life. In school it was in relation to my grades and not having sex. Once I graduated, and went on to an internship, the areas of focus in which to extend to work, platonic and romantic relationships alike, faith, higher education, etc.
I consider my experience in that internship one that I will never regret and am completely grateful for the caliber of women that surrounded me. These women came from all different backgrounds and life experiences, all adequately equipped to pour into my life nuggets of wisdom to help shape me into the women I was developing into. One of the things I remember most was the emphasis placed on making a wish-list of sorts for future dating experiences. Something to look back upon and compare if the particular guy met the standards I valued as important. Genius, I thought…. I was 19. As I wrote out my list, I failed to remember the other important aspects of this checklist. There are three columns/types of standards: some will be fixed and unchanging (mostly character traits), others malleable and could be lived without (physical appearance, job, etc) and finally areas that a person can grow into (because we are ever growing and learning). I made my list and went on my way. I can only think of maybe 2 times when I referred back to it. Instead I continued to live life and formulate my “type.”
Every girl (and guy) has a type, whether she wants to admit it or not. Some girls’ types are blatantly obvious to them and the people around them, others take some pointing out by outside sources. Either way we have a type that we consider to be worthy of our time and effort. How tall is he? What color hair/eyes? What’s his profession? Is he in school? His physique etc? Everyone else, no matter their character, isn’t given the time or day. Why? Because somehow our type has now replaced our standards.
I read the article anyway because, from simply reading the title of the author’s book, I was formulating my rant about how wrong she was. The more I read the more I was surprise. I began to understand the author’s point of view and found myself agreeing with Mary’s message, “We feel entitled to the cultural ideal. Mr. Right should look a certain way, have a certain kind of job, have a sense of humor, be romantic in these ways and show it with certain gestures. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Why do we always focus on the latter?”
The past year I mad a conscious decision to broaden my horizons and let go of my “type.” More often than not it had left me frustrated and wanting more than what I was being offered. The process wasn’t an easy one considering I live in an area that is in a constant state of the Spring Break mentality, choking my personal fashion prejudices with their Ed Hardy and Lily Pulitzer culture. But I tried my best to give each suitor a fair chance and learn who they really are and what they are really all about.
One day I hesitantly told one of my closest friends about a guy I started hanging out with. He was definitely outside my type but I really enjoyed his company, personality etc. Her response was shock at first but her following response was one that spoke to the very core of me:
“First of all, who am I or anyone else for that matter to tell you what we think about a boy you happen to like. Unless he’s a convicted serial killer, rapist, or sexual predator, no one’s opinion should matter but yours, you know? We don’t get to choose who we like, it just happens. We spend so much time over analyzing each tiny detail. And most of the time we end up missing out on something that could be great because we have to pick apart and examine each tiny irrelevant aspect of the situation. Oh he’s not tall enough, oh he’s not my usual type, oh he has brown eyes instead of blue, oh what will my friends think, blah blah blah. But when it all comes down to it, those silly little things don’t matter in the end. What really matters is how you feel when you are with that person. Does he makes you happy? Does he make you laugh? Do you find yourself smiling uncontrollably? Do you feel like you could talk to him for hours on end about everything and absolutely nothing at the same time? Do you find yourself completely comfortable, yet still nervous and anxious when ever you’re around him, or whenever you talk to him? THOSE are the things that matter. FEELINGS matter. There’s no need to try and justify why you’re into him to anyone, especially yourself. We tend to let our heads get in the way of everything. So just let go of all the bullshit and see where it goes!”
It didn’t end up going anywhere but the fact of the matter is I tried. I stepped out of myself and the formula I had subconsciously tried to fit every guy in and I learned from it. I had a blast. I loved that I could be completely myself, oddities and dorkiness included. I learned that it really doesn’t matter what they look like or what style a guy has, though being attracted to someone is very important. That attraction comes in other forms besides JUST the physical. Often it’s those other forms that weigh the most: the emotional, the spiritual, and the unexplainable. The condition of one’s heart and their motivation in life was what I hold closest to my own heart. What does he live for? Breathe for? His passions and desires? Are they bigger than himself or is he looking through a microscope, failing to see the bigger picture? Is he concerned with living a life motivated by love? The answers to those questions formulate the biggest turn-ons and turn-offs to me.
My eye will still always be immediately “caught” when my type walks by, there’s no question about that. But that physical attraction can only last on its own for so long. It’s the man of substance that will catch my attention for an extended period of time. (And God knows that’s a tough challenge in itself). It’s time for girls to stop being so damn picky about the things that don’t really matter. Save the energy for scrutinizing the areas that are really worth investigating: being trustworthy, respectable, passionate, loving, etc. And ENJOY the process of getting to know someone on a deeper level, for who they really are. Take a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised.
As I wrote the word “intimidate” in a text, it hit me. That word resembles the word “intimate” in an ironically close manner. I find it to be no mistake and their correlation sums up the past year and a half for me, perfectly.
A very wise woman told me that “they” say however long your relationship was, it takes half of that to heal and be ready for a new one. We were together for almost 4 years. That means almost two years before I’d be ready for a new relationship? I didn’t believe that. I didn’t love him anymore, that stopped the day I realize what kind of person he really was and what he/she did. It’d be different for me, I thought. Here I am, one year and eight months later. Still single, who said I was so special to be that different? Haha.
in·tim·i·date: to make timid or fearful
in·ti·mate: belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature
A heartbreak is never an easy wound to heal but when it comes with a double dose of betrayal, it’s even harder. I had unwillingly become fearful of the intimacy every human being longs for with another person because of the actions of both of those people. When it came to men, I had superficial relationships because I didn’t know how to open the door of my deepest self to them. There were times, two to be exact, where I wanted to so badly because I knew they were worthy of my trust and were genuine. But no matter how hard I tried to turn the knob and open the door, it was welded shut. I’m sure it seemed as if I just didn’t care but I did and I tried to explain that as best I could. It wasn’t their fault, nor was it mine. I’m reminded of the story The Sword and the Stone, it just wasn’t the right timing. There was a lot of internal healing that had yet to take place and until that happened, no one was getting in.
I’m thankful to say that I have come a long way. I feel it in my heart, I see it in the way I view the future and the people around me. I have forgiven the two of them a long time ago and I think that was key to me moving on. They say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily time that does the healing. I think its the experiences and range of emotions you go through during those times that allows you to heal and evolve into a more mature being, if you choose to do so that is. You have to reach real deep into every area of yourself that’s hurting and hating etc, pull them up, allow them to be exposed and get air so they can heal properly. Otherwise, they will become stagnant and infected and the effects on your life will be tragic. It’s hard and it’s painful and not much fun, but the outcome is well worth the journey.
As much as I joke around about my roommate teasing me for not having a boyfriend, I am glad I didn’t have one. Note, I said “didn’t.” I still don’t, but I finally want one and that’s huge. I can honestly tell you today that I have hope for the future. It’s scary, but so are roller-coasters! Along with intoxicating and fun! (One of my favorite things actually.) I know that there are decent guys out there. Guys that hold the same values I do near and dear to their heart. Ones who’s mamas raised them right and they actually kept with it. One day, one will find me. Until then, I’ll enjoy the scenery. ;) And go on living and enjoying this life I lead. And what a wonderful life it is. I am blessed with friends and family who love me and are an example to me of what true love really is. The hopeless romantic inside of me has yet to die, I think it’s invincible. :)
(If you’re really curious as to what happened, here’s the cliff notes version.)