Being the cool girl has never worked for me. I’ve tried to play it cool, not crowd the guy I’m interested in, not acted needy, not asked for anything from him (like, even a date) but it’s never gone well. Instead I’ve frequently ended up frustrated, frequently screwed over (figuratively, if not metaphorically, speaking) and then in true Lucy-style I’ve exploded.
It’s not a part of my personality I’m particularly proud of, this capacity to lose my head and throw a bit of a tantrum. But I am startling good at it. The crazy thing is the explosion and tantrum are a direct result of trying to be the cool girl. So I bring it upon myself. Then of course, the man in question often freaks out, withdraws, throws a tantrum back and well, you get the drift.
It’s a no-win situation for me.
Someone reminded me recently of my tendency to become more than a little high-handed in my tantrum-phase. They are completely right. It’s easy to take the high ground when you feel wronged. Particularly when the object of your affection is proving evasive, indecisive or bloody-minded. But every time this has happened I know it’s only got to that point because I was trying to play it cool at the start. When I talk to others about this, it seems to be a bit of an epidemic. Women feel like they should play it cool so they don’t seem ‘needy’ while men think that if a woman isn’t playing it cool then there’s something wrong with her. Yep, that little gem came from an ex of mine who, when his mate said the girl he wanted to date told him she was available any night of the following week, my ex said, ‘Mate, I’d be careful there. There’s probably something wrong with her.’ He meant it!! Meanwhile I said, flabbergasted at his stupidity, ‘Maybe she just really likes him!’
Is it any wonder the male/female dating dynamic is a freaking mess?! (And yes, that was a red flag conversation I should’ve paid more attention to with my ex).
As I work my way through the last edits of my book, evidence of my tantrum-throwing behaviour is particularly apparent in Part 2: Dysfunctional Dating and Other Disasters. In one situation, I’d been playing the ‘cool girl’ with a man I’ve called Salsa Cat. He was in my dance class and he’d been flirting with me and coming on to me for months and months. It was obvious, it was frequent and it was persistent. Then we hit a turning point when he told me that he didn’t want me invading his personal space…when he had been actively and intentionally invading mine for months. Gah!! What followed was a Lucy-tantrum that I believe could have been avoided if I’d just not tried to be the ‘cool girl’ in the first place.
“I threw myself on the bed that night and shed tears of frustration and disappointment. I was terribly hurt. Then anger started to bubble up inside me. A couple of days later I did something I had never done as a single woman before – I told a man he’d upset me. Instead of just taking it, blaming myself and feeling like crap, I stood up for myself and said it wasn’t good enough.
Actually, let’s face it, I completely lost my temper and acted like a crazy person. Salsa Cat bore the brunt of years of singledom involving game-playing, non-committal and dishonest men.
I kept as far away from him as possible during the next class– that’s quite a feat when you’re dancing salsa. At the end of the our first dance together I very particularly and noticeably disengaged my fingers from his and moved on to the next dance partner, and then the next and so on around the circle of about 20 men. A few minutes later we were opposite each other again. My anger was palpable and visible in every line of my body.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘I’d just hate to invade your personal space,’ I said sarcastically. Then we changed partners.
He wasn’t so cheerful by the time we danced together again. ‘I don’t know what your problem is. But I’m not doing anything,’ he ground out. I somehow restrained myself from punching him in the nose and flounced off to the next partner. I danced my way around the circle, forcing a smile for everyone else and continued to fume.
He was apologising as soon as I was within earshot. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I know my behaviour must have seemed a bit hot and cold.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘It has been.’ Then I moved on to the next partner.
The class finished a few minutes later but he didn’t seek me out to explain further. Instead he retreated to his group of friends and watched me nervously, casting sideways glances in my direction as I walked out the door.
He didn’t show up for end-of-term classes the following week. I guess he felt like an idiot and didn’t want to face a psycho dance partner again. Or maybe his absence had nothing at all to do with me.
It was a month before I saw him again and this time he did seek me out after class. He sat down beside me while I talked to two of our classmates, Dave and Ken. But Dave and Ken didn’t get the hint that they should move on and I couldn’t just end the conversation abruptly without being impolite. So I was stuck.
I guess Salsa Cat got sick of waiting because he got up and left after a minute or two. I’d started seeing someone else by that point so I didn’t run after him. We would dance together over the following years but he never gave me any further explanation. To this day, I’m still not sure what he was thinking.
There was never a resolution with Salsa Cat. Ever. My tantrum-throwing was not conducive to creating a situation where any kind of honest conversation could happen.
I think there is a middle-ground between cool girl and ‘honesty with a bludgeon and resulting head trauma’. Unfortunately, it’s clear I haven’t mastered that yet. Instead I seem to swing from one extreme to the other with the occasional explosion. The extremes don’t lead to a healthy relationship with the opposite sex so the middle ground is kind of important.
Anyway, whenever I talk with single friends about this, my advice is always the same. Be as honest as possible (in an open non-bludgeon-type way), as early as possible, and let the cards fall where they will. Maybe the object of your affection will not respond positively or in the way you like. But it’s not needy to want to know where you stand and if you play the ‘cool girl’ you’re just reducing yourself in your own eyes because you’re not saying what you want and you’re not being who you really are. You may also be leaving yourself open to be taken advantage of if the man/woman in question isn’t genuine.
Of course, I’m still mastering this advice myself. It’s an ongoing process. But playing the ‘cool girl’ has never worked out for me. Instead it has possibly shut doors that could’ve been left open, and that is really quite sad. I also I think I’d rather be not a ‘cool girl’ because acting like a passive-aggressive nightmare in a dance class is not a good look. Just saying.
My book editing is nearly done. Just one more read-through and it will be ready for final checking by my editor Kristy. She’s been so patiently waiting and encouraging me over the past few months but I think I gave her a bit of a ‘moment’ in our conversation last week when I said I wanted to rewrite the whole thing.
I was half-serious with the comment because when I read through my book now it feels like it was written by someone else. Oh, I know I’ve definitely done all the things in that book and lived through those experiences. But the person I am now is so very different from that 30-something woman who somewhat blindly found her way out of a 10-year marriage, through divorce and into the dysfunctional world of dating.
Take for instance my chapter entitled, Why Men Are Like Feral Cats. Even now it seems like an outrageous statement to make but, back then, I came across a number of men who were exactly like our feline friends. As I wrote, ‘Men couldn’t have anything in common with previously domesticated but now wild animals running the streets with absolutely no sense of responsibility. Could they?’
If you’ve been single for any period of time you’ll know the types of ‘cats’ I’m referring to here. In my book I’ve broken them down into some categories. These include the Never-Been-Faithful Cat who ‘flirts and behaves like the most unattached man with any attractive woman within a five-kilometre radius.’ There’s the Shameless Cat who ‘will chat up multiple women in the same location, within minutes of each other’ (for him it’s purely a numbers game). And of course, there’s the Shady Cat. He’s the one disguised as the nice guy until his partner is out of earshot (or in the next room) and then suddenly he’s all hands and innuendo.
Are you seeing the similarities yet between some men and feral cats? I’ll give you a hint…it may have something to do with their need to copulate with as many females as possible, regardless of their relationship status.
Fortunately, I have also come to know some lovely men who don’t resemble feral cats in any way whatsoever. Ladies they do exist, thank goodness! But the feral cats are still out there and when I look back at the woman who had those experiences, I shake my head ruefully. I was so naïve about men and human behaviour when I ventured into the Land of Single. And learning about feral cats was just one of the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I’m still single now but, as I read through my book from beginning to end for what is probably the last time, I know how much I’ve grown from all the experiences it describes. I’m wiser but in many ways, when it comes to men, I’m still just as clueless. Does that ever change, I wonder? Or is that just one of the constant mysteries of life…that men and women are such different creatures that we must always be prone to miscommunication, misdirection and misdemeanors while we navigate the dating world?
I’m not sure, but I’m still out there hoping for the best. Except these days, I can usually spot a ‘feral cat’ at 10 paces.
‘…Let’s talk about sex, baby Let’s talk about you and me Let’s talk about all the good things And the bad things that may be Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd It keeps coming up anyhow Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows Many will know anything goes Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be How it was, and of course, how it should be…’ Let’s Talk About Sex, Salt ‘n’ Pepa.
Mum has always been very supportive of my writing. She’s the one in my family who asks how it’s going, wants to read my work and encourages me to follow my writing dream (even when the going gets tough).
Last year, I showed her a chapter from the latest draft of my book and she loved it. She said it made her feel emotional and she wanted to cry a little. This was high praise coming from Mum.
Fast forward a year and that draft has morphed and changed into a far more refined version. And Mum’s been supportive the whole time. ‘When do I get to read your book?’ has been her regular refrain followed by, ‘Is it finished yet?’
About a month ago I was finally able to say, ‘Yes, it’s ready enough for you to see it. I’ll email to you.’ Would she like it or hate it, I didn’t know. But it was time.
Four long days crept past with no word from Mum. Was my book complete crap?? My fears started to bubble a little. Surely all was fine. Maybe she was busy and hadn’t read it yet.
Finally, I rang her on another pretext and as the conversation drew to a close she said, ‘By the way, I read your book.’
‘Oh?’ I said. ‘What did you think?’
‘I thought it was very well written,’ she said. ‘But I don’t really think it’s for my generation. And, as your mother, I don’t really want to read about all the men you’ve had sex with.’
Oh. My. God.
‘Mum, you do realise I haven’t slept with all the men I mention in the book. That’s why it’s called The Men I’ve Almost Dated. And besides, even if I had, it wouldn’t actually be many by most people’s standards…for my age.’
‘Well, that’s not always very clear,’ she replied. ‘But I thought it was good and very well written,’ she added hastily.
Now, my Mum knew the subject matter of my book before she read it. Lord knows she’s been privy over the years to many of my ridiculous dating and male-related stories. And trust me, there really isn’t much graphic content in my book. But I think Mum was a little shocked and, as I now look through some of my stories, I guess I can understand why. My writing is pretty open and I tend to say it like it is. If you’re single and you’re dating (or not dating), the subject of sex is going to come up. It is 2015 after all.
But my Mum is 70 years old and from another generation; a generation that definitely wasn’t as open about things as we are today.
When I next saw Mum, she made a point of saying (again) how good she thought my book was and I know she is still really supportive, regardless of the content. But, as I plan its launch for later this year, I’m starting to wonder if I need to include some sort of age-related warning label like, ‘Contains some semi-shocking content and should only be read by people aged 18-60 years.’
Hopefully my second book (planned for early next year) will be a little less shocking for Mum and she’ll feel comfortable handing it out to her friends. For obvious reasons, I’m guessing it’s unlikely she’ll proudly distribute copies of The Men I’ve Almost Dated to her friends in the mostly 60+ age group at her weekly yoga class.
I’m the final throes of editing my first-ever book. It’s a memoir about my 30s and all the crazy men-related experiences I had during that time. As I sift through the final edits, I’m constantly reminded of how far I’ve come in learning to trust myself and my own judgement. It’s been a long road.
Mine is the story of a woman who, around the age of 30, begins to feel and finally listen to the inner voice inside her. It’s a voice that says, you’re on the wrong road and you need to make some serious changes. My story continues with what, in hindsight, seems like the ‘what not to do’ when it comes to life, men and relationships. As I re-read the anecdotes, I revisit a roller coaster of highs and lows that somehow I emerge from (with a little dignity intact) and I keep going. Some of the stories are so odd that I can hardly believe they happened. Yet they did. Some of my behaviour was quite odd. Yet I did it all.
I was a woman on a journey of self-discovery that has brought me to this very moment in time.
What is most obvious to me is how much I’ve grew through those experiences and how much more I trust myself because of those things I went through. I’ve gone from being a 20-something judgemental, naive and very analytically-focused woman to the 40-something I am now. But I had to go through all those things in the middle to get here.
Nowadays I’m not so judgemental because I’m no longer so hard on myself. I’ve realised that we all make mistakes and life is never black and white; it’s all the colours of the rainbow. I’ve done some things I’m not particularly proud of, but I own them all because they’ve made me who I am.
Somewhere along the way I’ve also decided to trust that voice inside me, my intuitive inner guidance system that always has my back. It’s a voice I ignored a lot in my early life and certainly, when dealing with men, I tried to drown it out with rationalisation and kind excuses (kind to men, that is). These days my intuition is something I use every day to keep me on track in all kinds of ways. I also use my rational brain and reasoning too, but that’s not all I rely on anymore. Like many people, my brain can rationalise almost anything if I let it while my intuition always cuts through to the truth of the matter…if I’m brave enough to listen to it.
My intuition can’t necessarily stop me being hurt. But it can warn me when that event is likely. It also helps me see things for what they are and not what I’d like them to be. My brain and its very passionate friend my Ego are rather clever at pulling the wool over my eyes.
So I’m grateful for all the craziness, ill-advised decision-making and random events of my 30s because they’ve brought me to this moment in time. They’ve taught me so much about who I am and who I wish to be. And most of all they’ve brought me to a point in my life when I have learned to trust me. What greater gift could there be, than that?
If you’d like to learn more about connecting to your own intuition, check out my next Nights for Spiritual Beginners – Introductory Course beginning in Brisbane on 19 August 2015. More information is available at http://lucyandlife.com/a-night-for-spiritual-beginners/