an ode to your crazy ex-girlfriend
this is roughly my millionth time trying to write this blog post.
i am not very good at estimating. in any case i've kept writing it, posted it once or twice, getting some feedback and revamping. the whole concept is just such a tight rigid knot of so many issues and insecurities. it has been hard to pull the one little thread i keep meaning to talk about, but slowly and surely i am wrapping my head around it. so let us try again.
this idea first occurred to me in an english class. we had just read and were discussing the story "a telephone call" by dorothy parker (read here: http://www.americanliterature.com/author/dorothy-parker/short-story/a-telephone-call). the story is about a woman waiting for a phone call from the guy she just slept with (she was a virgin), and as an unreliable narrator she reveals details which indicate that the guy proooobably won't be calling, and her relentless obsessing over trying to create scenarios to assuage her anxiety, the classic "he just isn't calling because ___" lines. also, the story was set in like the early 20th century and she was religious, so losing her virginity is kiiiind of a huge deal. in any case, i was excited to talk about it. i wanted to talk about the structure of anxiety, and how it was the power structures that led to her anxiety and all of these things and that cognitively or otherwise, she essentially had no control over her anxiety at all. but when my dynamic mononymic prof brad started the discussion, the class launched into critical grenades, calling the character insane, crazy, delusional, desperate, helpless etc. i remember tears trapped inside my eyes for me and the character and any girl who finds truth in sylvia plath. and so that is what i am talking about. and here is my operational definition of "your crazy ex-girlfriend" - anyone in all of the people in the world who read this story and hear/heard their own words at one point.
and in that way, whether my exboyfriends agree or not (they might), i consider myself a crazy ex-girlfriend.
i know this breed of madness and i know it too well. i know the unbearable discomfort when the world stretches your psyche so beyond your reach that everything is tied and taut. i know this so well. i have absolutely been someone waiting for a call or a text message and absolutely losing my mind during the waiting period. with guys i literally barely know, i've gotten anxious to the point of getting nauseous and getting sick over someone i have talked to like, twice in my life. my mind gets obsessed completely beyond my control over these things. not to mention the shame i feel about feeling this way. because i've always heard of /that girl/. that crazy girl who cares too much. i'm terrified of that girl, and i'm terrified of being that girl, and i'm terrified of anyone defining the large complex synaptic leaps by my mind and heart by the one silencing word "crazy". i know millions of girls who feel the same way.
there are somethings i know about this, and somethings i don't.
- i am not in love with the people i obsess over. it may seem that way, but the feeling is more of a complete loss of control, and an obsession with that. i can project ahead, and say "worst case scenario, he isn't into it" and when that is the case i literally care for like sixty one seconds and then i go read some masterpiece in literature and they sort of lose their appeal. most people i know have felt the same way. so consider that the girl who is being crazy might not be just super into you. maybe it is more than that. i know that it is more than that.
- i'm not entirely sure why it happens. i'm trying to figure out, but there are lots of reasons and i am only going to talk about one. other reasons could be power dynamics, loss of control, learned helplessness etc.
- i'm not sure about the gender dynamics here. i would venture a guess that people tend to talk more about crazy ex-girlfriends than crazy ex-boyfriends, but that would only be from anecdotal evidence. i'm talking about the crazy ex-girlfriend because it seems to have a specific identity to me, and it is an identity i feel i understand and i hold and can feel and talk about. so, i'm mostly just talking from my own experience. remember that.
and my conclusion from all of this remains the same:
we live in a different world than you.
you hold the history of every heartache. you hold the reflexive associations of the men who look at me a little too long or cat call or make gross gestures or say gross things that make me feel like my only value is in my body, and that this value defines me. you hold the reflexive associations of emotionally abusive ex-boyfriends, of walks home in the dark with fingers looped through keys and anxious eyes, sharp and alert. one of the reasons this perplexes me is that i know this. despite this great cognitive structural masterpieces i erect in the honour of people i know or believe or trust to be good, i have never been able to dissociate these conditioned responses, and i have seriously tried. sometimes these responses aren't deserved. sometimes there really are legitimate reasons for things, and it isn't fair that i don't give people who deserve the benefit of the doubt the benefit of the doubt (when actually, i am giving people the benefit of the doubt; all of my twisted anxious nerves just haven't gotten the message) and so this is the theory of my second world.
one of the stranger dynamics of being a woman is the paradox of trust. do not trust too many men or then you are not being careful enough. do trust men or else you are a bitch. this paradox stretches my whole self around the world and my life and wears me more thinly than almost anything else. i love people. i love trusting people and things and the world. i love thinking of the world as this magnificent thing, and mostly believing the best of people. and that is my separate world. i believe in the potential selves of people. i believe in the versions that people want to be but aren't because of their own insecurities. i believe in people to know how to love and to love and care about me with the same general depth as i do to others. i don't want to think of every man i pass on a dark night as someone who might rape me. i don't want to think that every potential romance thinks i am worthless. i don't want to think that any potential boyfriend only bases my value on my appearance. i just do not want to be someone who does not love and trust anyone. i want to believe in a world of potential selves, in a world where the people who are essentiallygoodbutjusttoofuckedtobeagoodboyfriend can learn and understand that these things aren't about fault but about not wanting to hurt someone, and that you should hold hearts with care.
and then there is the other world. the world where rapists exist, the world where cat calling is a real thing and people think i'm complimenting myself if i talk about how much i hate it. this is the world where i have been with an essentiallynice boy who told me every single day that i wasn't worth the effort of a relationship. and a lot of the time, this world is real.
and this becomes the problem: these worlds are constantly shifting and no one will ever tell you where you are. this is a part of my lack of control. i want to believe you are great. i want to believe you will call me and tell me sorrybuti'mjustnotintoit instead of just avoiding a situation. because when i don't believe that, you hold every single break of my heart. you become a potential demon. i don't want that to happen. i wish it didn't happen. but it happens because of this second world. i know that sometimes it is not fair (but maybe it is less fair that our little second world exists at all). this whole thing stretches me apart. i spend my life trying to live in a wonderful world. the tension that comes from it is crazy. and it isn't even a deliberate guard to avoid being hurt - i actively command myself to trust people because that seems more important to me, and i have never hesitated in that. but if i'm crazy, it is with the mad craze of loving an unlovable world.
and so that is why i love your crazy ex-girlfriend.
i don't know what she did. she could have been horrible to you, she could have just been "crazy". i don't know what she did. it is never okay to be horrible. but i love her anyways. because her heart holds a whole history of hearts. my little second world has never fully gone away for me, but then again i have never been fully loved. and this is a truth and a trust and the hardest kind of love.
so love conclusively, and love in all of the ways you can. make the bad worlds smaller and live in the world that sings. and don't reduce the history of my heart ache to crazy - my pain can be full and deep and mean more than that, and the word crazy is just a different way to silence them.