There’s open and revealing and then there’s this: vomiting your life in my lap. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Long ago, I was cautioned that boys who quickly relinquish stories about their lives were not the optimal recipients to, with the same haste, relinquish my heart. I didn’t buy into the anti-thesis of what seemed to be the obvious: if he trusted me with his sad stories then I could surely trust him with my happy heart.
Back then I refused to believe what I now know to be true. I was being used as a trashcan for someone else’s emotional garbage and the person’s purging had nothing to do with me. It was most assuredly not an indication of substantiated feelings and emotions. At best, it was a fairly perceptive person desiring to hone in and optimize my innate nurturing tendencies for his own devices. At worst, it was an opportunistic mechanism used to push a hidden agenda. There is no room for deviating from that comparative structure. It was an “either or” “one or the other” spectrum—no more, no less. Best case or worst case, pick one.
I am seemingly audacious to make assertions that demean the very moments that I, over the years, replay in my head incessantly. One could argue that I have degraded someone else’s legitimate and sincere motives to bolster my own insecurities. Arguably, I have taken beautifully candid and unpretentious instances and turned them into something sadistic. Rest assured, I didn’t reach this premise swiftly—but I had to come to grips that these moments were less an indicator of the intensity of my relationship and more a preface of how intensely I would tie myself to him. More than anything, it was an indication of how quickly I would charge myself the position of saving him.
And this is why I write this post—because it is a cautionary tale. It’s a self-actualizing warning. A warning that I want every single woman to heed, keep secretly tucked in her breast, retrieving it to use as ammunition to protect her happy heart. I write this because while it’s flattering to believe that men spilling their lives in our laps is something that we have single-handedly resonated —it is also to our detriment to believe so. I now understand that for as long as I tenaciously cleaved to the notion that I am different and that I somehow facilitated a space leaving men incapable of keeping their traumatic and sad stories in their mouths—I trade in the truth for self-sustaining lies. The truth is, regardless of his motives, when said man vomited in my lap, his life—he was left cleansed and I took on his waste as my own. I vowed to protect him and keep his sadness as my treasure. What we, as women, fail to realize is that the woman before us—who spun vomit into pearls and adorned them carefully around her neck was unable to do—we probably won’t either. She couldn’t save him—and neither can you.
When you look at it practically, a person that shares such intimate aspects of his life within weeks, can’t measure those details the way that you think he does. What have you done to prove your trustworthiness? Yet, here he is seemingly trusting you with such profound information. And you take the pseudo trust that he has created to sustain your desire to be his truest confidante. You are no confidante though; he would tell what he is telling you to a stranger in the street. Really, for all intentions and purposes you are a stranger in the street. Still, we listen intently believing that this is the first sign of many on how intimate he is willing to be, how deep he wants to go. He certainly could never have revealed these dramatic and heart wrenching stories to anyone else. We happily transform anecdotes into commitments; all the while he is using us as a second-rate therapist. And when he feels he has gotten whatever he wanted from the relationship he gets off the couch, brushes the invisible wrinkles from his pants leg, nods and exits. And we sit aimlessly trying to figure out how to save him—not knowing that he is probably long gone already using his sad stories on the next one, not knowing instead of saving him we should have been trying to save ourselves!
Interestingly enough, a friend of mine has too recently discovered that there are no positive relationship benefits from choosing men who evidentially need saving—or at minimum some good psychological evaluation. We both laughed when I told her what my new plan of action is for these men. The next time a man starts in with these morbid stories of his life and childhood ---I am going to sit, listen quietly, and once he finishes instead of looking at him tears welling in my eyes, sad for everything that he has endured, I will ask—“and how have you grown from this?” And I will wait for his response. And I will wait for him to match this incredibly unequivocally uninspiring story with something uplifting and rousing. And if he isn’t able to conjure up anything but a blank face, what I will leave that conversation with is an understanding that the man in question is nowhere near ready for me in his life. For, if he cannot take some of the most profound incidences of his own life and spin that into something positive then I know there is no way he is ready to contribute anything beneficial in my life. If he is not growing—then he is not learning—and he is just a boy in a man’s body. The kind of man that I want, that I need would not use stories of trouble as opening liners but would instead use it later to show how he has become the phenomenal man that I see before me. No longer, do I have either the inclination or the space in my happy heart to allow another stranger to come in and debilitate me with his sadness.
I, too, do not want any other woman to mistake men with stunted growth patterns as men offering intimacy. So, I advise women (and men if this actually happens to you as well), to not allow strangers to leech onto your heart and suck it dry. I’ve already got a plan of action for how I will deal with these type of men. But for someone that has never had the opportunity to see firsthand the circus show that is men flipping trouble as an attractant of good women—let me briefly paint the picture.
His face—it will go completely blank and he will communicate emotive stories about himself as if they don’t touch him. He will go on for a while—he isn’t looking for you to integrate any commentary though—this isn’t about you—you are suppose to just listen. And while I have enough experience and too many heartaches to listen and not give two flips about what he is talking about the inexperienced woman who may not be able listen without growing emotionally invested--should silently start humming to herself. Make no mistake, it will be difficult—it’s that time when you’re getting to know someone and everything is new and exciting and everything they say is of the utmost importance. However, you have to tune them out. So, just hum. And you will feel bad—but I promise if you listen and you use those stories to justify anything about how he feels for you—then you will end up feeling a whole lot worst in the end. Let him tell his sad stories—but please please don’t let it touch your happy heart.
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