Today, let’s hear Angelika Rust talking about the need to define the one you love, and the need to find someone who loves you for who you are, not for their definition of who you might be.
When I was something around twenty years old, I had a boyfriend, let’s call him Mike. He was quite handsome, easy-going, clever in a down-to-earth way, with a wide circle of friends. Creative, too. He always had some funny project lined up, and lots of people around to help him out. I got swept away by the energy he radiated. I had been sort of a loner, and those days seemed over. I felt happy, and thought I’d struck gold.
One day, very early in our relationship, I dyed my hair red. That’s just what I do, I can never quite leave my head alone. I’ve been everything from pitch black to bleached blonde with a dash of pink. Which really didn’t suit me at all, but I digress. What I’m actually aiming at, is, when he saw me with my red hair, he said this:
“I’ve always wanted a girlfriend with red hair.”
That didn’t make me feel pretty, or desired. It made me feel like a job applicant. Like he was ticking off some mental checklist to see if I really fit his book. I should have become suspicious then and there.
Now don’t get me wrong – we all do that ticking-off thing. If you’ve read Brecht at some point, you might remember the anecdotes about Mr. Keuner.
“What do you do,” Mr. K was asked, “if you love someone?”
“I make a sketch of the person,” said Mr. K, “and make sure that one comes to resemble the other.”
I’ve always found this to be perfectly true. We have a clear image in our mind of how we need our one true love to be, and whenever we meet someone, all we can do is hope they’ll be a living, breathing version of that image. Some, though, do that more so than others. Some will make the effort to get to know the real person beneath the superimposed image, and will start to love that real person, with all their flaws, their imperfections. Love that real person for who they are, not for who they want them to be. Others…others will try to bend and shape that real person into the sketch they had imagined, form them like so much clay until they’ve become something they’re not, until they’ve won love at the price of their own self.
Mike now…Mike was of the latter category.
A few weeks later, he came with an Indian necklace, quite pretty actually, but then he said, “I’ve always imagined that when I had a girlfriend, she’d wear a necklace like this.” In an instant, it didn’t look so pretty anymore. I put it on that day, and maybe again once or twice, but some part of me kept thinking, I’m not a doll to be dressed up as you please, so it soon ended up in a drawer.
He also kept wanting to show me off. By now I know that I’m not overly ugly, and my figure is totally okay, but back then, what confidence I had into my looks could have fit into a thimble. And there he was, buying me tight tops and mini skirts which I would wear exactly once and never again, because I’d feel like everybody was staring at me, their eyes telling me I looked like a slut, or too fat to pull off an outfit like that, or whatever. An overactive imagination, coupled with anxiety, makes life funny like that. One day, on a vacation in Italy, he spent his time ridiculing me for what a prude I was, telling me that his girlfriend wouldn’t be afraid to show her assets, until I relented and took my bikini top off. I had no problem going to the beach at night and swimming in my birthday suit, but to go half-naked in broad daylight, well, that simply wasn’t me. And on and on he tried to whittle me into shape, until I couldn’t take it anymore.
Almost two years, I stayed with him, hoping he’d stop it, thinking he had to, at some point, understand who I am and just let me be myself. Realizing that he wouldn’t was a long and painful process, but in the end I found the strength to leave him rather than lose me.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Whoever you are, no matter how thin/fat, pretty/ugly, stupid/intelligent, or whatever else makes up what you consider attractive about someone, you are wonderful, and you deserve to be loved for who you are. Don’t put up with anyone who’ll try to change you, but the same is true the other way round. Yes, by all means, keep that mental checklist. You don’t want to be with just anyone, they have to be right for you, but don’t go trying to change someone into someone else, just so you can love them. That wouldn’t be fair on either of you. But also remember that ‘perfect’ is, most likely, a myth. Love between two human beings has one major problem – the parties involved are human, and they aren’t perfect. No one will ever fit exactly that sketch you made, and also, that sketch might change over the years as your needs change as you age. All you can hope for is a good friend, someone to complement you rather than complete you, someone whose demons play well with yours, someone you can respect, and who is willing to respect you.