Sunday, 30 December 2012

From the outside, looking in

I think a lot about how other people might see me. Not because I care about their opinions, but because I'm desperate for a perspective on myself that doesn't come from me. I'm far too prone to amateur self-psych-analysis to be able to believe that I have any chance at an objective and fair look at myself, if even such a think is possible. Not that anyone else would have an objective perspective on me, not if they knew me well enough to have a useful perspective at all. But they'd have a different one. And I think probably cobwebs look very different to the observer than to the spider.

Sometimes people say things to me, about me, hints at how they think of me, and they clash so absolutely with how I see myself that it throws me for a loop. Two intrinsically irreconcilable traits. Like when someone says I seem confident, when I see myself as almost utterly devoid of that quality.

The one that always gets to me - I say always... in fact, it's not a very common comments, but I get it now and then - is any variation on 'do you have a boyfriend?' 'met anyone interesting recently?' 'any nice boys in town?'. My reaction is always to laugh. I can't help it. I laugh because the idea is so... alien. So ridiculous. I almost think they're joking even by proposing it. I laugh. I say 'no', and I expect I sound dismissive, disinterested. As though the notion of having a boyfriend holds no appeal to me. As though no one I've met has appealed. As though I'm holding out for a fucking hero. Or something.

There's nothing wrong in being almost 21 and never having been in a relationship. There's nothing wrong in being the girl who isn't interested in that sort of thing, or the girl who doesn't want that kind of distraction, or the girl who just hasn't found the right boy yet. There's nothing wrong in being that girl. But I'm not that girl.

I think they assume I am, when they ask and I laugh and say no. I think my parents probably think I'm not interested. I think my siblings probably think I'm waiting out on the right guy. I think my friends probably think I'm shy and don't put myself out there, so don't get any attention from guys.

Of course the primary and most important reason why I've never been in a relationship (which, since I'm discussing other people's views of me here, is pretty much summed up as having a boyfriend, since only two of my friends actually know I'm bisexual (which I guess is the easiest label for it, though I have certain issues concerning the somewhat binary notion, but all labels are flawed and now isn't the time for a detailed rant about the flickering spectrum of sexual and gender orientation (guess what, we're having a brackets within brackets within brackets moment (aren't we lucky?)))) - anyway, as I was saying, the main reason is simple: no one has ever shown any interest in being in a relationship with me, and as I understand it, you kinda need two willing people to head off down that path.

It bothers me that when I casually try to bring this up with people, in a joking way, of course, because we know how much I don't do serious conversations as long as I can help it, they always come back with something like 'I'm sure lots of people are interested in you, you just don't notice them because you're shy, or because you're scared, or because you never make a move yourself'. Which, I have to say, is bollocks. I may not be the most socially-competent person on the planet, but I'm hardly a walking potato. I like to think I'm reasonably emotionally perceptive. Usually I can read people quite well, family, friends, even people I don't know that well. I tune in automatically to how much I think someone likes me, if I'm interacting with them. My brain's running a constant analysis: 'are they interested in what I just said?' 'did that offend them?' 'does this annoy them?' 'should I fill that awkward silence?' 'should I give them an excuse to get away from me?' I am fucking desperate to read signals from people that they like me, that they like interacting with me. I think it's probably one of the reasons I smile so much (apparently I do, people tell me). I'm not socially oblivious. I'm the opposite. I'm obsessed. I over-analyse and re-analyse and counter-analyse, trying to work out what people mean, what they think about me. And I doubt I get it right, at all, but the point is that I'm looking, I am out there looking for the bloody signs, I am right there whenever they want to show their faces. And sure I don't have much experience in the world of sex and relationships to be too acutely attuned to that type of sign, but, fucking hell, this is life, not a cryptic crossword. If there really were so many people who were interested in me, surely I would have caught some hint of it? And if anyone was interested in more than a passing sense, surely they would have made a bit of effort to make sure I got the hint?

Empirically, all I can conclude is that I have not yet met anyone interested in having a relationship with me.

I guess I kinda maintain the facade that I don't care, that I'm not interested. Because shrugging it off as though it's not a concern is easier than launching into the 'nobody loves me' shpiel. Spending years keeping an unrequited love secret has laid quite a precedent for me just not talking about my 'love life' (man, I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean). I guess people assume that if you're at all interested in having a relationship you'll have at least a few failed ones under your belt, even if they're just mistaken kisses and drunked regrets. I don't know if I should be glad I've never been in a relationship because at least then I've never gone through a break-up, or anything. Of course, they say 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but then I don't know if we should pay any attention to such pithy nothings. And anyway, the issue isn't that I've never loved, it's that I've never been loved. So is it better to have been loved and then been dumped than never to have been loved at all? Who knows. My every instinct strains towards the conviction that I'd rather feel it, however briefly, however shallowly, than never know. Christ, when it comes down to it, I just want to know what it feels like to be wanted.

I guess that sounds kinda sad and pathetic. To be honest, it is. But that's the thing... no one has ever wanted me. Even the guy who raped (though I still have issues about calling it that, but this isn't the time for semantics, as I've said, so we'll go with that as a term for now) me, he didn't want me. He wasn't attracted to me. He had no interest in who I was, I remember the boredom on his face. He had no desire for my body, I remember the disgust in his eyes, in his words. It was about power, about using me because I was there, about convenience and expediency. The only two other sexual interactions I've had - both taking place whilst I was asleep or partially-asleep, waking up in the middle and being too disorientated (the first time, years ago) and too paralysed by flashbacks (the second time, last month) to do anything other than pretend to be asleep still and pray for it to stop (which, as a psycho-analytic note, is also how I reacted to the entire situation of the rape - I shut off inside myself and waited for it to be over, I disconnected. Even more psycho-analytically, and man this post is getting off the rails, this is largely how I deal with every problem I have - I retreat behind my walls, aided by the numbing coping mechanisms of pain, bingeing or restricting, sleep or sleep-deprivation, alcohol, curl up inside a burrow of self-pity and wait for it to be over.) Anyway, both those times too, the person in question didn't know me at all, could barely even see me, evidently had no attraction to me or interest in me beyond being an amusement, a tool, a plaything.

I know there's no objective scale for these things, but still, I know that these things that have happened to me aren't 'that bad' in the grand scale of what could have happened. For the most part, I deal with them moderately successfully. Hell, I still have most of the people who know me convinced that I'm an emotionally-stable and non-fucked-up person, so I can't be that close to a full scale break-down, however much I might sometimes feel as though I am. But sometimes I think that it'd just be easier to deal with, all of it, if I had one experience to draw on where someone actually wanted me, was actually drawn to me, actually interested in me, not just in using my mouth or groping me while I'm asleep. Maybe it wouldn't help as much as I think it would, but it does just seem to me sometimes that if I had one good experience, just one, it would somehow soften the bad.

Because one of the scariest things about the whole deal is that not only do I come to conclude that no one's ever going to be interested in a relationship with me, but that I get the feeling that if anyone ever does show the slightest attraction to me, it'll be like this, it'll be as a thing, as a means to an end, as a passing fuck, as someone to screw with. And it's not so much that I'm afraid of that happening, it's that I'm afraid that I'd let it. I'm afraid that I'd be so desperate for someone, anyone, to want me, to show any interest in me at all, that I'd follow the first person who did, and so long as they wanted me, I'd stay with them. I can't imagine myself having a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, in the normal, healthy sense. But sometimes I think I can imagine myself ending up in an abusive relationship. In a sense it's a good thing no one seems to want me, because it means no one's going to take advantage of my insecurity this way, because I swear, in the state of mind I get into sometimes, I would slip so so easily under the thumb of some bastard and I definitely wouldn't have the will to get myself out.

Someone very close to me was in an abusive relationship for at least four years, though this was about five years ago now. I still don't think I've come to terms with it. The knowledge screws with my brain, because I knew the abuser very well, looked up to him, idolised him even, and I certainly idolised their relationship. I'd grown up around it. This was all way way before I had any inkling of the abuse, which I only found out about three years ago, when the abuser turned up again as a stalker and a threat and certain things, certain perceptions, that I'd believed and relied on up till then, well, they all came crashing down. Given how hard I'm finding this to write about, it's pretty clear I'm not over any of it., or any of the implications of it. But I guess what it did fundamentally was to bring the idea of abuse to roost very close to home. It stopped being a concept out in the ether of violent anonymous crime, and became a reality, something that happens to people, to people that I love, that could happen to me.

I'm fighting hard against the voice in my head that tells me I'll probably end up in an abusive relationship somewhere along the line. I'm fighting hard against the other voice that tells me I'll never be in any kind of relationship because no one's interested. I am trying - believe me, I am - to believe that there's hope for me to find someone who likes me, and to believe that I deserve that. But, for Christ's sake, can no one just throw me a bone here? Am I really meant to try and sustain this hope and fight these voices in the face of overwhelming silence? Would it really be too much to ask for someone, anyone, to show a little interest? Just to reassure me that it's possible? That there is reason for hope?

And I wish that people would stop assuming that I'm not getting anywhere because I make no effort. Fuck it, I am trying. I am doing my best here.

The actual tragic thing is... I kinda think I'd be quite a good girlfriend, if I ever got the chance.

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