Starling on Sex: Clichés come true
Many people have asked me of late what happened to me that made me so cynical when it comes to relationships. I’ll admit it is a reasonable question. I’ve gone from being a die-hard romantic to having a visceral aversion to relationships in the course of a few short months.
In fact, the obvious answer here is the correct one. It was the men in my life who made me this way: nothing more unusual than a string of bad luck with guys. There were three of them, one right after another. Mind you, these were not the only boys with whom I had dalliances, merely the ones with whom I became emotionally entangled. The worst part, the part that really irks me, is that I should have seen these train wrecks coming from a mile away, long before I ever got attached to any of them.
See, until I really examined my recent travails, I had not realized that guys like these actually existed outside of “Sex and the City” and Matthew McConaughey movies. Those ludicrous stereotypes that are cliché pitfalls in the world of dating walk amongst us, and I’ve recently had run-ins with three of the worst. I should clarify that I’m not saying these guys were utterly shallow, two-dimensional caricatures with no personalities. They’re not bad people. If that were the case, I would never have cared for them. It’s just that my romantic relationships with these boys can be reduced to those meanest of terms.
The first of the bunch was the Emotionally Unavailable Guy. He literally just did not have the capacity to love. In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I should concede that he was at least up-front about this issue. For reasons unknown, I so naively thought that I could change him. It turns out that in this case, at least, our mothers were right: you can’t change a man, no matter how much you hope, and no matter how frequently you encourage or nag him.
Then, there was Afraid-Of-Commitment Guy. Mind you, this guy was not a garden-variety slut. He wasn’t an Errol Flynnian playboy with no desire to commit. I know plenty of those guys; I’ve become one of those girls myself. This one was an entirely different breed. This one only wanted me when I had a boyfriend. As soon as I was single, he didn’t want to be in a relationship. He even managed to wriggle his way out of the relationship he was actually in, allegedly because it was “going too well.” God forbid, right?
Unfortunately, I actually knew about this debacle before I got really involved with him, but I got involved anyway. Although it was me who blew this one (in my own particular outlandish idiom), I know his issues would have made our relationship crash and burn if my preposterous drunken antics hadn’t beaten him to the punch.
Finally, I crossed paths with the third boy, the one of whom I’m least inclined to be judgmental. This third and final heartbreaker was the dreaded Guy Who Still Has Feelings For His Ex. This obviously wasn’t his fault; I wasn’t mad at him. The problem I had with this is that he didn’t realize it, or maybe just didn’t bother to tell me, until after I had gone and gotten myself severely smitten with him.
That was the last straw for me. I had had quite enough of men. The stereotype trifecta had claimed another innocent victim! Then I started to wonder, was I really so innocent in all of this? I wasted more time than I care to admit with a man who was clearly incapable of loving me or anyone else. Then I persisted through more than one false start with the Fear of Commitment boy. I’m sad to say that if I hadn’t ruined what we had maybe been about to have, I would probably still be stuck on that busted roller coaster today. As for the third guy – well, I’d like to say that was nobody’s fault, but I probably should not have let myself get so attached to him so quickly, especially when I was so vulnerable after my last two emotional horror shows. If I had been honest with myself about my own fragile emotional state, I might not have been so devastated when things didn’t work out.
Like most unpleasant experiences, there is a lesson to be learned from all this, and here it is: the problem wasn’t solely the boys after all. It was me, too. I was being reckless with my own emotions, blindly stumbling into these unfortunate situations, ignoring all the signs and even the candid confessions of emotional dysfunction. I can’t account for how another person is going to act or feel, but I finally realized that from now on, maybe I should be more careful if I don’t want to get burned.
What I’ve lost in this is not my faith that men can be decent human beings worthy of love.
Rather, it’s my faith in my own ability to judge a man’s character. It turns out that I too can be reduced to a caricature: I’m That Girl Who Has Terrible Taste In Men.
Jessica Starling-Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org