A Misconception

There is a pretty massive, long-standing cultural myth, which goes something like this: Any woman can get as many men as she wants at any point in time, therefore women are the ones gatekeeping/regulating the sexual activity of (heterosexual) men.

This is patent, demonstrable bullshit, and I am a case in point.

Despite the fact that I was called ugly in high school (once to my face by a boy who was supposed to be a friend), I’m not especially ugly. I’m not going to be making my debut on the silver screen anytime soon; but I don’t break mirrors even now, and I didn’t when I was younger.

Liz at 25
Liz at 25: Excitingly Average

Some things that I was are: socially awkward, self-conscious, and rather odd. I was a nice enough kid (I think I still am, really); and boys loved to talk to me. Usually to complain about their girlfriends. I was friendzoned to the extreme. As a result, I had some really marvelous friends who happened to be boys…and yes, I did in fact sometimes develop an interest in them. Which never went anywhere, because, as I mentioned above, they just didn’t look at me that way.

I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter why. Was I jealous of some of my other friends, who seemed to have no trouble finding people to date? Yes. Did I sometimes resent boys in general for not recognizing that I was a potential partner? Of course.

Did I hoot, holler, abuse, fantasize about violence, or otherwise act out because I was alone? Of course I didn’t. Because despite my loneliness, I was never a psychotic asshole. I recognized what I was going through as part of the human condition. Not everybody becomes Miss America when you take her glasses off and do her hair.

What I’ve observed is this: There is a subset of people – male, female, and all gradations in between – who just don’t have trouble finding partners. They’re not necessarily especially beautiful, but there is something about them that makes them appeal to a wide variety of other humans.

The vast majority of us, though, exist in the Excitingly Average category. We do find partners, we do fall in love, we do pair off and have children; but in general we spend large chunks of our young lives completely devoid of romance.

And that’s okay.

The problem arises when we start to believe that the world owes us more than that – that the people who are blithely not attracted to us owe us more than that. And you know what? Nobody owes us a damn thing. Attraction isn’t something you can just switch on. It’s not a conscious decision. If someone isn’t attracted to you, are you doing anything wrong? No, you’re not – and neither are they. They owe you nothing. The universe owes you nothing.

The weirdest part about this women-have-it-all myth is that there’s a huge media segment that is very clear it’s bullshit: women’s magazines. They depend on women feeling ugly and alone, looking for a quick fix to become the incredibly irresistible person that they would of course become if only they weren’t doing God-only-knows-what wrong. They produce these magazines because they have a market, and that market is the huge number of women who have bought into the myth that “normal” women can, in fact, get as many men as they want at any point in time.

Which just goes to show: If an absurd cultural myth is persisting, you know there’s money behind it.

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