As modern ladies of marrying age, our trusty inadequacy paradigm has always gone something like this: "I'm too fat for the men I like." "I'm too ugly to get married." "I'm too old to find a guy." Blah blah blah, fart, repeat, dead (the lifecycle of the human woman). And lately, this other sort of protest-too-much inversion seems fashionable: "I'm too smart/too pretty/too successful/too interesting/too funny/too outspoken to bag a man!" No matter what or who we (hetero) women are, we are always too something for men. Isn't that just fucked? Because to be "too" something implies that there's a something else out there to aim for. But there isn't. IT'S A TRAP.
We constantly frame ourselves as outsized or undersized from every angle—and we either use our inadequacies to punish ourselves (too fat! No cookie!), or wear them like some crazy cold-comfort security blanket (you're my real boyfriend, sarcasm!). So couldn't we just call bullshit on this entire idea and be, I don't know, people? People who don't exist "for" men? Whose lives aren't upended by the latest terrible "too"-ness we read about in Cosmo?
We have to quit defining ourselves solely in relation to dudes. Like, "I am not me—I am some imaginary man's imaginary perfect 10, plus 50 extra pounds, minus a 20-inch waist, plus a threatening commitment to feminism, minus any desire to pretend to care about bike polo! That's me!" No, that's not you. That is a weird monster you made up to torture yourself. I try to remember (and it is hard sometimes—real talk) that I'm an actual human being, not some math equation that can be solved by triangulating all of the nearest boners.
Because here's the thing, sister-bros. It's a fucking con. The longest long-con of all time, maybe. Stop trying to be what men want you to be, because men are lying to you.
Any man who is a person wants to be with a woman who is a person. Attraction isn't intellectual, it's involuntary—and if men really only wanted to squirt their penises inside of silent supermodels, then regular people would be extinct. But look to your left. Look to your right. Regular people in the house!
Fundamentally, men are attracted to the exact same thing in women as women are in men: Confidence. Self-assuredness. Agency. Knowing who you are. But it gets sticky, because confidence is also the opposite of helplessness, and a lot of men (insecure men) need women to be helpless, because helpless people aren't in charge. And people in charge want to stay in charge. And the people in charge are men. (To be clear, I'm talking in broad, sloppy, systemic generalities here—not saying your dad is secretly trafficking lady-slaves from Belarus or something. You know what I mean.)
And on top of that, because attraction is involuntary, admitting genuine attraction to the people we're really attracted to relinquishes a huge amount of power. It's terrifying. And when the people you're so terrifyingly attracted to don't even give a shit about you? QUICK, TELL THEM THEIR CALVES ARE TOO HEAVY.
It's basic beauty myth. All the faux-evolutionary excuses people give for modern beauty ideals (gigantic boobs means more milk for cave-babies! A tiny waist means a bigger uterus!) are garbage. I mean, have you seen "conventional attractiveness" lately? That shit's gone off the rails! Here is what I will cop to in terms of our primordial human standards of beauty. To bag an early-man, you probably needed:
1. Most of your limbs.
2. Minimal open sores.
3. A baseline level of health and robustness to be able to care for a child and/or defend it from lions.
Ombre hair extensions? Doubtful. Being "too interesting"? Fucking no.
We, as women, go our whole lives believing this lie that all we have to do is to stop being too fat and too flat-chested and too bitchy and too uptight, and then the perfect dude will finally love us forever. But chasing that stupid phantom doesn't make us necessary—it makes us disposable. It makes us powerless. Because we're not people anymore, we're holes. Miserable, back-stabbing holes.
There's this dumb, deathless stereotype that women only chase men who don't need them—but, um, that's because everyone wants someone who doesn't need them. Everyone wants someone who doesn't need anyone! The only people who actually should be helpless are babies, and who wants to fuck a baby? Not me! (Pro tip: If you just yelled "Meeeeee!" and high-fived yourself, call the cops.) Co-dependence is not hot.
But what's needier than turning your life into one endless Sally Jesse Raphael makeover episode? What's more helpless than carving yourself out of some dude's janky old rib? That is the opposite of finding an actual person who might actually love you. So stop it. You are not "too" anything for anyone. Be a person. Hang out with people. Do what you want and you'll get what you want. Giving up on other people's expectations isn't settling—it's demanding what you fucking deserve.
Image by Jim Cooke.