On red wine and not being taken seriously – notes on a theme

Something happened to me last night which has shocked me rather more than I thought it would, lingering perhaps a bit like a well-made perfume which only truly impresses itself on one’s consciousness after a time of hanging unidentified in the air – except that there was nothing sweet about this. A small occurrence, really, yet it made me think and with the thinking has grown my need to talk about it. To deconstruct it, as it be.

A friend came to visit me last night, bearing with him a bottle of impeccable red wine. It was late, past ten p.m., when he arrived, but it was Friday night after all and I didn’t mind the company. In fact, I enjoy his more than most – ours is a new friendship, but nonetheless uplifting in the sense that it feels like a meeting of kindred minds. We talk a lot. A lot. And I have enjoyed telling my stories to new ears, hearing new takes on them, and being told stories from a perspective that I am not used to but which, yet, feels familiar.

The only snag is that we have different plans for our friendship. I desire and cherish good uplifting thought-provoking connections almost more than anything else in life.  So does he, but in a rather more literal sense of the word. From our first meeting I have made it clear that I, being rather in love with someone else, am not available for anything more than a meeting of the minds, so to speak. He has, albeit grudgingly, accepted this. Since then we have dined out together, shared various conversations. The subject of his competitor has popped up regularly, but I have remained clear on my stance. He didn’t quite stop trying, but I felt I could deal with it – the friendship was worth the occasional rebuff (and I do not cold-shoulder easily or without distress too), if that meant he would eventually come to terms with what I was saying and become a lasting friend.

Last night was no exception to the pattern we were starting to build. We sat and spoke, at length, about family history, about connecting, about a variety of things. In between he would interject with varieties on an “I want to kiss you” theme. My way of handling this was, consistently, to laugh and say “well, it’s not happening, so we may as well continue talking/have more wine/change the topic”. I tried to keep it light but after almost the entire bottle of wine (which I hadn’t thought would be too much, between two people), talk took a more serious ‘you-and -I’ turn. My arguments were less well-formulated. He was more insistent. We were well on our way to becoming properly tipsy. I thought I was holding my ground steadily, in spite of lack of good arguments. Yet, to tell the truth, I was starting to feel a bit beleaguered, a bit like Jesus, if you’d excuse my hyperbolic metaphor, beset with good arguments and temptations while in the desert in a weakened state. Not that I was tempted – I wasn’t. Yet my reasons not to simply give in and kiss him were becoming rather vague, especially when he pointed out that that could be the end of it, if we didn’t feel any chemistry.

The point is, I didn’t want to kiss him. I have kissed my fair share of random people, so it’s not as if I could take the moral high ground, but I didn’t want to kiss him. I would feel as if I had cheated, not on anyone else, but on myself, on my own intentions, on my own not-wanting to. Nowadays I hold my kisses as almost sacred (except, if I am to be honest, for a night or two of stupidity). I don’t want someone’s face so close to me if I can’t look at it with the tenderness that comes from knowing someone and cherishing who and what he is. Yes, chemistry is all good and well, but I want tenderness along with that. And this I could not give him, and this I would have felt awkward receiving, because my heart is elsewhere.

So I held out, but the arguments became more insistent. Then, of course, the inevitable happened – he put down his glass and leaned towards me. I was stuck in a corner of the couch, retreating further and further into it, holding my wine with no place to put it, repeating over and over again ‘Stop it, stop it!”, hiding my head this way and that. He just kept coming closer. I was alarmed but I also couldn’t help but laugh, which I always do in these situations because they are so odd, really. I turned my head away. He turned it back. I didn’t want to slap him, half to spare my wine, but mostly because it would have lastingly soured a generally good evening. Finally he managed to sort-of plant a kiss and I bit his lip. He sat back, shocked. I felt immediately bad and rushed to apologise: “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to bite so hard.”

He was fine. In fact, he was undeterred. He tried again, and again. Finally I lost my temper and told him so, which made him sit back for a second, before relinquishing his wine and declaring that he was going home. Immediately my anger fled and I was apologetic again. “Are you angry at me?” I asked. Yes, he was. I tried to reason with him – I had not been anything but consistent in my refusal. “Being consistent,” he said, “is not always a good thing if you hide behind it.” I remembered telling my mom the very same thing earlier that day, which felt rather uncanny. We walked out – he tried kissing me one last time, I pushed him away firmly. After that I tried to lighten the mood but he walked off looking both angry and dejected, and I went to bed with an unquiet mind, feeling vaguely guilty yet not sure why. Not sure what had happened, really.

I slept very badly. I kept dreaming confused dreams, conjuring up the person I really do like, but picturing him as an insistent, somewhat drunk, guy leaning towards me at inopportune times, coaxing a kiss out of me like one coaxes a ball from a dog’s mouth. I woke up feeling, despite my best intentions, rather down. Last night’s conversations had sown a seed of doubt in my mind – suddenly I was wondering whether I was being silly, wasting my time wanting someone who could have done something about it long ago, while here this opportunity was waiting, with someone who not only really likes me, sees me, but announces his intentions without a hint of doubt.

But then – thankfully – I got angry too. I became angry and I have not stopped being angry yet. I am angry because I feel guilty, while I did nothing wrong. I am angry at my friend because he managed to undermine my peace of mind, the peace I generally follow and which, behind everything, was the reason I did not want to kiss him (I would have felt at unpeace with myself). I am angry because he scoffed at my arguments, because he managed to make me look small-minded and silly for losing out on the opportunity of being with a force of nature such as him. I am angry because he depicted me as someone who is lying to herself, as someone denying her own desires in search of familiarity. I am angry because he did not hear me, no matter how much he thought he did. I am angry because my word was not respected, because my intelligence and my taste were not respected. I am angry because he did not heed my refusal, because he tried to override my arguments, because he forced an intimacy on me I did not want to have. I tasted him on my lip, afterwards (there was some blood. I bit hard). I did not want that. I wanted a friendship and he did not believe me, because I am sweet, because I allowed him to come visit me at night perhaps, because we did indeed connect and have stirring conversations. And I’m angry because good wine went to waste – if he had told me he wasn’t going to finish it I would have poured more for myself, for crying out loud!

I am angry because somehow my first reaction was not to be angry but rather to apologise, to placate, to wonder what I did wrong. There is something wrong with this, with this looking inward as if I am the cause, the temptation who must beat herself up for being a temptation. I am angry because I tried to let him down gently, as I have done repeatedly before without learning my lesson, and he took my friendly refusal as a sign that I was easily won over. He took my reacting to him on a mental level as a sign of my reacting to him physically too, and I should have been more blunt about it not being so, instead of hiding behind the fact that I like someone else. Therefore I am angry with myself too, for being a coward, and I am angry at him because I don’t think I deserve to be angry at myself and yet he made me be.

Attraction, romance, relationships – they are all basically unfair, as my friend said repeatedly last night. It feels to the person who is attracted to another that surely the attraction must be returned – what would be the point of feeling this great surge of feelings if the other person does not return them? Surely energy must sustain itself, surely this electric atmosphere cannot be imagined or felt by one party alone? And yet it often is.

I remember once loving someone very much who didn’t love me back. I felt I truly saw him; I knew him as one knows some people, instinctively, with great tenderness of recognition. Yet he did not feel comfortable in my love, he felt restricted by it, he felt annoyed, he felt I was asking too much. He misunderstood my heart and my intention completely, I thought. That bewildered me. How could I see someone so clearly (and, in my opinion, what we want in relationships is to be truly seen), so keenly, without being seen back? What was the point of my seeing him if he didn’t see me back?

I don’t know what the point was. I know I grew because of it, and the learning was valuable, but I still do not understand how it is possible to love someone so entirely – or to be attracted to someone, or to like them fiercely, or whatever – without it being returned. Perhaps it is so that we can learn that life is not the sum of our intentions, or a neatly balanced calculation where we always get back what we give. Perhaps it is so that we can learn vulnerability. Perhaps it is so that we can learn to protect our hearts, on the other hand. Perhaps it is so that we can learn to make decisions based on more than our perceptions alone. And perhaps there is no reason, and it simply is what it is. We cannot make people want us.

This morning I got a text message from another man whom I met recently and got along with famously. This one I told, too, that I was only interested in friendship and that I did not want to waste his time. He told me “Great! That’s exactly what I want too!” Well, good then. Except that he asked me to dinner today (I am going on Monday. I am packing my boxing gloves), and called me “most beautiful girl” as a greeting, waxing lyrical about how excited he was about our dinner. I feel distrustful. I feel he thinks that he is going to win me over. Who cares about my petty protests, after all? Obviously I will eventually be swayed before his superior charm and intelligence.

I am starting to feel somewhat like a stuck record player, like an ice-cream truck rolling all day to a single tune, as this post starts reminding me more and more of things I have previously blogged about. Let it be a recurring theme, then. The theme? That I, as a sweet/young/I-don’t-know-what woman, am not to be trusted with my own opinions. Yes, my intelligence may be acknowledged, but my desires and my arguments – obviously these are less reliable. I don’t know what I want. I am free for the taking by the most convincing arguer, by the most suave, or intelligent, or ardent, man. And should I refuse that man, well then obviously I am rather more stupid than I look; in fact, I am probably just in denial.

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Love me, love me not

IMG_201412360_071753Yesterday my brother came to my house; perhaps for some Christmas cheer but mainly, I soon gathered, to borrow my phone (he lost his). “Can I go on Facebook?” he asked. There was a girl he wanted to talk to. When he went on Facebook he laughed – “She wants me to join them in Hermanus!” Hermanus is about two hours’ drive from us, far for someone who doesn’t have a car, but my brother was undeterred. He is an expert hitchhiker, carrying his guitar and guileless smile as hiking props, and he always gets lifts. To him the whole thing is an adventure.

“It’s Christmas day,” I said. “The roads will be quiet. Besides, it’s looking like rain.” “Yes but she’ll come pick me up in Kleinmond,” he retorted. Kleinmond is still an hour and a half away, but the matter was decided. He put on his tweed jacket, French beret, and got his guitar – he looked like a travelling songster, which I guess he is. And he went.

The story started about a week ago. When I went to the restaurant where my brother works he told me he met a girl. Nothing unusual about that; as his one friend told me: my brother has more game than anyone else he knows. The fact that he mentioned it, however, was noteworthy. “We met and had a great time talking and then there was this dodgy drunk guy who had to sleep over at her place, so she asked me to come over too just for in case. So we got to know each other some more,” he told me. “I’m going to ask her on a date.” The next time I saw him he had news. “It’s so funny,” he said. “When I went on Facebook to friend her and ask her out for a drink, she had already invited me and asked if I wanted to go out sometime.”

Things escalated quickly: two days later he told me she’d bought him R400’s ticket to a trance party she was also attending, when he told her he couldn’t buy one himself because he had to make rent. And then, next thing I know, he’s joining her and friends for Christmas. “I don’t know if she likes likes me, though,” he told me before leaving. “She’s really friendly, maybe that’s just the way she is with everybody.” Yes, but does she buy trance party tickets for everyone? I thought. And replied: “Well, not being sure makes it more fun. You don’t want it all at once.”

And you don’t. A certain level of uncertainty keeps things interesting, especially at first. There is something to be said for the hunt, or the dance two people enter into when they start being interested in each other but are as yet uncertain whether the other person feels the same. The text messages. The conversations. The tension.

But I admit I felt jealous of the simplicity of my brother’s approach: sees girl, likes girl, parties with girl. Is invited to party with her again. The only possible obstacle would be if she had a boyfriend, which she patently doesn’t. Barely a doubt as to his own ability to win her enters my brother’s mind, or it doesn’t seem to. There is no agonising, no tactical back and forth.

I wonder if the girl feels the same too, though. I know I wouldn’t have. After having bought him such an expensive ticket I would have spent about two days feeling awkward about it, wondering whether my gift was too much, too soon. Whether I was making my interest too obvious. Whether I should be letting the man do more of the chasing.

That is what annoys me about dating: all the bloody rules. I have no idea whether it’s the same for men, but it feels to me as if the whole dating scene, as a woman, is fraught with shoulds and shouldn’ts. Ever heard of the book “Act like a lady, think like a man”? In a moment of utter stupidity, about two years ago, I read it. The only thing it did was to completely and utterly confuse me (also, I took exception to the title, but that’s a story for another post). Basically, the book’s premise is that a man is won by not being overtly desired (initially, in any case), by not being chased at all, by being refused sex for at least two months, and by not being intimidated by anything unfeminine in the woman (which includes: argumentativeness, swearing, too much focus on her career, smoking, any hint of promiscuity, and any conversation where the woman intimates that she might not (gasp) need the man). However, she must manage to make him feel manly and needed without being needy – take note, that’s very important. (There were a few good principles in the book too, but I don’t have time to discuss that. I’m all into righteous anger right now.)

You might as well ask me to stop breathing. I can do all these things, I can turn into a simpering sweet being, I have done it before, but that has always left me as nervous as a cat walking through a minefield. As with not breathing, I can only maintain it for a few minutes before I turn blue. There is no point in not being liked for yourself, after all. I get not being too aggressive. I get using some intuition to draw back when needed. But all that simpering yet hard-to-get stuff?

Here are some snippets of advice I have heard and read (and, admittedly, sometimes given): Just be yourself. Let him do the chasing. Don’t expect too much from him. Raise the bar and let him know exactly what you expect. Don’t talk too much. Don’t be too opinionated. Be flirty and talkative – you don’t want him to think you’re a wallflower. Ask good questions that get him talking. Disagree with him sometimes – that’s a good challenge. Admire him, agree with him. Be vulnerable so he wants to protect you. Be independent. Don’t cook for him. Wow him with your cooking (we all know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach). Don’t immediately have sex. Have sex – show him you’re a passionate woman. Don’t call/text him for three days after going out. Don’t be shy to let him know you’re interested – let him know in a flirty text message. Always look pretty when he sees you. Don’t wear too much makeup – be natural. Show off your good bits, be it legs, breasts, or eyes – just not all at once. Don’t show too much cleavage. Don’t flirt with other men. Flirt with other men so he knows you’re a catch. Don’t be too friendly with his friends. Become good buddies with his friends so he knows you’re fun. Don’t demand too much of his time. Put your foot down when you are feeling neglected.

So, correct me if I am wrong – to “catch” a man, one should: do a whole lot of things that are not only counter-intuitive, but also do not correspond at all. Be vulnerable. Be independent. Be beautiful. Be real. Be admiring. Be challenging. Be undemanding. Be uncompromising. In between, sneak in bits of being yourself so the whole thing is not an entire lie.

The problem with the above (one of many) is that it demands a whole lot of strategizing. And it gives us the idea that, should we be able to pull off doing all of these things, no man is invulnerable to our charms. In other words, if a man has managed to resist, it’s because we did something wrong. This makes cartoon characters of men: all falling for the same thing, all liking the same girl. It shallows them, and women’s perception of them, of what they want; and in the process it also shallows women. I read the other day in “The Women’s Room” something which really made me sit up and think (I paraphrase): If a woman shows interest in a man and then changes her mind, she is deemed a ‘cock-tease’ (one would hope this has changed since the 70’s, but, being friends with a whole lot of men, I must admit I still hear that word. A lot). However, if a man shows interest in a woman and changes his mind, the woman wonders what she did wrong.

On a slightly different note: I got a pair of glasses about a month ago, the first I’ve worn in ten years. Unlike when I was a teenager, I didn’t give a flying fuck whether I would look nerdy, and started wearing them everywhere to rest my eyes from contact lenses. To my surprise, and again very much unlike ten years ago, they were a big hit. As in, a huge hit. The first time I walked into a club, within ten minutes I had gracefully declined to give my number to two people, been gifted a shot of strawberry vodka by someone across the bar, and been asked to dance by a variety of people. And I came with guy friends, usually a big deterrent.

Me with glasses. Yup - not all that interesting.

Unsure whether this was just a fluke, I wore them again. Now, let me tell you, there is nothing sexy about interrupting your dancing every 30 seconds because of having to push your glasses up your sweaty nose. Or about the way the strong lenses make my eyes – my pride and joy, normally – look half their actual size. Yet somehow every time I would push my glasses up my nose and regain vision, I would catch men looking at me. One told me he really has a thing for a girl with glasses. One asked me whether I’d ever “had a British man”. Many just sidled up to me and tried to sneak an arm around my waist. I suddenly went from the okay-looking girl dancing wildly and completely unaware in her corner to the object of everyone’s attention.

It was disconcerting. Flattering, too, until I started feeling annoyed. Here I am, the exact same person I’ve always been, but because I am playing into some naughty librarian fantasy I am suddenly desirable. It’s not about my scintillating conversational skills or my great dance moves, it’s about my glasses. A prop. How’s that for being myself? And, contrasting what I said earlier, how are women supposed to think men are not all into the same thing if they seem to so definitely be?

Here’s another thing I noticed: people were offended when I said no. They would retreat back to their friends and sit holding a beer, glaring balefully at me for the rest of the evening. Some went all passive aggressive and told other guys: “don’t even try hitting on her.” I had dared to enter the domain of ‘hot girl’ without complying to its apparent rule: being grateful for the attention I was getting. In exchange for a stamp of approval, I must walk the tightrope of approachability without falling into the abyss of cheapness or being easy.

A lot can still be said about this. I have a myriad stories and opinions myself, having, in my as yet shortish life, had quite a wide range of odd experiences in dating. I don’t have a beautifully lyrical ending for this post, though, no conclusion I can definitely draw to nullify all the problems with dating. I don’t quite know what the solution is, I see only the problems. I would like to say “let’s all be ourselves and it’ll all work out!”, but trying to function outside of the formula can get rather lonely when everyone else is still buying into it. Nonetheless, I will continue being myself, resolutely, see-sawing back and forth as I figure out exactly what that means within this context. Screw strategizing. Screw agonising.

I’d love to hear your experiences of what I have mentioned, men’s as well, very much so – stories, odd advice you have been given, something to laugh or gasp about: lay it on!

The (f)art of seduction

So recently I (tried to) read Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction. No, not because I’m planning on becoming the next Bathsheba and am in fact having a strategically placed outdoor bath installed as we speak (ever thought about the fact that Bathsheba has the word ‘bath’ in it? That suddenly struck me as pretty funny). Mostly because I got the book for free and with a title like that, it was bound not to remain unopened for very long.

Also, keeping Greene’s other books in mind (The 48 laws of power especially springing to mind, though I shan’t pretend I’ve read it either), I thought this one would be aimed at the world at large, especially the business world, meant to provide one with clues on how to charm the hell out of basically any obstacle. In fact, I rather thought Greene had picked the romantically laden title simply to seduce his readers into buying it, upon which he would inform the victim that, in fact, this book was meant to make you a business mogul. I mean, seduction? How does one write a whole (and immense) book on that with regards to personal relationships without sounding both conniving and repetitive?

Well, it turns out, you don’t. Not that the book wasn’t rather fantastic (the 300 pages I read before finally deciding I might not have seduction in me after all), peopled with larger-than-life examples like Cleopatra, Napoleon, Rasputin and Lenin (after Lenin I kept waiting for Hitler to pop up, but it turns out there are places even Robert Greene doesn’t go), seducers of individuals and seducers of whole countries enjoying equal attention. Also, its tone was gently acidic enough to make one take his frequent references to the seducee as the “prey” and “victim” not quite so very seriously. Or at least to make one suspect the author was grinning in his sleeve as he was writing.

The thing is, it seems most of the examples in there are best applied to one person, in a terrifyingly pickup-artisty manner. Now, while I rather like the idea of having some magical trick up my sleeve which can provide me with a pay-raise and perhaps even some infamy, relentlessly bashing some unfortunate person over the head with an array of tricks to thereby obtain his wholehearted attention felt pretty…empty. Here’s a choice quote:

“A perfectly satisfied person cannot be seduced. Tension and disharmony must be instilled in your targets’ minds. Stir within them feelings of discontent, an unhappiness with their circumstances and themselves. The feeling of inadequacy that you create will give you space to insinuate yourself, to make them see you as the answer to their problems. Pain and anxiety are the proper precursors to pleasure. Learn to manufacture the need that you can fill.”

Basically, what I kept thinking as I read was that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to devote such an immense amount of research to an idea where it seems a given that executing it would be unfeasible, unsustainable and lonely. I kept waiting for the moment there would be stuff I could really take seriously – and for sure, there were a few good points and even some things that might be incorporated into real life. Maybe. But seduction done the way it is in this book (and in a variety of other sources too, though those actually take themselves seriously, which is terrifyingly worse) is pretty much impossible, unless you:

  1. Urgently need to take over the world.
  2. Won’t survive the day if you can’t manage to make the emperor fall everlastingly in love with you.
  3. Relish the idea of making a desperate and insecure person your slave and companion for life (if, and only if, you can manage your end of the bargain, namely remaining elusive and unreal forever).
  4. Are basically a very bored and evil person.
  5. All of the above.

Enough with the criticism. I am not a critic. I didn’t even finish the book. Also, I don’t think everything in it was meant to be taken seriously and faithfully copied. Why I brought up The Art of Seduction was actually mostly because of the fact that it somehow echoes with an idea which I think we have all bought into at some stage, namely that we can make someone love us. Always just around the bend, in the next book, in the next magazine, in the next website, the elusive formula will be provided, making us irresistible, while of course still being loved for ourselves. We will change certain things (and yet nothing important), and, bham!, love will be achieved.

I know that I myself have often marched to the tune of “take it or leave it”, proclaiming loudly that I would never change anything for anyone. And then, upon developing the slightest crush, I would suddenly find myself agonising over every single action: Should I talk less? Should I talk more? Should I try to cultivate an air of mysterious melancholy? Or perhaps I should always look chirpy so as to make my mysterious happiness-formula the attraction? Maybe I should drink whiskey instead of beer. No, maybe I should drink beer. Maybe I should stop smoking and look responsible. No, maybe I should smoke more, and I could blow my smoke into the distance, like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a faraway look in my eyes. Maybe I should be more cute. No, wait, I want to be taken seriously – maybe I should be angry and swear a lot and hate men just enough to be a challenge. Maybe I should talk about Really Intelligent Things. Or should I let them talk about that and just gaze on admiringly?

As Solomon (master of seduction) said: Vanity, it’s all vanity. And vanity is not sustainable. It is a hollow echoing sad thing which needs to be filled again and again, emptying any poor participator of reserves (not even mentioning the exhaustion the seducer him/herself must be subject to) and offering nothing in return.

So here’s why I think seduction is like a fart: it causes a big stink and attracts attention, but before you know it, it has disappeared into thin air. There is nothing worthwhile about it except, at best, its capacity to cause a few laughs/gasps and perhaps provide a good story afterwards – it creates reaction to something you do rather than to who you are. To keep the attention you need to do it again and again, unless you can manage a clever bait and switch – in the case of a fart, substituting your flatulence with (hopefully) some more pleasant form of entertainment; in the case of seduction, sneaking in some of your worthwhile characteristics and somehow managing to get your victim addicted to these instead of to the initial allure you seemed to have. Basically, this kind of seduction stinks.

In my limited experience, being successful at seduction (where seduction implies some image of oneself being created which is not a true and at least semi-complete representation) is pretty catastrophic. I mean, what does one do after that? Just keep on fluttering those Greta Garbo lashes and muttering something benign every time real life happens? The truth is bound to come out. Wondering how to keep the interest once you’ve snared the bunny can be quite stressful. The opposite is also true – do you really want to snare that kind of bunny? And how do you get rid of it when you realise you’ve been exceedingly stupid? If insecurity is the glue, then pulling away is going to make the victim stick closer instead.

Here I should probably add that I could well imagine injecting some seductive qualities into one’s way of life as bearing fruit – and by being seductive I do not mean only towards the opposite sex, but rather being appealing to whomever you want to win over. Certainly making the best of your charms is not a bad idea – after all, why be abrasive and awkward when you can be charming? Honey catches more flies than does vinegar, they say. Besides, a certain level of seduction is pretty instinctive. We hardly need whole books to teach us.

Apart from the above, though, seduction seems to be mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s attractive because it looks like an instant cure to loneliness and feelings of inadequacy, but nothing instant is worth having. Except maybe KFC.

And besides, to actually seduce someone successfully by following the ideas held forth in many a popular magazine and website (because The Art of Seduction is at least a well-researched book, and an interesting one at that. But try visiting Cosmopolitan’s website), I know I for one would need a spreadsheet, an irrefutable mission statement which I would keep in my back pocket for inspiration, and a detailed strategy – one I would narrowly follow, ticking off items as they are successfully completed. Furthermore a tiny genie destined to accompany me for life, tapping me on the shoulder whenever I am deviating from the rules, would be a great help. And then there would still be moments of “did I make coy eye contact? Dammit, you fool, how could you forget about that?”. Basically, it’s all just very bad for your peace of mind, and if there is one thing that seems not to be good for any relationships (and when I keep referring to relationships I don’t solely speak of romantic ones), it is having unpeace among your personal mental gremlins.

There was a small point in Seduction which did ring a bell with me and which I think relationships could probably benefit from (meaning, of course, that I have not really tried this approach yet but that I do know the opposite doesn’t work all that well), namely a slight maintaining of mystery, or basically not dumping your whole being onto someone else in an overenthusiastic attempt at full disclosure. After all, familiarity breeds contempt. Contempt is definitely the opposite of what one wants, namely respect. And yet somehow I cannot imagine respect and manipulation going hand in hand for a very long time either. So perhaps somewhere there is a middle ground, a place where we can be refreshingly ourselves without being an emotional flasher or a whiney little fruit fly, where respect is created and maintained through authenticity.

A few years ago, my mom gave me advice, advice which I still remind myself of every time I catch myself debating the finer points of ways to cross my legs enchantingly or when I berate myself for having talked too much: “just be the best version of yourself.” Sounds benign but it’s actually pretty potent if you think about it. In the first place, it means knowing who that “yourself” is, while also being comfortable with the fact that it’s going to change as all things do. It means holding yourself to a high standard while also knowing your limitations. It means being both comfortable in your skin and willing to grow. There’s nothing instant about it. It doesn’t even promise you’ll thereby find someone who will love you maddeningly and think it delightful that you chew even your soup. What it does provide, however, is satisfaction, the kind you can only get from feeling as if you, just you, are enough.