Girlfriend in a Coma
A recent history of de-selfing.
I’ve never had trouble finding a boyfriend. I’ve found relationships with ease, and periods of being single have been short-lived. I used to be quietly proud of my ability to wrangle men I fancied into my orbit, but lately I wonder if it’s just because I’ve been easy.
I have ideas about things, a voice, and a rooted personality. But when love or attention from a man is on the table, I’m an expert at de-selfing. Understandably, men stick around. They likely enjoy spending time with someone so agreeable, complimentary, and whose only apparent preference is that they keep liking her.
In my current relationship, I’m hyperaware of my partner’s desires and preferences. Prioritizing them over my own is a habit so ingrained, I often don’t notice myself choose him instead of me until much later.
In Brooklyn last month, T. and I rode the ferry to south Williamsburg to eat at a favorite restaurant of mine. We had walked around in the heat of July’s wrath all day. Though I often prefer to sit at the bar, on this day I needed to sit at a table. My neck, my back — I wanted to melt into a booth, to collapse into a meal together. But when we walked into the restaurant, I automatically asked T. which seating arrangement he preferred. He chose the bar, and so that is where we sat.
It was not until I was holding myself up on a stool, silently longing in the direction of the cozy booths across the room, that I remembered I had not wanted it this way. I had actually pre-meditated my desire. I had imagined our date unfolding seated across from one another and tucked away. I even recalled a thought I’d had while the boat carried us across the river on the way there: that I was willing to wait for a table, no matter how long it took.
Occasionally, when preferences between my partner and I are obviously mismatched, I notice the inner voice of my desire with enough time to course-correct for my own benefit. Regardless, I pulverize it immediately. I still put my partner’s happiness, or what I know he wants, above mine. The discomfort involved in making my own wants and needs known, the potential risk for conflict or rejection, dissuades me from doing so.
The dinner date didn’t feel good. I was physically uncomfortable, and I felt resentful at T. for “getting his way” again. I know I should take responsibility for my wants, but I still choose to point the finger at not having them met instead. Unfortunately, stewing in the acute disappointment of a wronged woman is the seat I’ve really learned to be the most comfortable in. There are, however, always three more fingers pointing back at me. I’m the one who abandons my preferences instead of just suggesting them.