I was 15 and most of my friends were hetero-normative straight boys. It's been this way for as long as I can remember, but this time, it's different. As a kid I didn't think about this stuff. I ran around in the mud with my bare feet and won burping contests. I could care less about how I looked. None of that mattered to me. Until now.
While discussing the girls that my friends were crushing on, my name somehow came up. Not because any of them lusted after me, but because I was the ideal example to compare "likable" girls and "unlikable" girls. He looked at me with a grin, patted me on the shoulder and said "we've never even thought to look at you like that. You're not like other girls, you're just Lydia. Going after you would be like liking one of the guys." I mean, I understood. I was never that girl friend. The one that the guys all secretly gawked over and kept around for their own romantic pleasure. I've always been the friend. Nothing more in their eyes. We never slept together or attempted to take our friendship to "the next level." I helped hook them up with different girl friends of mine (I'm seriously the best wingwoman.)They were never attracted to me. I wore shitty clothes and had shitty haircuts. I wrestled with the boys and would fart on their heads. I picked up dead birds with my bare hands (totally unsanitary, regardless of gender,) and played shot-for-shot until my arm turned blue. I was (and by definition, probably still am) the "ultimate dude."
Now fast forward a few years to the current me. The me who has an opportunity to reflect on past situations with more wisdom, common sense, and self-respect. What he said was fucked up. Why couldn't I do the same weird shit I did with them and be a desirable girl too? Why did I have to hide my Bratz dolls in front of them? Just because they didn't see me like that, why'd they make it seem like no one else could? These types of things don't just exit my brain, and I'm realizing that more as I get older. This kind of shit unconsciously leaves a mark. After years of hearing comments like these, I've internalized this "just Lydia" mentality and allowed it to translate into my adult relationships.
I recently had a cool movie type of moment where I thought deeply about this. I had to ask myself: at what point do I move on from this? At what point do I decide that Lydia is a multifaceted, complex woman who enjoys Sunday morning cartoons and Star Trek, but also loves makeup? A woman who can nearly belch the alphabet but also wants be told that I'm pretty and sexy and beautiful. Why can't I be everything I already am, and why can't that be enough?
And I get it, now. I can be. I can be all of those things. I can like what I like, and do what I enjoy doing and still be a woman that someone might want. However, it will take a lot for me to unlearn this rhetoric that I've been force fed for as long as I can remember. You know that saying "we accept the love we think we deserve?" I think that's a huge part of it. I am constantly lowering my standards and welcoming undeserving people into my life because I figure that's the best that I can do. I think oh, no need to be too picky. Who cares if you're not that attracted to him. He's stomping on your feelings repeatedly, but at least he's into you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a very zero tolerance type of person when it comes to dating, and if you fuck with me I won't have a problem kicking you to the curb. I will, however, be incredibly understanding and accepting of flaws. And when I say flaws, I mean massive fuck ups that I'm willing to look past because the naive in me still sees the good in everyone. Now that I'm single, I'm more in tune with how much of a pattern this has been for me. To not look for men who are overqualified. How fucked up is that? I see a dude who's attractive, intelligent, and not plotting to ruin my life, and the little voice in my head screams TURN THE FUCK AROUND. HE AIN'T FOR YOU, KID. Maybe go back to someone from your past. Hmm. How about that asshole you lost your virginity to? Or the one who told you that you have thunder thighs? Or what about that one? You know, THAT one. I think he might've just gotten out of jail. Or no, maybe that's someone else. Regardless, I think that's a pretty good roster, right? Take your pick. It's the best you've ever done, and the best you'll ever do.
Staying away from these men isn’t the hard part for me, getting this voice to stay silent is.
I've decided to leave this mentality behind with my 15 year old self. I'm neglecting the idea that I'm "just Lydia" and substituting it with the mindset that I'm just kick-ass, hilarious, gorgeous, super cool Lydia. Just magnificent. Just great. Just fine-the-way-she-is Lydia. One of the boys and one of the girls; defying gender roles since '95. My own, unique version of myself that I quite enjoy. I'm understanding that I am capable and worthy of being admired without having to settle.
I can be loved, and be great, and be myself. All at the same time.