I don’t believe in “leagues” when it comes to dating, because they are petty. I don’t believe people can be categorized and sorted in that way — put into different tiers of inherent good or bad — particularly based on something as fleeting and superficial as looks. If someone tells me that someone else is out of their league, I’ll usually laugh and tell them they’re being silly. But it’s a true shame that we actually think in these terms, and allow them to define what we think we should be going after in life.
I guess I’m lucky, in that I was always raised to believe I deserved the best. I wasn’t a daddy’s girl or a spoiled litle princess by any means, but I was raised to see that a woman is capable and deserving of all the great things that a man can achieve, and that she should never wait around for someone to come and tell her what kind of a person she is. She can write her own story, and decide her own fate. I never felt as though being with someone would make me any better or worse in terms of my inherent value.
The world around me has not always agreed. I have looked at billboards and magazines since I was a little girl and been told, like the rest of us, that I fit in somewhere on a scale. Maybe if I bought this mascara or that diet drink or this dress, I would be a little higher up. But I would always have my place in things, have people and dreams and goals which were accessible to me based on how attractive and subservient and eager to please I was. No matter how much your mother is telling you at home “You can be anything you want,” it is hard to hear her over the sound of your entire culture saying “No, you can’t.”
And so, like many people, I accepted the love of people who were not what I would strive to be myself in life. I didn’t hold men to the same standards because I felt, on some level, that I was lucky to have someone interested in me. While I have always demanded professional dedication or neatness or politeness from myself, there are partners with whom I have completely excused the lack of all of these traits. When I felt that he was not acting like a grown-up, or being respectful to me, part of it was always my fault. It was always that I was too much of a demanding bitch, not enough of the caring woman who I should learn to be. After all, I wasn’t a model. I didn’t have a 24-inch waist. I was in no position to be making demands.
But one day I found myself in front of a text message that seemed to sum up exactly what I had been tolerating in the place of romance for so long. You said, “I got caught up. Sorry.” This was on the heels of almost two days of no communication, days which I would later discover had been filled with excursions with the ‘boys’ which involved a lot of drunken flirtation — and possibly more, but it doesn’t matter now — with other women. After my insane worry, my pathetic begging for you to get back to me, I was left with that slap in the face of a reply. Barely bothered to care, you put together what paltry justification you deemed necessary. No big deal, I wouldn’t care. I was lucky to have you.
I was not lucky to have you. I was not chosen by some divine spirit who looked past my physical flaws to gift me with your half-hearted attention. You were simply taking advantage of the fact that I cared too much, that I had been told for so long that any relationship was preferable to being alone. Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself was leaving you that week. Though you put me through the ringer, tried to convince me that I was crazy for being hurt or suspicious, and even told me that I would never find someone like you again (why would I want to?), it is one of my favorite memories.
It is the moment I began to learn that there are people who deserve, and people who do not — and that it has nothing to do with some arbitrary concept of leagues. You do not deserve me because you are not a caring, loving person. You are not here to receive love, or grow from it, or give it in kind. You do not deserve me because I am beautiful in a way that a magazine would never photoshop and put on its cover. I am beautiful in the real way, the way that comes from being a person who is capable of empathy and compromise. I am beautiful because I work hard to be nice to other people, and to show them I love them. And sure, you may be good looking. You may be charming. You may have every superficial quality that our society is so quick to deem important. But you are not beautiful, and for that, you will never be deserving of someone like me.