Why We Want What We Can’t Have

A Day in the Life of a Single Twenty-Something.
Kristaps Bergfelds
Kristaps Bergfelds

There’s something to be said for wanting what you can’t have. Of course, we all hope to meet our match one day, someone just like us who abhors playing games in relationships. We dream of the guy or girl who will sit across from us, take our hand, tell us we’re wonderful, and never make us second-guess their motives or agenda as long as we both shall live. In theory, this sounds like a beautiful thing, but in practice, I can’t help but notice how few are attracted to this kind of individual.

You’re all familiar with that friend of yours; the one who whines about wanting a nice guy, but who continuously winds up in the sack with bad boys instead. Or maybe it’s that sweet boy from school who pines after girls who don’t even know he’s alive and breathing, just a few feet away from them down the bar. Perhaps it’s that chick from your sorority who prays for a good guy to come along and sweep her off her feet, but who nevertheless finds herself completely and totally compelled by the male equivalent of a praying mantis. Hey, maybe you are that friend. I know I am. And I know I’m not alone. People everywhere, everyday, overanalyze and overthink every little gesture made by the object of their affection. Why doesn’t she like me? Why isn’t he calling? What am I doing wrong? And, finally, horror of horrors — is it me?

Yes, it’s you, and I’ll tell you why. You want what you can’t have. And there’s nothing sexier than the unattainable. It’s sewed into the very fabric of our culture. It’s ingrained into us before we even know it’s happening. It’s why entire tumblrs are dedicated to Ryan Gosling. It’s why I tacked posters of Josh Hartnett circa Pearl Harbor up on my wall as an innocent and wide-eyed pre-tween girl. It’s what makes icons out of mere mortals out there in Hollywoodland. As soon as somebody has been dubbed untouchable, we put him or her up on a pedestal. We worship the hell out of them. And it’s all for that teeny, tiny possibility that, one sweet day, we may just get to have them. That glimmer of hope off in the distance — its siren song is familiar to us all. It’s whatever dream keeps you warm at night, like Gatsby’s green light gleaming through the fog and across the water.

Does this mean that bad boys and bad girls are sexy precisely because we can’t have them? Not really. Not completely. There will always be a part of them we’ll be pining away for, and that in itself is what hope is all about. Possibility. Futurity. The prospect that tomorrow can be, and will be, better than today. And so there’s something to be said for wanting what you can’t have, because those of us who worship at the altar of those bad boys and bad girls know that it’s not about them. Not really. It’s about us, and the fact that we’re madly and truly, head over heels, in love with hope itself. In theory, it’s a beautiful thing. In practice, though, it hurts like hell. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog