There’s a pleasant, dull kind of safety that comes with rendering yourself unlovable.
I guess it’s our way of beating life to the punch-line, writing ourselves as victims before another’s able to. We identify our flaws, write out a long list of weaknesses and place them under a crooked magnifying glass. We inspect them, we accept them; we allow them to skew our perceptions of self — allow them to define who we are.
We all have our own, unique ideas on what makes a person attractive; what makes a person special — what exactly comprises a person’s loveability. Usually, they’re qualities that we admire, qualities we aspire to attain — qualities that we, ourselves, don’t believe we possess. It remains a sad truth that love is all too often either fueled or hindered by personal feelings of inadequacy. It really can come down to the toss of a coin. You see, in the mine-laden field of romance, love and self-esteem are the most notorious of frenemies. They’re the Lennon and McCartney, the Churchill and Stalin, the Paris and Nicole; always to-ing and fro-ing with aggressive uncertainty and tactical sabotage.
Yet we soldier on regardless; seeking out shelter in good humor — in the rising new-age brand of self-depreciation. It worked for Tina Fey and Lena Dunham, after all. These days, nothing sparks a true belly-laugh quite like the endless shortcomings of a quick-witted, perpetually misfortunate modern-day romantic. I suppose you could say that pathetic has become the new black; undesirability — the fashion of the moment.
Backward as it might sound, people tend to love being around us, the self-diagnosed unloveables, the out-and-proud low self-esteem-ers. We relieve the expectations of love, divert the attention, turn our endless sorrows into the punch lines of an unwritten sitcom pilot. We become the half-time entertainment to our friends’ Superbowl relationships; the emotional pressure relief valve to their towering vat of youthful romance — designed to prevent upset, fire or equipment failure.
I guess we subconsciously replace our apathy with comedy, compromising our unmet desires as way of attaining purpose — of building ourselves a socially recognizable identity. We find solace in our projected character arc, accept our role as the supporting actor to another’s Hollywood rom-com; we become the Owen Wilson, the Rebel Wilson – the any old Wilson. Over time, we grow comfortable with our self-inflicted emotional restrictions and concurrent loneliness — so much so that it no longer hurts us in the way it should, in the way it once would.
The laws of expectation state that when you approach any situation or new relationship with the outright conviction of reaching a certain outcome, chances are this outcome will be fulfilled as you so envisioned, be it in a positive or negative way. When it comes to us unloveables, it’s fair to say that we’re hell-bent on delicious devastation. We’ve memorized our lines off by heart, nailed our actions down to a perfect T. We’ve read the script, we know how it goes. We understand all that’s expected of us.
The thing with life, however — much like any good romantic comedy — is that it can, at times, be unpredictable.
The cast will occasionally deviate from the script — there’ll be improvisation, ad-lib, out-takes and mis-cues. Sometimes our stories take on a life of their own, out of our control and beyond any personal spectrum of likelihood.
Perhaps the film intern tripped over a power cord, tray of skinny lattes in hand, and inadvertently redirected the spotlight. Perhaps there was a last-minute production meeting, a re-write, an incomprehensible plot-twist designed to throw a curve-ball, rebel against the norm, shock and challenge audiences.
Regardless of the reason — the who, the what, the how or the why — occasionally, the unthinkable happens.
Enter: actual, real life, living, breathing (and apparently reciprocating) new love interest.
At risk of sounding cliché, it’ll probably happen when you least expect it – which, considering you’ve grown void of expectation altogether, doesn’t really narrow it down. It could happen on a Monday just as easily as it could a Friday; just as likely in a café as a bar, second-hand bookshop, or Vietnamese restaurant. You will, of course, initially assume this person’s role to be a blip, a cameo, a mere guest appearance: beautiful, fleeting, and cruel — the kind of relationship to which you’ve grown accustomed.
Yet somehow, against all odds, they keep returning: page after page, scene after scene — delivering the perfect kind of loved-up lines usually reserved for the Jennifers of the World: the Anistons, the Connollys, the Lopezes, and the Lawrences.
(Now, here’s a quick tip: In the quest for love, you’re always better off being a Jennifer than a Wilson.)
All of a sudden, the challenge no longer lies in your ability to attain romance, but in your ability to accept all the discourse that comes along with it. You see, when our perceptions of self become so deeply ingrained in the one particular character trait — for example, an ongoing inability to find love — any deviation from this said trait will likely leave us feeling dazed and confused, regardless of any bigger-picture positivity.
Ironic as it may be, we’re susceptible to isolation through unforeseen company.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably start questioning everything: Is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Is vodka a morning beverage? Could you have been a Jennifer all along? Could you, in fact, be a loveable?
You’ve now reached a vital fork in the road, have been presented with a rare choice in your own direction, a hand in your own fate. You can choose to embrace the change, to run with it, accept that you’re as deserving as any of the Hollywood spotlight, of the reciprocated affection — of being loved by another. Or you can buckle under the pressing weight of it all— the responsibility that comes with scoring the lead role, playing the hero, and being the beautiful, made-up protagonist to your own sappy love story.
It’s certainly a daunting prospect, re-writing your own narrative to include romance; to incorporate the boundless potential and uncertainty that comes with having a love interest. You’ll become a little vulnerable, a little quieter in social situations, a little slower in your famous wit. You see, you’re so used to holding all the cards, delivering all the one-liners, calling yourself out before others have the chance to. After years of belittlement in the name of self-depreciating humor, you’ve come to mistake all your projected character traits as personal truths; and it’s hard to give up the security born from such distinctive identity.
The good news is that perhaps you don’t have to.
Although appearing hopeless, pathetic and white-girl wasted as the cameras are rolling; Tina Fey is indeed happily married with two young children and Lena Dunham’s loved-up as anything in her trendy New York loft with a guitarist boyfriend and #instafamous rescue mutt to boot.
Misleading? Sure — but it gives us hope.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to be a choice, after all. Perhaps it’s possible to have the best of both worlds: maintaining your role as the inappropriately day-drinking, perpetually “single” friend while reaping the countless leading-lady benefits of a healthy modern-day relationship that you can safely nurture out of the spotlight.