Emotional fluency is my thing.
Call it a product of my ENFP personality type, or blame my dad, who famously cried at the sight of the sunset on my tenth birthday (it was just too beautiful). Or just call it being a woman. Whatever the case, I’ve never been afraid to express my deepest sentiments. I’ve never thought my heightened ability to emote was a weakness. I was taught by a highly expressive Latin family to say what I feel without reservation—that’s strength, in my world.
Spoiler alert: college guys—American guys in general, really—don’t share my temperament. All the young men I’ve encountered, sexually or otherwise, have been terrified of emotions. I’m being hyperbolic, of course; there’ve been a select few with an aptitude for emotional articulation. But I’m sure I’m not relaying any particularly novel information when I say that guys avoid feelings at all costs. Feelings aren’t manly. Feelings make you a lil’ bitch. The ideal dude, apparently, is something like Patrick Bateman: murderously callous. So heartless and unfeeling that he can divorce all sex—all human interaction—from strong emotions.
And why shouldn’t he? Because doesn’t our beloved hookup trope revolve around the idea that girls are only interested in guys who treat them like shit? That the moment a dude considers a woman a human being capable of feeling, that woman will immediately lose interest?
I, for one, am horribly guilty of pledging allegiance to that fucked up ideal. To that insidious, gross notion that gentle, genuine displays of affection are somewhat repulsive. I have, on many occasions, rejected a nice guy on the basis of his being nice. Why? Because, for most of my life, I didn’t think I deserved a nice guy.
As a kid, I was chubby with a mouthful of metal and rectangular TRANSITION LENS GLASSES (honestly mom, wtf). And hairy. And short. Boys weren’t interested. And I thought they never would be. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was totally undesirable (as if a ten year old should feel pressured to be the object of sexual attention).
As a freshman in college, I still thought I was that chubby, short, metal-mouthed, transition-lensed 10 year old. I still thought I was ugly. And undesirable. And undeserving of a guy who would treat me like a person should treat another person. I’m generous—a product of being an older sister I think. And funny. And smart. And attractive. And—when I want to be—kind. I’d joke about how I’d make a great girlfriend, if someone would just give me the chance. And for the first three years of college, no one did. NO ONE—from the senior football captain to the annoying, effeminate nerd—wanted to date me. They all treated me like trash. And I’d keep sleeping with them, because I honestly thought: “Well, better this than nothing.”
I was fucked up. I’m still fucked up, but I like to think I’ve grown a bit since my days of pouring my heart out to mean boys who would shit all over it. I like to think if I were single now, I’d only give myself to a guy as tender and sweet as I hope I’ve conditioned my little brother to be. My boyfriend’s far from a triumph of emotional expression, but he’s kind. And usually, he doesn’t strive to be an asshole.
There are times, though, when I have to choke his feelings out of him. It can be maddening and no, it’s not my responsibility, but I can’t help but feel burdened by it. I’m consistently compelled to soften his emotional calluses. To teach him that not every interaction is a business transaction. That emotions aren’t necessarily efficient, but that they’re always productive. That everybody needs to embrace their doughier inclinations. To say what they feel, and to be better, more whole people for it.
Wish me luck. This shit is exhausting.