I believe I’ve written before about my unabiding love of the advice column “Ask Polly.”
One of the things she often advises is that women cultivate their kickass lives and eventually someone will catch on and want to join their kickass lives.
In her most recent column, she advises the reader to:
“Get back in touch with your sensuality, your gut-level desires, your belief in your inner world. Keep a journal and write in it (obsessively!). Encourage feeling at every turn, but don’t tell the same old stories about feeling. Celebrate your feelings, both good and ‘bad,’ and work hard to create from them. Stop looking for love and rejection, and just cultivate love for your own experience.”
In another column, she tells a woman who has no details about herself in her letter about her break-up to cherish herself. The writer questions whether or not she is lovable. Polly responds:
It’s time to forget about being lovable. And in fact, it’s time to forsake someone else’s idea of what gives you a spark or no spark. Block the “other” from this picture. No more audience. You are the cherished and the cherisher. You are the eminently lovable and the lover. You are a million brilliant sparks, flashing against a midnight sky. Stop making room for someone else to sit down. Fuck “good” partners. Fuck waiting to be let in. You are already in. You are in. Cherish yourself.
Fuck wondering if you’re lovable. Fuck asking someone else, “Am I there yet?” Fuck listening for the answer. Fuck waiting, alone, for a verdict that never comes. Don’t grow up to be one of those women with a perpetual question mark etched into her brow: Am I good? Am I lovable? Am I enough?
You are here. Sit down. Feel your potential in this moment. You have accepted too little for too long. That is changing today. Breathe in. Draw a picture of yourself. Tape it to the wall, with the words: YOU ARE HERE. You are here. Cherish yourself.
She encourages women to not settle for less than they deserve, yet she doesn’t bash them or even use the word “settle.” Her point is that the kind of love we deserve is the type where the guy is not just coasting. Likewise, women need to admit to themselves what they want and not try to fit into a mold of what they think they should be.
This is how love should work:
You dig me, you put in effort, you aren’t remotely tepid, we can relate to each other, and you make me feel like the things that are patently fucked about me are actually thrilling and vital and they somehow matter.
I see echoes of myself in so, so, so many of her letter writers. And the way she delivers her advice is so comforting. I think I find it so comforting because Polly seems a lot like me – anxious and introverted, yet passionate and all about empowerment. And she found love! It is possible!
In regard to a writer who really likes a guy who does not want a relationship with her but is content to have a friends-with-benefits situation with her — even though the writer wants him to be her boyfriend, Polly uses a water and wine metaphor:
So stop asking for water and then pretending it’s wine. Ask for wine. And if your wine tastes like water, send that shit back! Don’t pretend that you didn’t want wine in the first place. DON’T FUCK THE DUDE WITH THE WATER AND THEN TELL HIM ALL YOUR SECRETS.
Ask for wine. Don’t be embarrassed that you want wine. Just say “I am someone who drinks wine now. Nothing else will do. It’s okay if you can’t give it to me. I will find someone who will, or I will make it myself. I am good and strong and I can do lots of things. I am beautiful and broken and I deserve this.”
This is why I have many Polly columns bookmarked on my phone.
Because I’ve been drinking water and pretending it’s wine A LOT. And I’m unsatisfied with that.
The reason I titled this post “boring” is because I have realized over my Spring Break that I am boring. Or maybe I just come off as boring.
I slept a lot. I spent a lot of time at home. I went to a concert and movies and spent time with friends, but I didn’t go full moon kayaking or to an awesome museum. I wasn’t academically productive. I went to the gym. I walked my dogs. I made postcards.
It was a relaxing, much needed break. For the three weeks prior, I was subbing for a colleague’s class. I was putting work in.
But my romantic life is filled with the tepid. Mitt told me he’s happy to keep playing board games with me and making out with me, but he’s going to continue to look around for other people to date. He said this in the post-coital cuddle when he asked me how my dating search is going. That’s not just tepid. That is ice cubes thrown in. I failed at just being friends because I had re-read our messages that said he would be open to a relationship if I didn’t mind the driving.
Polly’s advice here resonates, especially because I feel like giving up completely at this point:
You’re hunting a very small group, that’s all. Your target demographic, it’s small. There’s more than one of them, but they’re not everywhere.
That doesn’t mean your odds are bad! You will find love. Believe me. But in order to find it, I think you have to prepare yourself for a life alone, and be at peace with that. It’s a real tightrope walk. I get that. But you won’t tell tepid to fuck off if you don’t believe in your heart that you will rock it out one way or another.
In order to tell tepid to fuck off once and for all, you MUST recognize that life among those who don’t appreciate or understand you is bullshit. You don’t want to live that way. You don’t want to be badgery and lonely while you’re with someone. You’d rather be alone.
What will make ALONE look good to you? You have to work on that. Because single life needs to look really, really good, you have to believe in it, if you’re going to hold out for that rare guy who makes you feel like all of your ideas start rapidly expanding and approaching infinity when you talk to him. You need to have a vision of life alone, stretching into the future, and you need to think about how to make that vision rich and full and pretty. You have to put on an artist’s mindset and get creative and paint some portrait of yourself alone that’s breathtaking. You have to bring the full force of who you are and what you love to that project.
And then you go out into the world with an open heart, and you let people into your life, and you listen, and you embrace them for who they are. You make new friends. You do new things that make you feel more like the strong single woman who owns the world that’s in your vision. And you don’t sleep with anyone until things are much warmer than lukewarm. And you accept that, if things are lukewarm AFTER that, you will be forced to kick a motherfucker to the curb, with kindness, with forgiveness.
You have to do a lot. And you have to do it all against a backdrop of indifference that, as you get older, curdles into a kind of disgust. But you know what? We have each other. We have worlds within us, you and me. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside of themselves. This indifferent landscape will rise up and give you love if you share what you have inside, if you dare to believe in your potential even as people tell you it’s a mirage, if you ignore the ones who are allergic to free-flowing, emotional discourse from YOU. They are everywhere, and they don’t matter. God bless them. Come on their Hampton blouse, and move on.
I thought I had prepared myself for a life alone.
But I was only fooling myself into that and not really believing it. I still perceived it with a sense of dread, haunted by the voices of other single women professors who talk about giving up long ago and how the dating scene is so dismal here.
I developed feelings for Mitt. And while those feelings have gone, I’m still shocked by the intensity. I thought of future kids I could have — and I have been firm in my child-free stance for years. I have never done that before. That’s what I get, I suppose, for following my therapist’s advice of broadening my standards.
I feel like I need to wipe the slate clean.
I need a new me. I have a newer body. I need a life worthy of a breathtaking portrait.