n. the frustration of knowing how easily you fit into a stereotype, even if you never intended to, even if it’s unfair, even if everyone else feels the same way—each of us trick-or-treating for money and respect and attention, wearing a safe and predictable costume because we’re tired of answering the question, “What are you supposed to be?”
It sucks when someone you have feelings for doesn’t share those feelings; it happens to women all the time, too. We hear “I just want to be friends” and “you’re like one of the guys” and “you’re like a sister to me” just as often. But you’ll never hear a woman complain that guys just don’t appreciate a Nice Girl because we’re taught it’s our own fucking fault when we’re rejected—we aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or sexy enough, we weren’t sexual enough or were too sexual, we put out too much or too little or too soon or not soon enough, we didn’t wear our hair the right way or our skirt the right length, we’re “too tomboyish” or “too butch” or “too feminine”, or we’re “not their type”, or we’re otherwise not good enough in various ways to entice the man to grace us with his affection.
But when we’re not interested in someone, we’re vilified. We’re the bitch that lead them on, the bitch who let them buy us dinner but didn’t want to date them, the bitch who doesn’t appreciate a nice guy, the bitch they were nice to and then got nothing in return from.
And, frankly, fuck those people. Showing interest in me, being friendly with me, getting close to me, or eating a meal with me (even if they paid for it) doesn’t obligate me to open my heart or my legs. And anyone who doesn’t appreciate my friendship sure as hell doesn’t deserve my love or my pussy.
After the photograph, the class wandered off and I wondered why so often I found myself the last man. Because I’d read Emerson all summer long, I took my lack of discomfort to be a sign of heroic standing.
So I determined to set for myself a new relation to the universe, to write poems. As if one could settle, once and for all, the question whether or not vocation is all.
Solitude can become a rotten habit. I remember how acute the contentment, Friday nights especially, my reflection in the television.
What passes for turning inward, for study and for art, can slip unnoticed into a well-practiced jeopardy, a narrative fortress projecting the story of separation into a post-quotidian SIGNIFICANT LIFE. A myth is a lie breathed through silver.
Peace, not necessarily the doing of peaceful spirits, can lead to believing that being a person is easy.
On my honeymoon, I thought to myself You’ll never be alone again. Inside the wigwam suite, clothes scattered around the bearskin rug, an Indian-warrior gelatin print—his feathers new, his face deep-lined and droughted—as my eyewitness, I wondered what might happen if I surrendered, with a few conditions, to this bright casualty.
Ok, I was a little nervous in the airport, but I looked at her right in her eyes, and sure she had her hair up sometimes, but why would that make any difference? What I am saying is that a thousand times I smiled into her sweet face, at the restaurant where the owner also took her hands, in the sleepy park, at pizza—she even drank some of my soda—in the bath where I made love to her dirty hair, all that and the moment of parting, waving and waving at her, even when her head disappeared up the escalator and then her collarbone, hips, knees and perfect feet, and my heart lost whatever small bits of stone it ever could have had, and yes time stopped and now everyone everywhere looks like they are from out of Vigeland Park, stone, sure, but smooth and naked and tangled.
If there is something to desire, there will be something to regret. If there is something to regret, there will be something to recall. If there is something to recall, there was nothing to regret. If there was nothing to regret, there is nothing to desire.
—Vera Pavlova, from If There Is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, 2010).