Who Run This Motha.

The other day I was home with a cold and my baby was too, so we were watching that show "Making It," it's basically a handmade crafting competition. It's got Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and it's kinda cute and fun. One of the challenges was for the makers to create a mailbox, and they gave each contestant a hand-written letter from each of their families. Nick Offerman said, "Just holding a letter, that physical object, in their hands, that someone sent to them... That object alone says, 'I love you.'"

Yeah, you know what? He's absolutely right. It does.

I've been in multiple long-term, monogamous relationships in my life. Exactly one guy ever sent me a letter, and we weren't even together. He lived a couple thousand miles away and he was telling me that he wanted to be with me, or at least to talk more directly about the possibility. He had come to visit me a couple of times, and we both knew we liked each other. All our mutual friends knew. But I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship, and I just didn't have it in me to start something new. Even though I knew he would have been good to me. I just couldn't do it yet. I was still just a shadow of myself. But he was right about one thing, we needed to talk directly about it, even though I was dreading it because I knew what my answer would be, and I didn't want to lose him as a friend. But he was a great person, so I finally did it. He got hurt and angry, but in the end we parted ways on an okay note. I felt guilty, but there wasn't anything I could do at that time, I needed to wait until I was ready. I wish I could tell him that for a long time after that, I compared other guys' treatment of me to his treatment of me, when I wasn't sure if I was being handled with care, and they all fell short. He'll make somebody a good husband some day.

Here's the thing about California. It represents something to me. It represents me in my purest form of myself. It's not the state on the map but the state of being I was in when I lived there. I was single, I was happy, I was free to be me. And I left because I got swept off my feet by a guy who made big promises to me. He begged me to come home, he made plans to be a better man, he would work hard, finish school, wanted to have children and raise a family. But I had to come home first, and then we'd go back to California together.

Guess how that turned out. He couldn't live up to his promises, and instead of admitting it and talking to me, he lashed out at me. Started criticizing me, blaming me for things, ignoring me, avoiding me, picking arguments, telling his family I was being mean to him, weird stuff. He got so depressed he drank himself into credit card debt before I finally helped him find a job. I was afraid to break up with him because I was worried he might go off the deep end, but he refused to try therapy because one time he tried it and he didn't like the therapist. So he drank instead. I finally couldn't take it anymore, after about two months of us not even hanging out, and called him up to gently break it off. Then he put on a huge show to our friends and his family about how broken-hearted he was that I'd left him. Yeah, so broken up that he couldn't just be nice to me while we were together? Sure.

I ran into him a little over a year ago, it had been over ten years since I'd seen him last. It was awkward at first, but, credit where it's due, he finally came up to me and said hello, and before long we were chatting like old friends. I smiled up at him while telling him a story, and man, the look he gave me... That was one hell of a look. I'm not gloating here, trust me. I think he knew for a second what he'd thrown away, because I had really loved him when we were together. But that's okay, it's part of life. He has a girlfriend now and they seem really happy and I'm glad of that.

I packed up and moved to another country to be with another guy. But I didn't like living there, so I brought him back home. I'm not going to do that again. I mean I'd be with a foreigner, that's not what I'm saying. But I won't be the one who does all the changing while the other one just goes along for the ride.

Because here's the thing, I have always been this woman who falls in love and then gives a LOT of myself away in order to make it work. You know what happens when I do that? They take it, and ask for more.

They hint around that they like me? I tell them how I feel and ask them for a direct response. You know what I get? They keep me dangling while they have it their way, and then demand more.

Oh, you wanna be there for me, be my man, be by my side to love me? Gonna dry my tears when I cry? All I gotta do is show up? OK. Fate delivered me to your door, with a fresh brazilian wax and a river of tears ready for your hankie. Where were you then? Hm? Couldn't even drop me a line to say, hey I'm sorry you're hurting, can we be friends?

I give my love, my magic, my heart, my soul, make it known beyond all doubt... I'm available, I'm ready, I just want the other person to do ANYTHING to give it back. Leave your comfort zone, lay ALL the cards on the table, actually DO something.

I may have been born all the things you're looking for, but that doesn't mean I was born to please you and ignore myself.

I was once in a relationship where every year for my birthday, I'd basically get a little card and the promise that after the next payday I'd get a present. And I did, two weeks later I'd get a little something. Finally one year I said, hey this year for my birthday, I'd like a gift and cake and to maybe go to dinner or something ON the actual DAY. And he said to me, well the problem is that your birthday is at the beginning of the month, so all my money has to go to bills. I said, you know that's the thing about birthdays, they're on the same day every year. You can set aside thirty dollars BEFORE the day and have something ready for me. That's what I do for you.

Can you believe that shit?

Then he got mad at me for drawing his attention to the fact that he was so selfish that it didn't even occur to him to plan ahead one pay period for my friggin' birthday, because it made him feel guilty.

Hey listen, if you don't have the money to spend on meeting me halfway, no one understands better than me. But you could tell me that and save up for it and make me enough of a priority in your real actual life to make it happen. I've got time, I can wait. But if you mean anything you say about loving me, you would actually want to make it real.

Another time I showed a guy I was with the exact journal I wanted for my birthday. He wasn't the best at guessing what I would like and he didn't ask my friends or my sister or anything to, you know, try (red flag, red flag!)... So I took him to the bookstore, walked him over to the shelf of these beautiful leatherbound journals, picked up the one I liked and said, "See this journal? It's twenty dollars. My birthday is in two weeks. This is what I want. Do you want to get it for me or should I just buy it for myself?" "No, I'll get it for you, don't worry."

My birthday came, he went to the bookstore, and got me one of those coloring books for grownups instead. I never touched it even once. That told me all I needed to know. I tell you exactly what I want from you and I give you so many ways to make it happen: is it a journal? A letter? A phone call? An email? A dm? Here are ALL the ways you can make that happen, spelled out for you. Please do this thing for me, it's not expensive, but it's what I really really want most of all.

What do I get?

"No, sorry, even though you have thoughtfully put yourself out there, given me what I've wanted, and gone the extra mile to be kind and caring and generous with your love, energy, and resources, I'm going to keep giving you what I'm comfortable with and nothing more. But on top of that, why don't you give me even more than that? Come back home, this time I'll really be there for you, I promise."

Sorry, babe. I don't do that anymore. I need grownup love from a man who does more than talk. Or, in some cases, does more than not talk. I love Shakespeare and Neruda and Keats, but in real life I'd rather have simple words that are sincere from someone I love than all the poetry that was ever written by someone else.

But you know what happens when you respond to demands with a healthy boundary? I'll tell you, every single time.

"You're crazy, you fuckin bitch."
"There, see? I KNEW you didn't love me! I knew it! You won't give and give and give and get nothing back in return forever? There's your proof! You're probably cheating on me too, aren't you?"
"Fuck you, you stupid slut."
"Oh, boy, you just made the mistake of your life, little girl. I was about to love you... SO MUCH... better than ANYONE else in the universe EVER could. All you had to do was wait one more day, then I was going to reveal my big plan to come get you and be with you forever. But you just couldn't wait. Oh well, you lost your chance and broke both our hearts. I'll always remember you whenever the wind blows from wherever it is that you live... but now I'm going to get back together with my ex and pretend that it's your fault, etc."

I don't know why it always plays out that way, I don't know why these people act the way they do, it ultimately doesn't matter because there's nothing that I can actually do to change them. I figured out how to grow up (to a certain extent) on my own. I figured out how to be a parent. Nobody gave me time to adjust when they handed that baby over and called me mama in the hospital. That was it. I did that shit on my own. I stayed up all night, I cried, I freaked out, I had an existential crisis, I had to take three different types of blood pressure medication at varying intervals and get the baby to her appointments and feed her and change her and burp her, all on maybe two hours of sleep. And on top of that I was supposed to be grateful to my husband for basically sticking around and changing diapers while I took a quick shower before staying up all night to do it all again.

Nobody was there at four in the morning. That was all me. I did that. EVERY new mother does that shit on her own. That's why we fucking rule the goddamned world. And that's why some men hate us for it.

So, you know what? I'm not lifting another finger around here to make life easier for a dude who's holding out on me. You wanna be with me? Get your ass over here. Don't? Go live your life and be happy, and I won't read into any of those signals anymore. Be good, be free, make the next woman who crosses your path smile as long as it's convenient for you.

I'm going to California. Or Paris. Or maybe I'll stay in Texas. I'll go wherever I want and do whatever I please, and the next time a cute guy I have a crush on sends me a letter that says he wants to be with me, I'm not going to let the scars some other dude left on my heart stop me from telling him to come on over. See, back then I didn't know how rare a thing like that is.

But I do now.


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