January 27th, 2009

Never Have Me

Ignore Me

I am not immune from the phenomenon of this post. Far, far from immune. I include myself in everything I am about to say.

I've been watching us for awhile now. Humans, girls and boys of the species with the most dire propensity to fall in love. More than watching, I've been listening as my friends tell me about the girl they still obsess about, the boy they wish they'd had, the ones they can't let go of in the backs of their minds, even after marriage and kids and the rest. In our hyper-monogamous culture, we like to pretend the one we got is the only one there ever was, but kittens, it just ain't so.

And what I keep seeing us all do, over and over, is love the ones who ignore us. It's hilarious, and sad, and terribly human, almost compulsive. The minute a person shows us their back, all we want to do is love them til the end of time.

This is not really a revelation--since high school and before, in every film and TV show, the unattainable has always been the most attractive, be it the cheerleader who only has eyes for the lacrosse player or the geek who only has eyes for the cheerleader or the drama kid who only has eyes for the geek. If they ever gave us the time of day, they'd lose the sheen of that courtly, haughty queen all of literature tells us is just seething with desire on the inside, if a knight could but crack her open. We chase each other around in circles of neglect, running after the one who doesn't want us. I have spent half my life longing after people who never looked twice at me, (or looked once, long enough to kiss me or fuck me and wander off in search of someone else) fully unaware of the people I was ignoring, who loved me fiercely, who I didn't want. It's like this sick, huge ourobouros.

And god help you if you never got to sleep with him/her. If you got close but flubbed it at the last minute? There is no force on this earth that will erase that person from your psyche. You can be married for a decade and those scars will still show.

Now, this isn't a recipe for a successful relationship, so humans generally find a workaround--they start looking for people who don't turn to blocks of ice in their presence (and either stew over the lost love or get the hell over it) or find a way to attract the impossible person. Many, many relationships I know, including my own, began with one member of the couple believing wholeheartedly that the other was utterly out of reach. I spent most of my marriage clawing after a man who loved me only casually, when it was convenient, because it was great to have a girl worship you and follow you anywhere. He never let go of the perfect woman he loved and never had, and I spent eleven years holding our relationship together by sheer will. This was always a terrible idea, but part of me got off on being that strong, strong enough to maintain the whole of reality just because I wanted it so much.

So I think there is a certain D/s element to all this. The psychology flies around in all kinds of directions. Some of us want to please a master, especially if she is impossible to please. We grovel at his feet, we love him because he hurts us, because he makes us feel alive in our abject pain at being ignored, at being rejected. Even better if the object of adoration is a little aware of the game, and dangles bits of affection and hope in front of us. The titillation of that is extreme--if it weren't, we wouldn't follow behind, begging for a single glance. We'd pack up and go faster than you can crack a whip. But it is, and we don't. Is that pretty fucked up? Sure. Have I done it? Have you? Almost certainly.

But there's another side to it. The hopeless lover is not always the submissive in this little dyad. Because if you can make that amazing, phenomenal, utterly indifferent person love you, if you can shine that brightly, if you can prove yourself in their eyes and literally wrest their love from whoever they have given it to, then you have achieved a kind of mastery over them, made them submit to your will, turned them from what they desired and towards you. This is a heady thing. It validates everything we would like to believe about ourselves--that we are strong and beautiful and capable and desirable--and comes with a sexual partner we want fiercely attached to it. Can't beat that with a stick. So to speak.

This is the root of the Nice Guy syndrome the kids talk about so much these days. In the Nice Guy's head, and yes, it is a murky, misguided place, he is trying to be a True Knight to the girl he loves, (oh, BEWARE the man who calls himself a knight! Remember what knights did for a living!), waiting and showing how wonderful he is in oh so many ways in order to force her will to bend to his own. He does it for years because it is hot to be walked on and hotter to get her to do what he wants. The longer the former goes on, the hotter the latter gets, right up until the point when he realizes it's not going to happen, and then he'll get bitter about it, because hotness was denied. This is patently terrible primate behavior. But the fact is, girls do it, too. We, too, have been one of the guys so he can see how cool we are, done a hundred things just to be near a boy and show him by our virtue and service that we are better than the girl he's with. And if it doesn't work, we will often grouse that men only want dumb girls/vapid hot girls/popular girls/sluts/bitches/girls who aren't us. It sucks, but it is not gender-specific. Or sexuality-specific. The worst examples of this in my own life, on both sides of the equation, involves girls.

There's nothing to be done about it, really. Hell, I'm in a wonderful, stable relationship, and I occasionally go off on an ill-advised streak of adoring some idiot, past or present, who never did a thing to deserve it other than tell me no. And the conversations I've had over IM while another friend of mine weeps over the gorgeous thing that just won't do as they say and love them back have gone too far into too many nights. "God, I love her so much," they say. And I think: "Well, yeah, she ignores you."

I always think making the implicit explicit is a good thing, but I doubt it would help to tell the object of your affection that you are her spaniel or that soon she will learn to appreicate you, mwa ha ha.

Rather, sit back and look at the wide shot: while you're flagellating yourself over some idyllic creature out of myth who has refused you, there's probably someone standing just behind you, silently imploring you to turn around and see them, loyal, perfect, beatified by service to you, eager to catch you up in a golden cage if your will should ever waver.
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