I have a good friend who’s been in love with a man for a long time. She was trying to explain their relationship to me one time. “Oh, he would have sex with me. But I was never his girlfriend,” she said.
There was bitterness in her voice. She’d wanted to be his girlfriend–honored, treasured, prioritized, brought into his life with a role, important to him.
I was confused why he would be her friend and have sex with her, but not really be with her. It mystified me, as my friend is such a catch: Brilliant, attentive, kind, a great writer, beautiful, funny, loyal. Full of knowledge and life. What an amazing girlfriend she would be.
Some people are not looking for that, obviously. They want social cache, certain resources, a cliche hotness that will prove they’re sexually successful? They’ll fuck whoever, but the role of girlfriend is reserved for someone who looks like a supermodel, rich, socially connected.
Or maybe for no one–they don’t want to really be there for anyone. They’ll knit their life together someone else’s life when hell freezes over. Maybe they don’t want to love at all. They’ll receive it but not give.
I kept thinking of that–what is a girlfriend?–after being used by the house guest who visited recently. It hurt that he gave me no aftercare, and that he didn’t mention his girlfriend back home until the following day.
But I’ve decided that what hurt most of all was just being rejected. I believed I was honored, on the way to doing something meaningful and long-term. But I was really nothing to him, a random body. It didn’t matter that the body was mine.
content warning: teenager sexual predation
I felt like a teenager all over again. A boy made overtures that I might matter to him. He took me out in his truck, wanted to make out, and tried to get me to suck his dick or had the condom out on the seat, wanting to fuck me, pressuring me.
But I barely knew him and was not ready. He would touch my breasts and get a thrill, drive me home, and dump me the next day.
I was not being seen, honored, respected for who I was, or treated with basic kindness. It was very confusing, when I was ages 14-17. “What’s wrong with me, that he doesn’t like me?” I wondered as I cried, blaming myself and looking for the fault that made him reject me.
Of course I understand now–there was nothing wrong with me. I was what’s right with the world. They were just regular pieces of shit.
My body was made for love. Then as now, I was looking for God–transcendence, connection, something real. To do life together, authenticity, real joy of being honest.
Nothing I could be or do would make the boys value me, or even see me to have a chance to value me. I could be kinder, more generous, smarter, more creative–it didn’t matter. That’s not what they wanted. I was doomed, as a boy tried for my breasts and I gave that to him. I was trying to love him. He had no interest in love.
Yes, this is my body–it’s all I really have. I will trust you and give this to you. You are a good person, and I believe in you.
But he was not a good person. He really wanted a blonde girl who laughed differently and who he believed would not need anything. If he could have her, he would be successful.
I was a strange kid, fat and curious. I wasn’t the goal. He would go home to beat off to porn, remembering how my breasts felt in his hands. I was not a person.
My heart breaks for that naive Nest who showed up for love. I was a vibrant miracle, dodging dicks all day. Then a boy would take me out, and I wanted to matter to him. I’m still trying to matter to men who have no idea how to treasure someone, how to have a girlfriend.
I love a lot of people, and I’m sorry when I keep loving at my expense. This man who visited criticized me before for having expectations. He thinks we should enter situations with no expectations, and he wants no expectations placed on him. It’s a repulsive cliche.
Relationships are made of expectations. The baby cries–the parent comforts, feeds, changes the diaper of the baby. That’s not optional or dysfunctional–that’s how life works. The baby’s whole well-being is based on that. We all have needs, no matter the age. Just a matter of whether we speak of it or lie.
My expectations are reasonable. I need basic respect. My house guest showed up knowing I’d prepared a room for him with fruit and flowers to honor him as God. I put the beautiful yellow sheet. My spouse watched amazed from the hall as I scrubbed the guest toilet with a pumice stone, to get the ring out. “This is love,” I said.
When the house guest was here, I worked constantly to see him, hear him, feed him, touch him cautiously, make art with him, show him places that matter to me, and respond to him attentively, meeting his needs whatever they might be.
He could say he didn’t expect that, but that’s why he came here. That’s why he likes me: I would give almost anything to him. He’ll use me until I’m hurt enough to say no. But there are others who will line up to do the same–it’s resource management, not sacred connection or long term anything.
What will he give to me? I’m not supposed to ask that, not supposed to expect. He can expect a fuckton of emotional labor and to be given all I have, but I can expect nothing. He’s a free man who has promised me nothing–I’m not his girlfriend.
I think of the Nina Simone quote: You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served. But love was never being served here. This man never fed me–it was a potluck, but I brought everything, every time. That’s exploitation, not collaboration.
I can enjoy feeding a thin man who was too long abused, a stray cat I give clean water, good food; I try to kill the fleas and form a bond. Wow–he sat on my lap! He’s learning to trust!
Yes, I can do good in his life. He accepts the help, then takes his healthier body to the next distraction. And I’m the slut?
No, I won’t sacrifice myself for him. His genius is not more important than mine. He’s a white man who went to art school–there’s a chance the world will see him as important. I have no chance at that.
I get up from the table, knowing I will never be his girlfriend. I had a fantasy he could have a lady where he lives, supportive and kind, in a happy open relationship. Then come here often and have me as a girlfriend too. I was trying to invent a way he could love me–I wanted him to fuck me countless times, thousands of times. Worshiping him was a pleasure.
How silly I was–he can’t maintain one happy relationship, let alone two. I was wrong. I hope whoever’s loving him this evening doesn’t need anything and will not be hurt like me.