# of pages written: 11, and I feel good about them
# of days left to write 1st draft: 116
Living with Nikki and Nate just keeps getting better and better! Not only does Nikki cook delicious, healthy food and talk to me about deep, philosophical subjects, but the other day Nathan offered to be my personal matchmaker and help me find me a nice boyfriend.
“What type of guys do you find attractive?” he asked.
“I’m a sucker for blond hair and blue or green eyes,” I said. “But sometimes I like dark hair and dark eyes. And I like skinny guys. But I also like muscles sometimes. I don’t know. It depends.”
He jokingly suggested that I make a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of men I find attractive to help him understand.
“Oh fun,” I said. So yes, I did spend some time doing that yesterday.
By now, Nathan has heard about some of my dating adventures and woes, and he seems very concerned for my well-being. “It seems to me,” he said last night, taking a plate of barbeque chicken out of the microwave, “that you put up with a lot of crap from guys you’re dating and just people in general. More than I would think an attractive, intelligent, mature woman should.”
I considered debating my own maturity, but instead I said, “I know. I’m way too forgiving. I give people second and third and fourth chances, and then they realize they can walk all over me. It’s a problem I’ve had for a long time.”
Nikki brought a salad to the table, and we sat down to eat. “Why do you think that is?” She’s very good at asking therapy questions. In fact, I’m beginning to feel like Nikki and Nate are my therapists, which is awesome because I can’t afford real therapy.
“I guess I want people to like me, and I fear rejection, and I don’t want to rock the boat, so my inclination is to say ‘oh, that’s OK, no worries.’ My natural mode is not to get upset and to compromise and to just go along with what other people seem to want. I guess I end up compromising how I’d like to be treated.”
“Well, you should speak up when you’re not being treated the way you’d like,” Nikki said, shaking nutritional yeast onto her salad. “Just tell people honestly how you feel.”
“I do sometimes,” I said. “But sometimes that freaks people out or makes them defensive. It can end up making things worse. And if it’s just a casual friendship, or a person I’m not expecting to have a deep relationship with, then I think, well, is it worth saying anything? Maybe I should just put up with the bad behavior and try not to be upset by it.”
We spent the rest of dinner discussing my issues of being forgiving to the point of leniency and nice to the point of doormattedness. “You deserve to be treated better, Eva,” Nikki said as we ate our peanut butter ice cream for dessert. I nodded and blinked back tears.
“Tell people honestly when they treat you in a way that doesn’t work for you. If they can’t handle that, if they get defensive or reject you, then you don’t need to have any sort of relationship with them anyway.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said quietly. “But sometimes I get tired of being alone.”
This morning I went for a walk to Baker’s Pond to investigate a mushroom that Nate said he saw there yesterday. “It was purple with orange spots,” he said. “It looked psychedelic, like from a Grateful Dead poster.”
Naturally, I needed to see it for myself.
“But don’t eat it!” he warned.
As I walked down the sandy path, I thought about the conversation at dinner last night. I know that I have this problem of going along with behaviors that are not the way I think I deserve to be treated. There are so many times when I should have just said, “you know what? This is not OK. We’re done here.” But instead, I have often said, “Well….this isn’t a good situation, and it’s not making me feel very good about myself, but I’ll go along with it anyway.” I know at the very moment of decision that I’m doing something psychologically unhealthy. So why do it I keep doing it?
I reached back in my memory. Way back to when I was twenty-three and givin B. a ride home. He thought his mom had called the cops on him, so he was screaming on the phone to his mother that he was going to kill her and then yelling at me to drive f—ing faster. When I dropped him off, and he said, “I’ll call you later, unless I’m in jail,” I probably should have said, “you know what? You’re not the type of person I want to be hanging out with. We’re done.” Instead, I continued spending time with him off and on for the next year and a half.
Or, when I was twenty-six, and S. left me alone in a hotel room for twelve hours while he went on a drunken gambling spree and didn’t answer his phone. When I told him it made me feel like he cared about gambling more than he cared about me, he told me that I was making too big of a deal about everything, and that if I was going to freak out and get so easily upset then maybe we shouldn’t date. At that point, I probably should have said good riddance forever, but instead, when he send me an I’m-sorry email, I forgave him. Since then, I’ve forgiven him for several other equally bad incidences, and we still hang out sometimes to this day.
I hiked up the damp trail by Baker’s Pond, my eyes scouring the mush of brown leaves on either side for a glimpse of the magical mushroom.
Why? Why do I put up with stuff like that? Why don’t I shut these things down the moment I start getting treated poorly? With both B. and S., I pretty much knew from the get-go that they weren’t guys I could actually have a real, loving relationship with. They were guys I was dating because they were attractive and crazy and dating them was an adventure. Plus, I needed something to do. I was lonely and bored and tired of waiting for someone of boyfriend-material to come along. But if I wasn’t all that invested in them emotionally, why did I put up with all their crap and keep letting myself get hurt by them over and over?
Well… It is interesting to note that I wrote a story based on the gambling incident with S. And a few years ago I began writing a novel with a character based on B. In fact, I’d still like to write something based on him; all things considered, he’s pretty fascinating.
Sometimes I go along with the bad behavior because if I don’t go along with it, the story ends, and I lose my characters. With B. and S., and with many of the other characters in my sordid history, I let my curiosity get the better of me. I know that I’m getting treated badly, and that I should be mature and respect myself and stop seeing them, but I want to know what will happen next, and so, conflicted as I am, I allow myself to get treated badly in exchange for a story.
Of course, in fiction, you can’t have a story without conflict. Much of the advice I read about writing is to create a character and then throw a whole bunch of problems at them. Put them in terrible situations, make other characters treat them badly. Then see what they do.
So do I treat myself like a character in a story? Am I putting myself in bad situations on purpose?
I do think that my problem stems largely from my people-pleasing nature, my fear of rejection, and, sometimes, my loneliness. But it also has to do with the fact that I’m a natural storyteller, and when faced with a decision, I’ll often chose what will make the better story, or, at least, what will make the story-line continue.
It’s not healthy. I know that. And I have some emotional scars because of it.
As I crested the trail hill, I spotted it – the little purple mushroom with with the orange dots. There were two more close by, poking up from the dead leaves, and for a moment I had the urge to pinch off a little piece and taste it.
But no, I need to stop eating from the poisonous mushrooms. I need to stop hanging out with the poisonous people.
I have enough stories, I think. I’ve placed myself in enough bad situations and met enough unsavory characters. Now I want to hunker down and write about those experiences. And I want to find someone who will treat me the way I think I deserve to be treated.
I don’t know if I ever will find that person, though. I guess that’s my real conflict. I guess that’s my real story.