Sex + Love

Goodbye Googly Eyes

I haven’t been single in more than a decade.

~*~*~

A year ago I wrote my first article for Rookie, about the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. I talked about the figure she calls the Woman in Love, a woman who loses her identity and personality as soon as she’s in a relationship. She drops all the activities she once took pleasure in, because she feels like a full worthwhile human being simply by virtue of being loved by a man. Being loved by a man justifies her whole existence; it’s what she was born to “do.” Here’s how de Beauvoir explains it:

Love is the revealer that shows up in positive and clear traits the dull negative image as empty as a blank print; the woman’s face, the curves of her body, her childhood memories, her dried tears, her dresses, her habits, her universe, everything she is, everything that belongs to her, escapes contingence and becomes necessary: She is a marvelous gift at the foot of her god’s altar.

What I didn’t say in that piece is that when I wrote it I was struggling with the fresh realization that from my very first kiss, I had spent most of my life as the Woman in Love. I got my first boyfriend when I was 15, and since then I had never not been in a relationship with a dude. I jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend, each one chosen because they had some quality I wanted for myself. When I wanted to become a stringent Marxist, I dated one instead. When I got sick of hearing people talk politics with thin-lipped gravitas and wanted to try being a fun-loving fashionista, I dated a fun-loving apolitical hipster (and then another one). When I was tired of parties and wanted to believe that life was Realer and fuller of Permanent Truths than my life at the time, I ran away with a hippie. Note: At no time during any of this did I go off on my own to read Marx, or shake my booty like an Independent Woman, or meditate alone in the desert. Instead I attached myself to some guy and hoped his qualities would rub off on me. I depended on him to hold on to everything I wanted to be, because I lacked the self-confidence, the moving-through-the-world confidence, to develop those qualities in myself, by myself, for myself. Like I needed a male to tell me that I was worth it. Like if a male possessed these qualities that I admired, the only way I could access them was to date him. If I date someone who is smart, well, that means I’m smart too, right? Because they’re dating me? This went on for a decade.

~*~*~

Love is all right. Love is more than all right, love is nice. Moving through life can be a terrifying prospect, and it’s nice to have another person to take care of and to love, and it’s wonderful to be loved. It is beautiful to share experiences with another person. Love makes it worth it.

~*~*~

The thing is that I suck at being in love. When I think back on my past relationships, I see myself as some kind of succubus, constantly trying to get my lovers to spit up their souls so I can pet them and play the savior. Because here’s another awesome habit I have: I try to eat the souls of men. I let my boyfriends’ personalities and belief systems and opinions swallow mine, but meanwhile I am trying to get them to confess all their deepest, darkest secrets to me, their hang-ups and their fears, so I can psychoanalyze them. (It helps if they seem to be a secret sad boy, as secret sad boys tend to be more open to letting me prod their innermost innards.) Doing this makes me feel like I have a purpose, and I think that learning how to live, how to be a person, will stop feeling overwhelming if only I can crawl into the mind/soul/body of another human. I am not aware that I am doing this while it’s going on (or sometimes I know but don’t care); I’m swept up in what I believe is the act of being “in love.”

When I’m in a relationship (i.e., almost all the time) I very quickly lose interest in pursuing my own activities or spending any time away from my lover. I’d rather spend my time understanding him (my new hobby). I get super attached to the role of Woman in Love, wanting to make nonstop googly eyes with the boy, wanting to say I love you and hear I love you back every hour on the hour, forgetting about my friends, forgetting about my own life separate from him. When I’m forced to be away from him, I conjure mental images of his face and imagine the heat of his clammy palms against mine.

I know that some of these symptoms overlap with those of the early stages of real true love, when you’re busy fusing souls with another human being and you can’t help thinking about them all the time; sometimes googly eyes are dead serious. But for me, all too often, they aren’t. It’s more like I’ll see a male that I want to be and I’ll make a calculated decision to fall in love with him, and then I pop in my googly eyes like a pair of contact lenses.

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53 Comments

  • jenaimarley September 4th, 2013 3:41 PM

    Ahhh Anna, you’re my favorite!

  • ellemiza September 4th, 2013 3:47 PM

    Anna,
    DHDKDJDHSKALALAJSGDMDK. Thank You for this.

  • rottedteeth September 4th, 2013 3:57 PM

    “Eh. I feel. Suck it.”
    I’m going to live by this now.

    http://empassant.blogspot.com/

  • Amy Rose September 4th, 2013 4:07 PM

    Fuck. Anna McConnell, the queen supreme.

  • cryingflowers September 4th, 2013 4:10 PM

    This was an really interesting piece. I found myself wanting to sprinkle glitter all over you in the act of love and support c:

  • maxrey September 4th, 2013 4:21 PM

    I needed this SO much today. It seriously could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you.

    • maxrey September 4th, 2013 4:45 PM

      To make this piece even more relevant to my life today, apparently my assigned reading for my Gender & Culture course is the introduction to The Second Sex!

  • LittleMoon September 4th, 2013 5:20 PM

    This is so important, I’m glad I read it.

  • Chloe22 September 4th, 2013 5:24 PM

    I love this article! It’s so me. I just have no interest in dating or ”love”. Basically I’m asexual, which is INSANELY ABNORMAL for a teenage girl. Anyone I mention this to treats me like I’m a cruel child hater who will live with cats for the rest of my life (what is so wrong with cats?), or i’ll see the err of my ways when i’m really old and adopt 7 children (yeah, someone said that to me). I’ve never seen anything evil in romance, or thinking someone’s attractive, but I don’t experience that attraction. Romance makes me scared (and not in the cute butterfly way). I know the article wasn’t about asexuality, but I definitely saw myself in it. An article by someone who’s asexual would be greatly appreciated, though!

    • sophiethewitch September 4th, 2013 7:07 PM

      You should write that article! I would love to read about your experience being asexual.

      • sophiethewitch September 4th, 2013 7:09 PM

        Also, I’m sorry about all the comments you’ve been getting. People need to grow up.

      • Anaheed September 4th, 2013 7:23 PM

        I second this request!

        • Issmene September 5th, 2013 8:41 AM

          Me too! Loved this article btw. I had never heard of Woman In Love, but I recognize it.

      • lxmldrt September 5th, 2013 9:28 AM

        Write that article! The world needs you.

    • illhelm September 5th, 2013 2:10 PM

      i feel exactly the same way! i literally just had a very bizarre argument with my mom about this because she pretty much asked me why i don’t have a boyfriend or any hook up buddies and i went a little crazy… is there something wrong with me? i’m not sure if it’s actually a physical thing or a psychological one… urgh!

    • blueolivia September 5th, 2013 10:25 PM

      i think you should write an article like that too! i am kind of feeling like i identify as asexual too, and i’d love to get some perspective on it!

  • Sophie ❤ September 4th, 2013 5:24 PM

    Incredibly interesting- this is definitely one of my favorites!

    http://theneonpapaya.com

  • ru September 4th, 2013 5:30 PM

    this is as apt for what I’m going through now as your woman in love article was to me last year!! single-go-getter-power-suit-bitches UNITE!!

  • lizziefranalan September 4th, 2013 6:18 PM

    I’m so glad you feel victorious. I feel victorious too, reading what you have to say. But you don’t have to be a “loveless bitch in a power suit”, you can very much be a “loved-up bitch in a power suit” loving a whole world of things. Your friends, yourself, your beau. I haven’t been in a “romantic” (I put this in quotations because the definition of romance includes mystery and the type of love I’m interested in nowadays doesn’t seem to include mystery. Or at least the mystery part seems empty because no matter how much/how long you know someone, they change. You change. Mysteries.) relationship for a long time so I feel like my advice isn’t reliable. But no, just because I’m not in a relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want. And I think that’s just a friend. Your beau should be an animate friend who wouldn’t “let” you suck the secrets out, wouldn’t “let” you put on their personalities (as if someone wouldn’t notice that), wouldn’t “let” you psychoanalyze them.
    Because friends wouldn’t psychoanalyze and friends wouldn’t let you psychoanalyze them.
    And I don’t think a relationship, ANY relationship should be a ‘fusion of souls’ but more a bridge between two separate souls, one that both sides want open.

  • poetess September 4th, 2013 6:20 PM

    Wow. I feel this. I’m going to read this all the time. Thank you

  • Fee September 4th, 2013 6:37 PM

    This line: “I’ll look at the guy and my googly eyes will malfunction, or maybe they slipped off while I slept.” is brilliant. It’s one of those sentences that will bounce around in my head for the next few weeks and in a few years time I’ll write it in something and then think, “No, that’s not mine…”. I related a lot to this in a way that sucks but it makes me feel good about where I’m at now and glad that you’re there too, thank you, Anna!

    http://contraluna.blogspot.com/

  • mizuna September 4th, 2013 6:59 PM

    iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou

  • ebcstar September 4th, 2013 7:14 PM

    I LOVE THIS, THIS IS MY LIFE/ THE LIVES OF SO MANY OTHER GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN I KNOW!!!

  • illhelm September 4th, 2013 7:44 PM

    i feel like you are in my mind!!! i was so taken aback to read some of this because it literally echoes so much of who i am/my thoughts & behaviour. i find myself completely unable to just be physically attracted to someone – i always have to date people i want to be like, people who are smart and relaxed and rebellious in some ways… i’ve been single for two years now and, like you, i love being alone. i don’t want to be in a relationship again for a very long time. but i’m scared i’ll just lapse back into people the woman in love and take a backseat in my own life. i give too much of myself and i put that other person over myself. pretty shitty!!! but thank you so much for sharing :)

  • jflg023 September 4th, 2013 9:03 PM

    This is fantastic and exactly how I’ve started to feel recently after spending WAY too much time pining after a boy that never made me happy in the first place. I have to keep reminding myself that all the negative feelings are just a byproduct of fear and lack of self-confidence, not any true need for another person. Overcoming those hang-ups are a million times better than any crutch relationship. Thank you so much.

  • waltzedout September 4th, 2013 11:30 PM

    This is fucking awesome Anna. You be you.

  • abbeysoda September 5th, 2013 4:10 AM

    sooo good!!

  • Pemmsan September 5th, 2013 4:48 AM

    Wow. I really needed to read this right now. Once again, Rookie saves the day with its impeccable timing!

  • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 5:41 AM

    i know this may sound very weird, but i envy that you were never single for a whole decade. i’m already eighteen and i’ve never had anything remotely close to a boyfriend. i’ve never even had a first kiss. i don’t know why things are like this, but i’m perpetually single. no guys seem to take interest – it’s always me liking guys and them not liking me back – and it’s driving me crazy, and taking a toll on my self-esteem. which is terrible, because i’m like the woman in love, only i don’t actually have a lover. i obsess about these guys i like who don’t like me back, and how much i want a boyfriend, which sucks and i don’t know how to stop it OR finally get a guy so i can get over it. i know you talked about the merits of being single (and i’m happy for you for discovering that), but i’m actually sick of being single. i just want to be loved, and i feel incredibly alone. i just want to feel something, and i feel pathetic because i am already so old and i haven’t experienced what most people half a decade younger than me have experienced.

    • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 5:47 AM

      it’s just… i don’t understand why i’ve been single for so long. is it because i’m not good enough for anyone? that’s one of the downsides of being single, at least for me – i tend to place all my self-worth on the fact that i’m single, which is kind of similar to how anna felt about NOT being single, only in the opposite situation. am i making sense? it’s just the whole issue of placing self worth on people who do or don’t love you. i admire you, anna, for working on getting over that, and i wish i could do the same myself.

      • Anaheed September 5th, 2013 6:11 AM

        Babe, you are NOT “so old.” Many, many people don’t have their first romantic relationship till they’re out of their teens. You have all the time in the world, and there’s no deadline here.

        Being open to love and SAYING that you are open to love are incredibly hard, brave things to do, so accept that you are awesome and that if you want to find someone to go out with, you will. I know it’s hard to be patient but know that you are not “behind schedule” and that you are constantly surrounded by tons of people in your same situation—they’re just not as conspicuous to you as the ones that are coupled up.

        • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 7:40 AM

          thank you so much anaheed. :) i can’t express my gratitude for your comforting words enough. :) i was actually getting very depressed after reading the article and writing the comment just made me realize how “incomplete” i’ve been feeling because of this self-imposed deadline and that whole Woman In Love thing! but reading your reply made me feel a lot better. i know it takes time but i guess i have to stop feeling bad about my situation since there’s nothing i can do about it anyway. anaheed, thank you, thank you so much! i was incredibly sad earlier, but i am feeling a lot better now. :)

    • Glenny September 6th, 2013 4:10 AM

      But still, I don’t think that you have to be patient for anything. If you want to have a relationship just to test the waters, there’s no waiting that you have to do. Women are often told that we have to WAIT for the right guy/ prince charming/ Mr.Soul mate to approach us. Honestly, how is that going to happen? If you want a man in your life, or even a fling, why not pursue someone? Of course, not in a desperate, I WANT YOU SO BADLY way, but become friends with someone and take it further/ use some other approach. YOU can CHOOSE a guy (as it seems like Anna did) and just test the waters. I know it seems kind of evil/soul-less, and I’d be cautious not to get too emotionally invested. You could just go to coffee shops and approach some dudez ‘n like start dating casually if you’d like to.

      Just create whatever experiences you want in your life and don’t wait for your fate to come upon you. Even sign up for a dating site like OkCupid if you feel like it. HAYL. Do whatever u want and maintain your independence in this way. Taking control of your relationships and your life will give you more independence, even if that means finding a way to be in a relationship… just cuz.

      Also, in my experience, a lot has to do with getting out of high school and making it on your own. I’m 19 and I’m just starting to pursue the dudes I like.

      • Glenny September 6th, 2013 4:24 AM

        Actually** it shouldn’t make you feel evil/ soul-less because males do this all the time (CHOOSING the women they want to be with and actively pursuing them).

        • Nikilodeon September 10th, 2013 5:58 AM

          You DO have a point! But I’ve tried pursuing guys I’ve liked and it’s never worked. I don’t know, I guess some people are better at it than I am! :P Things have never gone the way I wanted with guys I’ve liked, no matter how well we clicked as friends or how much “chemistry” (I thought) we had. So it’s kind of a tactic that hasn’t worked, and I guess I gave up. The fact that it’s never worked is one of the reasons why I’m going crazy about this whole thing! Haha. But thank you for your advice! :) And don’t worry, it never made me feel evil or soul-less at all. :)

  • seemoo September 5th, 2013 7:16 AM

    This article is wonderful, one of my favorites! Thank you, thank you, you wonderful Independent Woman.

  • Flavia September 5th, 2013 7:26 AM

    Awesome :)

  • hannahmaxine September 5th, 2013 8:26 AM

    Anna, I admire your courage. Thank you for being open and raw and real and smart and fabulous!

  • hollysh September 5th, 2013 9:48 AM

    Anna, this article is wonderful! I’m in admiration of your self-awareness. I recognize a lot of these traits in myself, but have been unable to put words to them in such an eloquent way.

    I feel like it’s worth noting that you can shed the negative aspects of the Woman in Love while staying in a relationship, although it probably happens a lot quicker when you’re single. After a long and mostly terrible relationship where I defined my self-worth and interests through my boyfriend, I made a concerted effort to change the way I deal with romantic relationships and it’s worked so well! I have a really great boyfriend and maintain my independence (I also moved to a new country and started a new school and got a new job and lots of other stuff that coincided with that shift). It took a few years, but I feel like a 1000x better person now. So yeah! Let’s be great awesome ladies together. Even though it doesn’t sound like you need it, best of luck to you!

  • l_ala September 5th, 2013 1:29 PM

    This is literally me, except it’s only been 5 years (I’m 20). This is me in every aspect, even the feeling great on my own part. This is awesome and every girl should feel how you feel now. Thank you for this.

  • Monq September 5th, 2013 2:15 PM

    Amazing Article! This Speaks to Me on So Many Volumes…I Don’t Even Know What to Say. Thanks, Anna!

    xoox

  • tiniest_bee September 5th, 2013 4:37 PM

    I am currently trying to get out of an abusive (emotionally/physically) relationship and I feel like this was my push to get it done. I’m crying (blah) but I’m happy and so nervous. Thank you thank you thank you

    • Anaheed September 5th, 2013 4:39 PM

      Love to you, tiniest bee! YOU CAN DO IT.

    • Anaheed November 14th, 2013 2:34 AM

      Checking back in here to see what happened…PAGING THE TINIEST OF BEES…

  • elliecp September 5th, 2013 4:54 PM

    this is really awesome. I love how open you are – it’s so liberating to hear about and able to talk about things like this :)

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • Emma September 5th, 2013 6:36 PM

    This is so hitting home for me. For what it’s worth, for me it is possible to be the Woman in Love even if you are single and pining after someone or have an intense friend-crush or when the object of love is a girl. For me it’s more a mode of being that must attach to someone else or some pre-programmed way of living so that I don’t have to face making my own decisions of how to live. But I’m finally facing that reality and trying to learn how to be myself, and reading this really helped. So thanks.

  • loonylizzy September 5th, 2013 11:02 PM

    This is so amazing… In fact, I’ve had the same experience since I’ve been old enough to date. I rarely go more than a month without a new guy on my arm. This article definitely brought about some self-reflection. Beautifully written as well, I might add!

    http://www.theflightoftheflamingo.blogspot.com

  • Sunshine September 6th, 2013 10:45 AM

    This article absolutely ROCKS :D

  • Yani September 8th, 2013 2:22 AM

    resisting these relationships… has taught me to see the person rather than something I hold onto and they me. I wonder what would happen if every person broke up this evening with the lover they felt it simply wrong to be with. what would happen? would they finally be free to be with someone they felt guilty about being attracted to? would people then refuse to be with someone they felt less for than another person? what would happen?

  • Sparkie September 8th, 2013 2:56 PM

    This is so beautifully written, and so inspiring !

  • kendallkh September 9th, 2013 9:12 PM

    anna you always write the most interesting and complex articles! stuffing myself with immanence is one of my favorite things i’ve ever read and made me think so much and reconsider myself and this was just as thoughtful a piece. thank you so much for writing and sharing your experiences i love your articles so much ^_^

  • lotusmarina September 27th, 2013 5:39 AM

    These comments that are so constructive and this network of girls who support each other and this article, it really gives me hope that there are amazing lovely and STRONG girls out there. I just can’t wait to meet more.

  • juliaw November 20th, 2013 4:32 PM

    hi, are you me? thanks for writing this article, it was tough for me to read because i saw so much of myself in it, but i’m glad that you – and, slowly, me – can discard the googly eyes and see the world for ourselves.