Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Middle Ground

Today was a tough day that I am still emotionally processing. Nearly 10% of the people at my big girl job were let go today, including five from my own department. I've never experienced anything like this before; it was emotionally draining, to say the least. I feel bad for the people let go (although most were happy or at least okay with the situation), and I feel a weird survivor's guilt for not being cut along with them. Why do I get to keep my job? I'm not special. A good handful of people outside of my department whom I really enjoyed talking to also lost their jobs today, and I don't know what it's going to be like without them in the office. Most of them had been with the company for years, and were established members long before I started temping there over a year ago. It's just so surreal.

As previously mentioned, I have abandonment issues. Or, at least, I think I do. I'm terrified of being left. Not left alone; I love being alone. I'm afraid of people leaving and never coming back, or just coming back when it's convenient for them/they need something from me. I'm not just around for your convenience; I am an actual human being with needs, wants, feelings. I have this problem with some female friends, but mostly, this is a problem I have always had with men.

I've been 'the other woman' more times than I would care to admit. I'm not proud of it. Back in high school, before I had even kissed anyone, girls would get jealous if I was around their boyfriends. I didn't have a boyfriend nor lose my virginity until college, but there was this overwhelming sense that I couldn't be trusted with their men. Really, though, I've never kissed a friend's boyfriend. Well, I did once, for a high school production of Calamity Jane, but I didn't have a choice in the matter. We were the leads, we had to kiss in the play! Otherwise, though, I wouldn't do that to a friend. I have, however, kissed men I knew were in relationships, and maybe even more than that. My first boyfriend left his girlfriend to be with me. We were friends, and one night, at the end of the first semester of freshman year of college, we went out to dinner with a few people. He ended up at my dorm room. We fooled around. Over winter break, he told me he loved me. Only problem was, he still had a girlfriend. He was waffling on breaking up with her; I forced him to, as it wasn't fair to her if he really was in love with me to still be dating her. He acquiesced; they broke up. We started officially dating. He was my first love.

In high school, I had sort of been dating one guy. He was older, my sister's coworker at Hollister (I know, I know). We met at one party at her apartment, where I ended up making out with his Ryan Cabrera-look-alike best friend drunkenly on the edge of the bathtub with his head in my lap (again, I know, I know). It was my first 'real' kiss with a guy and it shook me up. I couldn't find Cabrera on this new website I just joined, Facebook, but I did find his friend! We started talking. We got along really well. I didn't drive or have a car, but my friend, also named Nicole, did. She and I were going from our small town up to Buffalo to look at colleges. We met him at the mall and hung out for a while. Soon enough, the three of us started hanging out semi-regularly. We would go up to Buffalo or he would come down to our small town. I confessed to him one day that I had a crush on him, which he said was, "Cute" but it couldn't go further. But it did go further. He and I would flirtily text, which turned into actual sexting, even though I was a virgin and kind of making it up as I went. The three of us would go to the movies, and other Nicole would go to the bathroom, and we would make out while she was gone. The three of us would be hanging out, watching movies at my place. She would go home; we'd fool around on my couch. We never had sex, but we got close. He was the first man to see me naked, an honor I know now he did not deserve. On my 18th birthday, a few days before I left on a trip with my high school select choir, he went down on me. Again, first person to ever do that, which he DEFINITELY did not deserve. It made me uncomfortable at the time, and I made him stop.

I left a few days later on the trip. We flew to Colorado, then drove down to New Mexico on a big rented tour bus. I was so excited to go on the mini-tour. We had a competition in Colorado, and we were all nervous. The night before, I was texting him how scared I was. I didn't want to fuck up the competition; I wanted to WIN, dammit. He told me he was on his way to a party, and reassured me that I would be wonderful. I felt better. The next morning, in the hotel, I awoke to find drunken messages from him, the final one admitting that he thought he was in love with the other Nicole. I burst into sobs and just freaked the fuck out. My poor friends I was sharing the hotel room with didn't know what to do or say. I had this secret relationship (he didn't want me to tell anyone about us. I thought it was because he was over 18 and for the majority of it I, uh, was not) that I sobbingly admitted to my friends. I texted him numerous times; he didn't answer before the competition. I was heartbroken and felt sick. We didn't place in the competition. It was one of the worst days of my young adult life. We did this weird on-and-off thing via text and AIM for a few weeks, but didn't see each other in person again. Turns out, he was (of course) seeing her at the same time he was seeing me, and wanted to keep it secret so neither of us would find out. It fucking worked. They ended up dating. He told her I was just mad that they were dating because I had a crush on him and he turned me down. She believed him. She and I ended up at the same college. We tried to be friends, at first, when we didn't know anyone else, but that didn't last long. They dated for a few years, actually, but are no longer together.

Men are attracted to me. That's cool. But they seem to be attracted to the archetype I represent, and not the actual me. They see the busty, hourglass-shaped redhead and think, "Oh, Jessica Rabbit. Joan from Mad Men. Sexpot." Which, I will not deny, is definitely part of my personality. But there's so much more to me than that. I feel like, when certain men discover that, they can't handle it. They want me to fit one certain mold or ideal that they have, and I don't fit that all the time. So they just move on. They go for the other girls, the uncomplicated ones, or the ones who fit into whatever frame they project upon them. I will not fit into your frame. I will not bend and change my shape to fit whatever you think I should be. It used to really bother me and piss me off, and I guess it still does. But I would rather be my complicated, authentic self than to try to change who I am in order to correspond to what you wish I was.

Or, maybe the problem is, I'm exotic. I'm complicated and fun and sexy and complex and I seem like a fantastic escape from the mundane. Which I am. But not everyone wants that as their everyday experience. Which sucks for them. Thankfully, right now I am not in a super-monogamous headspace. After the two back-to-back serious long-term relationships, being classified as one person's girlfriend still seems choking and stifling. Being the escape for a few men (and likewise, they are also my escape) is finally working to my advantage. I'm taking control of it, reclaiming it, making it useful for myself. Will this work forever? No. Do I want it to? No. But taking ownership of my identity, whether it's real or just perceived, has been liberating work in its own right. I am far from comfortable with what I've done in the past, or this whole archetype bullshit. It's also not a central point of my identity, it's just a part of this larger, complex Nicole self that is shifting and reformulating. For now, though, I think I'm finding a balancing point, a comfortable middle ground in which to gather myself and reflect while still having fun.

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