Worthy of Me (His Loss)

I grew up as a pretty girly guy. Ever since a young age, I liked pink and floral colors and designs, gravitated toward female television and video game characters, and hung out almost all the time with girls. I derived a lot of benefits from this association with the feminine: empathy, communication skills, valuing softness over brute force. At the same time, I also encountered the message that I should want boys to like me, or that desire always flowed in one direction: other boys did the desiring, whereas I desired the desire of other boys.

Until I grew into my own social justice awakening and until I met my bff Bri in undergrad, my female friends and I would often interpret a guy’s rejection as a fault of our own. If a guy did not exhibit interest in us, we took it as a sign that we did something wrong. Maybe we cared too much. Maybe we should weigh less. Maybe we expected too much communication. Some of my friends and I analyzed the motives of men with the ferocity of rabid chihuahuas, bloodthirsty for emotional intimacy and care. We gossiped about whether their past relationships and traumas inhibited their capacity to connect. We strategized on ways to conduct ourselves to maximize their comfort and openness.

underbelly in san diego iconic meal

Things more iconic than spending time on emotionally under-developed men #313: eating iconic Asian food while reading in San Diego during a conference! This took place in October, at the restaurant Underbelly. The pork belly bao buns were iconic.

Imagine my surprise when a cisgender, heterosexual white male acquaintance of mine in undergrad did the exact opposite. I remember talking with him about a crush he had on a coworker of mine, about how she had not been cold to him yet had not been reciprocating his interest either.

“So how are you feeling about where you’re at with her?” I asked him.

“It’s kinda frustrating,” he said. “But at the end of the day, if she’s not interested I know it’s her loss.”

Her loss. Those words struck me like a literal lightning bolt of heterosexual, cisgender white male privilege. Her loss.

Wait a second, I wanted to say, so what you’re telling me is, you’re not going to spend hours and hours internalizing her rejection of you as a sign that there’s something wrong with you? You’re not going to spend 45 minutes staring out your dorm room window while listening to “Teardrops on My Guitar” by Taylor Swift wondering if your crush would have fallen in love with you if you weighed more or less, texted more or less, or breathed more or less? You’re not going to write a blog post in five years about how you have had to work to reject the patriarchal notion that your self-worth is in any way dictated by someone’s romantic interest in you?

After this conversation with my acquaintance, I literally – and I mean literally – walked around campus telling my friends about it. I actually quite verbatim said “so yeah this guy is interested in this girl and he said if she’s not into him it’s her loss! Can you believe that? Her loss!”

I still struggle with this today. For example, when I went through the AWLOB debacle of 2019, I remember criticizing myself about how he ghosted me. I remember writing that maybe if I looked hotter in pictures, or if I spent more time protesting in the streets, or if my poop contained some chemical substance that would launch the mass proletariat uprising in the United States, maybe he would have wanted to talk me. At one point my therapist told me “Thomas, he really missed out” in reference to him not getting to know me. One of my bffs literally made over ten hilarious memes roasting his loser butt for how he treated me. When he said that he could not commit to a one-hour phone call after months of stringing me on, my other bff “joked” that she would get on a plane right away so she could hurt him in person and that I deserved so much better. Still, I wondered what I had done wrong, what was wrong with me.

iconic meme awlob version

Okay here is one of the iconic memes one of my closest friends made me last year as she walked me through the AWLOB situation, when I felt that he had rejected me. I share this less to reference AWLOB than to show off my friend’s brilliant, witty, hilarious sense of humor. Clearly AWLOB’s actual name is redacted.

The other day someone left me one of the nicest comments on a recent blog post about men that made me think about this topic. She wrote “I think that you’re remarkably self-aware, but still always trying to be better. And even if it’s not all that consoling, I think someone has to be damn remarkable to be worthy of you.” Her comment stopped me in my tracks – as in, I stopped gulping down my pineapple orange juice mid-sip. Wait a second, I thought to myself, this person is so right. A man does have to be pretty damn remarkable to be worthy of me.

I will never crave or need or even really want a male romantic partner in my life to be happy. And, as a queer femme red-haired Vietnamese icon, I’m owning my power and recognizing that any man, or any person, has to be pretty freaking superb to take up real estate in my life in any capacity. I can recognize I have areas to grow in and at the same time I’m self-aware, warm, and confident enough to write about my poop on the internet. If a man can’t honor me and my glory then it’s his loss.

How do you grapple with feelings of insecurity and/or self-doubt, especially if you’re someone who’s received messages that your self-worth is related to things like men’s validation? What would make someone worthy of your time and/or attention? I’m gonna go work on my dissertation proposal, play tennis, and listen to “Let Me Think About It” by Ida Corr (to remind me of my power – like yes, I would make a man feel like heaven is near, iconic). Until next post!

5 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

5 responses to “Worthy of Me (His Loss)

  1. I think this is a really interesting question. My idea about it is that often (not always, but often) what sparks a relationship is some form of admiration. The other person seems to possess traits you admire or approve of and then it feels so good to have gotten the attention of such a person that it’s dizzying. In some cases, that’s the ongoing expectation: we’re going to just kerp admiring each other or (less pleasantly) one is expected to admire the other, while the other enjoys being admired. But what sustains relationships better over the longhaul are being able to create a pleasant emotional/social space together. This involves a certain amount of compatibility and flexibility as well as actual skills to create that space. We feel annoyed when people consistently seem unable or unwilling to create that pleasant space with us. We end up not wanting to be around them. People who seem to say a partner should be more “x” don’t really recognise it’s their personal preference, and someone else might not like what they do. Just some thoughts…not really an answer to the question.

    • I really appreciate this perspective, thank you Ashana! It’s definitely making me reflect on my relationships of all kinds and I think what you’ve written here definitely applies, about how with certain people I was drawn to them because I admired certain qualities about them (e.g., propensity toward social justice, assertiveness, kindness) though over time what maintained the relationship was the ability to create that safe and compassionate emotional/social space. This is a great framework because it sheds light, at least for me, on why even though certain people I felt really attracted to, especially because they had/have strong social justice views, aren’t the people I ended up forming the deepest and most consistent friendships with. Thank you again for your time and thoughtfulness with this comment.

  2. I agree with what that person wrote about you. I think in many ways, you’re a trailblazer of sorts. I feel part of your strength is from the pains you’ve suffered as a child. It’s given you a sense of empathy and perspective that a lot of us don’t have. I also think your grandmother is still looking out for you.

    Ok – I didn’t really answer your question on dealing with insecurity. No matter how good I am at something, I think I’ll always grapple with this feeling of not being good enough. But I think I need feedback from others to help me deal with this.

    People who get my attention usually are the ones that have shared interests (photography, books, writing, political views….). And of course, people with red hair. 😉

    • Awwww thanks so much for this compassionate comment Matt and for affirming my strengths, like my empathy. And thanks for the reminder that my grandmother is watching out for me, I think she is too! (:

      I appreciate you sharing your own experience with insecurity. Soliciting feedback sounds like a smart strategy for reality checking and I’m glad you’re aware of the potential usefulness of seeking feedback.

      Hahaha glad red hair gets a shout out in what captures your attention. Also glad that it sounds like you’ve been able to find people who share similar interests to you.

  3. I agree with what that person wrote about you, too. And for what it’s worth, I know a good few white cisgender heterosexual males who agonise over rejection! I know that I’m a bit odd and not to everyone’s taste, so if someone doesn’t like me, that’s fair enough – not doing myself down but no one can be liked by everyone.

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