Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
July 23, 2009
They’re wrong until one of them is right.
The other day I ran into this guy I was involved with several years ago, with his parents at the store.
When I say “involved” I mean I attached whatever delusion I had about relationships and love, mixed in a little desperation, and rounded out the fantasy by projecting my ideal man onto him. Long story short, it didn’t go anywhere, and it ended very badly.
Several years later, long after the reel has stopped spinning and the lights in the theater of my mind turned back on and the audience has cleared out and gone home, I see a totally different person standing before me. It turns out my Wizard of Oz is just a short little skinny guy hiding behind bushy eyebrows and wire rimmed glasses.
I mean, I was a monkey banging tambourines for this guy. I was a gerbil on a wheel, a duck on a firing range, a cow with a tag on my ear and a brand on my ass. I was a spawning salmon who ends up beheaded and skinned and smoked and then served on a beautiful platter with cream cheese and capers for Sunday brunch.
The things I did for him, you would not believe. I was like a Stepford wife on acid, a little Jewish Martha Stewart on Lexapro. I made sack lunches with shrimp burritos stuffed with pineapple salsa made from scratch and fresh-baked organic brownies even though I don’t bake. I painted an enormous mural on the wall of his office even though I don’t paint. I dyed my hair dark brown when he suggested I didn’t look Jewish enough as a blonde, as if looking Jewish were something anyone in their right mind would aspire to.
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So it really put things into perspective when his Dad, who is dressed head to toe in cycling gear in the middle of the market, gives me a big hug and announces “I knew her before she was a blonde!” to anyone within earshot.
Excuse me but I’ve always had blonde hair, at least since I discovered Sun-In the summer after seventh grade.
The mom, who is so small and skinny it looks like you could knock her down with a whisper, greets me with a quizzical look. I can see the wheels turning in her head, going, “which one is she?”
So it kills me when I see my girls going through the same thing. Now that I have some perspective it’s so simple and so obvious I can hardly stand it. The men they’re hanging out with are truly awful, but only because they allow them to be. The worst part of it is they put it all on themselves. They worry that they’re inadequate just because the guys they’re with decided they wanted to move on and go find someone else to have sex with. They analyze everything to death, searching for answers that are standing there staring them in the face, all obvious and erect-like.
I remember when my brother used to try to talk sense into me. “Look, I know what the guys are thinking because I am one,” he would say.
Like my friend Cathy: She’s got long, curly blonde locks that flow down her back, light green eyes, and a lithe but muscular frame. She has long thick eyelashes so she doesn’t need mascara and never, ever blow-dries her hair. She works that effortless bohemian look that isn’t really a look at all but more the result of floating through life, throwing on whatever clothes are still clean that day.
So I’m taken aback to see that even she falls victim to this, well, victim mentality.
“I feel so rejected,” she says, her eyes filled with desperation. “I just know we were meant to be. I could just feeeeeel it.”
She’s telling me about a guy she was seeing who could not wait out the month she was out of town and replaced her with a just-turned-21-year-old.
“He’s about as deep as a blank piece of paper,” I say. “There’s nothing there. Let it go.”
I tell her to stop telling herself stories. “If it were meant to be he wouldn’t have hopped on the first girl who walked by as soon as you left town,” I said.
Then there’s my friend Beth who starts every sentence with, “Well maybe he …” Was too tired. Had friends in town. Didn’t get my text.
She touts herself as unemotional and detached. “I just want to have fun,” she’ll say. “I just want to enjoy it for what it is.”
But she takes it hard when these flings, these one-night stands turned three or four nights, bite the dust.
I always get the phone call a few days later. “What’s wrong with me?” she bemoans. “Why can’t I find someone?”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” I tell her over and over again. “It’s what’s wrong with them. They’re all going to be wrong until one of them is right.”
A few nights ago, I was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of a girl crying. Her sobs were so loud and so full of pain that at first it didn’t sound human, more like cats fighting or an animal dying. That’s when I knew it was the sound of a broken heart, the inconsolable agony of a woman who gave herself to someone who did not hold her precious.
I wished I could console her. I wanted to show her this little skinny guy at the supermarket who at one point had so much power over me.
Or maybe I’d show her what I was looking at now, my perfect man sleeping peacefully beside me, all eyelashes and bushy thick hair and dark skin, and the future I never thought I’d have.
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