Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Case of the Rebel Without a Man

Another week, another case for Ask Polly. In the interest of enlightenment I will ignore what Polly says. Polly doesn’t have any more of a clue about the current case than she has about most other cases. As it happens, the letter presents an interesting description of a case of social anomie.

And Polly cannot even recommend that the woman letter writer Rebel Without a Man see a therapist. In truth, RWM does see someone she calls a great therapist. One can only wonder how her great therapist seems not to have solved anything. One continues to be amazed by the fact that patients rarely care about whether therapy is solving a problem or even addressing the salient issues. I suspect that the therapist is showering RWM with empathy; surely she feels her pain. In the great scheme of things, this is useless and worthless.

Apparently, RWM spent ten years in New York City developing a New York City persona, the kind of persona that is legal tender in the Big Apple. Then, for reasons that are never explained, she moved back to Texas and discovered that her New York persona was off putting. Especially to men. She might as well have been dousing herself in essence of man repellent.

Naturally, she believes that the New York persona is who she really is, and that she should never discard it. And yet, it is a persona like another, an artificial construct that she cobbled together to fulfill the needs and expectations of hip New York.

One suspects that someone—guess who?—told her that her bold, brassy, drunk, careerist, funny persona would be irresistible to men. Apparently, such is not the case. Her persona repels men… and she does not understand why. She curses like a drunken sailor and speaks her mind… and does not understand why men are not flocking to her door. One suspects that she also hooks up… and is finding that the men in her new neighborhood do not respect her for as much.

She is 34, successful in her career, not needing a man for anything more than appearance sake, and, despite the promises laid out by certain ideologically driven thinkers, she is finding that men do not want her. And she is also finding that her female friends, presumably women she had grown up with, do not care to hang out with her. They married young, have children and do not need to be entertained by her tired and self-indulgent persona.

Naturally, she also believes that her fellow Texans are intimidated by her outspoken ambitious persona. I promise you and her that demeaning other people for not accepting someone who refuses to fit in is not the royal road to happiness, or even to marriage. Given her attitude—take me as I am or leave me alone—one should not be surprised at her inability to hold on to a man.

One suspects that she is shocked that her one night stands do not turn into conjugal bliss, but wherever did anyone get the idea that being bold, brassy and liberated was the royal road to anything other than anomie.

Were you to want to address her problem, you would want to start with the immortal words of St. Ambrose—you remember St. Ambrose, don’t you?—

When in Rome do as the Romans do.

If the question were which day to fast, as was the case when the mother of St. Augustine asked St. Ambrose, things would be easier. RWM cannot very well go back to being an unmarried feminine twentysomething finding a husband, settling down and having children.

Here is the better part of her anguished call for help.

I moved back to Texas after ten years in New York City. Although life is much easier now, there’s something gnawing at me I can’t shake. I’m a 34-year-old single woman who is career focused, creative, extremely independent, funny, attractive, etc. BUT I can’t keep a man and the locals won’t let me forget it!

I’m a brassy broad; I drink too much, I curse, I say what’s on my mind. I could get away with that behavior in the big city because everyone was like that. But these Texas folks are different. They seem to be intimidated by outspoken, ambitious women. My contemporaries also settled for the kids/husband/house/car lifestyle in their early 20s, so we don’t have much in common. I don’t have any of those adult-y things and didn’t care about having them before I moved home. Now I desperately want them!

The thing that really bothers me is how people treat me like I’m a sideshow freak for being single. They make these little comments about my solo status that, I’m loathe to admit, make me feel incredibly insecure. In NY, most of my friends didn’t have a partner. But here, I don’t know any singles. Life passed me by while I serial dated and goofed around, and now I’m paying for it. I’m completely hyperfocused on the fact I’m alone. I’m terrified that everyone here thinks something is wrong with me or they suspect I’m a closeted gay person or a slut. I know I should just live my life and not care, but I can’t stand feeling misunderstood. It’s gotten to the point where I avoid social interactions just so I don’t have to field the questions.

Apparently, all of the locals are very, very judgmental. They think that she must be a closeted gay or a slut. And yet, we do not read a word about her efforts to modify her persona and to get back in touch with her feminine mystique. Has she changed the way she dresses, the way she wears her hair? Does she have tattoos? The persona that she takes to be her true self is effectively a New York based mirage. It’s about time that she saw through it.

We also note that her New York persona was not having very good romantic relationships. It was having bad romantic experiences. Perhaps she had had it with New York and went back to Texas to find something different. From bad romantic relationships she now finds that men are repelled by her. 

It’s really fucking hard dating in your mid-30s. The men here are repelled by me. I’ve had a lot of bad romantic experiences in the past. Nothing has stuck. Now I’m so scared I’ll be the town pariah if I never find anyone that it’s making me depressed and paranoid….

I see a great therapist about this. But I want stop giving a shit about what these people think. Part of me is craving to assimilate. I used to be such a badass rebel who enjoyed being the misfit. Now I’m the local oddball and I hate it. Is there something I can do to make this deep insecurity go away? How can I stop feeling like a broken, unlovable loser? It’s exhausting.

As I said, this level of misery and cluelessness does not make her therapist a great therapist. If she imagines that Polly will provide her with just the right insight to continue doing what she is doing and not being treated like the local pariah, then she has gone beyond clueless.

As for the more burning issues, if New York was so great and if she fit in so well, why did she leave? And, this ambitious, careerist woman would have done better to share a little information about what she does for a living. Does she freelance? Does she work for a company? Might she be doing better if she got a job working in an office, where should could more easily fit in?


trigger warning said...

"Is there something I can do to make this deep insecurity go away?"

Yes. Move back to NYC, where brassy drunks spouting obscenities were normative in your social circles.

whitney said...

Polly's response was interminable. But somewhere in the middle she did manage to give some decent advice which was drink less, be less judgemental and smile more. That smile more is hilarious though. I I think that advice can send the feminist types into a blind rage. But by the end of her response she managed to turn that all around to be yourself and all that matters is that you feel good. There are a couple more paragraphs after that but I just couldn't be keep reading.

Anonymous said...

An appropriate quote from Roger Scruton. "Stigma has evaporated in our era, and along with it much of the constant, small-scale self-regulation of the community, which depends on each individual's respect for, and fear of, other people's judgment" Bring Back Stigma"

Jack Fisher said...

He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. -- Orwell

"I’m a brassy broad; I drink too much, I curse, I say what’s on my mind. I could get away with that behavior in the big city because everyone was like that"

this is the real chick.

"But these Texas folks are different. They seem to be intimidated by outspoken, ambitious women."

not intimidated, turned off.

Sam L. said...

Exactly, Jack. Not intimidated, but disgusted.

Sam L. said...

And, she doesn't WANT to fit in. We don't know if she went back to her home town, but I get the impression she's not in Austin, Houston, Dallas, or Ft. Worth.

Ares Olympus said...

This advice certainly seems confused. RWM's already liberated, but hitting the dark side of that freedom, and self-pity has taken over. If she can snooze her biological clock a couple more years, finding one real friend might help her regain some confidence. Then maybe she won't need to defend her liberated NYC persona as nonnegotiable?

Polly: "Staring right at men who don’t think you’re attractive and women who don’t think you’re worthy of a friendship can be very liberating. You have to be present and take it in. The irony of rejection is that when you fight it, when you’re afraid of it, when you’re hoping it’s not true, it feels painful. But when you welcome it in (“OHHH look, this guy thinks I’m super-gross!”), it’s more like pointing at passing sea monsters from the safety of your smoothly sailing ship."

James said...

Oh well, a little advice from: