“I try to be fun and flirty” she told me, “because I know that’s what men want.”
She was explaining why dating had been so frustrating for her, how she felt like no matter what she did, the outcome was still the same, and I understood. She is fun — one of the most fun people I know — and besides that, I saw myself in those words. They might as well have been my words, leaving my mouth years ago and coming back around now, to remind me.
If I could turn around and shout into the past, back to that girl who wanted to be “fun and flirty” so men would like her, too, this is what I would say.
You don’t have to be “fun and flirty” to get a guy to like you.
Sure, maybe guys like girls who are “fun and flirty.” Actually, I know from experience they do. I’ve watched guy after guy fall for girl after girl who was “fun and flirty” while the quiet, introspective, or withdrawn girl — even if she was sweet and beautiful — waited to be noticed, wondered when her time would come.
But there’s a difference between acting “fun and flirty” because you think that’s what a man wants, and becoming the most fun and flirtatious version of yourself because, for the first time in your life, you feel safe and protected.
You can’t pretend. You can’t fake it.
You can try. I’ve watched a hundred girls do it. I have tried to do it myself, if I’m honest, But each time I did, I made a fool of myself — and each time that happened I swore I would “never flirt again,” and dug a hole deeper and deeper into myself.
It’s a sticky dynamic, I would say.
Once you get started, it’s hard to get out.
I would tell myself not to panic. I wasn’t missing a great guy, or a great relationship, because I wasn’t “fun and flirty” enough. A guy worth dating would see me, weather I was “fun and flirty” or not. “Fun and flirty” were not qualities I could muster up. They were a bi-product of something else.
I would have told myself to take a big, deep, breath.
Healing takes time. And you don’t have to be some finished product in order to get married. Marriage isn’t a reward for taking all the right turns or making the right decisions. Not by a long shot. A year, or two (or even ten) into my marriage, there would be days where I didn’t feel very “fun and flirty…”
And my husband would love me anyway.
And yes, I’m more “fun and flirty” now than I was a year ago. Partly because I’m learning (some from myself, some from my husband, and some elsewhere) that I am worthy, I am safe.
I am loved.
But along the way there have been lots of times — when I told him about the abuse in my past, for example — where I was scared and pushed away and sobbed and sobbed, barely able to get a single word out. It wasn’t “fun and flirty,” but he joined me, right there, in the middle of my journey.
And I joined him.
That’s what I would tell myself.
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