The Bitch Slap: The Myth of the “Grown-Ass Man” and Other Dating Fallacies

bitch slap grown ass man mythI can tell you exactly why my first two marriages failed. For the first, I mean, aside from the fact that I knowingly married a chauvinistic redneck who cheated on his first wife with a stripper…

I’ll give you a minute to read that sentence again.

Aside from that, I was looking for validation. That I could be loved by a man. While I don’t know if what we had was love, it was the closest I’d come at age 22. It ended with me filing for divorce after seven months. For the better.

My second marriage was to a lovely man. I honestly can’t find fault with him. We got swept up in loving one another and realized a bit too late that we simply weren’t meant to cohabitate or (ever) reproduce. We parted as friends and made our marriage counselor’s head spin because of conversations like this:

Me: “Do you want to be married to me?”

Him: <pregnant pause> “…no?”

Me: “Oh my god, that’s a relief. I don’t want to be married to you either!”

Him: “Ok, um, wow. This is great. So — who should file? I mean, we should file for divorce, right?”

It really can be that simple.

But the hard truth I’ve had to face is this: I suck at dating. I mean, I suck to such exceptional levels that it’s a wonder every date I go on isn’t sponsored by Dyson. When I stumbled into Jason back in 2010, it was at a point where I’d done a few things:

  • Ended an 11-month relationship with a man who wouldn’t tell his ex-wife he was dating someone — someone who was spending time with their children. This was a dealbreaker for me because any mother deserves to know who’s around her kids and any decent father wouldn’t hide that — after 11 fucking months.
  • Given up. I’d said fuck it. I was tired of trying so hard. I knew what I was looking for and by god, I knew I wasn’t getting it no matter how hard I crammed that square peg into my round hole (entendre intentional).
  • Turned him down for dates TWICE because he was nine years younger than me. I’d also realized this was an excuse on the same parallel of dumb as anything having to do with any Kardashian anywhere.

I’d stopped doing the same thing.

Since losing Jason, I did everything I could to destroy myself. Between October 31, 2010 and April of 2011, my antics were an incendiary combination of Harper Lee-style reclusive and Lindsay Lohan-style spectacle. There was the thing with the handcuffs and the back seat of a cop car (this was unfortunately not role playing). Some A fair chunk of legal fees. A daily sundae of self-loathing served up with an impenetrable Magic Shell topping in the ever-so-popular Disdain flavor.

And then a day came along where I said enough was enough.

I decided to stop looking for love in someone else, though I’d lost the dearest love I’d ever known.

I realized I had to get on with the business of loving myself.

Since April of 2011, I’ve been graced with meeting several people who have changed the way I look at dating and love. For all, I’m incredibly grateful. They’ve each taught me hard truths, told me things I didn’t want to hear, and rattles me out of a very (holyfuckvery) proud protective cage I’d locked myself in.

So why this blog — and why today? Damn fine question.

Not so long ago, Mike Hrostoski guest posted on this blog. I happened to be on Facebook yesterday (as one does) and saw this powerful status update from him. Sorry — you can only see it if you’re on Facebook because it’s a public update and that’s how Mike decided to share it.

I felt his rage. His frustration. His passion.

And it also made me ask: Why aren’t people being properly fucked, in every sense of the word? Emotionally, physically, spiritually. What’s keeping them from attracting the people who will challenge them in every capacity (with no bail money required)? And why do I keep hearing people of both sexes say — still — that they can’t seem to find a good guy or girl in a world with a population of roughly 7 billion people?

So today, I’m sharing my thoughts that I shared with him on Facebook yesterday — in a bit longer format. It’s time to dispel some myths — ones that I’d bought into for entirely too long.

The Myth of the Grown-Ass Man

I used to choose guys based on the qualities that were easy to see. Physical appearance. In online dating, proper grammar. Style of clothing.

In other words, I chose men like I chose produce at the supermarket.

This is a shitty and stupid way to choose men — or women. Maybe we should be looking for who we want instead of the package it comes in. And yeah — you can’t keep physical attraction out of the equation, but it’s not the only thing. I’ve found immense physical attraction for men whom I never would have picked out of a lineup and that attraction came from discovering the guy behind the wrapper.

When I hear women bitching that all they want is a grown-ass man, one with his shit together who will do whatever it she wants him to do when she wants him to do it like some goddamned mind reader, I call bullshit.

The grown-ass man exists, as does the grown-ass woman. And if you want to attract one, you need to be grown-ass yourself.

I didn’t used to be. In fact, 2013 is the first year I’ve ever felt like a grown-ass woman in all my 40 (nearly 41 — December 10, holler!) years.

The grown-ass man/woman isn’t a myth. And if you keep finding yourself out on dates and in relationships with anything but a grown-ass man or woman, here’s why.

Your Problem and Greatest Asset Are the Same Damn Thing

It’s you. YOU are the problem.

The greatest gift I’ve been given this year was by Bobbi Palmer. She’s a dating and relationship coach for women over 40. Yeah, like I needed a dating coach. I was doing just damn fine on my ow…

Yeah — about that whole “doing fine on my own” thing.

I realized I sucked at dating and thought — here’s someone who can help me suck less. So one day, I was lamenting to her about some guy who’d done something or other to me and why I wasn’t interested in going on dates (and blah-blah-jaded-blah-blah). She asked me one question:

Erika — are you looking for a date or a husband?

It knocked the wind out of me. I hated her for asking that question because we’re not supposed to say that we’re looking for husbands or wives. We’re supposed to stay all casual and cool and say shit like — I’m looking for friends first and then we’ll see what happens from there. Let’s just hang out! We can play Scrabble and Cards Against Humanity and extol the oaky virtues of some shitty bottle of wine at an overpriced bar and we can be FRIENDS!

I’m looking for a husband. A partner.

What are you looking for?

If you’re looking for a date, you’re going to find a date. If you’re looking for a relationship — a partnership — that gives you everything you’ve been bitching and moaning that you lack, the reason you aren’t finding it is YOU.

Maybe it’s time to shift the way you go about searching and start looking for what you really want. Or, you could just keep doing the same shit you’ve always done. Which means you’ll probably find the same shit you’ve always found. Always bitched about. Which is super attractive.

YOU are the best asset you have in the wonderful world of dating and relationships. You’re the only one who can be you — and there’s someone out there looking for your brand of weird. Why don’t you let your freak flag fly and let the right person see it wave from a distance? Odds are, they’ll get closer. Then you’ll see his or her weird. And you can fall madly in weird together. Which frankly, I think is a shitload better than love.

The Only Three Things You Need to Know

This isn’t a gender issue. It’s a human issue. Mike’s a guy with a huge heart who can’t stand to see men and women not living up to the potential locked inside each and every one of them.

He wants people to know what it feels like to be properly fucked — physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

And if you’re ever going to be properly fucked instead of constantly feeling fucked over, here are the three shifts I’ve made in my life that just might work for you. Maybe not. You might find them as useful as a 350 lb. brass carving of a manatee smack dab in the middle of your living room. What I can tell you is this: they’ve worked for me.

  • If you keep finding duds, stop shopping in the dud store. We date the same people over and over again. Maybe you don’t feel like you deserve something better. Like what you see in the movies is only in the movies (which it usually is, but it makes us buy the DVD and coerce our partners into watching them with us so we can have that movie feeling for a fleeting moment). If you truly want to start having a different quality of relationship, you can’t keep shopping in the same store. You wouldn’t go back to the same restaurant time and time again if you got food poisoning every time, would you? (Seriously — would you?)
  • Stop asking for help from people who are just as shitty at dating as you are. If I had a heart disorder, I certainly wouldn’t be calling up the cardiac surgeon with a one-star Yelp review and a godzillion malpractice suits pending. If you find yourself surrounded by guyfriends and girlfriends who are always having a relationship crisis and have a chronic case of Broken Picker Syndrome, quit fucking asking them for help in solving your dating dilemmas. They’re grossly unqualified. There’s no shame in asking for help from a dating coach. A therapist. A mentor with a marriage or relationship you admire. You will stay shitty at dating if you keep taking shitty advice from people who are shitty at dating. Man, that is a LOT of shitty.
  • Show up. You won’t catch the eye of a grown-ass partner if you don’t show up. What do I mean by showing up? Three things:
    • Be honest. About what you’re really looking for. Why you’re dating. Maybe you’re looking for a wife or husband. Maybe you’re coming out of a 15-year marriage and trying to get your sea legs back. Be honest about it. And that also goes for being honest about why you’re not interested in seeing someone again. You also have to be honest about who you are. Because you? Oh, darlin’ — you are beautiful and sexy and wonderful and all that AND that 350 lb brass carving of a manatee. You don’t need to hide your you. How else is someone going to fall in weird with YOU if you don’t let your weird show? Show up for YOURSELF first.
    • Be vulnerable. Putting ourselves out there romantically means that we’re going to get our hearts flat-out busted on occasion. Sometimes, that will even be caused by the person we’ve fallen in weird with. Being vulnerable is a necessity and if you think you’re above it or can’t bear the pain, you’ll never find the joy you crave. It’s that simple. There’s a certain serenity that comes with bearing your soul — that piece of you that you share with so few — and finding a smile looking back at you in return. When is the last time someone saw your real YOU?
    • Be willing. We bitch, moan, and complain that we are tired of what’s happening. We are ready, byfuckinglordychrist, for shit to be different up in this joint called our hearts and our souls. There’s no doubt about it — we are thinking beings and we are able to make some shit happen. But are we willing? Are we willing to hear the hard truths? Are we willing to extend another human being a hall pass for their mismatched set of emotional luggage? Are we willing to realize that we are not perfect, but we are each perfectly imperfect? Sack up and get to be willing to change. It’s pretty damn amazing what can happen when you put as much effort into changing the story you tell yourself every day as you put into bitching about the life you think is happening to you. Nothing ever happens to you.

So, maybe you’ll keep bitching that your love life isn’t what you want and that all the Grown Ass Men (and Women) are nowhere to be found. If you’re living with the myth that it’s easier to Google an image of a narwhal than it is to find good people, you’d be right. Googling anything is easy.

If dating and developing meaningful relationships was an easy task, it would probably be called “beer.” Beer is easy. The easy girl in high school — she was easy, too.

Maybe a little a lot less bitching and a lot more introspection. Because the problem you’re having — the problem I was having — in this whole dating game, wasn’t about anyone else. It had everything to do with me and what I felt I deserved and making myself into a Grown-Ass Woman. If you’re looking for someone to fill you up, go on a date to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

If you’re looking for someone to fall in weird with, you have to own your weird first. Show up. Be willing to do the hard work. And when it comes down to it most of that hard work you’ve gotta do? Yeah, it’s on your YOU.

 

54 comments
luwandi7
luwandi7

Thanks, Erika!  I have just recently gotten to the point of being able to say out loud exactly what I want:  a true partner, not just the next date, nor dopamine-inducing thing.  I AM looking for someone to fall in weird with.  I have a couple friends who "caution" me cuz I'll get my heart broken or, on the flip-side, encourage me by saying things like "you have such a great attitude" like "the cancer keeps coming back, but she just keeps fighting" Both kind of piss me off.  Really, my willingness to be myself, be vulnerable, and enjoy that adventure is really what makes the now actually FUN, potential for heartache included.  I'm okay with that.  Thanks for this! 

PriscillaStephensJacko
PriscillaStephensJacko

Erika, thanks so much for what you wrote! Just yesterday I allowed my guard down and was very vulnerable with someone I had just met online, whose weirdness was a great match. I was able to tell him what I needed what was ok and what was not, and even though my heart is now bruised because I have evidently run him off, the statement about serenity when you bare your soul is exactly how I felt! Other friends said I should have waited to meet in person before having the conversation we had via text, but now I see what happened as the best after all. So happy new year to all of us grown ups out there looking to find each other! Thanks for the pep talk and encouragement! From one great red head to another!!

vision
vision

I love this! Blunt, honest and totally right on!

iamparris
iamparris

Hi Erica. Thanks for sharing this article. After nearly 8 years of serving high performing couples (in NYC and beyond), you begin to recognize some patterns. Many of them boil down to the points you so clearly outlined. As a relationship photographer, one of my biggest delights is discovering how "normal" the practice of doing the work becomes for these couples. How they create a safe space to support, challenge, disagree, laugh, nurture and ultimately SEE each other. Thanks to you for creating the space to openly talk about doing the work and the resistance.

Laura Medley
Laura Medley

Erika... You are awesome.. You are amazing... thank you for being your own weird and helping all of us. Thank you!

XS143
XS143

Love this article - mostly because of 'Someone to fall in weird with' - perfect summing up of well everything dating! :) 

AldenTan
AldenTan

Okay, you just inspired me to write my own How to find a relationship article.

I think way too many people are looking for love in the wrong places with the wrong mindset. I think way too many are bitching about their situation. 

Most of all, I think way too many people don't dare to face up to their realities and instead decide to take it out on others. In my case, guys, SINGLE guys who are always willing to shit other on other dudes, "Omg, your girl looks ugly. You have bad taste", said the lonely guy who doesn't even have the balls to meet girls. 


MitchRezman
MitchRezman

@Erika Napoletano @MitchRezman it's referring to the Filipino monkey trap. You trap monkeys in the Philippines by finding where the monkeys are hanging out in tall trees. The trappers, then drill small holes in coconuts. They drain the coconut milk and fill the coconuts with warm rice in place them at the bottom of the tree.

The monkeys smell the coconuts and the warm rice and come down from the trees. They stick their little hands into the coconuts and grab the rice.

The natives then come running towards the monkeys who to try to flee, but they can't move all that fast because they won't let go of the rice ( which would make their hand smaller and allow them to escape the coconut) thus all getting trapped.

Ergo: Let go of the rice

I'll tell you about my online dating experiences and how I met Catherine who I've been with for 11 years now married for 7)  - later tonight - talk soon



Gift of Galway
Gift of Galway

Love, love, love this post!! I will be keeping it, reading it again and again, showing to friends (and husband). And if I haven't said it before, I LOVE the way you write. Wait, too much love here. I weird the way you write because it takes one to  know one. Or something like that...

lizctaylor
lizctaylor

Funny that you should include the example of someone just getting out of a 15-year marriage because that's exactly where I am and I am trying to figure out where I go from here. So my weird self and I are taking it slow, and I am OK with that because of everything you said here. Showing up is a two-way street, after all.

daisycakes
daisycakes

Stop making me cry, dammit. I am looking for A RELATIONSHIP. Not a date. Not necessarily even marriage. But a RELATIONSHIP. A COMMITMENT. A guy for regular evenings out, overnights, Sunday mornings on the couch with coffee, and someone I can count on to attend "couples" functions with me. Because those suck when you're single. 

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@daisycakes And you will find him, my lovely. Because you're beautiful and you deserve a wonderful partner :)

Jeffrey Platts
Jeffrey Platts

Great post, Erika. I love the question: Are you looking for a date or a husband? So simple yet powerful. 

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@Jeffrey Platts Strange that one question can have such a big impact, isn't it? Great to see you in my neighborhood, Jeffrey :)

Jeffrey Platts
Jeffrey Platts

@Erika Napoletano, Thanks! Yeah, the other day I noticed I wasn't seeing you my Facebook orbit lately, and then you reappeared. Glad to be back in!

susangiurleo
susangiurleo

Also, grown-ass men and women are independent, don't want to be told what the hell to do all the time and jump when told to jump. A lot of people are looking for a partner to be a mirror, a validator, have no needs of their own. When you want to be treated as an independent, smart, grown-ass adult, you need to be prepared to treat your partner the same way. If they have another opinion do they think they suck or are you open to hearing their views? If they have a need, a request that inconveniences you once in awhile, do you see them as "needy" or a human being equal to you? People dont' fall into 2 categories..losers or perfect match. When you can tolerate the gray areas of "partnering with an imperfect human" dating gets way less weird and stressful. You can either tolerate their quirks and love them, or not. But looking for perfect or "meets all MY needs" won't ever get a grown-ass anyone to hang out for long.

GiaLiosi
GiaLiosi

Wow, fantastic insight!  When things go wrong in relationships (and in life in general, but particularly in relationships), women especially tend to default to the ever-so-popular "all men are lying assholes!!" explanation to make sense of it all.  It's a grossly unfair statement and the issue is much, much bigger than that.  

Yes, there are tons of assholes out there, both men and women.  However, what people don't do often enough is take a step back either on their own or with a professional to really take a look at what they are doing to invite asshole behavior into their lives.  Generalizing by saying that :all men are assholes" or "all women are bitches" helps absolutely nothing and no one, especially not YOU.  In most cases, you only get what you invite into your life, good or bad.  Like you said, we all have to do the work to really understand what we keep attracting and why.  

I'm sharing your article to my Facebook community.  Please feel free to come visit any time.  <3 https://www.facebook.com/LoveSexIntelligence

~ Gia xoxo

Barbara Goldberg
Barbara Goldberg

Yet another Bitch Slap where I feel you've been spying on me again! It's all good because I know what you're saying is spot on. Looking back over thirty-something years of dating (I'm 50 now) I can reflect on how I passed over some of the nicest guys because they didn't fit my ideal makeup of what I thought was date worthy. Fast forward to the present. After much work on getting to know me I realized that I was the self saboteur in my dating life. Until I learned to love myself for who I am who the hell was I to make comments about those I potentially could have a relationship with. Once you show up and fall in love with your own weird taking the next step really isn't that bad!

DickCarlson
DickCarlson

Um, yeah.  I spent seven years as a middle-aged-bachelor listening to first dates regale me with stories of what creeps their ex-husbands, boyfriends, and dates were.  On our first coffee-meetup.  Every once in a while I'd ask, sotto voice, "Who picked them?"  But they were usually going on so loud they didn't hear me.

CandiceRenae
CandiceRenae

Hi Erika! I love reading ALL your posts, but this one has been the best one yet. My fiance and I are madly in WEIRD. And I really had to get out of my own way to find him. I really had to get comfortable with being exactly who I am which truthfully is a bit "corky", as my fiance never misses a chance to remind me. Thank you for a good laugh today. I will definitely be sharing with my "dating challenged" friends. 

SarahEWelch
SarahEWelch

Thank you, especially the bit about asking for help. Considering that I haven't been on a "let's see where this goes" kind of date in 17 years, I get asked for dating advice a *lot*. While I really have no clue about dating as an adult, I can provide relationship advice. I've been killing it in that department for quite a while (not the full 17, mind you). 

Otherwise, this includes a lot of the things I do tell folks when they ask me, like try looking somewhere different and you have to put yourself out there emotionally. Great stuff! 

And...best wishes for finding that husband :) 

brycekatz
brycekatz

Married for (just over) 19 years:

This is still DEAD ON ACCURATE - especially the three bullets under "Show Up". It only took me almost losing the most amazing woman I've ever met to get a clue on that one.


Definitely gonna share this with Experiment #1. She's 19 and not really looking (thank $deity), but still. Forewarned, etc.

J Cleveland Payne
J Cleveland Payne

Not just a dating lesson. Another straight-up on target life lesson. thank you for letting us read this today. 

JerodMorris
JerodMorris

Upon further reflection of this post, something bothered me. It's the very end of this paragraph:


"YOU are the best asset you have in the wonderful world of dating and relationships. You’re the only one who can be you — and there’s someone out there looking for your brand of weird. Why don’t you let your freak flag fly and let the right person see it wave from a distance? Odds are, they’ll get closer. Then you’ll see his or her weird. And you can fall madly in weird together. Which frankly, I think is a shitload better than love."

I should clarify: I LOVE this paragraph and the sentiment it expresses. To me, it's the crux of the entire piece. I just sent it to two of my friends who, to me, symbolize everything I think love should be. And that's why the final sentence bothers me. Falling madly in weird together isn't "a shitload better than love." It IS love. 

Love need not be denigrated or dismissed, just redefined. Here, Erika, you have done that. Brilliantly. In fact, a shitload better than almost any other definition I've come across. Kudos, and thanks for the great post.

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@JerodMorris Well, I wasn't denigrating love. I was just filling in the blanks with something -- a term -- I think is a shitload more useful :) And thank you for stopping by today, Jerod...

JerodMorris
JerodMorris

I see what you mean. Regardless, I love the idea. Falling madly in weird rules. :-)

JerodMorris
JerodMorris

And -- speaking from recent experience -- all of this goes for dudes too. :-)

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