Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why didn't she fight harder for him, aka: He's just not that into you

This afternoon I read through a few of my old high school journals as research for an essay I'm writing and I found a theme: I spent a lot of time thinking about boys.  I spent even more time wondering if the boys I liked liked me back.  I analyzed whether they waved to me in the halls, if they called, if they made eye contact and I tallied up conversations.

Everything fed into this great matrix in my mind trying to determine: does he like me back?  A part of me worried that perhaps the reason my crushes weren't giving me signals of reciprocation is that they, like me, were scared of showing their hand and all it would take is me showing them I liked them.  I'd wonder whether I should go to their soccer games, cruise around their neighborhood on my bike (yeah, I was cool like that), or try to sit next to them in class.  

Ultimately I realized, long after high school unfortunately, that if you like a guy and a guy likes you (or you like a girl, etc) then it shouldn't be that hard.  You'll end up working to make sure they know you like them just as hard as they work to show you that they like you.  You'll "coincidentally" end up in the same places at the same time, you'll find excuses to talk to each other and spend time with each other: both of you will be working toward the same end.

JP, my husband, hates it when I tell this story because he remembers it differently but... back in law school, when I first had a crush on JP, I asked him if he wanted to come watch a TV show at my place (we'd already been emailing about the show, he knew I'd gotten a new TV and wanted to see it -- it seemed like a good way to move things forward).  

His response: I have to study tonight, but I'll pencil you in for next week.

What I heard: you're not exciting enough to skip/postpone studying for and I'm leaving my options open for next week.

I'm sure in high school I'd have taken his response as something different and I'd have kept working on him -- convincing myself he just didn't know I liked him.  But (trying to be older and wiser - ha!) I instead thought "you know, if he was into you, he'd figure out a way to get his schedule in order to be at your place during that TV show... move on." 

(To be fair, JP was a big geek first year of law school with grades in the top 5% of our class at Duke Law so... perhaps I'll concede he was studying but still... I should have been more exciting than contract law.  Also clearly, things worked out with us (because we were both interested in each other we both ended up on the same team at trivia night at a local pub, we both stayed late, etc etc)). 

My point is this: I spent a lot of time in high school making myself miserable trying to figure out if the people I liked liked me back.  And if two people like each other, it shouldn't be that hard.

Why am I blogging about this? (here's where the SPOILER comes in so if you haven't read The Dead-Tossed Waves then be warned I'm spoiling it):  I got an email a while back asking me why Gabry turned away from Catcher at the end of DTW -- the reader pointed out that Gabry promised Catcher she'd fight for him and when it came down to it, she stopped fighting.

The reader is right: Gabry did promise to fight for Catcher.  Initially, I wrote the end of DTW differently; I made the resolution much fuzzier.  But then when I read back over it I realized that Catcher spends a lot of time explicitly saying: "I can't/don't/won't love you Gabry" and Elias spends a lot of time saying: "Gabry, you're an amazing and wonderful woman who I love."  I've mentioned before my theory on love triangles and I feel like Catcher represented who Gabry used to be and Elias represented who she became.  

But what really mattered to me is that I wasn't going to watch Gabry put her life on hold and wait for Catcher to figure himself out, if he ever could.  Catcher essentially was telling Gabry, "I have to study tonight, maybe I'll pencil you in for next week."  And maybe he'd have gotten his head out of the clouds in time to take her out the next week or maybe he wouldn't have.  But I've gotten tired of characters sitting around and taking abuse from people they "love" while waiting for those people to figure out what they want in life.

Gabry had to take the bull by the horns -- she had to grab life and that meant choosing Elias who was also ready to live.  My personal feeling is that if Catcher finds the right person to love, he'll get over himself because that person will become more important to him than his internal issues.  And yeah, maybe there's a chance that will never happen -- all I know is that it wasn't happening with Gabry and I wasn't going to force her to stick around and hope that someday it might.  That doesn't mean they can't be great friends, it just means they weren't destined to share a great love.  [END SPOILERS.]

Listen, I understand -- I write and read romance where a big part of the plot is about getting two people to fall in love with each other and work it out.  Often times that means one person being in love and fighting for the other to reciprocate.  I just feel like sometimes... there just comes a point where it's clear the two people aren't going to end up together and the one person continuing to fight for the other starts to look desperate and sad.  It's almost cruel.  I worry sometimes that there's a teen out there (like I was) who, when faced with the "hero" shunning her, thinks it means that he's tortured deep down inside and only the heroine can save him if she tries hard enough when in reality... he's just not that into her.

There comes a point that when someone tells you "I don't prioritize you," you need to listen.  You need to realize you deserve better.  I don't think you should have to fight that hard for love because love isn't cruel.

Here's my theory: if a person likes you, they'll treat you like they like you.  They'll compliment you, they'll smile at you, they'll respect you.  If a person loves you, every time they look at you they'll think "I can't believe this amazing and wonderful person has chosen ME" and you know what?  You'll be thinking the exact same thing if you love them back.   


Tina said...

I love love love this entry. Thank you so much for writing this. The part of me who's still in high school badly needs to hear this. ^^

Heather said...

Excellent entry. EXCELLENT.
I think a lot of people need to hear this.

Chris {frecklemama} said...

OMG THIS IS FANTASTIC!!! You rock, sister. This is so, so valuable, esp for the YA audience. I want to print this out and read it every day. You are dabomb. You should be a writer.

Andrea Cremer said...

AMAZING post, Carrie. *highfive*

Dana Elmendorf said...

I can't tell you how many times i've lived the same dreary pining when I was in school. As much as I'd like to think if I had a friend who'd just be honest to me and say "girl, he's just not that in to you." Then maybe I would have moved on....nah, who am I kidding, teenagers torture themselves for not just cause, it's called angst for a reason. Nice post. Glad your hubby finally got a clue. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! =)

Amber said...

I would love to share this with all my high school girls! Daily I hear "ms. Couch..." in a whiny voice about something someone has done. And it doesn't have to be just romantic relationships, it works with friends also.

One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain. "Don't ever make someone your priority if you are only their option."

Thank you.

Lara said...

OK, so I stopped reading after "spoiler alert" because I'm probably the only person on earth who hasn't read The Dead-Tossed Waves (though I can't wait!). But just wanted to say that I love this post. You absolutely captured that angsty boy-crazed time in life--and the fact that the angst can linger even after high school :-) My husband and I had a similar start: he asked me if I would take a study break to watch a movie, and I said yes. But then he called back the next day to say that he'd been invited to a movie by another girl, and should we all get together to watch a movie together? Um...mixed signals? Turns out he was just too darn polite, and it all turned out okay in the end :-)

kiranjit said...

heyy i lovee this entry gr8 advice!! i totally agree nd i thnk naive girls out there need ur words!!!!!

Mame said...

Excellent post. I agree 110% :)

Zoƫ Marriott said...

I heart this post.

Shveta Thakrar said...

Oh, Carrie, yes. ♥

Katie Alender said...

I love this, Carrie!

Lindsay, TheBookVlogger said...

Very sweet and very true.

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