I have recently been watching Salem on Netflix, due to a recommendation. I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s definitely not historical – it deals with an alternate history where there really were old-school witches and not just mass hysteria – but I love the sets, the light horror, and the men. The hot men. The character who plays John Alden, Shane West, omg. The longer hair, the beard, the dark rasp of a voice; oh yes, it takes me back to my vulnerable teenage years. Just to see him walk with that furrowed brow and those dark, purposeful eyes–well, mind if I don’t get the vapors.
It can be fun to get lost in fantasies. For women, there are many classic ones; the rape fantasy (which is really about giving into dark desires without being responsible for your libido and without the trauma of real rape); the fantasy of the guy who’s pined and waited for you for years; and the fantasy of the man who’s mostly wolf but only tamed by the right woman. The man who is always in control but only loses it to you because he cannot control his desires–the facade of civilization crumbles away, and you know, dear god, it is me that rouses him so, it is I that has that kind of sexual power. It is why romance novels are very explicit about their description of the man (so that you can choose what you like) and the description of the woman is purposefully vague (so that you can insert yourself easily into a fantasy).
But all fantasies grow tired and old in the end. How many of us are a 10? By definition, we are all mostly average. I came from a different perspective so I am very grateful for where I’m at. I grew up thinking of myself as Mary from The Secret Garden or Jane Eyre. Wanting to be wanted and wanting to be seen. When I was younger, I was also afraid of censure, but the nice thing about not being in my 20’s anymore is that I’m more afraid of not being heard.
The funny thing about when you end a long term relationship, such as ending up divorced, is that you go back to who you were 10, 15, 20 years ago, and try to see how that fits. I thought a lot of it would no longer fit. In fact, after my divorce, I vowed to date someone totally different from the kind of man I dated at 22. And I did. . .for awhile. I had some great sexual fantasies come to life. In those moments, I was ecstatic. I am different now, I would think, I have learned from my mistakes.
But sometimes our 16-year-old self knows us in ways that we don’t want to admit. At 16, l had just read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” I loved it. It broke open my mind and I was in love with feeling the perimeters of things I didn’t know. I wanted to be an astrophysicist, but I wasn’t as smart as half the people in my class. What could I even contribute? So I gave it up and went into Chemistry instead.
I also read tons of fantasy novels, all about beautiful exotic women and wild, yet logical men. Mostly men with pointy ears and long, flowing hair, and then I would wake up to the reality –what could I possibly give a man? Look at me, I am tall and gangly with big feet and a big nose and no boobs. Wow. I’m really going to win the American Beauty Pageant on this one. But I did not realize how much control we have over our own reality.
What I wanted at 16 was a life that was full of interesting possibilities. I wanted to unlock the secrets of the universe and I wanted to be desired. And I figured it was useless to want either of those things because I knew so many beautiful and smart people, and it either arena, I was merely average. Always average.
But most of us are in the same boat, and we all have the same problems. We are flawed, but we want to be loved and respected regardless. We are not a Nobel Prize winner, but we still want to feel smart. We are not as hot as Hollywood, but we still want to know that we are sexually desirable. We want a life worth living, and if we are honest, worth envying.
The problem, of course, is that life is messy. We focus too much on results and feelings. There is a lot of life that is just slogging through annoyingness. Life doesn’t owe us anything–not to be fun, or hot, or interesting. We have to build that into our life by design. We have to know that we are animals just reaching sentience–it is wonderful and horrible because we now we can see and interpret patterns beyond facts. Each of our internal lives is different.
It is fun to read books, or to watch movies about interesting lives that our not our own. But at the end, we each get our own reality, bounded by our beliefs. We have to wake up into who we are, and make due with who we are. But it is satisfying, and often surprising, what we can do with our own mundane lives if we just give it all we’ve got. That the boundaries we give ourselves are mostly imaginary. That we live in story-tale fables and give up on our own greatness when the only difference about who we are and who we want to be are our own blockages and glass walls.