WANTED: My Own DesiresPosted: December 30, 2013 Filed under: Desire, Feminism, Woman | Tags: Bodies, Body, Desire, Feminism, Memoir, Relationship, Self-Care, Woman, Women's Bodies 35 Comments
What do I want? What do I really? This hasn’t always been as easy a question to answer as you would think.
For many girls, there seems to come a point when we stop being in tune with our own desires and begin to worry more about being desirable. I know this happened for me sometime after age 11—when I started to like boys and wanted them to like me.
When I turned 16 and replaced my glasses for contacts and my braces came off, boys started to pay attention to me—and I remember for the first time since I was a young girl suddenly feeling like I mattered to someone other than my family. Boys were looking at me and wanting me instead of finding me wanting. I felt seen.
Back then being found desirable to the opposite sex felt as important and necessary as breathing… as if without that feedback from them I would be rendered nonexistent. In college I practically minored in dating—my need to have male attention on me taking as much or if not more precedence as getting good grades. And for a long time, I stopped asking myself what I wanted… more concerned about making sure I was liked, wanted by others: desirable.
This need to feel like I was being seen—desired—began to inform not only how much time I spent on my appearance, but also the way I treated myself and let others treat me. As a student at UC Berkeley, I wore stylish leather shoes instead of comfortable sneakers to walk around the huge campus because I thought they made me look more “glamorous”—never mind that they hurt my feet. I would date guys who were more interested in the way I looked rather than who I really was. Later, my need to be desirable would impact my choice in career.
From the time I wrote my first poem in a creative writing class I knew wanted to be a writer. I would read a book a day in the fourth grade after school and dream about when I would write my own book. But when one of my high school teachers suggested I consider a career as a TV news anchor because I would look good on camera I decided to follow that professional track instead. My first job out of college was in TV news and I was fortunate enough to discover that I did like journalism—a lot. But when after a few years my boss told me that if I really wanted to get on air I was going to have to move to a smaller market in the middle of nowhere—I realized I was ultimately more in love with the idea of being seen broadcasting the news than the job itself so I quit the business. Later I would move to Los Angeles to become an actor.
I have since fallen in love with acting but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my initial motivation for becoming an actor didn’t partially have something to do with needing to feel seen and hopefully found desirable. (Ironically, acting comes with lots of rejection and makes you feel the opposite of “wanted” most of the time unless you are lucky enough to achieve a certain level of success.)
What do I want? What do I really want? I once stopped salsa dancing in my twenties because my boyfriend at the time said that it made him question whether I was girlfriend material. (He didn’t like that I danced with other guys.) I snuffed out my desire to dance so as to keep his desire on me. In another relationship, I spent three years traveling the world with that boyfriend while putting my own ambitions aside. I stopped wanting what I wanted as if my wanting of them never existed.
I don’t think it is uncommon. I know other women who have also disconnected from their own desires when they get into relationships. I refer to this as “the forgetting.”
I’ve since vowed to never “forget” again even if I have to write down my desires in red marker to remind myself. I still have that list pinned to my bedroom wall.
What do I want? What do I really want? I find that for me to honestly answer that question takes deep listening and constant practice. I guess you could stay I’m still detoxing from having the media and society constantly barrage me with the message that what I want is only important as long as it doesn’t get in the way of being pretty/sexy or someone wanting to date or marry me.
For awhile, I was seeing a man who decided he no longer wanted to date me because my ideas and beliefs about women and their bodies were too “out there” for him. He obviously wasn’t the right guy for me—but his reason for opting out really brought up my desirability issues and for a while I stopped sharing my views, especially with men. What if no one wants to date me ever again?
Today, I am blogging about women and their bodies. My first book—a memoir about my relationship to my body—is on its way to completion. I just can’t afford to let whether someone else thinks I’m desirable dictate my choices anymore. Living that way was keeping me on the sidelines of my own life.
Turns out, when you start to own your desires and refuse to give them up for anyone else—everything starts to fall into place—work, life, and even love. The man I am with now encourages and supports me in having and realizing my desires.
I just had to learn to stop playing the supporting role of the girl who is “wanted” to become the lead character in my own life.
Have a joyous new year.jalal
Thank you. Same to you, Jalal!
Hi there. I am participating in the Liebster Award, and have nominated your blog. I hadn’t heard of this before I was nominated. It is (as far as I have learned) just a nice way to build online community and gain followers through promoting blogs that inspire you. If you are interested in participating then please see my blog for more details http://www.sarahbrandis.wordpress.com.
No wonder you’re so smart! You are a Berkeley girl ❤ My grandmother went there for her PhD and I named my kitty cat Berkeley, hehe. Your book sounds so amazing, I know it will be a hit! I know it will be a helpful and inspiring read for many girls and women to really think about their own self-empowerment!
Christina, Thank you :)! I’m so glad that we are blogging sist-tribers!
I’m looking forward to reading your book. Every fall, my juniors read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were watching God, and we talk a lot about the importance of desire and Janie Crawford’s putting it away until she meets Tea Cake. It’s always interesting to me, but not surprising, how 16 and 17-year-old girls soulfully understand this mature theme. I love that you’ve found someone who encourages and supports you. Happy New Year!
Thank you! 🙂 I love that your girls get how important desire is. I feel like it’s something that isn’t taught enough in general so wonderful to know that they are getting that from the work you are teaching. Happy New Year to you, too, KP! Manigong Bagong Taon.
PS I think you might enjoy Rita Ann Higgins’s poem “The Did-You-Come-Yets of the western World.”
Thanks for the tip. I will check it out and let you know what I think!
LOVE it. Truly do. The wisdom in the subtext and the fearlessness in her articulation of what often happens and what needs to be discarded struck me in the gut. Thank you 🙂 ANd Happy new YEar!
I just had to learn to stop playing the supporting role of the girl who is “wanted” to become the lead character in my own life.
What a great line.
I always enjoy your posts and their contribution to women’s self esteem. Thanks and Happy 2014!
Thank you, Carol!! It makes me feel great to know you enjoy my posts. Happy New Year, to you, too!
So glad you’ve grown and are writing something that can help others.
I’m left wondering about this: “For awhile, I was seeing a man who decided he no longer wanted to date me because my ideas about women and their bodies were too “out there” for him.”
How were your ideas too “out there” for him? I can imagine a lot of different scenarios on that one.
Thank you, Georgia! As to the guy- we were at opposites- how he views women and their bodies is so much of what I feel needs to change about society. So my ideas made him uncomfortable. The wise woman in me didn’t want to date him either after I discovered we existed in opposite paradigms- but the part of me run by the need to be desirable couldn’t help but first go- “wait- why don’t you want to? Does it mean I am not desirable? Oh no!”
Diahann, I spent virtually all of my twenties “forgetting.” My thirties were spent “remembering” who I was, the dreams I had and what I desired. I’ve found that life is so much better when you’re the lead character!
Thanks for sharing, Stacey! I have a feeling a lot of us have gone this route. It’s comforting to know that this is nothing wrong with us and just conditioning. And yes-the lead character– it takes courage to let ourselves take center stage in our own lives but so necessary I think.. it doesn’t work otherwise.
It can be so difficult to establish what we really desire when we’re conditioned by society and the media to simply want what we’re told to want. As you say – it takes deep listening and constant practice to re-connect with (and respect) our own natural desires and longings. It takes courage too! Blogs like yours are so valuable Diahann – you demonstrate a self-awareness that is so practical and empowering. Thank-you 🙂
Thank you, Cat :)! I love how you articulate it above- that “we are conditioned to want what we are told to want.” And so liberating when we learn to dive below that chatter and discover our true desires. I’m still a student in progress w/ this one.
Minored in dating. Chuckle. I love Salsa.
Now to what I really want to say:
I love how you recognize the far-reaching impact your desire to be seen had on your life.
In the desperate need to be seen, you (the real you inside those shoes and behind the face) became invisible not only to the guys but to yourself.
So the question is WHY you were willing to sell so much of your life for it. (Not judging you, D. You just dredged up a common struggle among women. Just helping you think even more.)
(And your answer ties into a post of mine….due out this month.)
Happy New Year, Diana! Thanks for the inquiry. For me it was really about the idea that my desirability was more important/valuable than my authentic self- per the way I had been conditioned without realizing.
I’m definitely curious and want to hear your thoughts on this topic!
A girl after my own heart, from what I see! 🙂
I’m glad to hear that, Ayesha! Your blog site looks yummy, btw 🙂
[…] WANTED: My Own Desires. One of my biggest turnoffs is the abuse 0f women in almost all situations. If you need a friend I am here. no conditions and no cam bs. […]
[…] WANTED: My Own Desires […]
Love love love this post and everything you have articulated here.
The practice of listening is so important, so easy to lose amongst the barrage of our culture – thanks for being on the path you are on. ❤
Thank you, Katalina! Yes- that deep listening- so much more effortless and true than constantly seeking outside.
Dear Diahann, Thank you for this important, wise, honest piece. I have been ruminating over it for the past several days since first reading it. I have too much to say to fit into a brief comment, but suffice it to say: that your words resonate very deeply with me; that your profound and simple and poignant observation “I felt seen…” expresses what I believe to be a deep human need that facilitates all kinds of accommodations, negotiations, self-betrayals and other missteps, especially for women; that your courage inspires, and, I am sure, galvanizes others to reclaim themselves, and that is great gift. Thank you for your depth, insight and generosity. xoxo
Chloe, I love that you ruminated. You are so right- how that need to be seen leads to so many seemingly subtle choices that actually are quite big. It makes me wonder what the world would be like if women especially were given the chance to see themselves through their own eyes first rather than through the male (or any other gaze) in terms of being able to know for sure that they exist. Thank you for your rich observations. I am loving having you as part of my community. 🙂
Thank you, Diahann. I meant to mention that I find that phrase of yours, “the forgetting,” deeply moving, apt and evocative. I suddenly had this image of it evolving into a play or one woman show (one woman, many voices?) or …..? Given your acting career, I thought it could blend a few of your passions and just thought I would throw it out there….no need to reply, my friend.
Sirena (I’m loving using both your names). Yes, I think after my memoir is done I would like to do a solo show- but that probably won’t come to fruition for awhile. Thank you for affirming what is just a seed right now. I am very grateful for the inspiration and the nudge. xo
You are right . It is not always appearrance from tbe outside that matters that much . It is much more important to have fulfill your true desires if your inetentions and morals are good. Your essence is much more valuable.If you are really happy with what you are doing , then you will be seen. Work that comes from the bottom of the heart and spirit , will really succeed. The outer world is most of the times the reflection of your inner state . If you are truly feeling joy and peace , the whole world will seem to bring you joy then.
This makes me think about the saying that the outer reflects the inner… much more rich and fulfilling than mere appearances for sure!
The most important thing to live happily is to live from your own heart and be yourself. Never do things you do not like just for the sake of pleasing your society , do things that makes you satisfied and happy from inside. In others words , act naturally. Do what you love and be responsible for your actions that enhances your life.
Well said, Wael! So important to stay plugged into our own desires… the least dangerous choice, really.
Of course, sometimes you can ponder things and adjust them to make improvements that allow you to live your dream in a better way.