WANTED: My Own DesiresPosted: December 30, 2013
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.