I went to high school with a girl with a beautiful smile who dated a boy who looked like Jackson Browne. This was a good thing as far as she was concerned; she loved Jackson Browne. Meanwhile, a silent scream rattled my skull every time I heard "Running on Empty."
I liked her anyway. She sat next to me in English and got excellent marks in all her classes. I excelled at English, but I had trouble in subjects that didn't interest me. I wanted to be a student for whom school came easily, but I daydreamed a lot and had trouble concentrating. Today, this affliction is widely known as ADD, but back then it resulted in red scribbles on my report cards that read, "Does not live up to potential."
In addition to doing well at school, this girl seemed to do well at life. She had the devoted Jackson Browne lookalike boyfriend, for instance. I had no boyfriends and no idea how to even attract the attention of one. Despite this, I always had a crush on somebody, usually an upperclassman who didn't know me from Adam. Half the time, I convinced myself he liked me but was afraid to show it. Other times, I accepted the truth: He didn't. While wavering between these extremes, I talked about him incessantly, especially to this girl. She had a lot of patience.
One day, with some exasperation, she offered me the advice her mother gave her about boys: "Take everything they do at face value."
So, in other words, if they came around, that was a good sign. If they didn't, it didn't mean they had commitment issues or were afraid of being hurt. It meant they weren't interested, which is important information. If they said they'd call, I should believe them. If they didn't follow through, I should know not to believe them. I should know it was time to move on.
This was excellent advice, but I chose not to accept it. I chose to believe what I wanted, which caused unnecessary drama that protected me from boredom and produced chemicals in my brain to which I became addicted.
Will he or won't he? Does he like me or not? What is he thinking? What did he mean when he said...?
Life would have been easier -- more peaceful and more fun -- had I heeded this girl's mother's counsel. Years later, after a series of ridiculous romantic disappointments, when at last I decided to get with the program and take men at face value, I suddenly became more attractive to them. If a guy said he'd call and didn't, I didn't have time for him when he eventually got around to it. I stopped wasting time wondering what men were thinking or making excuses for their lack of attention.
My refusal to accept substandard behavior increased my self-confidence. Men love confidence. I stopped being a sucker for magazine covers that blared: LEARN HOW TO CRACK HIS CODE. For the first time in my life, I understood that it was not incumbent upon me to read anybody's mind. I didn't overthink a thing. I wanted a man who knew what he wanted, could articulate it, and went for it. I wanted a man who valued my happiness as much as his own.
Lo and behold, I attracted this kind of man. It probably will not surprise anybody that he did not look like Jackson Browne.
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