Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don't Be That Needy Girl

The Needy Girl kinda sucks, right?  I mean, she's always texting that guy she's only hooked up with like four times, and is like, "hey, what are you doing tonight? do you want to meet up somewhere?" ugh. She's so annoying.  And a little bit desperate.  Like, you know that guy is reading those texts and is just like, "dude, this girl is a total stage five clinger. She won't leave me alone." It's kinda sad. She just wants a boyfriend so badly that's she's willing to text that guy pretty much every weekend.  Girlfriend, have some pride.  You don't need that guy.  And he is totally judging you for being needy.  I mean, don't you know how hook ups work?  He doesn't want to date you, you guys just get it on. Please be cool about this.  You're making all us ladies look needy, emotional, and incapable of casual sex. Take a chill pill, please. 

And what about those girls in relationships who are always saying to their boyfriends stuff like, "hey, I want to spend more time with you," or "I think we should talk about our relationship," or "can you listen to what I'm saying please?" Oh my god... they are so needy!  And annoying. It's like, please, just let the guy watch the football game, or hangout with his friends instead of you, I mean, that's what a cool girl would do.  And why would you want to define your relationship, or talk about the future of your relationship, or tell him how much you care about him and how happy you are in your relationship?  Do you know how needy and attached that makes you sound?  What, do you want to marry the guy? I mean, really, there is little you could do to freak him out more then start talking about your feelings and what you want from him and from your relationship.  Please, just be chill and let things play out naturally.  If he cares about you, he will totally let you know.

Any of these sentiments sound familiar?  I bet if you're a lady swimming in the heterosexual dating pool they do.  I have definitely gone out of my way to avoid being that needy girl on several (many?) occasions, despite the fact that most of the time my "needs" consisted of little more than a second hangout.  But it's true, no one likes the needy girl, at least that's what we seem to collectively believe.  And the needy girl dislike comes from multiple angles, which makes it that much scarier.  As a woman who has spent just about all of her life as a single lady, and the majority of her sexually active life as a proud feminist, I have absorbed the "don't be the needy girl" message on two simultaneous levels:

1) If you're the needy girl, guys won't want to be with you.  They will find you annoying and, well, needy. Guys like girls who are cool and chill.  The ideal lady can hang with the dudes, maybe drink a beer and watch a game (while looking super feminine and hot, of course), and doesn't nag her guy with emotional dialogues and questions about things like commitment and the future.  Those girls suck. Guys don't want to talk about that stuff, and if they do they will bring it up. 

2) By being the needy girl, you're somehow admitting that you need a man - and as a feminist lady I sure as hell ain't about to admit I need a man.  And honestly, women who do need men, who ask for that "girlfriend" label, are a little sad.  They don't have the confidence to be single, and by being emotional and all about relationships and the future, they are reinforcing old stereotypes about women being needy and constantly in search of boyfriends, and that is so un-feminist. 

So when you're that needy girl, guys don't want to spend time with you, and girls are totally judging you, so guess where that leaves you? As a desperate single woman who has turned her back on the girl power, I can do it on my own, I don't need a man, single ladies rule, feminist progress of the last fifty years! Well that sucks.  Yep, I definitely don't want to be that needy girl. 

I'm reminded of the scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig's character is in bed with her freak buddy (played by John Hamm), and the topic of their relationship status comes up.  John Hamm says something about how he's really busy at work, and doesn't want to make a commitment, and a visibly disappointed Wiig responds with: 

"Yeah. We're on the same page. I mean, I'm not looking for a relationship right now either. Let's just say that, I just...whatever you wanna...I can do, you know? I'd rather just...I like simple. I'm not like other girls, like; 'be my boyfriend!' Unless you were like; 'yeah!'. Then I'd be like; 'maybe'."

I have totally been that girl.  I have been with guys who I actually really wanted to start dating (even just casually), but I felt like I had to uphold this "I'm not like other girls who are annoying and constantly looking for a boyfriend," front, so I never even approached the topic with them.  And of course those relationships went nowhere.  And off the top of my head I can name five of my close girlfriends who have been in the same position.

But I have also (perhaps more frequently) been the girl who is like, "Hell no, I don't want to be in a monogamous relationship with you."   And I can name just as many, in fact probably more, of my close girlfriends who have been in that position (including several of the ones also in the first scenario). 

The truth is, not all girls are in need of a relationship all the time (in fact, in my experience I have seen quite the contrary).  But sometimes girls do want to be in a relationship, and they do need to talk about their feelings in order to find and maintain a healthy and happy relationship, and there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact that is a good thing.  That's how you find love or sexual pleasure or friendship or whatever else you want to get out of the relationship you're in. You have to communicate your needs. And sometimes guys want relationships, and sometimes guys need to talk about how they feel, and that is good and important as well.  Sometimes women and men are needy and sometimes they're not, but the deeply ingrained image of the needy girl, and the equally deep fear of that image, makes it difficult for people of both genders to express their wants and needs.  The fear of the needy girl is getting in the way of our happiness. 

The way I see things, there are five major problems with the "no one likes the needy girl" sentiment:

1) It's not fair to ladies. The needy girl image is rooted in old sexist ideas that women are inherently more emotional and in need of attention then men are, which in turn allows men to write off any female expression of need as an unfounded overreaction (which is hardly ever actually the case).  It also reinforces the idea that things associated with women are negative traits, and thus women who want to be viewed favorably and as equals of men should avoid them (i.e. should not be needy). Finally, when women are terrified of being viewed as needy they are much less likely to speak up for themselves and express what they want in a relationship, and thus are much more likely to allow the man to dominate the relationship's power balance.  

2) It's not fair to gentlemen. What about guys who do want to be in relationships? What about guys who want to express their emotions?  What about guys who want to talk to their partner about their expectations for their relationship?  What about guys who have relationship expectations that go beyond sex? When we associate being needy (or expressing emotional need in general) with being feminine, and we live in a culture that constantly devalues the feminine, then any guy who exhibits "needy" traits, becomes devalued.  It becomes a source of shame.  "Dude you asked her to be your girlfriend? What the fuck? You're in your twenties, man, you should be out getting laid by hot chicks every night. God, it's like I can see your tampon string from here." Okay, that's not a real quote, but it is a reflection of the sentiment that we see played out in popular culture all the time.  Guys don't want to be pussies, and desiring to be in a monogamous relationship, or talk about your feelings, or express emotional need, is quite often seen as contributing to your pussification. This idea is limiting of men's relationship options, as it does not provide the space necessary for them to genuinely explore their relationship needs (whether they be for sex, companionship, love, friendship, or anything else) in a way that is free from stigma and judgement. Furthermore, even when guys may not worry about the pussy implications of discussing emotional need, many girls (like my former self) perceive that they do.  So women don't bring up emotional/relationship questions with men, because they assume men will be immediately turned off by it, which again leads to a relationship where no one talks about what it is they really want.  

3) No one knows what the hell counts as "needy." Yes, people who are constantly in need of attention, who don't have an identity outside of their partner, who make unreasonable demands of their partner, and who never give their partner space to breath, yeah, those people probably really are annoying.  And I know I sure as hell wouldn't want to date someone like that.  Who would? That's an actual needy person, and probably someone who endured some sort of unhealthy/traumatic relationship in the past, and could likely benefit from therapy.  A person who can't ever be happy on their own isn't ready for a healthy relationship.  A person who can live independently, but doesn't want to constantly be alone, however, is perfectly capable of being in a happy and healthy relationship. So while there are reasons to not be with a truly needy person, there are not reasons to run away screaming from someone just because they want to have a DTR talk or text you to go out on a post-hook up date. In my own experience, I have been so scared of being that needy girl that I have skipped texting a guy for a second hangout or even Facebook friending him, for fear of the needy, clinger, stalker label.  The truth is, doing either of those things is not really needy - but I though it was, so I stayed away from it.  If I had texted him, would he have perceived me as needy? I don't know.  Maybe he would have and maybe I would have been faced with rejection.  But maybe he wouldn't have and maybe we would have had an awesome time hanging out again.  We'll never know. I've done the same thing with relationships that have lasted a few months, where eventually I realized that I wanted something more serious, but was too scared to ask for it, because if I did I risked coming off as needy, and thus risked giving him cause to reject me.  Would he have been freaked out by me asking for something serious? Who knows? Maybe we would be dating right now.  Maybe he would have never spoken to me again.  It's all a big question mark. The complete and utter lack of communication - even over what the definition of needy is - is a major problem.  It's like this self-constructed wall that is stopping us from moving forward with our relationships, and it's silly.  It's so so silly. 

4) Women and men really do have relationship needs. Sometimes we need sex, sometimes we need different sex, sometimes we need less sex, sometimes we need to be held, sometimes we need long term commitment, sometimes we need to be single, sometimes we need friendship, sometimes we need love, sometimes we just need to not be alone, sometimes being alone is exactly what we need.  When we're super scared of the needy girl we tend to either ignore, suppress, or minimize these needs, which is not good for our happiness.  How are we going to get to the place we want to be in our relationships if we can't even be honest with one another about what that place is? Sometimes ignoring our needs means we don't pursue relationships we actually really do want, and sometimes it means we stay in relationships we actually really don't want, and sometimes it means we don't work to fix or improve the good relationships we already have, and so they fall apart.  Either way, ignoring our needs doesn't really help anyone. 

5) It implicitly reinforces the idea that there's only one way to get relationship needs met: in a traditional, monogamous, long term,"I'm your girlfriend, you're my boyfriend" relationship, and that all women are constantly seeking said relationship.  As a woman, I have been worried that by communicating that I needed something more from a relationship, I would come off as relationship crazy - that girl who is going to be sending you the relationship request on Facebook after two dates and will be looking at wedding dresses a month later.  The truth is, I didn't want to be in anything serious with the guy, I definitely didn't want to use the terms "girlfriend and boyfriend," heck, I didn't even want to be monogamous.  I just wanted to see him more than twice a week.  And largely that was because I wanted to have more sex.  But the needy girl is always looking for a boyfriend, and I didn't want a boyfriend, and I didn't want him to think I wanted a boyfriend, so I didn't express what I really wanted.  Relatedly, when a girl texts a guy for a second hook up, he may assume that's her way of saying, "hey, be my boyfriend!" when really all she actually wants is a second hook up.  So he doesn't pursue it, because he doesn't want to give her the false impression of commitment, without ever bothering to ask whether or not commitment is what she really wanted.  

Overall, our fear of the needy girl is pretty much just bad for our relationships, and really really bad for our communication skills. 

So ladies, go ahead, by needy.  Guys, you can be needy too.  I encourage you to pursue what it is you need to be happy.  I'm done judging people who send the 1AM, "What are you up to tonight?" text.  Just please please promise me that if you send that text you're doing it because it's part of your true happiness plan.  Don't do it out of sheer loneliness or desperation.  Do it because you like the person and being with them - whether it's for sex, or romance, or friendship, or anything else -  will make you happy. 

I'm done judging people who have the goal of being in a monogamous long term relationship.  Ladies, if that's what you need right now, then go for it.  You're not turning your back on our feminist progress.  But you have to swear that you want a committed boyfriend because a deep emotional connection with that particular person is going to make you happy, not because you feel that just dating anyone is better than dating no one. 

I'm done judging people who just need to get laid, or just need to cuddle, or just need to hold hands with someone sometimes.  If that's what you need to be happy right now, then you should pursue it.  But you must assure me that you're pursuing it with a person who has the capacity to meet those needs and make you truly happy.  And if it turns out that person cannot meet your needs, you have to promise me you will walk away and look around until you find someone who can.  

Figure out what you need, figure out how to ask for it, and go get it! We can't let our fear of the needy girl scare us into not super satisfying, non communicative relationships anymore! 

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