It is downright incredible how resistant to empirical data the sense of being unwantable is.
It took many years and girlfriends before I began to suspect that every women who slept with me might not be humoring me out of pity. Even then, and to this day, I feel more secure in relationships when I can provide a measurable and necessary form of value other than just my own charms, whatever those might be. Girlfriend needs a ride to the airport? I’m on it! Needs a ride to the hospital? Even better! The rare occasions where I can help out with covering bills when she’s short on rent (most of the women I’ve loved make more money than a starving writer, it turns out) are even better, because I am Providing For My Woman, and I feel the warm glow of centuries of hegemonic masculinity validating me.
Let me be clear: I know this is stupid. I know it’s asinine social programming and that these women consider me sexually and emotionally desirable. But there’s a difference between knowing that and believing it. And for guys who haven’t got a girlfriend, who feel the bitter sting of active rejection or the endless cold of passive rejection, who yearn for love and sex and the touch of another hand… what can they possibly believe about being wanted?
The fact is, as I’ve learned during prolonged periods of loneliness myself, when a a lifetime of “Ewwww, gross, naked guy!” jokes combine with stretches of personal rejection, it’s easy to feel neither wanted nor needed.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a job where your particular abilities are necessary, so that’s a form of being needed, one you can throw yourself into, but it’s not the same as being needed by another person. Being wanted by another person, at that point, has disappeared over the horizon, into an unmarked area of the map labeled ‘HERE BE UNICORNS THAT DISPENSE FREE MONEY.’
It’s easy to get bitter when you feel unwanted, and so this unfortunate confluence of forces has left our culture littered with embittered men who get very upset about what they can’t help but perceive as their own failure.
It’s easy to dismiss them as angry losers or some other convenient pejorative, but I’ve walked a few too many miles in their shoes to call their pain baseless. I don’t pretend to have a solution, but the least we can do is begin to correctly identify the problem.
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Originally appeared on The GoodmenProject.com
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