Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gone With The Optional.

A dear friend reminded me of some old wisdom this week: Don’t make someone your priority, if you are just their option.  I had heard it before; I’d seen it as one of those e cards that decorate my Facebook feed daily, yet apparently I had failed to apply this sage advice to my own life.  Perhaps seeing the words wasn’t enough; they had glazed over my pupils without actually penetrating my retina.  Hearing it though, in a voice intended solely for me, the unavoidable words finally pierced my eardrum and the harsh syllables seeped into my addled brain.  The blinding, deafening fog that had swirled suffocatingly around my cerebral walnuts like ambien-in-vapour-form, was sucked out of my cranium and down the vacuous telephone line.


My head was clear. 

I had merely been an option.

And.  That.  Felt.  Shitty.

Now, Dear Reader, you know I have a Scarlett O’Hara complex, and no one is cheering as loudly as I when Scarlett finally, FINALLY gets it, and realizes she has been wasting her late teens, twenties, early thirties, and three and three quarter hours of my life, on spineless Ashley, who never bucks up enough balls to tell her straight he just isn’t interested.  No one wants to take ol’ corseted Katie Scarlett by the hand as much as I, and sprint her along, through the fog, to get to Rhett before he packs up and leaves.  No one is as inconsolable, when Rhett—who does have balls, mighty big ones judging from his Civil War escapades—tells her it’s too late, delivers his “frankly, my dear” line, sets his hat on with finality, closes the door and leaves Scarlett a weeping soggy mess on the crimson velveteen carpet—sniffling snot without a handkerchief.  And all our beloved, flawed anti-heroine has left is her home and a little smidgen of delusional hope.  But shit!  Her head is clear!  She knows what she wants now!

Well, sucker punch!  What took her so bloody long?  Having sat through this film countless times, having read my mother’s hardback 1960’s edition, how is it, why is it, that I and countless of my LadyKats, prioritize the “Ashleys”--the wrong people--and why do we let “Rhett” slip off to Charleston?

Why do the “Ashleys” do it and why do we “Scarletts” fall for it?  And why does it hurt so much?

It’s not simply a case of falling for the bad boy.  “Ashley” could by no means be called that.  He is the not the villain of the piece, he is just confused.  Actually, I think a lot of men I meet are confused, bemused, disenchanted and discombobulated.  So when “Scarlett” thrusts herself upon him, throws down the relationship gauntlet, he freezes like a cornered animal and does nothing.

 Now, I cannot pour myself into any male brain and dissect it’s inner workings—that would be like ice-skating blind-folded through a maze, possibly with David Bowie moving walls and unleashing goblins to trip me up and shit.  All I can do is make an educated guess: I think Ashley likes the attention; I think he doesn’t know what to do with it; I think he wants to keep his options open; I think he is scared of the outcome should he tell her the truth, that’s he why he doesn’t give her a definitive answer.  I think perhaps he likes the idea of someone fun and exciting to flirt with, perhaps she makes him feel good.  But so does a foot rub, a 2007 Chilean Merlot, a roller coaster.   He chooses when he uses those.  He controls when to start and when to stop.  It’s harder to do that with people. 

That’s the problem with them, you can’t just pick them up and put them down, unless there has been a conversation, an agreement.  I do know couples that agree to keep things loosey goosey, partners of convenience, fuck buddies, come-panions.  How fabulously grown up and uncomplicated!  But when one does give a damn, and the other doesn’t, that’s when such a laissez-faire relationship starts to bite. 

Conversations involve talking about feelings and futures—subject matters most chaps would swallow live eel to avoid—so I understand why most would probably opt for the “do nothing, say nothing” school of Ashley Wilkes.  I mean, Scarlett makes it pretty bloody obvious, and yet he just toils in the woodshed, sighs, blathers on about the past and continues to lead her blindly down the garden path.  However, it only keeps her on the hook, the lure ripping more of her insides.

“Hey, I really like you.  I think you are rather awesome, but I am going to pick you up and put you down when I feel like it, okay? ” Translation: I am not committed to this idea; you are NOT my priority; I want to keep my options open.  OH!  Pink fluffy hearts and cuddly rabid bunnies, you’re an option!   That’s so… nice.  And yet, even with this type of conversation—which, I feel I should attach one of those popular, “said no living man, ever” tags, I can’t imagine this frankness would keep many partners interested.   Hence, I can understand why calling a spade a spade, or rather, calling an option an Option, is avoided.

 I am yet to meet a woman who is content to be just an option.  Actually, I am yet to meet a man who cares little about his pecking order, and in my recent blog one reader commented: "the undivided, undistracted, and un-preoccupied stare of a beautiful woman in our arms makes us feel, well, pretty frickin' quacktastic."  So men, just as much as women want to feels special and lie in the arms of someone, without either checking their i-phones.  So why do we put up with it?  Because we are victims of our passions: when the spark is ignited, it can take a ridiculous amount of neglect and abuse before the flame burns out.

Now, of course, I can’t speak for all womankind.  Many of my LadyKat friends don’t stand for it.  At the first sign of being optional, they cut communication and never concern themselves with someone so undeserving again.   Alas, I cannot.  But I am trying.

 If I could just switch my brain off; if I could just attend yoga for once in my life and actually manage to empty my mind and not think about such-and-such, and all the wonderful things he said and did, before he was a Michelin five star shit sandwich; if I could allow his behavior to speak for itself, and not try to excuse it, interpret it, or explain it away; but the cogs continue to turn, and thoughts produced are foggy and selective.  My rose-tinted memory prefers to remember the times of priority: of relentless text messaging; the space under the shoulder that seemed designed to fit me; the ridiculous terms of endearment; and, so fogged, sometimes a brain can’t focus on the present less-romantic reality.  

Perhaps, when blinded, we make it easy to be an option.  I know I have said, “Sure, that’s fine.  You go and do whatever is more important.  I don’t mind.”  OF COURSE I MIND!  I HAVE JUST STRAIGHTENED MY HAIR!  I have freed my time for you, you buffoon!  We don’t like it and yet we accept it.

No!  Stamp foot, throw expensive ceramic straighteners!  Being an option, ladies (and gents), shouldn’t BE an option!  Just say, no!  So, maybe it is us, we, les femmes, who need to be honest and tell such-and-such or whoever just what we expect, without being a diva or high-maintenance, just giving chaps a few easy to follow “directions for use”—and we all know, men won’t ask for directions, but they really, truly NEED them.    I know I have previously harped on about being direct--and how I find that as appealing as a lobotomy—but, as my friend counseled down the telephone line: “relationships work better when expectations are defined and not merely hinted at.”  Yes!  Amen to not being left dangling!   This would solve so many of the mind games and paranoia-inducing text silences, if terms were simply outlined.

I’ve written before, and I’ll type it again: telling people straight and potentially hurting their feelings is a courageous thing to do.

This serves for any kind of interaction with another human being.  I know I have pussyfooted around telling a girlfriend I don’t have time to see her.  It’s not that I don’t want to see her, she’s tons of fun, but we have completely opposite schedules and our stomping grounds and social circles are very different. 

She invited me to a dinner party once, and rather than my usual, “Samantha, I can’t, I’m busy,” I decided to appease her and said “yes, I’ll really, really try to get there at a reasonable time.”   Well, wouldn’t you know, that was the evening when the audience was late, so my presentation ran over and then they had questions… and I had answers and … I arrived three hours late.  The dinner party guests had departed.  The dishes were draining on the sideboard.  And one very pissed off friend sat arms-crossed at the empty table, eye brows raised and stare indignant.  I had kept her as an option, I hadn’t made her a priority, and she knew it.  I should have said straight off, I can’t come, but I didn’t want to let her down.  And that is exactly what I ended up doing, x100.

She’s given me some tough love too.  Samantha thinks I should take time to make friends a priority.  And I wish she understood, that I do make time, it is just that she is working when I am not!  So maybe, making something or someone a priority is just more complicated than the adage makes it seem.  Relationships always have back story and baggage, so filing people away in column a) Priority and column b) Option, is “not that easy, Scarlett.” 


What am I saying?  Bollocks, no!  The truth is unavoidable, if you are important to someone, if they treasure you, they will make time for you, whatever the baggage and back story.  So I’m off to juggle my schedule, to call Samantha and meet her for a drink and a long overdue catch up.

 Have you optioned someone who prioritizes you?  If so, life is short, maybe they deserve your attention.


  1. I'm torn here. On one hand, it does feel rather awful to be the #2, #3 or #10 thing on the list of your #1. But who goes into a relationship---ANY relationship---thinking "this is definitely the person that I want to spend every second of the rest of my life with, forever and ever for all eternity?" You know...aside from creepers and serial killers and of course Lennie (he did so love those little rabbits).

    We are all options. Every one of us. As well we should be. After all, the whole point of a relationship is learning how to get yourself out of option status and into the... non-option? status. Maybe women think differently on this, but I have a penis, and am therefore pre-programmed to automatically run away from anything that immediately wants to be around me longer than a drink, a romp, or a flush.

    So as awful as it feels to be an option, you can't expect the optioner to "be honest" and spell it out. I mean, what would be the rule? On the first date? Second? "Hey Mel, these past five minutes have been great---but I want to keep my options open." That's all we need is another generation of self-confidence lacking men and women walking around asking if they're "good enough." Christ. I'd sooner avoid all "options" all together in lieu of increasing my adult internet browsing tendencies.

    And then, of course, there is the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra. In context, why would Ashley let Scarlet "go?" If he likes having options, and she's more than willing to be one, then ride on partner.

    I don't believe that anyone in this world is ever taken advantage of---rather, we have to let ourselves be taken advantage of. If you're going to just sit around sucking down bread and water, carving chess pieces out of yard stone and waiting for your captor to unlock the cell door, then I got news for you---you will be much happier, much quicker if you start looking for your own way out of Shawshank.

  2. "My rose-tinted memory prefers to remember the times of priority: of relentless text messaging; the space under the shoulder that seemed designed to fit me; the ridiculous terms of endearment; and, so fogged, sometimes a brain can’t focus on the present less-romantic reality."

    Get out of my brain, Eleanor!