Discover more from hit me with some more lame tautology, socrates
i refuse to normalize late bloomerism
the internal mechanics of not liking yourself so much
i am a late bloomer in ways i never meant to be and ways i would never wish on another human being. forgive me, but when people online are like, “normalize being a late bloomer! there’s no time limit on romance,” i scoff. i understand reaching out for any kind of connection, and wanting to be told it’s okay to be inexperienced at any age. i also want that. but i acknowledge the reality is stickier than a pithy, comforting sentiment. late bloomerism is okay, but it’s not normal. if it was normal it wouldn’t have a name. in my experience, pretending it’s normal just makes everyone else’s romantic success more isolating.
the origins of my late bloomerism run deep and embarrassing: i got fake asked out in middle school; i was told i was “just another ugly jewish girl” and that i was too ugly to date boys i had crushes on; i got weird facebook comments from dudes in my grade who thought it was hilarious that some guy i had a crush on had taken a photo with me on a school trip. the message was clear! liking me, or being seen with me at all, was social suicide.
SO! i stopped putting myself in positions where anyone could like me and i could like them back. i was so closed off to possibility. for many years, i just assumed any man who was nice to me had nefarious intentions — not even, like, trying-to-sleep-with-me nefarious intentions. wanting-to-publicly-humiliate-me nefarious intentions.
a lot of people in my life who love me piled on over the years. they couldn’t have known what they were doing! of course people who love me couldn’t understand why i’d been romantically unsuccessful! all of these untrue things i had been told about myself weren’t visible. they existed deep inside of me as shame. all of these experiences i had of people telling me i was not good enough stuck to my insides in ways the people who loved me could move on from.
q: why haven’t you had a boyfriend?
a: have you seen me?
q: why won’t you give him a chance?
a: he only thinks he likes me; he won’t like me when he gets to know me better.
q: you know, dad and i had already been together for 10 years by the time we were your age.
a: that’s not even a question???
i’ve had a lot of rejection, but — to be fair — i’ve also rebuffed plenty of kind, lovely people who expressed interest. don’t you understand? i wanted to say to every last one of them. if you like me, what does that say about you? why aren’t you considering your station in polite society? why don’t you know i will ruin your reputation? i know i have hurt people who care about me by projecting this internalized anxiety and shame about my fundamental unworthiness onto our relationships instead of confronting all of that within myself.
i finally started putting myself out there and trying to date in this 25th year of my life and i am overcoming a lot of hurdles just to put myself into loud bars to have middling conversations with people who are perfectly nice, just not right for me. please clap. my biggest fear is someone actually liking me. the idea of ever being desired in public is uncomfortable because i’m worried about how the other person will be perceived touching me, or kissing me, or showing any kind of playful affection for me. i hear alarm bells going off when someone gets too close; i feel looked at and ridiculed and like ashton kutcher is going to pop out of the wall and tell me i’m being punk’d. it usually takes herculean effort on my part to feel remotely safe in those kinds of connections, if i let the connection happen at all. the only times where it has felt easy have ended in disaster.
i love hard, and i expect a lot from the people i love, and most of the time that’s great, but also i take avoidance as a challenge. i illogically believe that when someone loves me enough, they’ll tell me about in the way i want to hear it, not the way they’re most comfortable expressing it. so when people don’t express themselves, i feel like i haven’t earned their expression; and when people give their affection too easily, i also don’t feel like i’ve earned it. i’ve never considered that i shouldn’t have to earn anything. i’ve never considered that feeling like i have to earn something is me trying to prove myself worthy to… random middle school bullies i haven’t seen or thought about in almost 10 years?
i am daunted and terrified by the baggage i’m clinging to, but worse than that i am daunted and terrified by the idea of showing it to someone new. somebody is going to have to be so patient with me someday. i am terrified to let somebody love me the way i deserve, because, deep down, i still don’t believe i deserve it. i’m just saying that because it’s what you’re supposed to say.
dating for the first time in your mid-twenties is so hard. it’s like trying to both look cute and learn a language while being waterboarded. it’s hard to figure out what you like when you don’t feel like you’re entitled to liking anything; it’s hard to believe someone when they tell you you’re attractive when your whole life has been spent in self assurance that if you were more attractive, romantic things would come easily to you. if this person finds me attractive, what does that mean about the 12-year-old, powerless middle schooler image i have of myself where that’s an impossibility? more than being uncomfortable, i hate being wrong. but i have to keep trying.
thank you for reading this. i don’t know if it’s self-indulgent or interesting, but i haven’t written anything this personal in a while so i hope you enjoyed it.
to give you a little something extra for the holiday, here’s a list of essential pieces of romantic late bloomer media.