A few years ago, I saw a quote basically like this one, which I thought was funny:
Every brave act any man has ever performed was because he thought there was a woman watching.
I tried finding the exact quote, but thirty seconds googling yielded no fruit. Anyway. I’ve been having some interesting girl situations in my life lately, so I figured it was time for some feelings.
That quote is basically accurate, at least for me (no heteronormativity here!).
In 9th grade, I decided I was going to have a tremendous crush on this cute, smart, edgy, busty girl we’ll call Joanna. We had freshman english together, and one day, about halfway through fall semester, I saw her make a really cute face as she was getting out of her desk. Thus began an epic four-year crush. She played the viola, and due to some combination of talent and experience, she was in the top orchestra. I had recently begun playing percussion, and was just wrapping up my first season in my High School’s marching band (I played Bass 3 on my drumline).
Being prone to outrageous flights of fancy, I decided that if I could somehow make it into the top orchestra, we would be together. Thus began a four-year journey which saw me rise the musical rankings year after year, become Co-Captain of my school’s drumline, and play in Carnegie Hall. Along the way I made great friends, traveled cool places, lost 60 pounds, became an Eagle Scout, and gained the dubiously useful ability to walk around while keeping my head relatively still.
All because I thought that some girl might, for even a second, be watching.
Even though I did eventually make it to that ultimate orchestra, nothing ever happened with Joanna. You could say that was a foregone conclusion. She was edgy and smart, but somewhat self-destructive. We hung out all of one time, my senior year, and then graduated and went our separate ways. I would go on to check her Facebook every couple weeks, then every couple months, then maybe once a year.
In college, more girls would take my fancy. When I found myself drawn to some cute sorority types, I joined a frat, eventually being elected to their executive committee. When I became enamored with the earthier, more soulful types, I joined the student cooperatives, eventually becoming the president of the 1300-person system. Eventually, after a few Jewish girls did a number on my heart, I became more serious about my culture and history, eventually finding my way to a yeshiva in Jerusalem. When the Israeli girls caught my eye, I started taking my Hebrew more seriously.
I’m being dramatic in my retelling, of course. I found music genuinely satisfying, I was curious about the male camaraderie of the greek system, and was compelled by the political philosophy of the cooperatives. I find Judaism philosophically nourishing, and enjoy being able to participate, even distantly, in Israeli culture.
That said, this is still a woman-driven story. But I don’t consider that a negative in the slightest. Consider the psychology: I meet a girl and am taken by her. Why am I taken by her? Because I see something in her that I admire — some beautiful trait that I want to be close to. Then I start to think about how I could potentially attract her interest. I think about those good qualities of her that I admire, and try to find ways to cultivate good qualities in myself that I think might be a match. I devote myself to self-improvement and good works, so that I can become the kind of person I believe is capable of attracting those women I am attracted to. Regardless of the outcome with the particular lady of the moment, I’m continuously growing as a person.
I honestly can’t think of a better way to do it.
When I first came to New York, I found myself thoroughly enchanted by a girl. She was like no one I’d ever quite met: smart, beautiful, spiritual, sweet, learned. I tried to pursue her very thoughtfully, without trying any of the rash or impatient tactics that I might’ve tried in my earlier years. She was out of my league, so I decided to change my league. I doubled-down on learning, on advancing personally and professionally. With college and extended travel now mostly things in the past, I’m able to think and plan on the scale of years, and realized that I was trying to play the long game. I thought about my future in a way I never had before, had never wanted to.
Sadly (and perhaps not surprisingly, given the timing of this post), that girl didn’t pan out. As with most of the girls I’m alluding to, my interest was based more on my fantasy than any reality (perhaps unsurprisingly, my best relationships were generally with girls whom I was able to see perhaps a bit more dispassionately). What I had interpreted as smart, cute, and endearingly nerdy would reveal itself to be a deep interpersonal deficiency, a disappointingly average sense of self, and some shockingly bad decisions. Do I regret it? Not for a minute. I’m a different person now than I am a year ago, and that person was a different person than the one two years before. This cycle of dreaming and doing is, frankly, fantastic. I’m looking forward to the next one, and what she’ll inspire me to become.