Over break I binge-watched Sex in the City. Much to my dismay, my mother told me that I most reminded her of Carrie. Carrie Bradshaw: high-heeled walking, mysterious job-working princess of Manhattan. At first I was offended. She’s stubborn, moody, a smoker, and clings to dead relationships for dear life. The more I thought about it, I possess at least two of those qualities. But most of all, like Carrie, I like to write. So in the spirit of my newfound Carrie appreciation, I wanted to take a spin on a relationship-focused editorial.
Hypothetically, we know we want to be with someone who is kind and generous and respectful. We have superfluous and sometimes superficial categories we look for, like their hobbies and physical characteristics, but oftentimes don’t plan to budge on those three central wish list items. So why, often times, do we find ourselves with people that lack these qualities so thoroughly? Do we want these things in theory but expect to be let down?
Of the four people I’ve dated, three of them were certifiably poor excuses for partners, each in their own wonderfully unique and increasingly cruel ways. The fourth I don’t think I knew well enough to decide either way. The first was cocky but brilliant, and possessed the skill of lying so masterfully he should’ve applied to become a CIA agent. The second was even more egotistical than the first, but had the most impeccable manners I’ve ever witnessed in my life. For his private-school instructed manners alone, I thought he was kind and respectful. Again, I found myself blindsided by another liar. And the third remains the worst of all, because I sincerely believe he had those three big-ticket items. Not only did he in the end lack kindness, generosity, and respect for myself, and women as a whole, but he also had me completely fooled.
There’s always that person your friends, or even acquaintances, warn you about and tell you that they’re not worth your time. For me, that only seems to bolster my intrigue. The more people tell me the person is a lost cause, the more I want to fix them. I’m perhaps the most stubborn person I know, and it surfaces when I want to prove people wrong. I want to prove to them that, “look, this person is at least decent to me so they must be a good guy, right?” Wrong. If they’re an asshole in the streets, they’re an asshole in every other context you put them in, even if you’re alone, just the two of you. If they’ve said something disparaging about women in the past, they’re bound to say it about you too. People do not magically transform to meet your expectations; they don’t morph into your dream partner overnight when you meet them.
In the words of my grandmother, you cannot fix people and you should not even try. People are who they are, and you either take them the way they are or leave them that way. I clearly haven’t quite taken her words and turned them into actions yet.
There are days when we aren’t the kindest or the most generous. I myself know that I make countless errors being completely consistent. But we should always be respectful. And that’s what killed me about the last person—if you don’t show your respect for someone as a partner during your relationship or as a friend afterwards, you do not and never did deserve them. So maybe that’s what hurts the most when we feel let down—feeling like somehow, we weren’t good enough to bring out the best in that person and there must be something wrong with us. Instead of us framing a failed relationship as, “this person really wasn’t good for me, and hey, maybe isn’t a good person after all,” we too often see it as “I wasn’t good enough.”
I’m no relationship expert whatsoever, but you are always good enough. It does you no good to blame yourself for reasons you messed up, or reasons the other person may not give you kindness. Their being a bad person is not your fault; you just need to work on your character judgment (myself included) and let go of people when they don’t hit the mark. You cannot transform people into anything; they are who they are. And quite frankly, the bad ones aren’t worth your precious time, especially with Carleton’s ten-week term.
That’s something Carrie never taught her audience. She ran back to men who were awful to her, and too often she and her friends demeaned themselves in relationships and explored their own faults. I want to write and say that you are always good enough. Just because someone disappointed you does not mean you aren’t worth it. It just shows they, quite frankly, do not deserve you and need to develop those big three qualities on their own. We shouldn’t expect to be let down, but we often settle for it. Be picky with your choices, have unshakable confidence, and most of all remember that respect, especially in this political climate, should still reign supreme. In the words of my patron saint, Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”