Getting in the Box…
I know not likely the best metaphor for relationshiping, but it works for me, or rather it is fitting, or rather, now ill-fitting. This is how I have seen it. This is how it has always felt for me. A guy comes along with his box, his version of who I should be to fit in his relationship box. And I decide whether I want to get in. And a lot of the time it is easy…I can readily see that the box is too small, or ill-fitting or something is wrong with it. And I say, “Nope. No thank you. I am not interested.” And that is pretty much that.
But there are others who boxes seem more roomy, feel like I want to get in them. They feel warm, safe, and welcoming. And I think to myself, “this box, with this man, feels different, like a good idea…”
It never has been, a good idea.
And it never became so clear to me as yesterday as my daughter navigated this exact issue…
A boy asked her out. A boy that she wanted to go out with. Was excited to go out with. And they made plans. But as soon as she said yes, the boy’s interest appeared to wane. He was all excited about her, but the second she engaged, he began to change the terms. He couldn’t/wouldn’t drive up to Ojai to get her and bring her home. Suddenly she had to find her own way back home.
She came to me, at first to ask me to pick her up. I had a hard time getting past the issue that this boy wanted to pick her up but not bring her home. What the fuck is that about? So I asked her. She said that he said it was about gas…I told her that was bullshit.
I told her, “of course I will pick you up…however…”
Then I proceeded to give her my best TED talk about relationship boxes that we climb into and then later, are totally pissed when we find ourselves confined in them.
She listened, and likely was hugely annoyed that I didn’t just help facilitate this date with this boy…but I couldn’t let it just be. This boy was screaming that he wasn’t worth any effort on her part, not fit to spend five minutes with my daughter, let alone an entire afternoon.
So we talked. We discussed the situation. I gave her the words to say back to him…
“If you are not interested enough in me, to want to pick me up and bring me home, then I don’t think this is a workable date for me…”
As much as I wanted to tell her she couldn’t go. I knew that she had to figure this out for herself. She had to be the one to say yes or no. It almost killed me, but I was aware that if I didn’t get out of the way, I was just creating a mothering box in which to contain her. And the result would be similar…my beautiful, amazing daughter would be boxed…
I did my best to explain that this boy was standing there, at the very beginning of things, with this box, this box of effort and he was showing her what was inside. He was willing to come get her, ostensibly so that he would have the opportunity to do and get what he wanted, but then he would be able to wash his hands of her, leaving her to figure out how and when to get home. To me, this was a HUGE red flag. Fucking GIANT!
I told her, he is showing you how much effort he is willing to put forth. How invested he is. He isn’t. And if this is who he is at the beginning, chances are, this is just who he is. And that is fine. He gets to be that boy. But do you want to be that girl? The one that gets into this box with this boy? Will you be happy there with minimal effort boy? One where you have to find your own way home when he is done with you?
We left it there. I was careful to not say too much or say it too loudly or with too much force. She is 15. And I know, that pushing back, against me, is just something to do…when all else fails. So I left her with the box metaphor and a life raft of self esteem, “you are amazing, beautiful and wonderful, is this boy showing you in his actions, that he sees that about you?”
She so much wiser and well adjusted than me, as much as she wanted to go with this hot boy, she said no. She didn’t go. She told him no. He made all sorts of promises that he would show more effort next time. While I pray that he never gets a next time! And she sorts this all out for herself…
Fuck I have been there a million times. Right where she was, wanting someone or some thing (the date) and being provided the information that this is not a good deal for me, but then doing it anyway because what I wanted in the moment was more important than what I got in the long run. Myself most complicit in my own demise. Me telling myself story after story about the box I was climbing into, a story that allowed me to believe that I was only getting in temporarily, one where I didn’t care what the box looked like, because I wasn’t staying long, endless stories that all resulted in me climbing into a fucking box which would only later prove to be confining, detrimental and part of a life long process whereby I chop, and lop, parts of myself off that do not fit in that guy’s relationship box.
“Let me accommodate myself in every possible way so that this works with this guy”…makes me want to vomit now.
So unhealthy and toxic. Yet this is who I have brought to the table every fucking time. Every relationship I have had up until now, this is what I did. Let me climb in, thinking I am getting into a Tiffany’s box, when really, I am getting into some completely fucked up, destroyed Amazon box that is tiny, ill fitting and leaves no room for any accommodation or turn around room.
I also have to own that I blamed the guy for the box for a long, long time. Like it was somehow his fault that I climbed into that shitty, destroyed vessel to begin with. It wasn’t like he deceived me, no, he showed me his investment, he showed me the goods, and I got in anyway, conning myself into believing that this time it would be different, somehow this time, different.
I could see that the box would never fit me, and it never occurred to me that climbing into a box was a bad idea. I just saw it, thought little about what I was doing, and in I climbed. Failing to see that I was the one that was climbing into a fucking box…and that that might be a really bad idea.
It wasn’t like the guys were trapping me in the box. I wasn’t being grabbed from the street and thrown into the box, I was being presented with a box, and because of reasons unknown to me at the time, in I would climb.
I would wake up, sometimes years later, contorted and confused as to how I was in the shape I was in. Why was I in a fucking box? Why was my arm now shaped that way? How the fuck did I get here? And how much of myself did I lop off, because it didn’t fit in this god damn box?
And the best part about all of this was that it could and would always be the guy’s fault for having a shitty box, or offering it up to me to get in in the first place. It was always their fault, I bore no responsibility whatsoever for being naive or dumb enough to see that a man offering a box to me was a bad idea from the word go…
Today, I am done with boxes. Men with boxes and the thought of ever climbing in one again. Fuck that. My boxing days are over.
The truth is that I am not ready to date or relationship with anyone other than myself. I am doing a lot of emotional heavy lifting over here. Seeing long standing patterns of abuse, mostly of myself by myself. And it is hard. But I am fucking doing it because someday, I want to be a good partner to a man that has no box. There is nothing to climb into, instead, we might both be able to co-create a life together that is roomy enough for both of us to bring and keep our whole selves. Wide open spaces where both of us feel happy, secure and un-boxed in.
I can see now that I blamed the box men for offering up the box, and then jumping forward to the place where I wake up in the fucking box, pieces of myself cut off and dying just outside the box and being really super pissed that I am in a fucking box…again. But just now, embarrassingly, I realized that it was always my decision to get into the fucking box. To think and believe that a man with a box was a good partner choice for me…and now I see it differently.
I do not want a man with a box.
I do not want to ever be inside a box again.
And even more importantly, I am not interested in men with boxes. Instead, perhaps, a man with an openness and kindness and patience, for me to show up with all my assets and defects and just create an open space for me to share that all with him in due time. No hurry, no rush. No box.
I am so proud of my daughter. That she was able to see the box and sidestep it. To avoid the fucking box rabbit hole that I have habitually climbed in the whole of my life. She so much wiser, mature and self aware than me. I like to think that I am showing her something inspirational, but really, more likely, I am showing her what NOT to do…daily.
My sponsor always told me that if I wasn’t an example, I was a warning. And I have come to believe that both are service. Sometimes we lead by example, and sometimes, perhaps even more often, I lead by warning. And so long as we are all learning something, even if it is “Fuck, do not be her!” We are all learning something.
So just for today, I am done with the men and the fucking boxes. No more. Really. I mean it.
I say this mostly to myself, for myself, so that I remember that I do not like being boxed in, I do not want to lop off parts of myself that do not fit in the box. I, instead, want the courage and the self esteem to say, “thanks, but no thanks!” And then move onto more spacious places to dwell…with men who have better ideas than a box…