Someone I was dating/sleeping with chose someone else over me — someone they evidently had very recently met. How do I not feel inadequate? Knowing that someone else was deemed better than me, how do I not feel not good enough?
Feelings are like toddlers. You cannot reason with them. You can only acknowledge them — give them time, validation, attention — and then offer them a distraction.
That means you let yourself feel “inadequate” for a while, or “not good enough,” or whatever you need to feel. Don’t try to fight emotions with logic. Don’t yell at yourself and say, “Stop sniveling! Get dressed! They’re not worth it!” Have you ever told a sobbing toddler, “Don’t be sad”? You may as well scold an avalanche for falling downhill. Sometimes the rocks need to fall and the only thing to do is get out of the way.
So let your toddler self have free rein for a bit. Give it some ice cream, some rom coms, some cuddling, whatever it needs. Then, when you think it might be ready for distraction, consult your inner 70-year-old.
Your inner 70-year-old is fierce. She is epic. She is a cookie-baking, sharp-shooting, crossword-puzzle-in-ink doing motherfucker who can still leave a trail of smoke on the dance floor. She is part Clara from Lonesome Dove, part Twisty Faster, and part Anna Deveare Smith, and when you approach her about this issue, she will say, “Wait, I’m sorry, honey, who are you talking about?” Because she will have completely forgotten the lover in question, having climbed so many mountains, and ridden in so many rodeos, and fucked so many underwear models who were sensitive and giving in bed (or rough, as required).
That said, she’s not going to yell at you either. She remember what it was like to be vulnerable, to have one’s self esteem tethered to so many elements beyond one’s control: the number on the scale in the morning, your boss’s feedback on a work project, the whims of one callow young sex partner.
She will gently point out, though, that unless you untether your sense of self-worth from everything external to you — the scale, the boss, the lover — you will end up drawn and quartered, and you will have done it to yourself. Conveniently, that is the tortured state in which our society often prefers its women; but we don’t have to help it along, now do we?
Romantic / sexual compatibility is at once highly personal — what could be more personal? — and not personal at all. Remember in High Fidelity when Rob is recounting the top 5 things he misses about Laura? It’s not that she was a radiant Solange-type being who could make him come simply by flicking her eyes down to the spot below his belt. No, he says, “I miss her smell, and the way she tastes. It’s a mystery of human chemistry and I don’t understand it, some people, as far as their senses are concerned, just feel like home.”
The person you were hooking up with was drawn to someone else. Their pheromones were friendly. That’s all. Capitalism wants you to internalize your inferiority and, in a manic attempt to live up to Helen of Troy, buy ten beauty products / weight-loss plans / over-priced accessories.
But, your inner 70-year-old will tell you, in the end the only thing that will help is shrugging and moving on. There are mountains to climb and underwear models to find on the other side whose chemicals will work better with your chemicals. Meanwhile the climbing of the mountains itself will remind you that you can climb mountains, that your strength and resilience and general awesomeness as a human being exists independent of the opinion of any third party.
Illustrator: Liana Finck’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Lilith, Tablet, and The Forward. Her first graphic novel is called A Bintel Brief. Her webcomic, Diary of a Shadow, can be read on her website.
The role of Aunt Acid is played by Brooklyn-based know-it-all Ester Bloom.