“I want that plate cleared,” Mom would say, a threat often lobbied to me and my brother growing up, which was like winning an all inclusive package to Hades, where you were never just given the option to consume things a la carte, but in horrible little packages, where a nice bit of chicken was permanently married to a heap of steamed broccoli. They were to go down together, in twos, if you were ever to think of sticking a spoonful of dessert in your mouth. And so you’d down it, the vegetative gristle of the broccoli grinding against your molars, coating your tongue with its unpleasant moss. And I would do it, if for no other reason than to get my mom off my back. Eat your vegetables. There is nothing more ubiquitously traumatic and universally understandable than this phrase.
Only eventually you grow up, and you move out of the house, and your mom isn’t watching you. And yeah, I eat a ton of kale now, but other than that, I do whatever the hell I want, which basically means I spend most of my time making horrible choices. Most all of which are about men.
I’d like to start this with a faux humble “I don’t want to brag,” but that’s bullshit. I do want to brag. And so I’ll just say it: I have one of the most solid groups of dude friends a girl could ever ask for. I’m talking Numero Uno Head Honchos, the types of guys you take home to your mother, the kind that sit next to you while your creepy old dog that no one else wants to touch is dying in the backyard and you’re all sobbing into his sweater and screaming, “Dear Lord, don’t take Toto!” They’ve got jobs, good families, apartments without rats or cockroaches. They take out the garbage, pay most of their taxes, and are generally—with the occasional workweek-induced need to get blackout drunk—upstanding members of society.
Which begs the question: Why don’t I date any of them?
It’s a good question, one that my future therapist will ask me when I get the balls to walk into their office one day and start doing some real emotional heavy lifting (at the present moment I am far too busy to deal with paid-for self-reflection; I do enough of that on the subway listening to Neil Young and crying for free.) But seriously. I have a wealth of great men at my disposal, and I refuse to date any of them.
And here’s why:
I don’t date my friends because fucking your friends is like eating your vegetables. In love, people rarely want what’s good for them. Or maybe they do, but those are the people who have already spent years chasing after the bad stuff and finally broken down, wailing “UNCLE! UNCLE!” into the dark, cold night, trading in their bastard for a businessman. But I’m not there yet—I’m almost there, trust me, but not… quite… yet.
If I had to compare my past romantic proclivities to a food, it would probably be arsenic. Okay, maybe not straight-up poison, but something that almost killed you if you ate enough of it. From the outside it looks palatable—maybe a bruise here, a flesh wound there, just to keep things interesting (perfection is bloody boring). But once you sink your teeth into that motherfucker, some dreadfully sweet juice drips down the back of your throat, cascading into your belly like the most lethal acid. You hobble around the room, begging for death, only to find this thing is really just going to put you out for two weeks and then send you on your way. But you’ll want to die. Oh, yes, you will.
And so here’s where the therapist chimes in, asking again why I would go after these toxic edibles when I have a plate full of clean, organic, perfectly palatable things sitting right in front of me. “BECAUSE F$&KING YOUR FRIENDS IS LIKE EATING YOUR VEGETABLES, LADY,” I yell. “AND BECAUSE I AM A F$&KING MORON.”
Nice dudes will wax philosophic about why girls always go for the assholes. But you boys—oh, you boys love your Madonna/Whore combos… or many times simply cutting the Madonna crap out entirely and just going for the broken-down hoes. Fifty percent of the dudes I have dated love a train wreck. They love the girls they can pull out of bloodied bathtubs (true story), the ones they find overdosed in living rooms (also true) that they can drop off at rehab (again, true). They are Ivy League educated men who want Junior College dropouts that they can fix. Because to fix someone means you are needed. And it means that you think you are doing something noble with your life instead of challenging yourself to do something grander. Meanwhile, they’ve got a coterie of talented, fully, thoroughly enjoyable lady friends that—mehhhh—just don’t do it for them. I might not date the nice guys, but I don’t date the assholes to fill some gaping, insecure, ultimately misogynistic void. I date the assholes because, like I said before, I’m an idiot.
And so here we all are, NOT EATING OUR VEGETABLES. We’re like a bunch of dumb, orphaned kids with no one to regulate us while we sit in front of stacks of hot fudge sundaes, sprinkles in our hair, bananas smashed underfoot, eating and eating and eating until we are sick to our stomachs, practically diabetic. Willingly and knowingly, we all pass our comparatively perfect friends by, greedily holding onto them by avoiding the complications of romance, which is always really just a sharpened axe on an unknown descent. I’m doing us both a favor, I think, while ultimately doing a gross disservice to my emotional wellbeing.
Trust me. I hate myself just as much as you probably hate me after reading this. I deserve every bout of gut-wrenching botulism that comes my way. And you probably do, too. Because nobody, and I mean nobody, really likes to eat their vegetables.
Photo courtesy of SFGate