Fools for Love: Women and Bad Man Choices

by Elisabeth

Over a year ago, a woman we’ll call Karen (because she looked a lot like Karen from The Office) started working alongside me. She was a beauty and we work in a male-dominated industry. It wasn’t long before there were several male colleagues hanging around our desks for no apparent reason. Co-workers would make up excuses to come talk to her. Many of them had never before ventured to my row of cubicles, which was close to the wall. They had no business needs from anyone on my team. But there was steady traffic of them. They’d start up conversations about hockey teams, or offer “help.” Dudes who had never before spoken to me, asked me questions about her: What was she hired for? What is her name? How long has she worked here? Was she married? (she was).  It didn’t matter if they were twice her age or 10 years younger, or married with children, same behavior. None of their efforts seemed marred by the idea that gorgeous women often have a pantheon of men ready to offer them the world, and that there was ample competition. She could have her pick of the litter; and not one guy seemed to care that they didn’t have a fighting chance.


I’ve always wanted to be that girl, but after sitting next to her, any jealous tendencies were quickly squelched. It sucked for her. Conversation was clearly a preamble to whatever dirty idea they had in their mind. None of them was listening to a word she said. She knew it. I knew it.


The thing about Karen was that she knew she had that power, but that’s the only power she knew she had. She was smart and capable, but none of those guys cared about that, or treated her as such. So she relied more on her aesthetic than her work. She once told me that I was the first person that ever called her “intelligent.”


A few nights ago I spoke to one of my amazing girlfriends who’s traveled the world and lived on several different continents. She’s put herself through school, paid it off, and gone back to school to teach at-risk kids. She is also super-hot. Karen-hot. But she has one big Achilles Heel. Her self-worth is highly affected by whether or not she has a man. A break-up a while back hit her pretty hard. Instead of deciding that this dude wronged her (because he did), she’s been plagued with the idea that she did something wrong to lose him. Since he moved on to another chica, she has been trying to date as many dudes as possible and then is further hurt when it doesn’t work out. Her solution to self-empowerment is to lose weight and get in better shape. Sound familiar?


I asked Nick, “WHY is she so distracted by guys? She’s so amazing, why doesn’t she just do her thing and wait for them to come to her? There is nothing wrong with her!”


Women are like that. YOU were like that with Yoga-Guy.”


Ahh yes. Best friends are best friends because they remind you what you’d like to quickly forget. BUSTED. Are women really “like that?” I want to scream NO but there’s definitely something up with us. Some women (myself included) have fallen prey to this debilitating addiction. The question remains why a bunch of office guys are confident enough to chase around a girl like Karen, while amazingly capable and interesting women are consumed with finding “someone.” And when I say “someone” I mean settling for dudes that aren’t interested in them, guys that aren’t that capable or amazing, or at worst: that are just plain jerks.


I think it has a lot to do with self-worth and personal power. My parents never raised me to count on being married or care about being in a couple. They raised me to be an independent woman- so I can’t really blame them. Naturally a lot of us do want to settle down, shack up. It’s natural to want to be close to someone. I- for the longest time- thought that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t make dudes fall in love with me. I thought that women like Karen had gotten it right. I was nothing if I couldn’t be hot.


I devalued my gifts. Seeing firsthand the way girls like Karen get treated made me think that I was missing something (free drinks, offers of “help.”) Except that with Karen, I got to witness how little these dudes valued who she actually was, or the fact that she was married. Also, I didn’t tend to notice all the other guys who were not crowded around her desk. Most of my male colleagues weren’t hovering in my row. They were working as they always do, to no fanfare or parading by our cubicles. The guys at Karen’s desk were a handful out of many, and I was judging dudes based on this sample because they were putting on the biggest show.


Some of us ladies are using guys, and the drama surrounding dating, as a crutch so that we don’t have to do the work on ourselves. It’s easy to think that the ones with the most audacity represent them all. But they are just the ones we choose to see. We’ll do anything not to face our demons. We’d rather criticize our looks and try to lose weight than try to be whole on our own. It seems more controllable that way. We turn it into a race against time, and against each other. We want quantifiable results (I want to be a Karen!) rather than esoteric philosophy (who am I?) The terror of being alone leads us to some pretty bad choices. Choices that distract us from our dream careers. Choices that make us put aside our projects. Choices that make us smaller and smaller and hide our potential from the world.


Fortunately, more and more of us are talking about it. More and more of us are getting dumped by the dude who wasn’t into us anyway and are being left with no choice but to do the hard work. But we, unlike our mothers, have the internet. We have different voices than we’d get from, say, Cosmo, or Ladies Home Journal.


It almost makes me want to write Yoga-Guy an email to say “thank you for dumping me.” Except that the past remains in the past and YG doesn’t deserve the credit. We ladies need to learn to focus on ourselves and take credit where credit is due.