|Archie married Veronica.|
Having had a rather exciting and varied, if ill-paid and sometimes painful, adult life, I can now see what was going on in my teenage brain and how certain distressing tendencies had begun to emerge. The one that I have just pinpointed is co-dependence, even though there were no alcoholics or irresponsible people in my family who needed constant rescuing.
Co-dependence, to give a very quick definition, is being hooked on someone else's need for rescue from their own addictions and/or bad behaviour and/or lousy choices. And unfortunately my first friendships with men began with a guy who desperately needed help with an essay. Our relationship began with me calling him to say "Berig said you called me a [w]itch" and him replying, "No, I said Simone de Beauvoir was a [w]itch. Stefanie says you're a genius. Can you help me with my essay?"
I was already a sucker for anyone who told me I was a genius, which I did not yet know. And I definitely did not know that even semi-attractive men saying "Can you help me?" was a one-way ticket to Crushville. This is one reason why, in case anyone is wondering, I never help men with their academic work for free. The second reason is that clever men don't really like it when women help them with their academic work for free. I am not sure why that is so, but it is so. The third reason is that some men take advantage--give the proverbial inch and they take the proverbial mile. Therefore, any man who wants my help has to pay me the market rate or help me with MY academic work in return.
As I screw up my courage to keep on reading about Teenage-Self-as-Paradoxically-Egotistical-Doormat, I am asking myself why I feel so warmly towards men who ask for my help--and indeed I retain fond feelings for every man who has sent me articles or PhD chapters for editing--even when, as in this high school example, the men are almost hysterical.
I suspect that it's that I am somehow needed, and--to the hysterical--even necessary. Wanting to feel needed and necessary can be a terrible addiction, especially when you think you are neglected by men. I once--in high school--deliberately put myself in a crush object's way when I knew he'd be in despair over an assignment. I thought I was very clever, and in one way, that was rather clever for a girl who was otherwise so dim about boys, but really I was setting myself up for rejection. Woe.
The other reason, of course, is the television heroine's fictional problem of being loved for her looks, not her mind. At least, I think I came across this on television, possibly through a movie or movies. "I hate my beauty! I want to be loved for my mind!" wails the beautiful woman to her bewildered suitor/husband/boss. Being loved for your mind was held out as this amazing thing, and the idea that this is WAY better than being loved for your looks was very attractive to my awkward teenage self.
Naturally, it's nonsense. Men are visual. What hooks them first is what you look like. Fortunately, they have a lot more variety in their tastes than we generally give them credit for. As you may have noticed, men fall madly in love with the oddest looking women all the time. I would bet real money that these women resemble the men's kindly kindergarten teacher in some way. Unless they think you are pretty (which very often has nothing to do with what Vogue thinks is pretty), you can have the most amazing mind, and they will never be attracted to you in that way. Sorry. Fortunately, just being happy and confident makes you look a bit like everyone's kindly kindergarten teacher, so there's hope.
However, I did not know this for years and years, so I honestly thought I could win love by helping boys with their work, even though they were attracted to a completely different type of girl, and it's embarrassing. I'm only telling you in the hopes that 1. I save some girl the humiliation of discovering the truth the hard way and 2. someone writes in to say they used to think that too.
Oh, and since I am on the subject, unless you are married to him or he is an ancient relative or he is deathly ill, never do a grown man's chores for him. Don't cook for him, clean his apartment, do his laundry, rake his leaves, walk his dog or shovel his snow. If he asks, you can water his plants and feed his cat while he's away, but that's it. Otherwise he will think of you as some kind of maid. And you might start feeling more fond of him than he deserves.
Update: I see in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9, that Hermione refuses to help Ron with his History of Magic essay. Good girl!