|This is a picture of me winning - that girl with the perfect profile is one of my best friends... None of this would be possible without her.|
I first released this post in series form, because it seemed too long to post all at once. Then I realized that was kind of annoying, so now that they are all out there, I decided to release them as one very, very long post.
Lots of love,
I am constantly amazed by how lucky I am to have the female friends that I do. Somehow, I managed to acquire a truly remarkable set of them - each one more impressive, fun, and gorgeous than the next. Not only are they stunning - they are also brilliant, compassionate, funny and interesting. They have profoundly interesting jobs, sparkling conversational skills, exceptional dance moves, and killer style. I feel humbled and honored to know them, to be included in their activities and invited to their homes. Their visits inspire me, carry me through hard times, and keep me going when I think I cannot make it through another day. They are the reason I am a feminist - proud to be a girl, comfortable in myself, able to be open and raw.
But not all girls are like this. Some of them compete with each other. They make themselves bigger by trying to make other . I'm often reminded of the line from one of the classics of my youth - Drive Me Crazy - "When guys compete it's overt, ringing a bell with a sledgehammer or luggie chucking, the size of your engine or whatever. When girls compete, it's art. And Alicia, she's an artist." Melissa Joan Hart is of course describing her wicked BFF, the scheming/lying/sexually aggressive character who tells the star basketball player's girlfriend that he's in a cult to end their relationship so she can have him for herself.
Watching this movie again as an "adult" felt too contrived and vicious to be real. The plot mechanism of a charming, ABC Family movie from the last century. The sad truth is that it exists as a cinematic trope because it happens. Women do nasty things to other women.
My father-in-law gifted me with the most amazing book for xmas. I wish I had been so precise about documenting the outfits/shoes I wore to each chemo. Most of all, the very real fears and struggles of going through cancer while in a new, exciting romantic relationship with a much sought after man. A man, much like my own, who has girls throwing themselves at him constantly.
Chapter 3: The Ultimate Betrayal
So I had cancer. It was really hard. Choosing to go so public with my diagnosis and my experiences was overall such a positive experience. It was like I was a thirsty woman in the desert and sharing my story turned on this amazing faucet of love, positive energy, support, attention and everything else I needed to get me through the nightmare that is being 29 and having breast cancer. The end.
If only life was like that, it would be so wonderful. But of course it's not. Life is nasty and hard. Just when you think you can't handle anymore, something else comes along to show you just how strong and resilient you truly are.
The hubs is a much more private person than I am. Since sharing my story is also sharing his story, it's just another reason he's such a saint. I think given the choice he would've shouldered the burden of my diagnosis with stoic, waspy silence. His boho, hippie, diarrhea-mouthed writer of a girlfriend didn't give him an option. Everyone knew I was sick. Everyone who knew him knew that he was standing by me, even though I tried to respect his privacy but not writing about him too often.
Is there anything hotter than a guy who stays by his (new) girlfriend's side during a cancer diagnosis? As if he wasn't perfect enough, he was also a truly good human.
So, let's review. Dena has cancer. Everyone knows that she's sick. She's blogging about it on the reg, getting some traffic, getting to write for some amazing publications, her boyfriend by her side. Everyone knows they are staying together, that they are living together while she goes through chemo.
Seems like the perfect time to send him a text message and hit on him, right?
Let's set the scene.
Bald headed, pukey Dena is lying in bed next to hubs. It's a random weeknight. Suddenly his phone pings. All she can see is a text message that takes THREE screen swipes. That's a lot of text for a text. Hubs seems confused.
Who is it? Dena says. "It's her." he replies.
I know who her is, she of the late night texts and amazing disappearing acts. I've never met her, but I know who she is. I've seen all the texts she's sent him during our relationship.
I wish I had saved a screenshot, but I was too angry to do anything but cry and force him to delete it.
I will have to paraphrase it here:
Hey, you. Congratulations on your beautiful girlfriend and . She seems amazing, talking so publicly about being sick. I think you are amazing for staying with her. It seems like your life is about to get super tough and awful taking care of her. You are incredible for putting up with how terrible it's about to get. I just want you to know that if you ever left her, I would understand and I would be here for you. Like HERE for you, like sexually available to be your wife. I think you are the best guy ever and way too good to waste your life on a sick girl, and I don't want you to forget about me or the fact that you have other options besides staying with her. Did I already mention how horrible it's going to be for you taking care of her while she goes through this? xoxo
Time for a flashback. I tried to end things with hubs several times during all of this. Privately, secretly, I cried as I told him I loved him too much to subject him to this. I clung to him, then pushed him away. The fertility preservation hormones made me crazy. Then I lost my hair and fell apart. It was so hard. I knew how noble, how truly good he was, and that he would never abandon anyone who needed him.
I needed him so badly, but I was also full of pride. I didn't want to be with someone who only wanted to be with me because he was too ashamed to leave. He was a good guy. Good guys don't leave their girlfriends because they have cancer. I checked in with him constantly, assured him regularly that I would defend his decision to leave me with every public breath in my body. Acted awful to try to drive him away. None of it worked. He loved me, too.
Slowly it became too exhausting to feed that much self doubt. I trusted him. I loved him. He loved me. Life was making things hard enough without me trying to make things harder. We just worked. He was there for me in every way I needed to and in exchange, I gave up trying to push him away and let him love me. Let him take care of me. Let him be the good guy he was, my good guy. Maybe possibly my soulmate. It wasn't how normal people figure out if they are meant to spend their lives together, but it was how we did it. Slowly the ugly, "noble" monster who wanted to spare him from this cancer nightmare was wilting inside of me.
Then this text message came and it was like being hit by a car. While on chemo.
Of course I knew there were other girls who wanted him. Of course he could find someone easier, healthier to love. Of course taking care of someone with cancer, who you love, watching them suffer and being rendered totally helpless, is awful. Nothing she said was not true. Hell, I had been thinking it on repeat for months.
Who was I to deserve this amazing guy? I was so many awful things: bald, sick, helpless, fatter than ever, a hormonal mess. If people are checklists, I was winning at losing.
But to see it, written there, a proposal, from another woman... It made me furious.
How. Dare. She.
Where is the ? I have FREAKING CANCER... Using that as an excuse to steal away MY BOYFRIEND. Of all the nasty, crappy, horrible things to do to another woman.
|reenactment of the horrible text*|
How. Dare. She.
DEEP BREATH. LOUD VOICE.
I was shocked. I felt like the ugly "noble" monster inside of me was just thrown a big fat juicy steak. She was growing, banging angrily against the cage inside of me where I locked her. I wanted to lash out at Hubs, punish him for being so desirable.
But of course, it wasn't his fault. This was another challenge from the universe to teach me that I can control absolutely nothing. Except how I reacted. That was mine.
My anger at this violation of the reared up inside of me. I knew her behavior was abominable. That my hubs was too good of a man to be with a woman who could throw me under the bus like that. I was not threatened by her - I was only threatened by my own monsters: insecurity, fear and the worst one, the one that eats my gratitude.
Hubs could love me, could see how viable and amazing I was. It was time that I did, too.
I would not let this poor creature drag me down. I would only pity her and then let it go. I would count my own blessings, instead of hers. I would channel my anger into a fire that would scorch my insecurities out of me until all that was left was space for more love.
So I made a very bitchy list.
Here's what I had that she didn't:
I had the strength to know that cancer was not my fault. It wasn't something I could control. Being a nasty, competitive clinger who went after other people's men was something she could control. She chose not to. Points: Dena
I had friends who would never let me send a text message like that. Who would protect me from my own big mouth and the seeming ease of communication that is the ill-advised late night text message. This girl had nobody taking care of her, had nobody saying - "You are the villain in this story. This is not you offering a comforting friendship to a guy going through something hard. This could be screenshot and put on the internet. Give me that phone." I did. Points: Dena
I know that this is not the kindest, most positive thing I have ever written. I know this poor girl would be ashamed if I outed her, something I would never do. I know she's in a relationship now, that years have passed and I am happily, blissfully, confidently married.
But this sad reality has haunted me. Why do women compete over love? Why do they let romantic love bring out a part of them that allows them to tear into other women? Who's truly winning with this behavior?
If we all strived to be the best versions of ourselves, celebrated each others triumphs, relished each others happiness and bolstered each other where would we be? If we didn't let subtle, petty manipulations suck dry our energy, feed our insecurities and weaken us, what could we accomplish?
, as I have taken to calling it here, is just a kind of morality that says that we will feed the beast inside of us that gives instead of taking. That grows us bigger when we can be the person growing other people bigger.
Over time my anger at this girl turned to pity, then understanding and finally hope. Yes, I "won" but what I really won is not my husband - it's my friends. The girls I have the pleasure of knowing, who form the network of love and support that enable me and hubs to have such a full and happy life. Who hold me to a higher standard of morality, enforce in me the desire to be less competitive and more supportive of each other. Without them, there is no winning.
Let's bring back the . Are you with me?