ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

I Love You — Because You Won’t Love Me Back

How a rejection feels better than a love confession

Photo by Naomi August on Unsplash

I used to think there was something wrong with me.

None of the boys I adore returns my affections.

Once they do, I somehow have a change of mind, and they don’t seem as appealing to me as they were before.

All of a sudden, the honeymoon phase gets substituted with resentment.

Among my past crushes, only one of them liked me back.

After months of denial, my past crush finally told me how he felt — long after telling me he had no attraction to me.

When he eventually told me he fancied me, I was delighted at first.

Little did I know, my enthusiasm would quickly devolve into disappointment.

He said, “I like pretty women who know what they’re talking about.”

Notice the order of importance: The woman has to be pretty first, and then he’ll consider whether she’s intelligent.

He proceeds by saying, “Dress up for me next time, will you?”

I scoffed.

Another comment that built on my distaste: “You look cute when you act smart. But you’re even cuter when you’re dumb like this.”

By that point, I had already forgotten why I liked him in the first place. And I also realized why I only liked boys who didn’t seem to like me back.

They didn’t see me as a goal, achievement, or object.

The boys who like me prize me on my appearance first and foremost.

Indeed, I’m told by other women to accept the reality of life: Men are visual creatures; there is no arguing with biology.

My most recent crush rejected me.

When he did, I was expecting to feel heartbroken. On the contrary, I felt relief — even happiness.

“Sorry, Celine, you’re a very competent colleague, but…”

You can already predict what comes next. But my brain stopped when he said ‘competent’.

Competent? Not beautiful? That’s a first.

And I was so, so happy.

I liked him so much because he would always praise me based on my competence, not beauty.

If he wanted me romantically, he would’ve viewed me for my beauty — how pleasing I am to the eyes and how ‘presentable’ I looked in his arms.

When I like a guy, the internalized misogynist inside me naturally does things to appeal to the male gaze. My mannerisms become more feminized; I try to doll myself up, smile a certain way, twirl my hair a certain way, and so forth.

This means the boys who like me back are almost certain to do so on that basis. They like me for superficial reasons, partly because I present myself superficially.

I don’t know why I’m like this, but I firmly assert it is not a biological tendency. These actions are learned behaviors because we’ve always been taught to prize ourselves based on how we externally appear.

My brain is split into two.

On the one hand, there is this part of me that perpetually appeals to the male gaze.

When I think about it, internalized misogyny constitutes my entire personality. I am only confident in social situations knowing I am physically attractive.

Even when no one is watching, I behave and dress as if a man were watching. All while thinking it’s just my personality to appreciate beauty and aesthetics.

Instead of treating me like a muse — how the internalized misogynist part of my brain also views me — my recent crush treated me like a fellow artist.

He appeals to the healthier part of my brain; the part of my brain that prides herself in the things she worked hard for.

The healthier part of my brain is harder to cultivate. It requires an acute awareness of unconscious socially manufactured biases on top of the discipline to go against our undesirable habits actively.

I couldn’t like boys who like me back because once a boy views me as a romantic partner, their primary priority is always beauty.

As my male cousin told me,

“A girl could be smart, talented, and accomplished. But if she’s not beautiful, I wouldn’t bother to get to know her in the first place.”

Boys who don’t love me back view me as a friend, colleague, or confidante.

They view me as a comrade instead of an object, human instead of a woman, and an artist instead of a muse.

That’s why the rejection felt infinitely better than the love confession.

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