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On being sweet.

February 11, 2010

A few months after I began dating Soon-To-Be Ex-Husband, it became clear that what he was looking for was a sweet girl. Someone who’s meek and pleasant and humble and kind. Someone who would never impose her opinions on someone else, even when asked, and certainly not in a way that would ever have the potential to offend anyone under any circumstances. She would never, ever want to do that. She’s a lady.

I recognized that I very much was not this, but, for whatever reason, maybe because I liked STBEH so much, I decided that I wanted to be. That I would be a better person if I were. A better Christian. A better friend. A better girlfriend. And, eventually, a better wife.

So I tried. And tried. And tried. But no matter what I did, my opinions just became more solidified. I became more confident in them. I became more clear-eyed. I became more extroverted. I became more, well, myself. But STBEH didn’t like it. And by this time he had already married me. So he closed himself off to me. And because he closed himself off to me, I closed myself off to him. Not consciously, or on purpose. It’s just what happens when who you are, who you are becoming, is rejected by the one person who’s supposed to love you most in the world, the one person who’s supposed to love absolutely everything about you. Cherish it, even.

I was not cherished. I was backed away from. I was held at arm’s length. I was something to be feared.

And you know how the story goes. I found someone who did cherish me. Who saw the good and bad things about me and embraced all of them wholly and lovingly. I didn’t have to be sweet, I realized. I could be myself, and that could be a wonderful thing in and of itself. I loved this person this way too. And it seemed like a miracle for a while. But he was also married. With several children. It would not work out, however much we wanted it to, however beautiful our love, however miraculous our pure acceptance of each other. Though I hope we were both restored a little bit, even in the midst of all that pain. I think we were.

That love, the love I never knew existed but hoped with all my heart it did, the love I’ve come to realize I should never accept any substitutes for, NO ONE SHOULD, showed me that STBEH would never love me that way. So I made the very difficult decision to leave.

NYEG and I are still talking on the phone every night. These conversations last usually about an hour and a half and cover a myriad of topics ranging from the utterly shallow and the very mundane–the weather, what we’re going to do this weekend together, our dogs and our days–to the deep, scary, secret stuff of intimacy. Our fears. Our desires. Our memories. Our hopes. Occasionally I say something in these conversations that causes NYEG to observe aloud, “you’re so sweet.” He doesn’t necessarily mean it to be complimentary; it’s just a fact, and it’s drawing him closer to me. It’s a fact that he clearly likes very much.

But the word “sweet” sets a loud, whooping alarm off in my head. I don’t want him to think I’m sweet. I don’t want him to be attracted to sweet. And, mostly, I don’t want to BE sweet.

So I tried to counter his exclamations of “sweet” by telling him stories of how rough and tumble I’ve been known to be. Like that one time I almost got in a fight with a drunk guy and his girlfriend at a Ben Folds concert because he WOULD NOT stop rubbing his disgusting frat-boy body against my ass. I recounted to NYEG how I put my arm on this guy’s chest, pushed him away from me, and told him to back the fuck off. And how he started yelling about how I was touching him, and then his girlfriend showed up yelling obscenities that made my ears bleed, and I turned my focus to her and said, “EXCUSE ME?!” And then the situation was diffused by the other members of the crowd, because, seriously, Ben Folds, guys, let’s just mellow out and enjoy the music.

I wasn’t sure this story made much of an impression, though. NYEG laughed a little, probably at the idea of me and all my 120 pounds trying to take on a drunk guy and his girlfriend, and we moved on. And the “sweet”s continued.

Finally, two nights ago, after he observed my sweetness aloud AGAIN, I stopped and said, “I am NOT sweet.” And he laughed again, perhaps because he thought I was being humble, which is a defining characteristic of sweet, and said, aw, of course I am. So I asked him how he defines sweet.

He said I’m a sweet person because I’m kind and thoughtful, and though I don’t really hold anything back, I do it in a gentle way, because the last thing I would want to do is hurt someone I care about. Or, really, hurt anyone. So I’m sweet, but in an unrefined, non-saccharine way, kind of like, maybe, sugar cane. You know, the kind they have to burn fields down in order to grow.

This sufficed.

And now he calls me his “sweet sugar cane.”

I kind of like him.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2010 10:32 pm

    I think I might be the original definition of sweet. I hope we can still be friends? 🙂

  2. kindred spirit permalink
    February 11, 2010 11:45 pm

    Being true to yourself makes you sweet and attractive. So you are. Continue to be true to yourself. Always. You have grown much. And will continue to do so. Glad things are much better for you. Enjoy the times of joy. Relish the good feelings. Know they are because of you and not others. Blessing to you.

  3. February 12, 2010 11:05 am

    I can definitely relate to this. With my last long-term relationship I saw these examples of good Christian women and I wanted so badly to be meek and mild and I don’t think that was ever part of my make-up. Now I’m with someone who challenges me but loves me completely and even though we fight and argue I will take the passionate ups and downs over the steady and mild any day.

  4. February 13, 2010 4:08 pm

    I really identify with this too. I had such a hard time as a teenager because wonderful publications like Brio made me think that I needed to be a “sweet Christian girl” but I just couldn’t figure out how to do that with my raging sex hormones and tendency to indulge them. What I feared most about college was being around so many of these sweet Brio girls, fortunately I ended up on a hall freshman year with many other imperfect, authentic, and truly accepting ladies. My religious and political views have changed SO MUCH in the last 3 years, fortunately the husband has changed too, and accepts my new views. He grew up completely unaware of Brio and the “sweet Christian girl” stereotype, thank you Presbyterian church!

  5. February 24, 2010 3:42 pm

    I’m getting antsy for a new post…

  6. February 24, 2010 5:08 pm

    me too! (getting ansty)

  7. May 11, 2010 4:21 pm

    Ugh, I can so relate to being thought of as sweet.

    And the concert push? I have totally done that. Freaked everyone out. They thought I was sweet.

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