I went to a birthday party for a friend last night. A large birthday party. With lots of people. I was terrified and had a couple meltdowns before leaving the house, but I made it there and got through the whole evening without having an anxiety attack. Woohoo!
For the most part, it was delightfully uneventful. I chatted with people, I mingled, I remembered to let other people talk. I felt pretty okay.
There was this one interesting moment, though, that showed me how much I’ve changed in recent years.
It was pretty crowded and there were only two servers, and they were on top of it. I mean, they were both working their asses off and doing a great job.
There was this man who was also a guest at the party who was rather attractive, and I picked up on a little interest from him. I wasn’t terribly interested, but I didn’t want to be rude.
I did that dance we all know, where one tries to be vaguely polite without giving any signals a man might misinterpret as leading him on.
The man had seated himself next to me at a table while I was talking to people on my other side. I was ready to get up and go mingle a little more.
I’d asked one of the servers for another beer and was already waiting for it when the man sat down. Thus, whenever one of the servers came near, I was looking at them a bit eagerly, just hoping they had my beer for me. I knew they hadn’t forgotten it and everything was fine, but I was looking for it.
The man saw that I was looking at the servers whenever they came by and took it upon himself to wave a server over. He rudely said, “EXCUSE ME. She’s waiting on a beer here,” about me. As though I had been complaining about the service.
I was mortified. That poor server, busting her ass to take care of all of us, and doing it so well… it was so incredibly uncalled for.
In that moment of total mortification, I realized how much I’ve changed since before meeting the Narcissist.
I knew the man had reminded the server about my beer order to take care of me and be kind. I knew his intentions were good.
I knew he hadn’t meant to embarrass me. I DIDN’T CARE. I didn’t like the way he spoke to the server and I didn’t at all like that he assumed I needed help.
More importantly, I didn’t in any way feel I owed him my person because he wanted to be kind to me. I didn’t feel like his interest in me obligated me in any way beyond basic decency.
I was reminded of so many times in my past where a man has done something that I didn’t like, something that rubbed me the wrong way, that turned me off to them. I remember the people I knew at the time telling me what the man had meant by it.
“Well, maybe he just…”
As if a man’s mindset should make me want to date him, regardless of his behavior.
This man tried to be nice. I appreciate that he’s a person who wants to be nice to people.
But you know what? I didn’t think what he did was all that nice, regardless of his intent.
In my head, I imagined telling this story and people around me saying things like, “Awww, well that’s just one little thing that he did. Maybe if you’d talked to him more you would have liked him?”
I realized how many times in my teens and 20s I was surrounded by people who said things like that whenever I was annoyed by something someone I was dating did.
“Just give him a chance.”
“Don’t give up on him so easily.”
“He seems to really like you, isn’t this something you can see past?”
Again and again and again, until I learned not to trust my gut instinct, and to keep relationships going with guys that I didn’t actually think were all that good for me.
Now I see what was really going on. What the people I knew back then were saying to me was,
“I don’t think you deserve better.”
“You should be happy with what you’ve got.”
“Not many men are going to like you so you should appreciate this one.”
It took many years, and a few very painful “friend breakups,” for me to wind up with good, supportive, kind people around me who want me to associate with people who are also kind and good.
The friends I have now would hear that story from last night and respond with, “What the hell? Does he think you aren’t capable of ordering a beer for yourself?” And rightfully so.
Those voices, those old voices, were in my head for far too long. I’m sure it’s part of the reason why I kept forgiving the Narcissist, and trying so hard to see the good in him.
Last night, I realized how different I am now than I used to be. Once upon a time, I would have been thrilled by this man’s attention. I would have thought it marvelous that he was being attentive towards me and fighting my battles in my place.
I would have forgiven him for being rude to someone, and become completely absorbed by his attention instead. I would have told myself, “That’s too bad that he’s a bit unaware, but that’s so sweet that he’s trying to take care of me.” I probably would have exchanged numbers with him and agreed to have dinner with him sometime.
Now, though, I forgive him and, while misguided, I do think he was trying to be sweet. But I didn’t flirt with him. I didn’t engage in conversation after that incident. He might be a very nice guy and he might not have meant anything by it, but he’s not the guy for me.
I’m a changed person now, because of my relationship with the Narcissist. I don’t make the same allowances for people that I used to.