Note: this piece tackles some stuff about femininity, womanhood, and ‘worth’. I do not believe that any of the things I say about ‘good girl points’ are true and I don’t encourage you to believe or internalise them. But as with all weird notions, sometimes you have to state it to slate it, so I’m allowing myself to be a bit more open about the dark beliefs that power a lot of my decisions, especially in light of some Twitter discussion I’ve seen about why you shouldn’t just keep trying to be ‘good’ and ‘liked’ all the time. Rest assured I’m working on these things.
The other day, at about 11pm, a guy offered to walk me to the train station. We’d been having a lovely evening together – eating dinner that he’d cooked for me because he knows it’s one of my favourites, watching a weird film that we’d chosen together because he cares about my opinion, then enjoying a teasing blow job because when we started getting horny I specifically requested that he let me be ‘playful’ for a bit. It was fabulous. I felt very content. Very… what’s the word? Very heard. Valued. Appreciated. But when it came time for me to head home, he offered to walk me to the station, and this objectively kind gesture made me deeply uncomfortable.
I instinctively bristle at the idea of men doing nice things for me. Why is that? I’m in therapy at the moment, so I’m being encouraged to examine these ideas. Annoyingly, one of the things I usually discover when I dig a bit deeper is that I have a cocktail of extremely clichéd hangups about men, and relationships, and the ways in which those things might fit within my life. Fundamentally, just as I feel when men try to give me head without achieving any pleasure of their own, one of my top priorities is ensuring that I am never any trouble. I don’t want men to go out of their way for me. I’d prefer to just sort my own needs out myself, and otherwise do as I’m told, hopefully gaining approval for being a ‘good girl’ (which I can broadly define as ‘someone who does exactly as expected and demands nothing in return’). When it comes to expressing my needs or saying ‘yes’ when people offer to help me, I freak out. I don’t want anyone doing anything nice specifically for me, especially if that nice thing costs them effort, time or money.
In the case of the walk home, I laughed his offer away and told him not to bother. Made a joke about how I’d never been murdered walking home in the dark before. Concerned by the ‘murder’ joke, he started to put his shoes on as if he intended to come with me anyway, and I had to scramble to reassure him that I’d be fine.
At no point during any of this exchange did it occur to me to wonder whether it might be, you know, nice. To be walked to the station! To have company on a dark, cold night rather than just slam in my headphones and stomp down the pavement firing off ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibes, occasionally getting panicky if a stranger walked too closely behind me. Maybe it would be nice to have someone by my side? Nice to pretend, even if only briefly, that I’m the kind of woman for whom a guy is willing to put on shoes and step out into the cold.
How much love and care does one person deserve?
Why do I not believe that I deserve the kind of care that might cause a man to walk me to the station? I don’t think it’s that I don’t want it: I do want it. Desperately. I want to be the kind of person for whom someone is willing to go to a bit of trouble. I want to inspire the men who like me to do nice things for me. And yet as soon as it looks like they are willing to do it, I instinctively tell them no. I shoo the offer away like it’s a poisonous spider. I run off to the station on my own, headphones in, stomping down the pavement like a woman who is strong and independent and doesn’t need anyone else. I don’t even allow myself to entertain the notion that it might be nice, because that way lies wishing and wishing will always lead to disappointment.
If you catch me on a bad day I’ll tell you I don’t think I’m the sort of woman for whom men like doing nice things. And that’s broadly true. Even the nicest men do still have some residual societal-implanted hangups about women who enjoy sex/take it up the arse/will fuck on the first date/wear jeans and walking boots instead of skirts and heels – broadly these things disqualify me from the cute/caring gestures that other women earn by virtue of their… femininity? Beauty? Value?
I like who I am, and I could no more become more feminine than I could wake up tomorrow morning and run a marathon. It’s fine. But I do still long for similar levels of respect and care and kindness that I see men dispensing to other women. More than once a guy who I have dated/shagged has spoken to me about another woman he’s seeing and let slip that, with her, he’s paid for a taxi if she stays late at his house. Or he’s planned a romantic/sexy evening ‘just because’ without her prompting. Or stepped outside his comfort zone to do something wild because she asked him to. All things that this or that guy would never have dreamed of doing for me. And every time I hear this I think… hmm… what am I doing wrong? What could or should I have done (or become) to earn this?
I feel pathetic even admitting that I long for this kind of thing. Like a teenage girl hoping to be asked to dance at the school disco, I desperately want men to say ‘let me get you a taxi – it’s late/dark/cold’ or ‘I planned a surprise for your birthday, keep this date free’. Yet on the few occasions when men do offer to do this stuff I bat them away. These cute gestures are simultaneously deeply desirable yet also abhorrent and frightening.
That night, when this dude offered to walk me to the station, I was so taken aback that I immediately turned it down. I then worked pretty hard to put on a reassuring/jokey mask when he seemed determined to follow through, at no point stopping to consider what I actually wanted. It might have been nice to be walked to the station, but I was terrified of being any trouble. In that moment the potential for getting mugged seemed infinitely less frightening than the possibility that I might ask this man who cared about me to do something that would cost him effort and time.
It’s not the end of the world, I like walking to the station. I like being independent. I am extremely used to dealing with life on my own, and not having to rely on a man to keep me safe from potentially getting mugged in central London at 11pm. But do I genuinely enjoy these things? Or have I just convinced myself that I do because I don’t believe I’m the sort of person who will ever truly earn this kind of care?
I’m saving my good girl points, OK?
Having thrown this idea around in my head for a while, I think the reason I tend to reject offers like this is because I believe that the care and compassion that might flow from men towards me (specifically from men, and specifically to me) is not only finite but aggressively limited. I might earn a bit of praise occasionally, or a cosy night in where he listens to me talk about work for a while even though he finds that boring, or even maybe a meal out or an invite to a gig… but ultimately I have less inherent value than other, better (prettier, more feminine, less slutty, quieter, smaller) women.
There’s another guy who keeps offering to send me donuts when I’m sad. The offer always makes me feel happy and valued, and occasionally I let myself imagine what it might be like to say ‘yes’. I enjoy revelling in the brief burst of warmth that comes from picturing a world in which I ate a donut that a man had sent from miles away purely to cheer me up. And then, of course, I say ‘no.’ Because I don’t want him to spend money on me. Don’t want him to think me the sort of woman who expects someone to spend money on her. I physically cringe at the fucking audacity I apparently have to even dream of saying ‘yes’! I need this guy to understand that I know my place. I know who and what I am. It’s important that I acknowledge this and act accordingly because (so the logic seems to go), later down the line if I do ask him for something – “I’m sad and I need a hug” – he’ll see that I have all these good girl points in the bank to spend on buying his care when I desperately need it. Don’t want to waste my points on donuts now, when I might need a listening ear later!
There’s a strong idea sitting in my heart that if I say ‘no’ to enough offers then one day I’ll have saved up the points to ask for something that matters. If I avoid being any trouble to someone today then tomorrow, when I really need them, they’ll be there for me. If I watch the box sets he wants to watch, and stay in when I’d prefer to go out… if I do all the housework and try not to cry when he doesn’t ask me how I am at the end of the day… if I pay my own way for everything even though he earns much more than I do… if I am a good girl, a really good girl, a seriously fucking good girl… if I’ve been ‘no trouble’ nearly every single day… then eventually on the bad days when someone I love is in the hospital or work is collapsing or I’m having a mental health crisis… then I can cash in my good girl points and buy the love when I really need it. Say ‘please hold me and look after me. I haven’t asked for much until now, but now it’s really necessary.’
When I reject a man’s offer of a walk to the station, or donuts, or dinner and a show, or to lend me money or listen to my woes… it’s not that I don’t want him to do it, it’s that I believe I will only ever earn a limited amount of goodwill/kindness/care from men, and I don’t want to waste the small amount I’ve got on something as frivolous as being walked to the train station. It’s not that I don’t believe I am worthy of love, it’s that I believe men have a limited amount of love they are willing to give to someone like me. I would rather save it for when I need it most.
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking does not make a great foundation on which to build intimate relationships. Because life isn’t a Tesco Clubcard – you don’t get to store up your points. You just train the people who matter out of offering you nice things, because eventually even the loveliest person gets bored of hearing ‘no’.
Good girls don’t get prizes: they get partners who respond well to someone who is undemanding and quiet and ‘no trouble’. These partners aren’t usually adding up all the times you’ve said ‘no thank you’, just waiting for their moment to dispense a bigger reward. The people who respond well to this weirdly defensive behaviour are the ones who – when the big things roll around and you suddenly admit ‘I need you’ – will be shocked that the woman who usually asks for nothing has suddenly turned into such a demanding bitch.
It might be nice to be with someone who wants to put the effort in, though, right? To date a man who doesn’t think that my needs are unreasonable and demanding. Maybe in order to find this man, first I need to pay attention to the guys who believe I’m worth putting shoes on for at 11pm on a cold winter night.
It might be nice to be walked to the station. And one day perhaps I’ll say ‘yes.’
Not yet though! Hahahahaha! If you’re dating me, please don’t worry: I will still continue to say ‘no’ for at least a couple of years, so feel free to offer because the offer in itself is nice and makes me happy. And even if I do say ‘yes’, you’re always welcome to change your mind if you realise it’s raining.
Also, there’s a fun addendum to this story: this same guy was at my place a couple of weeks after, and I offered to walk him to the bus stop. He just went ‘yeah that’d be great’ without any of this bullshit, and I got to snog him while we waited for the bus to come and it was lovely. As I say, nothing I say about ‘good girl points’ is factually true or reflective of the things men I care about believe, it’s just something that sits in my own brain, spoiling fun I might otherwise have. It’s embarrassing to admit that I feel this way, especially because my rational brain can recognise the flaws even if my emotional core can’t shake them off. But I’ve been doing this sex blogging thing for so many years that the fucky stuff no longer seems taboo – the things I am actually ashamed of have nothing to do with anal or kink, and far more to do with this.