This is a note about a woman who’s been through hell–in love twice, and squashed twice for it. Now, she’s older and wiser and she’s dug through the relationship clutter and dared to give her heart to yet another man. And now he, too, has hurt her.
And of course, this made me think. About people and characters, who both come with a full set of baggage that impacts their lives and shapes the adults they’ve become.
Putting your heart on the line and getting a less than stellar response, of course leads to trudging through the darkest depths. Man, it’s nasty there in that abyss. But men have a way of putting women in that sucker, and, though I lack firsthand experience as a man, I dare to say, we women do it to them, too.
About getting the heart squashed, it’d be easy to respond with a flip, “Men are pigs, and that’s that. But the truth this, they aren’t all pigs. Just 90% of them. And while they make surviving in life toughest, that 90% definitely makes the most interesting and colorful characters. They have more issues, more conflicts, more stuff–and that gives them more to haul around to complicate things in the story.
But in life, it pretty much sucks. Let’s take a look at our guys. The first man we’ll call Greg. Greg was a taker in much the same way as the second man, James. We can’t give either of these guys too much credit as men go because they just haven’t earned it. But women have a way of hooking up with the same kind of Mr. Wrong time after time, so we’ll go with it.
Greg is flighty as hell and wouldn’t know what to do with roots if he was tied up in them. He talks the talk of being a sincere and sensitive guy, but he’s never going to walk the walk. So Greg opts for a good woman who is safe. The fantasy. The woman he can’t have–and that’s the main attraction.
But take Greg to a place in life where he can have the woman–the fantasy–and he chokes. Why? Because he realizes he’ll have to live up to the claims he’d made to the fantasy and he knows he can’t do it. Can’t and won’t. Doesn’t want to do it because that would take more than words. Words are cheap, and easy to spew. But this–this living it–that would take work! Oh, no. No way. It’s so much easier to just talk the talk elsewhere and find a new fantasy woman and not to have to actually be the man he professed to be.
In that, Greg and James were the same. Both takers, talking the talk but never walking the walk. Not actually being the men they professed. One couldn’t be that man because he had personal preferences that directly opposed it, and one wouldn’t be that man because it took work he wasn’t willing to do. The bottom line is that that neither was what they said.
I know. I know. Men today say they want honesty. And that magical 10% does. But these two fell into that sorry 90% group, and they actually want anything BUT honesty.
Both of these men lied. They used and abused. In some ways, they did so in exactly the same manner. Of course, they personalized their squashing, as well, and added other ways, too, just to keep life interesting. Both manipulated and deceived. Both looked out for themselves and used a woman to do it. Both sucked that woman emotionally dry and gave her nothing. Not when it mattered.
And the truth is–and this isn’t the character-creator in me, but the woman who knows women and the extremely high standards I set for heroines, their worth–neither of those two men were fit to touch a heroine’s shoes, much less her feet, and definitely not fit to accept the gift of her heart. I say that with all sincerity, because a heroine needs a hero worthy of her. An equal, not a manipulator or a user who steeps in deception and feeds on lies.
James hurt a woman who adored him deliberately. Greg professed to hate that about him, but did the same thing, just in a different way. James wanted her money, and so did Greg. James took her cash. Greg didn’t ask her for money, but he asked her to share in a business venture where she had expertise and he had none. Her expertise was valuable to him, and Greg wanted it enough to lie for it, making promises he had no intention of keeping and painting rainbows he had no intention of making manifest.
The thing is Greg and James are not typical of all men. Neither of them could commit with an open heart. Neither had pure intentions. Neither really wanted a relationship.
In both cases, these men were involved because they wanted something from the woman. But that something wasn’t a relationship–not in the soul-mate sense of the word. James wanted a legitimate front and money. Greg wanted someone to listen to his tales of woe on the world beating up on him and a woman to release the romantic in him–provided he didn’t actually have to live the part.
What I’m taking a long time to say is this: as men or book characters, both of these guys are interesting. Both are charming and compelling. But they’re not men worthy of a heroine.
A heroine is too good, too honest and too pure for them. She trusts, she respects, she loves. They lie and manipulate and use.
So as hard as it is, a woman can’t keep beating herself up over being squashed by these guys. Yes, she put her heart out there and, yes, it got squashed. Thank God it did. If not, she’d be stuck with the bastards and then she’d really know misery because she’d be living with it every day of her life.
These men weren’t real. They shared only a facade of themselves with the heroine. But they never wanted her to see the core of who they were, or the essence of what they saw in her. They went to great lengths to protect their secrets. Otherwise, their house of cards would tumble and fall.
Remember that: in life and in creating characters.
These men were liars, takers, and users. But they were not monsters. Just men who are screwed up and unwilling to work to fix themselves.
They become a woman’s problem only in that she loves them. But she can’t protect them. She can’t fix them. And she can’t make them face their challenges so that they’re capable of loving.
Neither man is capable, you know. Not really.
The woman. She was real. She was honest, caring, nurturing. She loved them. Even when it was damned hard and took an enormous amount of work, she loved them. That speaks well of her. She was slow to give her heart, but when she did, she meant it. It was pure and she didn’t manipulate or have other, unstated intentions. She simply loved.
And she got hurt. Twice. But not because she didn’t love them enough. And not because anything was wrong with her. Because plenty was wrong with them and they couldn’t love.
Read that again. It’s important.
And now there’s a new man in our heroine’s life. Justin, who is also screwed up enough to be interesting, though in a different way. He’s hurt, he’s angry, he’s frustrated, he’s dissatisfied. He hates his job, hates his ex-wife, hates his life.
Then in comes this heroic woman, and he’s captivated. But he’s so bitter and twisted and caught up in the past that he can’t see the treasure she is for all the fury clouding his eyes.
And so she gently coaxes him, works to help him, is tender and caring and nurturing, giving him his space, but being there if needed.
And he calls when he wishes, does as he wishes, when he wishes. And she’s hurt, as naturally she would be. He ignores her birthday, misses a date or two, comes on strong, and then in a blink, disappears again. What is she to think?
Who wouldn’t be confused? So she gets a rancid message from him that tells her he’s still screwed up and not ready to think about what’s next because he’s wallowing in what’s past. She’s put herself out there this third time, and she’s gotten squashed–sort of–kind of–maybe, which shows his own utter confusion and inability to start anything new because, again, he’s wallowing in the old.
Frankly, he’s probably enjoying the wallow. To tell you the truth, I believe a large part of that 90% of men falls into this position, and wallowing is what they hold on to, to get through totally sucky times in their lives. Everything’s changed for Justin–home, work, life–and he’s just not happy in anything. Misery loves company. Our heroine knows this from James and Greg.
Justin’s admitted he isn’t sure what to feel–he’s so overwhelmed, he hasn’t had a spare second to think about it. Well, that’s honest, and we should give him credit for that. He didn’t lie or feed our heroine a line that he’d have to later deny or live up to. And you know, I’ll bet he really doesn’t know how he feels–and he won’t any time soon. Not unless he gets off his ass and does something to get past bitching and on to fixing.
Our heroine knows exactly what I mean–she’s just done it!
So I say about Justin what I said about James and Greg. She can’t protect him, she can’t fix him, and she can’t make him look ahead rather than behind. He has to choose to do all that on his own, and when he does, who knows whether or not he’ll look in her direction. I wish I could say he will because I know she wants it, but the truth is, even as character-creator, I can’t know because he doesn’t know himself. It’s going to depend on whether or not he grows up.
Yep, grows up. I don’t mean that in a flip sense, but in a mature sense. As in: a) Life ain’t fair, so get over it and live. b) The good guy often gets screwed. c) Just because something should be, doesn’t mean it will be.
There are other mature-minded realities, but those are a few biggies. A guy gets to choose. He can let these things make him nuts or just live and be happy anyway.
That goes for women, too.
Justin isn’t like James or Greg, and that warrants giving him a little more latitude. But it doesn’t give him a free pass. If he tosses out a rancid tirade and follows with a half-ass apology that leaves our heroine hanging somewhere in no man’s land, well, that isn’t exactly an endearing, heroic thing–even if it’s honest.
Regardless, tirades are out of line and no heroine deserves to be on the receiving end of one. Still, even on this, we can cut Justin a little slack because we know he’s screwed up and clawing his way out of the dark holed abyss. But we do so resolved that he’s not going put our heroine into one.
Men are pigs, and that’s that. But only 90% of them. There are the other 10% who are not users and takers and liars and men who are screwed up. There are some who are emotionally healthy and happy–yes, by God, I did say healthy. And they’ve been squashed a time or two–or three, or even more–as well. And they hurt, and they heal.
They’re the kind you want in your life, but not in your books. Flaws in books work–without making you crazy.
There’s no way around it. In life or in books, affairs of the heart are hard stuff. But getting squashed isn’t so bad. It really isn’t. It proves we’ve got guts and courage and that even though we’ve been screwed over, we’ve got the spirit to go for it again and put our hearts out there. The really important part of this is that we do it honestly. Genuinely. With sincerity and respect. And yes, even with love.
Who does that make the real winners?
P.S. If you’re a guy, don’t get offended. Just reverse the sex and change the names to those of women, then switch “heroine” and “hero,” and read this again. Easy enough–and honest. Because in affairs of the heart, 90% of women are pigs, too.
“Trust is earned, one book at a time.”
–Vicki Hinze https://vickihinze.com
Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. 🙂
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Copyright 2005. VickiHinze
(https://www.vickihinze.com), is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life.