January 16, 2014
If you’re just now acquiring access to the internet (congrats!), you may not have heard of Katie Heaney. She just published a book called Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date. She is someone who’s never had a boyfriend, a steady hookup, or anything beyond a first kiss. If you are someone who identifies with Katie Heaney because you have trouble with your love life, my advice to you is this:
Stop identifying with Katie Heaney. Like, right now.
This is not a book review, as I have not read the entire book, although there are more than enough excerpts going around online to give a clear enough idea of what it is (assuming the publisher is not into gross misrepresentation). It’s also not an indictment of those of you who are single, whether you choose to be or not. Singleness, or lack thereof, really doesn’t say much about a person. What this is about is her attitude, and the attitude of many others like her, and why it keeps those people single despite their desire to not be.
One of the longer excerpts I found was at the Huffington Post, she shares the following from the book’s introduction, regarding her friend:
“Lighthouse people are beacons that call all the sailors in ships back to land, beckoning them in toward the light. Lighthouse people are magnetic and luminescent, so much so that even when one sailor manages to row all the way to land and climbs up into the lighthouse, the rest of the sailors will stay out there on the water, waiting for their chance to come to shore…. I am not a lighthouse.”
She acknowledges that this is not how lighthouses work, so I’ll give her a break there. But it’s fitting that this comes at the beginning of the book, because it really sets the tone for the rest of it. This idea of impotence, powerlessness, luck, destiny, or whatever you want to call it permeates throughout the rest, and it’s a big, steaming pile of horseshit. It may not be why she’s always been single, but it says a lot about why she’s remained that way.
This idea of “sitting around and waiting for good things to happen” is very, very popular with people my age. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, but in dating it’s always some iteration of “I want someone to love me for who I am.” That, friends, is bullshit. No one loves anything for what it is on its own. I don’t love my golf clubs because they’re nice, I love them because they help me hit the ball the way I want to. I don’t love a movie because it’s an excellent piece of cinema, I love it because it entertains me. When it comes to people, you don’t love a guy because you think he’s a pretty neat fella. You love someone because of what they mean to you; how you complement each other. As people, we value other people for what they can provide, and vice versa. That's why a relationship is between two people, not just you and yourself.
The reason Katie Heaney chose to write a book about the literal absence of anything happening in her life, I suspect, is though she’s almost cripplingly self-aware, she somehow misses this point. The book is basically a compilation of short stories, each of them an account of an unrequited crush. Much in the way a guy will become “invested” in a girl after he’s taken her out on several dates, Katie gets “invested” in guys she’s hardly met by creating entire lives together with them in her head. For instance, read this gem:
“So we pulled up chairs to the group (where two other students we knew sat, thankfully) and introductions went all around, and he said, ‘Me and Katie are practically old friends. We had orientation together, do you remember?’ And I was a goner from there on out. He said my name in a way that put us in a pair.”
After you read a few of these, you start to realize something about Katie Heaney (and likely any friend you have who might have similar stories to tell): Katie Heaney is not single because she’s “not a lighthouse.” Katie Heaney is single because she manages to fuck up just about every social interaction she has with a man, when she has them at all.
That quote was from a long, needlessly wordy story about a guy named “Spruce” (because he’s tall, get it?), in which she essentially describes a guy who appears to like her, asks her on several dates, and then finally winds up dating someone else. Why? Is it because he’s a jerk, or his intentions weren’t clear, or because Katie refused to capitalize on the opportunities she had to open herself up to being touched, or kissed (that one. It’s that one.)? No, it’s because she “isn’t sure of how to go out on a date.” Another popular explanation for her singleness, usually offered by her friends, is that she’s “too picky.”
Dismissing her failure at something she believes she’s been trying very hard at as due to “not being a lighthouse” or “bad luck” or “pickiness” is ridiculous, pure and simple. It’s a deflection from the truth, a verbal absolvement of all responsibility that still somehow invites empathy, and it’s why so many people remain oblivious to why they’re single. It’s not unreasonable, considering we’ve been coached our whole lives to believe we can do no wrong, but it’s not helpful. At no point does she say “Wow, I really boned that one, but at least I didn’t do it again,” at least not as far as I’ve read (you can read like half the book on Amazon). Instead, she follows the much-traversed favorite path of so many 20-somethings:
Step 1: Something doesn’t go your way (the horror!)
Step 2: Determine that it’s something else’s fault, ideally a factor beyond your control
Step 3: Call your dipshit friends to receive blind affirmation of your lack of fault
That, in a nutshell, is what keeps so many people from getting laid, getting a boyfriend or whatever their goal is. All of that hemming and hawing, all of that energy spent finding a way to blame anyone but yourself for your failures, is worth fuck-all in the long run. Remember when the Head Betches posted about getting ghosted by a guy, when they said “probably 50% of the time, it was your fault?” How many of you actually believed that? Not enough, I’d bet. That’s not to say women need yet more insecurities thrust upon them, but there’s big, bold line between a needless insecurity and the acknowledgement that sometimes, you’re the architect of your own demise.
If you’re having a hard time with your love life in the moment, don’t fucking chalk it up to “not being a lighthouse” so you can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and blame your failures on the world being a shitty place. That won’t get you anywhere, and in light of current event it’s also unlikely that you’ll get a tidy little book advance out of it. You know that friend she was referring to, the one who’s a “lighthouse?” What she doesn’t say, or even ponder, is the idea that maybe this girl is a “lighthouse” because she gets out there, because she meets people and makes contacts and leads an interesting life such that other people are interested in her. Like I said, how you contribute to the world has a lot to do with how interesting people find you. Katie Heaney has decided that her contribution to the world is wringing her hands over how uninteresting people find her. That, as it turns out, is also uninteresting (to me, not to the people who like her book).
Almost no one is chronically undateable. Sure, there are plenty of people who right now wouldn’t warrant a passing glance, but just about anyone can change that. Don’t mope around and hope that someone will see “the real you,” because that person is a figment of your goddamned imagination as far as everyone else is concerned, and it treads into the tinfoil hat territory of “I’m awesome, so guys must be crazy if they can’t see that.”
Instead, actually take control and DO something. If you’re shy, slam a shot so you can talk to people. If you’re ugly, learn how to do your makeup so people will hold a conversation with you long enough to see past the ugliness. If you’re boring, get a hobby. Hell, try fucking smiling at the guy you’re crushing on, so that he might take it as an invitation to come hit on you. You have a lot more power than you think, and there’s plenty you can do to take control of your life that doesn’t involve desperately pursuing guys.
Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure. Refusing to acknowledge the root of that failure, however, does. Whatever you do, just don’t blame it on a fucking lighthouse.