Last week I was in the gym, minding my own business, when I saw a guy I have some pretty messy history with walk past the window. Initially I confined my reaction to a scowl, but then I realised he was carrying a gym bag and carrying a water bottle. Surely not…
My first thought was, thank god I shaved my legs. My second was to check he had come in, and then concentrate my interest on the out of doors so he didn’t know I knew he was there. While he was in the changing rooms I redid my hair. The rest of the session I spent avoiding machines near him and trying to keep up the illusion that I had no idea of his existence.
It’s a ridiculous scenario. We haven’t spoken for seven years. I have been with my current partner for six. It really shouldn’t matter if this guy is at my gym. (Yes, that’s right. MY gym!) As far as my appearance goes, I don’t think any amount of messing about with my hair was going to disguise my beetroot face, and he definitely wasn’t close enough to examine my legs. I’m not even a particularly vain individual.
So why do I have this reaction? I don’t like to make gender divisions, but I do think this is a peculiarly female trait. I’m not saying that this guy didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I doubt he was worrying about the way that he looked. For good reason. There was no way that I was going to look at him and regret that we aren’t together because of the way he looks. Yet for some reason, I feel like I could elicit that reaction from him. Moreover, I feel like I should elicit that reaction.
I have christened this ‘the one that got away phenomenon’. In theory, I understand that I am not everyone’s perfect woman and that people will not want to be with me for any number of reasons. However, I don’t like to think that I could be a period of someone’s life that they look back on with anything other than deepest sorrow. Basically anything other than self-flagellation for being such an imbecile in losing me is unacceptable.
Maybe it is understandable, if not reasonable, to want to be this for one person that there was very lengthy and deep history with. But for everyone? Even I can admit that is a little excessive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
The worst part of the whole thing is it is entirely physical. I feel that I must look my best to get this reaction, as though it is completely acceptable for someone to think I am an awful person but still desire me. It’s a revolting notion and one my sensible brain does not subscribe to. The rest of me though? The rest of me is worrying about my legs and my hair and being thankful that I bothered to brush my teeth.
I wonder if it is part of the princess phenomenon – not christened by me. In many instances the princess is not just loved by the prince, but by everybody. Do I want to be a princess? Or is it arrogance, being unable to admit that someone might be happier without me?
Either way, it’s a very frustrating trait and one I could do without. Particularly considering that I need to go back to the gym, and I am certain someone else is not staying away just because they saw me.