“I really want to screw you, but you have so much baggage.”

A guy actually said that to me once.

He may have been the only person I’ve ever encountered who was willing to verbalize his shallowness and ignorance, but he’s far from the only one who thinks that people need to be perfect before you can get involved with them.

That idea runs rampant in our culture, and it’s not only men who are to blame. Advice columns for women under 30 often exhibit what I call the “Dump His Ass” effect–anytime a woman writing a letter mentions virtually any imperfection in her crush or boyfriend, the advice columnist usually responds with some form of “dump his ass.” Still has feelings for his ex? Dump his ass. He’s insecure? Dump his ass. Doesn’t like your friends? Dump his ass.

(Of course, there are plenty of offenses for which a person of any gender should almost certainly be dumped, such as sexual harassment or assault, emotional manipulation, being a flaming racist/sexist/etc, and so on. I’m talking about much more minor sorts of flaws.)

Common wisdom seems to suggest that before one can get involved with another person in a healthy and stable way, they need to do things like “work on themselves” and “learn to love themselves” and “figure out who they are.” Leaving aside the fact that for most people, working on yourself and figuring out who you are is a lifelong process, there are some people who are never going to “love” or be comfortable with themselves. I am one such person. Do I not deserve to ever have a partner?

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place? Why is it considered unhealthy to really, really want someone to share your life with?

As someone who has had “baggage” virtually since birth, I have never not been aware of the fact that American culture considers people like me undateable. However, the idea that we’re also unfuckable is a pretty new one to me.

Why? Why do people need to be perfect before we’ll have anything to do with them?

It might surprise some people to know that everyone has flaws and psychological baggage; it’s just a matter of getting to know them well enough to figure that out. And yes, other people’s baggage can sometimes cause you trouble. You know what? Tough titties. You have two options: grow up and deal with it, or avoid getting to know anyone.

Incidentally, the guy I quoted in this post’s title eventually overcame his reservations and spent quite some time harassing me for sexual favors. After I refused, he looked at me and said, “You know, I couldn’t ever see you as my girlfriend. I’d need a girl who’s sweet and kind.”

Now who’s the one with the baggage?

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21 thoughts on ““I really want to screw you, but you have so much baggage.”

    • You would be correct! In fact, our acquaintanceship began rather unceremoniously with him pressuring me into cheating on my boyfriend of a year and a half.

      • “with him pressuring me into cheating on my boyfriend of a year and a half.”

        Look, it’s terrible if he sexually assaulted you and he should be in jail for this, but you used the word ‘cheating’, which, by definition means you were a willing participant in this activity. In that case, Jesus Christ, you should own your actions. Start by changing the language from the passive to the active (thank you, Clarissa!). ‘I cheated with my boyfriend of an year and a half’ is more honest.

  1. Well men like that (people like that really) don’t want anything to do with a woman who seems complex, emotional, or human. Not all guys are like that.

    I get irritated to by this “you need to be single for awhile” deal and also “dump his ass”. I think two things are true: 1) people do need to be single for awhile and dump people that are no good for them, and 2) people are far too ready to use cliches, think one size fits all, and say dump his ass. Contradictory but both are true I think.

    This dude sounds like a himbo. I think the idea of being happy by yourself isn’t really about being blissful alone so that you never want a real partner. Of course you want someone wonderful to share things with. I think its about being content and comfortable by yourself most of the time. I do know a lot of people who would take someone they can’t have a good relationship with over no relationship at all.

    So I think cliches are dumb and I think that’s what you’re hearing and complaining about right? People just throwing one typical response at you/others no matter what the situation? I agree with that, believe me. But I also think I jumped into and stayed in and tried to make work a really shitty ill fitting relationship and it just hurt both of us because the love was there but not the compatibility. Anyway, wow so … that was a ramble, sorry! This is just to say I think an awesome, sexy, fun, interesting guy would never say anything like this. Only himbos. Do you agree?

    • The dude is definitely an idiot, but I do want to emphasize that my critique isn’t just about this single guy; it’s about an entire culture, of which he is simply an extreme example. :)

  2. “Do I not deserve to ever have a partner?”

    Well, I don’t think anyone *deserves* a partner. It would be nice, yes, but thinking of it as some sort of birthright is delusional. As for ‘baggage’, we all make tradeoffs in relationships. Nobody’s perfect, of course, and people leave when the perceived benefits of being with someone no longer outweigh the negatives. Now how you weigh these benefits is highly individual. Someone may not care if their partner is beautiful or not but poor hygiene (or smoking) may be a deal breaker. And so on.

    In the same way, there could be people who don’t want to be romantically involved with people who have ‘baggage’, as you put it. Maybe they value stability/calmness in their lives over everything else and don’t want it to be disrupted.

    You then say: “Of course, there are plenty of offenses for which a person of any gender should almost certainly be dumped, such as sexual harassment or assault, emotional manipulation, being a flaming racist/sexist/etc, and so on. I’m talking about much more minor sorts of flaws.”

    Minor according to who? You? What appears ‘minor’ to you may not be minor for them. For them, a drama free relationship may be more important and the occasional sexist/racist remark is something they feel can be ‘worked upon’.

    I think the premise of your post is faulty. You’re saying that people don’t want to be romantically involved with people who have baggage because they demand perfection in their partners. I don’t think that’s correct. They don’t want perfection. They quit people with baggage because the benefits are no longer worth it.

    Still has feelings for his/her ex? Dump his ass and move on.

    Damn right!

    • But I’m not talking about individual choices. I’m talking about a culture that values perfection–for instance, in the case of women’s advice columns.

      • ‘Dear Abby’ dictating how society thinks and acts? Ha! If advice columns are all that influential, we would’ve seen some evidence of it. Look around you. Do you see only perfect people in relationships? I see stupid, sexist, racist, unattractive, mean, all kinds of people in love. Let’s ignore advice columns, which you probably just used as a throwaway example. Clearly nobody’s listening to this mythical society’s exhortations (via ads/movies/tv shows) to only be with perfect people.

        I think the problem is that you feel entitled to be in a great relationship and you’re being judgemental of someone who quits a partner who has baggage. And that is your choice, the same way it is my choice not to be with someone who makes me miserable. I can only speak for myself and being around depressed people for any significant period makes me feel depressed/miserable. I don’t like that.

    • “Well, I don’t think anyone *deserves* a partner.”

      I might agree with you on this. However, everybody has the right to look for a partner and I got the same (or a similar) impression as Miriam that advice columns tell you to learn to be happy on your own before striving for a relationship. I’ve also heard that advice from friends. But then should I really have friends if I can’t be happy without them?

      • bolanja,

        Nobody’s is taking away your right to look for anything. You should absolutely look for a relationship according to whatever criteria you have. Let others do the same and respect their choice if they reject you.

        ‘Should I have friends if I can’t be happy without them?’ is a narcissistic way to think about this. A better question would be ‘Should I really have friends if I am making them profoundly unhappy?’. My best experiences with friends and lovers are when I focus on the *person* at the other end, instead of myself, or The Relationship.

        • Erm, my friends will have to decide themselves whether they want to be friends with me or not. That’s why I would never wonder ‘Should I really have friends if I am making them profoundly unhappy?’. If I make them unhappy but they still want to be my friends (for whatever reason) why should I question their decision? I only can decide whether I want to be their friend and whether I want to look for new friends and/or a partner (even if I am unhappy). I myself will not listen to anybody telling me that I have to be happy first.

          • I think we’re on the same page, then. Just apply this model consistently and respect other people’s choices to build or break a relationship with you for whatever reason. The reason may seem superficial to you, but it’s not about you, it’s about them and it’s obviously important for them.

          • I think we are on adjacent pages! :D I wouldn’t even want a partner who doesn’t want me with all my baggage. What I don’t understand is a third party (friends, columnists, psychologists etc.) who advices that an unhappy (or depressed person) should not look for a partner.

            Miriam, could you maybe enlighten us about the practice of psychologists? Will they tell patients to wait until they feel better (or overcome their depression)?

  3. “I think we are on adjacent pages! :D

    Close enough!

    “I wouldn’t even want a partner who doesn’t want me with all my baggage.”

    Sure, but you *are* your baggage. There is no you on one side, and your ‘baggage’ dragging behind you five metres away. What your partner sees is the reality on the ground, as in, your actual behaviour and how it affects the relationship and his mental/physical health. *That* is reality. Your actions. Nothing else.

    Just because your behaviour is medically classified as ‘Depression’ doesn’t make it any easy for someone you’re with. Many abusers have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Should their partners not leave them? Or are they being ‘unfair’ by judging someone with mental health issues? Am I supposed to feel better about my girlfriend hitting me or verbally abusing me if I know it’s because she had a traumatic childhood and has issues as a result?

    At the same time, you’re completely justified in *wanting* someone who is willing to deal with your issues. By definition, anyone willing to stick around will have satisfied this condition (or else they’d leave). But let’s not shit upon people who are not willing to do that. Clearly the relationship is ruining their happiness/mental health and they’ve decided it’s not worth it. They don’t owe you a relationship.

  4. Pingback: Towards a Happy Personal Life: Is It Unhealthy to Want Someone? « Clarissa's Blog

  5. On the basis of the culture you describe, I’d have dumped my husband before I ever even had a coffee with him!

    Our marriage is a classic example of love not needing a “perfect” partner!

    • Indeed, the journey you’ve undertaken with your husband is not one that most young people would ever bother taking. And who knows what they’re missing out on. :)

  6. Pingback: Towards a Happy Personal Life: Learning to Be Happy on Your Own « Clarissa's Blog

  7. Pingback: Is Casual Sex Intrinsically Demeaning? | Brute Reason

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