Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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But Why?

"But why?" I ask, unshed tears already prickling my eyes. He looks down at the porch on which we're sitting. I can feel the cold leaking through my thin, cotton, workout pants. Yellow-white sunlight filters weakly through a neighbor's tree and dapples the side of his face with patches of light and dark.
"It doesn't matter. It's just... it's me." He casts his eyes askance, acknowledging the cop out of this sentence.
"Just tell me." I try to maintain control, keep my voice low, but a small tremor on the word 'me' gives me away.

I hadn't seen this coming. Yeah, we'd been fighting lately. A lot. Wasn't that par for the relationship course? Nobody hits holes-in-one all the time. Do they? I'd chosen to be myself, or what I thought was myself, in this relationship. Venting every little frustration under the guise of being real.
"I hate my job."
"I'm so fat."
"The stylist completely fucked up my hair, I am NOT going ANYWHERE looking like this!"

Isn't this what REAL relationships are made of? Full disclosure? Total honesty? Revealing the real me. No fake-fronting. Love me or leave me. This is girl power! Isn't it? And then. The sentence.
"You just aren't the girl for me." He says this while looking off into the distance. Away from me. From us. I try to power through the overwhelming urge to burst into girly tears. But you know how it is. The more you try, the more you cry.

I turn inward. Heeding Ani DiFranco's advice, I dilate. Fuck you and your untouchable face, I think. I grab this tough-girl thread in hopes it will lead me to my familiar tough-self. The self born of being a child of divorce, battling three brothers, growing up on food stamps, getting a job at fourteen, moving out at sixteen, pregnant at seventeen, abortion. The self that sharpened her edges by living alone and trusting no one for nearly ten years. But she is no match, because she is just 'not the girl'. He has confirmed what she always feared. Back when parents of friends wouldn't allow their daughters to play with her because she was part of 'That bad Butler family'.

Something breaks inside my chest and fat tears spill onto my cheeks. I actually see one plop onto the porch like a raindrop. He shifts uncomfortably. Not because he wants to wash his hands of the girl crying on his porch, but because he's made me cry. See? He's a good guy like that.

I thought I was living authentically. I thought he 'got me'.. And so I let my shadowy shallow self into the light, mistakenly assuming that was 'being real'. But being 'real' turned me into a whining, complaining weakling. I thought he'd see beyond the bad behavior to the real me. But the bad behavior was the real me. He realized that before I did. Then I made one of the biggest realizations of my life. I discovered my pattern with men. In my relationships, I'd let it all hang out. All of it. I'd spew everything that's ever happened to me. Some good, but mostly the bad and the ugly. Then I'd stand defiantly, arms crossed, waiting to see what each boyfriend would do. Could they handle me? Will they see through my bullshit to the real me? Never realizing that the bullshit was the real me.

I was shattered for two years after this conversation. Mangled self-esteem, slowly gluing the pieces back together. But I limped from that wreckage with an important lesson that I use every single second of my married life. Just because I am loved, just because I am understood, I do not have a hall pass to do and act as I please. Because I am loved, because I am understood, I must try harder to filter out as much of the bad behavior as I can.. Not wave it like a flag, daring someone to love me anyway, under the mistaken notion that if they put up with my shit, it's true love. Now, it's more important than ever that I put my best put forward, for my husband. That's true love.

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    The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech

Reader Comments (24)

holy shit. your whole post is something i just came to realize yesterday and i am 36! slow learner i guess. my husband is the first guy i have been truly comfortable with but it doesn't mean i have to lay it all on him. i have been making a big effort at filtering. hopefully i'll get better and better at it. thanks for putting words to what i've been thinking. whew!
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersusan
Eventually I'll get there-finding a guy that I'm comfortable with. But I love reading about it, and what it does to you and living vicariously through others. Especially others who express it as well as you have been doing.

(By the way, I haven't read any of NH's books, but I think I'm going to start, but everytime I watched About a Boy this weekend I thought of you)
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Wow Monica, that was so vivid. It reminds me of when I fight with Lou and I use the words, if you love me then you love me the way I am. I've been trying the past year not to unleash the complaint monster, I want him to want me as much as I want him, so I've been doing my darndest to not be such a bitch, even though its so easy to be the bitch, empowering in fact, but in the end..stupid and usless (unless warrented of course).

I know that girl on the porch, I think a lot of us do.

Once again you've used your supurb writing skills to let us into your heart and teach us about ourselves! Thanks for keepin' it real! :)
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
I am very impressed by you're writing! You have an ability to shed light on to who you are in a way that I almost feel like I know you. Thanks for sharing!
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
I am very impressed by you're writing! You have an ability to shed light on to who you are in a way that I almost feel like I know you. Thanks for sharing!
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Your history growing up sounds so much like mine(except minus two brothers).
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterValleyGirl
Whew. Useful stuff. Good stuff. Makes my regret, however, all the more piercing, like maybe it all really WAS my fault. So I guess you have to take stuff like this and remember it's a balance. I've been from one extreme to the other--totally putting on happy beautiful me in one relationship to moving toward angry pissed off pent up me in the next. It's like the old maxim, everything in moderation.
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHelena
Thanks for "visiting" my blog. I look forward to exploring yours. Really enjoyed this post. Another commentor used the word vivid- a good descriptor. I really felt it. By the way, from what I can tell, we share Oct. 5 as a significant date. Similar story, different ending.
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterplumleigh
So intuitive, so wise. Something that should be posted where all can read it. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into the 'real you' and feel that your reflections make you a very special person with more wisdom to assist others sort out relationships than Dr. Phil could ever dream of having. And just in case this sounds a bit smug on my part, just to let you know -- I'm obliged to make a few changes in my own actions and thinking as well.
October 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRoberta S
What an interesting concept. I had never considered that various girlfriends could have been acting out because they wanted to test my commitment to the relationship. Learning something about the opposite sex every day on this blog. Great work!
October 12, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJAY
good for you to figure out that love is to be given and received freely. not a test to pass
October 12, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterurbanbarbara
I was on my way to that realization, but not there yet: You may have just saved me a few more years of dating misery with that one post. Thanks.
October 12, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralways write
thank you. i need to remind myself to do that.
October 12, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersubgirl
We were definitely separated at birth (shakes head in disbelief).
October 12, 2005 | Registered Commentertallchickbarbara
I never had that problem. I'm not sure why not.
October 13, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
This was phenomenal. I have been trying to reel back the "open book" me with my boyfriend. Acting any old way I please and expecting him to accept it because he loves me. I better get a grip before he tells me that I am just not the girl for him.

I love your writing. You are so real and so honest. Great stuff.
October 13, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterThe Daily Rant
Nice writing - but I am confused (maybe I need to read more posts?) - part of being married is that you ARE who you are and it's okay. Has my husband watch me pitch fits and throw hangers when I'm late for work? Sure. Maybe I'm missing something, but in our marriage, I am completely free, and furthermore, inclined to act and be exactly who I am. If you're NOT acting how you normally would, just to avoid the "not the girl for me" scenario, then the truth is that you really may not be the right person for him. Being someone you aren't, simply to remain married/in a relationship, leads to heartache and resentment. It's a form of settling, and for me, life's just too short for that.
October 13, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterheidolicious
That's true love indeed. I've gone though something very similar myself a long while ago.

Glad you made a recovery, as many people never do.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGleb Reys
Wow. That post stunned me. I've been sitting here for a while, soaking it in.

I've been sort of dancing around the edges of this idea too, and it is really comforting to see what you wrote because it makes me feel like I'm on the right track.

Thanks for sharing this, Monica, even though I found this a year after you posted it.
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarina Grace
S'okay.. I still read every single comment - no matter which entry they're posted on. Thanks very much.
October 26, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
"Will they see through my bullshit to the real me? Never realizing that the bullshit was the real me."

Wow. Thank you so much, Monica. Your honesty and insight is astounding. The truth of your writing is so apparent and vivid that it shakes me right up. I am the girl on the porch, too. And I'm learning, from reading this site, that I'm not alone! Thanks for being so amazing.
October 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKerry

This made me smile.

October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCazza


I will write this down and send it to the Chicago Asshole..who truly is my better half, just needs a little more polishing after 7 years...I need to take this into consideration...I need to mail this to myself..Amazing Who! At 38 I get it!

July 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMississippi Belle

I am new to your posts and liked your new ones so much I decided to go back and read from the beginning I just got to this one 6 years after it was written. I am 25. I have no children and I am not married. I have been with the same man (the love of my life) for 7yrs and this post made so much sense to me I wanted to know if you still felt the same way...6 years and 2 babies later?

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

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