Ways to Become An Other Woman.
by Cassandra Morrison
Grow up with relatively healthy self-confidence and a normal childhood, whatever that means. Even though the Amys and Michelles in your school are much prettier than you, believe that you are pretty enough because your mother tells you that you are, and that you are interesting enough because your father tells you that you are.
Develop a crush on someone when you are still young, preferably between thirteen and sixteen. Someone who will inevitably develop a crush on your best friend and will call you to ask for her phone number.
When your mom hands you the phone and says that it is Johnny you will be so excited you can hardly stand it and you keep smiling as you make small talk until he asks you for Stephanie’s phone number. This will happen way too early in your life, before your brain is fully developed. Before you know how to defend against unwanted emotions with rationale and logic. Therefore you won’t know how to deal with this. Cry into your basset hound’s ears and pretend that you’re not upset to members of the human population.
Because of this, start to disregard what your mother and father say. Believe that their internal bias has nothing to offer you, that they don’t truly know you after all.
Read somewhere that Flannery O’Connor said after childhood nothing else meaningful needs to happen to you, that you have already survived enough. Dramatically assume that this feeling of rejection is what she must have been talking about, that it gets no worse than this. Don’t learn until much later in your life that this rejection—this first heartbreak—happens to almost everyone.
Go to college to become a writer because pain such as yours must be put into words: long, poetic, rhyming words that you post on LiveJournal and eventually show to your creative writer teacher. Professor Barnes will tell you that you have talent but that you needn’t come back to his class, that you are getting an A. All you need to do is go live life, remember your experiences and keep in contact with him.
Then, decide that you are uninteresting. Do not understand where this thought comes from. Don’t even realize that you think this until it becomes so deeply rooted in who you are that a friend has to point it out to you at a college party when she asks how you are doing. Tell her how everyone else in your life is doing. When she stares blankly back at you, laugh in a pithy way and pretend her point hasn’t caught you off-guard. Do not spend too much time thinking about this because it makes you nervous.
Do not realize that you are the only one that can truly know how you are doing until years later.
After thinking it over in strange, sort of oblique and non-thinking ways, and also due to the fact that you haven’t yet, so why not, decide that you will wait for love—true love—before having sex.
Try to find someone to fall in love with.
Go on dates.
Fall in love too many times with nice, attractive, smart boys who don’t reciprocate the feeling.
Grow quickly tired of waiting for love and begin to believe that it may not even exist. Know, however, without any doubt, that sex does.
At twenty, start having sex with someone you don’t like. Keep having sex with him even when he begins to date someone who looks just like you, which is creepy, sure, but sex exists. Ignore him when he says he’s falling in love with you and believe that he’s falling in love with her instead.
Start having a relationship with someone who’s—unbeknownst to you—having a baby with one of your childhood friends. Do not stop sleeping with him when you find out about the baby because you think that finally you’ve found someone that’s worth the risk of doing the “wrong” thing.
Your childhood friend will find out because secrets do not stay secret for very long with the Internet and ladies who lunch. Do not lie to your childhood friend when she asks you if it’s true because you still think this man might be more important than her friendship. Maybe your future is more important than your past. She will call you a name and refuse to talk to you for six months.
In two months, he will begin sleeping with your roommate at a lake house party that you are attending. She will assure you that nothing happened only for you to find out after you sleep with him again that it did. Sleep with him four times after his baby is born. He won’t be worth it.
Learn to churn butter or make a quilt or milk a cow to prove that you can succeed doing things the hard way. When someone suggests that you could just buy butter or milk or a comforter, sigh and shake your head at the fact that they’ve never had to do something the hard way.
Start a relationship with a married man for the first time by the time you’re twenty-four. At the latest twenty-five, if you must wait.
Believe when he tells you that he will leave his wife. Let him make you feel special. Smart. Beautiful. Sexy. Even loved. All of the things you’ve always wanted to feel.
Help him leave his wife by showing him how much better life can be. Offer him a bed to sleep in sometimes. Be someone who takes care of him. Buy him gifts. Help him be a better person. Feel like a better person. When he finally gets out of that relationship and you are happy, assume that you will stay happy and don’t worry about a thing.
Drive to his house at three in the morning because he is lonely and you are horny. Wear only a see-through raincoat because it’s raining. Have sex with him with the window open, listening to the rain fall and right before you fall asleep think that this is the happiest you’ve ever felt. That this must be love.
Ignore the photos of him and the wife around the apartment and don’t ask him when he’s going to redecorate. Be too cool to ask that of him. Be sure to take his dog for a walk before you leave and ruffle his ears as you walk out the door so that the canine will love you, too.
Be surprised when he leaves you for someone else. Be broken inside but never stop smiling. Don’t let anyone see that you’re hurt. You’re too cool to get hurt.
Keep sleeping with him for a few months even after they get engaged believing that he is worth it or for pay back. Don’t spend too much time considering which.
Decide you want to learn to do a back handspring or run a marathon. Your body is not petite and lithe in the way that those of most athletes are, and you are not young anymore. But you are flexible so don’t let this stop you. Hire a coach. Once you have accomplished your goal, lose interest.
Have a relationship with your best friend’s boyfriend that you think is just a friendship that he tells you is more. And then try to tell her about it. She won’t believe you and then you wont believe you and you won’t be invited to their wedding six years later.
Don’t sleep with your friends or anyone you know, as a rule. This allows you to continue being mysterious, sexy, and unattached. This also assures you a safe space when you’re with your friends. Safe spaces when you can let your guard down. Safe spaces when no one is thinking about sex.
Tell the twenty-two-year old that you sleep with that you’re going to teach him how to do this properly. When he looks at you like a confused little boy underneath the moppy brown curls on his head, tell him not to worry, you’re older, after all. You know things that he doesn’t. That this is how things are done. Tell him how you like to be fucked. Don’t listen to him compliment your body or your personality, just keep talking dirty.
Drive long distances to see one of your lovers so that you have time to rethink every decision you’ve ever made in your life so that everything you’ve tried to keep hidden from yourself comes out. Defend your actions in the vacuum of your mind by repeatedly focusing on the fact that you are not the one cheating. Remember that morals are relative. That even if cheating is widely considered bad, you are not bad. You are not the bad partner. You would never be the bad partner.
Discover Oscar Wilde. Start writing incessantly about modern women and sex. Read lots of articles about the importance and power of sex. Oscar Wilde says that everything in the world is about sex except for sex, that sex is about power.
Wonder if your attachment to sex involves your hunger for power.
Pick up a habit to make married men uncomfortable when they hit on you, to make yourself seem coy: make them tell you all about their wives. About their family. Repeat their childrens’ names. Their wives’ names. Make them realize what they are doing before you allow them to take you to bed. Realize later in life that this is another way that you unnecessarily make yourself feel bad about sex. Another way to feed your masochist desires.
Attend an engagement party for someone you vaguely know and end up being the last one awake with the soon to be groom and assume that nothing will happen because he must be in love. Feel safe. Let him lead you down to the basement for something you’re not sure of and then realize he thinks you’ve been flirting all night when you thought it was just plucky banter. He’ll confess to you how scared he is of getting married and how they’ve never had sex before and how she is a virgin and he is not and he is worried about having sex with the same woman for the rest of his life. Think about how ridiculous he sounds slurring his selfish words and how you never want to marry someone like him. Continue to comfort him and listen to him willingly because you realize no one else has. Don’t let yourself feel bad when you end up having sex at his engagement party but don’t tell anyone.
Develop what you believe to be unusual beliefs about sex and relationships and be sure to tell the opposite sex whenever you have a chance. Bartenders, patrons, classmates, cute strangers. Tell them you believe sex is different than love. Tell them that you’re not sure about monogamous relationships. Tell them that you think that hugs are more intimate than sex. Whether you really do believe these things is unimportant but you must tell them because you know they will find you attractive if you do.
When you’re twenty-six, tell your friend that you’ve finally met someone that you really, truly care about. That you have been seeing more of each other and share more than just a bed. Make a joke that you’re sure that you’ll find out soon that he has a wife or girlfriend, too because he’s kind and he likes you. Your friend laughs and agrees with you.
Be secretly sad that she agrees with you and don’t tell her when it turns out he does have a girlfriend. Break up with him.
When a different married man whom you’re spending the night with asks you if you know how great you really are, how sexy you are, tell him you do. Stare at yourself in the huge mirror looking at your naked body, thinking that your unmarred, taut skin must be beautiful. Look around at the sexy hotel room with the stark white curtains that drag the floor, covering the view of the downtown skyline, and believe that you must be the epitome of a sexy and great single woman.
After you learn how to use the men to make you cum, don’t let them get away with anything less than. The thirty-four-year old that you’ve been sleeping with occasionally since you were twenty-two will tell you that this new habit of yours is hot. Smile.
At twenty-eight, move to a new city where one of your new friends will drunkenly profess their love to you after you have met their significant other. The girlfriend that he lives with. Kindly tell him that you don’t sleep with your friends, ask him if he frequently cheats on his girlfriend. He will say no. He will say that he’s simply, madly in love with you.
Without warning or even without cohesion maybe, this man’s confession affects you.
Start to see a pattern that you’ve never seen before. Realize that the only men who have shown interest in you throughout your adult life have had someone else they wanted to go home to.
Make the connection that the one thing that these men have in common is you. That it can’t just be a coincidence that these attached men always find you. You must have a role in this part of your life. Things do not simply happen to you. Think that maybe you are the reason you are always an other woman. Perhaps you are the one suggesting that you want to be the Other never just the One.
Remember a quote you read somewhere that said that you accept the love you think you deserve.
And then all at once realize that you have had relationships with women fraught with betrayal and dismissiveness throughout your life, too. Wonder if all along everyone except you could sense that you were no good.
That you were an other woman.
The wife of your boss that made sure he fired you for no reason. The girlfriends of your best guy friend who made sure he only saw you in afternoons. For coffee. The girl friend that said that you were an acquired taste, that your bluntness made it hard to love you. The sister of the man you nanny’ed for that made sure he fired you for no reason. The friends of friends who simply thought you were just a bitch. Once you see it you can’t unsee the fact that they must’ve known all along that you were an Other.
Believe that if both women and men treat you like something other than you think you would like to be treated, it must reflect more on your character than theirs.
Fall into a deep depression over this realization and hate yourself and wonder how you got into this position. Wonder whether or not you know how to be the One and not the Other. Can one person even offer everything that one wants or is there always a necessity for an Other? What do you offer that the One doesn’t have? Do you have the ability to be the woman that someone comes home to? Do men only sometimes prefer the cool, cold, sexy other woman to the comfortable, pretty One they share their lives with?
Eat crepes filled with chocolate and drink red wine that tastes of raspberries and leather for days and days.
Spend too much time thinking about these things until finally settling on the fact that even if men continually want you for an Other, it may not be you but the current state of their relationships. That if women find you to be a threat, they may not be as confident as you imagine them to be.
You are not always to blame.
You can be the One. Or an Other. It is your choice.
Try to believe this.
Start a new essay titled Ways to Become A Woman.
Cassandra Morrison just received her MFA in creative non-fiction from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. She has just finished a book of hybrid fiction and non-fiction that discusses Southern culture, femininity and social neuroses. Her work has appeared in Chicago Literati, Entropy, The Establishment, The Stockholm Review and LitroNY. She is from the South, gets lost frequently and is a little bit basic.