‘You don’t want rescuing, do you?’ said the WhatsApp message from a potential suitor, back in my dating days.
We were planning on meeting for dinner and this question, alongside ‘Italian or Japanese?’, was high on his agenda.
I was firm in my denials.
Because a) it was true and b) neediness is not sexy, is it? In fact neediness is only one rung up on the ladder from its deeply unattractive cousin, ‘clingy’.
Neediness says: ‘Go out with me and I will demand to know your whereabouts at all times.’ And: ‘I will require constant reassurance and for you to talk me down from the ledge on a daily basis about my nightmare boss/frenemies/body hang-ups.’
Oh, and in all likelihood, ‘I will message you through all communication media available to me. Constantly.’ Neediness is a hole in a person’s self-esteem that can never be plugged.
Plus, for this man in particular and for others I met, I think there was a financial component– the subtext was, ‘I don’t want another dependant.’ I could see why, if he was on the market for a mate, he would want to avoid this type. I felt exactly the same.
The end of my marriage was awful, but at least it meant I could choose someone right for who I was now. I could scan the aisles of the man shop (aka dating apps) and go for Taste The Difference rather than Reduced To Clear.
And on my list was ‘strong and capable’. And ‘life enhancing’. Not ‘a broken-winged type with more baggage than Terminal Five’. I know that sounds harsh and it makes me feel a little unkind to say it, but it is true.
In a marriage, if your partner develops snoring, flatulence or an addiction to Greggs sausage rolls, you have to suck up a certain amount. Till death do us part and all that. But if you are starting over you can be choosy.
In my (admittedly limited) experience I think men are more able to be pragmatic about selecting a mate; to weigh up all the pros and cons dispassionately.
Looking at both sexes, I think my female friends are more prone to saying, ‘Oh, you have such lovely eyes and a romantic soul, so I am going to overlook your debts, dodgy hip, the pet you can’t leave for more than three hours and the ankle tag.’
But back to being needy. Surely everyone is a little needy sometimes? I bet even Barack Obama needs Michelle to stroke his head and tell him she loves him to the moon and back occasionally.
So where is the line between needy and just being honest about wanting love, connection and support? And how can you distinguish needy from vulnerable?
In my post-divorce life, I have discovered many things about myself. Firstly, that I was woefully uneducated about modern expectations of ‘down there’ hair – but secondly, that vulnerability is a strength.
It takes mental fortitude to confess your flaws or talk about events in your past that reveal the mistakes you have made.
I’m often tempted to keep up an armoured shell of ‘I’m perfectly fine’ at all times– the fun girl with no requirements other than another cocktail – but then you don’t progress to the next level of intimacy in a relationship.
If I don’t expose my soft underbelly and show my insecurities, how is my boyfriend going to get to know the real me?
So no, I don’t require rescuing – but I would like Taste The Difference.