Return of Atalanta

Remember the forehead sign?

Long-time readers may recall that there was a time when I wished that people came with a meter on their forehead that indicated whether, for dating purposes, they were interested, sort of interested, or not at all interested. Not long thereafter, I got a nice little lesson in how to tell, in that I went from being unsure about a guy’s intentions to seeing him be around someone he was interested in and realizing how stupid I’d been to think that the little signs I was seeing in regards to me meant anything. Thus, I came to the conclusion that guys are nowhere near as hard to read as I’d been thinking (hoping) they were, that they do make it pretty darn clear when they’re interested and when they’re not. This got validated with two guys (the latter of which being my now dear husband) subsequent to the original target, moving it into mental theory status.

I find myself falling into my old trap recently, with two separate crushes, and I’ve realized that I need to look back and remember my theory of guy interest. It’s just far too easy to confuse friendly interest with more extensive interest if you try to read into each of those little signs. I keep trying to remind myself of the theory, that if there’s interest, he’s going to make damn sure I know, and that I’ve certainly given plenty of positive signs such that he shouldn’t be afraid to say so. Really, at this point, I think I have to resign myself that I was just being hopeful rather than being realistic, but there’s still this stupid little hope nugget that is making up excuses. The good part is that, whether my crushes are requited or not, there’s cool things to be had from the relationships, at whatever level. The bad part is that until I can convince myself thoroughly one way or another, I will be a bit of an idiot around the aforementioned crush. It’s my nature. I call it my Atalanta complex, although my reasoning is partially based on a romantic telling of her story.

(Have I recently mentioned that I’m arrogant? If not, please be forewarned.)

Atalanta is a figure from Greek mythology who was the equal of most men at hunting and sport. There were men who wanted to marry her and men who were threatened by her. The most popular myth about her is that her father set up a race, with her as the competitor and prize, and with death as the penalty for failure. One suitor, Melanion, got a blessing from Aphrodite in the form of golden apples that were enchanted to distract Atalanta and thus won the race. The romantic re-imaginings of this story often have Atalanta being taken with Melanion initially and intentionally falling behind so that he wouldn’t be killed. Certainly, the later myths about Atalanta and Melanion imply that they were happy together, that even with the knowledge of how he’d won, Atalanta viewed him as having beaten her and loved him, at least in part, because of it. (For what it’s worth, I’d agree. Unless the parameters of the race specifically forbid the use of god-blessed tools, Melanion was a worthy competitor. It is mentioned in some other myths that Atalanta had received blessed weaponry from Athena, which she was presumably using in the race, so her suitors should get that privilege as well. Nonetheless, I remember one feminist theory class I took thought of Melanion as a cheater rather than a worthy suitor, and I’m reasonably sure that’s a far more common interpretation than mine.) At any rate, I have a thing for geek guys, in part because I like guys to be my mental equal or better. The problem is that when I do actually have a crush, I tend to dumb myself down, not because I think it will make me more attractive to them in some way…in fact, it frustrates me because I know the opposite is true…but because it’s this weird byproduct like I have to let them win if I’m going to be able to like them. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like my psyche puts the cart before the horse. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s so embedded in my way-of-things that I have not figured how to separate myself from it.

I do accept that it’s pretty likely that instead of having some far more noble Atalanta curse, I’ve instead got the same affliction that many smart women have in terms of dumbing themselves down around the opposite sex. I just like my theory better, and I like the myth. As much as I complain about my DH beating me at games, it is also part of why I love him. If he could not beat me at games at least half of the time or more, I don’t think I’d like him as much.