On Doing Better


“No. No. Hannah, you can do so much better than him.” It’s an iMessage response we’ve all gotten before. You talk to a guy who’s familiar — you kinda know him, or you know of him — and you text your friend in search of approval before putting in the mental energy it requires to flirt for the rest of the night. All is takes are those two letters us stubborn girls are all too familiar with, the N and the O, to make you run for the hills.

But waaaaait…!!!! I really liked him. I really liked our conversation. I really liked that immediately after introducing himself to me, he asked if I was Jewish. And I really liked that he tried to play it off like he was kidding, but he obviously wasn’t. I really liked the chemistry. But then I received a text that shattered my dreams of Friday night Shabbat dinners and romantic debates about the pervasiveness of normcore. This is when we become un-attracted and uncomfortable. So I, and you, and every other girl who’s ever experienced the “You can do so much better” reply, went from sweetheart to psycho in a matter of seconds. He gets the picture, walks away, and we — you and I — are both standing alone, wondering if being alone and not not doing good enough is better than being happy and not “doing better.”

When you get the “You can do so much better” reply, you lose control of your own libido. Even if you want to keep liking someone, or if you did a minute ago, you won’t like him nearly as much anymore. The reverberating voice of your suddenly authoritative BFF sits like a Quest Protein chip on your shoulder. Even if you want to keep liking him, you find all of his flaws. Or you do whatever you psycho girls do to convince yourself that you knew he wasn’t good enough in the first place. (On the inside, though, you look like a depressed emoji.)

Let’s think about what “You can do so much better” really means. Well, first, it means that your friend thinks you can do so much better. Secondly, it means one of two things: that your friend thinks you have poor taste when the guy you’re actually interested in doesn’t meet your socially assigned standards, or that the guys who go after you aren’t good enough — as in, there are other, better guys out there, but they just aren’t the ones who are openly interested.

So when you tell me that I “can do so much better,” do you think I have low self-respect? That I’m insecure because my standards are too low? That I have poor taste? Does that make me a bad lady? Do you also think I’m the kind of person who makes piles of her gum wrappers on the Starbucks communal table instead of throwing them away? You must assume that I go commando under jeans and opt for the sweetened coconut flakes rather than the unsweetened ones on top of my fro-yo too, right? I must defend myself in that I do always go for the unsweetened flakes and I’m not insecure. In terms of the rest — you got me.

And on what articles of judgment can one friend tell another that she can do better? Attractiveness is the most explicit category, of course, but past that, how do we determine if someone if good enough for us? Maybe the friend asks herself if she would hook up with the suitor herself. If we wouldn’t, and we tell our friend that she can do better, then we are good friends. If we wouldn’t, and we don’t tell our friend that she can do better, then we are bad friends. If we would, and we tell our friend that she can do better, then I don’t even know. Then we need to go to therapy, or something.

I don’t know what would make me a more inferior person — if I only pursued guys whom my friends insisted I could do better than, or if I never trusted my instincts and listened to my friends. Luckily, my friends never really say this to me. We very rarely say it to each other, which could influence my indecisiveness about how kosher the “You can do so much better” reply is.

It could, actually, be very likely that if one of us finds herself in a situation where someone needs to tell her that she can do so much better, and no one tells her, she’ll one day wish that someone did. But she might be the only one who has the authority to realize that, and she won’t realize it until after the fact.

My advice? Do what makes you happy. Also make wise decisions with the recognition that drunk goggles are a very real thing. Then, you’ll be set.

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