Some Notes on (Alleged) Neediness

“I have a feeling I’m going to read that online in the near future,” my mother said, giggling and smugly sipping her espresso at the Scandinavian-styled Park Slope coffee shop where we were taking a pause from our holiday mother-daughter shopping spree.

It’s not often that my mother offers sincere romantic advice–as I’ve written, between the two of us, I tend to be far more comfortable in that territory. (To her credit, not exactly a fair contest.)

But when she does, it’s reliably valuable. And, usually, pretty even: Take things slowly. Men freak out when you get emotional. Did she mention, I should slow down a little bit?

This time, though, her counsel was markedly flip: “He hasn’t texted back in two days!” I moaned to her, my lower lip in full pout.

Her reply: “Oh, come on. Don’t be so needy.”

“Who, me?” I scoffed. “Needy?” Okay I didn’t say that. But I wanted to. Instead, I raised my eyebrows and said, “It’s not that I’m needy. It’s just that I’m neurotic and anxious and paranoid. There’s a difference.” (Proof: “I haven’t texted again.”)

My mother shrugged. “Okay,” she said, and off we went: dodging strollers down 5th Avenue to the overpriced shoe store half a block away.

I had a similar exchange back in Albuquerque a few days later, as I vented to my friend A about the same thing. “Well have you been texting a lot?” she asked, turning her head and narrowing her eyes across the table. “I feel like you do that.”

“Why does everyone think I’m so needy?” I shot back. “I don’t text that much! I only talk about it!”

(A conversation reminiscent of another I had with my sister-in-law over break. Her: “Well, aren’t you obsessed with finding a boyfriend?” Me: “No! I just write about it!” My “persona” spiel, it would seem, only goes so far. But, I digress.)

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the question of how “needy” I actually am. On second thought, let’s not. Because yeah, I guess I do have some needs, and ya know what: I don’t think they’re unreasonable. (Particularly when I’m not, ahem, demanding they be met.)

Here’s what I need: I need to know what to expect from someone. That’s all. Should I expect that we’re going to be in close contact? Should I expect that we’re going to have dinner on Thursday night? Should I expect that we’re going to fall madly in love and buy a house in brownstone Brooklyn and stroll our child around on Sunday mornings, browsing expensive clogs?

I mean: is that so much to ask?

Well, according to every woman in my life–from my mother, on: yes. Apparently you can’t actually know what to expect from someone right away. Apparently you can’t even assume they know what to expect of themselves. Apparently, expecting to know expectations makes one needy.

And, heavens: we don’t want that.

So here’s the thing. I know I have to go with the flow–whatever the hell that means. I know that I should demonstrate faith in widespread wisdom about the male gender, such widespread wisdom indicating that men do not like being confronted with women’s needs, men finding it more attractive when women are independent and carefree and apparently unaffected by their behavior, however peculiar or confusing. I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. And, I am here to tell you, I’m pretty good at just doing it.

But good lord: sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes, I don’t want to have to pretend that I’m indifferent, or not thinking about someone, or not wondering whether they’re thinking about me. Sometimes, it even feels dishonest: what’s the point in pursuing emotional intimacy with a person if you can’t even be open with them about how you feel?

Did I mention that I’m not very patient?

Unfortunately, I get that from my dad.