Why is the smart, sensitive, yet childish and emotionally inept Lady Neurotic often presented as the symbol of 21st century twenty-something girlhood? The ubiquity of the Lady Neurotic is in some ways bizarre. Certainly, many young men and women have been hit hard by a jobless economy, but, certainly, there are lots of Millennial women doing amazing, powerful, interesting things that do not involve feeling lost and moving to Brooklyn. There are scientists and scholars and writers and artists. There are Millennial women birthing babies and climbing mountains and traveling all over the world. They come in all shapes and colors and sizes, from any number of religious and racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some identify as feminist and some don’t. All are inundated in a culture that pretends to encourage female expression by continuously exploiting it, encouraging us to share our sex lives, personal stories, and selfies with the knowledge that we can and probably will be shamed for it later. The Millennial woman lives in constant fear of exposure and deals with it by exposing everything first. Here, she says. Take my dirty panties. Nail them to the wall. Let everybody see them. The Lady Neurotic’s power comes from knowing she let you hurt her first.
The “Lady Neurotic,” as I affectionately dub her, is having a major moment in pop culture, and many people have a hard time conceptualizing any twenty-something female character that isn’t on the brink of falling apart. We see this character throughout Lena Dunham’s Girls, where a slew of narcissistic young women guzzle too much alcohol and make a living telling self-deprecating jokes about their lady parts and lady feelings. We see her on The New Girl, where the simultaneously loved and reviled Zooey Deschanel cries her way into a new apartment. We see her in the film Bridesmaids, where Kristen Wiig’s character Annie has lackluster sex with a boyfriend who treats her like dirt.
This is how you lose her.
You lose her when you forget to remember the little things that mean the world to her: the sincerity in a stranger’s voice during a trip to the grocery, the delight of finding something lost or forgotten like a sticker from when she was five, the selflessness of a child giving a part of his meal to another, the scent of new books in the store, the surprise short but honest notes she tucks in her journal and others you could only see if you look closely.
You must remember when she forgets.
You lose her when you don’t notice that she notices everything about you: your use of the proper punctuation that tells her continuation rather than finality, your silence when you’re about to ask a question but you think anything you’re about to say to her would be silly, your mindless humming when it is too quiet, your handwriting when you sign your name in blank sheets of paper, your muted laughter when you are trying to be polite, and more and more of what you are, which you don’t even know about yourself, because she pays attention.
She remembers when you forget.
You lose her for every second you make her feel less and less of the beauty that she is. When you make her feel that she is replaceable. She wants to feel cherished. When you make her feel that you are fleeting. She wants you to stay. When you make her feel inadequate. She wants to know that she is enough and she does not need to change for you, nor for anyone else because she is she and she is beautiful, kind and good.
You must learn her.
You must know the reason why she is silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her that you are there. You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she is about to.
You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she is worthy to be loved, that she is worthy to be kept.
And, this is how you keep her.
There are people, who, when they become angry and offend others, demand first that nothing be held against them, and second, that they be pitied because they are prey to such violent attacks. Human arrogance can go that far.
since sometimes it needs to be said: ways in which a cis white hetero male served me well.
when i was growing up my musical taste was absolutely informed and inspired by my brother. the real gateway bands into me listening to something that wasn’t fucking sum 41 or the who were the strokes and interpol, who i discovered bc my brother and i would watch Subterreanean. I cannot spell that word right now for the life of me. Anyway it was a show on MTV2 that played “indie rock” around 2002.
My brother taught me about sleater kinney, he taught me about veruca salt, and he was the reason i knew about liz phair and exile in guyville. he and i will righteously bitch about liz phair selling out until this day. i didn’t know and in some ways i still don’t how lucky it is that my brother was with it enough to give a shit about the divorce song (por ejemplo) but he fucking did and i’m fucking better for it. so not all men are evil. the ones i’m related to are all right. i refuse to defend any of the others though.