I Am Hannah From 13 Reasons Why (If She'd Lived To Become An 'Unlovable Woman')

Photo: Weheartit
I Am Hannah From '13 Reasons Why' (If She Was Still Looking For One True Love)
Buzz, Self

You don't have to be...

Ever since I watched 13 Reasons Why I've been haunted by the character of Hannah and the song that played as she and Clay danced at their school formal — 'The Night We Met' by Lord Huron.

But I haven't been "haunted" in the way you'd probably assume that I or anyone else would be. I found myself relating to aspects of Hannah on a surprisingly (to me) deep level, but not to the aspects related to suicide or suicidal ideation. 

What I could feel in my own bones was her palpable hunger for her one true love, which ultimately put her in the self-sabotaging mindset that NO ONE would ever love her.

As I played the song in my car approximately 20 to 30 times in a row (and no, I am not exaggerating), I flashed back to the moment when Hannah and Clay final allow themselves to admit their mutual desire.

I thought of how desperately sad it was that she couldn't see for herself in the moment that this one was real — that she did have a friend in Clay, that he was safe, and that he did, in fact, love her in return ... when it hit me that she'd actually shown the same level of excitement when she believed she'd found love with each of the boys she'd fallen for along the way, especially Justin, Marcus, and Clay.

Because her hunger wasn't for any of those three boys, in particular. Her hunger was for love and safety.

She was searching blindly for a deep connection she not only hoped, but firmly believed, was out there waiting for her, just beyond her grasp.

That probably doesn't seem like such an earth-shattering new thought, right?

The idea of a girl or a woman so "desperate" to be loved that she sets herself up for disappointment at best and one abusive relationship after another at worst is grist for the mill these days.

Here's my shattered earth part ...

What I realized in the car, hearing that song, is that Hannah wasn't desperate for love because she didn't love herself, as the over-used, victim-blaming saying goes.

She didn't throw herself at just any boy who came along, thinking she didn't deserve any better or that she should just take what she could get.

She wasn't hungering for that boy or for that love because of some "character flaw" or some hole in her self-esteem she needed to fill from the outside.

She was desperate for love because she believed that having one true love was her birthright.

The boys she fell for came to her. She didn't "throw herself" at anyone. There were plenty of boys she also turned down along the way. She only considered opening her heart to those she believed measured up to her mighty high expectations of the kind of man she not only wanted but the kind of man she absolutely expected to be hers.

The reason I see that so clearly now, and the reason Hannah has been haunting me since I watched the series, it that I AM Hannah.

If she had lived to see the age of 44 — which is just long enough to become what some refer to as the "unlovable woman."

At one point, Hannah says she remained hopeful and willing to give new guys a shot because her parents were high school sweethearts who were still head-over-heels-crazy-in-love with each other. Well, that sounds familiar, given that when my own parents met my mom was 17 and my dad was 23. They married two years later and are still together and madly in love.

When I was in high school I felt it wasn't only possible, but maybe even probable that each and every boy I dated could be "the one." Of course, none of them were. And that's where Hannah's journey ended.

Mine continued, and when I moved on to college, then graduate school, then the workforce, the pattern held firm. Each man held that amazing potential to fulfill my destiny. Yet none of them did.

Like the boys Hannah dated, the boys and then men I believed would be "mine" were, by and large, no slouches either.

There was the captain of the high school football team. The handsome king of the drama crew every girl thought was some kind of god. A male model. A few bankers. Hot-shot attorneys. B-C-and-D list actors. You name it.

Here's why that matters. If Hannah or I had such low self-esteem that we considered ourselves undeserving of one extraordinary true love, not only would neither of us have expected to find it, but we certainly wouldn't have believed it possible that a superstar basketball player (or investment banker or soap opera star) would be the one to give us that love.

But, like Hannah, the idea that I would find not only "the one," but the EXACT one I wanted was something I assumed was a given.

Every couple before me in my family — my parents and both of my parents' parents — had simply found each other when they were young, dated briefly, and that had been that.

Except that isn't how it usually works.

Still assuming the one you marry must certainly be "the one," and wanting to believe the fates would bring him to me in some magical way, I married a man who said all the perfect things about those who'd come before him to make me believe HE was it.

There's no need for details, but in a nutshell, allowing someone to choose themselves as your life partner while you ignore your inner voice trying to remind you of what you deserve rarely ends well.

 

I still struggle to understand why I entered that marriage and why I made some seriously unhealthy choices in men since my divorce. As each relationship ignites, falters, and my skin tears away against more scorched earth, I sit in shock.

I "did the work" you're supposed to do. I still do the work. Every single day.

Therapy. Meditation. Journaling (if you want to call texting friends, writing articles and occasionally composing snarky vague-booking posts journaling).

All of which is supposed to help me uncover why, somewhere in my core, I must not "love myself" or I must not believe I "deserve" love so that I can "fill my own well."

No one can love you until you love yourself, right? No wonder you're so unlovable, woman.

I assumed there must be some root issues related to my childhood that left me feeling so terribly unworthy that I would continue settling for one asshole after another. Something or someone MUST have fucked up my self-perception. Was it my mother? My father? My brother? Some teacher or coach or doctor or counselor or friend or frenemy? 

Who did this to me?!

If I didn't find out and resolve my internal conflicts, I'd surely be destined to a future of toxic relationships. And as I haven't been doing a great job of figuring it out, the future, it would seem, was going to suck pretty damn bad. (I mean, there are always cats and porn, but not the point.)

Watching '13 Reasons Why' it finally hit me. The truth — MY truth is the opposite of all of this.

My childhood was SO good and my parents' relationship is SO good, it simply never occurred to me that my fate would include anything other than finding the same.

So back to me watching Hannah, who is me, and who is now 44 years old. Hannah doesn't doubt that she deserves love. She doesn't doubt that she deserves love with a man of quality and strength of character.

She expects ALL of it.

She just feels like she's not getting it. Which is what I feel.

I know that I deserve love. To be honest, I'm a fucking catch. I deserve to share an extraordinary love with a man of quality and strength of character. And it's not that I think he would be lucky and should feel honored to have me, it's that I think WE would be lucky, and WE would deserve to have each other.

What I haven't known, and what I'm still working to know, is this.

What does the kind of man I deserve  — a man of quality and strength of character — look like to me? How do I know if HE deserves ME?

Looking honestly at the men I've had toxic relationships with, none of them suddenly changed overnight into who they were. The issues that made these men so deeply wrong for me were all present within them the entire time. But I hadn't taken the time to do the truly complicated work — the work of figuring out who they each were before allowing them access to my entire being.

I didn't choose any of those men. I chose the idea that fate would simply bring my love to me.

Because, again, it's not that I didn't think I deserved love, it's that I simply expected it, and I expected it to be simple.

So simple that when the love I envisioned failed to materialize, I came to the conclusion that Fate must have forgotten to write my name in the book of people who get to have that.

That's pretty damn self-defeating point of view.

Just over a year ago I had an amazing conversation with a friend of mine, Jay Blevins, who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I told him that this is how I feel. 

Unlovable.

I was far from the only woman he'd heard such a statement from, and he brilliantly shared his thoughts in an article in which he wrote:

"It doesn’t matter how smart, how fun, how caring, how successful, or how attractive women are. They believe it… 'I am unlovable.' [As] I listen to their stories I begin to see why they believe it. It is because men have told them they are. Over and over and over again...

How many of you have ever claimed a woman was over-emotional, over-reacting, too demanding, high maintenance, clingy, crazy, controlling, or irrational?... [Men] are often wildly attracted to smart, strong, intelligent, passionate, authentic women. Men see the positive energy, fire and authenticity and want to be a part of it. They will virtually orbit those women just to be around them.

When those men come to realize that this type of woman takes more than they are able or willing to give, it seldom ends well. The attraction is still there, but men don’t want to accept that it is their lack of effort that is the issue. They’d rather criticize the woman for having the very traits that made her attractive in the first place...

However it plays out, the cycle is perpetuated. Women that aren’t afraid to show that they have intelligence, passion and more are given the message they are unlovable."

Being a woman who is "orbited" so often in this way, only to be either left alone holding a shattered heart or ensnared by a man who continually manipulates and attempts to control her, is debilitating. Not because a woman like this lacks self-esteem or self-love, but because wrapping someone in the promise of love only to leave her in a silence colder than steel or batter her with criticisms of all those qualities you once said you chose her for or worse — these behaviors are abusive. They tear apart not only a person's soul but the neurochemistry at the core of their essential functioning as a human on a daily basis.

I am that woman. Hannah was on her way to becoming that woman as well.

And here's where Jay maybe, just maybe, holds the answer for all of us unlovable women out there: 

"There is a different type of man. One who believes that a woman like this is worth investing time and energy into. That having a woman like this in his life makes him a better man. That there is value in having to stay on his toes, having to think, having to make an effort. That a relationship like this is not only worth the effort, but substantively different than anything he’ll experience elsewhere."

For all of the time we spend telling women to focus on loving themselves, I, for one, would love to see some quality reflection given to understanding the quality of love we should expect and accept from others.

I can love myself until the cows come home, but if I choose to believe the Universe will bring me what I deserve once I've done the work and I accept unquestioned what the Universe offers, well, there's my heart and soul charred on the ground — again. 

It's time for us to proactively do the work of teaching our girls, and ourselves, what the love we deserve does and does NOT look like.

It's time for us to proactively do the work of teaching our boys and our men what we will and will not accept.

Because the fact of the matter is, all of us, as humans, don't just need to love ourselves, we need to be loved. And we ALL deserve it.

If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately by calling The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. There is hope!

 

Author
Editor