Seeking approval (or something like it)

I just finished reading In the Land of Men: A Memoir by Adrienne Miller, an account of the writer’s time as the very young literary fiction editor at Esquire, which coincided with her professional and intimate relationship with writer David Foster Wallace. “DFW” was ten years her senior and already famous, and Miller’s account paints him as brilliant, deeply troubled and misogynistic, even if she doesn’t use those exact words.

Although it isn’t framed that way, I came away believing that Miller wanted both Foster Wallace’s desire and his approval. She doesn’t reveal much about their sexual relationship but I got the idea his desire was more readily available than was his approval. While a ten year age difference isn’t always germaine to power dynamics, it usually is when one is in their twenties and the other in their thirties. I think Miller wanted David Foster Wallace, the famous, genius writer – who people were falling over themselves to “court” – to validate her intellect, to find her, a woman, worthy. (That she was young, tall, slim, and attractive, she never addresses as undoubtedly being of significant interest to him, certainly as much as her considerable intellect and conversational skills, which seems either short-sighted or deliberately obtuse on her part. The man comes across as an admitted horn-dog, despite the author’s efforts to share his sweet, vulnerable side.)

Quite awhile ago I knew a man whose approval I wanted. It was only after I got it that I realized it wasn’t worth having. It was a lesson I won’t forget quickly.  I do not believe, as some say, that only our own approval is necessary in this life, but I damn sure believe if you want approval, you best do everything you can to first learn if it’s worth having. 

 

 

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Seeking approval (or something like it)

    1. Colette Post author

      Yeah, good point. When you’re seeking it, you may not really know what getting it will mean. I think there’s degrees shy of doormat that may simply leave the approval-seeker feeling unsettled.

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  1. Savoring Sixty and Beyond

    I was in that position many, many years ago. As someone else stated, I guess the pursuit of his approval was the challenge and after I got it I realized I was the only one nurturing the relationship. Thankfully I moved on and certainly learned my lesson. Great post!

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    1. Colette Post author

      Thank you.😊I can see that, the challenge aspect (and being the only or main one nurturing the relationship rings loud bells too). For me, I thought this man had qualities he didn’t actually have in part because much if not most of our interactions occurred online so I was largely responding to his curated persona, for a good while anyway.

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    1. Colette Post author

      That’s a good question. The author seems still conflicted to me. She allows here & there that his behavior was beyond the pale but overall I think she’s proud of having been connected to him and his brilliance. To be fair, my suspicion is when you’ve been emotionally/sexually enmeshed like that with someone it’s tricky to ever really think objectively & clearly about it.😐

      Approval is a sticky widget.

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      1. Pistachios

        That’s true – her view of him would be very skewed/biased. I think it can be hard for people to admit that their ex-partners were “bad people” coz it feels like admitting they, themselves, made a bad choice (I think I read that somewhere)

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    1. Colette Post author

      It is normal to want approval but we, women in particular, can be too quick to seek it, particularly when it isn’t given readily, which possibly suggests (not necessarily rightly) that it has more value. And– a woman who does approve of herself can be thrown off her game when someone important to her withholds approval.

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    1. Colette Post author

      An excellent saying! I don’t think I know that one. So many people show up (in our lives) with agendas & we’re supposed to play along. My days of jumping through hoops are over.😐

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