Essay 33: Potential, Potential, Potential

by rosalyster

I used to know someone who thought I was very smart. It was, he made clear, the big deal about me. I was so clever, I had so much potential, I was remarkable for my age. It is possible that he was a little bit in love with me. I was very young, and I thought he was just the bee’s knees.

He would raise his eyebrows at things I said. He made a series of weird remarks about the clarity of my soul. My friends were sure that he wanted to sleep with me. I was sure that they were all the worst kind of sexist pigs, sexist bitches, for saying that. How could they think that he wanted to sleep with me when all he was doing was telling me over and over again how smart I was? It was so typical of this terrible world, really, that an old man couldn’t tell a 23 year old girl how brilliant she was without some dreary old naysayer, some mom, suggesting that there might be something else going on there. It didn’t occur to me that I was wrong.

If you haven’t heard of negging, it’s when a person gives with one hand and takes with the other. This is done with an eye to future sexing. Negging is when, for example, you are in the club and you see a girl. She is standing there chatting to her pals. You go up to her and stand on the fringes of the group. No one thinks this is weird or embarrassing. You nod along for a bit, and then you look at the girl’s friends and say, like “Wow, do you ladies ever get a word in edgewise? It seems like she never stops talking,” thus indicating to her that you are not interested. Thus making her feel the bitter sting of being just like everyone else. Negging is when you make her think that her looks have no power over you. The idea is that you “lower her social value in relation to yours” and she has no choice then but to give you the first of many blowjobs. This is all freely available on the internet. Anyone can read this.

There are lots of men who swear by negging. The internet heaves with them, all of them on forums writing “I am right, negging works, tell a girl she looks like your little sister and it’s BLOWJOB TIME, PAL. It WORKS.” A normal person looks at all this crazy bullshit and wants to dismiss it out of hand. Any normal person, surely, wants to believe that it’s a myth. I so, so wish it was.  I have never been negged in the club, but I have been subject to a sustained campaign of negging by the man who thought I was very smart, and I am telling you that it works. It made me feel like shit, but it also made me think I was in love with him.

His version of negging was to tell me that I was so, so smart, so much potential, but that it was always going to remain as potential. I was always going to be the girl that wasted her giant brain, because she couldn’t do any work. She couldn’t get it done. See how good that is? Smart, but a fuck up. Brilliant, but who cares?

It works. It made me think all kinds of stupid shit, like for example that he was the only person who understood me.  Like maybe we should just get married.

It took about five years for me to realise what was going on, there. I got sick of it all at once, just bored with all this stuff about my beautiful dying brain. A person with a more robust self-esteem would have got the shits with it much earlier. Still.

It took another two years for me to stop being angry. It was so long ago, and as it turns out, I am grateful to him. He was such an old creeper, and I ended up disliking him in a way that made it possible for me to dismiss everything he said. The whole business of whether or not I was smart just went out the window. He made it so I never, ever wanted to think about it again. As it turns out, this was a gift. I haven’t thought I was smart in years. I haven’t worried about my potential once. It just does not come up for me, anymore. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and all it took was one old creeper.