“Danielle has bad taste in men.”
This was a popular refrain amongst my friends and acquaintances in my twenties. I’d cock my head, cutely shrug and smile, playing it up for the extra laugh. I’d even announce it myself. Take ownership of it. “Ugh, I’m the worst, why do I pick terrible men!” Insert dramatic sigh, romance novel cover style with my hand draped over my forehead and my eyes closed.
The truth was that I only picked one truly bad one. One. The majority of stories I have now of past break-up experiences can be chalked up to immaturity (on the part of the guy and me), bad timing, miscommunication, feelings that weren’t reciprocated and just plain old differences in character that led to a congenial parting of ways. And the one bad ex in question was the first guy I ever seriously dated. So along with not choosing wisely back then, I was in the midst of trying to figure out how everything worked in an adult relationship.
The problem with using this “has bad taste” as a recurring joke or a label is that it’s demoralizing. It insinuates that you haven’t grown or can’t grow beyond a poor choice (or choices) you’ve made. Are we all so infallible that we get to brand people with this negative distinction?
Think about how it’s considered snarky and funny it is to say out loud at cocktail parties, as in, “Oh my gosh, you just date the WORST people, don’t you?” But what if you said the same thing pertaining to other questionable life choices, as if any one choice was the one thing to define you:
“Hey, remember when you called your ex a bunch of times before your wedding? You always do terrible things to your husband, don’t you?”
“What about that time you accepted a job at a place that bounced your paychecks, you always make AWFUL career choices.”
No one “always” does anything. And if someone has had a string of unsavory partners maybe they’re working through issues of past abuse or low self esteem and anxiety and you’re not exactly being a great friend by knocking it down to what you think is a cute little joke about having bad taste. When have any of us ever had perfect taste in any aspect of life? If you think you have, take a look at your haircut in your eighth grade yearbook and have yourself a seat.
Sometimes it seems that it’s not enough that we evolve in our personal lives, because there’s always some insensitive person who thinks it’s fun to remind us of past mistakes. And there are times when a mistake was a lesson. A big one. One that got us to where we are now, growth that may not have happened without some failed attempts to get it right.
Don’t let someone’s crap attempt at humor make you feel like you’re not worth more than any so-called bad choices. Don’t allow them to hold those instances up as if they should be emblazoned on your forehead everywhere you go so people know you once dated a guy who cheated, as if that therefore indicates that you’re damaged forever in the land of relationships. You don’t need to accept – or even smile at – their narrow description of you as a person. No one thing defines us. Ever.
So stop apologizing for being human and not always making the right decision.
And get yourself some new friends.