Deserve: A Rant

This deserve thing comes up a lot when I sit down and talk to my girls.  “You deserve better.”

And every time I hear that, I hear the other voice saying “I don’t deserve…”  They go hand in hand.

Why is deserve such a common framework for thinking about relationships…  like this was supposed to be some kind of fair exchange.  Like any of this was ever going to be a tit-for-tat affair played as cleanly as a game of chess.  This isn’t the grocery store, where a dollar spent gets you a head of lettuce or something.  We’re talking about people here.  Not people in the theoretical sense, but a person.  One brave, thorny, tired, frustrated, beautiful, determined person.

I’ve heard all kinds of things in the past few days.  One of the most challenging things to hear was that I sound like an abuse victim in defense of her abuser.


I go back to Tom Stoppard: ‘It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.’

I’m in no position to judge what someone else deserves or doesn’t deserve.  Deserve is not a question or a measure I’ll entertain, not for the people I love and not for me.  What I deserve or don’t deserve is not on the table.  This isn’t because I think I’m somehow incidental or that where I am is particularly sustainable.  It isn’t.  I’m very clear on that.  This isn’t a function of my evaluation of my own worth.  In fact, it isn’t about me at all.   (This, incidentally, is the kind of “clever semantics” that get me accused of defending a person who doesn’t “deserve” it.  But hell, if you can’t put your hard-won philosophy into practice, what effing good is it?)

Anyway, I never want to love in a way that gets parsed out like badges for boy scouts.  I’m not playing for my resume, or for some kind of status, or for a diamond ring, or a wedding that gets me on TV.  There are no paparazzi, no awards to campaign for.  No one is looking and I’m not playing for what anyone else thinks.  I’m here for my own reasons.   And it isn’t because I’ve got a savior complex.  It isn’t because I like them emotionally unavailable.  It isn’t because I’m replaying old habits or old fractures.  It has nothing to do with me.

Neal used to say to me “Angel-face, some times you see someone and you can’t help it.  You recognize the divine fire in them.  You aren’t going to see it in everyone and that’s okay.  But when you do see it, it’s a gift.  Honor it.”

And if that makes me mentally unbalanced, so be it.

Deserve: A Rant

3 thoughts on “Deserve: A Rant

  1. I had a very similar rant to this at the end of May and promptly struck “deserve” (and later “adult”) from my vocabulary. “Deserve” comes with too many judgments and criteria that have no bearing in the scope of emotions like love and forgiveness, and, if we value ideas like “equality,” for any one person to decide what someone else deserves seems absolutely ludicrous.


  2. I agree – obviously. Once you start listening for it, deserve shows up in the strangest of places. From selling a 1200 calorie slice of cheesecake to defining what the parameters are of a relationship… and a step further into politics. It is a toxic word, at least in the way that it is used in the culture I’m familiar with.


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