brandymelville

We’ve all heard of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the mythical alt-princess who allows some nerd to see the beauty of his life and also of her tits. This trope is wearisome, but not nearly so troubling as some of the identities that women create for themselves. Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing an uptick of ladies (especially the young’uns) who are taking on the persona of the Damaged Treasure, Messy Bun Girl.

This girl has been the subject of a lot of quizzes, content-farm “pieces” and lists that say things like “20 things all guarded women know” or “How dating a complicated girl will harden your penis.” Don’t be fooled by the changing titles; these thesaurus-born codes all describe the same Damaged Treasure, Messy Bun Girl. Here’s a bit about her. She has been through some unspecified shit, which I guess is why her hair is always a touch bedraggled in the accompanying photo. Like a modern-day damsel in distress, she is being persecuted by monsters — except they are the ones that live in her past and in her brain. Her unnamed traumas have changed her into a wall-building, mysterious kind of paramour.

None of this is inherently bad, as many among us are similarly fucked up. It starts to concern me when the articles get into how to deal with a DTMBG. Here’s a snippet:

“Her sweetness is just hidden, in, well...a lot of rough. You have to be fragile with her. She’s like china, but thinks that she’s the bull, only to face tears at the most unexpected of times. She requires a special type of nurturing that you’re not used to, but it’ll be worth it. Let her know that even though she’s so strong, it’s ok to let yourself be weak, sometimes, and fall into someone else’s arms without fear of being vulnerable.”

Why am I dry heaving? If you’ll notice in the paragraph above, and this is repeated in many DTMBG pieces, the instructions are all to a partner. This removes all responsibility from the person who is damaged to fix her problems. Worse still, it somehow makes her vulnerability, or some might say her inherent China-ness, a prized possession akin to how evangelicals talk about virginity. That approach to personal troubles is like stowing a dog turd under a bed to make the bed more beautiful once the poop is removed. I strongly believe that love involves helping the other person climb out of whatever mental and emotional mire keeps them static, but the DTMBG seems to relish sitting in it with outstretched arms.

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These articles are also insanely weird because they’re clearly written for the damaged person, but are about the damaged person, like how doctors used to only address the husband during a medical visit. The articles instruct the DTMBG’s would-be beau, “When the tears stream down her face, she’ll look at you and you’ll see her in her most honest moment. It’s your job to wipe the tears and just hold her.”

That description, especially since it’s clearly written to the DTMBG, is setting up a lot of my vulnerable sisters to have wildly inaccurate expectations of how an exchange of this sort might go. It is highly possible this demonstration of heartfelt emotion will not go over super well. The breakdown might scare off a potential mate. Or cause him or her to retreat. Or not to react at all. Perhaps another person didn’t sign up for being the keeper of personal traumas as part of some weird mating ritual. It doesn’t really matter, because these narratives miss the point: If you’re revealing something to someone and it causes you to break down, it might be worth seeing a therapist, family member, friend or pot dealer instead of solely entrusting your fragile ego to some dilwad whose intentions are probably unknowable for a good long while.

But what about those lovers who are in a hurry to wipe the tears away?

Take this gentleman, who advises other men (or in a more likely scenario, ladies, in order to get laid) to go for the complicated fish. “She will make you work for her love — and that’s the only thing that really keeps a relationship together,” this dude explains. (False.) He adds, “A wise woman knows to make her man feel like he needs to work for it.” (False.) The author advocates for a DTMBG because he is a donkey, toiling to snatch a carrot in the shape of a lady. This dynamic has been around for centuries, in the form of guarding our breasts, vaginas, anuses and honors, but since we give those out freely what can a man now coax out of us? Being normal? My fellow lady friends, this dude actually wants you to keep up your level of damaged in order to entertain him. Are you a literal circus animal?

Of course not, because as this next guy clearly explains, you are a rescue dog. You are so grateful to be with a dude who isn’t going to actively harm you. “They appreciate the little things, your presence, the time allotted and the energy spent.” I literally copied this sentence and wrote it to my local Humane Society for their annual fundraising appeal. It was about my dog, Hans Gruber. The DTMBG is a great mark for men who want to feel appreciated by acting as most normal, concerned romantic partners with morals should act. This man is like “Um, I didn’t cheat on you, so I don’t understand why you’re mad about anything, really.”

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All of this isn’t to say that we don’t all need saving at some point. Humans need other humans to heal and become better. But the DTMBG is about something dirtier and darker. It’s about fetishizing hurt as a way to gauge the seriousness of a suitor. It’s about making normal human emotions (e.g., distrust after a heartbreak, wanting to take things slowly, etc.) into something that only crazy or damaged women feel. It’s about a dangerous relationship dynamic where the rescuer feels validated by the rescuee’s brokenness. It’s about women cultivating a false sense of “strength” because they have overcome a bad experience, but instead of putting it behind them, they wear it around their neck like a millstone. It’s about putting off change until someone can change you.

Ladies, especially all you young broads out there, the next time you see one of these articles and you feel a sense of pride, comfort or togetherness for identifying with the text, please consider that you could be on the mend right now! I know this sounds cheesy, but honest to Frank you can begin your recovery immediately, so that whatever wound you keep oozy doesn’t gross people out. And then, when you meet the right man or woman, instead of drying your tears, he or she could clean up your pee because you were laughing too hard together. Hold on, that went off the rails. What I’m saying is this: A damaged girl isn’t a girl that’s having fun. It’s not romantic and it’s not Shakespearean in its poetic tragedy. At the end of the day, you’re just a sad person. I don’t want that for you. And no one should want that for you, including you.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

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Kel Campbell is a content strategist for nonprofits and writes about women, religion, family and sexuality just for hoots.

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