I remember seeing this quote on a lot of women’s Facebook pages as I went through college and not thinking much of it. I figured, “They want to be appreciated as they are. How nice.” But over the years, I’ve kept quiet about this famous quote and now want to unleash the beast onto this calamity that’s out of control. What quote could have me this up in arms?
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
— Marilyn Monroe
I’d be willing to bet that this quote is on roughly 500,000 different Facebook pages at the very least and likely used in a truncated version on another 250,000 Twitter accounts. Monroe, who by all accounts is one of history’s great thinkers, has some serious staying power with this blurb. What’s the big problem, you ask? This sentiment is way too dangerous when folks think they can get loose and if their man can’t handle it, he doesn’t deserve her at her best.
I get what the great Monroe was thinking. She will make errors and would appreciate it if her significant other wouldn’t hold those mistakes against her or lord them over her head. But she was also Marilyn Monroe. Y’all ain’t Marilyn Monroe. If you get out of control and loose as some sort of test to see if your man CAN handle you and use this quote as your rationale, you are messing up. Moreover, if you think that a true partner can act wild and that his/her significant other should stick by, then perhaps your idea of a healthy relationship needs to change.
But I’m missing the main point right now, which is that if Monroe the Great gets to put this idea out, let’s see what happens in this scenario:
A young man has a great relationship with his girlfriend normally. He’s loving, caring, attentive, and responsive. He anticipates her needs because he knows her so well. They share in each others activities, she is caring and responsive to his needs and they generally have fun together. The problem is sometimes he gets a little mad and has punched walls and doors and couches. She gets scared during these moments and tries to get out of his path, in case he’s seeing red and “accidentally” treats her like one of the walls.
We’d tell the woman to either try to get him help for his anger management issues or to get out of there before he starts beating on her. I’d suggest that’s the right way to go, given a situation such as this. The problem? When the guy gets mad and violent, it’s him at his worse. He’s making mistakes, he’s out of control, and he’s certainly hard to handle. The girlfriend is struggling to deal with him at his worst, and the argument from Monroe is if you can’t handle the person at their worst then you don’t deserve the person at their best. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the best boyfriends in the world. Given what Monroe has argued, what do we make of the situation?
How about this one: he does begin hitting the woman, getting to a new low and a worst of the worst. He’s still exhibiting all of the trademark signs that Monroe said – out of control, hard to handle, certainly insecure and selfish. He’s still amazing at his best, however. The poor woman can’t handle him at his worst, so she doesn’t deserve him at his best, right? What does she deserve from him – more beatings? This is where the quotation gets dangerous – if you can’t handle me at my worst (and my worst can be potentially vicious), then apparently you don’t deserve the full power of love I can give. What exactly do you deserve then? More than that, what does this mean for the person who has to go through my vicious worst so that I know that person deserves my best?
When misinterpreted, this quotation gives people unnecessary leeway to test their partners to see if they can stand up to the heat. “If they can’t stand my heat,” the proud misinterpreter says, “then they can get the hell out of my kitchen because they don’t deserve the dinner.” Already the relationship is starting from an unhealthy spot, wherein there’s an exam being proctored that the partner likely doesn’t know about. Sure, one might say that partners are always testing each other’s limits to see how far they can push each other. I did that with my parents to see how much I could do without getting into trouble (because parents are near omnipresent and omniscient when you’re a kid), but it makes no sense to test one’s partner to see if they can handle your bullshit. Monroe the Great wasn’t advocating for testing one’s partner, just for acceptance of one’s humanity. If you can’t handle that I will not be perfect, then no, you don’t deserve my best. But if you think this means you get to test somebody’s patience as a means of gauging how “strong” they are and if they deserve your goodness because they endured your badness, then you need to get out of your own damn kitchen.