I identify pretty strongly with the manic pixie dream girl archetype. I've always had a weird sense of style, for a start, and quirky interests that have made me interesting to talk to at parties. Throughout my life, I have often been the whimsical, kind of crazy, sexually adventurous, super supportive partner, friend, and coworker. I'm pretty good at helping people make their dreams turn into reality, translating concepts into a plan.
It rarely bothered me, honestly. I like being useful, and while I like getting acknowledged for my work, I don't really feel driven to perform in the spotlight. And I have a good mixture of ideas and practicality, which makes me an excellent person to have on hand when planning an event, or a set, or a costume. I genuinely love to help people uncover new things about themselves, or to see something from a different point of view. All of that gives me strength and hope and a sense of purpose.
I used to channel this energy into submission, I suspect. I genuinely thought I wanted to be a service submissive, someone who was so helpful and so good at anticipating my dominant's needs that I impressed them and made them proud. I looked into service training classes, read loads of books, took every sex tip workshop I could so I could be the best submissive I could be. I wanted to be like Jeeves, from P.G. Wodehouse's classic books. Jeeves is sort of a manic pixie dream butler, I guess, though he's a little more organized and less whimsical (and Wooster and Jeeves probably don't fuck, though, tbh, if they did I bet Jeeves would be the top).
His real job, however, is to be the companion that drives the main character along his path. And when I look back at the relationships in my life, I am so often that person. I'm not acting as the protagonist of my own story, but a sidekick for someone else.
I think about the big life shifts I've made - moving to California, moving to London, being involved with Mission Control, modeling for erotic photos, performing in porn, building a rocketship, becoming poly. So many of them were, yes, things I wanted to do, but I did them to be a companion to someone else, to help them or their project along. I was a support figure, not a main participant, and I went along with someone else's plan, because why not? I'm pretty flexible and generally up for an adventure. Sure, many of these things went relatively unacknowledged, and I would reassure myself that it was ok, because a Good Submissive is able to improve other people's lives without them even noticing, right?
There's a big problem with this though, I'm discovering. Or there's a couple of problems, really. One of them is that it's really hard for me to figure out what my needs actually are. It's so much easier to force myself into the mold of what a partner wants, to adapt to their desires, than it is to ask for what I desire. I've never really sat down and been proactive about what I want, just reactive about what I don't want, away from what doesn't feel right rather than towards what does. It's part of codependency, in a way - make yourself into the ideal lover and your lover won't leave, is the theory, though I don't know if that's even true. It hasn't been, certainly. And when do you compromise your needs and wants, versus sticking to your guns? What are my dealbreakers, really? I'm so used to navigating other people's boundaries and wants that it's difficult for me to name my own. But I forget that when I do that, I'm also serving my partner's unhealthy relationship patterns, because I'm giving them the expectation that it's fine to always get their way, that I won't ever say no, that the only compromises will be mine.
Another is that when you're never acknowledged, it's hard not to feel kind of resentful. Always the helper, never the artist or the muse, at least that's how I've felt. I worry sometimes that my desire to be Seen is just my insecurity or my ego, but I think there's also just a wish to be acknowledged for who I am and what I do so it's not just invisible labour. I don't think that's a bad thing? I think that's a reaction to being a hidden girlfriend, an unseen volunteer, a forgotten backstage worker. I've had women flirt with lovers in front of me like I didn't exist... and lovers who responded to that, making me feel even less seen. I've worked on projects and come up with ideas only to have my name written out of them entirely. I don't want to be possessive, but I don't want to be completely ignored/deemed unimportant either. But I'm not entirely sure how to ask to be Seen without it seeming self-centered. I don't want to take up too much space, but I also feel like I've been trying to shrink myself so small I barely exist sometimes.
Lastly, I feel like when people expect you to be That Girl, the manic pixie that flies into their life as a happy secondary character, does magic in their messed up life, and then flits off... when you have any needs of your own, the people around you are surprised and a little dismissive. You've never needed that kind of thing before, after all! Maybe it's a phase. If it's not a phase, then the people who were happy to benefit from your emotional labour while giving the minimum in exchange are unpleasantly surprised that you're suddenly having expectations and limits and rules of your own, that you want it to be an even trade. It makes it difficult to decide whether it's worth it to be Seen, if that means that the people around you will begrudge you it.
I have had a sudden realization about how I have allowed things to happen in my life that feel at my expense. I have been so scared of being dramatic or volatile or selfish that I've just let these things happen. I want to be "GGG" after all, I'm terrified of being seen as needy and I try to communicate directly and ask for as little as I can. But that's part of my socialization as a woman and as a femme, that I should be the Giving Tree and give of myself and compromise myself until I am destroyed (which will then be my fault and responsibility to recover from). I need to stop being a secondary character and really figure out who I am and what I want, separate from the people in my life. It's good to consider other people in what you do, but I need to learn to consider myself and put on my own oxygen mask. I need to learn how to be the protagonist in my own story.