why ethan hawke still makes me crazy

My oldest daughter moved out today and I’m thinking about Troy Dyer. I’ve been preparing for this day for eighteen years (about 3.5 blinks for parents) and it feels a little anticlimactic. She’s ready.

I think she’s amazing. Despite current parenting trends, I do not expect everyone she meets to also think she’s amazing. But I know she’s going to meet a lot of cool people, people who are themselves amazing in ways both complementary and uncomplimentary to her, and she’s going to be okay. She’s going to be better than okay if my desires for her are that she carve her own path and be true.

So I stood on a freezing porch this morning and waved good-bye to a beautiful woman I love and am lucky to know. Then I walked downstairs with her kickass Wonder Woman mug filled with coffee, because it wouldn’t fit in her luggage. And Troy Dyer was on my mind.

He’s one of my first loves: a more permanent fixture in my imagination than most men I knew twenty years ago because I get to revisit him every 2-5 years. He never ages, he still smokes Camel Straights and smiles that same crazy smile.

Fiction is so often better than reality.

Troy Dyer is a brooding musician in the movie Reality Bites played by the ever-adorable/sexy/handsome (depending on the decade) Ethan Hawke. I loved him then and I love him still. (If you’re an Ethan Hawke fan, please check out Maudie with the invincible Sally Hawkins.)

And as I walked down the stairs today, holding my daughter’s Wonder Woman mug, I wondered why I gave Troy Dyer a tiny corner of my heart. What is it about him?

And I think it’s this:

“Oh yeah, right, Michael…Michael. He’s so mature…because he lets you navigate that entire relationship. Well, I’m sorry Lelaina, but you can’t navigate me. I might do mean things, and I might hurt you, and I might run away without your permission, and you might hate me forever, and I know that scares the living shit outta you cause you know I’m the only real thing you’ve got.”

At the time, all I could see was cowardice in that scene, but through the years I’ve grown, and now I’m old enough to be Troy’s mother. I see it completely differently now because I see men completely differently now.

I didn’t know what men needed when I was younger. I just wanted them to want me. There were a few conversations with both men and women about being attracted to the “bad ones” and settling down with the “good ones.” When I was young, I wanted Safe. Now I see how important it is to find Real.

The more years I live, the more well-meaning, misguided men I see become companions of women, and think that means taming down their voices, their desires, their place. I want to see couples who are Independently Fierce, and even fiercer together. Becoming a partner with a woman doesn’t mean she gets to be in charge. It means you get to become better and stronger and fiercer TOGETHER.

Please, men: do not allow one woman to tell you what you need to become. They might speak out of all they’ve known, and if that’s fear, they’re going to need to control you.

Please don’t let them.  If they need a constant companion, a childhood best friend replacement and shopping partner, they don’t need a man. They need a friend. Or a pet. Buy them a big purse and a small dog. Do not let them put a leash around your neck. Please.


she doesn’t know what she wants


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