What Does It Even Mean to Be a 'Needy' Girl?

What Does It Even Mean to Be a 'Needy' Girl?

Who is ‘That Girl’ anyway? Is she a sketchy drunk? An
insecure mess? An attention whore? One thing is clear, the phrase That Girl is
a stigma-laden expression. Whatever you’re doing as That Girl, rest assured,
you’re doing it wrong. But a therapist who listens to women fret about being
That Girl thinks maybe That Girl doesn’t really exist, or if she does, she’s
just fine.

Dr. Rebecca Kennedy, a clinical psychologist, says she hears all
about That Girl
in her psychotherapy practice. She’s “crazy with
guys.” She texts “too often.” She wants exclusivity right away. Put simply, she can be described using
the worst possible insult to a young millennial woman: needy.

Ignore the millennial tag for a moment, because “needy” as a pejorative knows no generational bounds. And as a descriptor, it’s far
more likely to be lobbed at women. I don’t know a woman alive who hasn’t been
told at some point or another she’s being needy for anything from having a case
of the feels to wanting to talk about something, you know, more than once or longer than
five minutes

But what the fuck is needy anyway? It means having
needs. The connotation, of course, is that you have too many needs, but it’s tough to find an exact number of needs
it’s OK to have. One need, only on Sundays after dinner? Three needs a week? Annual
Needs Fest Where All Needs Are Met, Then Never Referred to Again?

No, see, the neediness of any one person is a
relative thing compared to whomever they are with. Being needy ultimately means
needing more from the person you are with than they think you should need from
them, or than they need from you.

But that’s not what the Internet says! Search around
and you’ll find tons of advice for women on how to not be needy, all based on
the well-understood idea that guys hate needy women, ergo, don’t be any thing
that a guy might hate, ya batshit harpy nutjob. Google around and behold the
deep understanding of the Needy Woman and How Not to Be Her.

AskMen, for instance, kicks off a real doozy with
this opener for a authoritative-sounding piece called “The
Psychology of Needy Women

Opening line: Needy
women can be among the most frustrating aspects of a man’s romantic life.

TRUE DAT. You’re a dude just trying to have some
chicken wings and all-a-sudden you gotta a lady tied to your muffler, spying on
you. Their takeaway? Her parents probably fucked her up. However she is acting
goes way back, bro, way back before you, and therefore has nothing to do with
anything you are doing or saying, whether or not you demonstrate
trustworthiness, an ability to speak full sentences, or, if, in fact, you even
know how to be in a relationship.

Moving on, this Cosmo piece instructing women on how
to be less needy
outlines why needy is bad: “guys are repelled by
neediness because it hints at a woman’s insecurity.” Ah
yes, insecurity, that old female problem that never plagues men. Avoid this
dark fate by not being needy. Voila! No really, you can do that by letting the relationship unfold organically.
Oh ok, that’s always a super specific pace that everyone in the universe
follows, like not seeing a guy more than twice a week for the first month or
two. Not answered: Can we eat after midnight? Must I wait four minutes
to text back?

Another Cosmo piece details
four ways women “come off as too needy,” and they include NOT asking for his approval, NOT relying on him for fun, NOT reading into his
, and of course that old time-tested needy girl move, NOT gluing yourself to him.

I will never ask a guy what he thinks of my bangs and/or preferred brand of glue again. But what gets me always about advice like this is
that it never unpacks why women specifically might allegedly act this way in the first
place. And more importantly, it sets the “correct” default behavior
based on male preference for “less” interaction, and works back from there.

In other words, guys don’t talk a lot or ask a
lot questions, so they hate when you do it, and when you do it, it’s naturally
going to seem like TOO much of that shit. So let’s stop being that way. Instead, you could look at how lack of trust is probably behind some of this stuff. Or that you would only read into a person’s actions if they hadn’t sufficiently explained them for you.

Also, hello? Lack of trust can be a
reason for neediness from anyone. If you’re asking probing questions about your
dude’s daily whereabouts like one of the Cosmo examples, you’re not being needy,
you’re being distrustful and/or possessive. Have a conversation about why.

But back to Dr. Rebecca Kennedy. She asked her
patients who talk about That Girl how to not be That Girl, and their answer was

Don’t let the guy know that you want more
than he wants.

Ah yes. Never tip your hand in the game of love. Look,
right here I will throw all comers a bone and admit that absolutely, yes, everyone
likes a little game, a little mystery, a tiny bit of excitement in a
relationship. But there is a huge difference between enjoying the
getting-to-know you pace — an utterly arbitrary pace set by BOTH PEOPLE, NOT A MAGAZINE — versus a
highly rigid gender-o-matic set of guidelines that prove for at least two
months that you were a very good actor who Needed Nothing.

Also: Sometimes it’s cool to be up front.
Sometimes that can be its own thrill. The thrill of a relationship to me is not
how long you both held out acting like badass Teflon robots. It’s how well you connected and in what ways, and the adventure of finding those connections.
That’s the shit, morons!

Also, I’ve never met someone who isn’t needy on some level. Not even once. Not even
kinda. Yes, it’s certainly our job if we want to be more self-actualized people
to try to work that shit out and be happy with ourselves, but the idea that we have to act like we don’t
need anyone when the whole reason you are
getting with a person is cause you do
, well, that is pure fucking farce.

Furthermore, a huge part of a healthy relationship is knowing what you need and owning it, and
being able to state it clearly in actual sentences, not hope someone guesses
while you are busy over there in the dark being a mysterious asshole. After that, your work is still not done, because you will need your things and the other person may or may not be capable of giving them to you or vice versa, and then maybe you will reconsider what your needs are, or whether you were even right to want to have that need met. That’s the deal. Yawn. Um, sorry, I mean, just hang out twice a week at first. That will take care of it, too.

In Dr.
Kennedy’s practice, she realized that what the young women in her office were really fighting was more of needy bogey woman/inner critic than someone to be really truly
concerned with.

I’ve never had a new patient come into my office
telling me, I am That Girl. Help me! I asked some of my colleagues, and
they confirm that while they’ve heard a lot about her, they haven’t met her,
either. If That Girl is such a social pariah, how come she never shows up in
our offices to talk about how miserable she is?

Kennedy concludes that That Girl is doing
alright. She’s actually putting herself out there. Being vulnerable. Admitting
what she wants. Going for it. She is careful to not reframe this as some
Liberated Empowerment Model of Female Behavior or anything, she just presents
the quiet idea that maybe That Girl is just fine, and she’s just doing her, and
it’s not the hot mess you think it is. And her advice to young women is pretty simple: Make sure your needs are met. That won’t look the same for everyone. That is OK.

Take us home, Doc:

Maybe That Girl isn’t so crazy after all. When it
comes to guys, she texts because she knows what she wants. She asks to be
exclusive because she knows what she deserves. She also knows what she needs —
and if that is what defines neediness then, yes, she is needy. Does she overshare
sometimes? Sure. Is she the most sought-after girl among young men who are
looking to play the field? Unlikely. Might she struggle to find a partner who
will meet her high expectations? You bet. She has determined that these are
worthwhile prices to pay for establishing self-respecting patterns for sex and

Image by Jim Cooke.

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