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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ulatowski

Do You Ever Get Over Being Chopped Liver?

Chopped liver and onions on a cutting board
(Photo Credit: Wix)

I used to think I could get used to anything. It was always kind of my philosophy. How else could I explain various phenomena of my life, like getting "used to" abuse to the point it took me years to recognize the dysfunction of my upbringing or how my body could go from being unable to run 1 mile to getting "used to" running 10 miles with ease? I even sometimes question if there is such a thing as "love" just because I feel humans would grow to love almost anyone if they spent enough time around them. We have the whole enemies-to-lovers trope as proof of humans' changing affections in the face of proximity. Therefore, is it really love, or is it just getting used to someone?

Of all the things I could get used to in life, being chopped liver should've been the easiest. I can't recall a period in my life where I wasn't chopped liver. I was always the least favorite, the least desirable, and the last choice if I even was a choice.

It was so well known that I was the chopped liver of my mother's children that she compared herself to an animal to excuse the undeniable truth. Pretending to be as philosophical and deep a thinker as Aristotle, she sat on the couch with serious eyes and a straight face, explaining to us children that it was a fact that some animals (she did not specify which animals), when separated from their babies for some time, decide that they don't want them. Hence, she, being so closely related to unspecified animals, failed to bond with me because my one-pound premature self stayed at the hospital several days after she went home.

Surely, a child carrying around their mother's bizarre explanation of why she doesn't like her on her shoulders wouldn't ever expect to be anything more than chopped liver. So, I didn't mind much when I continued to be chopped liver. I was always the only person in class left without a partner. At the end of the cross-country practice, I'd always have to partner with the coach when we were supposed to team up for team stretches. Once, a boy got teased about what he was "so afraid of" when he balked at sitting next to me on the bus or doing warmups with me because we were the only two left. When I was in college, my dad and sister went to great lengths to hide a Disneyland trip from me because they were so terrified I would want to go with them.

Chopped liver, chopped liver, chopped liver. It was just the beat my life played to since the day I was born. I didn't really think I was that inferior; I just accepted that it was how others saw me. In the same way I believed I could get used to anything, I also believed that I could be anything that anyone wanted me to be, but even then, they'd never accept me. It wasn't about who I was or what I did; they just didn't want me. The essence of me, I suppose.

Given this background, I shouldn't have expected anything else in my relationship besides being chopped liver. Men certainly made it clear to me that a woman like me didn't have many options. I was just supposed to be grateful with whatever I could get. Still, even after living life as chopped liver and growing accustomed to my inferior status in family, college, and society, I still thought my relationship would be different.

A man started paying me some attention at work and didn't run away when I was quiet, awkward, and not the giggly, bubbly, flirty girl that men expect me to be. Soon, he asked me to be his girlfriend. That was it, really. Just those facts were enough for me to create an alternate reality in my mind. For the first time in my life, I thought somebody sought me out. I thought someone chose me and only wanted me. I wasn't very familiar with dating, so I thought this was the typical sequence of events with a guy having an old-fashioned crush on a girl and slowly and respectfully pursuing her until he got her.

It was silly of me, I know. In this day and age, everyone's talking to everyone. Trying to decipher the difference between talking, seeing each other, sleeping with each other, dating, and being boyfriend and girlfriend is dizzying. Even so, three months into my relationship, I was shocked when I randomly received a text message from my boyfriend that essentially read, "Hey, you know J. E., that girl you always see me hanging around? Well, we have a sexual history, and I'm in love with her, but I'm still going to keep talking to her and being around her even though I'm with you, and you don't get any say in it. I wasn't ever going to tell you, but she told me to tell you, so I did. Also, I'm at work now, so don't message me back."

Of course, I'd seen him with that girl, but I knew she was in a five-year relationship, so I happily dismissed any second thoughts about them. Over the next few days, I was the unwilling learner of the details of their sexual exploits and how their "thing" had carried on allegedly up until days before we started dating. It would be years before I'd learn about everything they did in those three months in which I didn't know about them (but she oddly knew about me).

For some reason that is still incomprehensible to me, I stayed with him. I dealt with him and J. E. for an entire year of our relationship and many additional years, uncovering things they hid from me. I survived that first year because of the chopped liver story I made up in my head. I suppose I always subconsciously thought along the irrational lines of my mother's animal story. So, I created a scenario in my head to excuse the fact that this girl cheated on her boyfriend of five years. I told myself she was prettier, funnier, nicer, and better than me in most ways. I told myself she helped my boyfriend through the passing of his father and that I'd be cruel to take him away from such an amazing human specimen as J. E.

I told myself this even as J. E. began following me around our college campus everywhere I went, when she pretended to work for the school paper to interview me one-on-one about being a "nobody" on campus, when she spammed every group chat I was in, insulted me, and smirked at me when touching or flirting with my boyfriend. Eventually, her behavior got so horrendous that even my boyfriend couldn't ignore it, and he cut her off. We had momentary peace until I started learning about everything I didn't know.

The thing was, she wasn't better than me. I learned she was a raging narcissist and that my boyfriend was just one of at least a dozen guys she had cheated on her boyfriend with, while her boyfriend quit college to pay her tuition, had his family take her in every summer to live with them rent-free, and worked constantly so that he could afford to buy her a place to live when she graduated. He would drive four hours one way to visit her on campus, just hours after she had another guy in her dorm room. She always targeted the guys with the lowest self-esteem who had the most trouble getting girlfriends, then would convince them that they should be grateful that someone as "amazing" as she would let them buy her things, take her on dates, and help her cheat on her boyfriend.

Today, a lot of my career is focused on dismantling incel rhetoric about how all women are leading men on and are conniving, manipulative, and evil. That's why it particularly infuriates me when I see that one-in-a-million woman who actually is all those things just for the fun of it, knowing that every woman will suffer because gross men will latch onto that sole example and accuse all women of being like that. No, J. E. was never better than me. She was never nice; she never did anything besides manipulate and use my boyfriend, and her ugliness inside carried to her outside.

That's what's hard for me. I would embrace being chopped liver if my boyfriend had found someone I could never eclipse. Maybe a tall, blond, feminist professional athlete and humanitarian or something. For the first time, though, I thought that I was not insignificant compared to this person.

My boyfriend changed. The second he blocked the toxicity of J. E. out of his life, he was a new person. Nowadays, he is pretty much everyone's dream boyfriend. It has gotten to the point where I sometimes feel like I need to force him to go out with the guys or go out for a drink to get some space for me. We've traveled the world, blocked out a lot of toxic people, and built our own cozy life together.

So... why couldn't I say yes when he tried to propose to me? I know we're good for each other and probably will always be together. Yet, a part of me just can't see marrying him or being 100% vulnerable with him. I tried to think of what I wanted with him and came to the lyrics of "Heat Waves" by Glass Animals. There's one lyric that mentions something "perfectly un-sad." That's what I wanted: A love that's perfectly un-sad. However, our love will always be sad.

It will always be sad knowing that the man I'm with told me to my face that he was in love with another woman while he was with me. I sometimes wished that his thing with J. E. happened after we met. Then, at least, we'd have had some time when I was his first choice. When I was his only choice. I was never that, though. There was never a time when we were talking or dating that I was his first choice. I realized later I wasn't even a choice on his list. When I asked why he first started dating me, he admitted it was because he "wanted a girlfriend," not because he wanted me. Weeks before we started dating, he was already preoccupied with planning how he would keep J. E. close despite asking me to be his girlfriend.

I guess I'm his choice now, but there will always be that part of me that knows I wasn't what he wanted. He got "used to" me, but I know if he had it his way in the beginning, he'd be with someone else or at least have been cheated on and had his heart broken by someone else. If that's really what he preferred to me, then I struggle to think of what that makes me.

I've tried doing research about what it does to someone, always being chopped liver. What are the psychological effects? Do you ever get over it? I never really find anything, though.

I used to think I could get used to being chopped liver, but now I know that's why my relationship isn't perfectly un-sad. I was so used to being chopped liver that there was a part buried deep inside me that hoped my relationship would be different. I had hoped that to at least one person in the universe, I wouldn't be chopped liver. I could withstand being chopped liver to everyone else if I had one person with whom I was the first and best choice rather than what they got stuck with.

So, to all of the chopped livers in the world, Googling, "Do you ever get used to being chopped liver?" I can say from personal experience, no, you don't. That's quite a depressing thought, but my hope is that the answer reaches all those preparing to treat others like chopped liver. Before you compare yourself to an animal to describe why your daughter is chopped liver or before you break that innocent girl's heart to pursue a girl who cares nothing for you, maybe this article will resurface in your mind. Maybe you'll reconsider if it is truly worth treating someone in a way they'll never really get used to or get over. The human brain is remarkable at adapting, and it should mean something that being treated as insignificant is one grievance and discomfort it can't simply adapt to.

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