Thursday, June 24, 2010
COOKIE I DIG YOUR FRAME
I’m 21 years old, a college graduate, a soon to be law school student, and I’ve never been in love. It isn’t extraordinary to be in such a situation and not even that tragic in comparison to losing your mother, as I did last August, but it is an annoyance, a question, a point of confusion. You hear about this type of thing all the time, I’m sure, and I read your previous response letter and it really got me to thinking, but I’m still a tad bit confused. It’s not that I’ve even had the opportunity for such a relationship where I could fall in love. The longest relationship I’ve been in is 3 dates long and that’s worthy of celebration.
I’ve matured into the girl my mom hoped I would never become- her. I apologize for not being modest but there is no other way for you to fully understand my situation without it being said- I’m pretty and on most days I feel beautiful and confident in myself. I’m intelligent and passionate. I’m worldly and an enthusiast of many things. Guys make passes at me wherever I go, be it in the coffee shops and bookstores or at the bars and clubs, so I can’t even blame it on limiting my options.
It isn’t even that I’ve closed myself off or am too timid. My guy friends think I give too many guys too many chances. And they think I’m at fault for teasing so many guys, but I don’t intend to be a tease. My only intentions are to meet new people, make new friends, and see if anything ever comes of it.
For so many years I went to therapy to avoid becoming the narcissist’s child because my mother and therapist worried that as the narcissist’s child, I would end up with a man like my father- an arrogant man who can talk pretty and win everyone over but the people he should love. Basically they were afraid I’d end up with a man that would only hurt me and not provide me with a healthy type of loving. Maybe that’s why I haven’t found anyone? Because in my subconscious I’m avoiding all men?
I long to be in a relationship with someone. I long for someone to feel that way about me and need me just as badly. I long to feel that love and in a sick way I long to feel a pain that will be different than losing my mother.
I don’t ever want to be the desperate girl. I want to stop being the girl that has a whole lot of one night stand opportunities chasing after her and not one boyfriend potential running after her. What am I to do? A bit of advice would be nice- something to give me a bit of clarity, something to give me a bit of motivation in this quarterly life dilemma I’ve been dealing with.
With The Accent
Dear With The Accent,
Jeez. All of my readers are so gorgeous! I wish I had pictures of all of you beautiful young people, to hang on my sad old lady walls.
Sorry, I couldn't help myself. No, I'm not that fucking old yet, although technically I am old enough to be your mother, which fucking sucks and is the kind of thing that never occurred to me until I turned 40. Lame.
But back to your quarter-life crisis: I understand why you would clarify this. You're an attractive woman. You can fool around with anyone but no one wants a girlfriend. You know that song "Fuck and Run" by Liz Phair? "I want a boyfriend," she sings, while screwing around with this or that guy. Consider yourself lucky, that you're not lonely and slutty. That's far worse. I congratulate you for not being a total slut like the rest of us, men and women alike, were at your age.
Look, you're 21 years old. Of course you haven't been in love yet. The only women who've been in love by your age are women who can suspend their disbelief really well. Most guys your age are, maturity-wise, about 11 years old. Most of them still play with action figures when nobody's looking. They spend most of their time jacking off to pictures of Heidi Montag. Falling in love with the average 21-year-old guy is like falling in love with a really sophisticated monkey -- except less exciting. And more demeaning. And less fun. And more insulting. And less educational. And more obnoxious.
Well, OK, I did have lots of thoughtful, smart boyfriends when I was your age and younger. I could sniff out the romantics in a crowd. I could locate the one sensitive, slightly neurotic sweetheart in a room crowded with self-serving mutants. Can't you do that, too? Can't you just avoid the guys who remind you of your father, and go for the ones who are exactly the opposite?
Or are you allergic to people who really, sincerely like you? Because many of us are, when we're young. I mean, if you really want a boyfriend, you do have to tolerate the feeling that someone is paying attention to you, not ignoring you -- you know, ignoring you the way a narcissist might?
I don't know, it's tough to say what's going on with you, based on your letter. My best guess is that you're doing fine, on the whole. You're salling forth with your self-respect in place, and sure, maybe you're keeping yourself safe from getting hurt, but that's how you are. You're a little cautious. My only advice is that you open up your heart to some guys who might not catch your interest at first. Slow down and see who's actually listening closely, paying attention to you. Try to branch out a little bit, get to be friends with a few new guys if you can, expand your horizons, keep an open mind. Watch, listen, and don't panic or tell yourself that you're LATE somehow. You're not late.
Forget love for the moment. Just see if you can fall in like. That means spending some time with a few guys, making it clear that you want to be friends. And if people call you a tease, tell them to kiss your fucking ass. Not wanting to fuck someone for no reason doesn't make you a tease. Not being attracted to someone doesn't make you a tease. The word "tease" is someone else's problem -- that's their boner, not yours. You're not fucking with anyone, here. You're just living your life. I think that's one thing that it's really important to be assertive about. Don't let people cast aspersions on your friendliness just because you also happen to be pretty and 21 years old. If they can't handle the fact that you make their pants itch, then they can back the fuck off.
You know, I will add that this hints at something. Are you hesitant to tell people what you think, because you think they won't like you if you do? If so, I'm going to strongly encourage you to experiment with this, and risk not being liked. You're not really free until you accept the fact that some people won't like you. You're not free until you stop trying to please everyone. This is a common trap for the pretty daughter of a narcissist, I might add.
Please yourself. You don't have to be perfect. I'm sorry about your mother. She would want you to know that you aren't running late. Everything is going to turn out just fine for you. You have a good head on your shoulders. Take a little more pride in who you are, underneath the prettiness, underneath the label of narcissist's daughter or shy girl or tease. Fuck the critics. Assert yourself. Be the person you want to be eventually, down the road, but do it today, right now. Clear out every person who doesn't support you fully. Only keep friends around who are totally loving and trustworthy, and be loving and trustworthy to them.
Above all, DO NOT WORRY. Do not fret. Open your heart, move forward, and have faith that the world is your oyster. Just make sure to open your eyes, see what is around you, and let it all in. Good things are headed your way, I feel certain of that -- probably sooner than you imagine.
Very best wishes to you,
Thursday, June 10, 2010
SOME TRIVIAL MUSINGS ON LOS ANGELES
I do like a few things about Los Angeles. I like the weather. I like the fact that there aren't as many bugs here. When I fly to other states, sometimes I'm so preoccupied by the bugs that I can't think straight. You have to swim through clouds of bugs in Durham, North Carolina, my hometown, just to get in the front door of my mom's house at night. A few bugs always sneak in the door with you, and then wake you up at midnight with their high-pitched buzzing in your ears. Crickets hop around erratically in the bathroom, crawling up from basement through the vents in the wall. Sometimes a gigantic roach appears and you have to hit it really hard with your shoe before it carries off the baby. Then you roll it up in a rug and drag its corpse outside.
I like the fact that you can see the sky here. In North Carolina, you're always boxed in by tall, tall trees. The trees are amazing, don't get me wrong, but you don't get to see much sky unless you're on a hill (rare) or visiting someone's grassy farm where the trees have been cleared away (even more rare), or maybe you're at one of those man-made lakes that have squishy red clay on their shores where the sand should go. Here in LA, the sky is pretty spectacular. When people in other places say, "Oh, look at the pretty sky!" it's hard not to scoff at the smear of pink that passes for a sunset. Smog makes for some glorious sunsets.
I like the fact that people who live here (at least on the East side) generally aren't pretentious and don't take themselves too seriously. The hipsters aren't that hip, and they know it. Most people can barely afford to live here, and that keeps them humble. And the weather is nice, so people aren't pissed off all the time. People in LA are very friendly, and they don't strain to seem cool. They are enthusiastic. They listen. They talk very directly about their feelings. There's not a lot of self-consciousness here, in my experience. Maybe I was just younger when I lived in San Francisco, but people practically talked in riddles when I lived there, all sarcasm and jokes. People were always trying to hide their feelings, trying to seem easier going than they were, and everyone got embarrassed easily. Now I'm just describing a person in their 20s, right? But the social mood in San Francisco is different - it's far less forgiving than the mood in LA. Or maybe we're just more comfortable with our jackassy-ness down here. There are a lot of jackasses here, I'll give you that.
And a lot of the public schools are seriously shitty. Traffic sucks. Driving on the freeway for 45 minutes to see a friend across town sucks. Smog sucks. And it's too expensive here.
Still, I really don't miss the bugs in NC. Or the constant chill in SF. I do miss the falafels and the crepes in SF. I miss Stinson Beach. I miss walking everywhere. But why didn't I bring a jacket? I never brought a jacket. I miss the BBQ and the ChicFilA, chicken of the gods, in NC. I miss the ocean. I miss the thunderstorms.
Goddamn it I miss the thunderstorms!
Thursday, June 03, 2010
So! Like a lot of people who write you, I'm 1) female 2) in my late 20s (I'll be 30 in October, in fact, a thought that chills me more than I think it ought to) 3) on the one hand smart and funny and cute and overall pretty aware of what it is I have to offer and 4) on the other hand, completely and utterly lost. I hadn't checked Rabbitblog for a few months, and I got caught up the other day, and here's the passage that jumped out and hit me in the eye:
"It's funny how these letters always have bad jobs and big career impasses attached to them. Have any of you rabbit readers noticed that before? The real reason for the stress and worry and longing is attached to bigger existential questions that are being squelched or pushed to the side in pursuit of some kind of ego salve. "
And oh, man. Oh MAN.
I can tell you that the last couple of years have been an absolute nightmare for me, in terms of Big Life Stuff. While it is actually a long story, I'll do my best to condense it. Let's start with this scene: I'm lying on my bed in the middle of my bedroom in a house I just moved into a week ago (across town from the old one, where I'd been for three years). A bed that's still smack in the middle of the bedroom, amid other randomly assorted furniture and half-unpacked boxes because I had, no shit, mono. Now, I have no idea how I got mono at 27; my doctor actually giggled when she called to deliver the test results. All I had the energy to do was ride the bus to the video store every day, rent three movies, doze off watching them, lather rinse repeat daily for about a week. I mean, I bought pudding or yogurt or something from the drugstore and ate a little bit of it every day, but yeah, those were my days.
I also managed, during my waking hours, to do some crying. Because it's not just that I was sick. My mother was sick. Not mono sick, real sick. In the hospital, in an induced coma. Her third visit that year for a chronic condition that had lain dormant for years. I'd been sick before, and I'd moved before, and I'd had a sick mother before, and any one of the three is liable to leave one feeling just a tad overwhelmed and isolated, right? And there was the rub: I wasn't, ostensibly, alone. Rumor had it, I had a boyfriend. We'd been together for two and a half years, long distance (living three hours apart); moving had always been on the table and we'd actually begun to talk about it seriously a few months previous. Because I brought it up. I mean, we'd talked about it before, we'd set a timeline, but when the target date finally arrived, guess who actually fucking initiated the conversation?
I really really loved the thing you said about dudes spending their 20s scratching their balls and deciding whether they like cashews or pistachios better; I've been chuckling about it for weeks. But I have to admit that I have this terror that any actual communication that happens between myself and a dude is going to be something I bring up, always, for the rest of my life. That the best I can hope for is not to be so petulant when I do it, not to explode all over the poor fucker like a shaken-up bottle of beer. If you have any reassurance to the contrary, that would be great.
Because that's what I did. Two years and change of playing it cool and suave and independent. I mean, I really LIKED that we only saw each other every other weekend. It gave me a lot of time to do what I wanted to do, with my friends, and it gave him some time to make his own friends, and that was important to me (he was new to this part of the country). Then, VERY suddenly, it was wait a minute: don't boyfriends come over and help you move your furniture and unpack boxes and then watch those stacks of shitty DVDs WITH you because you're so exhausted you don't even want to go downstairs to pour another glass of water, and it's hotter than hell and you don't have air conditioning? Don't boyfriends come over with popsicles when your throat is sore as shit? Don't boyfriends come over and let you howl like a puppy and get eyeliner all over their T-shirts because damn the prognosis, you know in your heart it's really bad this time and you're never going to see your Mommy again?
Turns out, yeah, I guess that's what they do. And I could say that I never really wanted that before, because it's nearly true. I've always liked being alone. But you know, I wanted those things then. And I thought I would have had them. WE HAD A TIMELINE.
(It's not that I'd never entertained the idea of moving to be closer to him, by the way. I'd been out of work for a while, interviewed for jobs, and then happened to land a lucrative and not-especially-interesting, but also not-torturous job in my city. Which he'd always liked better. Until he didn't.)
Cutting past the part in which we declare a Break and I fly home and see my mother for what turns out, in fact, to be the last time, and he flies out for a couple of days and deals pretty valiantly with me and the family he's only met a couple of times, but flies back before the funeral, because of work, but also because um, well, dude, Burning Man wasn't that far away and he had to get ready. No, I am not kidding and the thing is, I don't resent him as much for that as much as you might imagine. All that did was make it clear to me that We Were Not in it Together, and that there was Absolutely Nothing I Could Do About That. That was all.
I had a boyfriend but not a partner. And OK, it was a really, really horrible time to figure out that my relationship was actually not a relationship, and that my poor little glorified fuck buddy had not quite the balls to tell me that he'd realized he sort of liked the pistachios in his newly adopted city way better than the humble cashews I had to offer. But hey, it could have been worse, right? Look at Mary-Louise Parker!
But uh, what about that paragraph I cut and pasted up there? So here's the thing. That wonderful lucrative job I'd decided was going to keep me rooted in my city? I fucked it up. As was probably, I don't know, my right? But my brain just didn't function. I made a few mistakes that got written up, but more than that, I stopped engaging with the work on any level whatever. It's true that some days I'd sit in front of the monitor and try not to cry, or have to take off for the nap room (it was that kind of company! the kind of company that has a nap room! AND STILL I FUCKED IT UP) and sit on the couch and sob for 20 minutes. But more often I'd come in and not be able to remember one single task I was supposed to accomplish that day, not even to make a to-do list.
And if I made that list, I wouldn't look at it. I was still coming home and sleeping through most of my evenings as well as my nights, but of course, there were also nights that I couldn't sleep at all. I slept in a couple of times when I was scheduled for meetings. My employer knew what had gone on with me outside work, of course, but I became a charity case. I wasn't the least surprised when the axe came down. Luckily, I was not replaced and was thus eligible for the dole.
That was a little over a year ago. And of course I spent that year talking to a good therapist, reassessing my goals, working on improving my time management, re-entered the dating scene slowly and with cautious optimism, cultivating healthy friendships and generally being really gentle with myself. HA HA HA HA HA.
That or haphazardly entertaining plans I don't execute on, continuing to fucking forget those tasks I do sign on for, drinking heavily, sleeping with one cringeworthy jerkass after another, developing tight mercurial attachments with people who were just as head-fucked as I was, trying the patience of lonstanding, close friends, and generally sabotaging the shit out of myself.
Then I started to scrape together plans to go back to school and find a vocation I can actually do every day. I met a dude I actually thought was pretty cool -- like, more than any dude I'd met in the previous year, I knew that I wanted to be friends with him, but also thought he was cute and knew he was unattached, so I propositioned him. Now, we actually did end up becoming friends! But the deal is that, and this had not happened in a goddamn eternity, HE rejected ME. And I actually LIKED him. I actually wanted to be with him. So much so that I went into full-fledged, non-hyperbolic panic just thinking about him sometimes. And then after he dumped me, I kind of looked around at my very messy room and my very messy life and I thought, you know, I'm not sure I would date me either.
So I began to at least try to get it together. I swore off sex for a few months. Then I went away for a weekend with a decent solid male friend and we had sex, and nothing materialized after that but a decent solid friendship, but I can't tell you how long it had been since I'd had a real conversation and made dinner and such with a dude. (Oh man, I just realized that as you're reading this you're totally thinking of that scene in Jerry Maguire, at his bachelor party, where they show the videotaped interviews of all his exes talking and they all say, "Great at friendship. Bad at intimacy." Most of my exes aren't the type to notice that sort of thing, but a few of them would for sure.)
The funny thing is that a year ago I was getting all kinds of attention from dudes. And now, well, look, I've gained a few pounds in the last couple of years (something to do with all that shitty beer I was drinking, perhaps), but I will tell you, I am still pretty good to look at, and the men in bars and at parties, they do not approach me like they used to! (This might be because I do not spend as much time in bars as I used to, but nonetheless.) I am no less clever in my profile-devising and email-writing abilities, and yet, the men on the Internet dating sites, they do not write me (or write me back) like they used to! I'm not so surprised by the former - I carry myself differently, I'm sure, than I used to, I'm the glib little lush that I was a year ago. But the latter is somewhat surprising, and hurts a little bit. (I guess it should. But remember that it wasn't so long ago that all I felt in response to men was either horny or annoyed! Usually both at the same time!) But it also feels like sort of a blessing in disguise. Like the universe is all, BACK OFF. LADY'S GOT SHIT TO DO. I can't go waltzing around with boors and bores like I used to, and I also know that if anyone who really was Relationship Material happened onto my scene right now I'd...well, just not be ready.
But this business of getting my shit together. I don't know. The two shrinks I have seen since my mother passed away were big on talking about things that seemed way too abstract to me, stuff about my childhood, when what I wanted at that time was to figure out how to freaking FUNCTION day-to-day. I mean, in high school that line about how the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation - it seemed so SAD! But when you're the one who can't see your computer screen because you keep tearing the hell up, and sleeping through meetings because sleep is the only place your safe, it feels like it would be nice to turn down the volume on your damn desperation, you know? And now...now things are a LITTLE better. But I still just feel tired and hopeless. And I have some ideas for ways to feed myself when unemployment runs out (and it's not that I haven't been applying for jobs, but employers are no more amused by my clever introductions than men on dating sites; I've also botched -- as in, accepted assignments and never did -- a couple of freelance opportunities that could have been really good for me). But executing is nearly impossible. I have this friend who's training to be a shrink, and I've known her since we were freshmen in college, and she said in a lot of ways I have a pretty big handle on the Big Picture, that what I need help with is connecting that to my day-to-day life. Maybe I actually need to hire a personal organizer or assistant or something instead, anyway.
And since I probably can't afford even a sliding-scale shrink anyway, and since you give really terrifically concrete advice, what's the best way you know to unfreeze my motivation, get my damn room organized and start fucking executing, lest I fall into some kind of fucking sinkhole? (I suspect the dude strategy I've undertaken is more or less what you'd recommend, but if you have any further insights in that department, please, let me know.)
Dear At Sea,
It's funny that you should use that moniker since, right now, the room is rocking gently, as if I'm in a little dinghy out on the open water. Two days ago, I was diagnosed with vertigo, either from a migraine or some bump on the head that I might've suffered back a few months back when I had the stomach flu and passed out in the bathroom, cracking my rib. I've been this way for over a week, and it's been a big fucking nightmare. Oh and yesterday, I turned 40. Hoohah!
The thing that makes vertigo particularly challenging (once you stop throwing up) is that it comes with a feeling of dread, a suspicion that you'll never be free of dizziness, that you'll never walk on dry land again. Your mind is so bewildered by the screwiness in your inner ear, those crystals or rocks or whatever the fuck they are swirling around in the liquid, the cilia or hairs or whatever the fuck they are twisting in the wind, that your neurons are firing away in panic, telling you: System Failure! Cannot trust stimulus input circuits! Cannot trust data being gathered!
You're at war with yourself – at least until you go to the ENT (get an otologist, by the way, not just a regular ENT, because an ear specialist will be better versed in vestibular maladies) and she talks you through the whole thing, makes some guesses, and gives you weird exercises that involve throwing yourself sideways and refocusing, exercises that actually work.
You, At Sea, are also off-balance because you're at war with yourself. And since I am truly a specialist when it comes to self-warfare-related maladies, I'm going to tell you some stuff that you will think is just dorky middle-aged woman bullshit (see how I can refer to myself that way now? Sweet Christ it's no-fair!), but that's the warring side of you talking.
You're extremely smart, neurotic, a storyteller, complicated, emotional, and deeply shaky about what ground is under you at any given time. A nation of similarly mixed-up, seasick women is with you on this, we get it, we really do. You may not know anyone quite as off-balance, you may not know anyone who pulls out their computer and then weeps piteously instead of getting right to work, you may not know anyone who's simultaneously as direct and as avoidant as you are emotionally, but we're out here, probably sighing deeply into the coffee we really shouldn't be drinking.
First, some physiological basics: Stop drinking heavily. I love to drink heavily, don't get me wrong, but you're way too seasick to do this right now. Second, get some regular exercise. I don't care if you just walk for an hour, you've got to get out of the house and sweat. Doing something outside is probably best. Just do it, don't complain, don't question it, and don't pretend you can't make the time, because you can, somehow some way. This is just the bare minimum of what's required right now, and all other discussions of your salvation are pointless unless you commit to these two changes. You can drink a little once you shake off your sea legs, but cutting it out completely will offer you a crucial perspective on where you've been and what you've been doing and how you've been spackling over the cracks in your psyche with fake swagger. You are not alone in this, take heart in that.
Onward, to your current issue: You're tired of pretending, tired of bluster, tired of fake swagger, tired of your pride, tired of seeming cool, tired of blowing things off, tired of shrugging, tired of going with the flow, tired of acting unattached, easygoing, tough, cool, incredible. You are tired of trying to be the very best, most beautiful, smartest, coolest, funniest, most ravishingly perfect woman in the room.
I have no fucking clue why so many women in their 20s are cursed with this imperative to be the best – I had the curse, and so did most of my friends. You don't have to be gorgeous or a genius or be insanely entitled to be struck by this curse, either. You just have to be a woman who watched Cinderella, loved it, then declared it utter bullshit and yet became EVEN BETTER THAN CINDERELLA in her mind when she did it. It's a superiority complex, but it's also a compulsion to willfully ignore your own flaws, or to refuse to accept that anyone could love flaws. It's a belief that you will only be loved if you're funny, larger than life, on fucking fire, skinny, charming, fantastical, and flawless.
Now, we all believe that there's no way that we expect that, at face value. We all say: Oh, well, I don't care what anyone thinks of me. Oh, well, I've never been that consumed by appearances. I've always been above that. Do you see how these are just ways of being even more superior, even more perfect, even more en fuego?
And yes, you may say, as I once did: Well, SOME people don't think I'm that great. But then it MUST be true that those people are confused. Those people matter, at least a little, because it's important that they're all wrong.
(Now, yes, of course, no one gives a shit about you or me that much. I'm just saying, this is what we imagine, in our big stupid heads.)
And let's not use words like narcissistic, because I don't think that's fair. I think our culture makes us all into narcissists, if we're smart, if we're not actively oppressed, if we're lonely, if we have trouble connecting, if we're a little too wound up for most people's tastes. We turn inward, we get weird, we care too much about how we seem. This is a natural process that happens in your 20s, there's no real way for many of us to escape it.
This isn't really about men or what they think, because as we've already established, most men in their 20s are a decade behind. Remember when someone liked you in high school, and you thought: "Weird, I don't like him now. I like that other guy who acts like I'm made of moldy cheese whenever I talk to him." That's how they are, a lot of them. No reason to parse it, or mull it, or dissect it.
Nonetheless, it's on the table, so here goes: Men don't like you right now (and this isn't the problem we're solving, how to get men to like you, but we're going somewhere bigger with this) because they can tell that you're at war with yourself, you sound confused, you seem scary. Most men your age vastly prefer the reassurance of women who are dismissive, condescending, or simply percolating with happiness about merely existing (i.e. a little dumb, because your 20s are just too uncertain to be so joyful, let's face it). (Don't hate them for this, you were just as shallow and attracted to disinterest and stupidity, way back when.)
The point here is that you're in conflict. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you're in conflict because you're stuck between wanting a real partner (ew that word!) and wanting to disavow your desires and continue to refer to guys as "dudes." You want to be a dude, dude. And once again, I get it. I've always aspired to be a dude myself, with varying degrees of success. I love basketball, and I miss drinking games where you point at someone's face really aggressively and shout YOU YOU YOU YOU! DRINK DRINK DRINK YOU FUCKING PUSSY DRINK RIGHT NOW DRINK IT DRINK IT DRINK UP COCKSUCKER DRINK!
Aw, it almost makes me a little weepy just thinking about it. Good fucking times, my friend.
And I like how men do nothing together but joke around and give each other shit. I like that. Nothing earnest, nothing sincere, nothing thoughtful, just sneering and cackling and aggression. Mmm, raw aggression and mean words. Those feel a little cathartic to me, maybe because my dad was the only person in my family who could be in a great mood and say exactly what he thought or felt. (Everyone else had to be angry to speak their minds.) My dad was not the nicest person, mind you, but I often viewed his sociopathic streak as something bold and admirable and lovably emotional.
OK, I'm deeply sick, that's obvious. But the point is, dudes are great. I love them. HOWEVER, I am not a dude. And back when I tried very very hard to be cool and fun and "who the fuck cares?" like a dude, back when I encountered every emotion I experienced as merely another obstacle to being the best dude I could be? Occasionally I freaked out and wept and hated myself and screamed and the dude I was with would say, "Dude, I thought you could hang." And then he'd disappear, and I would have clear proof that no one would ever love me, warts and all.
But you can't get someone to love your warts if you walk around pretending to be wartless. One day, there will be an unveiling, and it will be harsh. Not only that, but walking around, aware of your warts but pretending to be wartless? Not only is it unattractive, but it's uncomfortable, and it makes you cry into your soup every night.
Poor little warty weeper! Don't you see how much more huggable and lovable and squeezable the little warty one is, compared to the high-fiving, "who, me, worry?" swagger, I'm the hottest and the coolest in the room girl? I fucking hate that chick! I thought that, because I made a few self-deprecating jokes, because I could rationalize and explain anything under the sun, because I could do all of that heavy lifting, that PR about myself, to spin myself in a positive way, that I wasn't that show-off, frat-boy ass kisser, fun-time, look-at-me girl, But I was. I was lame.
We all have our weak decades. We all find success with this or that formula, and then we let our egos lead us around the room, soaking in shallow praise and hot guy attention like cheap wine.
These days, I don't seek out the hot guys or the high-fivers most of the time. Instead, I want to find the warty little toad girl in the corner, who is sincere about what she's going through. I want to know about how her mother died, and what she did to stay alive in the wake of this huge loss. I want her to admit that, although she is sharp and nice to look at, that she suspects that she is just a big nothing, a big pile of blah. I want to sit and spoon up our lukewarm soup together and cry big salty tears about how frustrating and horrible it is to want companionship from these guys who just… God, they're nice people, they really are, they mean well, even, but they barely even have souls yet. Is that unfair? This isn't really about them, is it? It's just so heartbreaking to be young and to want a real match, a real friend, and to be alone in your house, among your unpacked boxes, wishing someone were really, truly on your side. That's just so sad. And why shouldn't it be? Your mother is dead and your boyfriend is getting ready for Burning Man. Fuck! I mean FUUUUUCK. it's just heartwrenching. It's just the absolute worst. It doesn't mean he's evil, it's just so hard to be there, wanting to be met, alone.
It shouldn't come down to a man, not until you find one who's capable of showing up. And look, that's what you want. Admit it. Maybe you're not ready, maybe you are, who knows? I don't buy this not ready bullshit anymore, unless you're in rehab and prone to falling for drunks. I think one of the biggest parts of being ready is admitting what you really want, even though it might sound uncool to someone.
And yes, when you start demonstrating your vulnerability, your weakness, which I feel strongly that you should do, when you stop trying to hide your flaws, when you start making it clear that you are just another person in the room, not the best or the worst, when you fail to spin your story in any way, when you strive to appear brave but still admit to feeling crumpled and silly, when you show people who you are and even how you feel without apology (this doesn't mean being bold and showing off, necessarily, it can mean anything), when you try to bring your whole person into the room, the warty loser and the dude lover and every last one of you, then you will repel many, many men, and you will also attract a few who are exactly the sorts of men you want to know. Or not, but they'll be better for you than the ones who liked the fun-time chick, the one who wouldn't mind painting her naked body blue for Burning Man.
God bless the fun-time girls, really. God bless them, if they're happy. And it was fun, being one of them, for a while. It really was a blast. But that was then.
You're moving on. It's really very very hard, being where you are. It's hard to start a career, particularly when your standards are high, and you don't want to waste your life on something lame. It's obnoxious.
You asked about how to get organized, snap to it, get your act together, etc. You can't do it because the warty, bashful part of you is staging a revolt. She doesn't want to be in the closet anymore, so she refuses to help you get your shit together and organize your closets.
Before you get yourself together, you have to sit down and admit how fragile you are. You can't go full speed ahead until you do this. You have to acknowledge your vulnerability. You have to tell the truth, to yourself, about what you really want in your life, whether it's love or something else. You have to start to ACCEPT your weak side. Don't work so hard all the time. Learn to sit with yourself, to take a little time – not angry, fuck-me-I'm-lame time, but patient, I'm ok time.
You also have to call your close friends, and cry on the phone to them. Explain that this is something you need to know how to do, if you're going to be friends. I hope these friends are women. Even if they're not that into it, it'll be good for your friendship. Tell them you're trying to be more honest about how fucked you feel, and not just by describing it in entertaining ways. Are you only lovable if you make your misery entertaining? Fuck no.
It shouldn't ALL be up to some guy, keeping you company through the shit, holding your hand. I'm married to someone who can do these things, and I still want my girlfriends to do it sometimes, just because I do, because I know that they understand in ways that my husband never will, because they're women. It feels good to have really close friends that can stand to hear snuffling on the phone. I don't do it very often, maybe once or twice a year, but Christ almighty, it's so nice to know that, even when I'm a wreck and maybe I'm being a little bit self-pitying, I can do it if I really need to.
And the close friends who don't cry to me? I tell them sometimes: "You know, you can always call me and just cry into the phone. Sometimes that really helps, so do it if you feel like it. I won't think it's weird at all. As you know. Because. I do it to you. (Sorry.)"
You are pretty great, you know that. Now it's time to try to be not that great at all. Just be average.
And after that? Once you feel relieved by how regular and mediocre and flawed you are, relieved for some weird reason? You'll suddenly find that you want to go on a long walk, just to think. When your mind starts saying "you fucking suck," tell your mind to fuck itself. And then, after the walk, you'll have a cup of tea, and then you'll start cleaning your apartment. You'll reorganize your bookshelves, while you talk on the phone to a friend. You'll buy yourself some flowers.
This is the start of a new era for you. You might be a little less fun to talk to at a bar or at a party, you might have less men around you, but you will be much happier. You now have permission to be exactly the way you are. No matter how ugly you think that is, you are not alone, and plenty of people will find your ugly very beautiful. This is the breakdown you've been waiting for, for a long, long time.
I like you much better already.