Saturday, November 19, 2011
My paperback comes out on December 6th, the perfect gift for all of the childless whores, Mr. Flinchys, reformed Catholics and grumpy former cheerleaders in your life. I loved the hardback cover, but I think I like this one even more. I'm a little bit worried about the baby who lives right next door to that volcano, though.
Speaking of families in peril, I'm working on my first novel right now, which is about a family being torn asunder because, in the parlance of progressive preschools, some of them are making bad choices. As I strain to describe the family's bad choices, I can hear two little girls downstairs engaging in hand-to-hand combat over a green magic marker. The big one loves drawing ladies in fancy dresses who are clean and style their hair, unlike her slovenly mother. The little one likes to draw potatoes with stick legs named "Mommy" and "Daddy." They both love "The Wizard of Oz," dance classes, and scratching each other's eyes out. Potato Daddy is frying them eggs for breakfast, while two bad dogs loudly lick their bowls clean. It's cold and foggy outside, which is truly a blessed state of affairs here in the Southland, where we long for drizzly rains and chilly winds the way the rest of the country longs for unrelenting, tedious sunshine.
Friday, November 18, 2011
JUST CALL ME FRIENDY
Been an ardent reader of your blog for some time now, and thought I'd finally take the plunge and write in with a problem that's been plaguing me since, well, since this young lad realized he was never going to get the love that most sons receive from their mothers, and, as a result, it was most important that he venture out into the Big Wide World as soon as humanly possible, and try to find said love (and, in thereby doing, "validation") in some kind of successful, loving relationship with another woman--indeed, any other woman at all.
I remember you wrote, quite a while ago, a post that detailed your encounter with a stuffed animal (puppet?) named "Friendy" (in my mind's eye I see him perched on a car dashboard, staring back at you sitting in the backseat... I can't recall precisely, but it seems like this might've been how your post described your first meeting with the guy). And how, after hearing his name for the first time (from the couple that owned him), you thought, "Wait, what? Friendy? Who names their stuffed toy Friendy?" And then, as you wrote, much like "El Guapo" or any of these other marvelously sticky character names, it just glommed onto you somehow, and you found it impossible not to think about this little fellow (or at least his name, and the notion of it) for quite a while after.
Well you weren't alone in this mild obsession, Rabbit. I remember reading this post of yours, years ago, and I must confess, like the most infectious of Mozartian earworms, it's stuck with me, followed me, ever since. (Well that, and, for whatever reason, your keen observation from long ago re: Jonathan Franzen looking like kind of a dick in his book jacket photo for The Corrections. But, hey, considering how unassumingly nebbish he came off on Bill Maher the other week, I think we can forgive him that one.). And indeed, there is a very specific, very real reason I've been unable to shake this idea for all these years.
You see, I. Am. Friendy.
Allow me to explain. When I first meet a girl, I am never, ever immediately attracted to her "in that way." I mean, OK, sure, I can see or meet women and think, "Yep, wow, she really is quite PHYSICALLY attractive" (I feel like one of the guys from The Big Bang Theory, breaking it down like that), but honestly, physically attractive or not, my M.O. has always been (and this is not by choice per se, it just seems I'm hardwired this way) "Well then--ahem ahem--she looks to be a pretty girl, sure, with a nice smile, etc etc--but let's see who she IS, first... Let's find out more about her, let's see what she has to say, let's see how she actually acts, what she actually does, before we (I seem to be using the royal "we", here) make up our mind as to, irrefutably, whether we actually like this girl or not..."
Now, I always thought (damn you logic!) this philosophy actually made the most sense (particularly jibing with my rather Buddhist notion of "If something looks like X, I can almost certainly guarantee you it's nothing at all like X, but Y instead..."--and hence, I never, ever trust first impressions, or appearances in general...), this idea of: get to know the girl, get to really feel out her character, her likes, her interests, her passions, what she wants to do in life, and THEN, if that's all well and good, THEN (and only then) do I start to think, "Hey, you know, I've known this girl for a few weeks now, or a month, or two, or whatever, and I think I really kind of like the cut of her jib... I could see us going places together. Doing things. Having adventures. Making our mark on the world. And being a hot-as-shit, kick-ass, romantic-as-all-hell, 'I'm-so-jealous-of-that-couple-I-want-to-BE-THAT-COUPLE!' couple to boot..." And right around the time all this is starting to occur to me, in my mind, is always, inevitably, without exception, right around the exact same time that said woman in question, is, alas, relegating me to--
THE FRIEND ZONE... (And as we all know, once you've been banished to the Friend Zone, there is never, ever, any hope of escape. Ever...)
I could give you countless examples from the past 10 years I've spent in New York City, surrounded by women that, after having gotten to know them for a bit, every now and then, it occurs to me that, "Hey, we'd make a really amazing couple, don't you think?" But generally speaking, the pattern goes something like this: we meet, we have an immediate connection, we spend all this time together, we have so much common, we effortlessly talk for hours and hours, we want to do the same thing(s), in the world, we want the same thing(s) out of life, we're so great together, sooooooo... I say, after making my case (sometimes subtly, sometimes not): "Have you never wondered: why we aren't together...?" ("We're so great together--why DON'T we add sex and love to this equation?") I mean, you're single, I'm single, you keep bemoaning the fact that you're single, all the while describing your perfect mate who, last I checked, just going down the list of "Things you're looking for in a man" obviously seems to be me, and yet, whenever this comes up (it's happened at least a few times, over the past 10 years), said girl in question looks up at me with startled wide eyes, completely flummoxed, and says, "Oh, you're so nice and sweet and sweet and nice, you know, and you're right, you're totally right, we would be so great together, BUT--I can't date you, I know you too well, now. I LIKE you too much. Sooooooo..." (i.e. "You are one of my girlfriends, now, you just happen to be a guy. And in keeping with that, let me tell you all about this total asshole I just had sex with last night...") And that's the end of that. (And no, it's not a looks thing: I feel pretty confident in stating that I'm at least as decent looking a fellow as any of these other guys the girls are hooking up with--clearly then, it's much more of an attitudinal / energetic issue we're dealing with, here...)
As I mentioned above, growing up, Mom was never there, never cared, yadda yadda yadda, and so it was always really quite important to me--an absolutely priority, in fact--that I be liked ("LIKED!!") by women. But here's the thing, dear Rabbit: here's the Big Secret that I'm starting to suspect: women don't have sex with men they like. They're FRIENDS with men they like. Women have SEX with men they don't like. (Forgive me, I'm all about the caps today, for some reason...) Every time a woman near me has a rolled her eyes at a man and said, "God, I can't STAND him, what a douchebag, what an asshole, he's so DISGUSTING..."--this, more than anything else in my experience, is the single most reliable indicator that the girl is going to have sex with the very guy she's complaining about, and usually within the next 5 to 10 minutes at that (and I know I'm going to hear all about it afterwards)... And me: I'm sitting there thinking: you know, I don't want to, I really, really don't want to, but I'm actually starting to identify with that Recovering Nice Guy post from the Best of Craigslist way back when...
All of my male friends swear that not all women are like this, that I'm just not meeting the right girls, that I need to keep looking, that there ARE good ones out there... (My response: "On some vague, abstract, intellectual level I know you must be right, and yet... I've been actively dating in NYC for 10 years--so, where are they?") All my female friends swear that if I just continue to be my authentic self--my "nice and sweet and sweet and nice" self--the right girl will come along, will magically appear, and we'll live happily ever after... (My response: "But you're dating a horrible douchebag asshole who you complain about incessantly--shouldn't I, then, NOT listen to what you're saying, but instead actually COPY the behavior of the guy you're dating, so I can be like him, and get the girl too?" Of course, as you can imagine, that one always goes down so well, with the ladies...)
And so I turn to you, gentle Rabbit--fearless Rabbit. I need your help. I don't want to be Friendy anymore--I don't want to be the nice and sweet and sweet and nice perennial Nice Guy who's surrounded by female friends (many of them beautiful, extraordinary women--though certainly I can't always vouch for their taste in men--and every now and then one of whom I'd love to take it to the next level with, and date) and yet who, inexorably, always ends up trudging home and sleeping alone at the end of the night (and it's clear that as long as I continue to simply "be myself"--as they all recommend--this is what I'm going to continue to get...). But at the same time, the thought of going out and deliberately playing up the douchebag / asshole factor right out of the gate--or what so many women of NYC have oft oh-so-lovingly referred to as "edge" (as in, "That guy has no 'edge'...!!")--really does just make me a little bit sick... (Or perhaps there's some magic sweet spot I need to hit in between? But then, I don't want to turn the whole meeting women / "making a proper first impression" thing into a video game, like: "Shit, almost had it that time--just up the douchebag 2% next time and you'll totally be in the zone...!!")
I have to warn you, I have sharp claws today. Not because I'm pissed off or hungry (claws for slashing squirrel faces in half, claws for digging up dead stuff to eat). I have the kinds of sharpened claws that a cat might use to injure a shrew, then bat it around in the garden for a few hours until it dies of exhaustion, exposure, dehydration and despair.
Sorry about that. So look, I'm going to be honest: I'm already a little bit bored with your exhaustion, exposure, dehydration and despair. I'm particularly uninterested in the ways that these feelings get translated into the excessive use of ellipses, and the repeated, clichéd narrative concerning women who like assholes instead of liking super-swell guys like you. The ellipses and the super-swell-ness of you combine to make me want to tag and track the nearest douchebag. Your golly-gee, "I sure like to get to know a girl's real-live personality before I take it to the next level" thing makes me hungry for the flavor of meat Chiclets that decorate the chestal regions of the most dismissive, high-fiving, preppy fuckwads in the universe, the sorts of dickrats that wear banker shirts and carry signs that say "Occupy A Desk," the sorts who inform you that of course the future wifey will stay at home with the little ones because "someone has to be there to cut up the apples." You, with your nicey-nice whining over all those other guys who get tail, make me want to fuck the enemy.
Don't believe the really wonderful hot girls who are your bestest friends, who keep telling you not to change a thing about your super-swell, delightful personality, which is so great for trips to the museum when the hot guy they're fucking can't make it because he's fucking someone else who enjoys condescension and big, fumbly bear hands and tiny pea brains and slick mouths with bubble gum goo stuck in the corners.
You should change some shit.
First of all, stop it with the ellipses and the all-caps (OK, fine, I do it, too) and the run-on sentences (also guilty there, but that doesn't mean you should be). You express yourself too much, too often, too wordily. You have something to prove all the time. You are hopelessly insecure. Paradoxically, this insecurity, caused by your bitch mother, is what I like about you the most. Let me dare to say that this is highly lovable, and rare: a man who is very, very insecure and knows it. Yum. Delicious. We try so hard to get men to admit that they're insecure, so when we can find one who admits it? Delirium.
BUT. You should not express your insecurity via 1) poor syntax in gushing, praise-filled emails to pretty besties, 2) bad Backstreet-Boy style choices like shoulder pads, jaunty hats, annoying facial hair, fancy cowboy boots, 3) know-it-all behavior, 4) envious, wordy deconstruction of assholes who get laid, 5) constant availability and supportive talk offered up to said besties.
Instead, channel your insecure energies (Note: Don't get rid of them! Don't deny them! Channel them. We love them. Channel.) into 1) working out your chestal region vigorously (it's soft and squishy, I know this, I just know it), 2) writing your feelings down in some type of journal thing, 3) going to therapy once a week, 4) doing yoga or meditating 10 minutes a day, in the morning, reminding yourself that you're not bad, you're not messing up, you're not doing it all wrong, you're worthy of love, etc.
Now, in telling you that you're bad, messing up and unworthy of love, I do run the risk of playing the same role that your bitch mother (and that little voice in your head that stands in for her when she's not around) does/did. This is why good therapists won't tell you to lose the shoulder pads and stop moaning about the douchebags who get laid like a wilty piece of girl lettuce. But, you see, good therapists will also never ever ever ever ever ever get you laid. I will.
Instead of waging this nonstop campaign for yourself (Me Fucking You! 2012!), with longwinded talk of how you're a great guy but great guys get screwed over, you need to start leading with your flaws, the real flaws that you fear make you unlovable (but, paradoxically, actually make you more lovable. I mean it.). I know you're feeling angry now, you're thinking, "I don't talk like that, I only did it in my letter to you, Rabbit!" But it's there, buddy. It's always in the room. Trust me.
And there's something non-specific about your devotion to these beautiful ladies, too. They know that. You'd be happy with any one of a number of them. That's how it starts to sound when you don't get laid much and you don't have any real standards for whom you'd like to romance beyond "one of my hot lady friends." No one wants to feel like just another chick who's hot enough to fuck. That's the twisted thing about becoming The Friend. (I won't say Friendy because Friendy is meant to be much more comfortingly asexual than what you describe. The whole point of Friendy is that Friendy doesn't even want to fuck you. He's busy, he's taken. He's just your buddy.) When you're The Friend, you expose your own lack of standards and even as you listen, listen, listen and support, you make the other person feel invisible because she suspects you just want into her pants. If you sat there like a douche and said "I want into your pants," she might ascribe more passion to your motives. You might seem a little dirtier in a good way. Instead, you're the pal who would like to fuck her, or anyone, really. That's about as unattractive as it gets.
Now, believe me, I know this is not your fault. This is just how being The Friend for too long evolves.
Instead of selling yourself hard, praising yourself to high heavens, going on and on about what you know and don't know, (and also saying too much about the many people you'd like to sleep with, which, even if you don't do, you imply, trust me), you need to pull back and be straight about your flaws. You need to get picky. You need to say, "I'm too insecure for you." And then resist explaining. Say, "I overthink everything. That's not your style, and I definitely want to be with someone who overthinks everything, too, or I'll go nuts." See? Your old message to women: YOU'RE TOO GOOD FOR ME. The new message to women: YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.
This is not about hating women, or putting on a front, or being a dick. This is about the truth. The truth is, you dislike these friendy buddy pal hotties of yours. Why? Because half of them aren't even as cool or as thoughtful or as interesting or as soulful as you are. Right? Come on, just admit it. As much as you want to fuck them, only one or two are really compelling enough, and even then they'd probably get boring. This is why the undercurrent of your whole letter is about fucking. You are saying, "I just love girls, I don't think about getting their panties off for sooo long." But underneath that, there's this: "Goddamn it, I want some pussy" thing going on. That conflict? It's. Not. Attractive.
Why is it unattractive? Because anyone will do. These women know that.
It's also unattractive because it's inaccurate. You are currently advertising the opposite of the truth. You're trying to SEEM confident, but you're not. You're trying to SEEM like a great guy, but in fact you're more driven by fucking girls than the douches who are actually out there fucking girls all the time.
I would suggest that you advertise the truth. You are an insecure person. You are currently interested in friends, and also in fucking. You like hanging out with fun people, sure, but you're not going to waste your time on women who have no appreciation for complicated men whose mothers were really fucking mean to them.
See? In fact, the next time you try to say that a) you're great or b) you know this about that and that about this or c) you're going to make someone the best boyfriend ever, I want you to try saying this instead: "I don't know. You seem nice, but I have a pretty complicated, neurotic mind, thanks to the fact that I didn't get enough love as a kid. I'm not sure that's really the kind of thing you're prepared to grapple with. And it's good to recognize that, because I'm at a point where I won't waste my time with anyone who isn't really enamored of complexity and deep, deep insecurity and darkness." Please note: these are not actually pick-up lines. They're ways of repelling people who prefer simplicity and empty-headed douchiness.
Now let me be clear: Many many people DO prefer simplicity, shallowness. That should be the actual cliché. Women don't like dicks, they like people who are as stupid as they are. And also, really smart women don't want men who make them feel aware of themselves in space. The nice thing about a confident man is that he makes you want to work hard to get his attention. Unconfident men give you too much attention, which just feels undeserved most of the time.
I'm not saying that there aren't some serious pathologies in the mix here. But the confidence part – that's not about general-purpose confidence. It's about having a little swagger around your flaws, and giving up on the hard sell. It's about having standards. It's about cultivating your pickiness. And it's about puffing up your chestal region.
I know I'm shallow. So are all of these adorable girls you spend time with.
Really, your plan is so easy.
1) Work out way too much, with extra attention to the torso. Make your torso exceptional.
2) Get a therapist.
3) Write down your many, many, many feelings instead of telling dumb girls about them.
4) Make a list of the traits you really want in a woman, and don't tell anyone about what's on the list, and don't settle for less.
5) Write down every lame thing about you, that you fear will prevent women from loving you, ever. (Don't include "squishy torso," or "pushover," or "secret pussy hound," because you're going to fix that.) These are, perversely, exactly the things that a smart, good, complicated women will love you for. That and your nice torso. Believe it. Make it your religion.
6) Every single fucking time you meet a woman who seems flinchy about insecurity, turn on a ticking clock in your head. She has a few seconds to prove that she's capable of appreciating a complicated guy whose mom was a fucking asshole, and then you're out of there. No hard feelings, of course. I'm sure she's great. Be nice about it. Just explain that you're probably a little too dark for her. Or she has sort of a reductive mind, but you like a mind that seeks out complexity. That's great for her, though. You wish you were simpler sometimes, but you don't want to waste her time or yours. Genuinely try not to be condescending about it.
See? You're extremely nice and polite and honest about yourself, but you're not wasting your time anymore. That's ALL. You think that's what you're doing right now, I know, but you're actually sort of a dick right now – just not the sort that ever gets laid.
Don't skip the working out part. I can't say that enough. It will build your confidence. I'm sure you work out some. Work out more. You need a boost. Women you know now need to see you differently. You need to see them differently, too: they're people who are wasting your fucking time, that's all. You don't even like half of them that goddamn much, have you noticed?
Be good to yourself. Love yourself. I feel for you, the mean mom thing. That's a tough one, really really tough. It's also interesting and lovable, and you will find a beautiful, smart woman who makes up for it, and then some. You will be adored, truly. I know this. (Read all about what a pathetic needy slob I once was [and how I dug my way out of it] here.) You will be loved from your head to your smelly feet. Milk a little style advice from one of those shallow whore friends of yours before you blow her off forever. Go on a good shopping trip, and encourage said friend to be brutal. Get a haircut that a gay man approves of. Stop trusting your instincts about your body, hair and clothes, and start trusting them about your fucking soul, which is sick of hiding behind your tedious neurotic machinations. Bear your soul, motherfucker. Drag that sick, rotten thing out into the goddamn sunlight, honky boy. Make people squeamish with it.
You will be loved, loved, loved, more than you can even handle, once you do.
Oh, and then, when some smart woman loves you? It will feel unfamiliar and weird, like she's trying to trap you. This is true because your mother didn't love you enough. When your mother didn't love you enough, not-enough-love feels romantic, and plenty o' love feels alienating. You will need to fight the urge to flee, in other words. (That's where the therapy comes in. Start now.)
I happen to know that, thanks to me, you're about to arrive at a land where wise, funny ladies throw their naked bodies at you. Enjoy! Remember, you have standards. Pick that really exceptional, sensitive, funny one. Then the work really begins.
Good luck! Sorry about the claws. As any bad mother would say, it's for your own good.