Letting People In, aka The Reader
One of the biggest regrets I had after I wrote my book was that I arrived at the end and realized I didn’t exactly show readers my full hand. I felt like a hypocrite. Here I’d nabbed the coveted URL and book title, but did I succeed in letting in my readers? No. Admittedly, I wasn’t ready to, but I’m working on that.
Professional book marketing folks who read my book and were paid for their honest opinion told me they loved the stories about my guests but that they wanted to know more about me. Apparently I, too, was a character in my own book, even though I wanted to deny that was the case.
I think somewhere deep down, writers like writing about other people while they struggle to learn more about themselves in the process. It’s a humble and sometimes humiliting process to write about oneself. Writers are typically a shy, introverted lot hungry to observe other people in culture and our immediate surroundings, but reticent to actually throw ourselves into the fray. I’m the nerd in the corner, the wallflower. INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality test, in case you’re wondering.
For my second act, my second book, I will endeavor to throw myself further into the proverbial fray of my own experience. Even though when you actually “let people in” it turns out to be a painfully vulnerable process. Part of my conundrum about writing about actual events and people in my circles is that most people don’t want to be written about. I get it. But as Anne Lamott famously quipped, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Take that, ex-boyfriend!
So from here on out, I’m gonna write the real stories of things that happen to me and the people in my life. (Whether or not they behaved well or not.)
Today’s installment is on the subject of dating and my recent experiences with the Seattle dating scene. It ain’t always pretty but it’s real.
“So let’s talk about you not sleeping at night,” he probed.
“Um… Oh, you mean how I mention in one of my online questions that I regularly have insomnia?”
“Yes. Exactly. We’re a 94% match, and I read through all of your answers.”
Shifting in my seat uncomfortably, I wasn’t sure how I felt about his revelation. On one hand, I like that there’s a feature in the online dating app where a person can answer hundreds of questions that center around four or five categories – fitness, sexuality, finance, sociability, etc. – but is the result accurate? Does it help or hinder a person to seek out people who only match them 80% or above? Do opposites attract? Is less more when it comes to knowing nuances about a person before you ever meet face to face? Do you want to date someone similar to yourself and then have little room to push yourself outside your comfort zone and experience new things?
“Well, honestly, I wake up at 4am every night. I have a high degree of anxiety about my work—worrying about my clients and the fact that I should dedicate more energy to my second book. Then I roll over and look over at the empty pillows beside me and wonder if there will ever be someone to fit that human-shaped hole.”
“You’re a very attractive woman. Why do you fear never finding someone?”
“Because I have been single for a long time. I purposely took one year off dating while I worked on myself in therapy. I knew I wasn’t bringing my best self to my relationships, and I had to fix that. Then twelve months turned into fifteen months and frankly, the pickings are a little scary out there. We live in a very disposable culture, and I have been less than impressed by the men I am encountering. So, while I remain single rather than settling or choosing poorly, I’m faced the not-so-pleasant prospect of being very much alone.”
“You shouldn’t worry about those things. You’re doing okay. In fact, you’re doing better than ninety percent of the women I’ve encountered recently. I’ve met a lot of broken women. Women who jump from relationship to relationship, looking for validation but having no insight about themselves. I respect that you’ve done the work on yourself; it shows. I wish you would write about that. Write about your experiences and show other people that it’s okay to work on themselves and spend time alone.”
In that shared moment of kindness and vulnerability, though it was lovely, I could tell he was ghosting in advance of a physical ghosting. “Ghosting” was coined by a favorite male Sirius XM radio host and is when a man stops calling or doesn’t return a woman’s calls or texts. It’s the man’s way of showing her he’s no longer interested. But in my case, in this scenario, “ghosting” is when your date removes themselves from the scenario of your future. It’s as if they’ve put up a Vacancy sign on their face. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism they don’t even know they’re doing? Perhaps it’s intentional?
Who among us has not been in a dating relationship or marriage where you experienced a perceptible moment where the relationship tipped in a direction apart from its formerly carefree path? Something broke or was sprained and only the experts or intention could repair it. Maybe it wasn’t worth fixing? I could tell you exactly when it happened in every one of my past relationships.
His ghosting was a subtle shift in how he was talking about a future me as I continue to venture out in the dating world. His version of my “okay” would not involve him.
A lot of therapy has taught me that this is okay.
Photo credit: TempusVolat