I have not lived a life completely unexamined.
I start this post by making that point completely clear, because I don't want to appear to be entirely, totally lame. Not that you haven't figured out already that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about myself. I have not one, but two, blogs in which I write extensively about the world and, more importantly, my place in it. I like to think that its because writers write what they know, and what do I know better than how things look from my perspective. But I suspect I'm merely deluding myself on this point, and am, in fact, gloriously,unrepentantly self-involved.
But I am not so blind that I can't see when a real issue raises its ugly head. I can see when I'm doing it all wrong. I'm just not sure how to fix it, that's all.
It's about me. And men. And me and men together. And this tendency I have when combining the two, which I find is quite irritating. As I beginning to date someone, or even just converse with him casually, everything starts out fine. I'm charming. I'm funny. I'm my usual irrepressibly sassy self. But as the exchange continues, I find I'm editing myself. I'm listening to what he's saying, and then trying to give him back what I think he wants. I'm terrified he'll discover something about me that doesn't match or agree with something about him. Religion, politics, basic life philosophy. One little slip that indicates that I hold a differing opinion, and I'm so off the list. What list, you ask? Oh, you know... that list. His list. His list of women he finds acceptable.
I know this is only an issue with my romantic relationships because I don't do it with women, or gay men, or married men or men I meet that I'm not attracted to sexually in the least. I only men who strike me as potential "date material" get to see this especially unattractive, wishy-washy side of me. I begin to make assessments of myself in reference to him, to decide if I'm smart enough, funny enough, liberal enough, enlightened enough, well-read enough. And I usually fall far short of where I think I should be.
The really sick, sad part is (you're thinking, "There's an even sicker, sadder part than that which she's already expressed?" aren't you? Don't lie. I can tell by your snorts of disgust), I end up weeks or months later, after things have fizzled (for how could they not when one of the parties begins to discard who she is in favor of who she thinks he wants?), I go back and do the relationship autopsy, only to discover that, as cute and great as he was, he wasn't cuter or greater than I (Well, really, who could be? I ask you. See? Why can't I have that sense of confidence with him, for cryin' out loud?).
This is, in no way, his fault. It's all me. I hear my father's voice ("No man will ever love you because you are just like your mother, and as soon as they get to know you, they'll run away"), or my ex-husband ("You were lucky I married you -- no one else would put up with you"), or some other past man in my life who was more than willing to tell me that whatever it was I had or was, it wasn't enough -- or perhaps it was too much. All lies, of course, since a couple of really good men have loved me, and plenty of people in my life suffer me with little side effect.) Still, it's those voices -- those auditory ghosts that still haunt me -- that make me feel like I'm just too much trouble as I am. So I have to change. Or be alone. Up until now, I've chosen alone, because its easier, and it isn't a lie.
I tell you all of this because I sense it happening again. I sense that as I converse with someone -- someone whom I find interesting and a little edgy and a touch neurotic, but charming nonetheless -- I'm checking his tone, checking mine, going over what he said, making sure I match it, or reflect it. I'm delving and researching, doing a little detective work,trying to suss out what he desires. And until now, I haven't even been aware I was doing it. It's one of the things that makes dating such an unpleasant experience for me. I feel like I'm being held hostage, at gunpoint, by a crazed madman. One slip of the tongue, one move out of line, and I'm a goner.
"One false move," as they say, "and the girl gets it."
So, I usually end up not calling someone back, or not following up on a second date. Or worse yet, he never asks for a second date, because the first one was made so uncomfortable by my attempt at camouflage. Of course, this only happens if I like someone, so I've had plenty of invitations to second dates with men I don't find attractive in the least. Because with men I only find pleasant, but for whom I'm not sexually attracted, I can be my usual, devil-may-care self who is merely who she is, and everyone else can like it or lump it.
What an unpleasant thing to discover about yourself! And what a challenge to keep from doing it! Because it means that, somehow, I'm going to have trust someone I barely know to have the style and good taste to stick it out and believe that doing so will be worth the effort. And it means that I have to take it as a sign, if he doesn't, that he wasn't the man I thought he was. They so frequently aren't the men I think they are. Of course, since I'm too wrapped up in pleasing them to stop and get to know them, I really can't blame that on them, can I?
Well, this has been a productive day. Paid my rent, gave the cat his medicine, returned three signed contracts to the other side, had an enormous, life-changing epiphany....
I don't know about you guys, but... I'm exhausted.