Despite the fact that I’m hardly a dating authority, it amuses me that I get questions from both real life friends and readers of this blog whom I’ve never met, regarding the big questions pertaining to dating and relationships. I do hate to disappoint, but I don’t actually have the answers. I just have some viewpoints based on personal experience, and my own unique personality. You may be nothing like me, and find out that what works for me doesn’t work for you at all. :)

Nevertheless, I received an interesting note in the comments section from a young lady who is bothered by the fact that she’s spending time with a guy who always looks around the room whenever they go out together, and wonders if being bothered by this makes her too sensitive.

You’ve come to the right place for advice on this one, friendly blog reader. As it happens, I have a personal pet peeve regarding spending my time with guys who suffer from “wandering eye syndrome”.

Obviously, this habit of looking around all the time, turning the head or body away when an attractive woman walks by, not paying attention to a word you’re saying because the guy’s eyes are staring at someone else, or actually getting up and leaving you to talk to an available attractive female is unacceptable in a committed romantic partnership. However, I find it unacceptable behaviour in virtually any context, and that’s just how it is with me. I’m not going to allow myself to feel diminished by someone saying, via words or action, “I like your company, but I’m going to pay attention to someone who interests me more”.

I shouldn’t have to. Why in the world would I? My company is way more valuable than that, and I know it.

Most girls don’t, so they tolerate it. They worry that demanding more makes them bitchy or “oversensitive.” It doesn’t. It just means you’ve set standards for yourself, so kudos on that. I’ve ended up never going out with someone again or ending a friendship over some of these more extreme examples, because if there’s one thing I don’t enjoy, it’s being disrespected.

Certainly, there are levels of tolerance for this behaviour based on your relationship with someone. If it’s coming from a husband, fiance, or monogamous male partner, it’s way more of a problem than if it’s something that happens when you’re out with a platonic male friend.

However, there are many different types of relationships, and many different situations where “wandering eye syndrome” is a problem. For instance, if I’m on a first or second date with someone, I realise this person is obviously keeping his options open. However, if you’re that open that you can’t focus on getting to know me because you saw boobs walk by, you’re probably not for me. I’m not going to be calling you back, 100% guaranteed.

Likewise, if I am in an open relationship and have a secondary partner or “friend with benefits” in my life, I’m well aware I am not the only female in this person’s universe. However, when that person is spending time with me, I am. If we’re not in a monogamous relationship, you can do whatever you want (as long as you respect our agreed upon guidelines), but NOT EVER when I am in the room. Sorry, but I have to insist anyone I’m involved with, even if it’s not exclusive, or we’re not going to end up getting married and living happily ever after, shows me a certain amount of respect and interest. It’s freaking rude to hit on someone in front of anyone you’re currently sleeping with, and you have all the time we don’t spend together to meet other attractive women. This kind of relationship can be very complex and full of drama, or it can be very simple. I prefer to keep it simple, by having “relationship rules” that work for me. One of them is, “You may be seeing other people, and we may even discuss it, but respect me enough to keep that out of our time together.” If you don’t have the attention span, interest in spending time with me, or level of self-control where that guideline works for you, we’re not compatible, and probably should not have any kind of romantic involvement, period.

Of course, there are exceptions to the romantic relationship rule. You may be in a happily monogamous relationship with a guy who is a hopeless flirt, and it doesn’t bother you…except, the truth is, sometimes it does, but you don’t mention it. You may be in a happily poly relationship that’s going so well that it’s time for your primary and secondary partners to meet, and maybe they just happen to hit it off fabulously. In these cases, you’re just going to have to expect that someone paying attention to others is part of the package. But, for the most part, whether you’re committed, seeing other people, or just open; married or dating; on your first date or your fiftieth, you should expect that the other person has gone out with you to spend time with you and connect with you, not scour the room for other objects of interest. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. I know other people who disagree, and are apt to categorise my way of looking at things as “high-maintenance” or “oversensitive.”

The place where it starts to get confusing, for many girls, is when it comes to spending time with male friends. I have some male friends I actually used to date or have hooked up with at some time in the past, some that I’ve been attracted to at some point, some who’ve been attracted to me at some point, and some where that kind of chemistry never once entered the occasion—and the disinterest in anything beyond friendship has always been mutual and obvious. So, whatever your past history or current feelings towards your friend, is it rude when your friend stops paying attention to your presence because someone else has caught his attention?

In a nutshell: yes. This doesn’t just apply to male friends, but all friends in general. If I’ve taken time out of my life to have dinner with you, I expect a little more regard from you than “Sorry, I didn’t hear you” because you were staring at something or someone else. I mean, I didn’t have to go out to dinner with you, and I certainly didn’t do so to feel invisible.

Again, there are exceptions. I’ve gone to singles’ bars with single friends, with the express purpose of helping them meet someone, and as a result, had to find my own way home. I invited an ex-boyfriend, a shy guy who hadn’t had luck finding any serious potential dates since our long-term relationship ended, to a party where he didn’t know anyone. He ended up leaving me as soon as we arrived to talk to a girl who caught his interest, and is now his wife. I can’t really fault him for that one. If the purpose of an outing with friends is to meet dating prospects or hook up, you can’t feel ignored, abandoned, or slighted when this happens…even if you have a huge secret crush on the friend you accompanied to the singles’ bar. (and why would you do that anyway?)

On the other hand, I’ve been on first dates where the guy I was with kept looking at the door like he was expecting someone the entire time. This clued me in that either he wasn’t interested, was a player, or was married. I’ve been out at a dive bar with a platonic friend who began rudely ignoring me to talk to a stripper who worked at the establishment next door, leaving me sitting completely alone and out of my element for some time. I’ve traveled 800 miles to visit a friend, who then pretty much ignored me the rest of the evening because he was more interested in talking to another single friend I brought out with me. I’ve gone to visit a friend in another city, attended a party with him where I didn’t know a single person, and had him abandon me for the night because I wasn’t as attractive of a girl as he was looking for, but he met someone who was. All of these were incredibly uncool scenarios where I ended up feeling as disposable and insignificant as the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, while simultaneously knowing I deserved a little more respect and regard from anyone who called me a friend. And, incidentally, these are all examples of situations that occurred with male friends with whom I didn’t have a romantic or physical relationship. You can imagine how colourful some of the others are. :P

Time is a precious commodity, and we don’t have unlimited amounts of it. I generally look to populate my universe with those genuinely interested in spending time with me. If someone isn’t, is halfhearted about it, or is always putting the potential hook-up above friendship, I don’t know that I’m that interested in keeping the friendship as part of my life. I don’t really spend time going to dinner or having drinks or catching up with acquaintances. That’s just me. I’m kind of hard to get to know on a one-on-one basis, and while I know a lot of people, I’m not very invested in those I know socially. I know I’ll always see them around. If I’m spending time with you one-on-one, it’s because we’ve achieved a certain level of respect, friendship, and emotional intimacy. It’s because, for one reason or another, I care about you or you interest me in a way that puts you amongst a select group of people. Because of this, I tend to develop extremely strong, long-term friendships…but am very choosy about them. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And if I turn down your dinner invite, it’s not personal. :P

I used to be as bad about disrespecting friends and romantic partners as anyone on the planet. I didn’t have the “wandering eye” problem, but I’d go to a party with one person only to leave with another. I was so inconsiderate that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, before we were actually dating but I knew he was interested in me, offered to drive me to another guy’s house—as well as the other guy—because the other guy was too drunk to do so. I had a friend come visit me, declare his attraction to me, and in order to deal with the uncomfortable situation, I got drunk and made out with some guy I didn’t even know or like very well. I’d have friends invite me to lunch or for drinks, and incapable of introverted communication, would immediately turn the event into something I invited 5 other friends to. It is clear that genuine intimacy terrified the hell out of me at this point in my life, and I went to all lengths to avoid it…but I was really hurtful towards others throughout the process of growing up.

Looking back, I see how reprehensible this behaviour was, and how I generally had no respect for the feelings of others, or concern for anyone but myself. I really was honestly one of the most self-absorbed and callously hedonistic people you’d ever meet, and it took a swift kick in the ass from life to get me to grow up. I think this is why I judge this behaviour so harshly in others, and have very little tolerance for it. I see not just the behaviour itself, but the selfishness and disregard for others that lurks behind it…and no matter what our relationship, I tend to not have space for that in my world. It’s something that’s going to piss me off, make me cry, or leave me confused because I know I deserve better from people, but am not getting it.

So, in reply to the person who came seeking advice about the “guy who looks around the room all the time when he’s with me”, I can only say that I don’t know this guy or what kind of relationship you have with him, but you deserve better, too. If the relationship is romantic or physical in any way, take it as a “He’s just not that into you” sign. If it’s a friend you’re interested in, find someone else worthy of your interest. If it’s a friend who is a purely platonic friend, realise he’s more interested in looking for dating options than your friendship, and take it or leave it as you wish.

No matter what, it’s worth having a discussion about. I once considered not spending time with someone because whenever we were out, his eyes would constantly move around, or he wouldn’t make eye contact, and I’d feel I wasn’t being heard. I finally brought it up, and expressed my frustration. He apologised and explained he had ADD, and sometimes, it was hard for him to sit still and focus on any one thing, task, or person for too long. It isn’t always personal, so if someone really matters to you, don’t just jump ship before bringing it up.

However, if someone abandons you at a bar or a party, or you’re out on a date and you excuse yourself, only to find them elsewhere, talking to a hotter/more interesting/more sexually available person, just move on. If you’re dating someone who flirts with others in your presence, including your friends, to the point that it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably time to move on. There are enough people out there who will assign you greater respect and value that you don’t need to try to make excuses for that behaviour. It hurts when this happens, but there are many people who will move heaven and earth to spend time with you.

Why not demand that level of value, instead of trying to convince someone who doesn’t see it that you’re worth it? You’ll never convince that person, whereas someone else may offer it freely, just because you’ve put it out there that you don’t intend to settle for less.

When it comes to the history of my dating and romantic life, I’m not really in any position to complain. When I look around at the number of single female friends who are constantly bemoaning the lack of eligible dating partners and end up getting hooked up with people who clearly don’t treat them in a way of which they are deserving, I can both relate and not relate at the same time. Many of these girls come to me for dating advice, because my story is not theirs. It doesn’t make it a better or easier story, mind you, but just a different one.

I’ve never had problems meeting people. Perhaps it is because, as discussed in a different post, I take a different approach to dating and relationships, in that I don’t really invest myself in strangers. It takes work to get to know me, and anyone who is really interested is going to put in that work. Whether that way of doing things means I end up with a good friend, a lover, a committed romantic partner, a confusing yet positive life situation, or some combination of the above, what it does mean is that I don’t surround myself with people who treat me in a way that is less than I deserve. I am not disposable, a one-night stand, an object of amusement, or someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with, regardless of how our relationship operates. I’m pretty happy with that. The result is that I have some awesome folks in my life.

I also tend to be more open-minded when it comes to who I choose to spend my time with. Like everyone else, I have my superficial side, but things like looks, money, what kind of car someone drives, and what they do for a living is rather an afterthought when meeting someone. The thing that’s going to get me to call or e-mail the day after I meet someone is “It was awesome to meet you, because it seemed like we had a sincere emotional connection.”

If I’ve had a downfall in my dating life, or a masochistic tendency, it’s my penchant for falling for unavailable people or idealising impossible relationships. I’m rarely interested in those who actively pursue me with compliments and flowers and e-mails telling me how great I am. I’m appreciative, but whatever inspires someone to spend way too much time thinking about another person, that doesn’t light up that particular switchboard for me.

On the other hand, I have no tolerance for chauvinists who approach women as objects or conquests, people who are too shallow to care about anything other than getting drunk, hooking up, and never talking to one another again, and people who outwardly show disdain or disrespect. They say there’s a fine line between love and hate, but I know where the line is, and I’m not foolish enough to fall for anyone who doesn’t think I’m awesome.

No, my particular downfall is the person I *think* may be interested in me, but I’m not sure. Or, it’s the person I *know* is interested in me “but”, and “if only”. “If only I were single when I met you”, “If only we fit together better on a practical level”, “If only it weren’t impossible to make this work”.

I actually have awesome intuition when it comes to these things. If I *think* someone is interested in me, but they refuse to acknowledge that—because they don’t see it turning into a relationship, because they’re already in a relationship and trying to observe boundaries, because I somehow scare or intimidate them, because they’re playing a game where they’re counting on indifference to get my attention—I’m almost always right. And because I don’t take the most traditional approach to relationships, indifference and uncertainty does not dissuade me. It actually makes me feel more interested and more attached to someone who may or may not be the best choice for me.

A wise friend of mine told me it’s simply because I’m a natural-born huntress; I enjoy the chase, the idealism of a relationship that could be over the reality of a difficult, messy one that actually is. I enjoy the attention of those who are unavailable—friends who can never become lovers, lovers who can never become committed partners, committed partners who may not be lifetime soulmates—because I am at heart committmentphobic, easily bored, and enjoy the thrill of infatuation.

This may be true. For instance, I recall once taking a class every Monday, and looking forward to it because there was this guy, and I couldn’t tell whether or not he was interested in me. Yet, for three hours every week, I was interested in finding out. I wasn’t yet the person I am today, the one who’d just come out and ask, or actively pursue the guy, but I knew how to read people. I knew that if he were totally indifferent to my presence, I wouldn’t bother looking forward to seeing him every Monday. Yet, he never made a direct move. It was like a game, and one I looked forward to participating in every week. (As a side note, we did end up dating for awhile. It’s one of my more memorable and life-changing experiences, but we were far from right for one another. If people who are extremely opposite in personality and approach to life struggle to make it work, people who are effectively the same person struggle even more.)

I have another friend, one I’ve known for many, many years. I really don’t know if he’s ever found me attractive. Neither of us has ever made a move, or asked one another out when we were both single at the same time. Yet, for years, I’ve always been thrilled to run into this person when I do. It’s that weird thing that always makes you smile when you see someone, and you don’t know why. I don’t even actually think I’m attracted to him—he’s not my type, on so many levels. But I enjoy our friendship, and I enjoy the unspoken knowledge of “There’s something a little different in the way we relate than just being friends who get along.” If I *did* know he were attracted to me on more than an intuitive level, it would really create some weirdness and dysfunction and potentially ruin a friendship. Likewise, if I found out that over the many years we’ve known each other, he was never once attracted to me, I’d doubt myself, my intuition, and my ability to read others. Therefore, our friendship will always stay exactly as it is, at least if I have anything to do with it.

I also have people in my life who, in the world of polyamorous relationships, would (or have in the past), become ideal secondary partners. These relationships have oddly been the strongest, least complex, and emotionally fulfilling relationships/friendships in my life, despite by nature being something that should be complex. Sometimes, it’s just easy, and it’s because you know where and how someone belongs in your life, at least at a certain point in time. There is a certain freedom in those relationships that is important to me, and even during my monogamous relationships, I’ve somehow kept what I term “romantic friendships” in that particular space in my life. Yet, if we were both single, available, on the same page and in the same place in life at the exact same time, attempting to have a more committed, exclusive relationship would probably do irreparable damage to all the good things we share.(yes, lessons learned the hard way.)

Not all of the soulmates you encounter in life are those you’re supposed to consider white-picket-fence-marriage-and-babies material. People are in your life for different reasons, and if they’re unavailable to you on a certain level, it’s probably because they’re never going to fit into the convenient little space you wonder if they might—and it has little to do with other people, other relationships, practical obstacles, and whatnot. If someone is the right person for you, you’re going to move the world around to fit them in your life. Otherwise, you should be content with knowing they are meant to fit into your life in some other way…even if everyone’s feelings are utterly confused about the situation.

Knowing this does not keep me from being most interested in those when I’m not quite sure how someone feels about me, or what the possibilities are moving forward, or whether or not life circumstances will be subject to change in the future….but my intuitive sense and simple enjoyment of the time I spend with someone tells me there’s more to the story than “It’s really awesome that we’re friends”. This is a dangerous habit, one The Guy I Am Currently Dating would most likely prefer I did not have. I think I might consider myself a more monogamous person by nature if I did not have this particular tendency, and did not feel consistently energized and intrigued by the emotional uncertainty of these situations. On the other side of the coin, these situations and people always affect me on a deeper level than they should, so you think I’d want to stop developing serious emotional bonds with people who exist in my life as question marks.

The thing that always throws me is that I’m so infrequently wrong in how I assess a question mark situation, and the type of relationship I end up having with someone….or at least, getting some clear resolution on how someone feels about me.

Sometimes, the answer really is “It’s complicated”, and you need to learn to back off, let go, and have a less emotionally bonded, more platonic friendship…which is difficult, if you’ve never really shared that sphere of existence with someone before. It’s like learning to relate to someone in a whole new way, and it’s not easy, and it feels like a genuine loss for everyone involved. But, sometimes, if you treasure the friendship, it’s necessary (which is how I’ve managed to stay friends with a large percentage of ex-es who have moved on and are now married or committed to other people.) Somehow, it’s easier to move on when you know how the story ends than when something remains an eternal question mark.

Other times, the answer is “It’s complicated”, but there’s something beyond friendship worth exploring, and simply ignoring it causes confusion, emotional angst, and has the power to destroy a friendship. At some point, you have to take chances in order to find out what someone means to you, how they really fit into your life. I think it’s important to assess and appreciate all relationships for what they are, not what you’d like them to be, or how they most conveniently fit into your life at any given time. Sitcoms in the 1990′s loved to address this “friendships-that-are-more-but-nobody-ever-talks-about-it” dynamic; we were all intrigued by Ross and Rachel, Jerry and Elaine, Daphne and Niles. While the situation in real life is just as present and complicated, the answers are not always as black and white as in sitcom-land. It’s possible to fall in love with your friends, be friends with people you once dated, have lovers that are amongst your best friends but you’d never want to spend your life with in a monogamous relationship. It’s possible that most relationships are, a majority of the time, a question mark.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Women are, by nature, attracted to and most likely to be seduced by uncertainty. While many men I know have told me they’ve been attracted to me as a result of being direct and straightforward and not flirting and playing games “just because”, I’ve more than likely been attracted to them because they once existed as a question mark in my life, and there was a need for me to be straightforward, direct, and figure out intuitively how someone felt about me before making a move that can’t be rescinded. More proof that, on a fundamental level, men and women are wired differently and respond differently to different approaches by different types of people.

Sometimes, it amazes me that anyone ever gets together…or stays together…or has clear and simple convictions about the nature of relationships. I actually don’t know if anyone does. We’re all pretty much just winging it here.

But me, I’m hopelessly attracted to things in the shape of a question mark. Fortunately for me, most of life is just that. I’m unlikely to get bored with living anytime soon.

One of my favourite creative voices in Atlanta, Melysa Martinez, posted a link to an article that struck a chord with me on her Facebook page today. It explores the idea “Can we be exclusive?”, examining the idea of whether or not our popular culture eschews the idea of exclusivity in relationships in favour of the idea of being “free”,”independent”, “having fun”, or “focusing on your career”….or simply eternally holding out for something better. Even many of those who trade in their exclusivity for the benefits of a committed relationship have one eye on the idea of “trading up”.

You may argue this is a New York/LA/Miami/other large, self-centred city problem. After all, many places in America still think it’s pretty normal to marry your high school/college sweetheart, and live happily ever after. And, maybe it is. After all, the more you see of life, the more options you have, the harder it is to choose what’s right for you.

I posted a reply on this friend’s page (as an aside, like many awesome people, she’s abandoning ATL for a larger, better city in the very near future. Boo.) regarding my viewpoint on the subject. Here’s what I wrote:

“I’ve found this a really hard thing to deal with in life. As someone who has always been in one or more committed relationships at virtually any given time, I’m actually kind of terrified by committment. But I also realise that without it, the idea of emotional intimacy can’t exist. Too many people live lives with no strings attached: I see it when I have a roommate who just skips town with little warning, a dinner party where only half of the guests show up, the fact that people flake on plans 10 minutes before you’re supposed to meet up. We can’t have friendships living that way, we can’t have relationships, and we certainly can’t have “emotional intimacy”. Physical intimacy is easy. It’s like deciding to go to a friend’s club one night or not. You’re probably going to do something else the next day, so, whatever. Investing yourself is hard, and people do it less and less often. There are all these excuses, from other people being “the wrong people” to “being too busy” to “things just not falling into place”, but the truth is we’re a population of people terrified to emotionally invest in anything—especially one another.”

As expected, it didn’t take long before I got a response from a mutual friend via FB e-mail. It basically pointed out that this person was surprised by my response; as someone who has spoken openly about having poly relationships and advocating the idea of “open” relationships and marriages, it struck this friend as hypocritical for me to be commenting on a culture of committmentphobia.

I’ll both agree and disagree. I agree that it’s a little hypocritical for me to condemn a culture of committmentphobia, when it’s a struggle to get me to follow through on anything. I stay too long in bad relationships, and leave good ones because I’m terrified of choosing the wrong thing. I’ve been engaged and unengaged more times than anyone I know. At one point, I changed apartments, jobs, friends, and the like every two years. I show up late for everything, and have an honourary Ph.D. in procrastination. When things don’t go right in my life, my natural inclination is to run somewhere else, and fantasize about me starting my life over again in a tiny little place where nobody will ever know me. On the committment scale of things, I’m pretty much Kim Kardashian.

Yet, there’s also something fundamental about me that builds permanent emotional attachments with people. They aren’t always permanent, and not always easy to develop, but once they’re there, they are hard to shake. I think that’s why, for my many failings, I have a fantastic and fabulously loyal group of people in my life. I’m willing to emotionally invest, once you demonstrate that you’re not going to hurt or abandon me because I happen to care. When I say that I’m going to have a monogamous relationship with someone, I don’t lie or cheat, even though that state of relationship-being often feels unnatural and complicated and difficult for me. However, I view it as a gift I’m willing to give someone else…exclusivity. I may show up late for everything, but I don’t stand anyone up. I don’t forget birthdays or anniversaries or other special events; in fact, I’m the first one to plan a party or make a big deal about it. I don’t necessarily like committment, but I like the emotional intimacy and security that goes along with knowing—unless there’s some unforeseen calamity—someone is in your life for the long haul. I’m not that interested in hosting a revolving door of friends, lovers, and acquaintances in my life. At one point, I think I was. I wasn’t really much into the substantial back then. I was a little careless and selfish and hurt people. Karma got me back big time, and I learned a valuable life lesson. Once I did, I started meeting people that are “substantial” enough that they’re still in my life many years later.

As for advocating the benefits of polyamoury, or “open” relationships and marriages, while also believing in the power of committment and emotional investment, I don’t see any hypocrisy there. Most poly relationships are built on the idea of having multiple committed and loving relationships in life. They don’t all work the same way, and some people have open relationships and marriages just to have the best of both worlds, and think it’s a convenient way to have a loving committed relationship, plus permission to screw around. However, that’s not what I advocate in that kind of relationship. I think that, regardless of your relationship status or outlook on what makes good, healthy relationships, the moment you decide to sleep with someone, you should be making some sort of a committment. Maybe it’s just to treat that person with respect and esteem, or maybe it’s that you’ll be good friends down the line, or maybe it’s that you’ll continue to be lovers for a longer period of time. Maybe it’s that you’re going to date, be exclusive, get married, and make a death-do-us-part committment, but for most of us, most of the time, it doesn’t work out that way. (Imagine if you ended up marrying every person you’ve ever hooked up with!) Regardless, you should be willing to invest yourself in getting to know that person emotionally as well as physically. As I’ve said, physical intimacy is the easy part. Why do it just because you can?

I don’t, anymore, and that’s just a personal choice that’s resulted from growing as a person, and having a hell of a lot of life experience. I require emotional investment, committment, respect, friendship, a certain level of interest and compatibility. I do not require exclusivity, because not all relationships are the same, and I personally don’t know I believe that love and exclusivity have to go together. Everyone looks at relationships a little differently, and if “exclusivity” fits into your list of relationship wants and needs, that’s a good thing. “Committment” and “emotional intimacy” are related but different concepts. I personally value the latter two, and make them a non-negotiable part of my life, in any kind of relationship with any physical/emotional/romantic context. The former is open for discussion.

So, in answer to the question: “Can We Be Exclusive?”, there is no doubt in my mind that of course we can. However, between the number of people who are too emotionally unavailable to offer things like “committment” and “emotional intimacy” to any kind of relationship, and the number of people who see “exclusivity” as an optional component of loving, committed, emotionally intimate relationships, the old relationship paradigm isn’t as black and white as it used to be.

As with all relationships, it all comes down to who you are and what you value, more so than who you’re looking for and what they’re willing to give. If “exclusivity” means a lot to you in a given relationship, and you’re afraid to bring it up because you don’t want to lose someone or scare them away, you’re with the wrong person…or at least, with someone who doesn’t share your relationship values. It doesn’t make one of you demanding and unrealistic and the other a jerk and a player, it just means you’re incompatible on a very fundamental level. While it may hurt to learn that, it hurts more to learn that later, or to hide your feelings about knowing you’re not the only one in your partner’s life, when you feel you deserve to be.

If we could all speak about these things honestly and openly, before getting involved with one another, and during the course of our relationships—well, just imagine how much easier, better, and less dramatic our relationships would be.

Over the weekend, I sent a friend of mine a care package—as I so often do— this one containing a movie that’s special to me. In the course of conversation, I mentioned the film “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, a movie I hadn’t seen in years. I shared that it was slightly ironic that many years later, people who were important to me at the point in my life during which I highly identified with that movie still felt a strong attachment to me when they watched the movie, or couldn’t deal with watching the movie at all.

It’s a little sad, but since it goes along with the premise of the film, that relationships touch our lives and create memories that are worth holding on to no matter what happens in the end, it’s also somehow appropriate.

Tonight, I decided to watch it, because I couldn’t really remember what it was that touched me so deeply about that movie. It’s a good movie, but it always affected me on a very personal level, and when I thought about it, I couldn’t remember why. I’m sure I saw a lot of resemblances between myself during those years, and the main female character in the film: a very unfocused, reckless, impulsive person who couldn’t stand two things in life: being bored, and not being loved. I’m sure I empathized with how painful it could be to be in a relationship with someone who hurt you and made you feel rejected just for being you, because opposites don’t always attract. Or, opposites sometimes do attract, and then leave one another completely shattered.

While watching the movie, I was reminded of someone I dated at the time. Our relationship was very complicated, very emotionally draining, and in some ways, very toxic. I always felt like being with him was being with someone who’d dismissed the possibility of me being “the right kind of person for him” the moment we met, which is not a kind of judgment I buy into. It just isn’t how I see relationships. If people knew instantly who or what was right for them, we’d have many more examples of positive relationships in the United States today. I’m incredibly intuitive, and I’m the first to admit, I don’t know right away. It takes me some time to “see how things develop”. Sometimes, things develop out of situations I never would have seen coming. Other times, things that make logical and emotional sense and seem perfect on paper just never happen. I don’t know; chalk it up to timing, destiny, whatever.

I am intuitively wary of people who claim they know who or what is right for them based on preconceptions; they’re usually wrong, they’re usually in the process of finding themselves—or closed off to possibilities that don’t fit into how they imagine life working out, which is usually exactly how life works out—, but getting too attached to anyone who judges a relationship before it even has a chance to develop is masochistic. Some people are open to the unexpected, to “you never know what life brings your way”. Other people will do their best to force life and relationships and opportunities into a certain mold, and end up spending year after year looking for the thing they think they want, while ignoring so much of what’s passed through their lives. (yes, I know more than one person who fits into this category. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are still single many years after I happened to pass through their lives.)

Anyhow, this ex of mine was one of those people who knew I wasn’t right for him, and yet, remained in my life in one aspect or another for a very long time. As it turned out, he wasn’t right for me, and I wasn’t right for him, and we didn’t really connect deeply on any level. We could never really bond on that emotional level you need in a relationship where someone just “gets” you, and when it did end, the next person in my life was someone with whom I shared that very naturally. Yet, something kept us together, or coming back to each other, and I don’t think I’ll ever really get it.

One day, I found an e-mail under his bed, one he’d written to me but never sent. I don’t remember what all it said; it was basically a rant about all the reasons he shouldn’t be with me. One of them that stuck with me, though, was reading “How can I take a grown woman seriously who puts butterfly clips in her hair and wears glitter everywhere? How could anyone take someone like that seriously, much less think about marrying her or having a future?”

It was one of the most hurtful things I’d ever encountered in a relationship; finding out the truth about how someone who claimed to love me really felt about me. I don’t really think I ever got over that. It was something else that made me less secure in myself, knowing that even those closest to me were incapable of accepting me and loving me as I am. And, yet, I knew he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. There were at least three people in my life at that time who claimed to have feelings for me, wanted to be involved with me, fell for me on some level, yet ended up with more “sensible” and “practical” partners.

Today, I know that if I have a right person, that person will love glitter and butterflies and my quirky fashion sense and not judge other aspects of my personality, especially my intellect or capability to take life “seriously”, on the fact that I like the parts of me that are winsome, childlike, and want to enjoy the world. People aren’t exactly one dimensional. I never traded in my butterflies and flowers for a business suit, and I don’t think I’ll intend to. I sleep with a stuffed animal every night, and don’t particularly care who thinks I’m far too old for such nonsense. I’ve learned to take being judged less personally, because I know it isn’t about me, it’s what you get when you mess with someone’s conception of how you should be.

In any case, this is not a tangent, but rather, what allows me to experience this extremely personal connection with “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”. Being hurt and betrayed and judged, and going through the hell of severing an intensely personal connection with another person, even if you knew it wouldn’t last forever—well, that’s just part of the human experience. When I think of people who were once central to my life and are now less so, usually romantic relationships that didn’t work out, I don’t have a single person I’d like to erase. I have memories I wish never happened, things that a decade later, still hurt beyond belief and make me realise someone can never again be a part of my world, no matter how deeply I loved them (or perhaps because of it.) Yet, there’s nothing I would erase, or take back, or given the option to never cross paths with someone again, that I’d make that choice.

I know there are people out there in the world who’d probably like to erase me, and have likely done so, as much as possible. But I always hope there are one or two memories that haven’t been deleted, that come back every now and then.

I think that’s why I sob through three-quarters of that movie, and tonight was no exception. I can’t think of anything worse than being forgotten. I think that’s why I take so many pictures, keep so many journal entries…so that one day, if I’m old and all my memories aren’t there anymore, they are still alive somewhere.

I’m strange, I know. I feel too much, too often, too intensely…or not at all, not in the right way, or not in a way that makes sense. But, I have the sort of heart from which nothing is ever deleted. Once you occupy space, you’re kind of there for a lifetime…even if we never speak another word to one another again, even if our paths never happen to cross, even if we don’t particularly care to see one another.

Love is one of those strange emotions that may not always actively exist between you and another person, but the moments when it did can’t be erased. I hope other people feel the same way. I hope the pieces of myself I’ve given to others over the years somehow mean a little too much to be deleted.

I don’t think I’ll watch that movie again for another few years. It still hits me really hard, on a really personal level.

Earlier today, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who would be proud to label himself a “geek guy”, forwarded this article to me. It took two seconds for me to roll my eyes. I’m sure the article came my way because he was sure I’d blog about it, and of course I did.

Why is there a question mark in the title? Of course it’s offensive. It encourages stereotypes and how to pretend to be someone you’re not to attract someone you have to work to click with, rather than just organically bonding with someone who seems like a natural match. It’s no different than “7 Steps To Get A Mega-Hottie To Talk To You”. Could the media stop perpetuating this bullshit?

What about “Stop trying to find a certain kind of guy by pretending to be something you’re not, and maybe you’ll actually meet someone who likes you? ”

I’ve attracted a geek guy in my life. Or 20. Or maybe way more. I’ve had serious relationships and meaningful friendships with more than a few. Some of them are fairly well-known geek guys. And, you know what? I don’t watch sci-fi, Felicia Day annoys the hell out of me, I don’t program computers, I don’t play video games, and I don’t see the need to dress like Slave Leia or dress in duct tape to get attention.

I have some geeky hobbies. I keep a blog. I play trivia every week. I’m a literary geek, a theatre geek. I’ve been to both Dragon*Con and Burning Man. But I also love shopping, reality TV, and all things girly. I don’t wear glasses. I’m emotional rather than rational, and people don’t often see the intense and substantial side of me until they get to know me.. Yet, geeky guys tend to be attracted to me, and although it’s not always an instantaneous attraction, I often find myself falling for geeky, introverted guys with whom, on the surface, I don’t have much in common. Often, though, it’s a balance that works. My strongest and most emotionally bonded relationships and friendships have been with geeky guys, and I don’t have to pretend to like Star Trek or Halo to build those.

Not every person is attracted to the same kind of person. One type of geeky guy may want an uber-rational, scientific, logical type of person who will communicate and share interests on a more intellectual level. Another might want an outgoing social butterfly who is going to open him up to new experiences. Still another may want a girl who genuinely enjoys the same hobbies. Some may simply want the hottest girl that’s willing to sleep with them, even if the relationship is largely superficial on both ends…you know, kind of like every “type” of shallow person out there. Thinking that a guy you label as “geeky” is a stereotype is just kind of ignorant. Thinking that turning yourself into Felicia Day or Zooey Deschanel is what’s going to land his attention is as stupid as assuming he’s looking for Scarlett Johannsen or Angelina Jolie.

For the record, I’ve had geeky guys I’ve been attracted to tell me they didn’t want to date me because they perceived me as the crazy manic pixie type that was going to disrupt their universe, or because I was too outgoing and socially exhausting. I’ve had geeky guys break up with me for low-key, plain librarian types, and for blonde, surgically-enhanced California girls. People change. Just because someone is intelligent or unconventional doesn’t mean they know what they’re looking for in another person, or that what that person thinks is right today is going to be right in the future. So, not shockingly, nothing in this article has much value, unless you’re completely one-dimensional and seeking an equally one-dimensional partner you can manipulate into falling for you, and never changing or growing.

I’ll admit, my life is a little bit of a stereotype in certain ways. Quirky manic pixie attracts geeky guys who want help coming out of their shells? Yeah, not an uncommon story. It’s happened to me more than once. I’ve “inspired people”, helped them to “explore life” and “come out of the shadows” and “live more”, only to have them leave me when they’ve figured out they’re now who they want to be and don’t need me anymore—or they can land a prettier, richer, or saner girl thanks to their newfound confidence and experience. They don’t show that part of the story in all those indy romance flicks.

I’m just me. I’m kind of smart. I’m kind of quirky. I’m kind of attractive. I’m kind of off-the-wall sometimes. I can be a little too much for some people. But geeky guys tend to like me because I’m unconventional and willing to accept people for who they are. I don’t try to change anyone. I don’t judge people for not being like me. In fact, I often am drawn to people because of it I’ve learned there’s a balance between similarities and differences that is essential to a relationship that works for me. This is not true for every person. The people for whom this same balance is important seem to seek me out…or, if not, I seek them out. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I must repeat: I have never, ever played Halo. I don’t read comic books. Sci-fi bores the hell out of me. I suck at math. And I’m not the shy, quirky librarian type. If you are into these things and want to date a geeky guy because you have stuff in common, that’s awesome. But this article isn’t going to help you with that either.

Yes, I naturally attract geeky guys. I think it has to be the blog…which many of them have refused to read over the years. *lol* Surprisingly, I don’t do it purposely. For a long time, I defined my “type” as someone way different. And then I learned the shocking truth: people aren’t categories. It’s not “geeky vs. hip”, “assholes vs. nice guys”, “friends vs. romantic partners”, “alike vs. different”. People are not simple, and relationships certainly are not on one dimension of compatibility. This is part of the reason I’m fully convinced that people who go into relationships looking for everything they’ve ever wanted in one person, or need to be “completed” are doomed to fail.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with geeky guys is not meeting them or attracting interest, but convincing them to be straightforward and emotionally open enough to take a chance on approaching me and trusting me. More than once, I’ve heard someone was afraid of me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “A girl like you could really hurt me”, I’d have some serious extra spending cash. But, again, that kind of judgment really isn’t good. Anyone who really knew me would know I’m not the heartbreaker, and not the manipulative type. In fact, I’m not a type at all.

Neither are the geeky guys I know, even if they are proud of their passions, accomplishments, intellect, and unconventional interests.

I really resent articles like this that tell you how to change yourself and other people to attract a certain kind of person. It’s demeaning to you, and it’s demeaning to that person. What happened to just being yourself and attracting people who click with you? The more you know and love who you are, the more objectionable the idea of changing yourself or anyone else in order to attract a partner or make a relationship work.

Being as authentic as possible is what works for me, and it means I don’t have to spend a lifetime pretending to want to stay in playing Halo on a Friday night when I’m planning to put together a social event. It means I don’t have to dress as or emulate a TV character in order to be “different”, because quirky is what’s in right now.

I think a lot of people who identify themselves as “geeky” go through life looking for a certain level of acceptance, someone who really feels “I care about you because you’re you, not because I see you as a type or because you might have potential if I change you enough.” I think it’s not just something “geeky” people feel and want, but something anyone who’s ever felt a little bit not like everyone else has experienced. I think I attract unconventional people because I understand the importance of authenticity and acceptance. If you don’t have that, you don’t have the kind of openness and level of trust that builds strong relationships.

If you want to attract a geeky guy, sure, you can do the stuff that’s in this article, and find a guy who’s interested in sleeping with you and hanging out with you for a little while, until it becomes obvious you have nothing in common and pretense wears thin. That’s true of almost any “type” of person you want to consciously try to attract.

If you want to have a meaningful relationship or friendship with a geeky guy, don’t do a single thing this article mentions. In fact, give up on the idea of people as “types” or attracting a “type” because it’s cool, or what they might have to offer you, and just be comfortable enough with who you are to put it out there and attract people because they are somehow right for you.

Maybe then you’ll be on your way to a healthy relationship, whether your partner is a geek, a hippie, a prep, a yuppie, a hipster, or any other “type” you can think of. Because, in reality, that person isn’t representative of that “type”. They’re just a compatible partner for you, on whatever level that connection happens, and you don’t have to fake it to find it.

Spending your life faking it isn’t good for anyone. I don’t care if this article, or Cosmpolitan, is telling you otherwise. Both you and your potential partner(s) deserve waaaaay better, right?

Yeah, there’s way too much bullshit on the internet. I exist to counteract that. :P

It’s good to know I have a few friends/loyal blog readers who care, but you guys truly don’t let some stuff go, do you? *laughs*

Earlier in the month, I posted a piece on synchronicity, in which I shared a sweet story about reconnecting with a childhood crush at a cafe in New York City, and our subsequent love story/short-lived engagement. The point of the piece was not to vent about my personal life, but to share why I believe in synchronicity, and the power contained in the signs the Universe tries to send you on occasion. However, the most common feedback I’ve gotten over the past two weeks is “What happened with the rest of the story?”.

I didn’t really want to go into the rest of the story, because it’s personal, and also because I wanted to avoid exactly what happened: spending more time thinking about my ex-fiance than I have in a dozen years. :P

Since everyone wanted to know what happened to Avery, and why I cut the story short, the answer is a simple one. Life happened to Avery, and he ended up making largely the same choices most conventional Americans make.

After we broke up, Avery finished grad school, and went on to law school. He met a nice Jewish girl who is also the uber-ambitious, driven type, and helped him overcome his overly romantic, idealistic tendencies. In short, he found the polar opposite of me, the girl who’d always loved him precisely for his brooding demeanour, depressing poetry, and desire to change the world.

He still lives in New York City, is with an accomplished civil law firm, and is still, I assume, married happily enough. We keep in touch enough to say we’ve kept in touch, yet not enough to imply any real connection or stir up any issues. We have lunch or meet for drinks perhaps once a year when I pass through town. It is all very adult and civil, and there’s nothing serendipitous about it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets about Avery, but not the part where we didn’t stay together, didn’t get married. I think I intuitively knew he needed to be someone and pursue something other than what I had to offer, and I would only encourage him to take his life in a different direction, one that may have brought him much less happiness in the long run.

If anything, I sometimes feel sadness. I feel a sense of “Why did you need to choose the conventional, the obligatory? Why couldn’t you travel through life the way we always talked and dreamed about, off the beaten path, with me? Why did you end up wanting to change me, rather than let me help you encourage the authentic, adventurous you shine through?”

The answer is, few people are strong enough to choose the road less traveled, which is why it’s called the road less traveled. Doing so means hardship, sacrifice, lack of stability, being judged by others. For Avery, he felt always that his personal happiness was secondary to doing what was expected of him.

Although it sounds judgmental, and it is, I’m of course equally guilty. I fell in love with the idealist who wanted to become a journalist in a war-torn country and write a powerful piece about life in other places, the intellectual who saw himself as a professor who’d publish papers and give lectures on how to make the world a better place. I wasn’t any better prepared for a future that involved me being the wife of a civil litigator, any more than he was prepared to show off an outspoken, bohemian wife without an Ivy League pedigree.

People change, and they do not always change or grow together…and that’s just the sad reality of life. That’s why over half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, because people aren’t static creatures.

I am inordinately proud of Avery and everything he’s accomplished in the world, and the happiness I hope he’s found. I have a close friend who, over the years, I’ve seen gone through a similar transition, and I am equally proud of my friend and his happiness—though a part of me will always be sad he didn’t choose a different path, and that’s simply selfishness. We all have those weaknesses.

And while I still adore and admire Avery, I believe everything worked out for the best. The person—or persons—destined to end up with me are those who chose a path a little less conventional, who retained a bit more idealism and commitment to artistic and intellectual growth throughout the thing we call life, even if it means a crappier apartment and a heart that is broken and disappointed more frequently, and parents who are a little less approving. :P

I didn’t share this part of the story, because I am still romantic and idealistic enough that when I think of Avery, I think of the sensitive, idealistic, protective 16-year-old boy I ran through rain and mud just to hug goodbye…and how the Universe found that moment as meaningful as I did, because goodbye wasn’t goodbye.

The infrequent times I meet up with Avery to catch up on old times and talk about how different our lives are now, I always carry an umbrella.

Old habits die hard, and undue romanticism never does. ;P

“I often think about
Where I went wrong;
The more I do,
The less I know.
But I know I have a fickle heart,
And a bitterness,
And a wandering eye,
And a heaviness in my head.”

—Adele, “Don’t You Remember?”

Today was yet another extraordinarily stressful day, waiting to see what’s going to happen to me with my apartment/living situation. I was initially quite encouraged, as the lady in the rental office made it seem as if it were a done deal….there just remained the technicality of getting my roommate and The Guy I Am Currently Dating to the leasing office at the same time to sign the paperwork.

The problems started when my roommate, who initially said he’d move out in 2 weeks, decided he wanted to leave in two DAYS. At first, he mentioned the possibility of driving all the way to Jacksonville, and then driving back to take care of the lease and pay me the almost $400 in back rent he owes me. I instinctively know this will not happen; if he leaves without taking care of things, he never will.

Now, of course, I’m terrified that’s precisely what’s going to happen…even though The Guy I Am Currently Dating is willing to put his name on the apartment for me, he can’t do so without my roommate being present to transfer things. They’ve set up an appointment with the lady in the leasing office to do this at 7 PM tomorrow night, but my roommate left nearly 12 hours ago and said “I know you’re stressed, but you need to have faith that I’m not going to leave without this being taken care of.” Of course I don’t, and it isn’t helping that he sent me a text saying he would be home late since he was “going to spend the night with a hottie”. In the many years we’ve lived together, he’s never done that, and either it’s the oddest timing ever…or my intuition is right to be distrustful. I just want this all taken care of so that I can cease feeling anxious about the future each and every day. :(

Yesterday, I mentioned I’d tell you the story of how I met a friend for the first time this past weekend; in fact, a friend who was really a stranger who turned out to be a friend. I’d know of this person and heard many stories about him over the years, as he was the roommate of one of my best friends while they were both at Berkeley. However, this guy and I were never friends; in fact, he advised my friend to kind of move past dealing with me and get over me when we had long periods of time that were filled with a lot of drama and emotion. In turn, I dismissed this guy as exceedingly judgmental, and formed a pretty solid idea, based on our contrasting characters, that we’d never get along. We were all in our early 20′s at this time (though me a bit later than the two of them. *laughs*), and as intelligent people in our early 20′s, thought we knew everything about everything. :P

Of course, when I went through some negative things in my life, my friend went to his roommate to share/vent about things I’d done, things that had happened to me, and his generally troubled emotional state. When this old friend and I would spend time together, and things wouldn’t go as well as planned, it was his roommate who would inevitably be around to listen to the drama. So, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that said roommate had a certain picture of me that wasn’t altogether flattering, yet was aware that I had some charming and quirky attributes that made me an interesting person to get to know regardless.

On my end, I’d heard (and seen) that the roommate was the kind of person who was not only introverted and academic, but liked a certain amount of solitude, and disliked clingy or emotionally needy people. Meanwhile, I am the sort of person who can’t be alone for too long, but needs a certain amount of personal space, and also to be reminded that I am liked and admired on a regular basis. Logically, there was never any reason to assume we’d have cause to be friends.

Yet, somehow, we started talking, via Facebook and text, in a way that was very infrequent and somewhat impersonal. However, it seemed the more we started to talk to one another, the more I noticed similarities within the differences. 8 years after we’d first been made aware of the other person’s existence, I found out he was planning a tour to some of the Southeastern cities (he attends school in another Southern city, about 7 hours from here, so while it seems on the map we might be close, we’re really not…unless you’re on an airplane.) , and wanted to visit Atlanta.

The visit was interesting, as he changed his plans and abandoned a stay in Macon to meet up with me and some other people at a burlesque show. It was a good time, and he seemed interested in getting to know different people, but I didn’t feel we particularly clicked in any extraordinary way. It was more of the sort of thing that came off as, “You’re interesting enough, but there are people I might have more fascinating conversation with”. It also didn’t hurt that one of the members of the party was an extremely attractive young burlesque dancer; as I told a friend of mine, “Who am I to think most people I’d know would choose to talk to me over taking the opportunity to get to know a highly attractive burlesque dancer?” Yet, I am me, so I do of course think that…and was rather put off by that whole situation. When he left the festivities fairly early, I wasn’t even certain if we’d meet up the next day.

However, we did, and it appeared to be the case that we communicated much better and found one another more entertaining company in a one-on-one scenario. That’s not typically the case for me; I tend to feel less at ease around new people one-on-one, rather than in a group, unless I somehow feel a connection with them in some way. It’s the primary reason I have a horrible history of turning friends into lovers and vice versa; I just really need to feel drawn toward a person to spend any length of one-on-one time with them.

I certainly didn’t expect to feel that bond with my friend after the burlesque show outing, but was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to talk and laugh with him for hours. In fact, I believe I talked and laughed so much that I delayed his leaving town by several hours; long enough that he had time to meet The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and as expected, the two of them seemed to get on very well almost immediately.

Somewhere, between the hours of talking about everything and laughing at nothing, I realised this person with whom I felt I’d nothing in common and whom I sensed disinterest from upon our initial meeting was actually neither my polar opposite, nor indifferent to my friendship. One of the observations we made was that although we seem to take completely opposite routes to get a certain place, we seem to end up at the same destination. Although the way we live our lives in completely opposite ways and by almost opposing philosophies, much of who we are is fundamentally in sync. It’s a weird sort of synchronicity, that someone who not only doesn’t look at life through the same sort of world view and has opposing personality characteristics and ambitions, and is in fact someone who challenges you in some ways, can also be someone with whom you feel a connection.

Sometimes, I have a sense about people. I know a lot of people, but genuinely trust and connect with a select few, and it’s a largely intuitive process. Sadly, it’s why I don’t always spend as much time calling people up and asking them to dinner or if they want to see a concert or do whatever, and some people mistake me for unapproachable..or as an old friend of mine would term it, “aloof”. I am easy to get to know, but difficult to befriend. Yet, I often have an unmistakable sense when someone is the right kind of friend for me, and is put in my life’s journey for a specific reason.

I do not know the reason, of course, but I am glad for the odd way that life works out sometimes, by putting people in your path you never really saw being there. I have a strong intuitive sense that there will be another 8 years of either connecting, or mis-connecting, or both, in the future. And it makes me happy to have unexpectedly stumbled upon a person with whom I see a genuine friendship developing, either despite, or because of, the fact we continue to live a safe distance apart from one another. *laughs*

I will say, overall, I’ve had some of the most memorable experiences possible with meeting strangers, whether through friends or via the internet or whatnot. They aren’t ever people from across town, they aren’t ever people with whom I’d cross paths if not for synchronicity…and they have all either impacted my life a tremendous amount, are still an important part of my life, or both.

There’s something to be said for taking a risk or two, after all…*laughs*

On a final note, Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody I Used To Know” was briefly dislodged from my head for nearly 24 hours by a listen to Adele’s “21″. Today, it was put back, by friends pointing out that I’d gotten it stuck in their heads. :P It was solidified by a friend sharing this uber-funny video, which is a parody of a cover of the song. Even if you’d never seen the cover (I hadn’t, but watched it before the parody.), it’s great and worth a watch.

Parody On “Somebody That I Used To Know”

“When he thought of Ellen Olenska, it was abstractly, serenely, as one might think of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture; she had become the composite vision of all he had missed.” — Edith Wharton, The Age Of Innocence

A week or two ago, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I had a conversation about the concept of the “manic pixie”, which is actually a type of stock character in films (and I suppose, consequently, in all forms of artistic expression.) It made me laugh, because a week or so before that, another friend had used that phrase in an e-mail, and I thought it was a cute little description he’d invented to characterise a certain type of person he’d run into in his life.

To a certain extent, stock characters are the lifeblood of the acting industry, and also the nemesis of actors. If you are, like me, the type of actor who is more likely to land a role playing some exaggerated version of herself than transforming herself into someone quite different, being typecast is a hazard of the trade that can be difficult to overcome.

In theatre, it’s something you live with. Based upon your body shape, height, size, physical characteristics, vocal inflections, ability to sing and dance, and even your real, off-stage personality quirks, you’re able to figure out your type. Either you’re the leading lady or the ingenue, the girl next door or the evil, conniving vixen, the character actress or the comedienne who steals the show, a soprano or an alto, a featured dancer or one who’s hiding in the back fudging the steps. Almost every play or musical has a character that fits your “type”, so you spend a lot of time learning how others perceive you and how to make best advantage so you can play that perfect role for your “type”. You learn not to waste time auditioning for roles that don’t reflect your “type”; in fact, in most open auditions, you’ll be screened out before you even get to the theatre door. Once you’re Equity and your auditions are by appointment, your agent will typically only get calls from those who want to see you for a certain role. It can be frustrating, if you want to branch out and show you’re Meryl Streep, which is why many theatrical performers also work in television, on soap operas, and singing in rock bands or performing stand-up in their spare time.

The world of film is a little more forgiving, mostly because there are simply more “types”. Film is based to reflect the real lives of real people in a way that most theatrical productions and television shows are not; it’s often the reason why musical theatre stars can cross over to TV, but not into film. The habits that are ingrained that make everything larger than life are ridiculous on the silver screen, unless, like Nathan Lane and Christine Baranski and William Shatner, you play characters MEANT to be larger than life.

In any case, I learned that in film, “manic pixie” is actually a stock character, a modern-day muse that attracts others, despite being fucked-up in some way, because she opens the door to a world with which the main character—usually a love interest—is unfamiliar. Although disturbed, she is often idealised because of her ability to relate and connect and help others grow, to disconnect from the world of what is expected and retreat into a greater world of adventure and romance and possibility. Of course, this world is an illusion, an idealised version of life that can never hold up over the long term.

I had an acute moment of understanding when he discussed this with me, because it occurred to me that this has largely been reflective of my experience in real life. Although those who don’t think I’m anything special can’t quite figure it out, I’ve always had a certain ability to attract—-not everyone, but a certain kind of person—and to draw others into my world. I’ve always had the ability to draw others out of their shells, to inspire them to something different and greater, to succeed. I’ve dated normal people who have gone on to become millionaires, Broadway professionals, doctors, lawyers, idealists who work to change the world. I’ve dated a number of people who marry the first person with whom they share their heart after me, and who are quite happy as a result.

I’ve struggled with being idealised, and the sense of broken-heartedness that comes with the realisation that the one you love is in love with an image. The power of this image is so deluding it’s led me to involvements with married men who viewed me as something greater than the simple, ordinary girl I am, and has ended with people considering ending their relationships to pursue something with me…something that inevitably wouldn’t live up to the ideal.

All this, this is why people become interested in me, despite any obvious excess of wit or beauty or intelligence or grace or sense of humour or anything else people gravitate towards. It is why people not only forgive the many ways in which I’m screwed up and the oversensitivity I wear on my sleeve, but the flaws become endearing. It is also when I am devastated when I invest myself in another person, help them to make huge life changes, become the person they want to be, and they end up leaving me and marrying the next girl who comes along—whom I often notice is not as charismatic, not as vibrant, and often, not as open as I am. The inevitable feeling that follows is “Why am I always the person who molds other people so they can move on, and embrace a happier, more fulfilled life with someone other than me?”

The thing about life, as compared to movies, is that people grow…and even stereotypical characters have a layer of something else underneath that may take some effort to see, but it’s there. But, it’s scary to me in some ways to see how art imitates life, and vice versa. At least, it does in my case. I attract those who idealise some aspect of me, and in turn, am attracted by the idea of being seen as something larger and more unforgettable than I am. Unfortunately, this is not the basis for a healthy relationship, and it is the basis for a whole lot of friendships that become extremely complicated in one way or another.

Of course, for a person who also idealises everyone and everything else in the world, I suppose it’s right that I should attract the same. Finding myself in a relationship that has an aspect of rationality and logic and boundaries to it means that I am happier and stable than I’ve been at other points in my life, but I also often miss the sense of the whimsical, the spontaneous, the living in a world that’s somewhat unreal, but filled with big thoughts, big feelings, and big ideas.

I guess, in my way, I’ve always been a manic pixie…and never understood why anyone would tolerate, much less be attracted to, a “weird” person like myself. Suddenly, I understand how it happened that a guy I knew on the internet for a number of years fell in love with the illusion I created…often unknowingly…and I ended up moving to Atlanta to live out that perfect, intense romance, only to realise real life was nothing like I imagined. We hurt each other deeply, that ex and I, and I suspect a lot of it had to do with two overly idealistic souls not being able to face disillusionment and reality on a daily basis without feeling hurt, betrayed, and looking elsewhere for another person to fulfill that ideal.

And, yes, the Wikipedia entry makes reference to Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”, which I still haven’t seen. :P

“What a man wants is to believe that a woman can love him so much that no other man can interest her. I know that is not possible. I know that every joy carries its own tragedy. Oh, it is beautiful to love, and to be free at the same time.” ~ Henry Miller

After my last entry, regarding communication and relationships, I’d asked The Guy I Am Currently Dating if he’d read my journal…and in specific, that entry, which mentioned a lot of things I was pondering about relationships.

I was hurt, because he said he didn’t, and also because he said “Why should I have?”

It made me realise that although I’m not creating any great works of art here, either with my online journal or my personal diaries, or—in this day and age— my Facebook and Twitter communiques, I have been spoiled. I have had a number of people in my life absolutely fascinated by my thoughts, people who have not even really known me but become enamoured with me because of my form of self-expression.

I didn’t answer, but I wanted to tell him that that’s why. I don’t know if I can date someone who doesn’t make time to read what I put out there (although he mentioned he was busy at work all day, he also spent time on FB and linked to other articles he found to read elsewhere.)

I think I have been spoiled by learning there are people out there that are fascinated by my mind and my communications with the world, and the realisation that I am—not for the first time—with someone who doesn’t share that fascination because communication is so easy to come by, and to be taken for granted, that’s instilled a feeling of discontentment.

We managed to have a good enough weekend together, but I still couldn’t get out of my mind that his response to not reading my thoughts was “Why should I?”…and the feeling that perhaps I’m still looking for a certain type of connection we do not share.

It is this that often makes me wonder if I need someone in my life with whom to share this type of feeling-based, intellectual, artistic, introspective discourse. It reminds me of the days when I’d send special people in my life books to read, and we’d have great fun discussing them; the days when I had time for long e-mails and very open, personal conversations, and special connections.

I believe I need more of that in my life these days. I love the friends I surround myself with on a regular basis, but by and large, we do not share that same type of connection.

I believe I need people in my life who read this journal simply because it interests them, and by connection, because I myself am of interest to them. Perhaps that doesn’t really exist anymore; we’ve been pared down into a fact-based, text-message-Tweet-and-status-update kind of world. It doesn’t necessarily leave room for the connections that I inevitably value the most.

For some reason, I thought I’d put up a post regarding this issue in the past, but I can’t seem to find it.

Anyhow, a few months ago, there was this girl who showed up at my Meetup, who we’ll call “G”. I was hosting the Meetup, and was in attendance with my boyfriend, The Guy I Am Currently Dating. Since she did not know us, I introduced myself, and although I believe I introduced us as a couple (though I can’t be certain), it was likely clear in that we were holding hands and sitting next to one another all evening. There was nothing remarkable about this girl; a 35-year-old chubby redhead who was neither exceptionally pretty nor horrendous in appearance, but her personality had a way of making people feel uncomfortable.

Since it was a crowded restaurant and we had a table of about 35, I felt the need to speak loudly (project, if you will), in order to make the greatest amount of people feel included. After about 30 minutes of me being social and people largely ignoring her presence, she asked if, at any point, I was going to use my “inside voice”.

Quite rude, from someone I don’t know, but if you’re going to attack me with snarkiness, be prepared to get on my list. I told her, “Sweetheart, I’m an opera singer. We don’t have inside voices.”, and went on with my life. During the dinner, I noticed she spent a great deal of time leaning over the table, as to display her amply revealed cleavage to whatever male she was speaking to at the time. (Not my imagination: three male group members in attendance told me her overtly sexual overtones made them feel uncomfortable when she had left the dinner, and we’d proceeded out for drinks. One of the guys had told me she’d behaved similarly at another group he attended.) I did my best just to chalk it up to “This is a person I don’t care for”, and ignore her—until I went to the bathroom with a friend so we could bitch about this girl—-and when we returned, the seating had somehow been rearranged so that she was sitting directly across from my boyfriend, attempting to engage him in conversation.

Still, I didn’t say a word, and spent the evening conversing with a fun, attractive guy who happened to be in attendance, and a girl who is one of my best friends in Atlanta…but, I let The Guy I Am Currently Dating know I was highly displeased. She later left the event without saying goodbye to anyone, including her hostess, or thanking me for organising said event. (I’m not Emily Post, but I do know proper etiquette when I see it, and when I do not. Very tacky.) After she’d left, I found out not only that she made a few of the guys feel uncomfortable, but was rude to one of the women seated near her. Apparently, her personality wasn’t winning any points.

After that, no word from the girl for 6 weeks or so. Then, out of the blue, she e-mails my boyfriend, who is hosting an event with his group later in the month. In the e-mail, she mentions being in attendance at my dinner (referencing me by name), and that she regretted not being able to talk to The Guy I Am Currently Dating, due to being seated near another person. She also mentions she’d like to get to know him better, and although she realises he’ll be busy on the day of the event, she wants to invite him to dinner beforehand. No mention of me, other than that they met at an event I hosted, or acknowledgement that she’s aware he is not single.

Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, he responded with a polite but pointed note saying that since she invited him to dinner, she must be extending the invitation to me as well, since we’ve been together for over 3 years and met us as a couple. I, who didn’t believe her invitation to him alone was an oversight, left a more pointed message saying “I know things are different in the South, but where I’m from, if you’re going to ask out a guy who’s not single, it’s best to get permission from his significant other first.”

She then did a lot of backtracking, saying that of course the invitation was meant for us as a couple and she wasn’t interested in asking him out, it was just that she only had his e-mail addy. (Being a member of my group, she not only has my e-mail, but my phone number, and a convenient link to my profile via the Meetup site, giving her free ability to message me at any time.) She went on to elaborate about how she was engaged to an investment banker that traveled a lot, and did we not notice her ring? (we did not, and jewelry lover that I am, I would have.) She clarified that she was looking for couple friends to hang out with (despite the fact that her behaviour is consistently that of an available woman, and her alleged fiance is always out of town). In order just to let things go, both The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I accepted the explanation with a laugh, but my iNtuitive sense about people told me she was clearly being less than straightforward.

Yesterday, again, out of nowhere, the Guy I Am Currently Dating receives an IM from “G”. (Why is she IM-ing him, anyway? I don’t even chat with him on IM, and she’d have to still have his e-mail/contact info in order to find him on IM) This passive-aggressive note reads as follows:

A few things about me, for those who don’t know me, that are a bit contrary to the redneck stereotype:

  • I am not from Atlanta, or even from the South.
  • I am an uber-liberal, hippie socialist type with a degree from one of America’s most well-reputed and free-thinking universities
  • I have traveled to well over 20 countries, and speak four languages. I spent over a year traveling on a cruise ship and have lived in London. I’m not sure how far outside of Atlanta I’m meant to go.
  • My field of study was opera and musical theatre, with a minor in creative writing.
  • I was in a particularly non-redneck-oriented sorority
  • I never wear sneakers and rarely wear jeans.
  • I’ve never ridden in the back of a pickup truck. Even mini-vans are a little daunting for me.
  • My ideal night out includes an overpriced martini or three. You’ll never see me with a beer.
  • I do indeed have a pasty Irish complexion about me and could afford to hit the gym (especially on this medication…ugh.) However, this girl was pale, freckled, and had about 30 pounds on me that she wasn’t ashamed to hide. However, her profile photo is of her in lingerie, clearly 15 years younger and 20 pounds lighter than her current appearance. So, pot, kettle, and whatnot
  • When illustrating how classless you believe another person to be, avoid referencing the phrases “barbeque joint and “terrible unsophisticated” to make your point

It astounds me how passive-aggressive people can be. When I confronted her—because confrontation is the way I deal with issues—-she immediately backed down, by leaving my group…and when told she’d be picking her tickets up from me at the Will Call table to attend my boyfriend’s event, she asked if there was a way to directly get them from the theatre staff. When she was told no, she didn’t attend that event, either.

So, should I be flattered that I’m intimidating enough that you hide from me until there’s an ocean between us, and then send a note to my boyfriend (note: nothing to me personally, though I’m far easier to reach.) telling us off?

Probably not. But I’m going to, because I’m kind of redneck like that. And I may appear small and harmless, but once you’re on my bad side, trust me, I’m not. I’m a wonderful friend, and a horribly obnoxious enemy. :)