“”The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.”—Deepak Chopra

It is kind of sad when you realise that someone to whom you one meant something has moved to a different place in life, and you’ve moved from being a valued part of that person’s world to a space where you’ve become incidental.

I suppose this happens to everyone and it is ultimately the nature of allowing other people to occupy space in your life; friends fall out of touch, relationships end, acquaintances move away, people who once found you intriguing are over it or vice versa. I always take it more to heart than most people, yet it seems to happen more frequently. I am fortunate that I have a very loving and supportive network of people in my life, including many who have been in my life through all the years, all the various phases and lifestyles, all the places I’ve called home. They’ve listened to me complain about every heartbreak, every disappointment, every friend who stabbed me in the back, every sucky job that didn’t work out, every idea that turned out to be incredibly stupid or unrealistic.

On the other hand, I have a revolving door of people with whom I was once very close, and then things changed. It is a side effect of a lot of things, from frequently changing social circles and personal ambitions, to years of polyamorous relationships. I remember once upon a time, someone who once mattered a great deal to me and is no longer a part of my world, explained it this way: “Everyone shows up in your life for a reason and when you need what that person brings into your life the most. When people move on, it is often because you already learned and experienced what you were meant to via that person. There is a difference between love and attachment. They do not always go hand in hand. One expands your heart and the other breaks it.”

Of course, this person was a very insightful Zen Buddhist, and at the time, I became very angry at some of the things he said. It is difficult when you consider yourself an important part of someone’s life, and he constantly talks about non-attachment and solitude as the natural condition of people. I made the mistake of taking his philosophies on life personally, a remarkable reflection on my tendency to make virtually anything about me once my emotions get involved.

I will never see the world through the same looking glass my friend did, but I’ve come to see he is right. Love endures many things, and continues even when a person is no longer in your life. Becoming overly attached to everyone who affects you on some deep level is a recipe for a consistent feeling of dissatisfaction with the human race, and eventually, an unwillingness to invest in anyone at all. I have more than one friend who suffers from the side effects of this “for most people, no attachment is permanent” mindset, and can come off as hurtful and insensitive. The truth is, they are this way because, being too sensitive and caring too much, the world has consistently let them down. Sensitive people are often forced to become harder on the outside, more self-protective. Whenever I meet a jaded, somewhat misanthropic person, I know that 8 times out of 10, I’ve encountered a sensitive human being who has been hurt.

I am shocked by the way most of the world seems comfortable with creating and breaking personal attachments to others. It is ironic, because I’m always the one who is dispensing advice to less worldly friends; “Just because you slept together doesn’t mean there’s relationship potential”, “Friends who only call you when they need things or want to talk about their own lives are not your friends”, “If someone treats you like an option, you’re not getting the love and respect you deserve”.

Yet, although I know these things, it is more difficult when it happens. My attachments to others don’t happen as often (I don’t find a new best friend every week because I am bored, or develop a new infatuation every time I come across an interesting person), but when they do, are less easy to discard. I don’t let my guard down for everyone, and so it affects me when I start to feel as if I invested in the wrong person, the kind of person who didn’t care that much and found me disposable.

Of course, life is not that simple. Attachments and emotions and life choices are messy. Someone becoming less attached to you is not always a reflection of apathy, and it’s strangely taken me all these years to learn that. Not that it matters, of course, since it doesn’t change how you feel about that person no longer being such an integral part of your life. Sometimes, the change is temporary, and other times, it isn’t. It’s all very convenient to dismiss someone who has decided to no longer make you a part of his or her life by saying, “That person obviously sucks, and never cared about me. I’m an idiot for not seeing that and caring in the first place, and for still caring”.

But, while a convenient way to detach from others and convince yourself the attachment is not worth missing, it simply isn’t true. As painful as it is, few attachments are forever. The ones that are tend to go through phases, and are frequently very complicated.

As much as I would like every person I ever really invest in and genuinely care for to be part of my life forever, and to make the effort to show I am important to them, it’s an ideal. It’s an ideal that, when it happens, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

However, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I purposely choose to get close to those I believe are sensitive, substantial, and see something in me that’s worth keeping in their lives for the long haul. When it doesn’t work out that way, it saddens me. I have a history of investing too much in others, and keeping attachments in my life that no longer really bring me joy or help me to grow as a person (Meyers-Briggs claims this is a common ENFP trait; we have a hard time just letting go and moving on.) But because I don’t always make the effort to bond with others in a meaningful way, I also don’t see anyone as expendable. I’m never that person who ends a friendship or relationship with a “respectful” e-mail, simply stops calling, or makes one person less important to me because another person has become important. I’ve never been that person who passes through town without visiting, or forgets to send happy birthday wishes, or stands people up because something came up at the last minute. Sometimes, I fight with people in my life, but I don’t threaten to discard them unless that is what someone really wants.

Unless someone really hurts me in some way I can’t get past, once someone means something to me, it means until we’re 80 and sitting on rocking chairs in the nursing home watching Matlock.

I suppose there’s something to be said for those who allow more people to pass through their lives with less attachment, but I’ve had enough acquaintances for a few lifetimes. When I am old, it is not those people I am going to remember, but those I actually allowed myself to love and attempt to understand, no matter how “complicated” it all got.

Life is certainly easier if you don’t believe much in attachment, and virtually everyone is replaceable. Perhaps we’re not all wired to live a life that is easier. I know I don’t seem to be, and I don’t even wish I were, most of the time.

I’ve been feeling a little better the past few days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had a really laid-back weekend with a lot of rest and catching up on TV. In fact, all I did on Friday night was watch sitcoms and episodes of Shameless with The Guy I Am Currently Dating, while eating dinner from Moe’s and dessert from Dunkin’ Donuts. (NOTE: Even if you try really hard to stick to your diet, Dunkin’ Donuts will undermine you by giving you free donuts. You can’t ignore free donuts.) During the rest of the weekend, I highly enjoyed only seeing a few friends who I enjoy being around, because there’s really no pressure hanging out with them. It’s less like a social event, and more like when you were a teenager, and would just chill out with your friends doing nothing special. Except, for us, “nothing special” means playing trivia at our weekly pizza place. We did have to get up early on Sunday, because The Guy I Am Currently Dating had his monthly brunch/Meetup. That was followed by us doing a bunch of errands, but then I spent Sunday evening in bed, watching reality TV and “Mean Girls” on cable for the 30 millionth time.

After that, I got out my long-ignored paper journal, and decided to start writing about some of the things that were bothering me. I’ve had things on my mind, and they’ve been interfering with my sleep, despite the Valium that’s supposed to make that not happen. Whenever I talk to someone about them, I end up just feeling depressed, anxious, and angry. So, I decided to write three pages in my journal about whatever was on my mind. Three pages turned into 6, which turned into 8. I only stopped writing because I ran into a page where I’d just randomly decided to stick an entry last October. (even my diary isn’t in logical order!!) In any case, the result is that I had a very good night’s sleep, and pleasant dreams, and woke up feeling fairly positive about life.

Years ago, I did a class based on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, which is about exploring yourself and your creativity and helping you get “unstuck”. For many people, it eradicates the fears surrounding “What if I create something that sucks?” and “What if I’m not good enough to ever do anything right?”. Artists have a reputation for being laid-back, flighty, Type-B personalities, and many of us are—but many of us are also hopeless perfectionists, insecure narcissists or even more insecure misanthropes, and feel like we live in a world where nobody’s listening to those who are marching to a slightly different drummer. The Artist’s Way really helps with that. One of the things it recommends is writing three pages in the morning of whatever pops into your head, in order to release what’s weighing you down. I don’t write in the morning, since I am not a morning person, but I used to make time to do that before bed. I find it incredibly helpful, and think it’s a habit I need to stick with for a little while, at least until I feel in a more positive place about myself, my life, and my relationships with others.

At the same time, I’m working on a chapbook of short stories and poetic musings, and I hope that taking the time to write every day means this is a project I will be able to finish. Writing, for me, involves a state of high emotional awareness and willingness to address emotions that aren’t always pleasant to access. As an actor, I was trained in “the Method”, which relies on the ability to relive experiences and have unguarded access to often painful emotions, which can then be related to the scene you’re acting in order to feel as if you’re living it, rather than acting it. I suppose writing for me is much the same, and the consequence is that when I am too happy or too sad, I tend to avoid it. It requires a vulnerability from me that I’d rather not have, although I do. Sometimes, I’d rather not go probing around my emotions and my psyche with a pointy stick, so projects get put on hiatus. Then, when I return to them, I decide that they suck, and I am not particularly talented. As a result, my hiatus gets longer and longer. Therefore, I try to make the most of my introspective periods, while they happen to be around.

I think I may be slightly happier because I’ve started taking my vitamins again, another thing I need to do, but tend to forget—for weeks at a time. I am not only anemic, but deficient in D and B vitamins, which are linked to energy and mood. Less than a week into taking them again, I feel more energetic and happier.

Perhaps I’ve just come to terms with some things in my life I’m not terribly happy about. Sometimes, friendships don’t work out, and you invest in people who abandon you. Sometimes, it’s really hard to relate to other people. Sometimes, you get really attached to people who don’t see or value everything you have to offer in the way you wish they would. Sometimes, friends and lovers and family are mean to you, and make you cry, or make you doubt things about yourself and your life. I’ve been dwelling in the bitterness and genuine anger about the “disposable, disconnected mindset” people have in the way they treat one another, and how I so frequently get hurt because I do not share than mindset. But, I can’t change other people….and the reality is, I don’t really want to be a harder, less accessible person. I don’t want to invest in others less, fall for people less frequently, take fewer chances. I want other people to be willing to do those thing more often, but I can’t control that, which is why I often feel angry as well as hurt. I need to remind myself frequently that I have no influence over what other people do, beyond the ways in which my presence in someone’s life affects them. And if it doesn’t affect them that much, either because that person puts up too many walls, believes others to be replaceable, or simply didn’t care about me as a person that much to begin with, I have to make peace with that.

That is terribly hard for me. I’m a little controlling. I’m a little used to getting my own way. I’m a little used to thinking of myself as charming and having an odd quality that draws others to get to know me, so why should someone ever find me disposable or of minor importance or be “just not that into me”? Yet, it happens, and if someone chooses not to invest in me, or to be a part of my life at all, or to set limits and build walls that prohibit any sort of real emotional bond from occurring, I have to accept that and move on. It isn’t my job to convince anyone else how freaking awesome I am. It’s just my job to remember *why* I am, and that there are always going to be people in my life who appreciate those things, and want to be a part of my world.

Every time someone hurts me, or a friend betrays my trust, or a lover breaks my heart, or a crush turns out to be little more than that, I swear that I’m going to become a different kind of person, the kind who doesn’t care too much and doesn’t get hurt. The kind who keeps relationships frivolous, and sees the word through self-centred, opportunistic glasses. I tried that for a number of years. Not only did I find myself lonely and incapable of truly connecting with other people at all, I caused a lot of drama and heartache. I hurt people, including myself. I earned a lot of bad karma. And, on top of it, I was doing it in order to protect myself from being hurt. Instead, I just made certain I was always alone.

I don’t really want that. I don’t want to change. It’s just easier to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me why I don’t like who I am.” than it is to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me what I don’t like about who that person is.” The first, I can control, but the second is totally something I can do nothing about.

I remember, during my brief journey into therapy, my psychiatrist telling me I didn’t understand anger. When I yell at people, I cry. When people hurt me, I feel like something must be wrong with *me*. I used to be a pretty self-destructive human being, even if I kept my feelings inaccessible enough to not realise that my behaviours were destructive and self-destructive. I remember being told I was this way because I was angry, and too spirited to simply be “depressed”. I always directed anger at me, because I felt powerless over my emotions as they relate to other people. I have too many, and many times, I’d prefer to have none at all. It’s taken me a long time to explore a healthy middle ground.

But I still think that when someone makes me cry or treats me badly or I start to think they aren’t the right person for me, it’s a failing I direct at myself…even if I logically see it is not. I know how to be angry at others, but I don’t know how not to be sad when such things happen, how not to wish I were a different sort of person entirely. It is easier to understand “I feel sad” than “I feel angry”, or “I want something you won’t ever offer me”.

At some point, I have to realise I don’t feel sad, and I don’t want to change. I am just angry when other people hurt me, and reinforce the idea that people, even those you love and who claim to love you, sometimes suck. I can’t take the whole burden of “What’s wrong with humanity” and make it my responsibility. I can only be who I am, even if that person is too sensitive, or will always be too easily hurt or open up to the wrong people or idealise others in a way that is perhaps unrealistic. At some point, I have to believe that being who I am is as much of an asset as a detriment, even if people continue to suck. Because, the truth is, people are all sucky and hurtful sometimes, and everyone makes mistakes. Nobody really understands friendships and relationships and emotional connection and how to cope. We’re all just doing the best we can with who we are.

Maybe it’s not about being perfect, but about finding people who either have matching baggage, or know how to help you carry yours.

You may have noticed there was a blog here updating the world on my life over the past week or two, and now it’s gone. On Friday night, a friend of mine contacted me to say “Talking about your problems with other people on the internet isn’t likely to win any friends or help you solve your real-life inter-personal disputes.”

Since I’m usually blogging about people who have no longer decided to be my friend and why that decision was made, I was very confused by this. He then went on to remind me how much he did not like it when I blogged about issues with him, and that, really, nobody likes when I do that. So, I said “Whatever”, and took the blog down. Peer pressure means a lot.

I then went on to do some thinking. The thinking went like this: “OMG! I’m nice and sensitive and smart and entertaining, and yet, people don’t like me. I am shunned by social groups, have people stop talking to me for reasons I don’t understand, have been threatened in order to get me to leave town, embarrassed socially by strangers, know more than one girl who has made “not knowing Alayna” a relationship condition, don’t get invited to parties all my friends are attending, and generally have a small circle of people who really “get” me. What am I doing wrong? I’m a great friend! I should be adored and loved by all! Why is my awesomeness and love of life not apparent?”

I have to admit, I am very perplexed by the world. Apparently, self-expression in the form of sharing what’s happened in your life does not win you friends. Discussing your feelings does not win you friends on FB, because people remind you to stop complaining and how the world has bigger problems. (Yes, but I don’t know the world. These are *my* problems and feelings? Why am I not entitled to discuss them?)

There are a lot of things that don’t win you friends, and I’m afraid I don’t know what they are. However, here’s what I’ve observed during my time in Atlanta regarding the kind of person you’re supposed to be if you want to be someone who is invited to parties and whom others can actually tolerate in a social setting. Please note, this advice is written with a heavy dose of snarkiness and sarcasm (you’ll see this on the list as a quality others may not like about you.). Perhaps, in the future, I will write a new etiquette book, “Surviving the 1950′s Social Scene In 2013″ (or whatever year it happens to be finished.)

1)Don’t have any secrets in your past that may cause other people to judge you, or reflect scandal, impropriety, or imperfection in any way. One of my favourite books is Edith Wharton’s “Age Of Innocence”, about New York society in the early 20th century. One of the characters, Countess Olenska, is charming, beautiful, cultured, well-traveled, and many people secretly admire her or fall in love with her. Yet, as far as society goes, people incessantly whisper about her and are not inclined to invite her to social functions. Despite the fact that she brings a sense of life and adventure and refreshing honesty to those around her, she has “scandal” in her past, and her disposition is too “free-spirited” to suit those around her. She generally feels terribly alone and misunderstood, especially because some of those in her social circle are her relatives, and she can’t figure out why being a charming and lovely person does not win her acceptance, and even her admirers keep their admiration to themselves in “polite society”.

It’s 2013, and society has changed little. Unless you’re famous, having disreputable secrets from your past is the curse of death. If you tell people about your colourful and scandalous life, they are shocked and don’t wish to get to know you. If you wait until you know someone and then thell them, they feel betrayed, because they never would have been friends with someone like you if they’d had all the information that allowed them to judge you based on your past actions, rather than who you are today. This is especially true if you live in the Bible belt, but have broken most of the Commandments. If you want others to like you, don’t do anything wrong. And if you do things that are wrong, either have the good grace not to be caught like everyone else, or act as suitably shamed for your life of sin as your society deems you should. Some people may actually like you and admire you for your colourful life or unconventional outlook, but don’t count on them to ever express that in public, because that is not how society works.

2)If you have feelings, don’t tell anyone. An instant way to not win friends is to have feelings and express them. If someone has hurt your feelings, if you are annoyed, if you feel disrespected, if you are sad, if you are going through a tough time in life, only your close friends and perhaps your relatives will care. (I say perhaps because my relatives made it clear they didn’t care, and told me to take my whining back to Atlanta when I was sick and in need of medical attention.) In social situations, being hurt is “oversensitivity” and being displeased is “high-maintenance”, while being sad or expressing negative thoughts makes you a “downer” and discussing your life openly is just “too much information”. This is especially important on the internet, where the people who know you want to know more about you, as long as it’s suitably happy and superficial and doesn’t allow anyone to really know you.

3)If you have thoughts or opinions, don’t express them. Again, people care about what you’re thinking, but if you start talking about literature or philosophy or the meaning of life, you’ll immediately become “boring”, “heavy”, and “depressing” to those around you. If others are discussing politics and religion and you don’t believe in either, it’s best to nod and smile. If others are talking about their happy personal lives, and you happen to have a happy yet non-conventional personal life, it’s better just to not let anyone know you at all. This will make you liked and socially acceptable. Remember, it’s always better to be boring than scandalous or offensive. If you are a woman, smiling and talking to other women about perfectly neutral topics is the best way to go. Do not flirt with the men around you, even in jest, because you will immediately make estrogen-fueled enemies. Also, do not give the impression that you’re “one of the guys”, unless you actually are a guy, as the idea that you can bond with a guy in a way his wife/girlfriend cannot is threatening and cause for social banishment. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself in an attempt to get others to relate to you or to get them to open up, or because you misguidedly think “People will like me if only they understood me”. False. They will simply think you are egocentric for talking about yourself, and weird for being open about the “real you”.

4)Cut down on the free-spiritedness. You may think your crazy adventures are entertaining because your friends laugh, but every story you tell or crazy night out you plan, there is someone who is judging you for your unsuitable behaviour. Enjoy life within the constraints of the society around you, lest you be disapproved of for being “different”. Don’t talk too much, too loudly, flirt, tell off-colour jokes, try to be witty, or express your personality. Remember when your mother told you “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” She lied.

5)Make sure your dress, personal style, and mannerisms don’t stick out. You may think you’re perfectly ordinary and non-objectionable, but if you wear skirts when everyone else wears jeans, or polo shirts instead of t-shirts, you’ve provided an instant reason for others not to like you. Conformity, conformity, conformity. It is also helpful if you have a job that others respect or can relate to, yet is interesting enough that others don’t avoid you in case you’re discussing your latest project. If you have a job that is odd or unconventional, avoid mentioning it too much, or others will stare blankly and wonder why you can’t be steadily employed by a respectable corporation, school, or government agency. However, not talking about your job at all is also a recipe for disaster, because people will get curious and Google you to find out if you’re really a drug dealer, car thief, or stripper. These professions may seem interesting, but it turns out, they are not socially acceptable.

6)Do not be snarky, sarcastic, witty, or rude. Most of the time, people will not understand you, and if they do understand you, they are not likely to be impressed. First of all, many people are so self-conscious, they’re afraid that your “joke” may cause them to be judged in the future—as we’ve established, the one thing that brings about social disapproval and ostracism—or that you’re passive-aggressively saying you don’t like someone. This is even true if you’re known to be the sort of person who will just say “I do not like you.”. Secondly, others are likely to feel stupid if your particular brand of snarkiness is something they don’t get, and that makes you wrong. Thirdly, you may think you’re witty, but in reality, others find you obnoxious and tiring. If you write a blog like this one or keep a constant stream of banter going in your conversations with others, you can count on pretty much never being invited to anything, by anyone, ever. Also, you’ll have the vague sense that people don’t like you, but not know why. This is why. Unless, of course, you’ve already done one of the things mentioned above. Then, they already didn’t like you before the snarky remarks you made, so you might as well.

7)Like doughnuts and M & M’s, life is best when sugar-coated, at least in social situations. If people wanted to hear the truth, they’d turn on the news or read a book. Making other people feel like they are the most awesome people in the world and avoiding being the centre of attention is important. When you do speak, you have to be extra careful to ensure that nothing you say may accidentally have a double meaning, or can be taken in an insulting way. For instance, I personally have been de-friended for using the word “crazy” in conversation, and because I proudly called myself an “uber-liberal person”. Ooops. If there is something about anything that you dislike, it’s best not to mention it, because nice people like everything and everyone, at least to their faces.

8)Don’t talk about other people, unless they’re the socially unacceptable individuals everyone else is already talking about. Because that’s just rude, isn’t it? It’s also important to remember that you will call unwanted attention to yourself by expressing you like or admire someone that other people do not. It’s fairly obvious that being socially acceptable means liking and disliking the same people everyone else likes and dislikes, even if that’s not exactly how you feel. Did you not learn anything from high school?

9)Don’t assume that because you think you’re “nice”, others will like you. You may be a very kind-hearted individual who makes an effort to know others and do nice things for them, but there are still things that are fundamentally wrong with who you are and possibly worthy of judgment. You may not even know what’s wrong with you as a human being until you hear it from other people. After all, people are not *born* knowing why they should not like themselves, they must be taught by society to recognise their inadequacies.

10)Know when to concede and accept defeat.If you know that others do not like you and all attempts to win them over or make others see the “real you” have failed, or you’re just so scandalous and/or insufferable that you’ve alienated large groups of people, you have a few options. You can become a really happy misanthropic introvert, use your disenfranchisement from society to launch a career in the arts, or you can become so intimidating to others that they may not like you, but they’re going to shut the hell up about it. Also, you can move someplace where people don’t care about whatever it is that makes you so disliked in your current surroundings, or where people find your personality “normal” rather than “objectionable”. This is not recommended if people have confronted you and tried to bully you into leaving town, because why would you give someone who dislikes you the satisfaction of making their life easier? That would not be a self-respecting behaviour.

Alternatively, you could decide you just don’t care what others think of you or anyone else. However, don’t be surprised when you realise you’re suddenly the least popular person you know. Caring is essential, even if you don’t, not really. After all, deep down inside, you really do. Just don’t tell anyone, because your honest emotional vulnerability makes others uncomfortable 99.5% of the time.

I’m sure these useful tips will ensure I continue to not be invited to social functions throughout 2013, but it’s cool. They may just save you from that social faux pas you were accidentally going to commit, and make certain that you are still seen as acceptable by those around you. And, you don’t have to worry about me. I know that somewhere, someone is reading this…and that person may like me. And if that person doesn’t like me, well, my comments are disabled.

Let the fabulous self-delusion continue! ;)

I have a confession to make: I’m always a little shocked when I hear rumours about myself.

It’s not that there aren’t reasons for rumours to circulate about me, because there are. Most of them are crap, and those don’t bother me much. But others involve some aspect of my past or my personal life, and that another person has labeled me a “bad person” or someone not worth knowing because of a mistake I’ve made in my life, or a way of life I used to embrace.

Last night, after the book release party, I was sitting around with a group of friends, and the topic of mean people we used to know came up. One of them is someone who would almost compulsively tell lies and spread rumours, always commenting on the lives of others, in addition to making up extraordinary claims about his own that clearly were not true. After laughingly telling some friends what this person had been saying about them (ridiculous speculation that wasn’t true, and would be none of this guy’s business, even if it was), a friend of mine told me what this guy had said about me.

At first, he was too embarrassed to even relate the gossip. When he did, I was absolutely shocked. The long and short of the gossip was “Stay away from Alayna, because she’s bad news.”. Some of the reasons he gave were absolutely true, some were ridiculously false, and others were assumptions that might make sense if you’re trying to piece together a mystery, but actually not what happened in the story of my life.

The surprising part was not that this ex-acquaintance was into gossip and rumours and lies, or that I should somehow be exempt from that when nobody else was, but that there were enough elements of truth in there that someone might actually believe the gossip. It also shocked me to realise the friend who heard the gossip had just kept it to himself, perhaps for a year or two or three.

It shocks me how utterly non-confrontational people are. For instance, if I hear a rumour that years ago, someone I think of as a good friend was a drug dealer, hung out with a rough crowd, and got arrested, I’m probably going to ask my friend about it. (no, that’s not the rumour I heard about me. :P ) I’m not just going to speculate, try to find information on Google, or run a background check on them. I’m also not going to suddenly stop talking to them, stop inviting them to things, or tell all my friends about this story behind the person’s back.

If it turns out the rumours are all true, I’m also not going to give a shit. I realise that people have past histories, have made mistakes, have all traveled a rough road in life, and not everything is fodder for public consumption. Some things, you only tell your very best friends. Some things, you don’t *even* tell your best friends.

I don’t judge people based on their past choices, nor on their future paths and how that might be incompatible with my own. If I care about someone, it’s based on who they are now, the ways that knowing that person makes my life better, and simple love, respect, friendship, and admiration. I do not assume that because someone behaved a certain way at one point in life, he or she is at the same stage of life. I also don’t dismiss people, whether in close friendships or romantic relationships, because our futures aren’t “heading in the same direction” or because someone “isn’t the right kind of person for me”. You just never know what the future will hold, and while you can’t ever erase the past, you can learn and grow from it.

What I’ve learned is that people are really hung up on the idea of the past, as well as preconceptions of the future, in such a way that it leads to missing out on people and experiences in the present. Every time you’d rather judge and gossip and think yourself somehow superior to another person because of something they’ve done in life, a choice they’ve made, a tough experience they’ve survived, or even a rumour you’ve heard, you’re missing out on knowing someone who might teach you about the world, open your eyes to a new perspective. Every time you turn down the opportunity to let someone new into your life because you ultimately want different things, are at different places in your lives, have very different personalities or goals or ambitions, or simply because you’re afraid that person won’t be there at some point in life or will affect you in a way that leaves you hurt and vulnerable, you’re potentially missing out on a soulmate, or an experience that will significantly touch your life.

Life isn’t static, and people are always changing and evolving. Yes, sometimes people don’t learn from their life experiences, and they are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes people are selfish and don’t mature, don’t evolve, don’t find a higher level of meaning in life and connection in relationships. I’d like to think most people do…and the person you judge today may just be the person who will teach you the most about yourself. The person you dismiss as never being the kind of person that would fit into your future life plan may actually be the one to lead you to your true future life plan. Everything is constantly changing, and the only thing you can really know about another person is who they are, how they affect you, how you feel about them, and what they bring to your life today. Even the most harshly judgmental of people can’t claim to be affected by what another person did before ever even meeting that person. Even the most intuitive of people can’t claim to know how someone is destined to fit into any sort of future life path in six months, or a year, or five. Most people aren’t who they were a decade ago, and will not be the same person a decade from now.

Perhaps what a person makes you feel now is negative, and it’s not rooted in any sense of judgment about the past or assumptions about the future. That’s perfectly valid. People aren’t meant to like every person they encounter, and even the most open-minded people aren’t designed to tolerate every person they encounter. However, I firmly believe that unless someone has wronged you personally, spreading rumours and digging up dirt and whispering about someone, is uncalled for. Even when someone has wronged you, doing this rarely accomplishes much—even though we all do it. In my experience, it doesn’t make you feel any less hurt or angry about the situation, and you may just get a taste of your own medicine where Karma is involved.

Sometimes, the best thing to do with rumours is to put them out on the table, to confront the person you’ve heard something about and ask them what the story is. As in the situation last night, where we all sat and admitted to the rumours we’d heard about one another via this one person, we found out that people we’ve been friends with for years had never found it appropriate to bring up “Oh, I heard something negative about you”. Here in Atlanta, confronting someone about a rumour or a disagreement is seen as aggressive and not the way someone should behave, giving people even more reason to talk. However, telling others a rumour or discussing why you don’t like someone else, while refusing to talk to that person or acknowledge them in public beyond frosty civility, is perfectly normal. Perhaps people think that if everyone just confronted everyone else about gossip, rumour, and “why I don’t like you”, it would turn into Jerry Springer or an episode of the Real Housewives Of Whatever.

In my personal experience, this rarely happens. It is possible to learn from people and understand people, even people you don’t like—or somehow *think* you don’t like. It is possible that the person who seems so opposite of you and has traveled a much different road in life isn’t all that different. Yet, you only discover this when you truly get to know people, when you let go of the judgment attached to what you know of someone’s past, or how you see someone’s future.

Gossip and rumour and exaggerated stories will never die. It’s human nature for people to talk about one another. However, it is almost always true that every story you hear consists of “What Person A said, what Person B said, and a truth that lies somewhere in the middle.” It’s also human nature to judge someone as being “too different to be friends” or “not the type of person I’m looking for in my life” before ever really knowing that person.

What I’ve learned over the past year, what the world seems for me to want to learn, is how much of a disservice that does, not only to another person, but to yourself. I’ve made some really valuable friendships in 2012 with people I wouldn’t have seen myself wanting to connect with, even a year ago. At the same time, I’ve seen people I thought were friends for quite some time drift out of my life, as if we never really knew one another. I’ve learned that the person who just “isn’t my type” not only might be, but is more like me than expected. I’ve learned that the person I judge at face value as representing a lifestyle or set of values I don’t share might not only become one of my favourite people with whom to spend time, but someone I easily understand and relate to. I’ve learned the value of one-on-one conversation, and what “real” friendship means. I’ve learned that some people aren’t going to just walk away, even if they’re the type that’s wired to do so, simply because they care about you. I’ve also learned that people aren’t going to take down walls and let you into their lives just because you have fun going out and being social. You really have to invest time and effort into other people, if you want the favour returned. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out for the best, and that hurts. But more often than not, it’s an investment that more than improves your life.

I’ve also learned that old rumours never die, and the past doesn’t disappear. Sometimes, I think I’d have an easier time of it if I didn’t live in a city that functions like a small town, where everyone seems to be connected to everyone else, somehow, and talking about others is a social pastime. However, I also know that if you have a social circle anywhere, even in the biggest cities, you’ll still run into people you’d rather forget you once knew—and those people aren’t always going to be kind or forgiving or shy about sharing everything negative they know about you (while often omitting the positive.) Sometimes, those people will be. A friend reminded me recently that there were two options when people can’t seem to get over gossiping about you or judging you or speculating about you: you can either feel hurt and humiliated and hide yourself away because you can’t cope with the idea that others just don’t like you, or you can own everything about you, and continue to put yourself out there–which is often why people don’t like you in the first place.

It’s difficult, but I choose the second. I’ve never been one to disappear and back down. Yet, for someone as sensitive as I am, the things I hear are hurtful, the things others have said are brutal. It’s not high school, it’s real life, and it may be something I have to cope with throughout my life, and I do really hope I’m strong enough to live in a world where there are people who dislike me, sometimes to the point where they *want* to see me hurt and make me feel unwelcome. If someone confronts me about a rumour, I tell the truth, and if someone cares to judge me for the truth, I have to put that back on them. If someone decides I’m not the sort of person they’d like to spend time with, I have to respect that, even if it hurts.

All that being said, I could never be a celebrity. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have people talking about you and judging you incessantly. What I have learned is that the comments regarding the truth hit harder than the comments about things that are blatantly false, and passive-aggressiveness really gets under my skin. I’ve also come to realise that apparently, everyone talks about everyone else, and that’s just part of how the world works. Yet, it never fails to shock me when what I hear is about me.

At the beginning of this month, I decided that I was going to follow up on some pretty cool advice, and schedule the 12 Dates Of December! Of course, I don’t actually mean going on 12 dates (not only would The Guy I Am Currently Dating probably not appreciate that, I think my habit of telling people I don’t sleep with anyone on the first date (no matter how many martinis and compliments I receive) makes me seem more trouble than I’m worth. Getting old and having standards complicates things…*laughs*

Even for an extroverted person, finding 12 things to do in 31 days that are more out-of-the-ordinary than having dinner, going for coffee, or seeing a movie seems like a bit of a tall order—either that, or it turns out my life isn’t all that interesting. (something I’ve been saying for years, but nobody ever believes me.). Since there’s only 11 days left in which to pack interesting events, I’ll update you on my progress.

Date #1: A party at a furniture store. Yes, that’s right. For some reason, Atlanta has decided that the swanky new venue for classy parties involves high-end furniture, because I’ve literally been invited to three of them. One gave me free tickets for myself and a guest, so my friend and I headed out to participate in a wine tasting, browse jewelry, and eat from a food truck. It was an interesting experience, drinking pink Moscato on a $2,000 couch, while eating $4 grilled cheese and turkey bacon sandwiches from a food truck. We both agreed, “This is the weirdest party I’ve ever been to.”, but it was a good time. Everything was a benefit for Toys For Tots, as well, so it’s good to see the socialites of Atlanta giving back…even at a furniture store.

Date #2: A housewarming evening for a friend who just moved to Atlanta. She recently moved here from St. Louis, although prior to that, lived in NYC, where she was friendly with a dear friend of mine and his long-term girlfriend. We knew one another through FB, but honestly, had no idea if we’d like one another when she arrived here in Atlanta. Fortunately, we just seem to “click” and have a great time hanging out together, so I’m thrilled to have a new addition to my social circle. We planned a “swanky” evening for her, since she’s a classy kind of girl (she looked like she was on the set of “Mad Men”, with her black dress and jewelry and not a hair out of place), and somehow, our little party had a blast. After checking out her new place and having dinner at an Italian restaurant, we headed to Whiskey Blue. Between her “Mad Men” vibe, and my gothic-Lolita-with-fascinator ensemble, I’m pretty sure people mistakenly thought we were important. Strangers bought us shots (at a place where the average drink is $15, that’s a nice gesture), asked us to pose for pictures, and gave us their “Reserved VIP” table when they left. I suppose if you’re not famous, you might as well just look like you might be. :P

Date #3: Attending a pretty unconventional wedding at the Masquerade. Two pretty special people that I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been in Atlanta, and am connected to via a number of social circles, finally decided to make it official. It’s probably the first wedding I’ve been to where drink tickets were issued at the door, people wore costumes and utilikilts, and the entertainment included belly dancers, a photobooth, and aerialists. All in all, it was a pretty special day for two special people…and I got to dig out an awesome dress I just haven’t had occasion to wear in a long while.

Date #4: Celebrating birthdays at trivia! Yes, I know, trivia shouldn’t count as a new and exciting date, because it’s something we do virtually every Saturday. However, as it happens, about 6 people in the group of people with whom we’ve become friends over the years have December birthdays. We typically do a cake and a card for everyone when it’s birthday time, but because there were so many, we decided to have “Early December birthday” and “Late December Birthday” celebrations. The early December birthday cake was extremely cute, because it was decorated like a package. And, even though my birthday is at the end of the month, our friends decided to give me my Xmas/birthday gift early, because they thought I might want to use it throughout December. It was a new camera (my old one was 3 years old and starting to see better days, with the 3,000 pictures a year I take.),and so far, it has indeed been put to good use!

Date #5: Thursday night drinks in Vinings Jubilee. I used to live over in a part of town called Vinings, and while I don’t care for the suburbs, I like that area about 10 times more than where I live now. Not only is it more walkable, but it’s close to a little shopping center called Vinings Jubilee. Particularly in the winter, it resembles a Christmas village more than a shopping area, from the small white buildings and old-fashioned signs, to the train tracks and holiday decorations that light up the whole area. Because they refused to host my birthday party (or rather, I refused to sign a contract and pay a deposit_), we went to a restaurant called SOHO. It’s a little on the expensive side, but they make good drinks, and my friend had never been to that area. Afterwards, I took her to my old neighbourhood “Cheers”, a pub called Garrison’s, which has old-school oak *everything* and plays Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. I’m kind of an old-school girl, so I really enjoy the atmosphere. We had martinis and shots called “fireballs”, which taste a lot like cinnamon schnapps. The entire time, a 50 year old guy visibly eavesdropped on our conversation, which was pretty funny.

Date #6: Putting up the Xmas tree. Although I’ve not been in the most holiday-spirited of moods this year—I’m broke, not visiting my family, the country seems to be suffering one hardship and loss after another, and I realise so many people I care about live elsewhere, rather than in this city that has never felt like home to me or been too accepting of me—-skipping the tree was simply not optional. Unfortunately, the old pre-lit tree died after 5 years, having fallen over when I was in North Carolina in October. Further investigation proved it must have been an electrical surge, because everything plugged into the wall no longer lights up. Fortunately, Big Lots had 50% off on Xmas stuff, and I now have a 7 foot tree ready for decorating. We also plan to take the broken lights off the old tree, and string it with new lights, and put it in my Zen room. I plan to decorate it with pink and purple ornaments, which rocks, and will make the Zen room even happier. Later in the evening, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I watched “Catfish”, a movie that reminded me of the ups, the downs, the intensity, and the wistfulness involved with online/long-distance relationships. It’s been panned a little for inauthenticity, but as someone who ended up in Atlanta because of falling in love online, I highly enjoyed it.

Date #7: Swanky Midtown Club Night. One of my closest friends in Atlanta has a best friend who lives in Savannah, and every time this girl is in town, it’s a good time. We planned a party for her, and whenever I plan an event for someone who lives out of town, I always ask what they’d like to do. This girl wanted to go somewhere hip and trendy, so we ended up at Shout!, a restaurant in Atlanta that’s trendy but has always treated us well. This night was no exception; they gave us a private cabana on the second level, complete with its own bar (since the other two cabanas were empty until it was time for us to leave), and usually protected by the requisite red velvet rope. I brought my new camera, and everyone took turns taking funny pictures. After dinner, we all went out to the rooftop area, which has one of the best views around, before heading off to a club called Opera. I don’t typically like Opera…it’s a bit overpriced and pretentious to be my scene, and yuppies don’t typically attract me much…but the company is what matters, and we had a blast. We met up with some other old friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and our friend from Savannah actually ended up on a quasi-date with someone she met online. (he seemed nice enough, and entertaining.) I was pretty hungover the next day, so it was fortunate that the 1 PM brunch I had on the calendar included a Bloody Mary. I definitely can’t party like I used to. :P

There are 11 more days in the month, and 5 more special/memorable outings to go, so I’m going to have to store up all my energy to make it through. However, I kind of like the challenge of not just getting out and doing stuff more often, but doing different and more memorable things. A friend from North Carolina mentioned he might pay a visit in January, and although we speak pretty regularly, there really is no comparison for face-to-face time with people whom you truly enjoy, so I’m hoping he does indeed find time to book Atlanta on his itinerary. Likewise, I’m hoping to visit friends and family in March/April of 2013, and catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in too long. The 12 Dates Of Christmas makes me realise that when my focus is on friendships and relationships and new experiences, I am at my happiest. I always though I loved to travel because being in a new place was exciting, but it’s really the memorable experiences and people in those places that I value. Being reminded that I can do the same thing in my own city, if I put out the effort and convince others to do the same, is kind of an eye-opener.

That being said, I’m still thinking I’m not going to live in Atlanta for the rest of my days. *laughs*

I have a confession to make: After all these years, it seriously bothers me that other people don’t like me.

I don’t know why it should. I’ve lived on my own since I was 17, survived in some of the most brutal and competitive cities in the world without ending up as a news story, and I’ve met every kind of person on the planet. I’m well-aware not everyone in the world is going to like me, just as I don’t necessarily like everyone I meet. Yet, when it is brought to my attention that someone doesn’t like me, or once liked me and has since reversed his or her opinion, it has an emotional impact.

OMG, why doesn’t everyone like me?

Not only do people not like me, in some situations, I encounter people who actively dislike me. After over three decades of life, I’m still encountering girls who talk about me behind my back, or do little more than glare at me when I see them, although I don’t remember ever actually saying or doing anything negative to them. I’m still encountering people I thought were “real” friends who no longer hang out with me because they have a boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend who doesn’t approve of me. I can inspire women twice my age to send me vitriolic letters and make phone calls that would put a less self-assured person on the brink of suicide. I have made people want to literally destroy my life, and not in the high school sense, where a bad rumour is circulated to make someone cry. Especially in Atlanta, where people are immediately sized up in social situations by money, appearance, and availability for no-strings-attached hookups, I’ve had to deal with the transition of no longer being the person everyone finds fascinating and wants to get to know. I’m a decade too old and twenty pounds too heavy in order to inspire people to pay attention to me for all the wrong reasons, which should be a relief, but it’s not. Instead, it makes you feel rather non-existent, as if you’ve fallen off the social radar of life.

I can make an enemy just by showing up. It turns out that when you’re taught “be yourself”, that mostly only applies if yourself is sufficiently socially acceptable and enough like everyone else that you’re dubbed as “a nice person”.

Why am I not a nice person?

I actually really am. I hold doors for strangers, make small talk with people I don’t know, pay for lunch when it’s my turn to do so, and don’t commit embarrassing party faux pas. On your birthday, I will always send a note or a card or a gift or plan you a party. If I like you, I will send you mail for no reason or share a particularly moving book I just read. I return phone calls, and send my regrets when I can’t make it to things. I am by no means a doormat, but I consider myself a generally nice and empathetic person.

Yet, it consistently shocks me when someone I thought was a friend turns out not to be, someone who is an acquaintance and doesn’t know me is spending time gossiping about me and I’m experiencing social repercussions as a result, someone says or writes something extraordinarily self-esteem shattering behind my back, or someone with whom I have a mild infatuation or am crushing on doesn’t see what an awesome, fun, and loving person I happen to be.

Do I suffer from low self-esteem, or rampant narcissism?

After all, it’s not paranoia if people are really out to get you, and it’s not low-self-esteem if what’s bringing you down comes out of the mouths of other people. Sometimes, it’s people you really care about, although you wonder why. Sometimes, it’s someone you know nothing about. Either way, the rejection and hurtful assessment of what’s unlikeable about you hits hard.

I’ve always been that way. I have always needed everyone to like me, and it’s always come as a punch in the stomach when I’ve heard people say things behind my back. I used to think I was my own worst critic, and then I met other people, and the things that were most hurtful were the things I already feel self-conscious about as a human being. It’s one thing if I look at myself in the mirror and tear myself down on a daily basis, and understand the reason everyone doesn’t love and adore me is because I am not pretty enough, smart enough, nice enough, likeable enough, laid-back enough, skinny enough, entertaining enough. It’s quite another when you hear others saying these things about you.

I was never bullied in high school. I never went through that “I don’t want to go to school because it’s a mean place that makes me feel bad about myself” phase, and I guess I’m fortunate. At the same time, I never learned the coping mechanisms that many of my peers learned early on, namely how to not let rejection and criticism and abject meanness affect you too personally. I went through the same awkward adolescent crap as everyone else, but for the most part, I was a fairly popular and energetic person who was very driven, and thrived on being at the center of everything. I suppose that hasn’t changed.

However, back in those days, for every few close friends I had, I had someone who wanted to tear me down and make me cry. I learned I wasn’t sweet or nice or congenial. I wasn’t the perfectly pretty girl everyone wanted to look like, or the charming one that everyone wondered “How does she have so many friends?”. However, I had enough redeeming qualities to make me a well-liked person by my peers. Still, I was too insecure about the people who said mean things about me to notice that. I wondered what was wrong with me.

I have always been a divisive personality.

I don’t know why. People either love me—in some cases, they actually fall pretty hard or maintain intense connections with me through long periods of time, and are the type that would do almost anything for me—or they hate me. When I use the word “hate”, I don’t exaggerate. I’ve been offered money to stop seeing people, and blackmailed in attempts to get me out of town. I’ve been completely ostracised by groups of people without even knowing what they had against me. I’ve had people say to ex-boyfriends, “Sure, I’ll marry you, as long as you never have contact with that girl again.”

But I don’t, for the life of me, know what’s so objectionable about me. Those who like me find me thoughtful, witty, empathetic, creative, entertaining, intuitive, and intelligent. I’m well-traveled, well-educated, and consider myself fairly cultured. Yet, I try my best to be all those things in a rather unpretentious way. I have a lot of interesting life stories…and I mean a LOT. Some people likely find them more entertaining than others, but isn’t that the same with everyone? Maybe I’m not wealthy enough or attractive enough to have every guy I’ve ever liked fall at my feet in return, or every girl I’ve ever wanted to be friends with to find me cool enough for her social circle, but neither have I done too shabbily in either of those departments throughout my life. I’ve never been one to have trouble finding dates, or relationships, or making new friends in a new place. I will find myself in a brand new city for a day, and have an adventure, and meet 20 strangers. Yet, the reality is, at least 5 of those strangers didn’t really care for me or resented my presence, while another 5 immediately friended me on Facebook.

I know I am not low-key enough to ever win any congeniality awards. It isn’t that I’m not nice. Yet,I say what I think. I stand up for myself, and my ideals. I won’t keep my mouth shut just to be polite, or keep conversation from getting too deep, because I find that painfully dull. If you get to know me, you may just find me rather insightful and compassionate. I won’t decide that glitter and jewelry and other adornments aren’t for me, because they’re too much for other people. I don’t see how the way I use fashion to express myself should form your opinion of me at all, yet I’ve heard it does. Frankly, I sometimes feel like a Real Housewife Of Atlanta, without the money and its advantages.

I know some people find my way of being “too much”, are put off by my rather Northern demeanour, which can come off as brash or abrasive without meaning to. Some don’t like my flirtatious banter or witty observations. Some people dislike my style, my disinterest in simply being pretty and charming and accommodating, ideals that are held very highly in women in the South. Some people don’t care for my ability to make a snarky remark, tell a dirty joke, or drink others under the table while still having a fairly respectable good time. Others don’t relate to my disinterest in marriage and children and having things in my life to nurture and support. Sorry, but I’d prefer to discuss politics over pacifiers any day, and I think a drink with a friend at 6 PM every day should be mandatory.

Of course, then there are those who don’t find me particularly respectable or endearing or charming at all, and that’s not something I can ever change.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt my feelings. I don’t intend to come off as obnoxious to some or threatening to others. I just like having fun and living life without too long of a list of rules and boundaries. I don’t mind that maybe some of my choices in life are unconventional, so why should anyone else? If those who judged me bothered to talk to me about my life, they might learn to look at the world in new ways, as I do when I talk to people who aren’t much like me.

So, why don’t people like me?”

The answer is, truly, I don’t know. I do my best to be nice to others while refusing to change who I am, as a person, in order to suit anyone else. It’s never enough. I’ve encountered more hatred and judgment and criticism in Atlanta than I have in my entire lifetime anywhere else, and I don’t understand. I wish I did. But it’s tiring, feeling perpetually misunderstood, on the defensive, or just overlooked.

I don’t think it’s low self-esteem, because most of the time, I think I’m pretty fricking awesome. I’m just secretly crying because someone else I either liked or respected or genuinely cared about didn’t agree, and I don’t know how to brush things off and move on without being too affected, as most adults seem to know how to do.

However, if people don’t like you often enough and criticise you harshly enough, insecurity is an inevitable consequence. You begin to wonder if all the secret little imperfections you see in yourself are so glaringly obvious to others that people can’t stand you. You wonder what people really say about you behind your back, if the bits and pieces you’ve heard are bad enough.

I was always nice to you, so how can you not like me?”

Inside, there’s a 13-year-old girl who asks that, and can’t come to terms with the idea that someone people just genuinely dislike the kind of human being you are. Being yourself doesn’t always win you friends. Being intelligent and accomplished and empathetic doesn’t always make you likeable. If you’re a woman, sometimes being yourself is the fastest way to make enemies, either because the men around you want to sleep with you or they don’t, and the women around you are either threatened or disdainful of the lack of positive qualities you bring to the table.

It’s not fair, but it’s how it is. Yet, it doesn’t hurt any less when you’re the type of person who truly invests in building real friendships and chooses them carefully, or meets someone to whom you’re genuinely attracted once a year, and those things aren’t always treated as the gift they are

If I share myself with someone, on whatever level, it’s a gift…because I don’t take the walls down for just anyone. When I do, those friendships and relationships often become connections that last a lifetime, but when others find them disposable or not that significant, it affects me more than it should. It’s a reminder of why I am so distrustful, so reticent to really bond with others.

I wish that, not just in regards to my own experience but in general, people saw what others bring into their lives as the gift it is.

Why don’t people like me?

I won’t ever know, I suppose. I know I like me, most of the time, though probably no more or less than anyone else. I know I am often unfairly judged, misunderstood, or fit into someone’s life as the “inspiring manic pixie” character who is tossed aside when someone else finally becomes who they wanted to be and found what they were really looking for. It’s hard to be the person who is hurt in all of those situations.

I can only be glad that those who do support me, love me, adore me, maintain infatuations with me, want to be my friend, go out of their way to hang out and call and write and visit, and honestly are happier for having me in their lives feel the way they do. I may never understand why people react so strongly to my personality, either positively or negatively, but I do know I have more enduring friendships and relationships than most. Little is superficial in my universe, and maybe that’s why things are the way they are, because I don’t have much interest in the superficial, the acquaintances, the living life on the surface.

Unfortunately, sometimes, I think I’m in the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong mindset for that.

Perhaps that, more than anything else, is why people don’t like me.

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.

Back when I was a healthier person, I’d routinely take off to visit friends and family that are scattered along the East Coast. It helps that my friends and family tend to be in cities that you drive through to get to other cities, giving birth to the idea of what I call the “Alayna National Tour”. I couldn’t go to visit family in Philly without stopping to see a friend in D.C., another in NYC, or meet another for dinner during a layover in Richmond. I never thought this was anything special: I genuinely love the people in my life, and if someone is important to me, I will make time to see them. My year of illness has gotten in the way of this, something that’s made me very sad, but my recent travels have proven to me that I may not have the stamina I did before I got sick…but I can handle more than I think I can. I definitely plan to have the energy to get myself to NYC and Philly by the end of the year.

When I decided to visit my friend in the Durham area, and then two others in Charlotte, I really didn’t think anything unusual of it. I visit people because I like them, and because I like spending time with them in a world other than the one I inhabit each day. However, a chief concern of mine (and if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard why) is that visiting my friend in Durham would result in chaos that might end our friendship permanently. However, we’d managed to create that scenario numerous times over the distance since he came to visit me in Atlanta, so I thought it might be the best thing to either work out our issues or realise exactly why we could not be friends—an odd concept for me, as I’ve never been able to not be friends with someone I genuinely liked, save for very complicated situations that were simply never going to change.

There was, in fact, a moment that followed a very nice evening of bonding and spending time together where it became pretty obvious that either we were going to talk through things in an open and honest way, or end our acquaintance with him leaving me sitting in a bar in North Carolina. (No, my friend is not that big of a jerk; I am. I am the one who told him to simply leave me there because I deserved better treatment. He simply considered taking me up on it.)

This friend has told me he dislikes being a character in my blog—admittedly, not the first time someone’s told me that. When someone tells me that, the chief reason is because the person is either afraid they’ll be obviously identified by the rest of the world and judged unfairly, or because the person is an introverted soul who doesn’t wish to be put on display. My friend is an extremely private person, and I am someone who has lived my life on the internet for 12 years, and sees this blog a little like my own reality TV show. So, when he told me it made him uncomfortable to see personal aspects of our friendship made public, I promised I’d skip the whole “who, what, where, when” saga of us managing to work through some of our issues and build a better friendship. Or an actual friendship. Or something. *laughs* Instead, I’ll post this rather nice series of thoughts on friendship that I recorded in my personal journal while at a cafe in Charlotte.

“Some people come into your life because they remind you of who you are; who you really, truly are, beyond the layers of artifice, social propriety, expectations, and carefully constructed walls and defense mechanisms designed to protect at the expense of real connection. They are the rare, unusual people with whom you can laugh, cry, yell, discuss all manner of thoughts and feelings, be as silly as possible or as intense as possible, and feel you’re not only accepted, but that you should like yourself as much as those individuals do. They are the people who make you feel as if being yourself is simple and easy, and being vulnerable and unpretentious isn’t frightening, but the most natural thing in the world.

Others come into your life to remind you of who you have yet to become, because even though they are wise enough to see you clearly, recognise your flaws, and even identify your capability for being a tremendous pain in the ass and making life harder than it needs to be, they also care for you. As a result, they somehow see you as something better than you truly are, as something better than you see yourself.

If you’re fortunate, every so often—not frequently, but in a time period measured in years in between such people appearing in your life— you’ll meet someone who is all of these things, and discover a connection that isn’t quite ordinary. These are the people who affect you on some deeper level, teach you a little more about yourself, and make you a slightly better person for being a part of your life. These are the people who can affect you in a very emotional way, not on account of being mean, difficult, horrible people, but because you understand it is right to trust them enough to let them.

For some time, I’ve suspected this friend might be one of those people in my life, an oddly intuitive and inexplicable reaction to have upon meeting someone you’ve known of and about for a long time, yet don’t know at all. I’ve been consistently saddened by our inability to bridge certain points of conflict, while having the ability to connect in a fairly unique and special way. It has seemed that it would be a great loss to walk away from knowing a person I immediately, intuitively, and inexplicably gathered might be important in my life, on account of common phrases like “too different” and “complicated”. The odd thing is, once you look past those differences and points of conflict, and accept that someone being able to affect you on some level isn’t cause to run and hide and employ all sorts of anti-vulnerability shields, you often discover that opposites are simply mirrored reflections, the same picture expressed in a contrary direction.

I am so glad this friend and I made the decision to put aside issues of mutual distrust and communication complicated by a lack of willingness to be open and invest in knowing another person, while asking that person to give that level of trust and faith and understanding. I’m glad we seem to have chosen the option of recognising our friendship is one for which it is worth learning to understand and appreciate our differences—a choice which, strangely, unearthed more similarities and understanding than natural and unavoidable reasons for conflict. Sometimes, once you understand someone a little better and are willing to invest a little trust (the hardest thing for many of us out there in the world), you see that not that much compromise is really necessary to end up on the same page, or even face in the same direction.

You can’t demand what you’re not willing to give, and spend months wondering why the result isn’t positive. Trust and faith are things I don’t have to offer in abundance, and I have always been the sort to hesitate to offer them, even to those I consider a important part of my life. I have a way about me that I’ve perfected over the years, one that allows me to appear extremely open and accessible, to engage in abundant communication rather than real, meaningful connection, all while keeping any sense of real vulnerability hidden. This isn’t something that has ever worked in this particular friendship, because I would always feel as if I were uncomfortably transparent, as if this friend had a gift of getting to the core of who I happen to be. Meanwhile, I always seemed to be able to look through this person in the same way, never being able to take things at face value because of a weird sense that I was looking at one picture that was truly another.

Some friendships just don’t have room for games and walls and unwillingness to trust. Getting to know this relatively new person in my life has made me see more clearly that trying to build any sense of emotional intimacy while still maintaining impenetrable protective walls is not only not possible, but almost toxic and destructive. It isn’t real, and it’s often manipulative. It’s anything but accepting, because you’re too focused on protecting yourself adequately to truly see another person clearly. The attempt ends up hurting everyone involved. Some people—even those that haven’t been in your life long enough yet to become essential and permanent pieces of it—deserve far more, even if you don’t quite understand why. When you find one of those rare people, you kind of just have to make space in your life, which means taking down a few walls. In the end, it is usually worth it, and often even more so than you anticipated.”

During the rather unpleasant argument that preceded the “Either we have to be real and honest and trust each other, or just not try at all.” conversation, my friend asked me why I would visit him and what I expected from doing so. I thought I knew the answer, and that it was simple: “I visit people because I like them”. I didn’t really see it in terms of as big of a deal as he was making it out to be, because for me, it wasn’t. It touched me that he saw that as something beautiful about me. Now that I’ve had some time to look back on that, I realise that on a deeper level, I understood there was a more important decision to be made in my knowing this person: either we were going to take a chance and develop a real friendship, or agree not to be part of the other person’s life. Some people simply make terrible casual acquaintances, and connect in a way where that doesn’t work as easily as it should. Others can only have a conflict-free friendship if there’s very straightforward communication and honest expression of thoughts and feelings. I think both are applicable here.

I think I can safely say it worked out for the best, and I’m glad we chose to make the more difficult choice, and decide that our weird, confusing, complicated acquaintance was worth turning into a friendship of some substance…or at least getting it on that particular track. I actually believe it is one we will both value for some time to come. However, you may not hear about it, as I will henceforth avoid making this particular friend a recurring character in my blog. Fortunately, that may be a sign of a distinct lack of conflict and drama both of us will appreciate.

I have no doubt that I’ll find my drama elsewhere…which will be illustrated tomorrow by my piece on my relationship with annoying corporate entities. *laughs*

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”—John Lennon

Life is short, for all of us. Few of us ever have as much time to accomplish all we want to do with our lives, to determine our purpose for being here, for loving others and learning to accept the beauty of feeling loved in return. Regardless of how many calendars you accumulate, how many decades go by, how much living you’re determined to pack into your life, there’s just this sense of life as a finite experience, a party that’s never quite long enough.

I think this knowledge is why I’ve always been determined not to live life on the sidelines, to truly invest my heart and soul into things, to occasionally leap before I look, speak before I think, act upon nothing but feeling and instinct, have illogical flings and complicated friendships, try on new careers and creations and ideas until I see what fits, and try not to box myself into this idea of who I am supposed to be and where I’m supposed to end up. Even the best map so often doesn’t know, and while you’re busy trying to follow the path, you tend to miss the beauty around you, the possibility of others.

Life is short, and reading this beautiful article was simply heartbreaking. It reminded me to be grateful–for each day, for each person in my life, for each opportunity for something new and different to come along, for each memory, even for each hour spent doing something you’d rather not be doing. Every moment can be beautiful. Every person you make a space for in your life can change it. Every new thing you see or do or create can be the beginning of something important. But none of that happens if you listen to all the excuses not to take chances, not to put yourself out there, not to go on an adventure, not to trust, not to love, not to create, not to let yourself be judged and criticised and hurt and rejected, not to be the most authentic version of you that you can be.

Growing up is hard. Going through that part of your life where you’re now considered a responsible adult, but don’t feel like one, and realising you’re at the age where you once imagined all your questions and uncertainties and quests to “find yourself” would have yielded all the answers you needed by now—and you’re not any closer to understanding yourself, life, or the universe than you were a decade ago— it’s hard. It can be scary and lonely and leave you wondering if you’ll ever figure it out. It can leave you wondering if the chances you take are the right ones, if you invest yourself in others out of a need to follow your heart or just sheer bad judgment, if living differently from what the world expects of you is worth the challenge, if you’re doing the right thing—even when the right thing for you might be the wrong thing for someone else.

Growing up is hard. But it’s immensely preferable to the alternative. That’s why I intend to keep putting myself out there, even when it results in getting hurt. I intend to sometimes make the wrong choices because my heart tells me no matter how hard I try to put things in perspective, intuition and emotion are powerful tools that shouldn’t be ignored. I intend to keep on taking chances, falling harder than I should, wearing my heart on my sleeve and sharing my most personal feelings with the world, starting projects I intend to finish but never do, wasting time watching TV just because I truly love it, and accepting that life is all about enjoying the journey, because nobody’s all that certain about the destination. I intend to live my life as if it is always going to be the opposite of loneliness, because there are no guarantees, and no do-overs.

And,I hope that when I am 35, I throw the best parties. :)

That sounds like a band name, or a really violent Meetup event, but it is neither.

Yesterday was not really a good day. In fact, it was such an upsetting day that I don’t even really want to write about it. However, since that’s how I best process and make sense of life, I will.

Yesterday, I had a fight with a friend of mine. Or, more accurately, I had a fight with someone with whom I’ve been attempting to become friends (based on some comments made during said fight, I’m not sure if he considers us friends or not.)

This is not the first time we’ve had this fight, as it’s happened at least twice before. It had, however, been a month or so since the last time this fight occurred, so I rather thought we’d successfully worked through the issue. Other than this particular issue, we don’t seem to have any problems communicating, getting along, or building a friendship, which makes it even more frustrating.

The fight is about communication: specifically, how I spend far too much of my life engaging in it and he is less inclined to it than most people, both out of time constraints and temperament. I am really like a teenager with communication, constantly texting people and checking my FB and going through withdrawals if I am in a technology-free zone. (This, I’ve discussed in a previous post.) He is not; he is comfortable not communicating with people for fairly extended periods of time. Although I attempt not to judge, I think perhaps both of our views on communication are slightly unhealthy and make other people in our lives (not just each other) a bit frustrated.

Yet, yesterday’s fight almost ended with us walking away from a friendship that appears to be of some importance to both of us.

The odd thing is, I am aware that this person in my life actually *likes* me, as a friend and as a person. He’s had many complimentary things to say to me, appreciates my snarky,witty, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humour, and has been willing to engage in the exchange of long telephone conversations and Facebook e-mails full of what he terms “emotional intimacy” and what I call “bonding”. He’s told me he enjoys talking to me more than he enjoys talking to many people in the world. He’s mentioned he thinks I have a wonderful spirit, and am an intelligent, attractive, insightful, funny person. Whenever we spend time talking, we laugh a lot, and very easily. We also talk about more serious things, topics I wouldn’t necessarily open up about to someone I barely know.

Yet, as he reminded me yesterday, we barely know one another. He feels I am forcing a friendship to happen through demanding communication, and is angered by an approach he feels is aggressive. On the other hand, I had a hurt and confused look on my face that said “I thought we *were* friends”.

The fight ended with him basically wanting to walk away from our friendship entirely and say “This isn’t working”, and to be honest, I considered it. However, that isn’t my way, and I don’t think it ever will be. Almost all my close friends in life are people with whom I’ve gone through a period of struggle, contention, personal growth, confused feelings, miscommunication, or just arguing about something at some point in time. Yet, most of these friends have been in my life for a long time, and have proven to me how much they care. When times were bad, not one of them abandoned me. It means a lot, those type of friendships, which I treasure greatly. Because I don’t trust people easily, I don’t often invest the time and energy and feeling needed to form those “real” friendships. I think what happened is that I very quickly sensed that this friend of mine could be one of those rare people in my life…eventually. I also thought, based on his reactions to me, that it was a mutual instinct at work. I assumed that he was investing time and energy in me because we could develop a “real” friendship, something not so easy to come by in this day and age.

So, you can imagine how hurt I felt listening to this person basically point out that we’re not really that close and in friendships, as in relationships, you have to pay attention to when someone is “just not that into you”. However, the most hurtful part of the whole exchange was him telling me he doesn’t feel comfortable having me in his home when I am in his part of town in a few weeks, because he doesn’t have that level of trust in me, and sees all the ways in which allowing me into his personal space might go wrong.

It is not that I don’t get why a relatively new friend wouldn’t offer to host me when I was in town. In fact, when I informed this friend I would be in his part of town in June, I didn’t request to stay with him. When we met one another because he was in Atlanta a few months ago, he didn’t ask to stay at my place, and I didn’t offer. Why? Because we didn’t know one another, despite years of the occasional text and e-mail and connection via a mutual friend. I also know this person is someone who values his personal space, and honestly, I tend to get annoyed with sharing the same space with others for too long. I’m an extrovert who needs decompression time, so no matter how much I like someone, not having my own space can become tiring for me. So, I made my own arrangements and didn’t even think to ask about crashing with my friend.

Yet, he is the one who offered…over a month ago, when he knew me less well than he does today, and had less reason to have any level of faith and trust in me. So, when I decided to extend my stay by an extra two days in order to accommodate some extra plans, I asked if I could sleep on his floor for two nights..a short enough imposition to not really be an imposition. He of course said yes, and reminded that he offered to host me some time ago, and I declined.

I am not hurt by the fact that someone feels they don’t know me well enough or like me well enough to have me stay at their home. I am hurt by the fact that someone would offer, and then say, “I no longer feel comfortable having you in my space.” That’s personal. That’s a slap in the face to someone whose greatest crime is trying too hard to be another person’s friend. It’s extraordinarily personal when someone who has always claimed to be fond of you and said numerous positive things about your character and your friendship no longer has the same level of trust and esteem because you had a fight. It hurts that when someone knew you less well, they had more trust and positive feelings towards you.

Ironically, before he offered to host me when I was in town, we had the same exact fight. And just a few days ago, when we spoke on the phone, he thanked me for being patient with his lack of communication and not pushing the issue when he was really busy with other stuff. I pointed out the reason it was easy for me to do that is because we seemed to have reached a compromise; he reminded me that I wasn’t unimportant by saying hi now and then, and I didn’t require constant communication in order to build a friendship. I thought, as with most things, we’d found a point of compromise that made both of us react positively to our friendship.

It utterly shocks me that me sending texts—and after two or three days of no reply, becoming concerned that I’d offended him during out last conversation—should provoke such a dramatic reaction as “I no longer feel comfortable with you in my personal space, and am not so sure we should be friends”. After speaking with him, I do understand why my text habits seems aggressive and make others feel pushed or bullied, something I’ve never considered before. Yet, I don’t feel as if I deserve the lack of trust or faith or friendship or esteem or whatever that came out of this disagreement. If the worst thing you can say about someone is “I know this girl that I consider funny, intelligent, attractive, charming, and enjoy talking to, but she tries way too hard to be my friend”, I’d like to think that’s not really all that bad. If I were, in fact, the obsessive, psycho-stalker type, I’d understand the concern…but the fact is that I don’t pick up the phone and call this guy constantly so he’ll talk to me. In fact, the only time I’ve *ever* invaded his personal space by calling was when we were in the middle of arguing via text, and since I think text is much of the problem in this situation, I’d prefer not to have arguments escalate via text. It’s too easy for people to be impersonal, to say things they don’t really mean. Other than that, we speak on the phone when he has the time to call and talk to me. I send the occasional card or book via the mail…something I do with most of my close, long-distance friends. I share stuff on FB just to share and don’t expect a response.

The irony is that neither my friend nor myself are the type to have much interest in small talk and banal conversation. While the phone calls we share are often rather personal and require a level of openness to “emotional intimacy”, they leave us both feeling positive about one another and our friendship. We say a lot of positive and supportive things to one another during those chats. If we’re *not* yet friends, it’s a pretty good approximation. Yet, the texts that are the source of argument and cause these destructive fights are typically the most banal things in the world, stuff I’d feel comfortable sending to someone I met yesterday. We have had real, extensive chats via text that are of some significance..but generally what I send out is “Hey, hope you’re having a good day” or “YAY! 1st place at trivia”. The only point is me reaching out to keep this friend, who does not live near me, included in my life, helping to create some semblance of friendship and connectedness. Yet, I don’t even know why I would…neither of us is the type of person to be interested in the day-to-day small things that comprise life, except as experiences to be enjoyed while they’re happening. I think we both prefer to talk about more substantial things–and that’s the part I could see someone feeling tired and emotionally drained by—so it’s an irony that we fight over the appropriateness and timing of trading small talk via text. People do it to stay connected..but in this instance, do either of us really care? I personally appreciate a text saying “I’m off doing this interesting thing but cared enough to connect” far more than I do saying “Hi” to everyone I like every day. Maybe my friend feels the exact same way

I think the difference is that I don’t think of text or IM or whatever 140 character communication tool one uses as a way of invading anyone’s personal space. While I would not call someone anytime, anywhere, to share something irrelevant—because I’d consider that a little inconsiderate and rude—I kind of see text as a medium of “that’s what it’s for”. I text people often because I can’t talk to them every day. Sometimes, I can’t even talk every week. But it’s my way of keeping people involved in my life and bridging the distance. Yet, I *do* get upset when someone does not do that in return. Part of it is that I simply don’t like to be ignored, but another part of it is that I don’t want to feel I’m the only one who wants to keep others involved in my life. I do want to feel I’m just as important to others as they are to me, and it doesn’t occur to me that everyone doesn’t walk around attached to their phone at all times, and isn’t constantly texting and FB-ing everyone they know. (Many of my friends do.) The funny part is that most texts I share with people are relatively emotionally insignificant and impersonal. It’s an example of being “connectedly disconnected”. I don’t know if I actually feel closer to people by trading “Hey, how are you?” messages everyday, because there’s no real bonding involved. It’s just this social convention that seems like the right way to reach out to people. Yet, it lacks any of the “bonding” that’s made possible by chatting with friends on the FB messenger every day, talking on the phone, or sending an e-mail (which so few people do these days.) So, the odd thing is, I’m constantly reaching out to people in attempts to feel connected, through a medium that doesn’t really provide a sense of connection. And, those who know that are irritated by this tendency, as well as my tendency to demand that these attempts to connect without really connecting are returned.

Maybe there’s a bigger issue here than just my relationship with this particular friend, but my relationship with the instant gratification, impersonal medium of text and IM. I had to give up IM when I realised I was spending far too much time chatting with people but not really connecting, multitasking, and trading pleasantries. I didn’t think I could function without IM. But I ditched my AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo!, and every other messenger I had installed long before IM fell out of vogue. And, surprisingly, I felt happier, and my friendships with others became more substantial. I wonder if I–like much of the world—have fallen victim to the same trap with texting.

Text actually upsets me. Because I know it takes 3 seconds to send one, if I don’t get a response, what occurs to me is usually “Is this person mad at me, and why?”, or simply, “Why don’t you like me enough to reach out by returning my text?” Yet, I would not react that way if someone was too busy to call when they said they were going to or took days to return an e-mail.

I’ve had to make peace with this communication issue with others in the past, and it typically resolves itself. In fact, it’s a dispute I’ve experienced with some of the closest people in my life. For instance, The Guy I Am Currently Dating does not text, and most of the time, if I call instead, he’s unavailable because he didn’t have his phone with him. At the beginning of our relationship, when there was less trust and understanding, this was a huge issue for me. Strangely, it just isn’t anymore. We found a solution that works for us.

I’ve also had this issue in platonic friendships, where communication—when, how, how often, what’s an invasion of personal space and what’s merely annoying as opposed to thoughtful— had to be resolved. Somehow, these issues disappear as I grow to trust someone. Yet, I’ve never had anyone willing to walk away from a potentially meaningful friendship with me over the communication issue, or lose a sense of trust or level of comfort in me because of it. It may be that the previously mentioned friend simply thinks it’s more trouble than it’s worth, considering he doesn’t think we’re that close, or it could be that, speaking on a friendship-oriented level, “He’s just not that into me”. The result is that I am perhaps dispensable.

But intuitively, I don’t think that’s it…and it’s so rarely wrong about these things, or I’d just agree to give up and walk away. I feel like there’s something under the surface of this situation that I can’t see or put my finger on, but it’s there. I feel like there are things about my friend that I don’t understand because I don’t yet know him well enough, and there are certain things that touch a nerve and evoke an emotional reaction from someone who is usually very calm and laid-back about all things of a personal or emotional nature. The frustrating thing about intuition is that you can sense that things aren’t quite just what you see on the surface…but you can’t see the why. If someone is especially guarded, you can’t even always see beyond the surface level—although I often can, and do. But not always.

And it doesn’t matter…why someone is who they are, or why they respond as they do, is none of my business. But when someone revokes their level of trust and comfort with me…that’s personal, and it hurts immensely. I’m not sure why I care as much as I do, but I do, and that tells me something. It tells me that not only am I an emotional person, I still believe this friend/acquaintance/whatever is someone worth not giving up on. It’s hard to believe that after someone has hurt you or made you feel less special than you like to consider yourself, but deep down, I still do…and that inner voice is always significant to me.

Likewise, I know that I am important to someone—whether that person likes me enough to consider me a friend or simply considers me someone he barely knows—when he walks away from what he’s doing in order to answer a phone call and “work things out”, something that could easily be avoided by not picking up the phone.

I’m not inexperienced when it comes to people; I’ve met a lot of them—admittedly, though, never one quite like this friend. I know when someone cares. And even though I push too hard sometimes by insisting on reminders of that via rather pointless text messages, I actually do know, regardless of someone’s communication tendencies.

It’s just nice to be reminded that those you care about think you’re an awesome person—and both hurtful and humbling when you realise that maybe someone doesn’t think you’re quite that awesome anymore. (especially when they indicate they used to like and trust and feel comfortable with you, and suddenly, no longer have those warm and fuzzy happy feelings about your friendship.) Trust and loyalty are so,so,so important to me in my life, and it’s the reason why I have many acquaintances, yet choose my “real” friends very carefully. To have someone I care about no longer feel able to attribute those qualities to me, someone I might have grown to consider a true friend….it breaks my heart a little.

Regardless of whether or not this person in my life still feels any semblance of positive emotion towards me, or any connection that was there has somehow been undone, I know that in certain ways, I’ve still been a great friend to him—even if I was one that was unwanted, or didn’t know how to express that properly. Although I am cynical, the ability for me to reach out and put myself out there for someone I barely know, based on little more than intuition and connection, is still there. Not everyone has that, and I’m really glad I do. I haven’t let being hurt by life and people take that from me, and while it may not be wise, it is me, and I think it’s good. :)

I am lucky, because I do have people in my life who I know genuinely find me to be an awesome person, for one reason or another, and others with whom I don’t always see eye to eye, but I know they’re still always there for me, because there is something important about our friendship. The Guy I Am Currently Dating is the kind of guy who will let me cry and offer support when someone else I care about hurts my feelings, and not everyone out there would do that—much less for little old me.

I’m not perfect, but I obviously can’t be doing *everything* wrong. I think I have the occasional redeeming quality. My texting and communication habits, admittedly, are not one of them. *smiles*