If I’m going to stop doing this, at the very least I don’t want to leave on a note of, “Here’s a shitty post and because I wrote this shitty post I’ve decided to stop writing posts altogether.” That’s just friggin’ sad, really. And it kinda reeks of sour grapes or giving up or something, so there’s that.
Anyway, there’s this shitty post. Now, the post is, in and of itself, fairly poorly written. Also, too, it’s not intended to just say, “Hey, look at me, I’m an asshole,” but it’s exactly the post I would have written if I were trying to do that. So at least I’ve learned that all-important lesson. The idea behind the post, however, isn’t something I have a problem with. As such, I have no intention of walking it back, but I do feel the need to contextualize the point and, in contextualizing, hopefully make the point I wanted to make but without writing yet another shitty post. Because, y’know, craftsmanship.
One of the questions I stop and ask myself from time to time is, “Why?” I find I tend to do things on autopilot a lot, so if I’m just doing something for the sake of doing it I occasionally re-evaluate. This is especially important to do when I hate what I’m doing.
When I started my Online Dating series I started asking the, “Why?” question, since it’s pretty freaking obvious that I hate online dating. This is a corollary to the larger issue that I hate dating. So in asking, “Why the hell am I doing this online dating thing,” and getting the answer, “Because it’s the easiest way to engage in the act of dating,” the next question is, “And why am I trying to engage in the act of dating?”
That question is far more interesting, since the answer is, “Fuck if I know.” The follow-up, then, is, “So why are you doing it?” My standard answer is, “Because I want to stay in practice in case I ever decide to take this seriously.”
And here we have a problem.
I like being by myself. I’ve basically built my life around being isolated, but adjacent to humanity so that I can wander out of my isolation from time to time and say hello to the world. One of the reasons for this is that I don’t really much like Public Me, which is a problem that has stymied me for quite some time.
Public Me is loud, obnoxious, self-serving, and tries way too fucking hard. He’s a throwback to my old days as the Fat Kid who was trying desperately to be accepted and approved of by the rest of the world. I don’t like him very much, but I’ve never really been able to get rid of him. I have toned him down quite a bit, which is nice, but, again, I want him to go away.
The awkward, baffling thing here, though, is the other people seem to like Public Me. He’s apparently funny and personable these days, and memorable in what seems to be a good way. I can’t really go too deeply in to this as, again, I despise Public Me, so I have no idea what people see in Public Me. I think of him as someone who tries way too hard to force jokes that don’t work and dominates conversations just because he doesn’t know how to shut the fuck up. I regard (possibly as a bit of wishful thinking) myself as someone who is easily forgotten, but I’m apparently the only one who does so. I suspect there’s a reason for that.
Public Me spends his time at war with Private Me.
I like Private Me. Private Me is quiet and contemplative. Private Me can go weeks without talking to anyone outside of required interactions. Private Me really would be forgotten in a crowd, since he’d probably show up, talk to no one, then leave having made no impression on anyone.
There are a few people in this world who have met Private Me. He basically only comes out in one-on-one interaction with people I know well and manifests as a guy who can sit in the corner and talk about basically anything for hours on end over coffee or beers. For the most part, though, he hangs out and watches the world. This is the nature of being private, after all.
Public Me and Private Me share interests and experiences. I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t, really, since this isn’t an issue of multiple personalities or any such thing. One of those interests, it should surprise no one, is Trickster. The difference is that Private Me wants to study Trickster while Public Me wants to be Trickster.
Trickster, when it gets right down to it, is kind of a dick. He is selfish, self-absorbed, and cruel. All he cares about when interacting with the world is the question, “What can I get out of this?” If it helps someone then that’s great. If it hurts someone that’s great, too. What matters to Trickster is that he gets what he went out to get.
This is why I was fascinated with N.K. Jemisin’s treatment of Trickster as a young boy. Ultimately, Trickster is immature, interacting with the world on a circumscribed level where all that matters is how everything stacks up in the win-loss column. He’ll play fair, but change the rules. Imagine Trickster as playing an endless game of Calvinball with the world. Calvin is, for all intents and purposes, Trickster anyway. Hobbes is the adult world, gaining the occasional upper hand but never actually winning because he’s always trying to win the last game or even the last minute of this game.
I never took the whole online dating thing seriously. It was all just a way to actually avoid dating entirely. Basically, I was playing a game and the rules were, “Meet crazy women, use them to justify not making any sort of commitment. “ Unfortunately, from time to time I managed to run across women who didn’t understand that was the game I was playing and were actually decent human beings.
How does someone who is operating from a disingenuous position deal with someone who isn’t without causing a great deal of destruction? The answer to that, I do believe, is, “That’s not possible.” While I recognized that this was both a possibility and a problem, I continued to play my little game of Calvinball with complete strangers. The only explanation for this behavior that makes a lick of sense is, “I am selfish, self-absorbed, and cruel.”
I do not like thinking of myself as a person who has such qualities. The only way to stop being an asshole is to stop being an asshole, I suppose. So the only way I can stop that in this specific case is to stop all dating-related activity completely. All I’m doing is using the women I meet as story fodder, after all.
That might seem extreme, absurd, even. But when the question, “Why?” leads to unexpected places the follow-up inevitably must be, “What do you want, instead?” I answer that question overwhelmingly with, “To be left alone.”
It’s a mug’s game, then, if you’re the sort of woman who makes the mistake of deciding you want to date me. Chances are good that you’ll meet Public Me. If you, for reasons that completely escape me, decide you like Public Me, it won’t end well, since you’ll be attracted to the me that I can’t stand. The more time you spend with Public Me the more I’ll see how far I can push before you push back or leave. This probably seems remarkably immature. There’s a reason for that: it’s the whole Trickster/child thing. On one level I’ll want to push your buttons to amuse myself. On another level I won’t know how to break it off and I’ll basically try to make sure you leave because that’s a win according to my bizarre little game of dating Calvinball.
There’s another follow-up question that must be asked: why don’t I just get rid of/redirect Public Me?
Believe me, I’d like to. Private Me, it shouldn’t be surprising, doesn’t do well in public. Public Me simply manifests when the need arises and I have very little recourse in dealing with that other than saying, “I’m never going out in public again.” When it gets right down to it, Public Me is a big ol’ defense mechanism fueled by insecurity.
Fighting that by never going outside again seems like a lousy option. By the same token, it doesn’t seem like a lousy option, since I don’t mind being alone. Thus I live in tension. At the moment I simply do not know how to resolve that tension.
A friend of mine who knows me well enough pointed towards an alternate and/or complementary explanation for my conundrum. It basically boils down to the notion that I have a pretty long history of running afoul of manipulative and controlling women. He also pointed out that I’ve been mostly seeking stability for the last few years and women are not at all a source of stability for me.
I find the latter part of that fascinating. I instinctively want to avoid the former, though, since it basically sounds like an Argumentum ad Bitches Be Trippin’, and the Argument from Bitches Be Trippin’ is usually the first (and last) resort of the misogynist scoundrel. It has a certain amount of explanatory power, however, especially when combined with the Public Me/Private Me dichotomy.
I don’t have a good history with women who don’t treat me as a child or like shit, basically. The ones who haven’t have historically also not really wanted much of anything to do with me. As such, this has left me with a fairly binary categorization of women as either interested in me and not worth it or uninterested in me and possibly/probably worth it. The interested and not worth it category then breaks down to cynical and manipulative or crazy and desperate.
Thinking on it, I’m not surprised in the least that my two somewhat long-term relationships, Ashley and Amy, were with the cynical and manipulative type, while my abortive dating attempts since 2008 have mostly been with the crazy and desperate types. Ashley was the first one who seemed to give a shit, but she was also a cheater who flagrantly manipulated me and even after I broke it off with her and said some astonishingly horrible things in the process still tried to reconnect with me on a schedule I could almost set my clocks to every year for the next nine years. Amy…meh, I’ve talked about her enough.
After that there’s a collection of oddball characters I’ve enjoyed telling stories about from the safe remove of time and space. Tossed in there, though, are a few genuinely good women who didn’t seem to care much for me or who were unavailable for one reason or another. On some level it’s bad luck or bad timing. On some level, though, it’s also self-fulfilling prophecy.
In this theory, then, Private Me becomes the only real person I can genuinely trust when the chips are down. So Public Me’s games of relational Calvinball are just there to protect me and keep me solitary while I attempt to figure out how to make it through life. This creates a whole new set of problems.
Basically, I’ve been running around and creating chaos in the lives of others. Either I can decide to stop being a giant dick and actually try to meet someone with best intentions or I can throw my hands up, say, “Fuck that noise,” and go with a life of solitude. The latter is actually rather attractive, but it’s really something that requires a certain level of commitment. Otherwise I’m just playing games and it’s other people getting hurt by them.
The final (I hope) round of that came with her trying to start the dialogue by telling me that no one knew me better than she did and no one cared about my like she did. NINE FUCKING YEARS OF ALMOST MINIMAL CONTACT AFTER I TOLD HER TO FUCK OFF AND DIE. Let that one sink in for a minute.