Fuktup, Part 2
First lesson: An hour is not a very long time at all.
Also: Must remember to give up trying to figure out when a question is ‘meaningful’ and when a question is just a question, i.e. “Do you want some water?” has almost nothing to do with my inability to enter into an intimate relationship. Almost nothing. But then I think, ‘Hmm, maybe this is a test or something, because I said earlier that I feel awkward and embarrassed about becoming the center of attention and will sometimes avoid just getting out of my seat to, say, grab a bagel in a meeting or pour another cup of coffee because, you know, people will look at me and…
Wait, let’s backtrack. First lesson: An hour is not a very long time at all.
I’m learning a lot about myself and about people in general. My therapist, I think, understands that I feel like an alien most of the time. I tend to observe rather than participate because I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Partly, it’s an introvert thing, partly it’s a gay thing, mostly it’s a Lance thing.
Me, again. Me, me, me. It’s what I’m all about, and I know that, and it’s a problem. I haven’t told her yet about this thing you’re looking at, and probably I should since it amounts to nothing more than an edifice to me and about me and me and what I think of me and the things I do and say and think and on and on and on, and one of my problems is… I think too much about me. And of me. And me.
That’s my opinion, by the way. It’s not professional. But I think it’s true.
So she asked me who was I last attracted to and I told her about that guy at the gym and she asked what attracted me to him and I told her, “Well, he’s gorgeous. You know, in that sort of beautiful flawless way. And, he’s also beautiful and also, he’s quite attractive. To me. From my vantage point. Way over here. Not talking to him.” So I explained that we had talked, and I had given him my phone number and he had said he would call and he never did and now he’s avoiding me because I give off this stalker vibe, probably, and that’s that.
I also mentioned this other guy that I totally blew it with because I’m a loser and stuff. And she said, again, “What was the initial attraction?” and I said, “Well, he’s beautiful. And sort of… beautiful. And funny. And smart.” “So, you talked to him, then?” “Oh, yes. A lot! We spent almost an entire day together.” “And what happened there?” “Nothing. I chickened out. I couldn’t cope with it. With him. I felt…” And there we fade out because some things need to remain behind that closed door.
So she easily deduced that I am initially attracted to a beautiful face/body and that I tend not to get too much more behind the outer casing into the guts of the guy. And then there’s a part of methe part that fears intimacy and opening myself to someonethat looks for any excuse to reject myself before I get rejected (because I always assume I would be, they’ll catch on to me, blah blah blah) and going for some gorgeous guy that anyone would find attractive with the knowledge that the chances that the attraction will be mutual is slim to none means I’m safe all over again and nothing will happen.
See how I work? It’s only taken 41 years of practice to get here. And I have it down, baby! I can reject myself faster than anyone else can. I can pick out the reasons no one else would be attracted to me, or if you want, I can detail the exact reasons you would not want me after I meet you. Or simply see you across the room. “Okay, he would not like me because he’s drinking beer so he would like a more laid-back, sort of chummy guy, comfortable with himself, confident and everything that I’m not.”
She’s been giving me assignments. They seem simple, but they’re designed, as she said, to take me one or two or three steps outside my assigned set of normal circumstances. The way I live and the choices I make and the things I do without thinking.
Last week, it was “You must leave your home or office and be outside for at least one hour every day. You must connect to the world because you’re disconnected. You sit inside all the time. It isn’t that you necessarily prefer it inside, but there are things going on with you, things I’m not sure even you understand and I certainly don’t, that make it easier and therefore more comfortable for you to remain isolated inside. So go outside. Look at the sky. Take a walk. Sit on the grass. Watch the dogs play. But go outside. An hour a day.”
She explained about some anthropological study by some woman in Berkeley or something that defined the four things we have to do to be ‘human,’ and they include things like ‘be in the moment,’ and ‘look for the heart of things,’ and ‘connect to the world.’ I’m disconnected, apparently. So I need to connect.
I followed her instructions and took my Evening Constitutionals, walking from my apartment up to Alamo Square one night, walking over to Dolores Park another night, riding my bike out to Golden Gate Park on the weekend, each time trying not to have any plans or objectives and just to be. To be outside. To look at trees and listen to the wind and watch the sky melt into night, the fog cloaking the downtown lights and the people conversing and their dogs playing.
I told her I had done what she suggested and, in fact, it was a good week and I felt better. And she said, “So, whom did you speak with?” And I said, “No one.” “No one? Not one person at all? All week?” “No.” “Why not?” I paused for a long time, thinking about that, and the first thing that popped in my head was, ‘Because it wasn’t part of your assignment.’ But that wasn’t really it. What it really was was “It never occurred to me to do it. I don’t… talk to people. It’s not something I ever do. Ever. Half the time I don’t speak to people I know, let alone people I don’t.” “Was there anyone you wanted to talk to?” “Not really. I never even considered it, so I never…” “You know what your next assignment is, right?”
I cringe at the thought of it. Talking to people. Just… talking to someone. Someone I encounter. She gave me some suggestions about easy ways to break the ice, mostly involving dogs and commenting about the dogs and their general demeanor and age and history. I’d rather it were more spur-of-the-moment and less scripted. I can just see myself getting backed into a corner and saying, “That’s cool. I’m talking to you because my therapist said I had to! Is that a labrador?”
I am literally scared shitless of this assignment. You know how some people can stand around and talk to anyone about anything for hours? They’re all charming and witty and charismatic and you enjoy being with them and you never, for an instant, think to yourself, “Jesus Christ, I wonder what rerun I could be watching on Nick at Nite instead of standing here for another second.” I sort of imagine that I inspire that sort of manic fear of conversation in people. I don’t mind long silences. I like listening more than talking. I think people find it unnerving, and I would think that anyone not used to me would be positively freaked out.
So if you happen to live in San Francisco and you habitually take evening strolls and you’re in the Dolores Park/Hayes Valley/Alamo Square area and see me approaching and I look scared shitless and my hands are wringing each other and I’m avoiding eye contact, chances are I may try to talk to you, so please run away and save us both the anguish and embarrassment of a conversation about your dog.
Then we came back to my dating problems. Or, more precisely, my ‘only wanting to go out with the most attractive men available and then not doing anything about it because I’m completely flummoxed by attractive men’ problems. Her advice: “The guys you’re attracted to? The beautiful men? The men anyone would want to go out with because, ‘hey, look at me, I can attract attractive men’ men? You cannot date those men. Those men are off limits. When you find yourself attracted to an attractive man, immediately cross him off your list. What you need, Lance, is an 80% Guy.”
Who is an 80% Guy? Here’s how this works; You walk into a room of 100 men. Ten of those men will be complete losers. This has nothing to do with you, it’s just who they are. They couldn’t tell you their name, they don’t fit in, they’re just… losers. Ignore them. On the other side of the room are ten other men who are magnetic. They’re charismatic, they’re handsome, they’re seemingly perfect from where you’re standing and everyone wants to be with them.
Ignore them, too. Chances are, those ten men will leave with each other anyway.
That leaves the other 80% of the men in the room. These are the nice, boring guys. At first glance, you are neither attracted nor put off by them. They’re just like you. And somewhere in those 80 guys will be one or two guys you can connect with. Who knows why. Maybe you share a common interest. Maybe your sense of humor matches his. Maybe you both suffer from the same feelings of worthlessness. Whatever, there’s a connection out there, one that will lead to something more than friendship… but you have to go through a lot of those 80% Guys to get to the one you’ll connect with.
My first reaction was one of complete relief. The attractive guys? Frankly, they intimidate me. But, you know, you always wonder whether it would work and, yeah, part of the attraction is you’re hoping their attractiveness will rub off on you. I mean, I will never be a model, but maybe I can accessorize with one. And probably it’s unfair to automatically judge a beautiful man to be, well, dumb. Or boring. Or all looks and nothing else. But the state of mind I’m in, I’d never be able to get past their looks to find out anyway. I’d always be enamored of their beauty and tend to discard everything else.
So where’s the heart? Where’s the soul? How can I get to know them, or allow them to get to know me, if I can’t get past their outside? By removing them automatically, the pressure’s off. It’s such a simple concept but one that someone else needed to enforce for me. I needed someone else to tell me “you can’t have that candy! here, have a rice cake. it’s better for you.”
Things are moving along. Baby steps, as they say. I’m hoping it all gets easier (it all=life) as I go along. I’m guessing that probably everyone else went through these steps naturally and has the experience already and you’re not even thinking about things like ‘how to talk to people’ or ‘don’t be afraid of the sky’ and stuff like that. Me, I’m going through adolescence all over again, but this time I’m paying someone $130 an hour to help me through it.
October 9, 2003