By the time you reach your early thirties, chances are you know what makes you tick.
For example, while I support veganism and understand it, I am way too attached to yogurt to give up dairy. No longer do I periodically attempt to sacrifice my daily Siggis, using the excuse that, if I don’t eat it, I’ll probably get a yeast infection from the thing I did last night. Fuck it. I like yogurt, I like animals, I hate the dairy industry, I’m eating yogurt. #thirtythree
After spending my youth trying to feel sexy with my flat chest, I got an awesome pair of synthetic tits. Cleavage, v-necks, titty fucking = No regrets. #thirtythree
In my twenties, I thought that by thirty I needed to grow up, shed my alt-porn predilections, get comfortable with “mature” sexuality and settle down. Fuck that in the face with a glass tentacle. Kinkster with piercings and plugs for life. You can find me on FetLife. #thirtythree
But when it comes to dating, I’ve enacted the same pattern for nearly a decade, and you’d think that by now I would have learned. Every few months, I go through the same scenario.
Log onto OkCupid. Jazz up the ol’ profile.
Filter through the matches for guys over 5’11” who like sports, who are old and not overweight. Toss out a few corny ‘likes’ and one-liners.
Of course, I go on a date with whatever prospect seems tantalizing and, about ten minutes in, I’m bored and absolutely dry by the way he physically presents. Either he’s losing a fight against male pattern baldness, has exposed chest hair and is wearing a chain, is short even though the filter said tall, or he’s visibly nervous. A bunch of dealbreakers in a skin suit.
I know I’m judgmental and I shouldn’t be. I present as a lesbian party midget wearing Marilyn Manson’s hand-me-downs. My tits are obviously fake, my mouth and nose are too big for my face, I have tattoos that are as ridiculous as they are hideous, my always-skewed hair seems to indicate that I’d prefer Chastity Bono to Chris Pratt, and my voice sounds like a cartoon character that nobody wants to watch. But yet, when on a date, it’s like I’m a Victoria’s Secret model doing charity work.
I’m a 2 with 10 taste.
One would think that by now I’d know how to get myself out of these situations with the same ease that got me into them. And yet, while I have the fishing aspect down to a two-week-long tailored formula, throwing the rejects back is met with the same THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK internal question mark every time.
I do not reject people well. I prefer to fade away and hope they catch the drift. Unfortunately it seems as though I attract guys who have less pride than they have vagina, and that only creates a whole kaleidoscope of conflict for me.
Case in point: Whole Foods Boy.
Whole Foods Boy is actually a twenty-seven year old man who works as a clerk at Whole Foods, but whose face resembles Johnny Depp in Dead Man. However, his body looks like a Portland hipster in desperate need of a shower, a few cheese pies, and a box of donuts. I went out with him because I figured he’d be a good bicycle to ride for a night, but it turned out that he’d taken a 90 day vow of chastity to “cleanse” himself…not to mention that he was conversationally as scintillating as a cardboard box. I took the chastity thing to be a means of rejecting me softly, which seemed both clever and a good thing, since the aversion to sex was, in this instance, mutual.
Well, five unanswered text messages later, it turned out that I was wrong. Whole Foods Boy wanted to bag my groceries after hours and, while I was flattered, I was unwavering in my desire to simply forget that we ever were in touch. So I didn’t respond to the first four solicitations to hang out over the course of a week, and then received a passive-aggressive, somewhat understandably angry send-off that simply read, “Goodbye.”
Pro tip: Delete message threads from people you never plan on speaking to again. Better yet, delete them as a contact.
A few days after the final grey speech bubble sat collecting dust in my iMessage box, I was at Target, shopping for v-necks, thigh-highs, and cold medicine. I had come down with a mutation of bronchitis that left me more daft than usual and coughing with the force of a propane cannon. Waiting on line with my full basket, I decided to kill time by complaining, as girls are wont to do. I opened what I thought was the message exchange I had just been having with my friend Princess and typed the following:
I CANNOT STOP COUGHING AND IT IS DRIVING ME NUTS!!!
All caps. Three exclamation points. Maaaaaybe an emoji of an explosion or two.
In the context of Princess and I, this was totally appropriate, as we are the type of female friends who relay the minutiae of every free minute we have. Princess is cold in her living room? I know about it. I’m having difficulty cracking the knuckle of my big toe while I’m in the bath? She hears about it first. So my coughing fit was breaking news that she needed to hear, obviously.
When I got to my car, I looked down at my phone and saw:
Whole Foods Boy
Let me make cough syrup for you.
I thought to myself, “Is he stalking me? Was he just shopping at the same time in Target, listening to me cough?”
As a narcissist, this seemed very likely, as I am, in my mind, a prime candidate for stalking, a reality show, and a future second wedding for Jaroslav Halak.
I opened the message exchange I saw that, after four unanswered texts asking to hang out, and a passive aggressive “Goodbye” as his final send-off two days prior, seemingly at random I had decided to scream a complaint at him about my respiratory tract.
Somehow I had sent the message to Whole Foods Boy, not to Princess.
And instead of thinking, “Bitch is crazy. Good thing I dodged that bullet” and deleting me into oblivion forever, he decided to offer me homemade cough syrup.
Mortified and confused I didn’t respond. Because that is what I do. Avoid and hide when I’m uncomfortable.
Ten minutes later.
Whole Foods Boy
By this point I had shared the one-sided accidental exchange with Princess, and we were laughing to the point of tears. Actual tears, actual ‘lol’s.
Twenty minutes later.
Whole Foods Boy
I just made it. Enough liquid should separate by tomorrow. I can give it to you then, I’m free after 2.
I still hadn’t responded. But instead of just saturating in my mirth and shaking my head, it was only a matter of time until I fell into the sinkhole of self-hate.
Why do I do this to people? Repeatedly! Instead of simply saying, “I’m sorry, I’m really not interested. Nothing personal, good luck,” I avoid what, in my mind, is conflict but what, in reality, is just being honest. And this is after coming across as captivated during the date because I am polite and internally churning in guilt and shame for not feeling as enthusiastic as the dude is clearly coming across. I am either a really good liar or a really horrible person or both.
Attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety are common touchstones for narcissists; and for us there’s nothing quite like introspection, it’s second only to masturbating with a mirror. And while I’m much more in the ‘vulnerable narcissist’ camp, as opposed to the ‘grandiose narcissist’ team, I’m prone to the paradoxical dismissive attachment and negative attributional biases that plague each bunch.
While it’s great to do some research and to figure out that, yep, “individuals high on vulnerable narcissism may behave in hostile and distrustful ways due to heightened affective dysregulation and negative interpersonal schemas that are linked with traumatic childhood experiences,” (hi!) there’s little by way of a manual for how to disengage quickly and painlessly from failed dating experiences as a self-involved lunatic.
Unless you include WikiHow, the portal for useless advice. In the case of their guide for “How To Tell Someone You Don’t Want to Go On Another Date” there totally is a well-mannered play-by-play of disengagement in theory, but it doesn’t exactly work for a neurotic perfectionist like me.
According to the Wiki, it’s six simple steps.
1. “Minimize possible damage from first dates. Don’t sleep with people on your first date.” Um, if I feel like boning, I’m gonna bone. Moreover, I’m not going to be an asshole if the other person is paying for coffee or, God forbid, dinner. I’m a fairly okay listener when prompted, especially if I’m reasoning with myself that I will never speak to the other person again, no matter how many passive aggressive texts they send.
2. “Be kind.” Not a problem, as I’m kind by not being. No answer, no cruelty, right?
3. “Take the high road. There’s no need to make an enemy , just be direct and don’t get hostile.” This isn’t helpful.
4. “Don’t beat around the bush. Your phone rings, it’s him/her…Don’t let it go to voicemail, answer it. Don’t give in to the temptation to say things like, “Sure, I’d love to do it again sometime, call me next week.” You think it’s harmless and vague enough not to matter, but it’s not. That’s a lie, and it’s wrong.” This is not as easy as you make it out to be WikiHow. And the way you worded that makes me feel shitty. Besides, my hands are wet, I can’t answer the phone right now. Or answer the text ever, because I’m busy alphabetizing my dog and brushing my CD collection.
5. “Address the situation directly.” Cute, WikiHow. Now you’re just repeating some of the previous garbage steps you’ve given me, only with different verbiage. Still not helpful.
6. “Keep to your decision.” But you haven’t told me how to execute my decision. So I will keep to it by not answering. Fuck you.
Blame it on my anterior hippocampus, or physiological reactivity, or the fact that I have a differentiated superego and daddy issues. Whatever. At this age, while I should know better than to so much as keep an OkCupid profile, let alone agree to go on a date with someone from the site, at least I know how I work. Passive avoidance of potential threats is my thirty-three year old m.o. And at least some research has made me feel better:
It appears that conflict avoidance is not necessarily dysfunctional…Negativity appears to be dysfunctional only when it is not balanced with about five times the positivity, and when there are high levels of complaining, criticizing, defensiveness, contempt, and disgust.
So maybe the solution is as simple as continue to avoid responding to the pot-bellied mustache man with the vanity plates, and to do the same with my negative self-talk. And to masturbate, a lot, while taking non-organic cough syrup.