I’m scared to write this. I’m scared to tell you about another romantic failure because each time I write about one, I’m afraid you’ll finally say “A-ha! Here’s conclusive evidence that Pia’s a nightmare -- of course she’ll never find love!” And you might; I have no control over that. But I’m writing it anyway.
As a person who would like a significant romantic relationship, my continued romantic difficulties often lead me to think that I’m the problem. Even failed relationships have lessons, and it’s not always productive to focus on “blame” in the first place, but sometimes it’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m just fundamentally un-dateable. Or that I simply gravitate toward people who don’t really want me or are selfish -- on days when I’m trying to be kinder to myself, I can identify patterns that lead me to share myself with people who don’t play well with others, but I have trouble manifesting that knowledge and avoiding them altogether.
Let’s call the latest one This Guy because he wasn’t around long enough to warrant a cutesy nickname.
This Guy and I were trying to date after connecting online and now finally living in the same city. He’s a “Twitter Comic” who wants to be a comedy writer but hadn’t been able to move past Twitter and works a grueling restaurant job. The wit and joke-writing talent that were part of what attracted me to him in our online interactions were dimmed in person by offline struggles of work and anxiety issues, but they were there.
In talking about things he was dealing with, he cried on our first date. Many people would have run away screaming, but that’s not in my nature. I held his hand. Things get messy in life sometimes, and I’m the person who’s willing to roll up my sleeves and do the dirty work if need be. I battle my own anxiety and depression, my mother has significant mental illness and I was her primary caretaker for much of my life, and very little scares me in the way of emotional or psychological struggle.
I don’t think I’m better than him or anyone else, but I am more direct than most people, which means that if I see someone I care about hurting, I’m going to try and help. If they don’t want my help or are not in a place to receive it, I have to accept those possible outcomes as well, but in the case of This Guy, he asked for my help.
We had been interacting for close to two years, so meeting in person was loaded with history and when he asked me to support him in drinking less, writing more, possibly quitting smoking, etc. I was down for the cause.
However, after years of going after broken-winged birds and being surprised that they couldn’t fly, I’ve learned to make certain distinctions. I can’t “fix” anyone else, and if I ever get the urge to try, I need to start with myself first. I grew up trying to fix my mother, and I’m still working to detangle the impulse to be a fixer that was sealed in my mind and heart during childhood.
My empathy has gotten me in trouble at times, because there’s a certain personality type that can accept help and never offer any in return, or that will get comfortable in roles that are inappropriate for romantic relationships if they aren’t tempered with mutual concern and demonstrative caring. Teacher, Therapist, Nurse, Social Worker…these are all valuable positions in life and elements of their job descriptions may be present in any sort of human interaction, but if I’m applying for the position of Girlfriend or Romantic Partner, they’re best listed under special skills and not to be confused with the position itself.
I’ve written here about how depression can be a bit selfish sometimes, usually not intentionally so, but when we’re feeling like we’re The Worst, it can be difficult to see past ourselves. So if I’m interacting with someone in this state, I understand.
But with This Guy, his worst days seemed to come selectively on days when we had plans to get together. Whatever symptoms beset him would send him to his bed to drink whiskey or smoke weed and he would not only not make contact with me, but he’d ignore my efforts to contact him.
If someone is in bed all day or self-medicating, I get concerned. And his health is not great, which I understand. I gave him a second chance. And then a third. A fourth followed. I’m not proud of this.
After yet another full day and night of being blown off when we were supposed to go out, I told him I understand what he’s going through, but I don’t ever want to be in the position of being ignored like that again. It’s not the circumstance, but how we deal with it -- if he really couldn’t find a second to text me “Feeling low, have to cancel” or even a Hulk text of “me bad no tonight” then either his basic consideration for me and my time were seriously lacking or he might not be in a position to be starting to try and date anyone right now. Both of which are OK.
What’s not OK is that I laid that out calmly for him and he still protested. He “liked me so much.” He thanked me for my patience with him and wanted another chance. I told him it is entirely possible that he did like me, but maybe not enough to combat the things he was dealing with, or to make just a tiny amount of room in his life for me so that I didn’t have to feel like I was trying to elbow in where I wasn’t wanted.
He apologized and insisted I was wanted, and we tried again. I listened when he was bitter about the guys who were able to make the leap from Twitter jokes to paid writing gigs. I assured him he could do it too, and set about to convince him. I encouraged him and quoted The War of Art and I would even prod him into writing with little tricks like, “I’m leaving this bed and I’m not coming back until you have a draft to show me…”
And he wrote. He would text me his drafts when we weren’t together, and when we were, I would work with him and give him (requested) feedback. He put together a handful of funny pieces and now had something beyond his tweets to pitch to editors. At the same time, my writing was being published daily on another site, and he never read a word of it. I have no expectation of someone reading everything I write, and it can be a tricky dance to date someone creative -- I think it’s nice to familiarize yourself with someone’s work, but This Guy just said he was soooooo busy.
There was once a specific article I actually wanted him to read, and he said of course he would. I sent it to him. A week later, I asked if he had read it. Nope, sooooooo busy. But send it again, he said. That cycle happened three times.
To go back to the childhood roots again, I was the lead in my school plays but I didn’t have my parents in the audience. I was alone in a cab on my way to my college graduation when I got a call from a nurse at the hospital where my mom was, shaming me for not being by her bedside. I can’t blame my childhood for everything, but no amount of intellectual understanding can combat the fact that I just don’t know what it’s like to have a loved one cheer me on or celebrate achievements. This is how I came to be in bed with This Guy, helping him write his first ever feature submissions while pushing my own projects aside and ignoring the fact that he never read a single word I wrote, despite telling me he would.
I liked him and I stuck around because he’s smart. He’s funny. He’s very handsome and his kisses felt like music. And because I’m not perfect either. But he continued to alternate between making me beg for time together that wound up being spent in service of his needs, or ignoring me completely.
I decided that the last time he blew me off was the last time. We still haven’t had a conversation and it’s unresolved. He’s texted me about his life, but the exchanges are largely one-sided because I have so many unanswered questions and there’s no sense in trying to approach those via text. (He prefers to text.) Closure would be nice, but… *holds for laughter*
Then I got a text from him saying he’d sold three stories to a major publication at the highest freelance rate I’ve ever heard of. I sent him sincere congratulations, and I am truly happy for him. A few weeks ago he didn’t have a thing to pitch and now he’s made more than he’d imagined in one shot.
I have no concern for the money whatsoever. I only mention the rate because in the world of freelance comedy writing, there are many levels of paychecks and he hit a grand slam his first time up at bat. I’m proud of him. Still, a tiny voice is saying what about me? I have stuff going on in my life too, and you blew me off and now you’re doing the thing you messaged me for so long about wishing you could do and once again we’re both focused on you but…what about me?
I don’t think there’s an answer there. I don’t want praise or a parade; I wanted to have a relationship work out. Oh, well. I’m happy for him and I’ve got his text to keep me warm:
He always made fun of my phone’s fancy font. So at least that’s no longer an issue.
Part 2 is coming tomorrow.