“…and tied around the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words ‘DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not’…”-Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
About a year ago, I blogged about my undertakings in dating. Since then, my blog has been focused primarily on First Amendment issues, law and politics. While there is certainly plenty to write about in all three of these topics currently, I’ve opted to return to “The Douchebag Diaries” for another installment.
Most of us know first-hand that the world of dating is a strange environment. Clandestine, chaotic, confusing—it’s a vortex of fodder and small talk; narcissists and egomaniacs; impatience and short attention spans.
From the moment you post a profile on an online dating site, you fall down a proverbial rabbit hole. You post flattering pictures of yourself hoping to attract the attention of prospective candidates, and craft profiles that disclose desirable details about yourself. Although such personal information might be (and hopefully is) truthful (at minimum, to a degree), it’s also rife with omissions.
For example, we omit discussing the “spaces in-between,” or the wounds of the past–some healed, others still festering–that have created fortresses of myocardium around our hearts that shield us. While of course I don’t think such is appropriate to advertise alongside one’s hobbies or interests to any idiot perusing OK Cupid or Tinder or Clover, but we also create a “character” that sells the notion that these disappointments and rejections from our respective pasts don’t affect us.
And that’s a prima facie lie.
In fact, most choose to plead the proverbial Fifth on this subject, even when asked. Thus, we do everything possible to avoid the topic. Some of us push; others walk away. However, whatever your defense mechanism of choice, it can only remain suppressed for so long, because at some point, if you’re in this game long enough, you’re going to meet a person or persons who rouse this beast from within.
For me, meeting men is like when Alice happened upon the vile of liquid reading “DRINK ME.” For those whom I’ve actually felt an attraction, I always have to remind myself of those lessons of the past wherein I should’ve tested for poison first before consuming the entire bottle.
Thus far, I’ve encountered a number of characters that would be well-suited to a modern-day version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There were those douchebags who believed that their mischievous grins and tabby-like stripes would conceal their smarmy spots, (like those who sent unwanted “dick pics” or thought I should send nudes of myself simply because they asked), and those who were about as mad as the Mad Hatter (if not madder.)
And then last year there was the White Rabbit–one who was worthy of this “Alice’s” pursuit. N was (well, he still is, but I write of his traits in past tense for purposes of this blog) a brilliant entrepreneur who possessed a number of highly desirable qualities: well-educated, multilingual, nice-looking, trustworthy, honest (to a fault), and sincere. His background as a coder afforded him a certain social “awkwardness” that was hard to “decode” (pun intended.) Thus, he was a bit intimidating at first, particularly given his very logical world view, but as our communication continued, I’d realized it was this straightforward-style that made him unequivocally disarming. Oh, and he played guitar (and actually knew how to tune one, too!)
While no man is a Plato or Sophocles or Adonis, N was someone from the start whom I instinctively knew would be in my life far longer than the typical two-to-three email exchange “prospects” that dissipate faster than bubbles in a glass of flat champagne most common to online dating sites.
Clearly, N wasn’t a douchebag. In fact, he was the antithesis of one.
So if this is the case, then why is he the subject of this “Douchebag Diary” entry?
Because I was the douchebag.
For brevity, I’ll summarize why I consider my behavior to have comport with that of a “douchebag.” After repeated text and email exchanges about everything from South Park to politics to current events to our personal demons, I finally asked him to meet in-person* (*Our “relationship” was a bit unusual in that we hadn’t met right away as I was dealing with a somewhat challenging health issue shortly after we’d started talking. I’ll also mention that N was very aware of this, and was genuinely supportive.) Notwithstanding, it had been clearly established early on between us that we definitely wanted to meet.
Sounds promising, right?
Well it was—until several hours after I’d sent the email asking when we should meet and then subsequently sent a second email a few hours later that read something to the effect of, “Forget about my last email. I don’t want to meet.”
Yep. More than a year has since passed and it’s still hard for me to fathom I reacted in such a way, simply because I feared he’d had changed his mind and would in turn reply, “no.”
I knew immediately after I’d hastily pressed the “send” button that I had fucked up. Really fucked up.
I was dead to rights.
Here was this awesome guy whom I had a lot in common with, and even if there hadn’t been electricity between us while enjoying libations or a meal, he’d be an amazing friend. He’d proven to be one already. Moreover, he was the first guy I’d really gotten to know well on a platonic level.
Acknowledging my “douchebagness,” I texted him that same evening in an effort to recant my statement and apologize profusely for my shitty behavior. Consequently, and rightfully so, N didn’t speak to me for almost a month thereafter, in spite of the numerous texts I’d sent. Yet despite his anger and hurt, he still replied promptly to an email I’d sent during this time to say he needed time before he could speak to me again.
If the roles had been reversed, I’d be devastated to the extent I don’t think I could ever communicate with the perpetrator again. In fact, I’d likely block this person to avoid even the chance that such an opportunity would present itself. Forgiveness isn’t a trait most Italians carry in their DNA.
But somehow, N still valued me enough to remain responsive–and to want to talk to me again at some point in time.
Now, more than a year and countless apologies later–so many in fact I’d never thought I could mean “I’m sorry” as much as I did–N is one of my dearest friends. I might still be a huge thorn in his side and pain in his ass, but I know the guy cares about me enough to forgive…and move forward.
He trusts me enough to talk to regularly, my past “douchebagness” notwithstanding.
In hindsight, it’s amazing how we easily lose ourselves in the realm of hypotheticals, especially when we meet someone we really like. “What if’s?” that elicit excitement and generate a serotonin surge (i.e., “Is he a great kisser?”) and induce the type of terror that results in a “fight-or-flight” response (i.e., “What if he gets too close and hurts me? I’d better fuckin’ run!”) dominate both our imagination and sense of introspection. And suddenly, without your knowing, the prospect of possibility becomes distorted to an extent reality morphs into a Mark Fuckerburg-style virtual reality.
I believe human behavior is similar to Newtonian thermodynamics: Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Hence, the “energy” we direct towards others–the intent behind why we treat people the way we do and how we actually do treat others–is something that recycles in a feedback loop. Simply put, when we behave like a douchebag and treat another poorly, then we can’t expect much better from anyone else. Call it physics or karma, whatever your pleasure. I was so worried about encountering yet another douchebag, I allowed my defenses to get the better of me.
But not the best. I was smart enough to realize N was worth making a concerted effort to regain some semblance of his trust. So I owned my bad behavior and endured his silence while patiently hoping he’d see the genuineness of my intent.
And I’m a fuckin’ better person for have having the experience, and for having N forgive me, without a doubt.
The parable of the foregoing, as evidenced by this “douchebag’s” experience, is this: Not all men are “White Rabbit” material. Very few are, truthfully. So if you meet a guy who fits the criteria, that rarest of rabbits that take a watch out of their waistcoat-pocket and pique your curiosity like the one who captivated Alice’s attention, then it might just be worth traveling down the Rabbit Hole in pursuit of him. Let go of the hypotheticals and doubts, those self-imposed roadblocks that can cause a person to trip and/or lose their way, and simply forge ahead.
The current version of my “Alice” personae is of a mind that perhaps sometimes the “fall” is far more rewarding than sitting cross-legged in a field making daisy chains and pondering the “What if?” had you have tried and followed that damn Rabbit instead of letting him get away.