The word “Ditto” means another of the same, a duplicate, a copy. What I have been experiencing here, with people, is ditto. Just when I might feel my faith in people resurrecting, a little ditto happens and that faith is relegated to ashes again. Is everyone a ditto? I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way, so why can’t I ever find those people? And why can’t one of them be my partner so that I can stop stumbling over the corpses of my own discontent?
Writing can be solitary, and writing can be thankless. Real writers write because they have to. And while I have often said, “I love writing and sometimes the feeling is mutual”–There’s an upside to this vocation that offers some solace that others might not have. Frequently, when we are hurt, we have no where to put those feelings, no way to get it out of our systems….witness the lock-and-load folks who suddenly snap and shoot up a McDonald’s. While I understand HOW that can happen with certain psyches, I am not one of those people who tick…but this does not mean I don’t get angry, disillusioned, and have a quick pity party every so often. I’m human, and I embrace my human condition. But I have no wish to wallow in that type of mud. So, when someone really pisses me off, I write about them. They might appear in one of my novels, where I can reveal their ugly underpinnings…or I might simply write a blog like this one. This is a type of revenge, however paltry. And it makes me feel better. Especially now, when I fear I might be on the cusp of reinventing myself — again.
And what am I flirting with becoming? Time will tell, but it has a lot to do with giving in to the inevitable.
I have, for a long while, felt the barbs my ethics have produced. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. It’s not always easy to demand the best of people. But I truly believed there would be some kind of reward for that…I don’t mean an afterlife reward, in that Jesus will pat me on the head and I’ll get to languish in celestial pleasures for the rest of all eternity…I don’t believe in that garbage. I mean the kind of reward that is more authentic. Actions that are taken because they represent who you wish to be, not some perceived accolade you might get from doing it. I want to be the one who takes the high road. But I’ve also said “the high road is not necessarily paved with crosses.” There is a limit–a line–a boundary– that must be honored here…I have no wish for martyrdom, and feel it is pathetic waste of energy better spent on other things. But there is a fine limit/line/boundary between avoiding martyrdom, and actually graduating to selfishness. SO often it seems that others have the things I seek to have, and they did not have to be long suffering, nice, or get their hearts broken to do it. I keep getting all these little stress fractures in my own heart. Sooner or later, that sucker is going to explode. I think I’ve just grown weary to the point of resignation–or rage–I’m not sure which….so what I want to say is fuck it. I will stop caring whether I’m ethical or honorable or shot through with integrity. It gets me nowhere. It only continues to disappoint me. There is no reward. The reward is in what you have, not what you might get. And I don’t have what I want to have in my life. SO now maybe it’s time I just moved on to the “getting” and told the “waiting” to take a hike.
The events of the last week were not the cause of this. The cause was a series of events and experiences which culminated in this result, the last layer of which happened to take place this week.
Here’s what I have learned:
>No matter how much you think you might understand someone, you will most likely be wrong.
>No matter how good you think your intuition is, your ability to be mistaken is profoundly stronger.
>Reality is never predicated on what you wish was true, only on what IS true.
Here’s the situation. I met someone online–a teacher from Joplin– and paid to join a site so I could send her a mail. We also spoke on the phone for over six hours and then several more hours over the next few days. I felt a connection with her I hadn’t felt in a long time. This, while reminding myself that you cannot truly know someone until you’ve met them in person and spent time getting to know them. But I have been accused so often of expecting the worst, and so I allowed myself to indulge in the idea that this time it might be different. She was supportive, engaging, intelligent, humorous. She denied that my periodic intensity about certain subjects was a put-off, and continued to instead call me “So adorable” and “So funny.” As our rapport continued to improve, she offered tenderness, and intimated that I was as much a rarity as I thought she was. She even texted one of those nights as I was about to go to sleep that I made her smile and she “felt all Squishy inside.” She was endearing me to her by a large degree. I was happy. I was excited. I was nervous to meet her.
Sidebar, here: I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and sometimes it’s worse than other times. During my time talking to her, I happened to be on a really bad sleep schedule–I’d be awake for 20 hours, sleep for 4, be up for 8, sleep for 5, be up for 13, sleep for 2…that sort of thing. I often wasn’t sure what day it was, and had to look out the window to know if it was day or night; if it was 6 O’clock, I never really knew for a few minutes if it was pm or am because the light outside is about the same. There is little I seem to be able to do to change this condition. It’s been known to destroy marriages and careers. It’s not quite as profound a problem for me, since I work at home and don’t punch a clock, but now that I’ve been getting out more, I have found it becoming more of an issue, as I have to match the schedules of those I socialize with.
Anyway…..I asked her out to lunch.
By the time that first lunch date rolled around, I was exhausted. On my way to meet her I had to drive all over town, because I wanted to find just one pink rose to give her along with a little thank you card. I had no luck at 4 different locations, and was about to be late for the date. Finally I found them, but had to get three of them in a vase, because they didn’t have single ones. I thought three was overkill for the occasion, as I just wanted to offer a nice gesture of appreciation for who I thought she was. I also had to buy a whole pack of thank you cards, just so I could use one for her, since none of the cards seemed appropriate. (*I did wind up giving her the vase and the other two when we got outside after lunch).
Then when I left the store, I spend a long time in the parking lot, unable to locate my car, and this added to my stress. That’s when I wondered if I took my thyroid meds and it began to become clear that I had missed several doses. Anyone who knows anything about that, knows that not taking your thyroid meds can make you the village idiot. To compound the situation, it had been a long time since I had been on a date I was excited about–a romantically-tinged date…
So, I was in a weakened state. My exhaustion at this point had nothing to do with talking to her late into the night; i would have been awake all those hours anyway. But I had also run out of the supplements I take, like ginkgo biloba, and my multivitamin shake, etc, so I was without those reinforcements. I had also been eating very little or not at all; and then I also realized (after the fact) that I had missed my thyroid meds for almost three days. This, combined with being excited and hopeful to meet her, is why, I think my presentation-of-self to her included the shakes, confusion, figiting, and clumsiness, combined with a lack of concentration. I’m sure she thought I was mental, but there were reasons why I was that way. SO I knew I had made a bad first impression. (But not THAT bad. People have off days).
A couple of times, I would be looking into her eyes–not saying anything, and she would say “What?” like it bothered her. Partly, I was wondering why she kept talking about her job and her students and nothing else, since we had talked about a variety of subjects on the phone and I had already heard most of what she was saying before, so I didn’t quite know how to respond, except to nod. I just thought maybe she was nervous too, but she informed me that she was perfectly comfortable, while wondering why I was so off-balance. The other reason–the more important one–that I was holding her eyes, was that I was trying to connect. Trying to merge the conversations we’d had with the person, and seeing if she would look back at me, and try to connect eyes-to-eyes, too. But I also understand the psychology of eye contact. While, frequent eye contact is a good thing, holding eye contact too long can also be seen as threatening, especially if two people are not very familiar with each other. (see this article) Since it seemed to bother her more than anything else, I dialed that back. I again just marked that off to nerves she wouldn’t admit to.
There’s another thing about my brain that vexes me. I am not visual. My memories and thoughts are in an emotional form, which I then have to translate into an image. I only get snapshots that pop up and disappear so that I can’t hold onto an image for more than a nanosecond. (I know: how can I be a fiction writer and not be visual? That’s on other blogs, but suffice to say, I had to learn another way. It has to do with taking my emotion and translating it into visual on the page. But it starts only as emotional awareness…it’s complicated and difficult to explain…) Anyway, So when I meet someone online and develop a rapport by talking on the phone and emailing, there is still this huge gap for me, and it takes me some time to merge them after I meet them in person. And it’s another reason I don’t want to prolong the virtual thing. SO I’m sure part of my weirdness stemmed from how my brain works.
After the Red Lobster lunch, where I also gave her my 3 CD’s, (and she gave me three packs of Gevalia coffee. Yum), we headed to the Hen Party Happy Hour. This is a gathering I maintain when I can wherein a group of women get together for cocktails or coffee, or at someone’s home where we play games, eat, and share in some really entertaining smack-talk. This time, we were meeting at Chili’s, and I had invited “Joplin” to join us, since she was in town anyway.
After we sat down, she was behaving with affection, holding my hands across the table, and I was enjoying it so much, but still struggling with my brain in exhausted chaos. I was also still nervous. Which is not like me at all. I can only imagine that in my weakened state, with defenses down, I was unable to maintain my composure well.
We ordered drinks and I hoped that this would at least calm my nerves and maybe I could salvage my usual behavior out of that pile. Near the end of my second amaretto sour, My friend TJ appeared and I gave her a hug, and introduced her to Joplin. I had not seen her for a while. I began to catch up with her and also play with her a little. My friends know that I like to poke at them a little, make jokes and all in good fun–they all seem fine with it. I have been told that’s one of the main things they enjoy about me–my tendency toward wit. So I was starting to feel better and was beginning to enjoy myself. I included Joplin in the good-natured ribbing and such, and then Joplin said “You are just showing out now that your friend is here. You’re showing off for your friend.” Now first of all, showing off WHAT exactly? And second of all, this smacked of her playing teacher in a classroom. I am not one of her students and that remark was just condescending. I wondered why I had not noticed that she was that intolerant, judgmental and thin-skinned. She wasn’t that way on the phone. I was playing, and never did I say anything mean. And she had repeatedly praised my range of emotion and periodic intensity when we talked on the phone. Then, suddenly in person, the rules had changed and she did not like who I am.The double-entendre irony here is that she teaches MUSIC to KIDS and yet, doesn’t seem to know how to PLAY.
But it seemed she was somehow offended by my behavior, and even accused me of being a little drunk. I was not. and I do not get drunk–hardly ever. I had had a meal, and two drinks. So I made some joke about it–like “Uh oh. I’m in trouble.”
I ordered an iced tea next, just in case the alcohol was clouding my perspective. But my perspective was pretty accurate, as her disgust seemed to continue; to include her response to my other friends who joined us. She did a lot of eye rolling and made a lot of displeased faces at what they said, and jiggled her leg and tapped her foot under the table and pretty much ignored me.
At one point she mentioned she was cold from the breeze coming through the front door, and I said “Would you like me to come sit next to you to block the cold?” and she said with consistent COLDNESS, “No.”
When my best friend arrived, i went to sit next to Joplin to make room for my friend across from me. I made several attempts to smooth things over. I passed a note on a napkin that said “I’m sorry.” I touched her leg, I touched her back, her hand, tried to make eye contact. She remained sullen and continued to pull away, ignore my efforts, and ceased to engage me personally. I felt she had put me in “time-out”–again, like i was one of her students rather than a peer.
At one point, the topic of my ad on Craig’s List came up. I had placed it to meet local women to date, and only recently discovered that it was a popular place for call-girls and the like to place euphemistic ads to get customers. Who knew? I didn’t really, but it didn’t matter, because I had met 7 new women, with whom I have become friends, and I am enjoying their company. Some of whom were at that table. So when Joplin made a few disparaging comments about Craig’s List being a meat market, I was worried that it would insult the ladies who were there, since we had all met that way. They wanted to know where she had met me, and I told them Yahoo. I had paid to join just so I could talk to her. She still seemed haughty about the Craig’s list thing. My best friend jumped in and said she’d encouraged me to do it, to help take that heat off, and Two of the other ladies even tried to make that point by saying something really nice about my ad and how they wanted to get to know me because I seemed so different and special, and they were glad they met me. However it was they said it, it was very nice, and I was flattered. But I don’t think Joplin understood that she had just insulted everyone at the table. I mean, that’s true about Craig’s List, but it’s also true that you can find almost anything else there, too. Justi said something like, “yeah, you can also find tractors and babysitters.” And besides, what did she think Yahoo was? A knitting circle? People go on all the personals sites because they’re looking for a date, a partner or a roll in the hay. At least Craig’s List is diversified. Anyway. That was not a good moment.
Now, I don’t think even if I have forgotten some small details, (which I’m sure I have, I wasn’t exactly razor-sharp that night)or even if I had said something sarcastic that might have been a little testy, it qualified me to receive such an overt and extreme response from her. I wouldn’t have made any remarks under my breath if I hadn’t been treated so badly. But I still wanted to try to salvage it, just in case there were some inherent misunderstandings that could be worked out.
First, I felt I needed to explain some things–about how I was experiencing some old agoraphobia feelings (but didn’t realize it until later in the evening) because my defenses were down…(sleep deprivation, not eating regularly, missing my thyroid meds, and being nervous about a date I felt might be meaningful after so long not having that)…but my agoraphobia/panic attacks aren’t something I ever want to make a topic of conversation on a first date; yet felt that maybe I should, so she wouldn’t get the wrong idea. I was very proud of the fact that I had made great strides in conquering that phobic response. I no longer needed to take a Xanax when I went out in public. So I leaned over and said into her ear, “We need to have a little talk. There’s some things I want to explain to you.” Meaning, of course, my past struggle with panic and agoraphobia, and my missed medicine. But she didn’t seem happy to hear that either. Maybe it came out wrong. But I was so off-balance by this point. I tried to then go on to have fun, and the icing on the cake was when she spat, “Take a pill.” Well for those of you who have ever experienced phobias like this, and then learned to control it, that was the last thing you need to hear. It felt like a knife. And then I sensed the anxiety response creep in. Do I need to take a pill again? Am I lying to myself? What am I thinking, that I can handle this? Why am I even here? It was a terrible turmoil, exacerbated by her coldness and cutting remarks.
Well I certainly wasn’t going to tell her something that personal after that. I had other things to worry about. Like how I was going to keep from bursting into tears and bolting from the restaurant. So I just tried to take deep breaths and talk myself down as I had learned to do a long time ago. And I wished for another drink, but denied myself that source of calm, because I had to drive myself home and I don’t drive if I’ve had more than 2 drinks. Instead, I tried to engage everyone else and listen to what they were saying. I got through that part, but it only got worse when we ended our evening, and made it outside.
I walked her toward her car, and I started to speak, saying, “Look, I’m sorry things went awry, maybe we can–”
She paused in the parking lot, turned and said, “Whatever it is you want to talk to me about, I can’t do it now. Call me tomorrow…” then, “What you said to me was very confrontational” and then somethign to the affect of her not liking it…
I said, “What? Which thing?”
She quoted, caustically, we need to have a little talk.
She left out the second part of that: ‘…there are some things I need to explain to you…’
Before I could recover from her hatefulness and intolerance, and the day in general, she turned and got into her car and drove away. I was left standing there, feeling like a fool, and wondering if I had really just been reprimanded again like one of her students. What would have made more sense to me, and been a great deal more mature was if she had said, “I know this date went a little off kilter and we should talk about it tomorrow, but i have to get up early, so I need to go. Thanks for dinner, the roses, the Cd’s and inviting me to join you and your friends for cocktails. Call me tomorrow. ” followed by a hug.
But that’s not how it went down.
What was my sin? What could I have possibly done that was so worthy of her disdain? Was it the three roses in the vase I gave her? Three CD’s of my original music? The 4 copies of my books I ordered for her to read because she said she’d like to? The lunch I bought her at Red Lobster? The invitation to a cocktail gathering with my friends? The offer to sit next to her to block the cold? Having a good time for a few seconds finally after a stressful day? These were my SINS?
I went back to talk to Justi, to see if she was coming over or going home and she said she had to get home, but saw I was upset, so we sat in her Jeep and talked about it. She knows more about me than anyone else on the planet and she has always been the sort of friend most people can only hope for. She loves me because she knows I’m worth loving. So what was the problem with Joplin? I asked her. Did I do or say something wrong? She said, “Not that I could see. She seemed to be in a constant state of disgust with everything anyone said.”
I sat there and cried like a baby because was so disappointed, so humiliated, so disillusioned, so confused and SO EXHAUSTED. She, of course, made me feel better about it, including telling me that if that woman couldn’t see all the wonderful things I had to offer, she was blind, and I was better off without her.
Before starting home, I sent Joplin a text asking her to please let me know she got home okay. She texted back, Got home a little bit ago. The drive was fine. Thanks for asking.
I responded. Ok.
and she said Ok. Talk to you later.
I went home feeling like crap, took my thyroid meds and a big dose of sleep meds and caught up on my missing sleep.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the night before, but when I woke up I immediately checked my email and turned on my phones but there was no sign of Joplin. I figured she was at work and busy, and didn’t think much of it. Around noon I got an email from her that said:
I hope you’re having a good morning. I’m a little tired, but I’ll be fine. I had a lovely time with you at lunch. Thank you. I’m sorry that you were nervous. It was quite stressful for me too. It was a lot of new people for me to meet all in one shot. I know some of them were new for you too, but some of them you’ve known for a while. I was glad that I stayed and hung out and met your friends. They’re all very nice. I had fun.
Have a great day.
Now, this threw me because it sounded so normal, but in this case, it was inappropriately normal. It seemed she was acting like nothing had happened; being polite, but it seemed disingenuous to me, and smacked of playing games. I didn’t know if she had switched into “just friends” or was ignoring it, or what.
I wrote back,
I also enjoyed meeting you at lunch and glad you joined the Hen Party Happy Hour too.
Understand, though, that what was going on with me was much more than just nerves and perhaps you have no way of knowing some of it. I was exhausted, but there was more going on, some I mentioned, some I did not. I spent the few hours after you left being very upset and trying to understand it; then I took a heavy dose of sleep medicine so I could finally get 8 hours of rest. Since getting up, I’ve spent the morning thinking about last night and how everything went awry. It’s hard for me to make a complete assessment, because I think I’m missing some crucial information that only you can provide. I am very confused about what was going on for you, and I’m sorry for anything I might have done to make it exacerbate the negative. It was never my intention to make you uncomfortable, insult you, or otherwise make you sorry you had met me. I hope that you will want to talk on the phone about it, as I would still like to believe that those other conversations we had showed promise, because there was some promise. Translating that into an in-person dynamic, can, at times, be challenging. I will leave it up to you whether you believe I’m worth that effort, and wish to pursue it.
I hope to talk to you soon. Please let me know your thoughts.
When I didn’t hear from her all day and into late evening, I just figured maybe she was busy, but was a little miffed that she hadn’t at least said something to me to let me know what was happening, after what had gone down on the date. I mean, her email was a little formal in tone, and I thought she and I had gone past that stage. I thought she’d at least tell me she intended to talk about the issue when she could make some time…something. But no. By this time I had thought about all of it. I had mind-mapped it on my big desk pad, trying to make sense of it, figuring out what to say to her that would make sense, and taking notes so that I would NOT seem incoherent like I was on the date. And I had become a little angry, too. Looking at all of it mapped out, it started to become clear that I had done nothing wrong, and had certainly not deserved the treatment I got from her.
I didn’t hear from her the rest of the day and into the late evening.
me: Do you have any intention of speaking to me again?
Her: of course. Right now I’m at a band contest & getting ready to do some accompaniments for students. I had drumline until late yesterday evening. Been busy.
ME: Be that as it may…I expected u to have the courtesy to let me know that, after you reprimanded me in a parking lot like I was one of your students.
HER: I’m not gonna fight with you if that’s what you are wanting. Sometimes I teach from 7am until late at night. I didn’t reprimand you. Grow some patience.
(*Note that right after she said she wasn’t reprimanding me, she reprimanded me.)
ME: No fighting. Just this. Wrong answer, both times. Reprimand followed by a dismissal and then more condescension. It would have taken two seconds to let me know. That’s not about impatience, that’s about courtesy. You should grow some of that. all done here.
HER: I don’t want to fight. Fine.
I didn’t respond. Didn’t intend to either. Then another text from her:
HER: Courtesy would have been you telling me to my face you wanted to talk with me instead of comments under your breath directed at me. Plus look at me when you talk
Telling her to her face? I had done that. That night, I had leaned over and said, “We need to have a little talk, There’s some things I need to explain to you.” We were, after all, at a table with four other people in a social situation. I did not think it was a good idea to ask her to step outside. That would have drawn too much attention to something that should have been discrete. Never mind that. Never mind that she was being cold, insulting and ignoring me. Of course I was making comments under my breath. I was insulted and could not get her to respond to my “I’m sorry” notes on the napkin, or the touch on her leg under the table, or my hand on her back, or trying to catch her eyes… No response of a hand squeeze or a simple “We’ll talk about this later, lets just have a good time, ” and then pat me on the leg or something. I mean, throw me a bone.
…and the “you were not looking at me…” —right, I was not looking at her, because I already tried that several times, and she would say “What?” and act like it bothered her. And more pointedly, she was sitting next to me at the time, and MY EYES ARE NOT MOUNTED ON MY EARS.
*it’s the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and while I am loathe to compare myself to a camel, perhaps I need to learn to traverse the desert of relationships with a little more survival skill. I have been advised that these are the usual pitfalls of standard dating. But I have not enjoyed much standard dating. I’ve got a goal to do that, in spades, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to more of what I got the other night. I mean, the person who was on that date with me was not the same person I talked to on the phone. That girl on the phone was not thin-skinned, or judgmental, or condescending, tight-assed, or lacking in social graces. She was easy going, attentive, funny, engaging, accepting, and had all kinds of wonderful things to say about how much she liked me and who I was. I brought that person *I* was on the phone to the date, but she didn’t bring the person *she* was.
Does everyone misrepresent themselves? Is self-delusion rampant? Was she playing me? Which version of her was the authentic version? I suspect the answer to that is ‘the one I went out with.”
So, I am nursing fresh disillusionment with people, with romance, with dating, and with the basics of good communication and courtesy. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more chances to have this experience again. I just hope the outcome is more positive.