Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Friend Boy Chronicles: Wallowing in freakish misery

I’m feeling some kind of way.

All up in my feelings.

One of the characters from Golden Girls called it “magenta”.

What is this feeling?  The short answer is jealousy.  The long answer is like a Facebook relationship status:  its complicated.

Here’s what happened.  One of my classmates went on a date with a guy I used to be interested in.  Right now everyone reading this is groaning and yelling at the screen, “what do you mean USED to be?  You obviously still like him.”  And when I got that strange “magenta” feeling after learning of said date, I agreed with you.  However I’m not concerned about carrying a torch, necessarily, if that’s what it is.  I’m preoccupied with my preoccupation with actually KNOWING about a burgeoning relationship between a girlfriend and the guy formerly known as “Friend Boy”.

Watching someone I used to like get interested in someone else must be some kind of aversion therapy. It makes me feel so odd and uncomfortable that I have to keep doing it to prove a point.  Like, I don’t know, I’m a masochist and I like to wallow in my own misery?  Like feeling uneasy makes me feel alive or some shit?  Apparently it does because I find myself going out of my way to be the virtual third wheel with Friend Boy and a friend I’ll call “Class Girl”.

It so happens that I had plans to have dinner with Class Girl and some other friends the same week that she and Friend Boy were going out on their first date.  I knew something was going on because Friend Boy told me about her and I felt simultaneously empty and envious.  Empty because I believed I was over Friend Boy, and envious because…I don’t really know exactly, but it didn’t feel nice.  Cue positive self-talk:  “Friend Boy was unreliable in our friendship which showed me that he was unworthy of my romantic interest.”  “I am too wonderful a person to spend time worrying about those who are not worth my time.”  “I deserve to be with someone who wants to be with me and wants to pay attention to me.”  See, my rational mind is as much an overachiever as my intellectual mind.   But it’s very hard for me to toe the therapeutic line when I see a man I wanted to date, or used to date, being the person he never was with me.

Believe it when I say that the force is strong with my self-saboteur and she is hard to vanquish.  I’ve gotten to the point that my emotional mind has nearly been silenced, but it asserts itself most frequently when I confront my romantic shortcomings.  When I make a misstep at work, instead of crumbling amidst self-doubt, my brain effectively repeats, “What I do for a living is not what I am,” and all is well.  Not so in the face of an ex-boyfriend or – in the case of Friend Boy – an unrequited love.  My first, emotional reaction is a ping of envy and, thanks to 8 years of therapy, I acknowledge my negative feelings then accept their existence.  My second reaction is rational, the aforementioned self-talk reminding me not to wallow, and I congratulate myself for being so well-adjusted.  At this point I should disengage, walk away, get out of dangerous territory while the getting is good.  Instead, I overcompensate by getting all wrapped up in the ex-boyfriend’s love life.  In the case of Friend Boy, I ask him what he thinks of his new love interest.  I text him about her for 30 minutes as if to prove how well I’m handling my shit.  Then I start talking to Class Girl about the date like I never carried a torch for this man.  All is fine until she shows me the sweet, cute texts he sends her and I’m right in magenta territory.

So, what to do?  They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, so my name is Deltra and I’m a Picker.  That is, I pick at emotional wounds so they don’t scab over and heal.  Or, I act like they’re healed because I’m annoyed to be sitting with feelings that I can’t control.  Maybe I did harbor some hope in the back of my mind that Friend Boy would be interested in me.  Maybe every rejection by a man stings more than any other rejection (and no, I don’t have Daddy issues).  Perhaps I feel unworthy of male companionship, or ugly, or emotionally broken so much so that I’ve got to stick myself in the middle of someone else’s happiness to realize how unhappy I still am.

Wait, was that a breakthrough?  I certainly hope so, because I have no intention of stalking Class Girl’s and Friend Boy’s Facebook pages to find out how their date went.

Addiction, Mental Illness and Disrespect in American Culture

Yesterday,  Amy Winehouse died.  Her death was probably drug related since the singer suffered a long-term addiction to various substances – heroin, crack/cocaine, crystal meth and alcohol if I remember correctly.  But I’m too sad to Google it.  Not because I knew Amy and feel the grief of a lost loved one.  Rather, I’m sad about how our society views addiction and, similarly, mental illness.

courtesy of People.com

It’s very easy to criticize people from the comfort of your right mind.  Winehouse‘s death reminds us of her arrests, her bedraggled appearance, her inappropriate public behavior, and we unilaterally judge all of those things as though they’re purposeful.  American culture doesn’t accept anything other than Manifest Destiny, that people are sometimes powerless to control themselves in extenuating circumstances.  So, “it was the drugs”, or “addiction is a terrible disease” don’t really sit well with our bootstraps society.  Similarly, we don’t really understand or accept the trauma or pain that often drive people to drug use in the first place.

I’ll admit that I’m not an addict, or at least I’m not addicted to chemical substances other than the ones prescribed to me by my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist.  But I understand the pain behind the addict’s behavior, the inability to regulate difficult emotions to the point of just wanting them to go away.  I’ve met plenty of addicts in “Double Trouble” meetings, where mental illness and substance abuse intersect.  Some attendees sought out drugs and alcohol to escape abuse or poverty – tangibly horrible circumstances.  Others I met started using because their brains just couldn’t process garden-variety horribleness (yeah, I know that’s not a real word) like rejection or loneliness and needed a little something to take the edge off.

The inability to handle, to control our feelings and behavior is antithetical to living in the United States:  here we learn that effort is always rewarded with success; that tired, poor, huddled masses can attain freedom; that self-determination is the greatest of all values.  America disdains anything less than absolute self-regulation and relegates lack of self-possession as shameful and inappropriate.  The fact that we’re all really hiding something, or hiding from something for fear of being judged as “less than” feeds our obsession with watching addicts crumble.  Well, at least addicts who are famous.  Only through impersonal lens of celebrity and the external comforts it brings can we level the unbridled criticism we’d like to heap on ourselves.  We look at addicts like Winehouse and Whitney Houston and wonder how ordinary people with such extraordinary talent can fall so far so fast.  We don’t understand how people with money, comfort, careers could possibly be unhappy enough to escape from reality.  And we hold tight to a secret fear: if the material success that I want doesn’t lead to happiness, what’s going to happen to me?

Witnessing the ravages of mental illness brings out the same covert fear in people.  I don’t mean really seeing what mental illness does to a family or an individual because that’s real shit.  I mean witnessing the behaviors that mental illness engenders:  anger, social withdrawal, crying jags, self-injury, unpredictability, irritability, depression, homicide, suicide.  We judge people like Charlie Sheen, or Maia Campbell (who I’ve written about here) because their behavior doesn’t make sense to us, doesn’t square with the American Dream of fame and fortune that we think cures all.  We can’t see the internal struggle so we pass off the behavior as intentionally “bad” and dismiss the perpetrators as “crazy”.  They can’t hold their shit together, they must be weak or lazy – how very un-American.  Then the comedians, the talking heads, the social media voices jump on the bandwagon and we build a culture that holds actual, suffering humans at arm’s length.  No wonder I write this blog under a pseudonym.

So today, I’m hoping and praying for people wrestling with their demons – be they chemical or psychological or even material – to find some peace.  And for the rest of you to find some compassion.

Dating While Bipolar: Internet dating is for lunatics

That’s it, folks, I’m quitting the Internet. Not for social media or interracial porn, but for dating.

Yes, I’ve said before that dating websites have given me all manner of losers along the spectra of social competency and appropriateness. However, on of my subscriptions auto-renewed before I could cancel it, so I decided to use the extra months to edit my profile and take some social chances. Hell, I’d paid for it, right?

Wrong. If someone ever uses the phrase “social chances” within earshot, scream and run. If you even think it at some desperate point in your existence, stick a sharp pencil into your ear in an attempt to scrub your brain of ill-fated ideas. Trust me, I know.

Unfortunately, I had no Internet Dating Fairy Godmother to warn me about making stupid choices just to get some male companionship. Therefore, I posted new pictures on Chemistry.com. Yes, I’m naming names, because the public should be made aware of the dating mishegas that gets perpetrated when people look for love online. Yeah, I know that everyone has a story about how their neighbor’s coworker’s niece met her husband online. My business school roommate met her husband on Match.com; 2 kids, 2 moves and a few home renovations later, they’re incredibly happy. Another friend met his live-in girlfriend through random digital means. They’ve been together for about 5 years, and he’s dutifully requested a family ring for the engagement; I predict a wedding within 18 months. So it does happen, and those couples on the TV commercials aren’t lying. However, there’s a seedy – or at least unseemly – underbelly to Internet dating, and I’m exposing yet another facet.

Dig if you will a picture of a young(ish), attractive, smart, wicked funny, gainfully-employed woman seated at the Mac Book, perusing photos and profiles. I came across a not unattractive guy with all his teeth, a job (apparently) and a decent command of the English language. I did what any 35+ woman would do in a similar situation. I sent him a message expressing my interest.

Don’t judge me!

As is wont to happen in the world of 1′s and 0′s, dude – let’s call him “Anthony” – didn’t respond. I forgot about him and moved to the next round of losers until a month later, Anthony responded with a plausible explanation for his silence. He hadn’t paid for the full subscription (read: I’m either to broke/cheap to spare $20 or you’re not hot enough for me to pay for a conversation with you). No matter, I was still heartened by the response and I rationalized: just because folks don’t commit to paying for dating on the innanets doesn’t mean they’re horrible people. Uh, actually it means you should run away from them if you’re the paying kind, but I was being all hopeful and optimistic with Anthony, so I wrote back.

Don’t judge me!

Later that same day, Anthony asked me for my email address to communicate outside the parameters of the paid Chemistry subscription.  I sent it to him, or rather I sent him my anonymous email address, the one I only use for internet dating and not for work or my friends or even for this blog.  The next time I checked my email, I had an email from Anthony asking a series of questions about my upbringing.  There was something a bit odd about the flow, the syntax of Anthony’s message.  It wasn’t necessarily grammatically incorrect or misspelled, but I felt like if he’d been talking to me in a manner similar to his writing style, I’d be plotting a way to walk away from him.  Also, he’d cc’d another woman on the email.  That’s right.  This creep sent me and another woman the same email!

Of course, I wasn’t offended that Anthony was communicating with someone else. Certainly you have to cast your net rather wide in the dating pond to catch a fish you actually want to keep (see what I did there?).  However, I was annoyed that dude wasn’t at least conscientious enough to bcc me and “Cathy”, Ms. Carbon Copy, so we didn’t know about each other.  Anthony’s sloppiness made me dislike him even more, so I sent him the following note, copying Cathy as well:

“Hi Anthony,
Thanks for getting back to me, though this email was addressed to someone else. Perhaps you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, which is cool, but I can only pursue one person at a time; it’s just less confusing that way.
Good luck to you and Cathy Smith.”
I’m a bad-ass like that.  Of course, Cathy emailed me right away, thanking me for putting Anthony on blast, and admitting that she thought he was a little weird as well and had broken off communication separately.  Apparently both Cathy and I know that things look kind of weird when a dude copies a bunch of chicks on the same email, and we rightly want to actually be with someone who’s at least interested enough in getting to know us and not just playing the numbers.  She and I exchanged a few emails about the perils of internet dating and had a few laughs.  In the back of my mind, and out loud, I laughed about the situation and got on the phone to share with my girlfriends. Then Alex emailed me back, apologizing for the mix-up and asking if I “would like to continue this great relationship that we are about to build?”
*spit take*
Um, since when is a 2-email communication a “relationship”, especially when one of those emails consists of one party blowing the other off?  I decided to have some fun and forward the latest response to Cathy.  Guess what?  ANTHONY SENT CATHY THE SAME EMAIL HE SENT ME!!!  AGAIN!!!!  Complete with inappropriate relationship-level-jumping, awkward language, and lies about what each of us had told him.  Once again, I wasn’t offended at being two-timed, rather confused and dumbfounded that an adult would comport themselves as Anthony had.  There I was, thinking that people everywhere have standards similar to mine, and expecting people to be intelligent and think the same of me.  Call me optimistic that way.
In case there are any men reading this blog, I have a piece of advice:  assume that women talk about you behind your back because you’re not as cool as you think you are.  Assume twice the amount of gossip if you’re a dork, have no game and are trying to date two women at the same time.  Even if you do have game, trust that the world is small and that the females you juggle will meet each other – in real life or in virtual life.  These days, you cannot try to run some yang on multiple women – especially when you know they know about each other, stupid ass Anthony – and think that they won’t compare notes even if they’re both in love with you.  When the two women you’re trying to game barely know you, expect even more female bonding about your sorry ass and the dumb shit you do.
A tangent – I mistakenly dated a man who was newly single, or so he said.  I knew his “ex”, actually liked her, and we all lived in the same state.  Turns out the woman was less “ex” than I though and we both expected we were dating this man exclusively.  Eventually he told us both the truth.  We both cussed him out and stopped seeing him.  I ran into the woman a few months later, in another state, at a convention attended by thousands of other people.  We compared notes.  We both hate the man who tried to date us both at once, but like each other a whole lot.
As for Anthony, he sent me a few more emails that I sent to Cathy, which she shared with a few of her friends and we had many a disbelieving laugh.  Cathy is seeing a few other people, though none seriously.  And I’m swearing off internet dating at least until I’m 60 and desperate enough to believe all the shit I read.