When I was 19, I thought I knew nothing about relationships, and I dated a lot.
Now that I’m 28, I think I know a lot about relationships, and yet dating seems much, much harder.
Coming back from the Oakland Oracle Arena on BART, separated from my friends and standing way too close to other people, I thought, as I do from time to time.
Part of what’s going on is that I have a crap memory of the past and time lines. In my head, I was constantly in a relationship from the ages of 19 to 25. In truth, I spent most of those six years in one relationship or another, but there were plenty of 6 month blocks of singleosity in there. Presently, I’ve been on “several dates with one lady” as recently as October, but I also like to argue with myself that the last substantial relationship I had was back when I was 25. That’s just unfair to say.
What’s really going on?
- I’m out of college. People like me who are my age are farther apart – density is way lower out here in “the real world”.
- What I’m looking for has changed somewhat. Dating a student is no longer high on my list. If she doesn’t live on her own, that can also be a big downer. She’s got to be employed, show ambition, be assertive, and have a killer smile.
- This is the kicker, I have no idea who I am anymore.
Back when I was a fencer I could get behind it and sell it, “Hello, I’m a fencer, take it or leave it.” essentially. Now, there’s no elevator pitch for “Well I’m a guy who enjoys introspection, and I write software for the web, I’m kind of goofy, but not like most software guys, and I’m a little more in touch with human behavior, but not like someone who got a degree in psych, and blah blah blah.” I’d need a big ass skyscraper to begin to describe myself to someone in an elevator – that, or for someone to pull the fire alarm.
I need the box so I know how to market Will Read. I need to have a definition so I have something to shape perceptions around. Right now I’m more like fog than I am a definite shape.
I’m in the middle of “reading” Freakonomics. I say “reading” because I’m actually listening to it on my iPhone. Anyway, the thing is interesting because it kind of gets your brain going in new ways. I find it mildly unsettling in the way the author speaks with such authority about statistics that few others have read the same way. What I do like about it most is that it gives me insight to my fellow man, and reaffirms my pre-existing belief that people are capable of being understood.
Today’s social experiment stems from a norm I’ve long been aware of: People [in the US] walk on the right side of the path. It must stem from the driving laws. I notice that foreigners tend to break this mold more frequently than non-foreigners. What I observed today was this: Coming out of the Powell Street station there are two escalators and a stair case that link to street level. walking from the station, you would first encounter the up escalator, then the down escalator, then the stairs. Today, the up escalator was barricaded off for maintenance, leaving only the down escalator and the stairs for use. The down escalator was also stopped in this case.
To me, the up escalator, the one on the right, is out of service, so I would expect to have to walk farther and use the stairs. But since the scenario had reduced the layout to essentially two stair cases, people were using them just so, as if the up escalator didn’t exist. People were walking down the stairs (on the right to them) and people were walking up the now stopped down escalator (on the right to those people).
I want to know how we learned to walk on the right and why that lesson is so strongly carried out. I also want to know why my gut instinct differed from the masses, and why I caved in and reluctantly walked up the down escalator like everyone else.
I need a push. I just came back from a presentation by SFSU on their Core Coaching curriculum, which aims to get one certified and ready to be a life coach. A life coach is a guy you go to when you want to get better at life. I would be good at this, but I’m afraid.
I’m afraid I’ll lack the experience to back up my advice. I haven’t had kids. I don’t have a wife. How can I possibly relate to and advise people with these kinds of backgrounds in a way that inspires confidence? I’m terrified that an old man will say, “Well what do you know?!?!” and storm out of my office. Or worse, what if I have to suggest to someone that he does something that I myself am afraid to do? I’m looking at stepping way out of my comfort zone here.
I’ve been a fencing coach. I’ve trained to be a coach of sorts in software and have my Scrum Master certification to show for it. I’ve helped people build houses. This is something you could argue I was born to do. As early as 15 I can remember my church pegging me for a path to being a minister – I shied away then for the same reasons I hesitate now.
I need someone to tell me I can be successful as a coach. I also need to really hear it, really listen when you tell it to me.
I think my love compass got a major reset while I was away. Two big statements really struck deep in the core of Will Read and said, “Hey! WTF are you doing, your head doesn’t belong in your ass.” Clearly.
The first one had nothing to do with who said it, and everything to do with what was said. “You’re in the Bermuda Triangle of friendship – there’s no escape.” Before these words, I felt like I understood the difference between being a woman’s friend, and being a romantic interest. After these words I have this horrible picture in my mind, flying an old ass biplane of romance into a storm of direction loss and chaos, where the only thing one can reasonably expect is to end up bloodied and drowning at the bottom of the ocean. I now understand that no amount of anything will ever allow you to “change up” how a woman sees you.
The second came form the movie 500 Days of Summer. A movie about a relationship not unlike some of my more recents, where the guy is head over heels for the girl, and the girl is just along for the ride to see where things end up. In there, Summer says to Tom, “… It just wasn’t me that you were right about.” With some context, she just got married to some other guy. Tom is looking for a reason to how she couldn’t fall in love. Her meaning is that she was in fact capable of loving, it just wasn’t the person Tom wanted it to be. Being wrong about love is hard to accept. It’d be like not knowing what a house was, but knowing you wanted one, and then someone comes along and tells you houses are beautiful and that you’ll want all the frills. So you invest your life savings and your time and you build yourself a house. And just as you step back to admire your work, your neighbor walks by and says, “Nice tutu.” Suddenly you’re devastated because you can’t begin to understand how you could have been so wrong about something that felt so right, something you were willing to throw your whole life into. Just like that, what you thought was a house, is now a pink frilly skirt.
At least you’ll look pretty when you dance.
Yep, it’s mostly Muslim country in Egypt. This means that most of the women are covered up, some where you can only see their eyes, most with head coverings that let her face be seen and little else. Right away I picked up that all the questions were directed at me, and not Lara. I also noticed that a lot of the time when she would ask a question, the answer was replied back to me. Here in the States, I’m accustomed to hanging out with some assertive women, and I’m usually happy to go along with their plans. Suddenly, in Egypt, I was the decision maker, I was in control and expected to lead.
I don’t think either of us was fully prepared for what that meant.
Mid-week, Lara pointed out that I was coming into my own, that my backbone had doubled in size from what she normally knew me to be. Meanwhile she was grappling with “keeping a lid on it”. I think the culture ate away at her identity – it’s hard to be an alpha anything when people don’t even address you. The role reversal was liberating for me. I suspect that if I can hold on to that, I’ll be a much more effective pair at work. I expect that my life may take a significant course change. Lara, may come back broken, or she may overcompensate when she returns two weeks from now.
Having been “the man” for a week, I feel like I have a lot more confidence in myself. I greet people and look them in the eye. I am not afraid to be decisive, or to ask questions, or state my opinion as I once was. I’m a whole new Will in some ways. Something to look forward to in 2010.