What I’ve Learned From the Painful Fog

So this past week I heard some news that I didn’t want to hear. I want her, she doesn’t want me, blah blah blah.

So here’s what happened, best I can recall, and best I can condense it.

First came the “told you so” voices, the ones that always expect disaster; they tell me I will never be happy. Right after them was the “You’re a loser” crowd, telling me the reason I won’t be happy is that I don’t deserve to be. Along with them was “It’s hopeless, and you were an idiot for thinking otherwise.” All in all, a party indeed, inside my head.
So here’s some interesting stuff. When she first told me, and in some emails since, she layered it super thick with apologies and flattery. Apparently I am a woman’s dream come true — just not hers, and she’s sorry it’s so. And yes, I am exaggerating while also over-simplifying. Still, she felt bad for all of this, and for possibly giving me the idea she was into me.
What’s interesting is that I sort of flaunted my pain for her — to make her feel sorry for me, and to make her feel bad! What a shithead thing to do, right? I pouted and told her don’t worry, all the ladies say the same thing, and then told her I don’t want to see her at all. No friendship for her — which is about 25% self-protection and 75% punishment. I don’t get what I want? Fine, neither do you!
I eventually apologized to her for not taking the news better, told her many nice (and true) things about her, and started moving on. But the voices didn’t stop. They moderated their hysteria a bit, but the messages continued. It’ll never work out. Women just don’t dig me “that way.” I should just accept my lonely lot and concentrate on other things.
The first light to get through was the idea that maybe there was some helpful information buried under all the hysteria. Maybe “It’ll never work out” was actually “What you’re doing isn’t working” — and God knows there’s some evidence for that! I’m pretty sure that somewhere around 10 straight rejections it’s time to think something in your approach isn’t working. Pull the product off the shelves, as it were, kick it back to R&D, and work on your marketing plan.
And then maybe “I must be really ugly, if I’m such a great guy and nobody wants to screw me” could be de-hystericized into “Losing some weight and dressing nicer wouldn’t hurt.” But that’s superficial stuff. Worse-looking guys than me get women.
At some point in all this, even I started to realize I was stuck in a story of my own creation. I mean, if you think nobody will want you … who wants to hang out with that guy? If you think wanting sex makes you an asshole, and you’re bad at it anyway … who wants to sleep with him? And in a bigger, deeper sense, if you turn dating into a search for approval, turn the ladies you meet into Mom and beg them to complete you … who wants that job? It’s impossible, anyway.
As Corky likes to say, it would be a shame to go through all this misery and not learn something. So here’s what I think I have learned to this point.
  • My problems are of my own making. Not just the lack of dating success, but the over-the-top reaction I have when it doesn’t work out. Who made this a life-and-death matter? Me!
  • Until I make peace with myself and accept myself as I am, I will project fear and anxiety into the world — not a winning formula for chasing women, among many other things.
  • A big part of the above has to do with sex. I’ve got two ideas seriously stuck in my head: 1, that women like me because I don’t try to get in their pants, which means that if I do, they won’t, and 2, I am no good in bed. Again, think of the vibe those thoughts put out to the world!
  • I use hopelessness and despair to play the victim and avoid any responsibility for current problems or future solutions. Step 6 in Life With Hope talks about this, the difference between a virtue and a defect being their effectiveness in helping us live clean, spiritual lives. In this case, these are serious defects, which I cling to because I get some short-term benefit from them.
  • Something, somewhere in my dating life — and this is not hysteria — is broken. It stands to reason that if I say to myself, “I’d like a girlfriend,” then I pick prospects, pursue them, get turned down, and wind up miserable … every time … well, something ain’t working. We all get rejected, sure, and my current losing streak might not even be uncommon, but at some point don’t you move past a point where you have three or four dates with somebody, get turned down for more, and go out of your despairing, passive-aggressive mind for an entire week? I would hope so!
  • At some point — and this annoys me — it is, at least in part, about money. Men are into looks, women are into what he does for a living. Human nature, inherited from the evolutionary process. We want to plant seed in attractive places, they want a nice, strong nest to protect the babies.

My dating life quite probably missed a section: the young, go-get-laid days. I was stoned, drunk, shy, and out of town throughout my 20s, so I missed all that. Then, in my 30s, I got sober, figured some shit out, dated enough to get some confidence, and then sort of emerged on the scene as a funny, articulate, personable, sober guy, pretty good at communicating, with a published book to his credit, an all-around cool dude who draws people to him and easily makes friends. I felt ready to play!

But here’s the thing: by this time, I was like 37 years old, inexperienced at dating and in bed, and besides, the women in my age group were well past the “dating for kicks” stage. I found several women in a row who asked me about getting married in like a month! And it’s not because I was so amazing. Two of those three were engaged within a year of cutting me loose, and the third is getting married this summer. They were husband-shopping!
I sometimes feel like a guy who showed up at a party when everybody else was all partied out. And in some ways, I am. But what am I gonna do about it? I can’t stay in that story forever. I can’t let that fear dictate how I will act. Acknowledge the fears, accept the reality, look for the solution.
So here’s the plan, in no particular order:
  1. If self-esteem is self-made, then develop some practices that move me in this direction. Discipline, self-supporting behaviors, healthy choices, and so on. Try to eliminate stuff that drags me down. Among the latter is, for now, asking women out.
  2. Get some sexual experience, somehow, even if I have to pay for it. I’m serious.
  3. If dating is, in part, about image, then work on the image. Lose some weight and buy nicer clothes. And shoes. Goddammit.
  4. Grow the fuck up about money, and make the business work. It’s a great idea that only needs focus and work. The effort and the success will help.
  5. Do the spiritual work, face the fears, and try to learn something from all the misery.

Good gosh!