This one goes out to anyone I’ve ever dated.
I mean, if we went out once and never spoke again, whatever. If you didn’t return my texts because you were too chickenshit to tell me you weren’t interested, fuck you. But if you showed interest, if you pursued me in any meaningful way and I was an asshole, I’m sorry. Legitimately. I probably won’t do it again.
Above all, I try to be a nice person. I think I’m pretty good at it — as long as laziness doesn’t get in the way. I’m there for people when they need me. I’m open with my feelings. But when it comes to the people I’m dating, I sometimes forget all that. I forget how to be a decent human being, because I’m so caught up in the weirdness of trying to make a romantic connection with someone, and my own insecurities about being someone worth dating. It’s such a self-fulfilling prophecy that I’m writing it down so I have something to refer to when I’m trying to avoid repeating this behavior in the future.
I’m not saying this because I want to push away anyone potentially interested in dating me. (That’s just a fun side effect.) Nor am I trying to justify my shitty behavior: I think acknowledging your faults while continuing to have said faults is sort of a half-assed attempt at self-improvement. Like, at least I know I’m terrible, but no, I’m not making any major strides at correcting that. I guess I feel that you deserve an explanation, and I’m hoping it doesn’t read as an excuse.
You were good to me. You showed interest and you kept it up. That was your first mistake. Kidding, kind of. You were being cool and open, and it freaked me out. Not consciously, mind you — it’s never as clear as that. But with each compliment and advance, I felt a little more ill at ease. I looked down at my body. I looked internally at the personality I’ve spent so many years trying to cultivate. I didn’t see what you saw. In my mind, I’m a perpetual work in progress, and you were weirdly into the unfinished product.
Thank you. Sorry. I was probably into it at first — I usually am. But then you noticed that subtle change. I flinched a little more at your touch. I took longer to respond to texts. I chose staying in with a blanket over my head instead of going out with you, even though I knew the latter would be more fun. Because the effort felt impossible. The concept of me in a relationship, however vague the prospect was, seemed contrary to my worldview. It went against everything I understood: learning that I could have a boyfriend was akin to learning I could suspend gravity. Intriguing, yes, but mostly scary.
Why didn’t I just explain how I was feeling? Because suddenly I forgot how to use my words. So I fumbled for a few days, then offered a very weak concession speech: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Here’s the twist — it is! You weren’t the problem. You were fine. I was the mess, and worse, the kind of mess I can’t quite articulate. It’s not that you were suffocating me, or that I worried I would lose myself in a relationship. It’s like a switch went off in my brain and suddenly everything right felt wrong. There’s a chance if I stuck it out we could get back to what we were before, but my instincts said run, full-speed, and don’t look back. It’s not even as fully formed as panic. More like that jolt you get when you realize you were seconds from turning the wrong way on a one-way street. Good thing we dodged that bullet.
I said I wanted to stay friends, not because that’s what you’re supposed to say but because that’s what I felt. Friends — with benefits, or without — because anything else seemed dangerously unstable. I’m just not in a good place right now. (I’m never in a good place right now.) As we slowly lost touch — the texts becoming fewer and farther between, the in-person hangouts nonexistent — I regretted dropping the ball. And yet, what else could I do? The effort of maintaining the friendship balanced against my anxiety. Anxiety always wins. You don’t want to bet against those odds.
I’m sorry if I hurt you. Getting hurt is no big deal, but hurting someone else is catastrophic. And somehow, it keeps happening! Even if I believed you were into me and that I meant something to you, I never learned to accept the power I might have over someone else. I still don’t conceive of myself as someone who can cause pain, because on some level I believe you were always tentative about your feelings, that my appeal had already begun to fade. Sometimes I feel incapable of letting people down, because even when I disappoint myself it’s somewhat inevitable, and that’s dangerous. I get careless with feelings. You tell me this hurts, and I take it with a grain of salt.
I know the pain of loss and the fear of rejection, but that’s because it makes sense on my end. Flipped around, it’s something I can never quite grasp. I’m not a person you lose. I’m not someone who turns you down.
Later I’ll figure it out, and I’ll try to purge all that fucked-up behavior and self-perception in an uncomfortably introspective blog post. I always wonder why I’m so OK with putting it all out there, and I think it’s because the alternative feels worse. If you were thinking about asking me out and then read this, it might turn you off. My loss, but at least I was decent enough to give you a warning. Of course, the other part of me hopes you’ll read this, nod knowingly, and accept my faults. You’ll ask me out anyway. I’ll take every kind word that comes my way. I won’t screw it up this time.