Last month my good friend broke up with a girl he had known for less than 24 hours. What had begun as a harmless offer to sleep in his bed (she was tired, didn't want to walk home, he figured he'd sleep on the couch) quickly turned into the mother of all disasters. She insisted he sleep in bed with her. Then she stayed until 6 PM the next day. He tried not kissing her back, complaining that his back hurt whenever she climbed on top of him, setting the alarm clock early, doing dishes that weren't even dirty, even leaving the room. None of it worked. He was desperate.
Confession: I am also desperate. I am desperate for this column to write itself and to automatically be engaging, thoughtful and witty. Hence the cute opening story.
I sympathize with my friend. His self-described list of top twenty ways to let a girl know you're not interested borders on pathetic. I also sort of sympathize with the girl. Granted you will never catch me staying in someone's room until 6 PM. But I've been known to fool myself into thinking someone is genuinely interested in me on occasion.
I don't know if you've ever fooled yourself into thinking someone really liked you or imagined something going on that simply wasn't. It's just about impossible to admit you've done it. Because admitting you've done it means admitting that you want something desperately enough to ignore all the blatant evidence that it's not there.
What really gets me about self-deception is that it transcends all of our sexual and intimate relationships. Nine times out of ten we get into hook-ups and relationships because we are looking for someone to eat dinner with every night or wake up to in the morning. We imagine what introducing our friends from home and going to parties with that someone will be like. We look for things we don't have. Even when someone is actually interested in us, we still look for things we don't yet have.
If only we knew how to avoid being susceptible to self-deception. I'm sure psychological literature provides a plethora of reasons for why we are so prone to deceiving ourselves. I thought about doing the research but a) I was too busy writing my thirty-page seminar paper and b) I didn't think I'd find what I was looking for. Knowing why I do what I do isn't going to make me feel any better about doing it.
There is a boy I have been hooking-up with on and off since freshmen year. For the record: we are currently off. He has made one too many appearances in this column for my taste. This is a boy I am embarrassed to discuss. I tell myself that it means nothing to me and that the sex is simply too good to resist but that could not be further from the truth. When I think about it logically it's true: I never want to be with him. But when I see him, and worse, when he hits on me, it all goes to shit.
I am still the first to advocate sex without attachment. It can be done-hell, I've done it more than once. The problem with sex without attachment isn't that it can't be done, but that we can use it to fool ourselves into doing something that we might not feel so good about in the morning. There are definitely times when having sex with someone you have zero feelings for is completely legit; there are also times when "sex without attachment" is a pretext for feelings we pretend aren't there.
Here's the hitch: it isn't just that we desperately want to be with someone else. It's that we desperately want to have character traits and habits we may or may not actually be. I'd like to believe that I am always confident in front of my love (or sex) interest. I'd like to believe that I always avoid getting hurt. But I'm not infallible. This is where the trouble starts.
'Fessing up to the tricks of your imagination is the hardest part. It means acknowledging that on some level; yes, you're crazy. Telling someone else where you stand only freaks that person out even more. My friend is almost always going to run when he sees the girl he broke up with after less than 24 hours. The girl he broke up with is probably still confused. I'm still going to tell myself that I'm never going to sleep with on-off hookup boy again.
Confession(s): I don't know if this column is as engaging, thoughtful and witty as I'd like. I hate making confessions. I am terrified every time this column runs. That time I confessed that I pride myself on giving amazing head-yeah, that's come back to haunt me more than once. It will always be too easy for me to say and do things that I didn't necessarily mean. Sometimes it will be a growing experience and other times it will be painful. Trickery is unavoidable, even when you write.