To be honest, I went to my therapist with some expectations this week.
Maybe some of that was just my following of the end of the show, In Treatment, getting into the episodes towards the end of the season, where the patients are supposed to have their breakthroughs and make whatever progress in their lives there is to have, before either returning back to the masses or continuing therapy on the road to something new.
In fact, this season ended in only mixed results for all but one of the show’s patients, with even the therapist rejecting therapy, for its limitations and betrayals.
My session, on the other hand, was less dramatic. I didn’t cry about Eva, or shiver and shake. I just talked, sometimes angrily, but mostly just wondering, trying to put together the pieces and figure out some stuff in the environment I knew how to, while being assured that the drunken therapy-like conversations I had with myself on the long walks home from karaoke bars were in fact “relatively normal”.
In the end, I wound up asking about whether my therapist’s daughter had liked the Professor Layton game I had gotten her (had seen it, was excited, hadn’t tried yet) and trying to squeeze some out-the-door insight from her while our time was nearly up.
“Before I leave,” I asked. “Just tell me, you told me last time to ‘be in my feelings’ and not ‘do anything I usually wouldn’t’. I’ve tried to squeeze as much mileage as I can out of this but tell me, what else can I do.”
“I’m sorry,” She replied. “But you seem stable, Nick. It sounds like you’re not acting out and you’re trying to reasonably understand things. I think you’re doing what you need to do.”
I was a bit hurt by this as I frequently didn’t feel all right and I did need guidance and I wanted some plan to feel less like crap, but I took it, with one more question.
“And the online dating?”
“You’re putting yourself out there.” She said. “But careful, it’s addictive.”
“Or so I hear.” She added as I grabbed my bag and closed the door.
In all the history of embarrassing shit, I’ve put up here on this blog, for some reason this might take the cake:
I am using an online dating site right now.
All throughout college, when I was frustrated, thinking about my shape and size and my hair and whatever the fuck else could be wrong with me, it was always the one taboo I resisted, the one thing I felt like would plunge me into utter despair.
After all, I was at college at NYU, the home of a bevy of available film-savvy actresses and here was I, the jew-nerdy toast of the prestigious film department. Surely, I could find someone in this big multi-college town who was tired or desperate enough to jump a shaky newbie, someone who, forgive my phrasing, was into “this”.
Going to online dating would be a rejection of these fortuitous circumstances I thought, an admission of defeat, that I was so unattractive, so out of it, so socially inept that I had to go online to craigslist or beyond, where my roommate would later trawl with posts entitled something like “looking for a mate in the bush”.
Worse yet, memories stick in my mind of one solitary night sophomore year, when the reality that I hadn’t found anyone as a Freshman began to sink in, amidst the happy nuptuals of my then-coupled roommates, replying to a craigslist ad of some poor girl with a kid, asking her to give me a chance in a way and with descriptions, that made it sound like I was asking her to touch a leper, or at least someone with poor social qualities.
This single incident, mercifully unanswered, was sublimated and tucked away, locked, as a symbol to my conscious mind of how low I could go if I wanted to, in the pursuit of my own self-pity. When I tell people about the worst moments of my life flashing before my eyes and they wonder through what crucible they are made, you can behold that and me telling whole-heartedly an autistic teenager’s parents he had a future in the theater. They are the moments I lose control of my reality and subvert the rules of my world.
Anyway, for all of my many friends who predicted “months, year” for my recovery from my break-up, all I needed was one friend to tell me to “try it” to get me to sign up for one of the websites, make a profile and submit myself to a battery of insane-o questions (“Would you rather you die or 10 random people?”).
I took pictures of myself, I used self-deprecating humor. I tried honesty and, honestly, I felt rather bad about myself so there I was again, shying away, trying for modesty and answers to questions like “What do you want to do with your life” with “I don’t know, I work in a movie theater.”
“Nick, what is wrong with you?!” My friend who had suggested the online dating asked, with a horror that resounded through g-chat. “Have some confidence for godssakes.”
“Say you’ll take them on a comprehensive food tour of New York City. Tell them about your self-deprecating humor and that you’re a character emblematic of your city. Juxtapose two movies that have nothing to do with each other and let some film nerdy girl message you about them to try to figure out what they could possibly have in common.”
“Try!” she added.
Looking over my profile, I did see a lot of uncertainty, but what was expected of me? It was my frist time trying this, a thing I once thought so shameful I sublimated it. Coming out of my first mutually-loving relationship, I wasn’t sure I could ever find someone who’d love me like that again, or could feel that way, or could accept me.
Was it self-sabotage? I asked my therapist if I “sabotaged” my relationship?
“I think that involves an element of want.” She told me. “And I don’t think you wanted it to end.”
True. But maybe my ambiguity about the whole process led to the insecurity that seemed to permeate my profile, looking at it.
But really though, the same could be said as my dating strategy as a whole, a sort of sad-sack humor that my friend Chadd explicitly warned me about through his first successful Karaoke session.
“Just don’t tell them the truth.” He told me. “Or pick the truth. Saying you just got out of a relationship is the sort of thing that would make a woman run from you. Sadness and fucking don’t go hand in hand.”
Maybe, but all I felt was that need for acceptance, that want for someone to need me as is, to see me at least for the bad things and still to want me, as it’s the bad things right now I see about myself.
It’s a hard place to be that way, putting yourself out.
None of this is to say that I haven’t been going out, drinking with friends, trying to move on in the real world as well.
The aforementioned Karaoke de-virgin-izing of Chadd resulted me belting a song from “Annie!” while a girl (most likely a friend of good-man/karaoke bartender Colin Lime) grinded on the side of me.
“I just want to point out, you didn’t even look at her.” Chadd told me, between beers, to which I shrugged uncomfortably.
I went out with Frank and Simon, two-parts of my former middle-school Counterstike-playing trio, to a bar where a skinny girl with a lot of tatoos told me about her Jew fetish, stroking my uncombed red hair, while I waited on her, hopefully, to not barf on me.
“What’s the matter?” Frank asked me.
“I just feel weird, that’s all.” I said, after I escaped. “It’s just not exactly what I’m looking for.”
Which is what exactly anyway? I told Zach online that I was looking for someone safe, someone stable, someone I could share something with.
“Isn’t that kinda alot?” Zach asked. “Why not just be looking to make out?”
“That too, sometimes.” I said.
The truth is, as much as I might try to similarly sublimate it, that I’m still wounded, still reeling, still trying to replace the missing love in my life whatever way I can, while trying to process how it ended up missing in the first place.
In denial, I desperately want to prove my friends wrong that I’ll be facing some period, some year, something more, where I’ll just feel terrible all the time.
The truth is, I want to find someone who doesn’t make me feel like that. Which is a lot to ask of someone.
Which, then, makes me think about my last relationship ended.
And so on.
I ended up after a day working at the movie theater at my mom’s along with pseudo-roommate/ceiling-dweller John Beamer, since I’d missed a home-cooked meal and my dad was out of town.
As we sat, we talked about 1968 and the transition between civil change and backlash and narratives of progress.
The spaghetti was delicious, as were my mother’s lightly fried turkey meatballs, a hallmark of my childhood.
I ate till I was stuffed, picking at salad and garlic bread, a feast that even John, picky eater that he is (he refers to vegetables as “greenies”), enjoyed heartily.
I sat stuffed there on the couch, where I ate and had eaten and where I slept for 6 or so years in my life, when I outgrew my room.
I felt in it, I felt surrounded.
I felt full.
But there was still a night to go and people to see.
So I went out into the river-windy New York night.
Because, even with everything else, it’s what there is to do.
Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs, House-Made Balsamic Greens Salad, Semolina Garlic Bread- Free (w/visit to Mom)
Location redacted (sorry)