A couple months ago, I was talking to a writer friend about a story he'd just finished. It was due to come out that week, and he was nervous because it was extremely personal and he was apprehensive as to what people's reactions would be. As someone who has made what occasionally passes as a career out of revealing inappropriate and humiliating things about herself, I kinda scoffed and advised he do what I do and just pretend that nobody else was going to read it. Because really, if I thought about the fact that other people might actually read the stuff I put out there, I'd never get anything done. I'd be too worried about coming off like a loser or a lunatic. (Obviously, this has never been a big concern.) Denial has always been my policy, and up till recently, I thought it served me well. Until a couple weeks ago, when a guy I was dating started quoting me to me. Gulp.
Do you have any idea how unnerving it is to have someone who you're trying to impress start remarking on things you'd written (and forgotten about) over a year ago? Unless you're given to publishing embarrassing facts about yourself, you probably don't. It was mortifying. It became clear that he'd Googled the hell outta me and read almost everything I'd written—possibly ever. It was like being trapped in a naked version of This Is Your Life.
Before we'd even had our first date, he knew that someone had once shat himself in my bed (I have a new mattress!), that I lost my virginity to a guy who beat me up, and that I'm really not completely over the demented whippersnapper who broke my heart last fall. Among various and sundry other tawdry details.
What did I know about him? Well, I knew his name, what neighborhood he lived in, and what he did for a living. Over the course of our first date, I learned that his sister had given him her old car and that he was Jewish, grew up in Kansas City, and enjoyed going to the movies. All informative tidbits, certainly, but hardly compared to the Encyclopedia of My Depravity Google had provided him with.
I'd always wondered about the men who write in, asking me out on dates. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. This isn't exactly a sexy sex column, I don't think I come across as a particularly hot babe, and I bad-mouth every guy who's ever pissed me off. Hell, I even talk trash about guys who weren't so bad. I sure wouldn't want to date me.
But I guess men are just different, because this guy thought it was cool that I'd spilled crap that most people would find too humiliating to even scribble down in their journal. Over dinner I started yammering on about something, and he interrupted me to say, "I really liked what you wrote about men who give a disclaimer. How just because you say you're an asshole, it doesn't give you carte blanche to behave badly."
Erm, yeah, I wrote that a long time ago. We were in a conversation about something entirely unrelated. I told Dateboy that while I appreciated that he liked me enough to go back and read a lot of my work, I felt kind of uncomfortable discussing it. To illustrate my point, I told him about the aforementioned whippersnapper who'd introduce me to his friends as Judy-the-sex-columnist, because I guess banging a "sex columnist" made his dorky ass seem racy and badass by osmosis. It only served to make me feel like a Novelty Date instead of an actual real live person with feelings. To his credit, Dateboy said he understood and dropped the topic.
But then there I was, days later, lying in bed with him when he remarked on how he'd always wanted to see the made-for-TV movie, Bad Ronald. I got all excited—I found someone else who'd heard of my favorite bad Scott Jacoby vehicle! "Wait, did we talk about Bad Ronald?" I asked excitedly. Dateboy squirmed with discomfort. Then I remembered I'd written about it. Oh.
Dating is harrowing enough under normal circumstances. It's excruciating when your life is an open book.
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