After mulling over that last post for over two weeks, I suddenly have ideas and memories jammed in my head, clambering to get out. On the heels of that last post, I keep thinking about that fear I described, and how it manifests itself.
This past weekend I went to a storytelling event with the theme of “Love and Other Lies.” A lot of brave folks got up on stage and told their stories of love and loss and I felt privileged to be allowed a glimpse of their experiences. And even though these moments are helpful for reminding us that we are not alone in even our most painful experiences, by intermission I was feeling a fair amount of sadness.
It’s a reflexive, self-pitying kind of sadness that comes over me whenever people talk of dating. I never dated until just recently, and I often feel as if I missed my chance to learn about relationships the way most people did: I never had a chance to experiment with adolescent crushes, to learn by increments the ways people bond and set boundaries between them. The first guy I dated, I stayed with for more than six years. I didn’t fall in love – infatuation love – until I was in my late 20s, an affair that hardly lasted more than three months. And since then I feel as if I’ve been lurching about, fumbling my way through this complicated web of social interactions with only friends’ stories and romantic comedies as my guide.
There’s a scene in the movie Revolutionary Road in which the protagonists first meet each other at a party. It’s a quick scene, cinematic shorthand for boy meets girl, that old cliché their eyes met across the room – I’ve been thinking about it ever since. He (Leonardo di Caprio) scans the crowded room and sees her (Kate Winslet) in conversation with her friends; she sees him checking her out, her eyes meet his gaze. In that split second, Winslet’s expression, her body language is the essence of confidence. They start to talk, the movie moves on from there.
What do most people feel in that moment? Interest? Excitement? Curiosity? Perhaps the face flushes and pulse quickens?
I feel terror. I’ve been *seen*. I am exposed. I am vulnerable. My eyes immediately go down to the floor, my throat tightens, and every cell in my body wants to hide. Usually I manage to pull myself together and glance back up, but at that point his interest is elsewhere. He’s read my body language, and I’m sure it’s clear. If we do talk, I’m too animated or maybe even tongue-tied. You know how everything is exaggerated for comic effect on sitcoms? I feel like that in real life.
In reality I’m probably not the only person who feels this way. And this is what makes me greedy for stories like the ones I heard on Sunday, proof that I am not alone. But they also make me feel melancholy for all the pain we experience in our lives. Pain we have survived and learned from, pain we have yet to face.