Leaning In

I went on a date with this guy who was visibly excited about me. And that was nice. We met and ended up talking about queer trauma for 3 hours. It was intense. At the end of it he turned to me and said: “Talking to you has made me realize that I’m really not in any position to be dating ANYBODY — so thanks for bringing that clarity.” I never heard from him again.

Afterwards, instead of going home sulking I visited my friend to watch him play video games while he gently consoled me. He said, “You know Max, most people see the uncomfortable place and go, like, the opposite direction. Most people don’t run towards it like you.” Then he killed a robot dinosaur.

It’s true. Most of the time I see something that makes me nervous or uncomfortable and my tendency is to go all-in. Pick it apart. Look at it upside down. I have a friend who I used to see maybe quarterly who I don’t see anymore. I think this might be the reason why. When we would hang, we would sit down and immediately get to business. That is, distilling the deepest, most real truth of what was going on with one another. Sometimes it felt like a game, a race to get to the most devastating reality possible. Sharp but loving. Now I can see how it was significantly less fun for him than it was for me, and yet for a while I was confused at his cautious response when I asked to grab dinner. I conflated that realness with intimacy when maybe it was just squirmy.

I talked to another friend about it and he said as if it were a prepared statement: “It’s true Max. You have a way of emotionally undressing people.” I’m not sure if these small interventions were just that profound for me or if I merely have fewer dark places to go but I think the experience of hanging out with me has shifted lately. I am more secure in my understandings about the world, and less likely to feel a need to tear someone apart to validate those assumptions. We can keep our clothes on.

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