I tend to overthink things. Often times I play much more convincingly the role of the devil’s rather than my own advocate; hypotheticals multitudinous, painstakingly animated, and beautifully acted in my mind’s theater. For every likely conclusion to an event there are the dozens of strays, the less likely, the near impossible outcomes that I take in and care for with a passion and commitment that undoubtedly eats away at the foundations of my perceived sanity. I am the crazy cat lady of what ifs. Few situations demonstrate this better than those involving members of the opposite sex. Often times I find myself standing in the well worn spot where attraction meets apprehension, laying out saucers of milk for everything that not only could go wrong, but also—and here’s where I think I get some serious crazy points—for what could go right. And actually, it’s the latter that I end up being the most afraid of.
Walking up to someone you don’t know and talking to that person is not very difficult. It’s intimidating yes, there is the obvious fear of rejection, but it’s a very light rejection based on nothing substantive. The door shut in the salesman’s face most often has very little to do with the quality of product pitched. It’s a matter of setting and salesmanship, the former being out of one’s control, while the latter, when executed poorly, is anything but a character flaw. Immediate rejection stings but does not scar. It’s the charlie horse of emotional injuries.
It’s like moving to a new city. The actual moving part is a rather short ordeal. Get your stuff together, transfer it to a new place. Not hard. Tedious, sure. But not hard. What actually is difficult is living in a new place. I know first-hand the challenges of starting over in a setting unfamiliar. The process of meeting not just acquaintances but friends, of assimilating, becoming truly comfortable around them is, at least for me, rather arduous. It takes a long time to really get to know people, for them to get to know you. The payoff of good friendship outweighs the effort of its construction, but when staring at the blueprints of your social life, it can be hard to focus on the unsure ending. It’s why so many your friends that dramatically move away, timidly come back home in six months.
I am not a fast reader by any means, and I complicate this by often times reading rather dense tomes. It’s so daunting the commitment demanded by a new 800 page novel, the weeks (or months) spent learning slowly the names and personalities of characters, the themes, the style of writing, attempting to interpret the whole point of the existence of the many printed pages. It can be overwhelming. And what if it’s no good? That question haunts the first 100 pages of every book I read, makes me second guess, stall, sometimes give up entirely.
All this to say, sometimes I find myself at a bar, hyper-aware of that attractive someone in my periphery, wanting to start up a conversation but paralyzed by all the potential outcomes, the fear of misspent time and emotions. Like the toy collector who never takes things out of the box, the toy unmarked and pristine sure, but also unused, its purpose made vague, the point of its existence blurred. And for this affliction I often prescribe myself another drink.
I wrote a song about this.
The Oregon Trail
Buying boxes, bubble wrap, and packaging tape Emptying all the drawers out and throwing away The coupons expired, the ticket ignored There’s no need to park here anymore
I have whiskey on my breath and I’m stammering A slurred request for something stronger in my next drink I’m working up the courage to speak
Title page, previous works Dedicate to spouse and to son A forward, a prologue, brief epigraph “You’re going to fail” in Latin
Crossing the room feels here like crossing rivers In a video game I played when I was ten The worst part is right now I can’t remember One good thing happening
I have whiskey on my breath and I’m stammering A slurred request for something stronger in my next drink All the whiskey on my breath it is ruining Any chance I’ll get to not embarrass myself Walk up to you and say hello…
Louis C.K. is currently my favorite stand-up comedian. By leaps and bounds actually. In my mind no one even comes close to his ability to be legitimately funny, hilariously even, while making people laugh at taboo subjects they would normally politely shun. He’s obscene, yes. Very obscene actually. But he makes his audience laugh at obscenity, or at least at what we consider obscene, to show that those things we hold apart are often done so thoughtlessly, just a regurgitation of traditions we don’t understand or have neglected to examine. For example, here’s the opening 2 minutes of his most recent special, where he talks about the word fag, and, couched in humor, reminds the audience that it’s the intention of the speaker, not the word itself, which possesses the true power to defame. And I think our laughter, or at least my laughter, is a sort of acknowledged surrender to that truth.
After watching that you can understand my concern when, while reading a book by the much lauded Don Delillo, I came across this:
I was immediately worried. This one sentence did not augur well for the remaining 800 pages of the novel. I was faced with the prospect that they could be, well, faggy, and that seemed entirely overwhelming.
But then I remembered a recent South Park episode. I briefly skimmed the Wikipedia pages about Delillo and his novel, Underworld, and finding no references to loud Harley motorcycles, my fear regarding the remainder of the tome was assuaged, and I resumed reading.
Besides, the only reason I was reading Delillo in the first place was because he was recommended by Jeff Rosenstock (directly) and David Foster Wallace (indirectly), and both of those geniuses couldn’t be wrong.