"I'm sorry, I can't do this. I found your poetry ... I know how deeply you feel and I don't think I can give you what you need," he texted me after not showing up for what would be our third date, before getting to know me IRL, in the flesh, beyond the URLs he defined me with. This was not so much a surprise to me as it was a disappointment. It was the second guy in the last month who did a little bit too much Googling after our second date and decided against a third. "I read some of your writing. You're pretty intense," another man texted me after only one date.
My most recent ex manifested in a book of poetry published shortly after we ended. And the ex before in a series of articles chronicling his infidelity, and the one before that in my forthcoming novel. So listen, date cancelers, I get it. It only takes a few minutes of Internet-stalking to figure out that I write about my relationships and openly share my feelings with everyone online or off. I can see how that can be intimidating. I can see why someone might not be eager to sign up to be a potential villain in my next piece.
But it's my job to confess. I don't do it to shame my exes, I don't do it to exploit anyone's feelings. I write because I have to. And I share because it allows me to connect. I write for the people who are going through the same things and need to know they're not alone. I write to make sense of it all. I write the stories I want to read and trust that I'm not unique. And if you really think about it, I'm not doing anything different than the other people you've dated. We all share bits and pieces of our relationships on the Internet for all to see. Usually it's just less direct — say, thinly veiled jabs captioning a photo posted on Instagram.
Now, when meeting someone new, I'm torn. Part me of wants them to just get it over with, Google the hell out of me and rip the band-aid off quickly. But the other part of me wants to ask them not to read it. To get to know me at our own rate. To share information with each other as we please and as is appropriate. So I don't have to feel like a piece of walking luggage every time I look into their eyes. So they don't have to look at me and see all of my past relationships in a projection of text across my face.
And on a much, much, much smaller scale, that attitude adopted by public characters like Taylor Swift and Carrie Bradshaw has inspired me to keep doing my thing. Because you can look at it two ways: if you don't want to end up in print, don't date someone who writes it. Or, you can look at the things public figure write and sing about as forms of expression that are not as signifiant or all-consuming as you might suspect. Taylor is not at home crying about boys all day. One small instance often inspires a piece of work that's no longer a representation of the magnitude of its importance. Taylor's out singing the same songs every night for years on end, that doesn't mean that she's hurting all the time. I know for myself, and for many, once the instance has been transposed from thought to paper, it loses its power. So while you might be reading it over and over again, trying to define a person between the spaces, I'm already over it.
As much as it can sometimes feel like going on a second date is like walking into the cafeteria after everyone there has had a chance to read your diary, there's a comfort in believing that right person will hold judgements for actions. But, as people who write for the internet know now, the right person won't try to sum you up to your articles. The right person will get to know you IRL.
Images: HBO; Giphy