There's no good way to excerpt this piece, so here's the whole thing, minus the Radiohead lyric that gives it its title, followed by a few words from me.

It was the final round of my online dating experience that taught me a lesson: I am not ready to date. I think I already knew this, but loneliness and delusion had convinced my tender heart that it was ready to move past the depression and anxiety of the previous five years and start afresh. I deliberately ignored the fact that my choice of venue for The Great Moving On online dating, the most impersonal meet-and-greet on the face of the planet was evidence that I was unprepared. I ignored the fact that online dating gave me exactly what I wanted human contact but that I could take it only as far as I wanted without having to move past the boundaries of comfort I had built over the years. I ignored that this was my sickness, neatly packaged in a new, safe way.

What I learned is that I don't want to date. What I want is to be redefined in the way that a new relationship would define me. I want to see myself the way a man would see me, before he experienced my emotional highs and lows, my insecurity, my sadness, and my disappointment in myself. What I want is for someone to look at me and know me in a way I do not see and know myself. For a glorious moment, I want to see myself without the cloak of disgust and unrest that I wear every day. I realized that I don't want to bring someone into my life. I want them to drag me out of it and into theirs. I want to be rescued from the hole I have dug for myself.

My online dating foray ended sadly when I met ("met" meaning "talked with" and not "physically stood in each other's presence") a man that truly interested me. He was more messed up than I was, and that intrigued me. Here was someone who understood the hurdles of depression and the constant questioning that accompanies medication and therapy. Here was someone who saw me and didn't wonder why I froze up when certain topics of conversation were broached. Here was someone who knew instinctively that there was more to my answers than the words that I spoke. He began to point out my idiosyncrasies, those that were funny or cute, things that I didn't believe to exist. He began to paint a picture of me that I hadn't seen in a long while. A picture that I desperately missed. A picture I needed to hang on my wall and stare at until I believed the picture to be real.

But he wanted to meet. He insisted. And I got scared. And refused to take the hand he offered that would have helped me out of my hole.

The loss I feel is twofold. I fear that I missed an opportunity that I will never be able to get back. And I fear that the person I have become, discontent and regretful, stagnant and unattractive, is the person that I am and will forever be. I fear that my hole is my final resting place, and that Life will continue to happen around me but that I will only see it and will never experience it.

I am responsible for myself, I know this. I have the power to change my life, I know this too. But what they don't tell you before you embark on the rollercoaster of medication and therapy is that these "solutions" only take you so far. You may no longer want to die, but you also don't have the energy to live. You function, you move, you work. You get up every day, tired and weary, but you perform out of necessity. The desire for something better is there, but initiative is not. Medication and therapy do not give you the strength to make changes, and the secret to getting well is to pretend to be well but the pretending kills you little by little.

I am not lost. I know exactly where I am. I created this place and have no one to blame for my unhappiness. The realization that I will spend my life with myself is more depressing than I can explain.

I wish I had the strength to change myself, but knowing that I don't, I wish that someone else would change me. I wish that someone would pluck me out of my life, fix me, and then put me back. I wish that I didn't feel this way. But most of all, I wish that wishes weren't all that I have.

In some way, I think we're all pretty much unprepared for the meet market: it's a slaughterhouse out there. I have managed to come up with some semblance of a social life, but the ground rules are set in stone and are to be considered inviolable: "We are Just Friends. You will not at any time dare to venture off this path." And yes, it beats the hell out of sitting at home alone every single weekend. Still, while this practice has its rewards, and I wouldn't give them up, it does not lead toward Finding Someone, and in fact may work against it: given the choice between having a good time with an old drinking buddy okay, she's not that old, and she doesn't drink, but this is the dynamic which is pretty close to being a sure thing, and embarking on an evening with someone you don't really know yet, a situation fraught with peril, what would you do?

Yeah, that's what I thought. Screwing your courage to the sticking-place, as Lady Macbeth was wont to counsel, is very likely to get you screwed, and not in a good way either.

I've always been discontent and regretful, always stagnant and unattractive; I can't point to any incident in childhood that could conceivably have created such characteristics, so I have to assume that I was born with them and therefore, that I will die with them. "Things can always change," we are told: it doesn't mean they will. And I have more reason than most to believe in the power of transformation: right now, I have a 3-0 record against the Grim Reaper, having survived three incidents that could easily have killed me. Yet while a couple of these threats to my person applied a much-needed layer of reinforcement to my otherwise fairly vague religious beliefs, none of them did much of anything to improve my personality.

Over the years, I have learned to fake a certain level of equanimity regarding my chronic datelessness: I invoke the standard litany "The woman of my dreams does not exist, and if she did, what would she want with me in the first place?" and then I change the subject. And no, I don't think the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City.

Just to prove that I'm a glutton for punishment, I picked up the DVD of What Dreams May Come. And to prove that I'm not truly masochistic, I managed to avoid watching it for nearly a year, finally pulling the disc out of its shrinkwrap as a test, I told myself, of my new HDTV, as though heartbreak were somehow more palatable in high definition. I wanted to hate it, to rip the disc out of its tray and hurl it against the wall. But I begrudge no one his or her true love; I just wish there could be one for me, if not for eternity, for just a few minutes, or at least long enough for the tears to subside.

Which they did, eventually. I think. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

The Vent

  10 June 2007

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 Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill