Friday, February 10, 2006

162. an ode to my readers

I'm turning 34 this month. And only within the last few months have I been content as a single person. Now I don't mean I'm glad I'm single or that I'm enjoying my singleness, what I mean is, I'm not anxious or depressed or very much concerned about being single. And I call that being content.

Many of you know this (some of you don't), but I've been single every one of my 34 years on this planet. But ever since I recognized that there were two sexes, I've been fascinated by women (and baffled by men, and I'm not sure what that means). I never went through that phase in childhood where I thought girls had cooties. They've always seemed like this deep, beautiful mystery. So wanting to have a girlfriend has been a perpetual monkey on my back.

I think if I had more confidence when I was younger (and I could still use some now), and if I had game (the ability to talk to women so that they're charmed and attracted instead of confused and mildly repulsed), I think I'd be one of those guys who went from girl to girl, who was never single for more than a couple weeks. And I wonder what that would have been like, but that's not how things worked out for me. Instead, I was nerdy, awkward, and shy as a teenager; nerdy, shy, and clueless in my early twenties; depressed, angry, and confused in my late twenties. Now that I'm in my early to mid thirties, all I can say is that I'm relatively sure of myself - well, sure enough that I don't think I'd be the co-dependent, wreck that I might have been had I had a girlfriend(s) earlier in life.

It's only been in the last few years that I've really felt comfortable in my own skin. For example, the other night I went to a funeral for a coworker who had died after a long battle with cancer. It was an Episcopal memorial service held at the beautiful St. Andrew's Cathedral, and it was one of those strange events where you're not quite sure how to act. I mean at work, we kid around as coworkers (when the nose is not to the grindstone), but in this somber, formal setting, it's awkward. And in the past, I'd be a wreck at something like this because back then, if I was in a setting where I didn't know how to act, I'd freak out and think that I was the only clueless one and that everybody was staring at idiot me - doing, saying, thinking all the wrong things. But that night at the memorial service, I didn't care that I didn't know precisely how to act (luckily, I had been to liturgical services before so I wasn't completely clueless), I just went with the flow.

I think the two are linked - the being comfortable with myself and the contentment at not having a girlfriend. I confess that one of the (many) reasons I wanted to have a girlfriend was as a kind of support, someone who would be there to reassure me when confidence waned. What I wanted was a kind of safe harbor, a shelter, someone who would love me even if I screwed up. And I thought that would free me to take more risks with my writing and with how I expressed myself and with how lived. I thought that without this safety net, that I'd never have the confidence to think, speak, and act freely.

See, it pains me to say this, but as a Christian, there's a subtle but sure pressure to conform to the herd mentality (see blog 157). Step outside too much and you risk getting dissed, maybe even shunned. And it won't be so obvious as excommunication, it's more subtle - it's in they way people look at you askance, they way they mistake tolerance for acceptance. It's like being a Mac user in a PC convention. Sure you're a computer user, but you're one of those OTHER computer users.

And the Mac/PC analogy is useful here because just as I think the PC platform is bankrupt and corrupt and outdated (while Macs are elegant, innovative, and forward-thinking), I think a lot of mainstream Christianity is missing the point of the Gospel and the kingdom of God (see blog 161). And as a Christian, I wanted to stop hiding the fact that I was tired of the PC monopoly and I wanted to share my frustrations and point towards something more practical and useful and Biblical. But taking a stand like that can be a lonely venture and I wanted someone there at the end of the day who would tell me that I was okay even when others were rejecting me.

But then at some point I stopped caring what people at church thought. I stopped caring what people outside the church thought. There was no epiphany, no defining moment that led to this change of heart. It was a slow shift into this new (tougher) skin. And now that I don't care anymore, it's like I don't need the girlfriend safety net anymore and thus the newfound contentment in being single.

But the safety net wasn't the only reason I wanted a girlfriend. I like seeing artsy movies and going to art galleries, but one thing that always bothered me was not being able to talk about what I'd seen. It was frustrating because the better the movie or the more engaging the art, the more I wanted to talk about it with someone - I wanted to know how someone else reacted to the work and to share my own reactions and in so sharing, to find a deeper appreciation of the art. I wanted someone to share the world with, to remember the world with, to boldly-go-where-no-man-has-gone-before with. I wanted someone to share, to debate, to spar intellectually with. I wanted to try and see the world through another's eyes.

And now? Hmmm...well, now I have this blog where I can share my thoughts and people seem to like reading it and I get some interesting, affirming comments. And it's not the same as what I thought having a girlfriend would be like, but it sort of fills a need. Hmph...I never really thought about it that much, but I suppose blogging has really been good for me. I mean, it's something that takes up a lot of time and I try to post on a somewhat regular basis and I guess I wouldn't go through all the trouble if it wasn't doing something good for me.

Wow, that's kind of a revelation for me. I mean I've always appreciated all the hits I get on my blog, and I especially appreciate the comments that get left, but I always thought this was just some novelty thing I did on the side, not something that was helping me be a bit more whole.

And maybe it's apropos that as my MySpace blog passes the 4,000 hit mark and my blogspot mirror blog just passed the 1,000 hit mark, that I formally thank my readers and let them know that the very act of reading (and more so commenting) has made a difference in my life.

And so, thank you.

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