Have you ever heard your voice and felt your lips moving, while being completely aware that you have no control over the words slipping out of your mouth?
Okay, I’m sure this kind of thing happens easily during an extended/excessive happy hour. Or after months of keeping a dirty secret spirited away in the bottom drawer of your mind. Interpersonal battle royales. Terrifying instants. Yes, there are plenty of excuses for blurting out something you never meant to say.
My problem is of slightly different nature.
And yes, it is most definitely a problem.
On more than one occasion I have found myself betraying the exact OPPOSITE of my feelings. It’s not exactly lying. I have absolutely no control over the dialogue bubble forming above my head, yet I am mostly-to-completely sober and alert. I am probably more surprised by my statements than the innocent listener.
You want examples, don’t you? Some sort of excruciating anecdote?
Here you go:
Last year. I was hanging out in a bar with some friends. Yeah, I had thrown back two Jamesons-on-the-rocks, but I swear I hadn’t reached the lispy/regretful zone.
So was talking to this guy I really, really like. Or more. Yes, definitely more than “really, really like.” Really, not only did I want to go back to his apartment for some no-clothes wrestling, but I wanted to hang out with him every single day, hearing all of his stories and listening to all of his records.
We get into some kind of “what’s going on between us” conversation. Not only are we tipsy, but we have a long, complicated (but mostly fun) history. So the frequently impractical–yet entirely truthful–voice in my head is telling me to say, “Hey, I am completely crazy for you. I’m not dating anyone because I can’t stop comparing everyone to you. Because seriously, no one in the world is as cool as you. Be my boyfriend and we’ll think about geography/other logical concerns later.”
But instead, I hear myself saying something very different. “I’m just really glad that we can have this casual, friend thing, because every time I sleep with some guy, he thinks I’m his girlfriend. But you’re smart enough to know otherwise.”
If I was “hanging out” with a fellow, and he said this to me, I would either:
Toss a drink in his face (unless it was a bloody mary, because that would stain his clothes) and storm out of the bar.
Don a big grin while relentlessly biting my tongue, then never answer another phone call from him.
So, yeah. I’m that jerky guy that you met on MySpace/Facebook, who slept with you a dozen times and then said “I’m glad you can understand that we’re just friends.” Feel free to throw a room temperature beverage at me.
I swear I wasn’t always this way. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I should never, ever share my true feelings with anyone. Like many of my fucked up defense mechanisms, I’m pretty sure this habit began during the Ryan era. Sure, I could blame my tragic childhood, but I actually remember being really straight forward about my emotions with my first boyfriend Brad. I threw a coffee table at him. He hurled eggs at me. It was all reasonably healthy, in a very young adult way.
But Ryan (and all of the disappointment and pain that came with him) taught me that the best emotions were left unsaid. Maybe it was the time he declared, “Yeah, pretty soon I’m going to like you as much as you like me.” Or the uncountable week-long breakups. His ultimate disappearance from my life. Or more likely, all of these AND more that I cannot remember right now.
For a few years, great effort was required to obscure my deepest/most frightening feelings. Imagine many fake smiles betraying themselves with drooping corners. Tears attributed to allergies. Random exits from social situations (so I could retreat to my home to pull myself together). A constant tightness in my chest. Sleepless nights. Figurative self-flagellation.
But somewhere along the line, it became second nature. Even when I WANT to lay it all out…especially those moments engineered specifically for earth-shattering declarations, my subconscious jumps in and takes the reins. “I love you” becomes “Is it cool if I sleep with your friends?”
This problem has become so frustrating/destructive…that when I had to call someone just to say that I wanted to “talk,” my best friend helped me write a fucking script on a piece of notebook paper, lest I find myself saying something else. (And just now, I’m thinking that maybe jotting down some notes is a good way to keep my mind on track. Especially if I write them on my hand with a Sharpie. I can’t hide that one.)
So this is one of my projects for 2009: Cure my brain of “Opposite Day.” It’s vying with “Finish the book” for the top slot. I’m open to any helpful hints.