I have to say, I didn’t expect to be making any text-heavy posts outside of the introduction and my discussions with some of my friends about romance related topics. I guess, though, a lot of things you don’t expect happen. I had been planning on posting a comic or two about being a sucker (which may still happen), but things just haven’t been playing out that way. Instead, one of the things I have been doing has been going through job postings on Craigslist. In between trying to find descent jobs among the postings for “*SUMMER JOBS!* STOP RIGHT WING ATTACKS ON REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS” and “Full-time Marketing/Project Manager,” I have been taking breaks here and there to read the missed connections.
At first, many of them appear to be ones like this. Well, they may all not be this bad but that is generally how many of them feel: lustful pick-ups to be delivered via the internet. Sort through the posts a bit and they become a bit more like this one. A little more charming, as people try to track down people they actually shared a moment with. Then there are those where someone is looking for a person they really lost. These different varieties of posts, though, aren’t the ones I want to talk at. There were two other kinds that I have been finding much more gripping.
One of the types is similar to this one or this one or this one too. Each one filled with people sharing with someone they know words and thoughts they can’t bear to say out loud. When I read them, I wonder if the writers ever hope for them to be read by who they are composed for or are they just messages shoved in bottles made with the express purpose to be lost at sea? Either way, I can see the romance and the catharsis in it. The posts feel like taking all those unsent letters that have been hidden away in the back of drawers or those e-mails left lurking in the drafts folder and transforming them into low-risk public displays. I have to admit, that since reading them, I catch myself composing one here and there in my head. They begin to function almost like a mode of short form poetry.
The most heartbreaking of the posts, though, are ones like this. This one is pretty killer, too. Truthfully, I don’t know if there is much I could say about them that the desperate longing of their contents doesn’t say better.
When I started checking out missed connections, I wasn’t ready for someone to break my heart in a sentence. Maybe I was expecting things to be a little more like the comics in “I Saw You…” rather than a string of heartfelt confessions. Maybe not as surprising is that men (whether looking for men or women) make missed connections posting by inordinate amount compared to women. When it comes to these posted dedicated to venting feelings (either for someone they know or in general), w4m possess the the greatest ratio compared to all the other categories. I am not exactly sure what conclusions to draw from from this or the fact that I am drawn to these lesser written posts. One fact that I am sure of is that the missed connections space has been (at least partially) turned into a place for people to anonymously vent their deepest longings and emotions has turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Since the first time I fell in love, one thing was immediately clear: I am a sucker. There may have been signs of this earlier in life, but the series of events that transpired out of my first real stab at romance offered the conclusive evidence. In order to try and find out what exactly causes someone to be this way, I decided to talk about life as a sucker with my long time friend and notorious fellow sucker Matt Halbauer.
How long have we known each other? It has been a few years.
A long time. We have know each other at least since the fall of 1998.
Yeah, that which is a ridiculous amount of time.
It is approaching on thirteen years.
In that time, I have know you through two relationships. Well, maybe not fully two relationships but two romantic relationships of significance. Besides that girl that still has your Raymond Chandler book, I don’t know if I am missing [anything]?
That one had no significance. We went out like one time.
Yeah, but am I missing any other insignificant relationships?
Well, maybe not.
It is that thing of one hand you are formed by your experiences so if I had more relationships in my early twenties would I necessarily be the person that I am now? So barring that, barring me turning into a different person (which is selfish) I would have preferred if I would have, you know,…I don’t want to say gotten around more. I would have preferred, it’s not in the sexual context, but it is like I just didn’t date a whole lot. It is one of those things, I kinda wish I had done that differently. There definitely things with the other relationship I wished I had done more elegantly which I know I have said before.
In that context, I am not unhappy with where I ended up. I am extremely happy with how things turned out. It’s just one of those things that if the situation now could have been at all improved, that is the only way I kind of wish. Maybe I would be better off in a certain context if I had, you know, a large data set to draw from when making decisions along these lines.
The two [relationships] that I have witnessed seemed to have been pretty intense for you, feelings, wise. Do you think that is pretty typical of your experience? Were your relationships before that similar or no? Were they pretty different?
It is weird where you start drawing delineations between different periods of your life, because, arguably the relationship I am in now, and have been in for seven-ish years at this point, is like my only…I almost consider it my only adult relationship. I mean the previous one, it was my high school girlfriend. It lasted out of high school for awhile but it is still caught up in being an adolescent. The only other one before that was completely full of adolescent shenanigans.
I am not sure if that has any bearing but they are weird to compare. On one hand, I was in all three of them so they have that common factor but I was a different person particularly for the last one. They all had their share of intensity but I think most [do] unless you are having a relationship with…I don’t want to say zero passion because that sounds retarded. It does sound stupid to talk about it in that kind of terminology. High school ones are going to be [intense] because of the age your are. Your body is doing what it is doing and you are adapting to hormonal stuff. Your brain is turning on you.
When I met you, I don’t know how much you know about my romantic past before that but I was getting over the first girl I was ever in love with.
And you have pretty much seen every, well maybe not literally seen, but been privy to every other one.
I have been privy to usually the crap that follows.
Do you think that I get sucked into them pretty easily? More than most?
I don’t know if you get sucked into them easily, it is just. I don’t know. It is a weird thing to try to figure out what the connective tissue between all of them other than you because that is obviously it. There is the thing if you are in a string of failed relationships, what is the one thing in common? They have you in common. I am saying that jokingly, I am not, I’m really not trying to make a point. You know that.
Do you want me to drop the phone and point two thumbs at myself and go, “This guy!”
I want you to scream at me, “This interview is over!” [laughter]
Everything that I’m aware of (because I know you like to have secrets so I already I know I don’t know everything and I am fine with that.) it seems like a majority of the time there is, I don’t want to say instability because that isn’t the right word but it is the best word I can come up. It’s not that the person is unstable but that there is enough going on in that person’s personal life or emotional life or professional (whether it is school work or work work). There is enough going on where there is a level of kind of instability. It always seems like when you are in any kind of relationship, you never know where you stand.
Not always, but yeah a lot of the time I think that is true.
And I am not saying that it is all of the time but that is a theme. But then again I don’t necessarily think that is that uncommon, you know?
Yeah, I am not really an expert in this and I don’t know how different mine is compared to what can be observed from other people. I mean, when you look at our romantic pasts, yours and mine are pretty different. You’ve had generally long term relationships with your last one being seven or did you say seven and a half years? That is pretty long.
The first kind of date was 2003; the end of 2003 because it was around the end of the year. So we are going on year eight now.
Yeah, so yours have been pretty long and mine have…the longest one I ever had was my first high school girlfriend, which was ridiculous, and that was five months. Anything else besides that has been a lot shorter. I feel like those are pretty different paths but I still feel like we are emotionally similar people. I mean, do you find that in our lives our hearts have a great sway on us than other people? Do you think that is fair for me to say that or do you think that is me finding commonality and transferring my feeling over to you?
I think the way you initially phrased this interview is why are we both suckers? I think that is entirely accurate. We probably have different things that set us off; we aren’t emotionally identical. The first thing I can think of, and this isn’t entirely pertinent, but you never get caught up in the story you are consuming and you know a coffee commercial can set me off.
That’s not true. There are movies…”Science of Sleep” destroyed me. I couldn’t handle that movie at all. Maybe it doesn’t happen as much but it happens.
I think with me, it is that I don’t repress it. Not that I am saying that you do repress it, but I tend to wear more of that stuff on my sleeve more than you do, maybe.
That might be that case. It takes very specific things to get me. This isn’t related to romance but when I am listening to the radio and people are triumphing over adversity in someway, that will get me choked up pretty easily. That is probably the thing that sets me off the most is stuff like that.
Have you find yourself being married now or just being in a relationship for so long, has it had any effect on how much of a sucker you are or is it the same, totally the same?
Part of it is that I know that it is a trait I share with my mom. It’s changed and maybe it has intensified as I have gotten older but it is necessarily because of my relationship. Its because I have gotten older and I am going to be prone, not that getting older makes you prone to that stuff. I give my mom a hard time about it and my mom is way worse than I am about it. Whenever I give her a present, I am trying to make her cry. If I don’t make her tear up, I feel like I have failed.
Do you think being a sucker isn’t just something related to romance? Do you think it relates to other things, too?
Oh god no. No. I am not saying that universally. I am sure that there are people that are complete stonewalls but when it comes to romantic love they completely lose their business. For me it is kind of across the board: I am a notorious sap, I’m a notorious cry baby, I’m a weepy drunk.
One of the first things I thought of when I was thinking about this was that if there is nothing else in the world that you are a sucker for, besides romance, is definitely you nephews.
Your are a total sucker, so I knew that it was something.
Between me and my brother, I place a different emphasis on family than he does even though he is the one with the family and its is just me and Kim. It’s not that he doesn’t put an emphasis on it but there are traditions that I adhere to as an adult that he could care less about. Now that he has kids, he comes over to my mom’s house on thanksgiving morning and we watch the parade. The parade wasn’t even relevant when we where kids but I think it is less relevant now for some reason. It just seems kind of anachronistic so it is a weird thing to be into. Now that he has a family, he brings his kids over and participates while I was doing it in my early twenties.
Do you think being a sucker, that there is any reason for it or that being a sucker is just part of who you are? That is it your role? It is the thing you do, you are a sucker.
I think it is pretty intrinsic. I can’t really tie it to anything. Most things I can tie to my parents getting divorced but I think that is a preexisting condition.
Early you were talking about your mom. Do you think that that is anything you learned from her?
It was. I don’t know if it’s genetic, or it’s learned, but I’m programmed to be very emotional, and I know, I got that from my mom in either case. Now, my brother didn’t. I don’t think that the two of us appear all that similar, but his girlfriend and my wife love to point out the the stuff that we don’t see. I don’t doubt that they’re right, I just haven’t seen it, or maybe I’m not even capable of seeing it. I don’t find any that all surprising now. Finding out about these individual aspects we share is always interesting in the respect of growing up thinking how completely different we were. But in terms of being sappy and emotional, that’s one way we’re worlds apart, at least in terms of expressing it. Not that my brother is a stoic stonewall or anything but, he doesn’t get choked up when teams that aren’t the Detroit Red Wings skate the Stanley Cup, where as I will. It is not even my team, and I am like “I know how hard those guys worked for it and they are so happy.” I will probably get a little hoarse and choke back a tear, because, I am a sap.
You seem to identify that as a defining characteristic: that you are a sap. I definitely think of myself as a sentimental person. One of the things I think about when I think about why I am such a sucker is I don’t know if it is that for a lot of things I clearly know what I want. Say in the romantic context, I clearly know what I want so when I find things fit that, which is rare, if that makes me latch on to it. Maybe I am completely off base, but I feel like when it comes to romance you always seemed to have a clear idea of what you wanted out of that. Do you think that I am wrong with that?
Ah, no. I don’t think that you are wrong. I think that that is probably pretty accurate. Case in point. Kim and I were…we got very involved very quickly. Some of that was because we already knew each other. We had a preexisting relationship because we were friends in high school together. That period was never romantic but she was someone that I knew so I didn’t have to build a certain level of base relationships there. It did accelerate really quickly so there was a mutual sense of this is kind of weird that I am this comfortable. So I am aware of that. I am not ignoring it, but at the same time I am not going to put the breaks on it because this feels really right.
That is how I remember it. Now, at the same time I remember being a little weary because there were some things I was not sure about in terms of, and this isn’t a secret because everyone knows this, she has no political awareness at all. Or at least at the time she didn’t. I have turned her into a little of a NPR fiend over the last few years. At the time this was leading into the ‘04 election and I was paying attention to early election stuff and she had no frame of reference. I had a moment of, I know I told you about this at the time, I don’t know if I want to do this. I had to make a decision of if this was something I could live with.
Obviously, you did, you can. I was just trying to think if there was anything in common between us to explain that or if we just come form completely difference places; to being suckers.
Because I didn’t put myself in a position to be in relationships that might not have been a good idea, and I am not saying you are. The one I’m in and the one I hope to be in until they put me in the ground is really the only one I have been in as an adult. It is something that is pretty hard to theorize about. Previous to that, had I not been hung up on the same person for a really long period of time and not sought out relationships. It kind of goes back to the one of the first questions you asked, it is hard for me to gage because I was never in a situation where I was like “I don’t know if I want to do this.” I take that back. I did decided to not call that girl back even though she had my Chandler book. So clearly, she was not even worth calling back and she had a book I really wanted. That was weird. That was a decision where I decided to wait for her to call me back. I don’t know why.
I guess you were in your early twenties when you started dating Kim, but you were still in your twenties and you don’t feel like you were an adult before that? You keep on saying that that was your only adult relationship. Do you feel like you where an adult when you were hung up on your previous relationship?
Well, it is a transitive whole period. Its early twenties, you are shedding some adolescent stuff. You are learning how to handle certain things. Adulthood, I am not saying anything new, there is not a firm boundary on it. I lived with the realization, the internal knowledge that as emotionally tied up as I was with one person, the relationship wasn’t going to work or wasn’t going to happen on that level. I was just like I am just going to have to live with it. After a long time of trying to force it, even I knew that maybe it wasn’t a good idea. I kind of turned on that finally and I knew it was not going to work. I was not going to turn around and start something to try and get my head out of it. That is the thing that people at the time, that weren’t you mind you , other people were telling me you have to just go see somebody else, date someone else. I was like, “I don’t want to and that is going to feel wrong, that is going to feel wrong to me and that is not fair to the other person because I know that I am not invested in there. I am not completely invested in that person, I am still some place else.” I didn’t want to do anything until I had a naturally occurring instance where I wanted to be with someone else just in the most basic sort of hangy, “I kind of like this person,” kind of way. I didn’t want to do anything. I am not sure that I knew that up front but that is pretty much what it turned into. So, I don’t know if it is a clear thing of having a transition or having a clear boundary of this happened and then this happened. I was different here from this point forward. There were certain events that definitely happened but they don’t necessarily correspond to a specific timeline. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does. I think I am pretty similar with that. I have in the past not had relationship because I was still interested in someone else or whatever and it didn’t feel right. Do you think that that could be related to suckerness of it, that it gets you so much. Maybe for other people is not such a big deal but they have you so bad that you can’t forget about it?
I stand by the notion the way that I am like that isn’t necessarily really healthy. I don’t know. but I am not saying it is not. I am not saying that it is not the way people should be but it is the way I responded to it. It could be a situation where for someone else they can start another relationship and clearly it is going to start it at a different point than the one they just got out of. That doesn’t mean hey are emotionally settled for what came before but they are going to try and move on anyway. That doesn’t mean they are doing something inappropriate or imprudent. I don’t know, I am not trying to disclaim my way out of this but that was my experience. I don’t know if it was right or detrimental.
I guess what I am proposing is the idea if that has to do with the fact of how we are emotionally and maybe for other people they can do that. This isn’t good or bad but the difference between people.
I agree. I think that might be what we are describing. There might be a certain subset of person that doesn’t want to pursue something else until they have reached a certain level of comfortably. That is the thing, it is not about getting to a point where you don’t feel anything. I don’t think that is a point you get to because I didn’t. With the person we are talking about, with that relationship, even though I don’t see her a lot she still one of my best friends I will ever have and I love her dearly but now it is completely platonic. I don’t even pretend to know when that happened. There was a point where I still felt exclusively romantic and I had the knowledge that, “This isn’t going to work. Regardless of what your emotional state is, you know this is not going to be a thing that will work for either person. You are just stuck with that until those feeling subside or those feelings turn into something else.”
We are suckers, so when something happens it involves you in a way that takes up a lot of your mental space. For me, I don’t know of many if any times in my life where I have had more than one person that I have been interested in at the same time. There might be one, well maybe one. Part of that is maybe you can’t do something else because you…not that you are waiting for yourself to be totally over it or because you are still hung up. That is part of it but your brain just doesn’t have the space.
You just don’t have the capacity, the emotionally capacity to process a new variable.
Yeah, for whatever reason you can just handle one variable at a time. Recently, I started having a conversation (that is probably going nowhere now) with someone on OKCupid. They seem perfectly nice and like a descent match for me but it wasn’t a very good conversation because I didn’t have the mental space. I am going to try doing this, I think it will be good for me to do this and it resulted in nothing because my heart wasn’t in it, you know what I mean?
I know that in some cases I am my own best argument why monogamy is…can be a hardwired choice for some people. Not a hardwired choice but a hardwired preference. It might be a mixture of social conditioning, it might be a nature/nurture thing and not just one of the other. Just based on my pattern, I have displayed no ability to be able or willing to entertain the possibility of multiple relationships. Granted I have always be in a social position where the chances of someone being interested in me was pretty low to begin with.
So when your friends want you to see someone else or so and so likes you (I can’t believe I just used so and so) and your response is “I am in love with someone else.” They ask “how is that working out for you?” They feel like because that there is not a relationship that it shouldn’t factor. The reason you say that you are in love with someone else is that you don’t have the space to take to something new in.
You don’t have the capacity. It is not necessarily an issue of, it is something you have said previously, it is not that I am holding out hope that this relationship. I am not repeating what you said but I totally agree with it. I am not dating someone not because I am holding out hope that something is going to turn them and they are going to run back to me. At one point, I was like that but I hit that point where I was like, “It not going to happen. I have known that for a while but I am not going to ignore that anymore so I am not going to try and get this person. I am going try and have some distance. I am not going to completely cut them out of my life because they are still someone I care about. I am going to try and structure my relationship with this person differently. But that doesn’t mean I am in anyway capable of taking on another relationship.” You’ve talked about it in terms of not having the mental capacity for it. I think that that is…
Maybe emotional capacity.
Yeah, emotional capacity and I think that there might be something to that for some people. I think that you hit on, you spelled out one of the ways that you and I are similar in a way that we haven’t previously run into the ground.