“But, you are so cool!”
This is what one guy told me as he was breaking up with me after a short-lived yet well-matched relationship. He ended the budding romance because I anonymously blogged about him – and I wrote only good things, mind you. Apparently, it was too much, and he disappeared from my life as quickly as he arrived.
The coolness aspect recently came up again. A hip local coffee house manager reminded me that I sometimes appear unapproachable. He used the word, “stately,” when I’m roaming around the place. “You often seem so intense, so engrossed in what you are doing. If someone looks at you, they think you aren’t accessible,” he points out. “Then, if they learn anything about your life and your writing, a lot of men might be a little intimidated.”
This advice comes from a super guy, a good friend (and someone I briefly dated), who once told me that he felt inept to bring out all of my intellectual awesomeness. “You need someone, like, I don’t know…a professor or something,” he said.
Of course, I had one of those in my life, and he no longer talks to me.
“You really should smile more,” coffee house dude offered, “because I know that you are really sweet, but you come off super confident and composed, like you have your shit together. That freaks some men out. But, of course, you don’t want men who can’t handle it.”
But, of course.
What an irony. Many men may not approach me because I seem like I got it going on, like I’m something special. Yet, I have to battle five hundred insecurities just to show up for daily life.
My dilemma isn’t unique. Creative people everywhere tow around baggage. Creative women all over the world struggle between finding confidence in their craft while making room for someone brave enough to be their companion.
Add the Muslim part to it, and things get really weird.
I’m an introvert. I enjoy being alone and it takes real effort to get me out of the house for anything, even for people and places I know I’ll enjoy. I’m a single mother without a local support system, and that adds complications to having any sort of social life. I am in my head all the time and it is not a bad place to hang out. Yet, I occasionally need an escape route, but such detours are hard to come by. Honestly, no man asks me out. Ever. I never get approached. So it is no wonder that I retreat into my writing, because that space always reciprocates.
There are times that I just want to have a date – I want to go somewhere with a guy, have some nice food and good conversation. I work around wonderful women all day. I have a few close female friends. I am Virgo earth element. Enough with the Divine feminine already: too much girl power makes one feel imbalanced. I need some men in my life.
Meeting new people is hard. Here are my dilemmas: Online dating is out. The concept makes me want to vomit, although I applaud success stories. There is a lot about my life out in the world and online dating makes me feel vulnerable. A potential date, if he knows my real name, will access far more about me in one Google search than I may ever know about him. That makes me uncomfortable.
It is challenging in other ways for single creative women. There aren’t many cultural precedents for it. There are archetypes for the single male writer, for example, that assert his time is being used in a valuable way. A professionally or financially ambitious women has space in society. Yet, a soft cultural assumption remains that that a single woman who writes or engages in art has an expendable hobby, like it may not pay off for her anyway.
Writing rarely “pays” off well for anyone, regardless of gender. Most writers work day jobs just to live, and writing happens in that precious spare time that normal people use for their social lives. Productive writers are married to their craft. There can be consequences to this — like staggering loneliness.
Then, if you are a single female writer who dates, the writing thing produces weird dynamics. Avital Chizhik, an Orthodox Jew, wrote about the predicaments of dating, especially religious courtship, with stuff out in the world, “I can already predict the end of the evening,” she writes, “or perhaps next week or three weeks after that, when he will make that inevitable, anxious joke, ‘So, will your next story be about me?’ And I smile and think, ‘Do something interesting first.’”
That is the catch: if a man comes into my life, it is highly probable that I will write about him at some point. It may not be this week; it may not be this year, but if he means something to me, I’ll throw it in a future book or blog post. Real names will never be used, of course. If he becomes an important fixture in my inner world, I will write in ways to protect and cherish his presence. I get it, however: the things that make me cool also make me scary.
So I am issuing a challenge to potential date or any just-friend material reading this blog entry: be brave enough to show up in my world. I will immortalize you in prose. I will cook for you and pamper you in many ways.
And of course, I will smile.