My ex’s new girlfriend looks like me. That’s what my friends say.
“It’s because she’s not over you,” one tells me.
My ex also worships Alex on Orange is the New Black, Tina Fey and Lauren Graham when Lauren pops on her reading glasses. Are you sensing a pattern here? I am, and it has very little to do with me.
Back in college a girl I liked took in my motorcycle jacket and tweed skirt. “You got that sexy librarian thing going,” she said.
I wore glasses because I was afraid to touch my eyes, a motorcycle jacket because I grew up around bikers, and that day, a tweed skirt because all my pants were dirty. My reasons didn’t matter though. Not to some near stranger taking my measure. Inside me, pleasure (Hot girl thinks I’m sexy!) fought annoyance (Superficial girl thinks I understand the Dewy Decimal System!).
“Actually, I’m illiterate,” I said.
I’ve always bristled at the idea that my specific personality traits, ethnic background, astigmatism, fashion missteps, and intellect when added together might render me a concise package, deceptively easy to categorize and understand. I’ve been referred to as a skinny jew, a smart hottie, and yes, a sexy librarian. Nothing wrong with any of these descriptions. Who’s going to fight smart skinny and sexy, the sibilant trinity? Turns out, I am. Or I did. For years.
“I bet you’re a health food girl,” a new friend would say and I’d shoot a sad glance at the menu. I’d wanted a salad but obviously I had no choice but to order fries.
“You remind me of Sarah Silverman,” a first date would tell me, and I’d find myself pointing out how Sarah’s hair is straighter, her background more traditionally Jewish, but OK, we both appreciate a good fisting joke. (My new favorite: A grandfather says to his grandson, “If the rain keeps up, it’s going to be nightmare out there.” Grandson: “Tell me something I don’t know.” Grandfather: “Your grandmother can take my whole hand up her ass.”)
My resistance to being labeled stems from a need to feel seen. I can’t stand the idea of being misconstrued, misquoted, misheard or anything else beginning with “mis.” Don’t even get me started on “sub.” (That was prefix humor. Not what you’d expect from a writer/librarian type is it? Crap.)
I also harbor an urge for everything to happen now. Instant gratification takes too long. There’s a gas pedal in my soul, man and it is pressed to the floorboards. If we meet at a party, I don’t want to discuss the weather or your day job. I want you to tell me what you’re most ashamed of. I want you to ask me whether I believe in God. So, if some shallow idea of who I am stands between us truly connecting, to paraphrase Peta, I’d rather go naked than wear…glasses and a leather jacket, I guess. Unless it’s under 60 degrees. And all the other party guests better be less attractive than me. The point is, I believed being identified as a type jammed the intimacy radar, kept people from catching a glimpse of my soul.
But here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with truth in advertising. The Apple store doesn’t have a giant picture of a PC in its front window. When you order coffee at Starbucks, they don’t tell you they only sell roast chicken. Plus, we live in a instantaneous society. We want a snap shot, a sound byte. We want to know what we’re in for and we want to know now. Which isn’t so different from my instantaneous connectivity compulsion, really. Sure there’s more to me than my glasses, my here’s-hoping-I-marry-a-doctor/Sabbath-starts-at-sundown-hair. But if those aspects of me provide a tiny introduction, a possible glimpse into what I might offer, is that really a bad thing?
With this in mind, in my recent 2.3 seconds back on the dating scene, I made a conscious decision to embrace my type. One of my Okcupid photos featured me peering from a thicket of trees looking kooky! In another I wore a pencil skirt and clutched a copy of my favorite book. Skimming other people’s profiles, I found a woman who wrote: “If you have glasses and a giant vocabulary, I’m already half in love with you. Dark hair and a sense of the absurd are a plus.” My first message to her read “I mean….right?!” She replied: “I was just thinking the same thing.” Didn’t pan out, but only because I met someone I preferred.
And by the way, my current relationship began with a volley of messages praising the oxford comma and ranking Woody Allen movies (Top three: Annie Hall, Love and Death, Play it Again Sam) — not exactly weighty. But my romantic partner has years to learn things like, for a Jew I sure do celebrate christmas and for a lesbian you’d think I’d have heard of scissoring, and yep, I certainly have a wooden leg. (OK, I don’t really have a wooden leg. But if I did, I would definitely promote myself to pirates. Or parrots. Or, I don’t know, termites.)
The fact is, there’s no fast track to intimacy; most relationships start out superficial. We have years to go deep. And that wasn’t a euphemism for fisting. Except that it totally was.