Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I'm discovering

What we're talking about in therapy is that when you have a parent who doesn't protect, provide, and love you unconditionally like they're supposed to, you end up with this built in "I'm not good enough" core belief.

What's strange is even if one of the parental units IS there for you the way they're supposed to be, humans are quicker to believe the bad than the good about themselves (remember all those criticisms but none of the compliments?). So it becomes "Well she's my mom, she HAS to love me." And since my father figure was a narcissist, there was a game afoot of me constantly trying to prove I was worthy of his love, and him telling me over and over no, I wasn't. This pattern continued into adulthood until I ended communication with him three years ago. A decision no therapist has ever questioned or not supported.

Which means the only time I'm ever really calm inside is when I'm with another man I've given that power to again to judge me as being acceptable, and things are going well.

The way this insecurity is playing out in my dating life has been really interesting. I was aware enough to NOT do the thing where I'm the girl who is always in a relationship and has the next one planned out before I leave the current one. So I avoided the serial monogamist sandtrap.

Instead, I've spent most of my adult life alone trying to avoid dating men exactly like my father. But no matter what superficial characteristics I eliminate from the dating pool (can't be tall, can't be a doctor...oh wait, that didn't work, let's try a social extrovert!), I always end up with someone lesser than me who is intense, moody, competitive with me and puts me down.

Fun times. You can see why I opted out of dating for years. The relationships I chose were not places where partnership and fun were occuring.

What my therapist and I are working on now is getting me a large pool of single men to sort through for the right fit. In the past I've gotten confused and hung up on guys who were a partial fit, and slipped back into my "I can be anything, I'll prove myself to daddy!" mode. So we're detangling the notion of finding a father figure who accepts me from the dating process. Working on me accepting myself, and framing dating as a trip to Ross: sort through those racks quickly for the one or two gems that are perfect for me.

To that end, I'm now on several dating sites where I've been contacted by about 50 men on each site. The goal is lots of first dates, very few second dates, and for me to get in the drivers seat and take charge of really evaluating if they have the things I need: kindness, a creative mind, curiousity, wit, moderately good-looking, educated, don't want kids, in a field not competitive with mine.

And then when I get excited because I think I've found someone who might fit, I have to take things ultra slow and not jump into anything thing until I've known him several months and his behavior consistently fits his words.

I've been really good about NOT blogging about the date that upset me and sent me back into therapy, but you know what? Eff it. Dating is like deciphering a murder mystery novel, so maybe this will help another woman out there...

He had grown up with a friend of mine, had demonstrated good ethics and reliability in a crisis my sister witnessed, and he looked like a good surface match. We had a fantastic two-hour conversation the night we met at a charity function, he was wildly enthusiastic about me and pursued me immediately with gusto.

He was a comic book geek finishing a microbudget film, so I could see our lives fitting together as filmmaking partners (my greatest fanstasy, dammit). He used to be an actor (red flag!), and had a gilded tongue that said all the right things. He was an adventurous traveller and loved that I was being laissez-faire about where I ended up living (my second greatest fantasy: being global filmmaking partners).

Knowing I'd broken up with someone who didn't get the movie "Miracle Mile" he set up an extravagant, lovely homemade brunch and first date screening of it at his house so I could determine if he was qualified to date me. All sounds great, right?

It was great. We had long intimate conversations about the value of family, our religious beliefs, our outlooks on life, my problems with The Commune and how it meant at the most I'd have a quick vacation to Prague. Everything matched up. He knew I wanted to seriously date and said that was what he wanted.

He loved my movie, and used it as some sort of intense connector for us because he works in the building the helicopter takes off from, and I lived in a place featured in the movie. So "Miracle Mile" became this shorthand intimacy for an implied "oh we're meant to be" vibe.

He was an okay kisser and a great cuddler/napper (I think we fell asleep in each other's arms on his couch for about two hours). He said beautiful, worshipful things to me while I was in his arms, but pushed too hard for sex. He got to third base and then kneeled in front of me for more. I stopped him, telling him my heart was attached to my body and I wanted to date him seriously. He said that was great and rare. He acted happy about it and finding me and said he understood. I thought "Yea! I'm dating a great guy!"

He walked me to my car, introducing me to a neighbor (saying "Don't worry, she'll get used to you") and promised to call in a week for our second date. We both forgot about my DVD because he was so fast ushering me out (it had been a seven hour date so that didn't seem strange), but when he found it that night he emailed that he would "keep it safe and warm" until our next date.

A couple nice little emails a few days after, then he disappeared.

I spent ten days wondering what he would cook up for our second date, and picturing what little movies we were going to make together in the future. Then the oxytocin wore off. The hormonal bonding switch went off, and I could see he wasn't going to call me. And I felt hurt and totally used and freaked out I'd picked another liar and what the hell was wrong with me?

I couldn't take the waiting around for the platonic return of a DVD I knew I'd want to shove up his ass, so I emailed another week later. Said under the circumstances of being sexually intimate with him and then never hearing from him, to please keep my DVD as another gift.

He apologized profusely for his bad behavior and said embarrassment over it had made him shy to reach out to me again. He asked for "the honor" of a second date. He said he wanted to take things slower, so him arranging a midweek lunch date didn't seem strange. I agreed to it provided he call me after (boundary setting, fix the behavior I didn't like. I was trying.).

Him emailing me right before lunch that he needed my cell phone number because he left my business card at home seemed strange, but I was already almost out the door to meet him.

Him showing up in shorts to the cheap Chinese restaurant he chose and had me MEET him at despite the fact that my apartment was on his route had my spidey sense a-tingling. Then he conducted our second date like a Hollywood business meeting, all about his movie and work. He talked about the two parties he'd had where industry people had seen "Miracle Mile" sitting out and had told him how much they loved it. Because he's waaaay too busy at work to see or contact me, but he's throwing parties he's not inviting me to and had plenty of reminders of me. (Come on. How socially retarded do you have to be to say that?)

When the conversation got around us on a personal level, I was absolutely shocked. Turns out the behavior he was embarrassed by wasn't not following through on his word after being sexually intimate with me. He was apologizing for pushing to have a one night stand with me (?!) because that's sooo not like him or what he wants.

Excuse me? A one night stand? Yup. Despite our hours of talking about intimate subjects like the death of my mom and his abusive father, he'd never had any intention of seeing me again. He said he really thought I'd move to Prague for a year. He seemed very sorry for himself that I didn't sleep with him, and not to care a wit at what his bald-faced lies had done to me.

(By the way, let me clear up any confusion some guys might have out there. Unless a good woman SAYS she wants a one night stand, she thinks she's seeing you again. So don't be a user douchebag dickhead. Pick a hussy for your one night stands, not the smart accomplished witty warm woman you're sooooo happy to have finally found that you can't wait to toss her out like garbage the next morning.)

I told him point blank that it sounded like he didn't want or have time to date. He didn't answer. Later he said he just didn't know what he wanted.

All in all, it could have been dad sitting across from me, shucking and jiving and lying; messing with my perception of reality and acting moody and disappointed that I wasn't jumping in proving myself under his rules.

He then asked me to keep him in my Hollywood network as our career trajectories were so similar (oh yes he did!), and to keep him in touch about The Commune. I was more than done by then and dismissively told him to look it up on the website instead.

At this point I'm fine, I'm just pissed at the audacity he had to use my beloved movie to create false intimacy and get into my pants. In a town where people worship their movies, it's heresy to ruin a movie someone loves. Dickhead. I'd still like to toss my DVD off a rooftop or shove it where the sun don't shine.

In hindsight, I could have judged what I learned about his intentions and character on the second "date" from him with the simple piece of information that he didn't have my phone number stored in his phone. Could have just cancelled then and saved myself a lot of wasted time.

That's the problem with going into dating looking for "the One", believing what people say before they've had a chance to prove themselves. Even someone who comes highly recommended is more than capabale of pulling the wool over my eyes if I go fast.

Thus, only pecks on the cheek for at least a month, lots of one-hour coffee first dates with men in a field other than screenwriting/directing, and we'll see who is still standing after months and months of me being a price above rubies. That should weed out the carpetbaggers and hucksters and amoral jivetalkers Hollywood is littered with.

The good news is, I didn't sleep with him and get dumped like a one night stand, or start an unhealthy and intense two month relationship that he slowly faded from. The bad news is I'm still choosing the wrong men to have two dates with. That's okay. I'm super inexperienced. This situation is fixable. We can rebuild. We have the technology.


Marty Nozz said...

If someone could hold a spot for me in the line to kick that guy's ass, I'd be appreciative.

Brea said...

christ. unfortunately, i have found that men particularly in this city are more likely to be like the one you just named. yes, be warned - there are more than one of those type of guys... and they suck.
but you live here too which means cool people do choose to live here.

i'm sorry that happened to you. i'm happy you can reflect and talk about it though.

Kid Sis said...

Marty, thanks. That's the kind of protection I didn't grow up with.

Ah Brea. Right, cool people live here because we're here! Grrrr...Okay, I might have to reread your "Los Angeles Isn't So Bad" series. ;) I think it's healthy to talk about it. I'm sure some people think I overshare but...I don't know, guess I subscribe the Oprah model of growth. Confess your slips on banana peels publicly so other women can step AROUND the banana...hahaha

Rowan said...

Oh, that made me want to cry. The insights about parenting were profound and I can relate to the Not Good Enough syndrome. And I learned about oxytocin! (At first, I thought you meant OxyContin! They are suspiciously similar, hmmm.) Well, because I should be editing my own film, I need to stop reading your wonderful blog. I came across this little tidbit that might be of interest to you, vis-a-vis the creative struggle (I have no idea who this guy is but seems interesting):
How to Be Creative

naomi said...

Wait, are you me, in some parallel universe? Because I can't believe there's someone else out there whose dated THAT GUY. (And grown up with THAT PARENT, when it comes right down to it. Anyway.)

I guess if I have to have these issues, at least I can be thankful they're similar enough to yours that I can read the insights on your blog, and save a little cash on therapy.