Last night I went out on Halloween, something I don’t think I’ve ever done in my entire life. I was with a group of people, most of whom were total strangers, and we gathered to take in a play at the Arts Club on Granville Island.
I sat next to one of the strangers who told me that she’s trying a new thing; she’s making an effort to be social with friends at least a couple of times a week. “If I don’t,” she said, “I just go to work, come home, sit in front of the TV or Facebook. It’s too easy to lose yourself in that.” I nodded in agreement.
I’m trying to be more social and circulate more, but I can’t seem to get out of my own way. When I connect — really connect with someone, I want to be with them all the time. Henry Rollins described it as the OCD part of a relationship, and I know that level of intensity can be off-putting. So I play it cool. I withdraw. I refuse to reach out when there’s nothing I want or need more. Time passes, and the connection is broken and I’m left with nothing to show for it but my own neuroses.
Now that I’m older, I have less tolerance for playing games, but the motions feel so familiar that I make them by rote. What would happen if I said “Look, I really like you, and I’d like to be friends”? Or what would happen if I just hugged someone, personal barriers be damned, just to truly feel a connection that’s more than just emotional?
We have so many ways of creating and sustaining artificial distance between each other. We can ignore texts, pretend we didn’t receive emails, let chat messages go unanswered. I think these technological mediators have made it entirely too easy to forget about the people at the other end.
So here’s a deal I’m making with myself and with you. If I reach out my hand, will you promise not to slap it away? If I circulate and get out there, will you meet my gaze with no expectations or hesitation? I promise to do the same for you.
Life is far too short and far too precious to be coy.