I squint in the Sunday morning sun, as I shuffle home from Robek’s in last night’s clothes. “Costume!!” a little girl yells at me from Starbucks, as I clomp by in heels and leather. Her Mom quickly averts her eyes, but far from being shamed, I’m proud. That’s right! Avert your eyes, child!! It’s me, walking home in the morning… in obvious club attire!
I smell like Old Spice, in that weird way that men leave themselves all over you in the morning - on my skin, or maybe in my bedraggled, beer-smelling scarf. No matter. Look at how free-spirited I am! This is awesome!
I mean… I do feel a little weird? Which I think is probably typical when you’re a deeply heartfelt and historically prudish individual ejected early from a legit one-night stand (he told me half an hour earlier that he a) had a headache and b) had to “tweet for his boss” (?)), but I don’t know. Let’s be honest, I’m not super experienced with this.
Which is, ironically, how this dude got me into bed in the first place.
Ready for a play-by-play?
Club! EDM! American Apparel bodysuits! Dance, dance, dance! Grind up on each other! Make ironic joke about our douchey surroundings! Dance! Dance! Steal mouthfuls of guy’s drink! (Straight vodka on the rocks, who drinks this?)! Dance, dance! Surreptitious conversation with my friend who wants to leave, while still dancing with guy! Dance, dance, dance! Notice that guy works out! Notice that I’m kind of into guy! Notice that Friend is heading to the door to wait for me! Dance! Dance! Lean to to guy’s ear because music is too loud!
Me: “I’m gonna go soon…but we should hang!”
Dance, dance, dance!
Him: “I leave in ten days.”
Dance, dance, dance!
Him: “But what are you doing right now?”
Dance, dance, dance!
Me: “Haha! Wow. Bold!”
Him: “Is it?”
Me: (confident) “Sorry, that’s not something I should do.”
Me: “Yeah, remember all those things you said an hour ago about me being emotionally intuitive and empathic?”
Me: “That stuff has a price.”
Dance dance dance!
Him: “I think you’re afraid of having a good time.”
Dance, dance, dance!
Me (less confident): “What?”
Guy grabs my hand sensually!
Him: “I think you’re afraid of letting yourself have too good a time.”
Seriously, guy? Ughhhhh Now I have to sleep with you!
Because yes, okay? Yeah! I am afraid of having too good a time, weirdly astute Canadian named Dave. And okay no, maybe I’m not the free-spirited, down-with-it cool-girl babe that I maybe seemed like when you saw me dancing and yes, it IS my most deeply held insecurity you little asshole, and yes, now I AM gonna go home with you to prove to you that I’m not afraid of fun. JESUS.
But I’m sorry. Just a second, Dave. Having too good a time can be really scary. Or at least… People who have too good a time all the time, completely scare me!
It’s true. People who cut loose, adventure, go fuck people whenever they want to, leave at a moment’s notice? Those people are fucking terrifying.
Let’s talk about it.
I mean, right? Who are they? And how are they not worried, these cut-loose have a good time people? About everything? What they’re leaving behind? What they’re going to contract, or forget about, or encounter? Who they might disappoint or betray? What might happen to their bodies or their self-respect or their fucking schedule? And more importantly, how are we all supposed to live our relatively stable (happily-so!) lives with them flouncing about being so goddamn attractive and starry-eyed and free and fabulous all the time?
I’ve encountered many of these people in my life. These restless, beautiful, dreamy, different people that Dave is hoping I am,. They are like gorgeous, exciting, little aliens… who make me feel extremely bad about myself. This is a rough one. It’s deep. Hard to explain and also tangentially very tied up with recreational drug use, another thing that I am deeply judgmental of/simultaneously attracted to/terrified by. Go figure.
Perhaps the fear is that somehow I’m doing it all wrong; that I missed the boat and we all should be long-boarding through Europe on Molly wearing feathers if we want to be truly happy. I resent the aliens because they make me afraid that being connected to the world can’t happen in a Honda Civic listening to KISS FM - that it HAS to happen in Joshua Tree, or at a rave, or in bed with three other women and your boyfriend. They’re so gorgeous, and starry-eyed, and different that I’m terrified that maybe their happiness is just a little brighter than mine. Maybe it’s wilder, deeper, crazier, bigger, and I’ve been wrong all the along. This makes me want to touch them and reject them at the same time. Tell them they’re crazy, but also beg them to take me with them. Suddenly they’re right, I’m wrong. They’re exciting, I’m plain. OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO MY SELF ESTEEM, I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM!
But I get it. You know? Joshua tree IS pretty great. And I’ve heard that acid can change your life, or what the fuck ever. And feeling sexy and untouchable and free is really really spectacular when you do it right. Like, when all the elements come together and you’re a little drunk and in an amazing outfit and you’re just dancing for hours and hours and hours. Those nights are incredible. We’ve all had them.
But that sort of relentless drive to push outwards, that these unafraid people have? The desire to be rootless, connected to everyone, free from a life and a schedule and responsibilities? That thing that every club hit wails about, and every Coachella-going 20-something packs up their stuff hoping to find? To be brutally, horribly honest…I just don’t yearn for that.
I love my responsibilities, Dave. They ground me. They remind me that I’m needed here, that I have work here to be done. That I have a life for myself. That I’m in a rhythm, and a community, and that I have a place.
I love having a place. I love feeling like it’s enough.
I completely feel the benefits of expansion. When I go on a trip and don’t know what I’m going to do when I get there, when I say yes to plans I would normally reject, when I try something that scares me a little because I want to wonder about it, I usually come away feeling a little brighter, a little fresher to the world.
But I also hate it. I kick and I scream, I’m anxious and self-aware. The whole time I’m gratingly conscious of the fact that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not… I’m putting on a costume, to prove to myself and to these gorgeous, different, starry-eyed people that I can hang, and the truth is? Over the course of my life the outcome has sometimes been thrilling, but sometimes it’s been truly damaging. I’ve done things I’ve deeply regretted because I thought I had to push myself, because I was afraid that the alien people were right, and I was wrong.
So yes, I am afraid of having too good a time, Dave! I have reason to be.
Because it’s not in me, that thing. I so want it to be. I want to touch it, be close to it, have it rub off on me a little. But really? Terribly? Most of the time I need to play it safe simply because I like to. Because that’s authentic and beautiful to me. Because I like to know that I’ll be here in the morning, in my bed where I belong, safe, and ready to engage with another day of my beautiful, tender, simple life.
So I usually play it safe. The other night I didn’t, because some guy with a mustache called me on being afraid. I guess I wanted to prove to both of us that I wasn’t. And this time it worked out, and was actually pretty fun and great. I mean, he was Canadian, so. At least I have a story. But I’m happy to be home. And I wish I’d woken up in my bed, instead of his. And I can’t wait to go shower so that I smell like me again.
It’s a hard one to breathe with. I’m definitely going to read this tomorrow morning and worry that everyone, including myself, thinks I’m boring. But the truth is, I feel deeply alive in my life all the time, even without all that glamorous, rootless, scary shit. Even without Dave.
But Dave was fun. I’m so happy I get to play in that world sometimes. I’m not gonna be a citizen, but I’m grateful that Dave encouraged me to be a tourist.
At the end of the day we all have to be what we are, not what we’re afraid might be better than what we are. As my friend Megsie put it, “I think of myself as a free spirit….in the sense that I am finally [mostly] ‘free’ of feeling bad that I’m not free spirited enough… free from the constraints of what exactly it is that can free you.”
Sounds free to me.