The world is full of strangers. Those you think you know change on you, reveal true natures, true motives. Often it seems like the longer you know someone the less you understand them. It’s easy to get cynical. How do you know for sure your friends really like you or if they just want strength in numbers? Does she really want to date you or do you just fit some type she read about in a magazine or saw in a movie?
To get people to do what you want, one of the skills you have to learn is how to hide your agenda. This is an ugly fact of adulthood. People grow more anxious and paranoid the older they get. They get fucked over and burned and then they start looking for clues to warn them of what’s coming. We respect people who know how to win friends and influence people, but we expect them to do it in a way that’s not obvious or transparent. Don’t let people see the aforementioned book on your shelf. That was one of Charles Manson’s favorites, as well as countless other swindlers and con men. Life is not a sales pitch.
Still, everyone wants control of their own lives. We want to get you before you get us. We want reasons for our actions that make sense. We want to be in love and to be loved, but we’re scared. We don’t like being alone. We also don’t like suffering. And love is suffering if you stick with it long enough.
I was at a bar in Osaka, Japan a few years ago talking with a hardened, serious English woman. She worked in a bar in Dotonbori as a hostess for Japanese businessmen. Listening to their troubles. Rubbing their arms as she poured them beers. Keeping them company. Maybe more. The kind of tough woman you expect to tell you everything you think is bullshit. That people are selfish and vapid and there is no truth.
I don’t remember how it came up, but after a couple of drinks she said to me “people give up on love. They get their hearts broken once and they never want to try again. I just want to feel exactly like I did when I used to walk home from school and drop off my books in my house and run outside and I could play until dinner. Love makes you feel like that.” I stopped her there. I didn’t want her to qualify it or tell me what else she thought it makes you feel.
I read an interview Jack Nicholson gave once where he was asked “what is one thing you want to do before you die?” (It must have been for the movie Bucket List, obviously.) He said, “have another romance. Fall in love again.”
We have an aversion to this kind of sentiment, this earnestness. We perceive expressing that we want love as weakness. Only the very young or the very old are allowed to be this direct in their expressions. The rest of us are embarrassed by hearing it and embarrassed to say it. To open ourselves up and be vulnerable invites derision. You might as well just be handing the bully in the back of the class your love notes before you pass them.
But you have choices. Don’t write the note. Write it but don’t show it to anyone. Or make it real and give it to the person it’s for.
I don’t have time to wait for my emotions to recover. I don’t hold onto notes I’ve written. I want life. I want to get over the endings and start again. I want hotel rooms and champagne and beds I’ll remember the rest of my life. We’re scared at the beginning. Then we’re scared of it ending. I’m more scared of going through life afraid to keep trying.