When I moved to Chicago, I met a boy who would only be in my life for two weeks. One week we would spend together physically, while I would spend the next desperately trying to figure out where I went wrong and carefully crafting texts to get together with him. We went on our first date, wandering around the city that was new to both of us. He held my hand, he was a gentleman, and he kissed me goodnight. What I had liked about him was that he was worldly, well read, and genuinely kind. He was different from me in the sense that he meant every kind thing he said where I was raised to be polite because it was kind and because I was told to.
We spent the next five days in deep conversation and each other’s arms. It was one of the moments this summer that I had entertained the idea of a summer romance. I’m not usually one for quick flings, but I was here for the summer attempting to experience new things and dammit I was determined to experience a whirlwind romance.
A comment he told me, as we were together one night was, “You’re hard to read. Usually I know exactly what someone is thinking…open up to me!” His words hurt me deep down and I struggled to understand why. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as difficult to read as a coloring book. I’m the first to cry during emotional Wal-Mart commercials and I have a difficult time politely hiding my repulsion when someone tells me they love The Big Bang Theory.
Was I really that hard to read? I wondered. I wanted to open up to him; I wanted to feel connected to him. I began to wonder if maybe the Internet and porn and chat rooms had left me feeling confused about what was connection with someone. I began to wonder if rolling around in bed with someone had become what I equated with a deep emotional bond.
One night, when I was feeling particularly vulnerable and silly and full of mistakes, I asked him to come over. Maybe I opened up too much to him by crying softly into his shoulder but I was scared and confused much like twenty year olds are when they find themselves in a new city with no friends or family to lean on.
In the morning he dressed and said, “see you later, kid.” The moment he left, I knew I may have made a mistake and that would be the last time we would purposefully see each other.
People act like they want to peel away your layers, like they want to be the first person to see “the real you.” As if, in some way, you’ve been hiding yourself from everyone around you, waiting for someone to come along who really “gets you.”
The dark truth of the matter is that people rarely want to know you in the way you might think. They don’t want to know that you have been staving off suicidal thoughts for more than a decade or that you walk two train stops home every day so you can talk on the phone with your parents and cry to them about how homesick you are. No, they want to know that their ideas of who you are line up with the person you portray yourself to be to the rest of the world. They want to piece you together because if they do, it takes away the fear of the unknown. I think it’s because people have a tendency to say they want to read you, to understand you, to see a side of you no one else gets to see; but they have a greater tendency to not like it when you finally let them.
I’m guilty of doing this as well. I’ll build someone up in my mind so much that when I find out they’re not the exact replica of my imaginary version of them, I feel betrayed. It’s childish and immature but that is what has become commonplace in our generation. It’s one thing to know someone from their twitter feed, from their Facebook status updates, from their texting mannerisms but it’s another to know them on a deeply personal and invasive way.
On the rare occasion that someone does genuinely want to know you, they won’t need to mention that you’re hard to read because instead, they’ll actually attempt to find out who you are. They won’t need to ask you to open up, because it will be your natural response to be yourself with them. You’ll show them every quirk and crack in your carefully constructed persona because when the time is right, it’s thrilling to be that vulnerable.