No shit, I’ve been reading your columns on and off for about ten years now. I’ll admit that I often sneer at some of the advice because it seems so far-fetched or inapplicable to myself. But I think maybe it’s time that I actually see if you had any thoughts about my situation.
I’m 34 years old. I have had one girlfriend in my entire life. We dated for 18 months ten years ago, and broke up. I was an insecure wreck of a person, and I am fairly sure my own insecurity and insistence that there was no way she’d ever stay with me is what pushed her away. She was way out of my league, and could do better, but was in a lonely and vulnerable position in life and I was convenient I guess. Since then, I haven’t even so much as asked a girl out.
I spent a long time after that in college and in grad school. I come from a family that was never super well off. I’m the first person in the family to ever go to college let alone obtain a masters degree. I felt for years and years like if I am going to accomplish something, it better be something big because being an obese, bespectacled nerd from a lower working class background was something that would always stand in my way if I wanted anything good in my life to happen. Particularly if I wanted a partner or to have kids.
Full disclosure, and I know this sounds nuts to most people so I keep it to myself, the idea of having kids is important to me because there’s no one in my family left at this point with my name, and I feel like if my name is to ever be redeemed I have to pass whatever social mobility I have achieved onward. This is something I was ever conditioned really to believe in my upbringing, but something that I believe with an almost fanatical zeal.
Within a year of graduation from graduate school, I worked my first political campaign. I was hired on as district director for the legislator I helped get re-elected. Within a year after that, I was elevated to chief of staff. I am now in the process of running for local office myself, and working toward the goal of forming a political consulting group with a few other like minded individuals to elect progressive candidates in suburban seats. The amount of acceptance I have found makes me…uncomfortable.
I feel, essentially, like all of this could be taken from me at any moment once someone realizes I’m not nearly as talented or skilled as they thought I was. I find myself wondering why none of these people can see through the facade and understand that beneath being able to make things happen I’m a fundamentally broken person who can’t even do simple things that everyone seems to be able to do (like ask a girl out).
Over the years, my interest in dating has actually shrunk because I have been alone for so long now that incorporating another person into my life seems like it would be a huge chore. But at the same time I still have nights where I wish there was someone who I could share my life with. Outside of work (which is not much because I’m always working) all I do is drink, play games, watch stuff, and smoke. It’s not pretty, and I’m not a looker either. But it’s the only way I ever really feel alive in any meaningful sense of the word.
All of my friends think I sell myself short. My family nominally loves me, but clearly resent me for going to school and trying to make something of myself. My mom definitely, definitely resents the fact that the good looking son (my brother) is openly gay and will give her no grandchildren, and her only card left for that particular outcome is her obese son that “thinks he’s smarter than everyone and acts all superior.” I don’t, by the way, but my family are, for lack of a better way to describe them, insecure around anyone who has achieved anything higher than what they have.
I guess the thing that bothers me most is that while all of these things have happened that I never thought I could have, and never thought I deserved to begin with, I still feel basically empty and unaccomplished. Like I am my job and my skillset, and nothing more. Disconnected from the human part of my life. Back when I was still a loser in college living at home with a dead end job I would think “One day, I’ll have a better job, and my own apartment, and then I’ll be worthy.”
Now I have all of that, and I’m not. I’d still rather shave an entire layer of skin off my whole body than approach a woman or flirt.
What do you think?