New Yorkers have a reputation for being cool.
Nay, more than cool. I say now, fellas, what’s cooler than being cool? Uh, “emotionally frigid.” Yeah, that’s just about right.
I think we get a reputation for being rude. Well! I’ll grant you this: we’re not effusively friendly, so if you’re looking for that, you might need to stay out of the five boroughs. To say that New Yorkers have their guard up is an understatement.
Like, for instance, if a stranger strikes up a conversation with you on the street that lasts longer than the ten seconds it takes to ask for directions, grab your wallet and your cell phone, because that stranger is distracting you while their buddy picks your pockets.
“Hello, 911? I would like to report a crime in progress. A STRANGER is CONVERSING with me! Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve been mugged.”
But lately, I’ve been wondering if this is such a good thing.
See, I had this dream the other day, about a wedding. Not my wedding! Actually, I can’t even tell you whose wedding it was, some classmate of mine from high school. I was just a guest, there, in my lavender lace peplum dress (cut me some slack, it was a dream!), picking at the passed hors d’oeuvres, sipping a drink, and just —— feeling totally lonely.
The prevailing emotion I remember from this dream was utter isolation — being completely alone in a crowd of people. I watched the other guests laughing and swapping inside jokes, while I struggled to find anyone who would so much as make small talk with me! When the band picked up, I tried to find someone to dance with, but everyone avoided me like I was contagious. I felt so unloved, so invisible, so… iced out… that I told my therapist about it.
Yep, I told my therapist about my stupid dream.
“I don’t want to feel like that,” I wailed. Wailed! I’m pretty sure they heard me across the street atop the Empire State Building. Yep, that view doesn’t suck. And we agreed right there in that session that my new goal in life and therapy would be to work towards cultivating and fostering rich and rewarding relationships with people.
Tragically, my therapist believes that my path to better relationships is through letting my guard down. YES! Those skyscraper-sized walls that we New Yorkers are so proud of having built for ourselves? They gotta go. Or so she says. So I tried thawing out my emotional ice palace, and how did it go?
Well, I learned something pretty hard, pretty quickly: you really can’t make people be vulnerable with you just by being vulnerable with them.
It’s a little like trying to hug one of those skyscrapers: you can run at a wall, full force, with your arms wide open, but you’re probably going to hurt yourself. Plus, think about it: there is a nontrivial chance that somebody peed against the side of that building.
Hey! It’s New York. We have no problem pissing in public, but opening up to each other? Ew. No. That’s gross. Stop it.
“Hello, 911? I’d like to report a crime taking place? Yeah, someone’s trying to talk about feelings. I KNOW! It’s HAWRRible!”
See, I’m one of these people who always wants the QUICK FIX. Are you also one of these people? I feel like I’m not alone here. Like, if there’s a problem, I’d rather not know about it, unless I can fix it. You don’t need to tell me that’s unhealthy, I’m already in therapy, I know it is!
So I’m working on this whole “defrosting” thing, and it’s …
well, for one thing, it’s TEDIOUS. Tiring and confusing and hard. And it’s not exactly a problem that’s solved for good once it’s solved. It’s a little bit like — well, you know I love my metaphors! So, it’s a little bit like making a cup of tea.
Now, when I make tea, I never drink all of it at once. Sometimes it’s way too hot, and you can’t handle it. So it is with emotionally raw and vulnerable conversations! And then time passes, and sometimes… you know…the tea gets “cool.” Or, in other words, “emotionally frigid.” So you have to heat it up again, but then again it’s too hot to handle, and then it gets cold, and so on and so forth until you FINALLY finish the tea which is to say, YOU DIE.
Probably? I’m guessing.
So this “cool” aloofness, while it’s served me really well towards my goal of being the funny girl, has actually been keeping me from forming real, warm, loving connections with other people. Maybe it’s time to stop being so “cool”?
I guess if I’m going to get what I want out of life — which is, to be a part of that happy crowd of friends and lovers — I’m gonna have to thaw it out a bit. As my therapist asks me all the time, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
And I guess it’s gotta be easier than trying to get the Empire State Building to return my calls.
featured image via Pixabay