Shelley Widhalm

My extra disappointing nano-dating experience (and how it relates to writing)

In Shelley Widhalm, Shyness, Writing on January 26, 2014 at 11:00 am

I don’t ask men out, because I hate the sick stomach and jittery voice I get when I eek out, “Do you want to …”

But I realized (and this took awhile apparently) that if I stay stuck on standby waiting for the galloping hooves indicating the arrival of my future boyfriend, I don’t get to choose.

I am chosen.

By saying “no” to those men I should have given a “yes” to, I ended up dating a type – the bad boys (most), the alcoholics (two) and the emotionally unavailable (all).

I acted insecurely, because I wasn’t confident enough to believe I could go for what I wanted.

I wanted looks and smarts and conversation, but because I kept putting myself on standby, I settled for hidden beer bottles, unreturned phone calls, late arrivals and shortened dates, and the long drawn-out fear of the letter “C,” or commitment.

In a complaint session about this unsettling assortment of men, I told a friend about my fantasy cute guy, a man I met once through work and for some reason found to be intriguing. She informed me that I shouldn’t wait around and let life (and opportunities) slip by, because I was afraid.

I agreed (given that it was approaching the New Year and a perfect time for new goals) and promised her I would call Mr. Fantasy. She said to do it by the end of the weekend. It took me a month.

When I finally called Mr. Fantasy (let’s call him Flint) to ask him out to coffee, he thought I wanted an interview (given that I’m a reporter). “Is this social?” he kept asking. Yes! (Duh!) After 15 minutes of figuring out the logistics of our nano-non-date, Flint said he could give me a half-hour.

The day of the nano matter, I assembled the perfect outfit in my imperfect state of fear and nervousness. Upon our meeting, Flint again asked if this was social, and within five minutes, I learned he had a girlfriend, meaning I had gotten all jittery over something I could have been told on the phone. (I’m not being bitter, just factual.)

After my date, I went home and cried (seriously).

And now with my fabulous ability at hindsight, I believe that the reason for my crying had nothing to do with Mr. Fantasy (because that’s all he was) but more to do with my putting too much hope on my single brave phone call.

I wanted my first try at asking a man out to result in instant success.

The same thing goes with my writing life.

My attempts at getting published should have been successful, because I have talent, right? I cried and worried over my rejections from contests, journals and literary agents, waiting in standby for someone somewhere to pick my writing as the winner. Again, I was giving them the power to choose, so that each time they stamped “No!” I took a jab to my confidence.

But that’s not the way to approach men or writing, waiting in the sidelines (with hand raised, saying, “Yes, please put me on your waiting list!”), letting what they say and do dent your armor.

Make the call, send out the submission, email the query letter.

Keep trying.

You’ll eventually find him or her and you (with your name in print).

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  1. Great piece. We really need to push ourselves again and again. Though I have to say “you’re a braver woman than me, Gunga Din.” With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

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