I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
A few times a year, mostly when it’s late and I have run out of things to look at on the internet, I find myself returning to an old friend. A barely recognizable Livejournal that I started over a decade ago. It usually takes me a few attempts to recall the password but once I’m in, there it is. My “list.”
Under multiple privacy settings, it is hidden away and written in code so that if someone were to be looking over my shoulder they would see only names and symbols. I wrote down each name and a few identifiers so I wouldn’t forget each encounter. Some I dated for years, most I never knew for more than an hour. I think you guys get it. At this point in my life it borders somewhere between heavy nostalgia and embarrassment. Although there are moments when I look at it with almost a sense of pride. But I see it as much more than a trite list of people I have slept with. I now see it through the eyes of the awkward and angry teenager who was absolutely certain he would never possess any real characteristics that would attract women. And if I stare at it long enough, through the eyes of a grown man who knows enough to know that no one should be impressed with a long list. The list represents women who didn’t simply allow me to have sex with them, but who gave me their time and attention. It is a reminder of all the lost opportunities to communicate and lessons on how to share and not steal.
I say “embarrassment” because it shouldn’t have taken that long of a list to make that realization. I wasted the time of far too many wide-eyed women and at one point, played off of the insecurities of good people and took advantage of the trust and faith of some truly amazing people. And as I read down the list there are memories – good and foul.
While I may have not always gone about it right, there are only a handful that I truly regret. Or maybe regret isn’t the right word. Maybe it’s something like how I wish I had just allowed myself to let go of the hurt and not drowned my sorrows in the naked shoulders of strangers. Maybe I should have just gone about it differently. Instead of pulling down my pants, maybe I should have taken a little more time with some of them. I don’t regret the sex, because I know that most of them had the same intention. I guess I just look at some of the names as squandered moments. Potential friends lost because I was quick to run out the door to look for new distractions.
But there is something to be said about reminiscing over a list of people you have slept with the ability to identify which women made a positive impact on my life. Like a scrapbook of names, each woman is a unique story and played a role in motivating me to live stronger. And sure, it wasn’t their job and playing off their naiveté for my own personal growth is crass at best. But there were definitely more positive moments than negative and I won’t spend any more time feeling ashamed over shared moments – even if I did lead some people on. It’s not okay, but I did learn to identity the pain behind their eyes. I did listen to their worries. And I did pay attention to their sickness. I discovered that everyone has a tenderness that is begging for the right person to come along and coach it back to health. It’s just a shame that I had to learn this at the expense of others. But the lesson is not lost on me.
And now, as I look through my rear-view and read down the list, part of me is proud. Not because of the length of the list of out of some self-congratulatory pat on the back. It’s just sometimes we are so oblivious to the world that we don’t see how we influence the lives of others. And sometimes we need to be told how our behavior damages the positivity in others. And there was a time that I was unaware of how badly I could hurt people. I am not that guy anymore. I am a man, and men don’t need to learn life lessons at the expense of others. But as I log out and close my computer, I think about how a guy like me needed to do the bad so I could not only learn how to do the good…
but why the good matters.