Less Than Three

Hate, as they say, is a strong word…but I have always held a special distaste for the type of person who lets nebulous fear of negative outcomes they cannot control rule over their behaviors. Someone who restricts their life to only the most safe and the most predictable, “because ____ could happen”.

The way that I see it, if it’s in the cards for your parachute to lock up when skydiving, or if ISIS decides to target your subway car, or if you’re the one who gets the fatal slice of blowfish sushi…that’s just how you died. We’re all lucky to be here in the first place, and it looks like that’s just the hand you were dealt. They say that constant vigilance is the price of freedom…but if constant anxiety is the cost of safety then safety is something I truly do not want.

I should have known that my hate was not any special blend. My hatred, like all hatred, was misguided, ignorant, and ugly.

My best friend who is settled down says he lives vicariously through my “spontaneous” lifestyle. I was the first guy in my grade to cross the dance floor in middle school and chip away at the mystery of middle school girls. While lifeguarding, any given day could be the day that some drunk tourist drowns in your water despite all your best efforts. I’ve seen it happen to a couple friends.

I’ve always liked taking risks…with my body, with the law, etc. I want all the experiences in life. I am willing to try and test and experiment. My friends and I travel to foreign countries with nothing more than a plane ticket and a couple weeks to kill…and wing the whole thing.

Well, it looks like everyone is a hypocrite. As much as I like to take risks, and fly by the seat of my pants, and jettison excess anxiety about things…I realized that I have been doing the exact opposite thing in my personal life.

When it comes to relationships, I have been nothing more than a basic tourist. The equivalent of a tax accountant from Cleveland wearing velcro sandals, zinc caked on my nose, and a god damned neon fanny pack. The people who travel all the way to Cambodia just to spend the entire time at the resort, never daring to leave the comfort of english speaking service staff, high thread count sheets, the familiarity of cable TV, and the culinarily unoffensive room service breaded chicken tenders. The equivalent of my worst nightmare.

“Once the board is set, who plays to lose?”

I learned over the course of a handful of years the rift between what women say they want and what women actually respond to. I watched close female friends in their experiences and frustrations with men, I observed my friends interacting with girls they were dating, and most importantly I saw what worked and what did not with the girls I would mess around with.

I say “mess around” because I prefer not to let things get too serious, I tend to keep people at arms length, and I enjoy the unpredictability and thrill of making someone chase me. I have been very measured and tactical when it comes to dating and relationships, always positioning myself to win the game, because I view nearly everything as a competition and I do not want to lose. I do not want to be vulnerable, I do not want to be hurt. I do not wish to relinquish control because I feel that things are safe so long as I’m at the wheel.

And it worked. A lot. However, what started out as exciting, trailblazing behavior legitimately inspired by my feelings of desire became so predictably effective that it turned into borderline rigormorale where I rarely felt challenged and could always see five moves ahead. Perfunctory seductions…a contradiction in terms.

For some reason as a child I used to wonder if given the choice someone would prefer to be the worst player in the MLB or the best player in the minor leagues. In the same way that I disparaged people’s worries about totally uncontrollable negative outcomes, I’m clinging to what I know works, what will never get too dangerous that I might get burned. Winning the game, stacking up chips, feeling like a boss…but in a way, sitting at the low stakes table. A minor league All-Star.

I’m not sure if it’s innate human nature or if it’s a strictly American phenomenon, but here I am in an outwardly awesome situation, and I am in turmoil about it. After dating plenty of beautiful girls who I could not really care about, I strangely met someone who I really like, who I’m interested in equally for who she is rather than strictly how she looks, someone who is threatening to decalcify my heart and agitate the long dormant Yeti of my emotions.

A neighborhood of feelings that I have avoided for many years… probably not coincidentally since right around the time my dad converted from the living to the dead within a couple of days. The world around me was out of my control and I promptly catapulted from the calm of base camp straight to the peak of volatility…with no sherpa.

I’m confronted with the danger and unpredictability that I ostensibly enjoy so much. No roadmap, no pre-existing trail. I have to hack through the tall brush with my machete, unable to see through the risky unknown ahead. I have never felt so vulnerable and exposed while simultaneously feeling so confident and powerful.

I recognize that when it comes to other people, any control I felt I held previously was purely illusory in the first place. That the fact I feel anything at all indicates that I should… and maybe even need to… move toward it.

I need to be willing to venture off of the resort. The major leagues are calling me up.

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