An Open Letter to Celiac_Trunk

Dear Starting_Over, WorknPlay_247, and the obscurely named Celiac_Trunk,

This month I turn 35. As you can see from my photos and specs, I’m a red-headed woman of petite build and average height who has never been married and who may or may not want children.

Should you go on to read my profile, thank you, because there you’ll learn that I am other than the girl, gurl, lady, woman, girlfriend, cutie, hottie, or sweetiepie you saw in your list of potential matches this morning and decided to contact.

In fact, if you read my profile, you will see that I am a real person, a person who spends her workday connecting with other real people — people who are experiencing crisis and emotional distress, recovering from trauma, and/or wanting to die. You will see that I am someone who has completed a long and costly education to do the work I love, from which you might also gather I am a person who takes my investment in life and other people seriously.

If at this point you still find me attractive, not just for my photos but for the picture you’re forming of me as a person, allow me to escort you to my profile’s sidebars, where you will learn (and again, thank you for your curiosity) that I am a person who is politically liberal, spiritual but not religious, doesn’t watch much TV, and spends my extra time painting, hiking, doing yoga, dancing, reading, writing, and connecting with loved ones.

At this point, you may reasonably begin to consider whether and how best to approach me. If you feel compelled to message me a few descriptive words, I would kindly ask that you consider all available data in your characterization. I am unlikely to respond to the following genre of messages (and I quote):

hey pretty lady damn u fine!

Ma’am?

hey how are you

hola how r u gurl

hey beautiful hows youre day

You look amazing!!!!!

Something about you says kinky. I could be wrong though.

I realize that reaching out to a stranger online can be challenging and may even bring up a fear of rejection. If you happen to be experiencing such a fear, I want to acknowledge the courage it may take to send even the above style of note. But I still feel like, you know, given that we’ve never met, you’re presuming an unwarranted degree of familiarity, akin to shouting cat calls as you pass me on the street.

Moreover, when your short message of introduction doesn't include punctuation or anything substantive, but does mention my physical appearance and/or gender in a colloquial, even crude manner, I fear — perhaps erroneously but all the same — that you haven’t taken time to consider my feelings, and that you may lack sensitivity to context, timing, culturally appropriate greetings, and romantic nuance, to say nothing of women’s history.

While I have your attention, I’d also like to touch base with you about usernames and profile pictures.

From time to time, you might wonder, as have I, “What’s in a username?”

Personally, my answer (and it’s me you’re interested in, right?) is…a lot.

So if you are:

fresh_start23

trying_again_man

guy_rebuilding

or

last_chance_will,

I appreciate your honesty and humility, but I have to pass. The thing is — and I take full responsibility for this — most of the men I’ve dated have not been sea-ready (counselors are notorious for our rescuer complexes). For many years, I was incredibly open-minded about who might be a good match for me — willing to give down-and-outers the benefit of the doubt. Alas, the personal qualities that make me a good therapist are actually hazards in the dating process— among others, empathy, unconditional acceptance, appreciation for diverse viewpoints, and a constant eye towards potential.

Simply put, I can see potential in anyone, anything. It’s a great capacity when professionally I engage with a person who is struggling to see their worth, or when as an artist, I confront a canvas on which I feel I’ve created a failure to end all failures. My willingness to keep showing up when things look dark and finding the light serves me beautifully in my career and in my paintings.

However, this tendency to see potential has caused hurt and disappointment in the dating process — something about which I feel regret. Of course, hurt is an inevitable risk we take in relationships, and even under the most favorable conditions, there are no guarantees, but I’m trying to reduce the disasters when and where I can.

I may be slow, but I’m learning. As the psychoanalyst/author Adam Phillips instructs in his book Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, “Reality matters because it is the only thing that can ever satisfy us.” After trial and error on the field of unbridled potential, I’m looking for a man who is not merely surviving in life’s turbulent seas but also, despite the odds, thriving. Sure, maybe he’s a little lonesome without me, but he’s not throwing up flares saying, “Help! Help!” He’s basically doing and feeling well, and we can, after several rounds of mutual reality testing, set sail in a direction that serves us both in our already rewarding lives.

So, missing_peace_365, I feel for your predicament, and I hope you’re just hitting a dark night of the soul on what is otherwise a heroic journey ; trust me, dark nights happen to the best of us. However, I simply can’t consider dating you if you’re signaling, perhaps unconsciously, that you’re currently on your last leg in the relationship arena. If you’ve been “daring greatly” on love’s battlefield, you know that we all sustain dings, dents, and even devastating losses along the way. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, “Everyone is broken by life; some people are just stronger in the broken places.”

Call me a worrier, but to me your username suggests that you’re re-entering the battlefield before you’ve had a chance to gather your strength. Given that even good love can make for hard sailing, I think it’s best we go into a new relationship with reserves.

For entirely different reasons, if you are:

work_play_hard

football_n_beerz

thug_luvin_1974

all_good_alwayz

goes_down_EZ

vodkahmartini

mustang_sammy

or

rockhard4evah,

you may be a great guy, and probably could teach me a thing or two about throwing caution to the wind and chilling the eff out, but again, I have to pass. I’m looking for the person with whom I want to share my most intimate self, and for this to occur, I feel it’s important that we share at least some interests and core values. For example, no matter how awesome you are, I will never regularly attend sporting events, wear high heels, or spend my weekends at the nail salon. Likewise, I won’t want to be your gym buddy (it’s yoga and dance for me) or don a string bikini while you wax your Audi, no matter how brightly your pecs are glistening in the sun. While I love my body, I don’t typically wear bikinis.

In fact, although I didn’t post a picture of me in my swimsuit, now would be a good time to tell you that my swimsuit is cut in a vintage 1930s style, reminiscent of a sailor outfit. It’s a white-and-red striped one-piece with a skirt that covers my butt so I can jump off docks and recline on chaise lounges with impunity. (I happen to think I look hot, sexy, cute, adorable, and perhaps even a little kinky in it, but that’s missing the point.)

As for profile pictures, I realize you probably worked hard for and are thus proud of your muscles, your car, your motorcycle, your boat, your friends at the club, your distinctive facial hair, or even that goof-ball expression you’ve been perfecting for the camera. And it’s good to have self-esteem; I know from experience it’s hard propping up a partner with unaddressed, deep-seated insecurities.

There’s just one thing.

Maybe it’s my field, but I can’t help wondering if the reason you’re showcasing a car or your buddies or a silly face rather than just putting on a good clean shirt, facing the camera, making eye contact, and flashing me a genuine smile is because:

  1. You do have unaddressed, deep-seated insecurities,
  2. You don’t take this dating thing very seriously, and/or
  3. You believe our culture’s sad lies that you are what you buy.

I appreciate being able to discern from your pictures whether you exercise and take reasonable care of yourself, but beyond that, I’m interested in who you are on the inside. (Lest I sound like I’m opposed to muscles, I’m not. Adonis_ski_god, I’m disappointed. In addition to everything substantive we appeared to have in common, despite your considerable age, all your photos displayed a rippling athlete at his peak of health. Then, you arrived to our first meeting unrecognizable, in the advanced throws of an auto-immune disorder. I treated you with dignity and respect, but I did not appreciate the false advertising).

If, after the tedium of looking at pictures, reading profiles, and exchanging a few well-punctuated and respectful messages, we decide we have enough in common to get coffee, let’s arrange to spend a cursory hour together in real life. But if in that hour together, you talk about yourself for 55 minutes and then wonder where the time went, please understand that while I know my conversation skills can make a person feel right at home, I would also like a prospective partner to ask me insightful questions and listen attentively to my answers on our first date.

Therefore, cool_luke_2001, when you ask for my phone number as we part ways, I will not be giving it to you. No, you can’t pair it with the close-up photo you just snapped of me, without my permission, so you can text me about how excited you are to see me again before I get to my car. Actually, I’m walking to my car with the distinct sensation that you didn’t “see” me at all.

As a final note, to the medical doctor who loves golf and dogs and goes by the username, celiac_trunk, you seem like a perfectly nice person, but my gut still tells me we don’t have enough in common to pursue meeting. Speaking of the gut, as I view your profile, I do have a few questions: Is your gut okay? Do you also have problems with gluten? Do you carry rice flour in your trunk? I’m confused. Just when I’m thinking that maybe you’re a GI who specializes in celiac disease, I take a second look at your profile picture and see you smiling, without the slightest hint of irony, in front of a conference poster titled “MORE ABOUT HERPES.”

At any rate, guy_online_60078, thank you for your willingness to read this; it means a lot to me that you’d take the time; we’re all so busy these days, and it’s such an impersonal forum at that.

If after all this, you still think we might connect, please do reach out. If not, please don’t. Either way, I wish us all luck in our living, loving, fitness, vehicular, and gluten-related endeavors.

— Sara (already_found)