of you may have been
wondering where I’ve
been for the last three
months, and whether The 1585 still existed.
does. As for where
I’ve been, I was just out of it for a while, and exactly
why will be the subject of this essay.
back now. I hope
weren’t worried. Actually,
the people reading this are probably Facebook friends with me and have
seeing my updates for the past three months about closing out the
Coney Island and the time I saw Courtney Love in that lingerie store in
so I guess you couldn’t have been too worried.
I must admit, part of
me was holding out for President Obama to suddenly
break off mid-sentence at a press conference and scream
“WHERE ARE YOU, SEXO
GRAMMATICUS?” like in Superman
but I guess he’s got other things on his mind, so
I’m just coming back without
best way of putting it is that for the past
few months I’ve been working on myself.
last serious relationship ended in August, principally because of my
is not a break-up
essay and is actually going to be about something really interesting,
break-up stuff is necessary background information, so just hang on.) When
I say this, I don’t mean that my
insecurity made me do
simply left me because
I am insecure. And
not complaining about this. It
me, but she was completely within her rights, and it would have been
me to expect otherwise. After
confidence is for women what female physical attractiveness is for men,
her this must have been like dating a fat girl.
made no sense to
me — just as, I guess, men caring about appearance
to the exclusion of attitude makes no sense to women — but
that’s what women are
like, and I’m attracted to women, so I figured I
could either sit around and complain about
it or stand up and try to change, so I did.
that I sat around and complained about
it. For the first
anyway. But that
didn’t help, so then I thought I’d
try the second thing.
went to Barnes & Noble and browsed through
the extensive self-help section. I
optimistic at first, because the self-help section was huge, and the
of the books in this huge section were about how to raise your
self-esteem. Then I
90% of those books were bright pink and had titles written in such
cursive that I could barely read them, indicating that they were aimed
at women. This
struck me as odd,
women are the ones who care about confidence and men don’t. The
way I see it, all the books about
confidence should have been aimed at men, and the ones for women should
had titles like Dress
Your Inner Child in
Ripped Fishnets and Chicken Soup
the Making Your Tits Bigger.
maybe this is just one of the many reasons why I am not a self-help
flipped through the ragtag smattering of
self-esteem books that were not aimed specifically at women. Note
that I do not say “the ones aimed at
men,” because there were none aimed at men — just
women's ones, and
non-gender-specific ones. I
realized that this is because self-esteem books aimed at men are just
books. At first I
was offended by the
insinuation that men wouldn’t want to raise their self-esteem
for any reason
other than to pick up women. But
that neither do I.
I flipped through the ragtag smattering of
etc. A good number
rejected because they had some central conceit that was prohibitively
stupid. I’m sorry,
but even if it contains a bunch of
otherwise decent advice, I just can’t get into any book that
bases all the
reasons I should feel better on the idea that “the universe
loves me.” No, it
it’s a vast and controversial
subject, but I think I’m treading on fairly safe theological
ground when I say
that if the universe really loved me, I would have a
lightsabre. A purple
even the straightforward self-esteem books
that weren’t built on some new-age metaphor wasted a bunch of
chapters on “body
I realize that
people are fat, but I’m not. I
lot of problems, but my body isn’t one of them.
And besides, maybe
people who are
fat should be reading books about how to lose weight instead of books
to not care that they’re fat. And
say “maybe,” I’m just being nice.
heard the good news?
I went downstairs to the information
desk and asked “Do you have any books about self-esteem for
people who have low
self-esteem for a reason besides
being fat? Because
I have low
self-esteem but a totally sick body.”
I lifted my shirt
up and did a little twirl. They
said no. Then I
thin people could get self-esteem books at some kind
of thin-person discount, seeing as how half the book is always specific
people and we don’t need those chapters.
said no again, in
a manner even more puzzled and annoyed than the
first time. So I
you can’t say I didn’t try to improve
myself. Those were
and this is totally on them. No
publishing is a dying industry.
books weren’t going to help. I
guess that’s fitting, since books kind of
got me into this mess to begin with.
I hadn’t devoted the last half of my life to becoming a
sensitive writer type, maybe
I wouldn’t even be insecure. The
who left me even explicitly mentioned the fact that I was a writer as
the problem. Being a writer
wasn’t one of the charges brought against me
exactly, but it was certainly seen as persuasive evidence regarding the
principal charge — like Joan of Arc’s short hair.
But other than to
books, I didn’t know where else to turn.
I needed to turn somewhere. I
felt like I
either stop being
insecure or lie down and die. And
hit me. An elegant
and too beautiful to have been seen first, and all the more clearly
having appeared at the close of a draining epic quest that took almost
five most beautiful words in the
language: Fuck this,
I’ll just lie.
all, regardless of what Oprah says, women
are not in fact psychic. The
they’ll know I’m insecure is if I tell them.
In the relationship
that ended three months ago, I had made the mistake
of taking women at their word when they say they want you to be honest
feelings. Well, I
exactly lying when they say this; it’s more that they just
don’t mean it the
way you assume. Women
do in fact want
you to be honest about your feelings, but it’s not so they
can love you better — it’s
so they know whether to dump your pathetic ass.
want you to be
honest about your feelings the way the IRS wants
you to be honest about your finances.
I realized too late was that it was totally within my power to keep
relationship going. All
I would have had
to do was lie about what I’m really thinking every moment for
the rest of my
know that may sound callow, defeatist, immature,
and totally unfair to every sense I should have of myself as a
adult with rights, needs, and a full range of normal human emotions. But
should have seen this girl.
The only difference between her and this
drawing is that she didn't wear glasses.
that was the project before me: never say
anything insecure, ever.
least not in
front of a girl, although I figured it would be good practice to avoid
insecure stuff in front of guys too.
seem like it would be too hard.
we’re not talking about something
subjective here, like comedy, where what one person finds hilarious
person might find offputting and vice versa.
knows the difference between insecure and un-insecure, even me.
with that kind of setup, you’re probably
expecting an essay about how it turned out to be harder than it looks. But
it didn’t. It
turned out to be
every bit as easy as I
thought it would. Seriously,
all I had
to do was not say insecure things, duh.
easy or hard it was
isn’t the problem.
you’re probably thinking that it didn’t
expecting me to say that I
refrained from saying insecure stuff, but girls didn’t like
me any better — either
because they could still magically tell I was insecure somehow, or
turns out that girls look deeper than that and aren’t really
as shallow as I
was making them out to be. But
not it either. Girls — and,
people in general — really are as shallow as I was making them
out to be, and the
simple practice of never saying insecure things worked amazingly well. To
be perfectly honest, I had sex with more
women this past September and October than during any year-long
stretch of my life before, or all four
years of college. And
didn’t even go out that much. So
becoming boorish here, let it be established that never saying insecure
does work and is incredibly easy.
things are not the problem.
problem is that, as far as I can tell, I no
longer have a personality.
I adopted this project, I never realized
just how much of my sense of myself and my role in any given social
based on saying insecure things. Apparently,
virtually all of it was, except for the part that was devoted to
trivia (which is probably itself a form of insecurity anyway). My
initial instinctive response to almost anything
that someone else says involves
betraying insecurity on one level or another.
isn’t an insurmountable problem if I am just
chatting up some girl in a bar. I
deal with beating back my instinctive responses for a couple hours,
if doing so might result in sex. It’s
just another version of yourself, like how you resist the impulses to
curse or talk
about drugs during Thanksgiving dinner with your family.
you can always find things to talk about with
your family besides drugs. The
with cutting insecurity from your conversational diet is that the
replace it with aren’t very flavorful.
things are more interesting than confident things.
other week I was at a party and someone asked
me whether being a teacher was stressful.
I wanted to
say — what immediately popped into my head to say — was
it is the worst shit ever. No
in the world compels you to be so defenseless against so much
disrespect. I mean,
disrespected, but at least a
cop can fuck with you back if you disrespect him.
a teacher, you just have to take it.
kid can just start ripping on you in the
middle of class, but it’s not like you can call the kid fat
or ugly or a little
retard or something. You
just have to
ask him nicely to stop. And
those are just
the kids you hear. But
at any given time
in some corner of the room there are two little assholes whispering and
and you fucking know it’s about you, but there’s
nothing you can do. You
day-in day-out, with roomfuls
of people who openly think you’re the biggest loser
they’ve ever met and want
you to die, and that is the whole fucking job.
have been teaching
for ten years and every single day I still feel
like I am going to throw up right before I walk into the room and then
I get home.”
have to admit, that is a pretty interesting
not what I
said. What I said
and then I leaned back
in my chair with a smirk on my face, making sure not to look down or
away and to
take up as much space with my body as possible.
lying. I was just
declining to volunteer information that in the past I would have
still, I didn’t like this. I’m
a writer. I like
using words. I
interesting things and putting them in an interesting way. The
answer I wanted to give accomplished
that. The answer I
nothing. But the
manner in which
I delivered it was evocative of confidence, whereas what I wanted to say
evocative of paranoia, self-loathing, and a profound sense of
barely-literate children. The
gave — which, once again, barely even consisted of
words — would clearly make women
want to have sex with me more than would the response I wanted to give. I
had to choose between being sexually attractive
and interesting. And
like I said, if all
we’re talking about is how I had to act at some party for a
few hours, this is
no big deal.
for the last three weeks, I’ve been regularly seeing
a girl that I really like. And — for
first time in any relationship — I have from the very beginning
saying insecure things in front of her, right down to never asking her
about what I should wear or what kind of haircut I should get. I want
to ask her all those things. Hell,
to ask her every five minutes
whether she really likes me and then not believe her when she says yes. I
just don’t do it. Instead,
the ass and then lean against
of the funny stories I could spin out of my
day-to-day life are out the window too.
a couple weeks
ago, when I was interviewing potential new
roommates. One of
the first people
with was this guy who seemed totally nice and laid-back, but there was
problem: he was bizarrely, frighteningly good-looking.
mean, I’m good-looking too, but this guy
was like 6’3’’, five years younger than
me, a freaking ballet
dancer — meaning he was
in better shape than guys who play pro
sports — and bore an uncanny resemblance to a cross between
and Christian Bale. And
I know what
thinking, but by some miracle he was in fact straight.
I could think was, “Jesus Christ, if I am
within 10 miles of this guy, I will never get laid again.” So
I crossed him off the list. Now,
this is a
funny story. Not
but amusing and
the sort of
might share with their significant other at the end of the day. Did
I tell this story to the girl I’m
seeing? Hell no,
being insecure about something. Granted,
it involves feeling insecure about a guy who would make any reasonable
feel insecure, but still. My
new rule is
that I have to appear to think I am the greatest guy in the universe 24
day, so the story was out. (Women,
bother e-mailing me to ask for this guy’s number; I
threw it out, and then I set
the garbage on fire.)
this morning, I was watching TV with my new girl,
and the show mentioned something about San Francisco and I offhandedly
I loved it there and that I would pick San Francisco if I had to live
besides New York. She
asked why and I
froze. The real
reason is that
Francisco is the only other city where I’m not constantly
afraid that people will
make fun of me on the street. But
obviously couldn’t say that, so instead I just mumbled
something about how it’s
pretty there. I had
to keep up my
of never saying insecure things. But
by day, I am just digging myself deeper into a relationship with
lacks basic information about what I am really like.
course, she reads this website, so I am
essentially telling her now. Will
make a difference that the insecurity is being communicated textually? She
isn’t seeing me do
insecure in person. Will
insecurity to have a different effect, because it is revealing itself
artistic production instead of day-to-day life?
all, women do
like artists, and there’s not a ton of great art
that completely refuses to communicate vulnerability (the oeuvre of
Riefenstahl notwithstanding). The
of confidence is that, as seduction experts would put it, it flips the
of men” switch. But
of men — we’re just leading them someplace besides
fact is, I didn’t write for three months
because I couldn’t think of anything to say that
wasn’t insecure in some way. I
had ideas, but they all involved admitting
that I am not in fact the most macho guy in the entire world, and so I
bring myself to write them. Even
essays that don’t mention anything personal and are just
rants about stupid
people don’t pass the test, because women perceive ranting as
a form of
insecurity (since it demonstrates that you let things get to you).
cool guys that women like in TV and movies show
vulnerability, but you have to examine the level at which that
emerges. It is not
level. A normal guy
going to be in a situation where he is about to be frozen in carbonite,
to leap from a helicopter to ensure the rescue of the woman he loves,
up in an Italian hospital after being tied to a chair and having his
bashed in by members of an international criminal syndicate. If
you are showing vulnerability in real
life, odds are it is over some stupid shit.
I had to make a choice. I
would have an idea for
an essay that was funny, insightful, and also made me look supremely
about absolutely everything. But
did. And it became
that I was
never going to. I
had to stop
to be confident, at least enough to become a writer again. I
had to let myself believe that Art does not
count as stupid shit.
here’s the new essay. It
may not be
confident, but it’s brave.