In Vulnerability, There Is Hope

Inspired by the ever-intuitive Rian over at Truth and Cake, I have been encouraged to jump off the proverbial bloggers’ bridge and be 100% vulnerable by sharing something deeply personal.  But before I do that, allow me to gather the courage share why I’m baring my heart and soul like this.

Rian’s post really made me think about what I want to achieve on Defining Wonderland.  It’s hard to just put a blog into a box and be completely sure of the messages you want your readers to take away from your posts.  I want my Wonderlings to be amused, inspired, encouraged, and comforted by the stories I share and the questions I pose.  Now, I doubt all of that will be accomplished in each and every post, but I hope to at least keep folks coming back for more.  I accept that some posts may be good, some may be great, and plenty others will probably bore you to tears, but that is the risk every writer must take.  It’s a rather solo endeavor, this blog-keeping, but I don’t feel as though I’m alone with all of you out there commenting and posting on your own blogs.  It’s encouraging and keeps me going when my creativity and motivation take a nosedive.

Ok, I think I’ve stalled long enough.  The truth is…

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Rethinking Stranger Danger

If any of you out there had a protective mother like I did, you were taught from a very early age not to talk to people you didn’t know.  Those people were called strangers and they were very, very bad.

As the only child of a single mother, I was well-versed in what to say when someone I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Come here, little girl” (NO!) or “I work with your mommy and she asked me to pick you up from school today” (What’s the password?).  We spent hours role-playing and I’m pretty sure that I would have passed any of those hidden camera investigations Dateline produces about stranger danger.

Case in point: a story from my childhood.  Granted, I should forewarn you that I don’t remember this at all, but the story has been told many times over the years and I can attest that, in all likelihood, it did happen as it’s written.

Around the age of four or five, I went to the bank with my mom.  She had finished up and we were heading toward the exit, a rambunctious me skipping a little ahead.  When I reached the door, an older woman politely held the door open for me and uttered those famous last words: “Come here, little girl.”

That was all it took.

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up at her, and yelled, “NO!” just my mom and I had rehearsed dozens of times before.  I ran back to my mother and took her by the hand quite proud of the way I had handled the situation.  Afterall, she could have snatched me right then and there.

My mother, on the other hand, was horrified.  I guess her frequent warnings had stuck with me and now she was paying the humiliating price for it.

It was well into high school that I felt comfortable speaking with new people and that was mainly because I worked as a waitress and had to speak to them on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that most folks I know would classify me as a “people person,” I still have a hard time meeting others in a social setting.  Maybe deep down in my psyche, I’m still worried about being kidnapped.

I’m envious of guys like Hawkeye who, quite literally, makes friends wherever he goes.  Then again, maybe I could do the same.

In the last week, I have been contacted by several people I don’t know.  Strangers, if you will.  They have come in various forms: a bullied girl I once reached out to online, another who found my lack of inspiration inspirational, men seeking my affections in the world of online dating, and still others who I knew of, but did not know personally.  And I have learned something from these vastly different characters.  Each of them I might never met in “real life,” but if I hadn’t had the interactions I have had, my life would be missing something.

The thing is, even people you don’t know can have a positive impact on your life.  I am so glad to have shared even the briefest of sentences with these men and women.  I have been flattered, thanked, intrigued, encouraged, amused, and last but certainly not least, inspired.

You see, as I grew from a child into an adult, I learned that not all strangers are bad.  Some are welcome additions to our lives, while others are simply there to add a little color to our stories.  I once spent an unforgettable night exploring Las Vegas with an Irishman who stumbled into me at Planet Hollywood.  Would my life had been better if I had decided to walk away as he tried to converse with me?  I don’t know, but I do know I had an incredible evening seeing the Strip through the eyes of someone from another country.

While it may have once been pivotal to our safety, speaking to someone new does not necessarily mean you will be abducted from your parents and wind up a cautionary tale.  It can introduce you to wonderful experiences, ideas, and personalities that you may not have had the chance if someone didn’t make the first move to strike up a conversation.

Though I would hardly recommend throwing caution to the wind and encourage my readers to forget common sense and speak to everyone that comes their way, I would say that there is something amazing when strangers become friends.

After all, we were all strangers to each other once.

Orange Alert For Online Dating Weirdos

I can totally identify with the scene in As Good As It Gets where after dealing with the ornery Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt curses the heavens and declares, “Why can’t I just have a normal boyfriend?  Why?  Just a regular boyfriend who doesn’t go nuts on me!”

Where have all the normal guys gone???

After my latest almost-date with a guy who bordered on creepy, I sit and ponder if there really are any sane men out there schooled in the ways of Clark Gable and Cary Grant (with or without the gay rumors, the man was a man).  I’m talking strong, confident gentlemen here.  Doors opened, checks picked up, jackets draped over chilly shoulders, handkerchiefs extended to misty eyes.  Don’t guys get taught these things anymore?

Players are a dime a dozen.  I know that if I wanted to go out and get laid, I wouldn’t have a problem, but it’s just not me.  I’ve bypassed that stage of youthful indiscretions; I’m looking for something that lasts longer than an orgasm—which chances are, won’t happen the first time anyway.  I want someone who thinks with his brain, not his penis.  A tough find, I know.

Then there are the immature little boys who long for approval and strive to make everything perfect thereby putting on enough pressure to suffocate their significant others.  These are the types of guys who exhaust their friends by asking for feedback on every single thing they want to do with their partner.  “We’re fighting… how do I make it right?”  “What do I do for our two-month anniversary?”  “How come she’s mad about (insert given topic)?”  Grow up!  If I ever found out that every decision my guy ever made ran through his friends first for approval, I would be pulling my hair out.  Make your own decisions, boys!  Then you might have a shot of growing up into a warm-blooded man.  What a concept.

Let’s not rule out the ultra-clingy, weirdos.  This is the type of guy who wants to hang out 24/7 after meeting the week before.  Why wouldn’t anyone think that a relationship would result in marriage after one month of dating?  In the clinger category, this is the norm.  I am not one that deals well with co-dependent people, let alone co-dependent significant others, so I usually run for the hills at any sign of this you-are-my-everything-and-I-cannot-be-without-you type of behavior.

This last breed of ungentlemen is the one I have had the most recent interactions with.

Yesterday, I received an email inquiring about getting to know me based on my Match.com profile.  With time gladly running out on my account, I decided to give this guy a chance even though I wasn’t physically attracted.  He had a great job that he loved, was close to his family, and seemed to have his shit together.  I could grow to be attracted to someone like this.

After a total of two emails, he asked for my number so that we could text instead of email.  I personally think this is actually a more horrible way of communicating than email, but I gave him my number and told him that I was at work and may not get back to his messages in a prompt manner.  He texted me almost immediately and was lucky enough to catch me on my way to lunch when I had the time to sit and respond to his messages.

After exchanging pictures, he started asking me about my body shape and telling me that he thought a big butt (which I have always possessed) is really sexy.  He asked for pictures of my figure which I didn’t have on my phone, but were available on my profile.  I got busy with work and when I didn’t respond to a text after 20 minutes, he asked where I had gone.  Hello?  This is the first day I’ve ever communicated with you… you have no right to question where I went after I specifically told you I was at work and may not be able to respond.

When I got home last night, I received another text.  This time, he asked me to come over and hang out with him.  He lives at least 45 minutes away from me and we had already talked about meeting on Friday.  I said maybe some other time, but he wanted to know when.  What the hell?  What kind of woman would drive almost an hour away from her home to hang out with a guy that she had met online?  Sounds like making for an episode of 48 Hours Mystery.  No thank you.

I was already started to get a little weirded out.  I’m no prude, but this kind of behavior was either 1) overly enthusiastic about making my acquaintance 2) completely psychotic or 3) incredibly desperate.  None of which were very compelling choices to keep me interested for long.  The freak flag was flying and I was becoming aware that we were on two different levels here.

After a few exchanges this evening that started with a “Hadn’t heard from you today” text from him, I finally told him that I could no longer tell if these texts were all good fun or if he was just coming on too strong for my tastes.  I told him I wanted to be honest and that I wanted to give him a chance.

He thought I was “too serious.”

I can accept that assumption.  I can be incredibly on guard when interacting with people I do not know whose behavior makes me uncomfortable.  Who wouldn’t be?

We decided not to meet.  He thought I was too serious and I thought he was too creepy.  I really have no intention of being assaulted on a first date by a guy who is so clearly in need of a woman’s affection that he smothers her before even meeting her.  At least I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt to which he so easily brushed off.  Oh well.

Que sera sera.