A couple of weeks ago I went to Trader Joe’s and when it was time to check out, two registers were open. To the right, a tall hot drink of water with a man bun. To the left, some other dude. The lines were equally long. Did I go to the one on the right?
No, I did not.
It was a split decision. If I went with Man Bun, I worried I’d be stunned speechless, I’d make a fool of myself, I’d feel incredibly awkward. In short, I freaked out.
I went with the safer option and got in line for Some Other Dude. I couldn’t muster up much small talk even for that guy, being generally exhausted from moving to a new state.
Once I drove home, the whole thing really bothered me. What if I’d actually talked to Man Bun? Maybe I wouldn’t have been interested anymore but maybe I would have been more intrigued. And maybe he would have been intrigued back! But I didn’t even risk a conversation. I avoided the possibility.
I posted about the non-interaction on Twitter. Em tweeted she wished she could give me some of her Three mojo. She said, “it’s like you put on your superhero cape and go smile...Next time, just pretend to be a 3!”
I loved the Enneagram reference and the visual. “Here I am, putting on my superhero cape and all men will be stunned by my amazingness!”
The next time I go to Trader Joe’s and he’s working, I’ll get in line for his register. I promise.
That's not the end of the story.
A few nights later I read the chapter on Fours in The Complete Enneagram and one section in particular completely bowled me over.
“Type Fours’ cognitive mistake centers on the underlying belief that they are lacking in some important quality that would make them worthy of love...If you believe that you are lacking in important personal traits that would make you attractive and acceptable to others (and thus worthy of love), then it logically follows that you won’t want to risk rejection or abandonment by opening up to being loved. If you expect others to reject or abandon you- if you anticipate negative results- you end up creating an external reality that confirms your negative expectations.” p. 278
“...the Four’s worldview that they can’t have what they most want...Fours both search for the love that will prove them wrong and prevent themselves from being open to love in case they are proved right.” p. 279
“To receive the love and understanding you want, you have to have the courage to shift your attention to how that might be possible rather than dwelling on impossibility.” p. 303
Even though I think of myself as a good catch, even though I was sure I'd moved beyond this, I doubt men will find me attractive or intriguing. My brain unconsciously reverts back to the “you’re too ugly” messages that plagued me from age 13 to college. I assume they won’t be attracted to me.
It’s hard to untangle stubborn subconscious beliefs from lived experience. Guys typically don't pursue me right away. We’re usually friends for a while and one day they start seeing me in a more romantic light. I have friends who meet men at the grocery store or when they’re pumping gas or in line for a museum and I’ve always marveled at their ability to draw someone in without saying a word.
(That’s not to say I’ve never been hit on. It’s just that most of the random guys who hit on me are old enough to be my father or claim to have hacked [country name redacted.])
Logically, I know I am worthy of love and not having romantic love doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. But in the moment of possibility, I revert back to believing it's impossible anyone would love me as I am. I revert back to hiding. It's a vicious cycle.
It is weird to realize most days I believe I’m beautiful, witty, and wise but when I’m around someone I find attractive, I freeze up and assume they’ll reject me. I believe it in theory but the moment it becomes a real possibility, I freak out. I don't want to risk rejection, which in most cases is simply not having a longer conversation or being asked for my phone number. It's not the end of the world. I know that and yet.
I’m not sure what changed. The other day my friend Annie and I were talking about the cumulative effects of failed dates and relationships. How at this point in our 30s, it’s becoming easier to wonder if there are any good guys left (surely there are!) when we only meet the lackluster ones. It’s harder to stay optimistic. I used to proclaim “it only has to happen once!” But years later I keep coming back to HOW?!
I used to believe it could happen at any moment. I breathed in the air of possibility. Given the right context, I haven’t shied away. I do great when I have a wingman or when I’ve known a guy for a while. I don't do well with cold opens. I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone in a group setting, although I usually have to work my way up to going over to a cute guy. But I do it eventually!
Meeting someone now is a very small hope and not something I think a lot about. But that of course is why Man Bun matters. Because sometimes it starts with a conversation at the register or wherever else.
And because no matter what, I'm not going to hide how awesome I am from anyone. My superhero cape is on.
Caveat: I trust you all know I'm not asking for dating advice.