I’m amazed that this is still happening to me. That I’m still getting this opening line that I’ve heard so many times:
Hey you, want to get to know each other better?
The stranger offers up chat info.
“How would you possibly get to know me any better?” I ask myself aloud, boggling.
My partner often tells me that they learn new things about me from my writing all the time, in spite of spending years together with me. That they get a peek inside my head that isn’t possible from talking to me directly, either in person or via chat.
Get to know me better. Sheesh.
It was a lot more understandable in the days before I had a large readership. And it would be a lot more understandable if this were a message to a dating profile and not via my author presence.
While I used to read such an outreach more literally, as a request to mutually get to know one another, what I read from this nowadays is: “Please get to know me.”
Because frankly, I’m fairly easy to get to know. I write publicly. About my deepest and darkest.
When contrasted with my writing, my private IM conversations pale in comparison. I’m usually discussing articles with people. Trading recipes. Occasionally agonizing about something really boring. Or trying to decide what’s for dinner.
It’s the writer’s curse. We’re fascinating in certain contexts (but boring in others). Usually, if we’re successful, we’ve figured out how to be interesting in a specific way.
The Edit Is Kind to Me
I personally benefit a lot from the edit. Occasionally, someone will complain about the length of certain articles. FYI, the tipping point seems to be 1000+ words, not all that long in the grand scheme of things, but about when most casual online readers skimming on their phones tap out unless they’re super into the subject matter/issue being discussed.
And when someone does complain about the length of an essay, I’ll laugh, knowing how bad I am in the raw. How merciful even the most convoluted of my essays are compared to knowing me. The stream of consciousness, the constant asides sent a sentence at a time.
A small thought and then press return. Another small thought before pressing return. Then you have 12 messages from me that don’t say much until you read them all together.
Or, as one ex put it, “You’re an exhausting communicator.”
Fish For Better Nudes, Or You’ll Catch Disappointment
He probably means nudes, I think.
I want to tell him just to Google for other people’s nudes or find a subreddit full of them. That there are countless photographs of bodies more stereotypically beautiful than mine. That there’s porn made by people committed to looking good naked, in a way that they can easily monetize.
I want to tell him that my nudes would disappoint him. That I’m not a good photographer. And that on the rare occasion that I do look good, it’s only incidentally and still quite subjective, only possible because of assessments bolstered by my personality or positive bias by people who (for whatever reason) know me well and have grown quite fond of me.
I have failed at being an object d’art, the Western ideal, full of sumptuous pale curves chiseled from marble.
The real me is unpredictable, ragged, marked, clumsy.
I want to tell him that sending nudes to a stranger would feel meaningless and nihilistic to me. That I don’t care about him, so it wouldn’t be much of a compliment. It wouldn’t feel like a tribute; it would feel like something that confirms the emptiness of the modern age.
As this train of thought bolts away, I stop myself. Scold myself. How do you know he means nudes? I challenge myself.
Then a third message comes in from the same sender.
Got any nudes?
I roll my eyes, irritated at how predictable it all is. Maybe I know him better already than he gives me credit for, especially if he’s going to behave like a copy + paste Internet extra. A thirsty bot.
It’s a wonder I have any shred of an open mind left, I reflect, as I close the message and reply to correspondence that asks more interesting questions.
Books by Page Turner: