Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Experiment


Beginning August 9th, I began a social experiment. I gave up attention seeking behavior for 30-days. I was not allowed to go on any dates; flirt with any boys, small animals or large groups of gay men; or draw attention towards myself in group settings.


My dating life had become a scene from the movie ‘Groundhogs Day’. I just kept having the same date over and over and over again—with different men. We meet for coffee, I smile, he charms. We extend coffee into a walk through some New York Park. We nearly always eat ice cream and share off the same spoon. I tell the same jokes. He laughs at the same point in the story. I think the first time I told the funny story it was original and witty and cute. But now that I have told it fifteen times on this same park bench I feel like a dating machine.

Night falls we stroll, he grabs my hand, I act like this is just so special. Because that trick always works and I’m sure I once really believed it.

He stops me and we kiss. We kiss on every street corner between said park, restaurant or bar and my little apartment in Union Square. We look in same shop windows. I always stop at the pet store on the corner and pretend to spontaneously suggest we go in and hold the dogs. We convince shop owner we are moving in together and looking for a pet. Shop owner looks at me like I’m a fucking nut case because I’ve been in every other night with a different guy pulling the same shit. Date and I leave and just as we reach French Roast, as if on cue--we collapse in giggles.

Mine, are fake.

We arrive at my door, he tries to talk himself upstairs, I decline. We make-out on New York street. And I’m getting what I want… twenty minutes of feeling like the center of this person’s universe. Twenty minutes of pure attention.

This is a New York Date.

I can predict the next move like I’m watching a re-run of Three’s Company.

After another repetitive and unoriginal date I realized I needed to give myself a break. I decided to cut men out of my life for 30 days.

I’m tired of it… I’m tired of the hangover of too many dates in one week. I’m tired of feeling cravings for attention and mistaking them for cravings for men. Or worse, one man in particular. I’m tired of picking girlfriends based on the amount of male attention their friendship will garner, only to discover they are shitty friends. I’m tired of making fun of the people I love in order to gain more attention from a room full of strangers. I’m tired of thinking there isn’t enough attention in the world to fill me up.

For all these reason, I enacted the experiment.


To discover if I have something else to offer others than my sexuality and playfulness. To push myself to engage fully with friends and family in a loving way. To rid myself of an obstacle wedged between who I am now and who I would like to become.


The rules:

1. No extended eye contact
2. No flirty conversation with strangers
3. No witty banter with the coffee guy
4. No back and forth with the Taxi driver
5. No striking up conversations on the Subway, not with old couples vacationing from Florida, not with other peoples kids and definitely not with any cute boys
6. No calling ex-boyfriends
7. No accepting dates
8. No dominating dinner table conversations
9. No jokes at anyone’s expense
10. I must remain in my friends lives-connected and committed
11. I must strive to be present in every conversation with another human being

The time period expires September 8, 2005.

Summary of Findings

· First lesson of giving something up is the sudden realization of how often we did it before. I am sickened by how many times in one day I have to stop myself.
· Week one I am grumpy and uptight. I don’t want to go out or engage with friends because I wasn’t don’t know how to act.
· I note that several of my girlfriends find my experiment makes me boring and have an expectation for me to entertain or engage in the kind of attention seeking behavior that brings lots of men over to the table.
· I’m afraid people wont like me if when I first meet them I don’t get there attention. But I’m also afraid that my current friends wont stick around if I don’t try and entertain them.
· A guy from a meeting I regularly attend asks me to join him at an AA meeting later in the week. I don’t think it is a date, because who the hell asks someone to an AA meeting as a date? Clearly this sort of arrangement qualifies for him. After the meeting I tell him that I am not dating right now. He gets weird and gives me one of those long hugs goodbyes where he won’t let go and it feels creepy. I realize that this is exactly the kind of man that when I’m jonesing for attention reels me in and we end up dating for a few weeks before I figure out what a freak he is and back out slowly with a major feeling of doom and dread hanging over my head.
· Week three… I’m relating to people in a professional and non-sexual way and I’m feeling very smart, very capable and surprisingly confident. I am also eating everything in sight as if being acknowledged for having a brain means I no longer have a body.
· Week four… labor day weekend at the shore, a wedding and my family. A recipe for experiment failure. But, I find myself pausing, biting my tongue, letting others talk—not chiming in. I find that when I don’t talk and carry the conversation and I let a little silence hang in the air… someone else fills it. And by filling it, this person feels important.


· A big part of my personality and spirit is tied up in attention seeking behavior. It’s sort of who I am. So, who am I without it?
· Attention seeking behavior is ultimately self-seeking and yet masks itself in the guise of generously “entertaining” others.
· By seeking attention I’ve alienated and hurt people I care about. I can no longer count on one hand the number of women friends who say that I become a different, less likeable woman in groups. I see now how my attention seeking insults in their direction caused them pain.


· Day 31… went to a party hosted by Nicole Ritchie and spent the evening charming the bartender and flirting with everything that walks. My drunk friends hardly noted my teasing them, they just laughed. End of night, three drunk girlfriends, Brian has my number in his pocket, Everyone thinks I’m fab.
· Next day… No one calls.

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 9/10/2005 01:11:00 AM |


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