September 28, 2000
Too Much Too Soon
Once you spill your guts, they're a little hard to mop up.
Take it from me. I've been cornering men I hardly know and talking their ears off. I must be stopped. This month alone, I've had three lengthy conversations late into the night with three virtual strangers. I don't have one-night stands in any physical way. I have what my friend Richard calls "emotional hit and runs."
In short, I overshare.
Like any vice, my compulsion to overshare worsens when I'm down. For months, I'll be on the talk wagon, keeping my secrets to myself, straining to call forth my inner Audrey Hepburn, the one who listens intently, arms rested on crossed legs, all poise and quiet confidence.
Enter a funk: you know, any combination of loneliness, identity crisis, job stress, rejection, amorphous lack of joie. That's when I find myself latching onto guys and setting my emotional VCR on fast forward, as in skip the small talk and let's get to the juicy scenes.
The last victim, a lanky writer I met at an industry cocktail party, really should've been wearing a yellow ribbon, because he was nothing short of a hostage to my need for instant connection and understanding. I lured him in with just enough normal interaction before unleashing the full fury of the overshare, discussing my family, my fears, my past. When the party ended, we went to a bar. When the bar closed, we went to the all-night burrito stand. I honestly needed a lozenge at that point. The more his eyes glazed over, the more I pushed to make myself seem interesting.
The next day, I couldn't help reliving some of my monologues in forehead-grabbing disgust. The most pathetic are the transparent anecdotes I tell that lead to the inevitable conclusion that I'm witty and in demand. If I feel I'm really losing my audience, I allow myself the indulgence of one tiny lie: something about juvenile hall ("juvie," I call it for dramatic effect) and "pulling a knife on a girl."
Mostly, though, I tell the truth. I'm spilling my guts just hoping something comes out that someone will like. With the same goal as people who have sexual one-night stands, I'm trying to break through to other people, to make them love and want me before either feeling is appropriate or possible.
Sometimes, I see it starting and I'm powerless to stop it. As I'm launching into a string of too-personal questions (Do you want to have kids? What was your last girlfriend like? Do you believe in God? Am I your type?) I notice that I'm turning into that girl, that awful girl men mock, the girl who won't shut up. Just be Audrey Hepburn, I tell myself, just feign some semblance of self-contained grace. But once the first revealing story is out on the table, there's no going back. I'm a Mack truck of need.
Yesterday, I called my friend Richard to confess that I'd been on an emotional hit-and-run bender. He's a recovering oversharer and therefore likely to have not only insight, but stories way worse than mine - always a comfort.
I told him about the writer, the out-of-town law student, the unsuspecting blind date. I confessed to two-hour phone calls and novella-length e-mails and one late-night/early-morning share session during which a guy actually fell asleep - right in the middle of a particularly poignant story about my first Halloween. I actually had to wake him up to kick him out.
Richard told me what I already knew: I'm only scaring men away. It's no sin to want to be wanted, but you just have to trust that people will see who you really are without a crash course.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," I said, quoting Thoreau. "I lead a life of loud desperation."
"The quiet kind is so much more dignified," he added. Tell me about it.