They protest. They point out the not-shy things I do. They occasionally suggest I’m pretending to be shy to score points with shy people. Do shy people even look up to other shy people?
These things aside, I am shy — because I’m insecure, because I don’t really feel comfortable in my skin, in my job, in my life, save these pockets of confidence that show up here and there. In general, I don’t take a lot of risks in fear of the blow-back that may result. Namely, rejection.
The Thing We’re All Afraid Of
Because that’s what we’re all afraid of, isn’t it? We, the shy, nervous, awkward, dorky, unique. We’re afraid of seeing something we want and being told it’s not for us. Be that something a job, an expensive item, a kick-ass club, a pretty girl, hell, even the attention of our parents.
In high school, the question was, “Would you like to go on a date?” As a swinger, the question morphs to a variation on “I’m attracted to you, are you attracted to me?” or even as simple as “Would you like to fuck?” As a polyamorous person, the question is more complex, but reduces down to a nice and simple “Would you like to go on a date?” reduction. I’ve come full circle.
Now I feel like I get a chance to put right what once went wrong. Like another Beckett I know. I have a dating do-over. I’ve been given legit access to “If I knew then what I know now.”
Thus far, I’ve blown a lot of that opportunity because rejection sucks. But the idea of rejection sucks far more.
Looking back at my teenage years, I see that I really set the tone for what would become my interaction with those I’m attracted to. I’d see someone I’m interested in. I’d yearn to make my interest known. I’d be in their life. I’d listen to their stories and problems. I’d “be there” for them. The rare occasions that I made my interest known were when these girls were dating other people.
I set myself up for rejection that I knew was coming. At least then, my expectations were met. When you know that the answer is no, there’s no real risk, is there?
More often, I’d talk myself out of making any move or comment at all. I may not get the interaction I want, but at least I wouldn’t get rejected, right?
Unfortunately, when I began swinging, more than a decade post-high-school, I continued down this path. I’d make my interest known to those who were not in a position to reciprocate (i.e., monogamous folk) or not say anything at all to the vast majority of those I’d like to talk to.
I’d hide behind the computer, instant messaging instead of meeting, vaguely pre-apologizing for the person (me) that they were going to meet. At parties, I’d wait for someone to introduce me and lead me to an opening. The most success I’ve had at swing parties with people I didn’t already know usually came from following my partner around. Lead with the sexy girl. The worst experience of my swinging life was at a party where everybody was interested in her (and asked her to play — and she did) but nobody asked me. That’s not me feeling sorry for myself, that’s recognizing that I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the bargain.
The risk-reward ratio is enormous here. Yes, it does take risk to put yourself out there. Yes, rejection is a possibility. But the reward that comes in the form of a “yes I’d like to play” is pretty damned spectacular.
“So, Schrödinger, Coop?” You Ask.
“Are you just trying to show off your cleverness, or are you gonna take us there?”
Schrödinger, yes. Lemme explain a bit to the cheap seats quickly. There’s the mental exercise of Schrödinger’s Cat. A cat in a box and we can’t see it or hear it. We have no way of knowing if the cat is alive or dead. At that moment, it’s both and neither. My thought is that the cat may as well be dead in that box, because you’re getting nothing from it.
The risk of putting your feelings out there is the same thing. For so long, I was so unbelievably scared of a “no” that I wouldn’t ask. By not asking, I created the “no” that I expected. I wasn’t getting to go out with (or kiss, or fuck) the girl either way.
And that’s why the exercise is so important. We think of it as being a 50-50 shot, yes/no. But there are really three possible outcomes to the Schrödinger’s cat conundrum.
- I open the box, the cat’s alive: I get to play with the cat!
- I open the box, the cat’s dead: I don’t get to play with the cat.
- I don’t open the box: Guess what? I don’t get to play with the cat!
Adapting this to (coarsely) “picking up chicks” gives us three possible results:
- She says “yes” and you get to the next phase.
- She says “no” and you don’t get to the next phase.
- You don’t ask and you don’t get to the next phase.
Two of these results are the same, but the crazy thing is, we the shy, we the un-confident, we the insecure, choose the third one all by ourselves.
We’re rejecting ourselves by fearing rejection. We’re stamping “no-way” on that application.
And I’m fucking sick of it.
It’s time to start asking. Time to start seeing if the cat is alive.
This article is an excerpt from my book, My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory.