This column first appeared in Attitude issues 278, January 2017.
We must present ourselves to the world as sane, sorted and high-achieving people. That’s what will make us loveable, right? Er, no. What actually draws us closer to each other is our humanity. Why do you think networking events are the most vile thing known to humankind? Because most people are showcasing the side of their personality which is about as three-dimensional as their business card.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is risky. It increases your chances of being humiliated and rejected, but if you decide to take that risk, you are allowing yourself to find others who are doing the same. Getting things wrong is human. It’s sexy. We don’t all have a five-year plan; we get nervous when leaving voicemails; we make speeling mustakes. See, wasn’t that endearing?
Earlier this year I went on a string of mediocre dates. They were never amazing enough for either party to enthusiastically arrange a second one, nor were they horrid enough for me to get a witty tweet out of. I realised that dating had become mundane because I’d been holding back and not expressing my true, unfiltered self. In the past I’ve been advised to play it cool on dates and not give too much away – in other words, to be guarded and not speak my truth. Why? Because I might frighten them off by being too open. But fuck it. If that’s the case, maybe they’re the right people to frighten off. A wise friend said to me that only by being our most authentic self can the people who really ‘get’ our authentic self, find us. But here’s the next paradox – what is our authentic self?
‘Be yourself’ always feels like the most confounding advice. There are many ‘selves’ – which ‘self’ should I be? The Mawaan who’s warm and charming and listens to Pink Floyd? Or the desperate and clingy Mawaan who cries whenever he hears an Enya song? We behave differently with different people. So maybe it’s a case of showing two or three different sides of ourselves, not just the one we think will be most welcomed. I’m trying to be bold enough to share a more complex and therefore honest version of myself when I meet people – whether that’s on a date, at a party or even on a dating app.
Grindr is great for communicating who you are and exactly what you’re after – ironically, you can be a lot clearer on an app than you can in a gay bar. But there’s a thin line between clear communication and judgmental shorthand that diminishes humans to a list of sexual preferences. What if there was more dignified honesty on Grindr? Such as when someone doesn’t tickle your fancy, and instead of ignoring them, saying something as simple as: “Sorry, not for me.” What if we had the balls to say how we actually feel even on a platform that allows us to hide under the veil of digital anonymity?
Once a guy messaged me on Grindr asking: “How are you?”
For some weird reason, I felt like telling the truth, so I said: “I’m having a shit day,” expecting him to block me, or worse, ignore me.
But instead he replied: “Me, too,” and took an interest. I then told him about my racist boss and he told me about his dead dog. Bants. We got to know each other, I even found out that his dog was the same breed as my sister’s. We chatted some more and when he asked for more pics, I sent him a photo of my sister’s Yorkshire Terrier.
He replied: “Sorry, not for me.” Now that’s what I call honesty.
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