My friend @tristanx pointed out an interesting, if random, blog post. He’s good at this. It was titled How I Botched A Budding E-Romance. It was a thoughtful admission of a regrettable mistake on the part of Stephanie (the author). I found it interesting enough I checked out another post on her home page: 12 Reasons Why It’s Time To Leave The Party And Go Home. It raised another introspective issue that struck home. I’d like your opinion about it.
As a thirty-something, I am really starting to enjoy the confidence that comes with learning my twenty-something self was overconfident. An odd paradox, to be sure. This is a normal state for one’s teens and twenties and nothing to be ashamed of. Not outgrowing it by forty … that’d be squarely into shame territory.
In Reason number 7, Stephanie writes:
You see an ex from a number of years ago. Despite the fact that you are now on good terms — friendly terms, even — the relationship ended somewhat badly, and you recognize that most of this is your fault. In your inebriated state, you apologize, profusely, for your past behavior. In your mind this amounts to a sort of self-deprecating wisdom, an acknowledgement of past wrongs and a mature desire to right them. In actuality it is the manifestation of the desire to have everyone like you, despite the fact that you have, undoubtedly, fucked some people over in your life. Additionally, approaching an ex in a state normally reserved for hitting on people and then invoking your relationship comes off like, well, hitting on them. They will probably also not want to remember how you fucked them over. They will have overcome this and constructed an idea of who you are w/r/t you fucking them over, and used this to move on. You are not helping yourself. It is time to go home.
The emphasis is mine and it’s what I want to discuss.
The older I get, the more willing I am to acknowledge stupid shit I’ve said or done to others in the past. In part, I suspect it’s easier to own up to because it’s more distant. I like to think, though, that it’s also maturity and recognizing that, even as a twenty-something adult, I view myself ten years ago as a kid with adult rights and still very little by way of a clue. I also realized in my late twenties that I have the same sort of social problems described by Asperger’s Syndrome, though I’ve not been diagnosed with this. I worked hard to learn to recognize those problems and work on them. I wish I could say I’ve eliminated them, but I haven’t – they’re still there and I’ll likely have to work at it all my life. But it’s getting easier with age. Introspection is getting easier with age.
So. Is the desire for atonement really a “manifestation of the desire to have everyone like you”? If yes, how much? Completely? Half and half? Just a little bit? More to the point, is that actually wrong? Of course “normal people” desire that everyone likes them. They may acknowledge that it’s not a realistic desire in practice, but we’re hardwired social creatures by nature. Surely it’s not wrong to desire that everyone likes us, so long as we know it’s never going to happen. Isn’t that desire part of the mechanism that prompts (most of) us not to be sociopaths?
So what do you think? Ignoring that it’s a reason for leaving a party, is Stephanie’s (seeming) all-or-nothing label for the compulsion she describes mature introspection, or the oft-scorned desire for everyone to like you? Moreover, is the latter so black and white (and “bad” or “immature”) as people make it seem?
To Stephanie if you read this: You make good points, which is why I chose to read more. Please don’t think I’m singling you out or chastising. Also, please like me.