The day I first met Bloody Good Bloke in real life (in a park), the image of a mysterious, *surely* arrogant tall-dark-and-handsome that I’d built up in my head from our first Zoom encounter didn’t line up with the friendly, open, neurosciencey man who I met instead.
I thought he’d probably be a bit of a dick with that face, but it turned out he was lovely.
Without having met him, I’d already constructed an identity for him in my head, and I had a crush on that guy.
Despite my crush, our first meeting felt very platonic.
BGB didn’t seem to be flirting, and I was very busy suppressing all evidence of my crush. Neville successfully deployed my dismissive attachment skills and acted as friend-like and neutral as possible.
Flirting is one of my least skillful skills.
If I fancy a guy, Neville feels it’s imperative to make sure they think I’m ONLY interested in friendship, if that. When I was younger, I thought that acting completely aloof and uninterested was how you played hard to get.
Turns out, it’s a great way to intimidate guys and have them move on to fancying your eye-lash fluttering friend instead. But old habits die hard, and these days I still find being flirty nigh on impossible unless I know for SURE someone is into me.
Luckily at the time, I was working with a brilliant coach, Medha, who helped me realise that I was suppressing my crush energy, and it was making me feel awkward. She pointed out that shoving down my excitable “puppy energy” was turning me into a nervous pressure cooker of tension.
Medha is all about bringing all parts of you to the party, and encouraged me to let my puppy energy out around BGB. As she wisely pointed out, my excitable nature is a big part of me, and if he didn’t like it, then we wouldn’t be a good fit.
Likewise, if BGB fancied the suppressed, chill version of myself that I often present to the world, we also wouldn’t be a good fit, because that’s not the real me.
That’s curated me.
The me that learnt at a young age that expressing my enthusiasm and excitement gets me hurt.
I have a memory of bike riding in the Eden Park car park with friends when I was young and feeling so overwhelmed with excitement that I made an involuntary squawk-screech noise. I was mortified and vowed never to let my excitement get the better of me again.
I also have a clear memory of realising during architecture school that the cool people I was becoming friends with did not use many exclamation marks or smiley faces in their texts. This was a problem, as at the time, I used alllll the :) :D !!!!!!!s. I clearly remember deciding that day that I would stop using exclamation marks and smiley faces altogether, and I did, for many years.
I’ve often noticed that when I’m around people I feel completely safe with, as I did with my wonderful ex-partner Bloody Good Chap, I’m playful, silly, excitable, and ridiculous a great deal of the time.
Yet when I’m with some of my female friends who I love to bits, I can often find myself being very calm and serious, while my friends appear to be the enthusiastic, ridiculous ones. This doesn’t happen around my male friends, who I’m much more myself around.
It took me a while to realise that because I have a lot of triggers when it comes to female friendships, I try much harder not to rock any boats or annoy anyone for fear of rejection. I curate my behaviour like a friendship chameleon. Not cool.
So, on Medha’s advice, the second time I met up with Bloody Good Bloke, before we met up, I danced around to loud music to shake off some of the pent up puppy energy. I didn’t want to overwhelm the poor guy nor accidentally hump his leg. On our second date-not-date, I took the lid off the pressure cooker and allowed some of my excitability to come to the surface.
I could see it in his eyes the moment things switched for him.
His eyes danced with warmth every time I revealed a little bit of my puppy self.
I could feel that the connection was coming alive between us the more “myself” I allowed myself to be.
I couldn’t believe it.
All this time I’d been trying to play it cool, suppressing my enthusiasm and moulding myself into a chill, emotionless person.
Then out the puppy sprang, and bam, sparks were flying.
I pride myself on being super authentic and honest, yet I’d totally missed the fact that I was doing this.
Ask yourself… are you suppressing parts of yourself in your relationships, friendships, around your colleagues? Are you pretending to care less than you actually do?
Could you let the puppy out of the box?
What if we stopped buying into this narrative that not caring and suppressing just how excited, enthusiastic, and loving we really are is how adults “should” behave?
If that’s what it means to be an adult… Feck that, I’m staying a puppy.