Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Faded pictures

I've always enjoyed looking at pictures of my friends from when they were younger. The acquaintances with the majority of my friends have been formed since high school, so I don't have an opportunity to see what they looked like when they were younger.

That's one of my guilty pleasures about Facebook. I love plunging through the collections of photos that people accrue, reveling in the possibility that someone in the past will post pictures of the "times gone by".

I know people would get a kick out of my old photos. Being skinny, beardless, and with considerably more hair makes even me take a double glance whenever I happen to stumble across one. And anyone who likes seeing Doctor Andy taken down a peg would love the ones with the large-lens tortoise shell glasses.

This is on my mind tonight because someone added a photo from years ago of someone I once dated. Actually, we never "dated"; we had a pre-date. A pre-date is what occurs when two friends end up "trying out" the idea of seeing each other one-on-one. It's designed to figure out whether or not you're just friends, or if there's actually some workable chemistry. This was a person I had known for at least two years, but we'd recently been interacting more in party situations. Before I knew it, it was time for a pre-date.

In our case, the pre-date was a disaster. The meeting itself was fine, but insomuch as it was a "date", there was little chemistry involved. Shake hands and return to your corners. I consider that a bit of a shame, because somewhere behind all the bullshit, I think there was somebody who was really interested in being loved. However, I'm no longer in the archeology department, and she's making baby steps towards trust, so "no harm, no foul". She wasn't what I need and I wasn't what she needs.

Everybody tends to spend phases of their life burdened down with their own baggage of the past. Healthy people can sort through it quicker, unhealthy tend to stay under the pile for a while. I spent most of my post-child life having unhealthy non-relationships in my head, so I spent quite a while at the carousel.

This particular woman had long been basting in self-pity, which made it terribly hard to like her. She's smart. She's pretty. She's athletic. She's artistic. She's got a good sense of humor. But she's also sullen. She's moody. She's defeatist. She's bitter. She's not tasting life.

It's fatiguing to talk with her. She unknowingly drags people down to her smog-filled level, and says (in effect) "See? What's so great about life?" And while late-80's L.A. is fun for a visit, living there is unhealthy.

So seeing a picture of her from the dawning days of her undergrad is arresting. She's smiling, which is something that only comes with irony or sarcasm now. She's got her hair away from her face, making her look somehow more open and approachable. But that picture is also her from before everything goes downhill. Men treat her badly, parents get divorced, parent commits suicide. That woman (in the photograph) has hardships ahead of her that she doesn't realize.

If anyone has, she's earned the right to be sullen. Knowing the story gives me the perspective and understand to accept who she is. The problem is that other guys may not ever get that chance. They may not bother to date (or pre-date) someone who seems so dissatisfied with her own life. They're going to want the girl in the photo.

The good news is that the girl in the photo isn't gone forever. She'll be waiting when the woman looking in the mirror is ready.

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