One of my favorite sayings from “The Game” character Tasha Mack is, “Emotional walls, girl…emotional walls!” It means that she’s in a situation where she needs to detach herself so she can do something without bias/say something smart/shank somebody/something. It probably (and by probably I mean “not at all” because she’s not a real person) came from a lifetime of having to sustain herself and her child in the hood and beyond. It was a learned behavior.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some time to reflect on myself and my own behaviors. Even a few months ago in this post, I wondered what I am giving off to attract the “type” of guys who become attracted to me. Now, for the first time in a looooooooooong time, I have started thinking about my past relationship. The one that ended over a year ago. Not about him (in the least), but about it. I’m trying to figure out my learned behaviors.

One thing I’ve observed from watching Sex and the City is that Carrie always took her cues from her relationship with Big. I’m pretty sure that her other relationships did not work because she was either acting like she was still with Big or behaving in the manner that would cause behavior she craved from Big. She kept things light. (He would withdraw if she went too deep.) She made insinuations until absolutely necessary. (He used directness as a way to highlight reluctance to commit, and she never wanted his mind to go there…and he knew it.) Laughing and banter is what cultivated their intimacy. (He would have been turned off by emotional outpours.) She learned the game and played it until she couldn’t. (I would normally reference a specific show here, but choose an episode with Big in it, and then pick an example. Don’t worry…the words will still be here when you get back ;). )

Anyone who has known me for at least 8 years knows about three different versions of who I am, and I’m willing to bet that they are all some variation of timid, subdued, and bold. Some people (who shall remain nameless) have referred to me as a nutcracker within the past year or so (how rude, lol). It wasn’t like this before. Oh, I’ve always been opinionated. Maybe a little less direct than I am now,  but I’ve never been afraid to express that opinion, but in relationships? I walked the line that was drawn. Tried to be ever-accommodating. I was vulnerable (not a bad thing necessarily) and though I was never overly emotional, I was not afraid to express my feelings.

My ex was very scaled back. He wasn’t overly affectionate. We had a highly intellectual relationship…our jokes about arguing over the correct pronunciation of Hungary during the Olympics at 4am, or the little Jamaican girl with the attitude on the Scripp’s Spelling Bee are some of my best memories of us because it was totally us. No one else would do it. Most of the time if we were together, people could only tell we were dating by the proximity of our seating, but they admired the yin and yang thing we had going. We held hands rarely, and usually in cases that dictated it – romantic dinners, walks on a beach, around other people who were holding hands. We danced together on New Year’s Eve at his uncle’s annual party. We sat opposite each other at dinner…never shared a bench like the people we sometimes made fun of (“Don’t they need elbow room?”) What’s funny is, I always wanted more (not a lot more because it would have been too much). He shut down if I “explained” too much and it seemed like it was emotional. He complained if I fell asleep on him while watching movies, because it would make it difficult for him to move around if he needed to do so.

So what did I do? I danced on New Year’s Eve. I sat on the opposite bench. I held hands quickly at traffic lights. I solidified my explanations to bare speaking points, infused with jokes so it never seemed too emotionally driven. I put my feet on him instead of my head. I allowed him to temper my emotional behavior because that relationship was my first “real” one. It cultivated “relationships” for me. In other words, I Carrie-d.

Now, I don’t understand real flirting with actual feelings involved. Oh I can play the game, but not when there’s anything to lose. It’s not in my natural reaction to be overly affectionate, even though I don’t dislike it at all. I shut down when I hear too much emotion in someone’s explanation to find the bare points. And I try as I’m learning. It comes out in spurts like cars with 9 tablespoons of gas. I’ll get very affectionate…and then go sit in my chair where it is impossible to sit next to me. I wonder if anyone else has this story.

I don’t think I want to stay this way, but I don’t want to Carrie either. What’s a girl to do?

Do you have any learned behaviors lingering from the past? Are they helpful? Harmful?

Love,

–V

Advertisements