SEVEN years ago I wrote a piece about the six degrees of separation between myself and Vice President Joe Biden, wherein I described an evening at New York’s Rose Bar spent with tequila shots and an Australian photographer wearing a white suit and a closely shaven beard. The story ended in his apartment, which he shared with one of Biden’s nephews, then a male model of the “It” variety. The whole thing was very sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll—everything that happens when you’re 22 years old and single and willing to go to some stranger’s apartment instead of paying for your own cab ride home. Though when my boyfriend at the time read it, he was far from entertained, despite the tale’s age and absolute negligible relevancy in my current life. “You’re gross,” he said. “I’m never reading anything you write again.” And he didn’t.
Though we were in a good place at the time, I knew deep down that this was going to be an ultimate deal breaker down the line; I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t appreciate my work, and I definitely couldn’t be with someone who didn’t read my work at all. My writing is and has been so deeply intertwined with who I am as a person—to reject it was, as I saw it, to reject me.
Since that boyfriend and I broke up five years ago, I have dated more than a handful of men, all with varying degrees of involvement with my work. And in that time, I’ve discovered something more distressing than a man who doesn’t read my work at all: a man who reads everything, tells me he reads everything, shares my writing with his friends, tells people my work is good, and still doesn’t want to be with me. Because that is the ultimate rejection: your writing is amazing; you, however, are not.
The problem is, I always saw writing as my path towards salvation. It would save me from a dead-end career modeling. It would save me from the sense of worthlessness and self-hatred that occupation carved into my core. It would give me a purpose, a voice. It would give me, I thought, the world. While writing has indeed provided me with all of these things to some extent, it has not provided me with love, something I thought would eventually be a natural extension of finally finding value in myself. Because that’s what everyone tells you: find yourself and someone will find you. Until then, you’re just spinning your wheels.
But I’ve found myself—at least I’ve found more of myself than I ever have in the last 30 years. Increasingly, my writing and I are one and the same, totally inseparable. Only now I meet men who fall in love with my writing, but who refuse to fall in love with me. They tear the writer and the written in two, taking all of me via my work without taking on the work that is me as a person.
I guess I always thought I could be so good at something I could con someone into loving me for it, just like an awkward teenage boy who picks up a guitar and starts writing songs so girls will like him, finally pay attention to him in a way he could never command just on his own, slinking through the school cafeteria small and unnoticed. And while many rock stars have proven otherwise, love isn’t a meritocracy.
At least not for writers.