So did you hear the one about the guy with the wooden eye and the girl with the buck teeth?
They grew up in the same town, but didn’t know each other because they both kept to themselves, embarrassed by their respective conditions. She kept her mouth closed, never smiling for fear of revealing her buck teeth. He couldn’t keep his eyes closed all day, so instead he endured the taunts of “Wood Eye! Wood Eye!” They both longed to find someone who would understand.
They finally met, at a party. He saw her sitting alone, and felt drawn to ask her to dance. She saw him approaching, and became hopeful. He didn’t speak for a minute. But then, summoning up all of his courage, he managed to whisper “Would you like to dance?”
She smiled a big smile and said “Would I? Would I?”
And he pointed at her and yelled “Buck Teeth! Buck Teeth” She ran away crying and they never saw each other again.
I think something similar may be happening, over and over again, with single people and it is holding them back from entering into new relationships.
I admit, I don’t spend a lot of time in the fora. But I do for the most part follow the blog, and the comments on the various posts. I am constantly amazed at the insightfulness I see in some of you.
And at the anger I see in others.
Sometimes I read a comment, and then I re-read the blog post that prompted it, and then I re-read the comment again. And I think “Am I missing something?” Because I see nothing in the post that, in and of itself, could possibly have provoked the response I’m seeing. I feel like there must be another story somewhere, another piece, something to explain the reaction. Do these two people know each other? Did she dump him in another life or something?
It’s even more baffling when it’s my blog post inciting the anger. Because I know there’s no back story. At least none that I had anything to do with.
And that, my friends, is often the crux of the problem.
Look, we’re all adults. Which means we’re all old enough to have been hurt somewhere along the road. Some of us more than others. And, like the guy with the wooden eye, we often become defensive. We carry our hurts over into new relationships, and even into casual interactions—online or offline. We assume that the new people we meet are going to do the same things that the old ones did. So we listen for any hint of danger, and then we pounce.
And poor, innocent, buck-toothed girls wind up getting hurt.
I understand the self-protective instinct. Believe me, I’m reminded of it every time I roll down my car window. But I think we need to take a good look at ourselves and our interactions every once in a while. We need to ask ourselves one simple question:
“Am I projecting old hurts onto new people?”
Take a breath and think before you speak—or type. Because if you don’t, you may be driving away the very person who could help you move past those hurts.
Do you have a question for Mary Beth Bonacci? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.