Does My Baggage Scare You Away?


My sister recently wrote a Thought Catalog article on Psychobabble. “For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s when the brain shuts down and anxiety, emotion and shadow take over, causing one to spew out nonsensical, possibly defensive, definitely inappropriate, rapid-fire word salad that inaccurately represents them.” (read her article y’all,  she’s brilliant).

Pardon the shameless plug, but she really is one of the smartest people I know. As is the case when one has an older and wiser sister, I usually tend to follow her lead on all matters. I recently asked her advice about a first date. This is when our stories start to mirror each other, but for very antithetical reasons. 

Let’s get to it. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I haven’t really been out on an official first date since our dad passed away. It’s been two years, I am back to myself, and feel open and ready to get to know someone. 

I ask her, “So, like, when the topic of family/parents come up, do I mention it? Do I lie? Is not telling somebody something a lie? Should I just own it? Why does it have to be so awkward?”

“Yeah, no… I would just say ‘my parents’ and not go there” my older sis confidently says. “You don’t want to turn him off.”

While I agreed with her, I also knew deep down that part of me wanted to share this heavy information – almost to get it over with. Rip off the bandaid.

It’s been two years, and I have trained myself to talk about my dad’s passing in a way that I can get through without crying. While I have my moments of profound grief, I have accepted it, and know it will always be a HUGE part of my life. I am at peace with it. If a future boyfriend/partner can’t handle it, then it’s truly not meant to be. 

We get to the date, and I’m feeling it bubble up. He’s great, we talk about things we both love; New York, theatre, books.

And BOOM. Right on cue, it comes up. “My mom’s great, I have an older sister who’s amazing, and uh yeah, my dad died.”

Straight. To the point. Cold. Dry. Autopilot. Whatever the opposite of Psychobabble is – it was that.

And perhaps the funniest/saddest part of all of this is I am an actor. I take pride in my delivery, my timing, my preparation. I am always searching for the truth in every moment. I rehearse until the lines a perfect, and being the perfectionist I am, I never know if I ever get there. I had gone into this night 100% listening to my sister’s advice. But something changed for me and I decided to let it go.

I could see his face drop, and immediately knew that he wouldn’t be calling me back.  #Oops?

Around the same time, older sister began telling me of a third date gone incredibly wrong, as she fell in the psychobabble trap of building her “baggage” so far up that she didn’t know how to come back down. 

I laughed and said, “Maybe it’s finding the balance between what I did, and what you did! Maybe there is no right answer, and maybe we just navigate this on an individual basis.” 

What I find so interesting is that maybe the delivery, the rehearsing of lines and timing, is irrelevant. When we go on a first date or even third date, why do we have to be on our best behavior? Or the version of ourselves we think the other person finds the most attractive? Is being our true-selves too much? Or is it too cliche? Does it scare them away? 

Maybe this is a part of the grieving process that nobody tells you about.