Confessions of a Connection Whore

Post by Natalie Singer:

Breast-pump malfunction, sexual fumblings, the truth about my in-laws, insecure angst: All things I have written about, for familiars and perfect strangers alike to read. For every one of these humbling confessions, there will be many, many more. As many as I can write and convince people, hoards of them, to read. The more transparent and honest and laid bare I am, the better.natalie2

My best friend once asked me why I would ever want to confess the personal truths that writing memoir requires.

Why would you do that?” she said, a hint of accusation in her voice.

I tried to give her an explanation that would sound convincing.

“If no one writes truth, our entire cultural blueprint will be a lie,” I said, not even knowing what that meant.

Later, I realized the real truth. I don’t crave spotlight (I’m actually happier out of it); I don’t care about popularity or money (much). I’m addicted to one thing and one thing only: Connection.

I’m a connection whore. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

I was an average child by most accounts, not popular but always with a few close friends. Not a stunner the way the girls with straight, long hair and blue eyes were, but pretty enough. I liked the things others girls did, Barbies and sticker collections and roller skates. But those pursuits were not what really made me happy. They were not what satisfied me in the part of my heart that was deeper down than my playroom in our basement, private but insistent.

little natalie

little natalie

What I wanted, what I needed, was connection. Make eye contact. Talk to me. Let’s learn from each other. Who’s your secret crush? What does your Ken really think about Barbie? Let’s connect, baby.

My family said I was dramatic. It was true, I could burst into tears over the smallest slight, and I had to talk everything out until I felt better. I wasn’t shy to show my feelings. Why would anyone withhold, I always wondered, when it was so much better to understand each other? It might explain why I especially loved to hang around a certain brand of intelligent and doting adult, who would ask me earnest questions and tell me about how the world was.

In high school I obsessed over the girls with eyes like clear pools who looked right through me, who revealed nothing and had that evasive air about them that said, I need no one.

How could they need no one? I worried, trying to catch their attention, to trade a knowing look or a shared moment. It wasn’t that I needed to be popular like them, or beautiful or to have a boyfriend who went to one of the expensive private schools and wore navy sweaters and vacationed in Florida (though those things would’ve been nice).

I just wanted us to look at each other, me and these girls (or the boys, for that matter). I just wanted to know what it was that made us alike. There must be something, I thought. There had to be.

Sometimes this need of mine gets me into trouble. Once, during my first year of high school, I was staring at the crowd of kids streaming down the hall in between classes, hoping maybe for a crumb of connection. Out of nowhere I felt an immense and powerful force sweep me up off my feet and slam me into an open locker.

“What the fuck you think you lookin’ at?” bellowed an impossibly tall senior in gym shorts, her slick biceps bulging as she clutched the neck of my shirt in her fist.

The back of my head rang with the echo of gray metal, and although I was small I realized I didn’t really fit comfortably inside a locker.

“Nothing,” I squeaked. “I swear, nothing!”

Just then, the P.E. teacher strode past. “Monica, put her down and get your ass outta here or you’re off the team,” she barked.

The iron fist released its grip of me, and I slid down into a heap.

I learned not to stare so blatantly, not to look so needy. I learned, a little, to read people’s signs. I learned to read books, where writers who were people like me wanted to tell me their truths on the page. And I ventured to tell mine.

So, I am not over here trying to lure in your husband with the sexy gleam of my eye; It’s not my fault I’m always late (blame the good conversation, don’t blame me); Hey, do you want to hear about the time I totaled my car because I was busy giving someone the finger? Tell me a story — your biggest, baddest secret or your everyday fumbles, I don’t care as long as it’s true — and I’ll tell you mine.

Will you read about the time the moving-van loaders found a dildo in my bedroom? How I’m afraid I won’t be a good wife and mother no matter how hard I try? All about my hives and my deathly fear of ferns?

This is why I write. High school cool girls, basketball team giants, wise old grandmas, perfect strangers: I still need you.

Natalie Singer is the 2013 winner of Alligator Juniper‘s national writing contest in creative nonfiction. She is editor of parentmap.com and has been published in newspapers, magazines and websites. She lives with her husband and daughters in Seattle and is working on a book of essays. She can be found at www.nataliesingerwrites.com. 

Natalie Feature Pic

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2 responses to “Confessions of a Connection Whore

  1. Pingback: Meet Melanie Bishop, Founding Editor of Alligator Juniper | wild mountain memoir retreat / MARCH 15TH-17TH, 2013 / Washington's Cascade Mountains·

  2. Pingback: Confessions of a Connection Whore « Natalie Singer Writes·

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