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Those who know me (or, to be more accurate, those who have tried to get to know me) know that I describe myself as a porcupine. I am full of bristles, ready to spear the reckless and over-eager hand. I do not take well to intimacy. I do not do well with vulnerability. I do not share myself (or my emotions) easily. I unfold myself in careful partitions, preferably a well-starched inch at a time, slow to trust and even slower to need.

I do not like intimacy. I do not like vulnerability. I do not like to need.

I need one cup of tea a day. My Yerba Mate tea in the morning, before anything real can happen. Other than that, I try not to rely on anything. I try not to need anything — or anyone. I have my tea ritual, and beyond that, everything else is negotiable. Because you know what happens when you need something too much? You become vulnerable. You lean too heavily on a source of support and then you fall over when it is taken away. That terrifies me. I do not like to lean on anything or anyone.

Do I have abandonment issues? Yeah, sure. Who doesn’t? But it’s more complicated than that. Porcupines do not necessarily have abandonment issues. What they may have are trust issues. So do I have trust issues? Yeah, sure, okay. But what I’ve really got are skepticism issues.

Because, really, I’m a jaded bitch.

I wrote a paper a couple terms ago about The Mindy Project, about how one of the fascinating things about that show is the way it tackles the myth of the rom-com-romance. One of the major subplots of TMP is how real life is not like the movies and what ensues when Harry doesn’t actually meet Sally.

From my paper:

In fact, one of the show’s ongoing themes is just how much life is not like the movies, and how anyone expecting to transpose one onto the other is practically certifiable. During her wedding toast, Mindy Lahiri speculates that her ex’s new bride might be a war criminal (“Am I the only person here who saw the Angelina Jolie movie?”), and repeats, as she leaves the wedding, “I’m Sandra Bullock.” Her method of coping with—and understanding life—is to compare it to the movies. “I think he’s Hugh Grant in About a Boy,” says Lahiri, about one of her crushes. “I think he’s Hugh Grant in real life,” is Gwen’s retort, trying to bring Lahiri back to reality. Continuing this pattern, Gwen asks her, her tone full of contempt and criticism, “Did you think Tom would ditch the wedding and run off with you like you’re Katherine Heigl?” and Lahiri replies, “Kind of. Yes.” Romantic comedy archetypes have set women up for disillusionment and disappointment. In fact, Lahiri is arrested for basically playing the role of a romantic comedy heroine, biking away from the wedding and accidentally falling into a pool. 

From Chuck Klosterman:

But whenever I meet dynamic, nonretarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living. And someone needs to take the fall for this. So instead of blaming no one for this (which is kind of cowardly) or blaming everyone (which is kind of meaningless), I’m going to blame John Cusack.

But, see, here’s my thing — do grown adults (and I specify the word “grown” since we all know not all adults are actual grown-ups) really think that the rom-com-romance is a real life thing? Do they actually expect to find it? Do they expect the movie-worthy meet-cute to happen to them in a Whole Foods parking lot? Maybe. Maybe they do. And in that case, keep dreaming.

Because as for me, I’m a jaded bitch. And a porcupine.

I’m all bristles and spikes. And, no, I don’t trust the parking-lot meet-cute. And, no, I’m not going to fall in love with you in a week. And there is nothing you can do to make that happen. If you’re smooth-talking and more perfect-than-perfect and you’re showing up with roses and talking the soul mate talk and asking me to get married after a few weeks of dating (it’s happened), I’m going to be convinced that it’s not that you know where the bodies are buried — it’s that you buried them. Because if you’re that smooth, you’re probably Patrick Bateman.

Now, of course, I can be reasonable. I know that there are good people out there, and not every smooth-talker is a sociopath, and not every cutie pie is a secret crazypants. But you’re going to have to prove it to me. I’m going to let my guard down, but I’m going to do it as slow as molasses — partly because need terrifies me, but also because I don’t believe in the rom-com-romance. I don’t believe in true love at first sight. I don’t believe that if it’s right, it comes easy. I’ve heard that before (a million times), but I’m not sure I agree.

I believe that anything worth having takes time and patience and commitment. Let me rephrase that. I believe that anything worth having takes patience and commitment and TIME.

Almost everyone can be nice — at first. Almost everyone has a cute side and a smooth-talking side. Almost everyone can play the nice game. The trick is what happens when the game is over. When the novelty has worn off. When you’ve stopped smooth-talking and just started talking. The first couple dates are easy. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, the first couple weeks are easy. But then what happens? What happens when shit gets real? Are you still going to be there? Are they still going to be there? Are either of you going to be worth keeping? Are you in for the long haul or the short? And do you even know at first? Do you even know anything until the clock has ticked and the days have passed and Meg Ryan has gone home?

I know some people don’t care. I know some people just want to be entertained, and some people love the thrill of the romance and the rush of endorphins, and so they’re not as concerned with whether the talking is smooth or not, whether longevity is in the cards, but that’s not me. I’ve got my spikes up because I’m not going to let you in.

Because vulnerability sucks. Because betrayal sucks. Because disappointment hurts like a motherfucker.

If you want more, you’re going to have to do more. Beyond that, you’re going to have to stick around.

Because I’m a jaded bitch and otherwise I’m not going to believe you.

A Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine poses for a photo at the Oregon Zoo.

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