One of my biggest fears in life is, and has been, what I’ll call “leakage.”
No. I’m not talking about the bladder kind, the reason why products like Depends are so popular among people of a certain age…although now that I’m of that certain age, I might be seeing them in my future. I’m talking about emotional leakage…the fear that what’s in my heart might leak out, and that I might be found out...with disastrous results.
Let me explain.
Friends who have known me since first grade will tell you that I’ve always been an incurable romantic, and that I’ve liked girls ever since I first discovered what they were. But people who knew me in the years from about 5 to 22, will tell you that there was also a dark, or at least an inept, side to this. I didn’t know how to give girls the proper amount or kind of attention. I was lacking in the social skills department to the point where I often annoyed the very girls I liked. In fact, there were a few that I actually scared away. There was one poor girl, Carmen, a year behind me in grade school, who I was such a pest to when I was in second grade, that for the next six years, whenever she saw me in the hallway, she’d run the other way.
But eventually the social skills fairy visited me, and I got a clue. I understood what I was doing wrong…but then I overcompensated by pretty much not doing anything at all, so afraid was I of creating another Carmen.
And this is where leakage comes in. This is what leakage is all about. All my life I’ve mostly been around women. Most of my working life has been spent in places where it’s been mostly women. And in these places, I’ve met a lot of women that I’ve really liked. Now, don’t feel that you have to go tell Cheryl on me. She knows all about this, and not only do we both say that “we’re married, not dead”, but she’s often suggesting to me women who she thinks I might like. In fact, she’s got a little list of women she thinks would be good for me should anything happen to her.
But back to the leakage. In the places I’ve worked, I’ve met a number of women that I’ve really liked, and that has made things complicated for me. Because even though most of my friends are women anyway, with these women, I’m afraid of leakage. I’m afraid of them somehow figuring out that I like them. That I like like them. And with this, I’m afraid of either creating another Carmen or coming across as “that guy at work.”
And so I withdraw…or try to. The problem is that I overthink things enough to figure that my withdrawal to prevent leakage is unfair to the poor woman I’m distancing myself from. A person who is now trying to figure out what she did to cause me to act so distant to her. And so, overthinking this again, I force myself to engage with this person despite my fear of her being on to me.
And yet, I have to say that despite my fears, despite my efforts to prevent leakage, two of my dearest friends saw right through me, “outed me”, and said it was OK. Really. They each pulled me aside one day and said, “You like me, don’t you?”
And the world didn’t end.
In fact, the world became a better place for each of us.
So maybe a little innocent leakage isn’t so bad after all...as long as I'm not drowning the poor person with 100 gallons of emotion at once.