A woman accused me of using photos from twenty years ago on a dating site because she said I looked like I was twenty-five in them and they must have been bullshit. I don't know why I am on a dating site. It's just the one. I will not meet anyone. You will not encounter any intelligence. You will rarely find anyone who understands how "a" and "an" work, let alone "you're" and "your." No one has anything interesting, intelligent to say. No one manages to sound any differently than anyone else. In addition to needing someone brilliant, smarter than the next ten million people out there, and dynamic, kind, and strong, it's not like I'm going to meet someone who is going to go through all of this with me right now. There is no life here. There's no house, no vacations to the Cape--or Paris--no regular existence. There's hell and trying to fight through it. It's complicated, ugly. A war. There's poverty and bigotry. Uncertainty, terror. There's not joy or any kind of even basic happy life experience like going to the Home Depot to buy some plants to hang. There isn't anyone good enough, and there isn't anyone who'd want to have this in their life. And it's an illiterate society. All of these women boast about how simple they are. And how they want someone simple. It's the same as saying, "I am an idiot, and I need you to be an idiot. That's my comfort zone."
But I am, of course, so lonely. I don't have anyone for anything. As I said last night on the air with Kimball, I didn't even have anyone who said to me, "hey, congrats on not drinking for five years, that's huge, and with everything you do, I'm so impressed. It'll pay off." People who know me are more likely to wish I'd drink and die. I know that. I was saying to someone yesterday that there are all kinds of ways to kill someone. It's not just the gun, the knife, the bomb. You can recognize that someone is at a breaking point, that they are past the point, for any other human, of what a human can endure. Long past it, way past it. You can understand that they are on the edge. And you can make choices in your behavior to towards them that are akin to pushing them over that edge. Or making it so they can't ever rise again. That is also murder. That's killing someone. It just doesn't go by that name. But I know there is no good reason for me to be on a dating site. Nothing positive can come of it. I try to tell myself, well, it's like the lottery, maybe there will be that one out of many millions. There won't be. I know that. People have also changed. Even the people who were good people.
I had this friend once and he was a really good guy. When my dad died, he was on vacation. And it was the end of his vacation, and he flew to Chicago as my dad was dying. He stayed a week. He didn't have that time off. He'd just taken time off. I won't hear from him. I don't think he's ever been to this site. He knows, to a degree, that I am alone. He knows, to a degree, that I have an industry against me. Out of some loyalty, I suppose, and the affection I had for him, I copy him on the emails that go out to the Inner Circle with my work. I even wrote something really nice about him in the acknowledgements for the Sam Cooke book. I said that I admired the man he was, and the dad he is. I showed him a copy of the file. He's a big Sam Cooke fan, and we used to listen to Sam Cooke together in college. I introduced him to Sam Cooke's music, and he got big time into it. He plays Sam Cooke for his children. He's never once said a word about a single story I've sent him in years. His sister has a place on the Cape. So do his parents. His parents are great people. They were really good to me. The day I turned thirty, they actually took me to a football game. I spent time at this man's house that he grew up in. I felt like family. I sent him the file of the acknowledgements pages for the Sam Cooke book. He didn't say anything. Not "wow, that's awesome" or even just thanks. Or that he pre-ordered the book. Was looking forward to reading it. Nothing.
So I texted him on Sunday as I walked, alone, as always, alone, to try to keep myself going, and I wished him a belated happy birthday and a happy Father's Day. I wrote a number of people on Sunday. I wrote the Admiral--this man in Medford who is someone I can count on--and my uncle Gerard, and Bruce Pratt up in Maine, and Dan Wickett, and I said to them that each of them represented something paternal to me in my own life. That is, they were in some way father-like, for me. I wished Kimball a happy Father's Day. I admire him for how he found his own road to happiness. And this friend of mine--or use what word one wishes--simply texted back "thanks, Colin." Not a word like how are you, Jesus I'm sorry things are bad, let's catch up. Not a bone to acknowledge my existence. I mentioned the Cape. There's Buried on the Beaches. Which is something this man's family would love. His dad would flip for it. It's funny that when someone reads a book of mine, they will often assume all of my books are that way. Which is human nature. But I break a lot of rules of human nature. And I destroy the expectations for what people think is humanly possible. Buried on the Beaches is this crowd-pleasing, ultimate beach read, which also happens to be a work of art. But it is the definitive beach read book. Hardly anyone knows it exists. Because of the blackballing. But I have lots of so-called family that has places on the Cape. For instance, many people in the family of my dad's brother have Cape places or use those Cape places. That guy is one of my two godfathers. They are always at the Cape. Not one of them has checked out this Cape Cod book. That's just typical. I was talking to someone else yesterday who kind of sardonically laughed when I told them about how my old friend acted. Which is how they've acted for years. And I'm good to this man. I knew this other person wasn't laughing laughing--you know what I mean?--but I said, "I know you're laughing, but this really hurts me, actually." Part of the reason it hurts me is because this is the theme of my life. People treat me differently than they would anyone else.
I have this cousin everyone hates. She's a truly awful person. Everyone knows it. It's not subtle. It's a common point of agreement. She's a complete bitch. But if she puts something up on Instagram, which will be something moronic, everyone will hit that like button. They know she's a complete bitch and they don't like her. That's just how it works. I took down my Instagram. I didn't need to see just how much people detest me, envy me, fear me. Because the same people--and relatives, though at this point, I honestly don't think I have family; the family I had, as such, was my biological family; and obviously I don't have that family either--who hit the like button for her, would see a cover photo of my Sam Cooke book, or a picture of me holding the book after it arrived, and not one of them would hit the like button. Because it's me.
I have this cousin who lost her job. And a few bad things happened at once. Minor bad things. In my life. In her life, probably big bad things. People live sheltered lives. They don't deal with anything like what happens here. I reached out to her and was super supportive. This was over Instagram. Again, same person who'd never hit the like button for me, but does for everyone else. I gave her my phone number. She texted me, which surprised me. I offered to help her with her resume. Realize I work twenty to twenty-two hours a day. Easter came, and I sent her this really sweet note about hanging in there, these things will pass, season of renewal, etc. Really encouraging and supportive. And you know what she did? She texted me, "Thanks." That's it.
Because people are horrible. They're cowards, and simple, and stupid, and narcissistic. And so selfish. And they will behave differently and better to people who are also that way. None of it is real, it's all perfunctory. Back in April I sent this woman a short story. "Girls of the Nimbus." Total masterpiece. A couple times I had sent her links to my work. The USA Today op-ed on Tom Brady, for instance. She lives in Texas now, but she's from here. Her dad is the guy who was the accountant who would make me cry in his office each year at tax time while telling me what a failure I was. He just thought I was like some loser with no talent. He'd never even been to my site. Never bought a book, never read a book of mine. Never read a single piece I wrote. Not one. But he'd go on about these shitty, hack Globe sportswriters, who he did read. People whose entire life's work I surpassed like twenty years ago in my career. I actually lived with these people one summer. I helped the kids with their homework. I ran errands. Ate the meals with the family. And what I noticed was, she wouldn't say a word, unless the link had been shared by a relative of mine in Chicago--again, I just hate the labels and the terms--and then when that person "endorsed" it, I guess, it was worth looking at. So long as it wasn't tied to me. She never said a word about the story. Great story. Enjoyable story. Not some "I don't get this" story. Pleasure-inducing story. Gripping story. Moving story.
Anyway. This began about a woman on a dating site calling me a liar. The pictures, of course, were recent. In a way, it's good that someone thinks you can pass for being in your twenties. But I also know this. And I also know that people get, let's say, "creative," with their photos on dating sites. But there is such a better way to address this concern than calling someone a liar. Which is what I said to her. To which she replied, "I'm not even sorry." Oh. She added that woman get burned all the time by guys who use old pictures. I pointed out that one could just say, "Wow! You look really young! Crazy that those photos aren't from like ten years ago." There's a non-violent, accusatory way to bring this up. And it's so simple. But people prefer to just accuse. Then when you say something intelligent and reasonable back, you are the bad person. Like with the people I mentioned above. What I said here--and it's all true and reasonable--makes me the bad person.
I have this relative in Chicago, and they'll read the occasional story. I made a joke one time--it was very friendly--how they say the exact same thing every time. They use the word "beautiful." They say nothing else. Now, this person went to college. They like to think of themselves as smart. And yet, they can't say anything else. I didn't go into any of this, I just made the joke about the one word. I didn't explore what it means, or might mean, that it's always the one word. It was more like an observation than this demand to write seventeen paragraphs in praise about something. (Though the same person also read Meatheads, and all they said was, "I'm reading this and enjoying it so far," and then nothing else. Which I mentioned to someone the other day, who told me that was royally fucked up, and said they were sorry that happened, because it was that upsetting. But like that's fine? That's good enough? That is what it deserves? That is what I deserve? From the person who is supposed to be like one of the closest people to you? And I'm the villain for thinking that's not awesome? Same person also told me that people won't re-read my work, which is just not true. My work is built for millions of people to re-read it, often, over the course of their lives, and I believe if I get my chance, if I get out of this hell, that's exactly what will happen. I'm not other writers and I don't have work anything like what any writer has ever had.) Like, I can give examples of other artists, who shared their work with relatives, who were "ordinary." And those relatives didn't just say the same word every time. So, what, they were so much smarter than this person? That's possible. So what then? That's good enough for that person? That's good enough for what I should think is okay? This is all real. It's not mean. But even just bringing up the one part of this, in a jokey way, prompts the defensiveness. And I become, of course, the bad guy. Because I expect that maybe someone is capable of more. Or more intelligence, or decency, or in the case of the people above, more of just not being a total asshole. But that's how people are, that's how people want to be, and they surround themselves with people who are also that way. And it's also true that as society devolves, people as individuals devolve. This old friend of mine? He wouldn't have acted this way once upon a time. But the standards change. The people around you change. No one rises up--people go with their surroundings. On a dating site, once every six months, you might have met someone worth knowing. But that same person, now, is no longer worth knowing. They've devolved. They've gone with everyone else. If you're not that way, it's awful. The less you are that away, the more awful it is. And so here I am.