My green tea with honey has a lingering aftertaste that reminds me of stale cigarette breath. I know because I used to smoke. I miss it sometimes, when I go home and I’m standing outside after dinner with my cousin and have to listen to the tap tap tapping of the tobacco rolled up in the cigarette against the back of the hand and the crinkle of the paper as its burned up from the light and the inhale. The passing of the smoke from mouth to lungs, the feeling of escape on the exhale, the lightness in your head immediately following.
Smoking is terrible for you. I quit for a reason. I should have never started. That feels like lifetimes ago.
My point is I have bad habits. I make bad decisions. And I’m rewatching House of Cards and I’m considering the complexity of people as I watch the Underwoods again. Knowing what’s coming doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t soften the blow.
And I’m thinking about how people always want to label me. How I label myself. Yesterday, we were discussing the urgency of text messages. The back and forth of texts. I brought it up, complaining that a friend was finally answering a text I sent a week ago. A friend I was with complained that I often do the same. Except I will never respond. She clarified that often times perhaps her texts don’t warrant a response. But she likes it. She likes being acknowledged when she reaches out to people. I understand that. But the edge of her neediness intimidates me and I step quickly away, both virtually and figuratively.
Neediness was squashed out of me at a young age. Neediness was not tolerated by my grandmother or my mother. Neediness was frowned upon. Neediness was quieted with a sharp word, a harder look, and usually a departure of the adult trying to teach you a lesson. Neediness isn’t sustainable in a child once they are left to their own devices. You’re quickly distracted by something else. Some other melodrama or fancy of a child’s brain.
Sometimes, if the adult was feeling especially patient, logic was used in place of negative reinforcement. Careful considerate explanations always work for me. Like from my father, whose silence and whose stories and fleeting presence were enough to keep the neediness at bay.
And so now as an adult, I find myself struggling with the same strategies. Do I explain why the neediness is unattractive, is useless, is another unanswerable question? Do I put it in perspective for that person? Or do I walk away, show them my back, a smile without a joke behind it.
Or am I wrong again? Misjudging the complexity of people. That maybe the neediness comes from a wholesome warm place. That the neediness is a question I can answer. That the neediness that grows within them cannot unfurl unto me. That neediness is not a weakness but just another ugly side. Another flip of the coin. But I’m not sure what the balance is here. I’m not sure how this weighs in with the other qualities. In the recipe of a person, if the neediness has to exist, what is the ratio in the mix?
It’s the thing in me that doesn’t like the neediness. Maybe that’s the thing I should turn my back on.
“Insecurity bores me.”
“I feel the same about condescension.”