I. The Understanding
The thing you must understand about gaslighting is that it’s traditionally a skill reserved for sociopaths.
The next thing you must understand about gaslighting is that it’s a long con.
Given these two things, add me, a person who tries very hard not to be a sociopath*, and a barely month-long time frame, and you must understand that I was not set up for success.
But I succeeded.
Oh, did I ever.
*The most vehement denials of sociopathy come from sociopaths. Or do they?
II. The Setup
I reactivated OKCupid. People talk such shit about it, but I found it filled with nice people. Some of whom had even agreed to meet me at a pre-arranged place at a pre-arranged time.
Add one to some. Call her Lily.
Some people think it’s hard to connect with people on OKC. They wonder how it’s possible that I’ve met over 60% of the people I message. Read the profiles. Find something to talk about. Don’t swipe right; save that shit for Tinder. Send a nice, thoughtful message. Get a nice, warm reply. Go on a low key date.
We decided to sit at a coffee shop and read our books.
If you’re going to gaslight a stranger, try opening up additional options.
Readers usually have book marks. Coffee drinkers eventually have to pee. It’s a long con.
She was reading something by Miéville. I’ve read some Miéville. Not the book she was reading though, or so I told her. When she came back from her first trip to the bathroom, I was reading the back cover of her book. Her bookmark was sitting less than an inch above where she had left it in the book.
If she noticed it, it didn’t show.
The second time she went to the bathroom, I moved her bookmark back a page. Once again, nothing.
Being a reader, I have a bookmark. Being a coffee drinker, I too had to go to the bathroom.
When I returned to my seat, she was reading the cover of my book: Gaiman’s newest collection of short stories.
I think I’ve read this page already.
Did she… ? I didn’t ask. How could I?
She betrayed nothing.
For the rest of the date, we played Mystery Date. It’s like 20 Questions, only instead of anything it’s a date/date activity combination. She loved the game.
It was a good first date, all things considered.
III. The Paranoia
Sometimes strangers call my phone. They look for people I can’t help them find.
Some are confused. Most are polite.
Most of them do not call me 8 times in a row using 2 different numbers.
No mister, I’m not Robert. Yes, I’m sure. Yes. No, I was not hanging at the bar with the Texan girl.
No, I would not like to get my dick sucked, though I’m sure you’re very good at it.
I let the rest of the calls go to voicemail. I should listen to them at some point.
The thing is, the bookmark non-encounter with Lily left me skeptical. Paranoid. Sometimes I lose my place while reading. Or do I? I have a very set system of bookmarking, and I would definitely notice if something changed. Right? She wouldn’t send people to prank call me. Right?
If she knew, then she might. Or she might not. If she didn’t, then I would come off as some sort of crazy person.
But the calls were obviously abnormal. I e-mailed Dan, hoping he would fess up so I have some kind of closure.
No such luck. He thought it was prank callers.
Timing is never on my side. I didn’t sleep well that night
IV. The Mistake
Lily found me on Facebook. I didn’t tell her how. On the other hand, it’s not that hard.
She had a date for me. A mystery date.
It was not made of spiders. Probably. It was not Bane. Probably.
It turned out to be her. She asked me out on a second date. Using the game I taught her.
After I figured out it was her, but before I ended the game (there are rules, you see), I asked her some additional questions. I had to be sure.
Did my date ask people to prank call me?
Okay. I guess I had to believe her. I wanted to believe her.
And I used to believe everything everyone said so easily.
I had just started working full-time recently. I loved my job. Sometimes, I’d stay late at work and positively revel in the work I do.
Timing is never on my side.
It was 7:08 PM on a Thursday. I was at the office.
I had a date with Lily at 7:00 PM.
I didn’t call her. I messaged her.
I’m sorry. I lost track of time. I have to cancel.
She saw the message at 7:09 PM. I saw it.
She didn’t answer.
I’m such an asshole.
V. The Aftermath
We didn’t talk all weekend. I hated myself.
There was a message on Monday night. It was not meant for me.
On Tuesday, Lily messaged Dan.
I don’t know what Dan told her, but whatever he said, Lily and I were on speaking terms again.
We talked for a long time Tuesday night. She asked me about betrayal.
I told her I’ve never been betrayed in my life, which was true. I’m lucky. She said so.
She has been. It sucked.
Trust is hard to rebuild once broken, she told me. I told her I understand, but hoped I would never understand it the way she understood it.
After a lot of convincing and a lot of apologizing. Things seemed to be okay again.
Okay, maybe a little more than okay. I had a date with Lily at 7:00 PM.
VI. The Conclusion
The problem with trying to gaslight someone, aside from the fact that it’s an awful thing to do, is this: unless it’s you’re a sociopath, it’s going to backfire on you. I’m not a sociopath*, and it backfired spectacularly.
Living constantly doubting someone’s intentions, or constantly on guard, sucks.
Lily said we can never be sure of people’s intentions, and I suppose she’s right.
However, I’d rather live believing in the goodness of the people I interact with by default, because disbelieving by default is so exhausting.
Lily knew I hosted a storytelling show. When she saw the theme for this month is Gaslighting, the gears in her head started spinning.
She asked Dan whether she was being used for the show.
Yes, but not in that way.
It’s so hard to trust someone again.
She moved to Chicago with her boyfriend. She thought they’d get married. But he…
That was a year ago.
We’re not sure what’s going to happen between us. How could we know for sure?
All we can do is hope for the best and have fun along the way.
P.S. She totally moved my bookmark.
We encourage you to come share your stories at the live show! Next Month’s theme is Genious: Be an Inventor. If you post a story about the task in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont
Wed July 8th 7:30-10:00
$10 or free with a shared dish