I Prefer You


I hate meeting new people. I should be more accurate--I hate the process of meeting new people. I hate the awkward dance that takes place: the timid steps of small-talk pleasantries and arm's-length questions like "What do you do?" or "Where are you from?"

I get it--we make sterile small talk because we don't know this new person. We want to get a feel for him or her. We want to know if we can trust this stranger or see if we even like this stranger before we go any deeper. It's like we set up all these elaborate ropes and boundaries, and we have big bouncers with beady little eyes and their arms folded over their barrel chests who make sure nobody crosses those lines until we've fully vetted them.

But me...I'd prefer to know a person and be known by that person sooner rather than later. I want to skip the formalities and the name-tag, icebreaker phase. I want to push my way from the outskirts of the crowd, sneak under the velvet rope, and access the VIP section.

I understand that kind of access requires some degree of trust. Without that trust, without the right credentials, I'd push my way in only to have the person ask, "Who the heck are you?"

The way I've learned to handle these situations is to go ahead and answer that question. Directly, and honestly. This is who I am. This is where I've been. This is my story, and these are my scars. These are my joys, and these are my heartbreaks.

And more often than not, when I've lowered my mask and revealed me--the real me and not the doctored-up version most people see from a distance--I've been given an all-access pass in return. I can look back at so many of my closest relationships and identify the turning point from acquaintance to life-long friend--it has always involved a moment of vulnerability by one or both people.

Sometimes, we're so afraid of people knowing our story because we worry people might not like what they see behind the curtain when it's pulled back.

Because of that fear, we stay hidden behind our heavy curtains, we rope off our story from the people around us, and we continue to interact at a safe distance. To be fair, sometimes that fear materializes. We let down our guard, we let someone really see us, and instead of open arms, we're met with rejection.

Hey. Please get this.

If you reveal your story to someone, and he doesn't like what he hears, he doesn't deserve your time.

If you unveil your true self to someone, and she rejects you because of it, she doesn't deserve you.

I've been rejected by people who have seen the real me. There's great freedom in realizing I don't need people like that. And, as much as I try to be open and accepting, I've rejected people who have revealed themselves to me. Honestly, those people don't need me either. They deserve better.

We try so hard to sanitize our story, cover our blemishes with concealer, pull our sleeves over our scars, all to make ourselves more acceptable to more people.

What if we don't need to be more appealing to more people? What if what we really need is to weed out more people who don't accept us so we can discover the ones who will?

Your story is you. Your flaws are you. Your scars are you. You need people who want you. You need people who know you, and prefer you. You need people who will move toward you rather than away from you.

You need people who appreciate a good story, and every good story has its share of complications, mess, winding roads, darkness, and disaster.

You need people who aren't interested in flat, flawless characters from their fantasies. You need people who appreciate the contours of the bruised and beautiful bodies of real human beings.

I, for one, would rather know early on whether someone is going to be for me or not. Whether my story will be "acceptable" enough or not. Whether my messes are too messy or my flaws are too flawed.

The people who have accepted me have said to me what I hope I also say to them:

I see you. I see your story--the ups and the downs, the beauty and the breaks, and I still want in.

I don't want the stage version of you, the photo-op you, or the "Sunday best" you.

I want the behind-the-scenes you, the first-thing-in-the-morning you, the sweats-and-tee-shirt you.

I don't want the safe you or the sanitized you.

Now that I've seen you, I prefer you