Monday, May 21, 2007

Test Anxiety: the Belly & the Book

In her recent post, "Testing, Testing, 1-2-3," B. Good discussed the ways that so many of us test those we like and love. These test may take the form of an apparently harmless question about how we look in a particular outfit, a statement of opinion designed to elicit a reaction, etc. Whatever the case, the response to our little tests are scored and recorded in our brains and may be used against our friends, foes, and loved-ones, at any given time.

We all test each other to a degree and I think that's fine. Some folks take it too far, though. Here's an example from my life:

The Book
I spent some time in up North, during an internship, some years, ago. Shortly after arriving on the job site, I was introduced to a friendly, very attractive young lady. The person who introduced us was an older Black male with whom I'd bonded a little since I'd arrived. This kinda gave her the stamp of approval, from my perspective. She and I talked a bit, then exchanged numbers before going back to our respective duties.

It's no secret that I'm very stimulated by good conversation. Well, she and I talked on the phone for what seemed like hours.

She had a ton of questions and opinions from various angles and perspectives. This might have turned some people off, but I was quickly becoming hooked. Here was someone who'd given a lot of thought to a lot of different things and was interested in other people's perspectives. That's no small thing, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, it's pretty rare.

I couldn't wait to see her, again, and she seemed to feel the same, so it wasn't long before we were hanging out at her place. The chemistry was already strong and the conversation was on-point, so things were looking good.

At some point, she stepped away, for some reason, while I stayed in the living room. While waiting, I noticed a paperback book on the floor and picked it up. The title was something like, "1001 Questions To Ask A Potential Mate."


I flipped through the book and saw a lot of very familiar questions. Sure enough, she'd been more or less interviewing me over the phone, using this book as a guide. "Guide," nothing. She asked the questions word-for-word.

Honestly, I'm not against the idea of owning such a book. I was struck, however, by how very much of our conversations and (my impression of) her personality came from a $5 book instead of from the young lady I was just getting to know.

In a sense, I felt deceived or maybe even betrayed. Here she was, testing the hell out of me without offering as much of herself in-return. I began to question what I thought I knew about her.

Ultimately, we continued spending time together, despite the red (or at least orange) flag that book sent up in my mind. That was both, a good and a bad thing.

The Belly
In time, I thought less about that book, as she and I grew pretty close. Then, one day, she told me she was pregnant. I was floored. I knew that, despite safe or safeR sex practices, pregnancy's always a possibility. As the shock began to fade a bit, I embraced the idea and began talking about how we'd work things out, considering my work and living situations. I've
always wanted to be a father, so it was really something to 1) feel that reality approaching and 2) find out she lied about the pregnancy just to see how I'd react to it.

I should also mention that, for over a decade, I've been having very vivid, very long, and certainly very enduring dreams about having children. Invariably, I wake up, realize that none of it was real, and then I, for lack of a better term, mourn for the child I lost, but never had.

So, finding out, during my waking ours, that I was really going to be a father, becoming comfortable with that "fact," then being told it was all a lie... err... "test," bordered on devastating.

Eventually, she turned out to be a rather destructive person, to herself and those around her. After more than our share of drama, the internship came to an end and I left, never to see her, again.

I say that staying with her was both a good and a bad thing because, despite the drama and deceit (or maybe because of it) I learned a lot and we had some good times.

In the end, though, I guess I've formed my own "tests" that I consciously or subconsciously administer to the people that I let into my life. Maybe that's fair. Maybe it's not. But above all else, I do my best to be completely upfront and honest about my intentions and who I am.

After all, what does it say about a person when they fail their own test?

I welcome your questions and comments.


Angie said...

Wow. I think it's okay to ask questions from the book - probably nor word for word. But I think it was a bit deceptive not to mention the questions were coming from a book.

But in the end West, you learned from it. You took the positive and kept it moving. But I have a question. Did that situation make you suspicious of other women who were smart and had great conversation?

West said...

We were on the phone for a looong time, so she pulled a number of questions from that book. Disclosure would've been nice, as you say, but the volume of questions was of concern, to me.

Was I suspicious of other women, as a result? Yes.

I don't think I treated anyone badly, due to that experience, but I certainly had 2nd and 3rd thoughts about who they really were as opposed to how they presented themselves.

So again, like you say, it was a lesson learned.

B. Good said...

She put you through what I would call an EXTREME test. I hesitate to use the word "test", because it seems so much more than that. But I suppose a test, is a test, is a test. And anytime you use them, its a risk......never knowing what the result will be.

What DOES it say about a person that fails their own test? Especially when they hold the answer key. Doesn't say very much, I guess. Maybe we need to do more testing of one's self, than of others.

Or maybe we need to eliminate tests altogether. But tests serve some kind of purpose, do they not? Proof of lessons learned? Or the degree to which they were learned (or not learned). Perhaps the most damaging tests are those that are simply pass/fail, rather than assesments of how far along one is, and how much further they have to go.

I don't know, just typing out loud.

chele said...

Gosh, West. That heffa sounds crazy.

Reading questions from a book? Probably wouldn't be so weird if you knew they were coming from a book. You know, like those quizzes you find in ladies' magazines. The way she did it just seems so dishonest.

The pregnancy thing was totally unacceptable. I don't suppose she knew about your desire to be a father one day.

You can "test" a person as much as you want but is that really a true indication of who they are?

West said...

b. good: Keep on thinkin-out-loud. Your thoughts are certainly welcome and enjoyed around here.

chele: I see what you mean.

I guess there's a certain irony in going through so much to find the right one, then running him off by your methods.

As far as her knowing about me wanting to be a father - I confess that I don't remember ever saying it, but anyone who spends a drop of time around me knows I lose my mind around babies. I'd rather babysit my cousins than go to a sports event.

Who knows, though. If she thought she needed to test me, maybe she hadn't paid much attention ... OR she wanted to see if I was for-real.

Among the "deleted scenes" from that story: She introduced me to a friend of hers, one day, then later told me that friend told her that she should've lied about being pregnant so that I wouldn't go back to Florida.

I guess I wasn't thinking about this when she dropped that bomb, later on down the line. After all, she seemed as disgusted by her friend's suggestion as I.

Liz said...

It's important to get to know someone's character, but I think she would have clearly been better off asking herself those questions instead of asking you. What kind of crazy mess is that to tell you she's pregnant. Any woman worth her salt knows you do not play around with that. That's a definite no-no. How deranged and immature. Come to think of it, I can't imagine any book that says to tell a guy you're pregnant just to see what he does. I'm outraged on your behalf. And, if that happened to me, I would be extremely wary of future relationships.

West said...

I don't think the book told her to do that. :)

I guess I should be glad she didn't do what her friend suggested - lying about the pregnancy to keep me from leaving... which I guess would've included trying to REALLY get pregnant to cover her tracks, so to speak.

Miz JJ said...

That is not a test that is her revealing her craziness. That God she was not pregnant or you would have been stuck dealing with her for a long, long time.

West said...

I couldn't have said it better.

If nothing else, I'm grateful that certain... more dramatic... past relationships didn't result in children.

I'd hate to be tied to such a destructive person for the rest of our lives.