I once went on a date with a man I met in a bar. I liked him and thought it went well, but three weeks went by and he didn't call. Story of my life, right?
Except at the end of the third week, a major publication ran an interview with me...and on the Monday of the fourth week following our date, he called. He subscribes to the publication and had seen the interview. He wondered if I might like to go out again. I said sure.
My friends were not impressed. "What, so you get a big-deal write-up and suddenly you're worthy of him?" Andrew practically spat. "Who does he think he is, Ari Gold?" my brother wanted to know. "What a douche. Call back and cancel," said Katie.
I didn't cancel though. Rather, I pulled on my most flattering little black dress, swiped on the requisite black eyeliner and lip gloss, blew out my hair and told myself that there was nothing wrong with giving him a second chance. I hopped in a taxi and met him at a tiny, candle-lit French bistro in Hayes Valley.
He greeted me with an on-the-lips kiss and big eyes. He said he hadn't realized my writing was commanding so much attention and had a lot of questions. How did I get my start? Did I always want to be a food writer? From what did I draw inspiration? Would I teach him how to cook? Did I know I have really pretty eyes?
Well, I thought to myself. This is kind of a 180. But I went with it. I answered his questions excitedly, promised private cooking lessons and thanked him for his compliments. After dinner and a few cocktails at a bar around the corner, I let him kiss me before hailing a cab.
A few more dates followed, and on each one he wanted to talk about my work. I tried politely engaging him about other topics, but he wasn't interested. I truly liked him, but eventually the inherently lackluster chemistry between us reared its head and our romance faded into a lukewarm friendship.
This wasn't the last time I mistook someone's interest in my work for a genuine interest in me. In fact, it actually happens somewhat regularly. What I've come to realize is that this is, at least in part, because I sometimes confuse the two myself.
Admittedly, my sense of self-worth is, like many young women, occasionally fragile. It can sometimes fluctuate, depending on how I feel in the moment about anything including (but not limited to) my body, my bank account, my intellect, the number of miles I can run, my relationship status (both on and off of Facebook), the number of people following me on Twitter and of course, the seemingly constant flow of professional triumphs and let-downs.
A good friend recently told me that, while my writing is wonderful, I am more than the "sum of my press." I am a whole person, she reminded me, with many characteristics that make me special--and have absolutely nothing to do with what I do for a living.
In this world of instant-feedback social media saturation, it can be easy to forget this--and to find myself mired in what others (be they major media outlets or the man I'm sharing a bottle of wine with) think is important about me. But if I let the positive opinions give me a high, inevitably I have to allow the negative ones (and they definitely exist) to get me down. And who needs that?