This is a story of insecurity and loneliness. It’s also a story of confidence, arrogance, and promiscuity.
It’s a story of hurt people hurting people.
It’s my story.
Growing up, from the time I was 7 until I was roughly 25 I had Psoriasis. If you’re not familiar with Psoriasis, it’s an auto immune disorder that causes skin cells to grow at roughly 10x the average rate. My body was 70% covered in inflamed, red patches of itchy skin that were coated with a layer of flakey, white dead skin. It’s pretty unsightly.
Today, my Psoriasis is 99% clear. I’m so blessed and yet despite my newfound confidence on biologics the last few years, the Psoriasis that used to push me into seclusion continues to set the stage for my continued feeling of being perpetually alone – though this time by my own faults. Even now, with clear skin, the Psoriasis that used to bleed profusely as I scratched at it now haunts me in how it set the tone for how my life progressed.
I hesitate to use it as a crutch of victimization; however, as I process my thoughts in how I’ve ended up coming home to an absolutely empty house I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating the events that have led me to this position in my life.
I was like that popular, loner kid in high school.
I was just confident enough to make friends, be a class clown, and excelled at athletics.
I did well enough at hiding my Psoriasis that I could almost feel that people would forget I had it, but ultimately kids knew what was below my clothing. I’d sit up from a desk and they’d comment about how they always knew I had sat there because it was covered in dead flakes. I embraced self-deprecating humor in return. It was easier to laugh at myself and make jokes about it then defend the bullying.
That paid off because I came off more likeable. As a result, I was popular enough to not have to deal with an insane amount of teasing. That said, my Psoriasis played a huge role in never making those strong bonds that so many of my class mates from high school and college had that provided them with lifelong relationships.
I’m not jealous of that, I’m just being real with myself that when others prioritized building brotherhoods and fraternities, I was reclusive and family oriented.
I secluded myself from society firstly due to my insecurities about Psoriasis, secondly on my focus of family when other people were enjoying the freedom of their twenties and later from emotional traumas that have left me distrusting some of my closest groups of friends.
When the first girl in high school came along that showed interest in me, I clung to that. I believed that if she loved me despite my Psoriasis, than she must love me unconditionally and thus deserve it in return – or so I thought. I latched onto that relationship with everything I had (toxically so) because it was all I ever thought I’d have. I unreasonably forgave red flags as a result and continued to love and forgive her for no other reason than perhaps the reality that she accepted my skin.
I married that girl.
As our relationship progressed, I eventually came across biologic injections that cleared my skin, but at that point, I was so emotionally invested with her that I thought given she had loved me at my worst, she also deserved me at my best. Problem was, the red flags I had so long ignored and forgiven never went away even when my skin was at my best. My ex-wife was beautiful and in shape, but I believe she had her own body image issues that caused her to crave the attention that would plague much of our relationship. Those same red flags would destroy that marriage when I learned of her infidelity. As I look back on certain instances in that relationship, my Psoriasis allowed me to accept less than what I deserved and I was willing to forgive actions that an ounce of confidence would have supported in a decision to call it quits.
Unfortunately, the guys she got caught with were a couple of buddies and soccer teammates. Not only had I lost my trust in romantic relationships but also in friendships. These were guys I often grabbed drinks with, high fived on the soccer field, and went on double dates filled with laughter aside our wives.
I no longer trusted bro code.
I was literally just getting to a point in life where I was feeling like I was developing those stop by unannounced types of friendships I never had before. In one fell swoop from a phone notification, I would learn so much of it was all a lie.
I found out about the infidelity when I received a Snapchat of my ex-wife in bed with a guy I had just grabbed hot wings with a few nights before. I wasn’t the only one to receive that Snapchat. It seemed like the entire town of 15,000 people knew what went down. There was something bitter sweet about her affairs being so embarassingly public and I suddenly found myself as fresh meat on a market of women thirsty to “be there for emotional support if I ever needed to talk”.
Turned out, I didn’t ever quite comprehend my value on the dating market because I had been dragging so many insecurities along that were irrelevant to who I was. I suppose I sort of had a certain sense of body dysmorphia even though my skin was clear and frankly, I hadn’t been on the dating scene since high school when I was a tooth gapped kid covered in Psoriasis 14 years earlier.
One particular woman that messaged me was absolutely gorgeous. I’m sure that drew me in hard and fast. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was something satisfyingly shallow about the opportunity to date her. Our late night chats turned to friendship and our friendship turned into defining a relationship. It seemed so organic and I’m sure I let her sex appeal blind me into feeling this was exactly what I deserved after what I went through. I was infatuated and oblivious to her own red flags.
All I knew was I was ecstatic and I had gone from questioning my self-worth from the affairs to a sort of boosted confidence in realizing I was dating an absolute stunner of a woman. My ego was soaring when I entered a room with her and best of all I didn’t even think she was out of my league because I just had countless women validating how handsome and valued I was to them.
I thought I was the fucking shit for being the guy that was given the opportunity to rail her in bed at night.
Unfortunately, once again, I wasn’t the only one doing so.
I would end up learning after a few months of dating that despite defining a relationship, she had been continuing to sleep with her ex-husband on occasion and hadn’t ever stopped with her ex-boyfriend before him.
I was devastated. She had made herself out to be exactly what I wanted from a relationship without being that at all. Apparently, she had a history of that, apparently people made me aware of that, and apparently I ignored them because I believed every word out of her mouth about small town rumors and living a low key life these days.
I had literally just signed divorce papers because of cheating. Here I was again with a girl that had slid into my private messages merely months earlier to provide solace over how horrible that was to hear of the rumors of what I went through and she ends up doing the exact same thing.
It was almost like a switch flipped in my brain.
I didn’t give a shit about emotional connections anymore. They only served to break me down and I longed to return to where I was just getting constant, shallow validation as a pseudo-boost to my self-esteem.
I downloaded Tinder shortly thereafter and I just went nuts. It was surreal. I slept with more women in a 1 month span than I could have ever dreamed of sleeping with in high school – always under the preface we keep it casual and just see where things lead.
I didn’t really have any interest in seeing where it led though. I was just an asshole for using it as a carrot of hope on their hopelessly romantic horizon while toying with their emotions. Yet I remained dignified that I was being upfront about seeking something without labels.
I was the quintessential fuck boy.
It was crazy because it was the polar opposite lifestyle I had experienced in my insecurity drenched childhood. I was basking in female attention. I was desirable – I knew it – and as long as that was the case I was going to leverage that to enjoy all the fruits the single life could provide. I was never going to be the victim of getting hurt again because I was defining the rules.
Those rules were these emotional boundaries and walls that I put up, but putting those boundaries up was almost simultaneously, methodically tearing down the walls of women I’d be chatting up. There was no exchange. I was stripping them (literally and metaphorically) in ways that left them vulnerable without releasing my own vulnerabilities to them to connect on deeper levels than “hey wyd”.
There was also a sort of vindication in leading on the very types women that had never given me the time of day in the past. For so many years, I had been treated as a disposable outcast to society and there was a sort of power trip in turning the tables. Now, they were no longer too good for me and I was going to ensure they knew I was too good for them. I justified it all under a guise of being honest with myself and the women I “dated”. It seems so evident now, but I’m not really sure I comprehended the gravity of what I was doing.
I was floating in this sort of grey area where I was bending my morality, consciously aware that these girls probably weren’t interested in just casually hooking up with no definition of a relationship in sight. Meanwhile, I was excusing my behavior because I had been honest about “keeping it no strings attached and seeing where it would lead”.
Even to do this day I feel a certain sense of pride that at the very least I didn’t completely promise them something I never intended to give. I like to believe that truth there that separates me from the narcissistic personalities that hurt me with promises they never intended to keep. I suppose I don’t get to decide how people perceive my actions though. Except, people’s perception of me was sort of why I was so dangerous in my actions. The reputation I had was so far opposite from what I had become and women found a certain safety in that oblivious I would be flipping their world’s upside down with mixed emotions.
In this case, the “see where it leads” comment was always that cliff hanger what if that was entirely unfair and allowed me treat them as an option. Considering it now, that comment seems like a pretty manipulatory action to make.
That what if was their sliver of hope that one day I might actually take them to breakfast the next morning. That what if was their bit of light at the end of the tunnel that maybe one day we’d post a photo together that would allude to something deeper than a booty call.
I felt like given I was forthcoming about keeping things casual, I was putting the ball in their court to give up if I was a lost cause for their goal. Yet they kept coming back to my bedroom as though the Gluck Gluck 9000 would be the missing piece to the puzzle of our love.
I always respected “no”, I never pressured sex, and I never flipped at rejection. I know women also want to have a sex life with someone they’re comfortable with. Those facts suggest some of them were probably fine with the arrangement. But I have to believe in seeing so many women frustrated at the very behaviors I showed while dating, I was sending them off with more pain than pleasure.
When I think about a guy treating my daughters that way it doesn’t resonate well. Yet here I was taking advantage of these women’s insecurities in much the same way that had been done to me. I spent a lot of time in therapy not only healing from how I had been hurt but now I had to work through the damage I was causing others in my wreckless vendetta against women.
In that process, I regretfully hurt others.
Of course, karma would hit.
About a year after I started strictly “casual dating”, I had to temporarily come off my injections due to being hospitalized with the flu. The biologics that keep my immune system from flaring up my skin also cause me difficulty in fighting infections. It didn’t take long and my Psoriasis was back to covering 70% of my body and I was brought back to severe insecurity. I could no longer play this sort of playboy, bachelor lifestyle with my skin the way it was again.
It was almost more depressing to have Psoriasis return than it was in the first place. I knew what life was like without it now.
I couldn’t trust romantic partners – ironically.
I couldn’t trust friends.
The only thing I could trust was the sexual gratification I got without letting people get too close and I no longer had that crutch to lean on either.
I shut literally everybody out.
I continued going through some counseling and by the time my Psoriasis began to clear up, I had welcomed that I needed to change my lifestyle. I wanted to focus on making friends and developing a “bromance before romance”. I wanted to solidify a friendship in my life I never gave an opportunity to before. I was going to work toward propping up my self-worth beyond preoccupying my time with Tinder hookups and intoxicated cab rides home at 2 am.
I was going to start taking girls on genuine dates they deserved. I was going to hold my standards high and be open to letting a woman that checked all my boxes slowly into my life. I had decided I was going to be careful and only risk that for a woman I deemed 100% worth taking the risk for, otherwise I was going to focus on being the best version of myself and developing an authentic social life.
I lay here with perfectly clear skin and I’m just as completely and utterly alone without Psoriasis as I was with it.
And now I no longer have the convenience of pulling a victim card because the recent events in my life have not been me being the victim. I’m alone now because the decision I made to be a fuck boy instead of develop intimacy has left me with a king size bed and no one to share it with while the world falls apart from COVID-19.
In a twisted sort of way, I’m absolutely alone in this bed because of both my insecurities and interestingly enough also my confidence. My ego displayed an exaggerated sense of confidence that’s been fueled by living a life of personal hedonism at women’s expense.
I was like a homeless man that won a lottery that didn’t know how to manage his money, except mine came in the form of confidence. I imagine it’s much the same feeling people who lose a lot of weight feel in the amount of attention they suddenly receive. Amidst my hurt, I don’t think I grasped how to control that confidence and I let it control me in ways I didn’t fully understand.
I’m so thankful for my daughters (they are a blessing in this mess of life and how I intend to set the bar in showing compassion), but I can’t help but think in this moment how my life would be on such a different track if I had grown up with that confidence rather than it be thrust upon me by waking up with clear skin one morning.
In many ways, I’ll always carry the insecurity of my skin with me even when it’s suppressed simply in how it has determined how I ended up where I am for better and for worse. It will always be true that I let Psoriasis define my worth and cause me to believe being treated a certain way was better than being forever alone. I realized that too late and the hurt that I succumbed in those periods manifested itself in hurting others just as I had been hurt.
I couldn’t choose being born with Psoriasis, but I could choose how I lived my life without it whether I had been hurt emotionally or not.
I chose to neglect to give women that likely would have loved spending this quarantine with me the attention they truly desired, because I was arrogant and selfish.
Had I treated the women I met over the course of my promiscuous swiping with better intentions than as a warm pocket to bust a nut with, I’d potentially be playing Mario Kart with the love of my life instead of eating TV dinners in isolation. Turns out, by making a point not to connect with others on a deeper level than a blow job and an arched back, I found myself with an emotional void none of them had been given the opportunity to fill. I had a phone filled with numbers, all neatly organized by the city they lived alongside their name and a cute selfie they had sent me, and as I scrolled through that list I realized that at my lowest low I didn’t actually know which number to call.
This quarantine in so many ways has exacerbated my feelings of lonesomeness and yet also been a great point at reflecting at why my lonesomeness has caused a vicious cycle of further lonesomeness.
On the outside, I’m a shell of confidence but I can assure you as I lay here in this bed that confidence has often been a mask of destitute loneliness.
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