“I’m pretty fucked up.” 

That’s what I want to say anytime a guy asks me out.

I’ve been avoiding dating.  It isn’t that I’m opposed to going out for drinks or heading to the bedroom.  But I am against taking things any further.

I don’t have the patience to pretend that I’m perfect, better than him, or worth picking over anyone else.  I’m not.  Neither is he.  In our own ways, we’re all fucked up.  The question is whose messes are most compatible with mine.  And I’m not into slowly revealing our issues over time.  I’d like to know up front if a guy has any dealbreakers, and I’m happy to return the favor.

See, what I’d like to say to someone is this:

“I’m pretty fucked up.  I’m going through this long, drawn out identity crisis.  I occasionally live on cake and ice cream for weeks because they’re the only things that cheer me up.  It temporarily helps my mood, but it doesn’t help my health or my body image.  I don’t like the career path I’m on, but $70,000 in student loans say I should probably stay on it.  Another $20,000 in credit card debt from years of injuries and illness, unemployment, and trying new things says I probably shouldn’t even stop working long enough to talk to you.  It’s not that I have any major illnesses, just a history of minor health problems that add up to one big hassle.  It’s entirely likely that I’m coming down with the flu again as we speak. You should also know that I’m currently living with my parents.  I don’t know what I want out of life, how long I’ll live in this town, or where I’m going to go next.  If you can’t tell I’m not big on commitment. Since it might be relevant, I’m also going to point out that I’m not good with emotional intimacy.”

That puts all the bad shit out there right away.  If someone doesn’t want to deal with any of the issues in my buffet, they’re welcome to move on; no hard feelings.  If they make it through that part and still want to hang around, I’ll tell them what they’re getting.

“I’m open to trying new things and can actually be a lot of fun. I’m usually nice.  I don’t expect you to take care of me.  I’m smart. My friends think I’m funny.  Depending on my mood I’m up for going out or staying in, we’ll see how things work out.  I’m better with humanity than with people, which means I’m more likely to feel sorry for you in the abstract and tell you to get your ass in gear in the specific.  My goal is to fix the things in my life that make me unhappy, instead of just complaining about them.  If I’m not good company on any given day I will excuse myself until I improve.  Obviously, I can be very direct.”

If we can have that discussion up front, I should be able to stop worrying.  He should know what he’s getting, and from that point on it’s buyer beware.

The truth is I do worry about the men I date, and I would even if I gave that speech before every first date.  I worry that I will rub off on them, transfer my malfunction. I can’t shake the feeling that I am as responsible for them I am for myself, if not more.  This mess is one that I made, I shouldn’t be dragging in innocent bystanders.

And if he’s still talking to me after that, I want to tell him what I need.  Because it’s easier to be alone than to compromise. So what do I need?

“I need you to be strong enough to take care of yourself.  Although I am willing to listen to your problems and help you in any way I can, I need you to not make your problems my problems.  I need you to be a positive force in my life.  I need you to understand when I need some space.  I need you to be moving forward, no matter how wayward your path.  I also need you to understand that I don’t want to feel emotionally rushed.  And no matter what I say, I might not respect you in the morning, so you’re going to have to take responsibility for your own decisions. If you can do all of that, it’s only fair to tell you that someday I might fall in love with you, and it will be your job to tell me – as directly as possible – if that’s too heavy for you.  I need to know that you can do all of this, so that I can let go and enjoy the ride.”

Prospective dates should also be smart, funny, and adorable, but I figured that goes without saying.