one night stand: the cowbird quandary

Dear readers,

I’ve no idea if you’ve been following my updates on cowbird, but it’s turning out to be an interesting ride. On the one hand, I’m still incredibly excited about it. I like many of the writers I’m following. Furthermore, to my mind at least, there’s no question that I’m pushing myself harder there and accomplishing more in terms of my creative writing than I’ve been able to do for many years.

On the other hand, the tone is a little hard to take, and the Cowbird Daily Story isn’t helping. Naturally, being a writer for Cowbird, and knowing there’s A Cowbird Daily Story, makes one eager to get picked for the Cowbird equivalent of the kickball team. Even when you don’t get picked — and I haven’t — you half-consciously, half-unconsciously start to emulate the stories getting the most recognition. There’s an uncomfortable feeling of constraint, because the stories have to be heartfelt, and they have to be true, and the result can veer into the territory of high school poetry.

So here are some excerpts from the Daily Story from a few days ago. It’s called “One Night Stand,” and it pretty well encapsulates the problem:

the truth was i just wasn’t into it
we met at a gay club
i was drunk
i think she was flattered
she got a gay guy to make out with her
maybe her beauty was capable of conversion
but i wasn’t gay
so

we went back to her place
and i wanted passion
to wash over me
to take over
i really wanted that
but i just felt depressed
that a naked girl
who i didn’t know
was on top of me
i didn’t even know
what things would make her laugh

[…]
i can’t use somebody else
to heal my own heart

***

Yes. How very true. On the other hand, here’s another version of that story:

The truth was I just wasn’t into it. We met at a gay club, where I’d gone because I was asking myself questions about my sexuality, questions that remain with me. “I’m not sure I’m gay, and I actually just went through a really bad breakup with a woman,” I said to her. We didn’t make out any further. “I thought my beauty was capable of conversion,” she said. “That’s sort of vain,” I said. There was an awkward silence and then she walked away.

Sure, I felt bad that our interaction ended on a sour note, but it could have been much worse. I could have used descriptions of her naked body, her hair, and her hands to attract interest in a story about my own banal self-loathing. More importantly, I could have avoided telling her the truth, had sex with her, and basically done everything possible to make her hate herself as much as I hated myself. “Thank God I’m not that guy,” I said, finishing my gin and tonic. Then I got up to dance.

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