[Content note: this post contains mentions of sexual assault and sexual assault triggers]

Back when I was a pickup artist, there was an A-list actor/musician I had met twice, who had given me his email and a way to contact him through a private messaging app, whom I desperately wanted to date (or at least experience, so to speak).

I remember spending a long drive listening to the audio format of Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction (a book I’d already worn thin in paperback form), gripping the steering wheel, thinking to myself that there MUST be some way, some combination of events that would lead to my being able to be with him. There must be a variable I could put into the equation that would lead to that result.

A lot of personal development and spirituality work discusses the idea of releasing attachment to outcome. This made no sense to me for a long time – wasn’t my desired outcome the whole point of doing the work? Wouldn’t letting go of what I wanted as an outcome essentially mean giving up on it? How was I supposed to both work toward what I wanted and also accept whatever obviously less desirable outcome happened instead?

A couple months after that long drive, my life was upended by a series of events that deeply shifted my priorities and which would ultimately lead to my going down the rabbit hole of exploration that led to the research and eventual creation of The Re-Patterning Project. I forgot about the A-lister, sending him an occasional text on the messaging app for things like wishing him a happy birthday, but generally focusing my attention elsewhere. A couple years on I sent him one last email when a song I had secretly written about him came out – I sent him the song, thanked him for inspiring me, and left it at that. He didn’t respond.

Until another two years later. It was the middle of the pandemic when I got an email from him out of the blue. He told me he’d just run across my message while searching for an Arthur in his emails, and that he hoped I was safe and sound in the craziness of the pandemic. I wrote back, told him I was well and still working on music, and thanked him for saying hi. He wrote back the longest message I’d ever received from him, talking about his own process in making music, and sent me a picture of the panoramic mountain view where he was staying. I wrote back and asked if he’d like to hear a preview of one the songs I was working on.

“Sure,” he wrote. “Text it to me.”

And then he gave me his number.

I stared at the email in disbelief – all that time, years prior, that I had been scheming to get closer to him, and there he was giving me his phone number when I not only least expected it but no longer really wanted it all that badly.

Sometimes when we are caught in a process of trying to calculate the exact combination of events that will lead to the outcome we want, we forget that the actual combination of events that will lead to that outcome is actually to stop calculating them. It’s our very hyperfocus that creates a myopia in us that blocks us from the thing we want. People obsessed with becoming famous rarely do; people obsessed with being liked often come across as unlikable. Pickup artists – at least those who fail to evolve beyond the clumsy initial stage of relying on social dynamics – rarely make for desirable partners.

Recently someone I’d considered a friend confessed to me that in our five years of friendship, he had continuously maintained a scheme for how to sleep with me. Although we had once joked about him having wanted to score with me when we’d first met, I had no idea that he had kept up the pursuit. Suddenly everything he’d done in all those years was cast in a different light.

He had come out to one of my shows that night, brought flowers, stuck around til the venue was closing, and then walked out to the parking lot with me and the last of the folks left in our circle that evening. He waited til we were all by our cars and had exchanged goodbye hugs, and then he asked me, in front of everyone, if he could grab a ride home from me, quickly stating that he lived only a mile up the road. I said yes even though I didn’t want to – I had just played an hour-long set, after a seemingly interminable wait post-sound check and before spending hours greeting audience members and new fans, and I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone’s ride home, especially not so late at night. But as he said, it was only a mile up the road, and I fell susceptible to his framework of asking me for what appeared like a very small favor in front of the rest of our friends.

And that’s how I ended up in a parked car outside his house at 2:30am while he confessed to me that he had never actually stopped pursuing sex with me.

“What could I do,” he said, “to make Arden think that sex with me would be a fun, enjoyable thing to do…”

My body bristled. I took control of the conversation, deflected his comments, and started talking about the possibility of other women who might be into him, and then I said a hurried goodnight and ushered him out of my car.

What would make me think that sex with this man would be enjoyable and fun for me? Well, certainly not cornering me into giving him a ride home from my own show only so that he could trap me, a sexual assault survivor, in a car in order to push a sexual agenda that in five years of friendship I’d never once given a single hint of being interested in. From our friendship, this man knew about my sexual trauma history, the demisexuality I stepped into once I had my awakening, and the fact that I’m on the twin flame path and haven’t been interested in casual sex for years. None of that was visible to him in the face of his myopia – all he could see, apparently, was his own calculations. And they led him down a path that was entirely contrary to his interests, because he was gripping them too hard to see it.

I’m reluctant to say that I ever would have slept with this man even had he properly released his attachment to it, because casual sex simply isn’t a priority for me and I don’t find him attractive. But there would have been far more of a chance of it had he not, to his own unawareness, cast himself exactly as the archetype of the sexually frustrated friend just waiting around for me to give it up.

That is to say, there would have been more of a chance of it happening if he hadn’t wanted it so badly.

And meanwhile, my friendship – not to mention access to my social circle – were things he lost in devaluing them to the pursuit of sex, as though they had never meant much to him to begin with.

Maintaining a fierce grip is very rarely the way to call something in. Sure, we owe it to ourselves to go after our dreams, but too often, we allow the pursuit of our dreams to simply reinforce our identity as the person who doesn’t already have them.