Last month I spotted a book recommendation on a social media account I follow, and on a whim I decided to go ahead and order it.
Remarkably, completely out of the blue, not even a week after it had arrived – and without my having posted anything about it – an old high school friend reached out to me and told me that an author he knew in the personal development field was interested in meeting me, that he’d been following my work for quite a while, and that he had a podcast our mutual friend thought I’d be a great guest on. It was the same author who’d written the book I’d just purchased. Amazing synchronicity!
Naturally I agreed to a connecting email and within a couple of days we had picked out a morning to meet for breakfast.
When I arrived I was excited to talk about his work and mine, the intersection of our beliefs and practices regarding personal development and living one’s best life. Unfortunately however, contrary to the impression our mutual friend had given me, he hadn’t actually been following my work and had no idea about The Re-Patterning Project. His last impression of me, he told me with a straight face, was when I had released The New Rules of Attraction. In 2011. Over a decade ago.
And what he wanted to discuss was BDSM and polyamory. I’m generally pretty open about my thoughts about relating, even though I have long left kink and polyam behind, so I was happy to discuss my thoughts, even though my thoughts about them these days mostly involve why they’re not right for me.
“I realized that the only power dynamic I hadn’t explored in the bedroom was equality,” I said.
“Wow, did you just come up with that yourself?” he asked.
“I’ve been saying it for a while but yeah I’m the one who thought of it,” I replied.
“Well, I think dominant-submissive power dynamics can be about equality. It should be about both partners.”
I nodded along, but I’m pretty tired of having things I just said I’m not interested in reframed and handed back to me as if it’s the thing I want.
“I think I’m not monogamous,” he told me, “and I’ve been exploring more of polyamory.”
“That’s interesting,” I said. “I’ve been on the exact opposite trajectory. I began distancing myself from polyamory in 2016, and I’ve been mostly single since then in order to get my patterning in order so I can call in a committed relationship.”
“Yeah, I’ve been to some of the parties, you know, the play parties and cuddle parties.”
“Oh yeah, I used to go to some of those, and some of them I co-facilitated,” I told him. “But you know, I never once met anyone there I was interested in dating. While I learned a lot of useful relating skills there, it actually strikes me as a little odd, I guess, to try and meet people for relationship in a space that’s specifically about relating. I’ve always just dated other creatives.”
“Creatives?” he asked.
“Sure, let’s see, my last few partners or crushes were… a dancer and martial artist, musician, photographer, filmmaker…”
“Would you ever date a writer?” he asked.
I recognized this question for the weak attempt at frame control that it was. (Who on earth would respond, blanket, “No, I wouldn’t date a writer”?) I’ve also committed, as a non-binary autistic person, to release any pressure to a.) coddle men’s feelings at the expense of my authenticity, and b.) address any subtext or meaning that is not explicitly conveyed in the language of the question.
“Hmm,” I responded, “have I ever dated a writer… Well, I guess if you count back in my pickup artist days. I hooked up with a popular author back then. But we weren’t really compatible, and we didn’t so much date as have a friendship where we were kind of the instigators of a lot of crazy group situations, you know? Like we’d be hanging out with a bunch of folks and it’d be getting late and we’d conspire together about which people might be down to kick things up to the next level, and how we could start that off and invite that, you know? It was fun. I’m not sure I’d call it dating.”
After a while I started feeling like our conversation was just him grilling me with kink questions, and while I can talk about myself all day, I was feeling self-conscious that the conversation was revolving around me. So I began asking him some questions about his work. He told me he’d written ten personal development books and just recently had started facilitating courses, and now had five employees under him.
“I heard you have a podcast,” I said. “Are you looking for guests?”
“No,” he said flatly.
“Oh,” I responded.
“We’re booked up for the next year. But you know, if you think of anyone who might be good, let me know.”
“Well naturally I was going to suggest myself,” I said.
“Oh,” he responded.
Not long after, he said he had to wrap up.
I had gotten up at 8:00 in the morning for this.
I do recognize that my impression that this was about to be a business and/or creative meeting was mostly gained from the communication from our mutual friend, who was probably also under the impression that his friend, the author, wanted to discuss our work rather than project a whole bunch of his kink-related fantasies onto me. I can’t say the author specifically lured me into the meeting under the pretense of discussing business, just that he said he’d wanted to meet me.
What I don’t understand is how you can arrange to meet a former professional seduction author in an attempt to make a bid at dating them and not do your research on what they’ve been up to for the past decade. That’s what’s the most insulting. That you can posture yourself as an expert on personal growth, write ten books on the subject, start facilitating courses, hire five employees, and still fail to achieve even the most basic amount of presence with the person you asked to meet up with.
As I’ve gone about my week since then I sometimes catch sight of his book in the corner of my eye, but I can’t bring myself to read it. In that way, I wonder if the universe was saving me time – it sure would have taken me a lot longer to read the book than the 90 minutes it took us to have coffee.
The point of this entry is not to shame this guy – hence why I didn’t name him – but rather to showcase that not everyone creating personal development material lives up to their hype, and that we all owe it to ourselves to practice discernment regarding the teachings we absorb. Since the way we do one thing is the way we do everything, my firm belief is that no content can be birthed without retaining the biases and blind spots of its creator. Capitalist marketing techniques, along with privilege and enough lack of trauma and survival mode to keep churning out 90K words at a time for two decades, means that some folks can get their work in front of a lot of eyes without ever actually doing their own inner work – or at least enough of it not to fetishize a person with a decade-old impression of them, especially when they have a readily available body of work that they’ve made public. (Even my Instagram would have dispelled his notions! Or at least prevented him from embarrassing himself by saying “Oh wow, you’re a singer too?”)
It’s hard to choose our teachers over social media and the internet, because it’s challenging if not almost impossible to get an accurate impression of the essence of a person over the clips, blogs, articles, videos, and soundbites they might share, all of which are designed to curate an audience.
But do know that not everyone who writes about personal growth actually lives up to it.