“And the stories only mine to live and die with
A couple of months ago I matched with a woman on a dating app whose job title was listed as “Casting” for FOX television. I found her attractive and her profile interesting so I messaged her--not thinking too much about her job.
We started talking and eventually she mentioned a new dating show FOX is creating titled, “Untitled Love Story” (the name is still in the works). She asked if I’d be interested in being one of the men on the show.
My initial reaction was “hell no”, and used some cheesy line like, “only if you won’t go out with me”. I took a shot, right?
After thinking about it, I decided to hear what they had to say. It was pitched to me as different from the bachelor--a smaller cast, folks in their 30s rather than 20s, the ability to work remotely during taping, etc.
I decided to consider it, confided in a few close friends and family for advice, and eventually agreed to go through the interview process.
I mean, why the hell not? It’s not like I’ve just been killing it in the dating world. It's more than that, though. I love saying yes to new adventures and new possibilities. Knowing I can always say no later if I start to feel uncomfortable.
So I taped a Skype interview, learned the producers were interested, and waited to hear more.
Then last week I received a call--FOX wanted to bring me out to LA to meet the producers so they could narrow it down to the final 10-12 men. But first I had to sign a contract...
They proceeded to send me a 27 PAGE CONTRACT. Removing all my rights to anything I say, write, or create as part of the show--and giving them the right to edit all of it as they see fit. All of which was to be expected. Then I got towards the end, and there they required I agree to: genetic testing, fertility testing, mental acuity testing, AND give them the right to talk about it all on the show.
Now, I’m a pretty open guy. I don’t mind being upfront with my struggles, with my successes, and with the processes of change I’m going through. But even I have a limit. Turns out it starts with my sperm count...
At the end of the day, it’s not so much about what they’re asking me to divulge publicly. It’s how--without any creative license of my own. With no input, opinion, or engagement.
They want to tell my story for me.
We don’t ever get to tell our entire story for ourselves. We don’t exist alone in the world, and as long as that is true others will help us tell our stories. For better or worse, it’s what being in relationship is all about.
But no one, and I mean no one, gets to tell our entire story. And that’s what FOX’s contract wanted: the right to tell my entire story to the world.
I believe I'm a good storyteller. Whether it’s helping an organization tell their story to the world or walking through life with friends and family discovering new ways to tell our stories, it’s what I’m most passionate.
As a therapist by education, I’ve seen what happens when our ability to tell our stories is taken away. I’ve seen the trauma, the pain, the impact of such a loss of control.
I’ll be damned if anyone other than me, Sam, and my friends and family get to tell the world who I am.
I have a deep desire to fall in love, but I want it to be with someone who wants to create a new story together, not at the hands of some Hollywood TV executives.
Because love deserves the right to tell its own story, too.
One of the things that has changed most about me over the past decade is the way I look at societal and cultural issues. I've found that with personal and internal change has come a desire to see and consider issues in a different way. In a world where we often want simple choices--A and B--I’ve found myself searching for a third option.
This was never more true than when I worked in the domestic violence advocacy field.
When folks find out I worked at a domestic violence shelter, one of the first responses I get is “I don’t understand why women stay with violent men” or “why doesn’t she leave?”.
The truth is, for every woman who experiences violence in a relationship, there are 10 different reasons why she doesn’t leave. Here are a few that often come up:
Now, while everything I've just said is true, the real answer to this question is that when we ask “why doesn’t she leave?”, we’re asking the wrong question.
When we ask the question this way, we’re putting all the pressure on the abused and forgetting that most abusers don’t just come out and hit someone on the first date--making their intentions known from day one. They slowly whittle away at someone’s self-confidence, making them dependent and in love and less likely to leave before they (literally) strike.
The real question we should be asking is, why does he keep hitting her?
This is what I mean when I mention looking for a third option, seeing issues in a new light. We can’t keep putting the expectation on women to leave an abuser. At some point we have to look at men and say “you don’t get to hit, ANYMORE”.
I thought about this during the #metoo movement as well. At some point these movements can’t just be women standing up and saying “we’re done being abused”. Men also have to stand up and say, “we’re done abusing and we’re done accepting this behavior from other men.”
Violence and harassment aren’t a female problem. They're a male problem. Only when men stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” is this behavior going to change.
So why doesn't she leave? It’s not for me to judge. Live a minute in a victim’s life and you’ll see most are just doing their very best each day to survive.
So it’s time to ask a new question--one that puts the pressure to change where it should be. It’s time we expected more from our men. Not just those who abuse, but all men.
Fellas, this is our problem to solve and it's time to start now.