I gave a talk!

I gave a talk. And now it’s on the internet. And now I am watching it and having all the thoughts that I imagine many people have when they watch themselves give a talk: What is going on with my hair? And my weird t-rex arm gestures? Is my face always this expressive—and should I think about toning it down a little? And: These ideas should be reorganized. And: That’s not what my voice sounds like.

I would like to do about twenty things differently. But whatever: I stood on the red circle and I gave a talk! And the audience was very kind. And now it’s on the internet, so wishing I could just hold my arms by my side in a post-Jurassic way is useless.

The strange thing about giving a talk like this is that over weeks of practice your delivery becomes disconnected from your ideas. Rehearsal forces you to separate the words from the sentiment. The words aren’t meaningless but the real emotion is displaced by redundancy–and nervousness. Or that was my experience. And maybe, in my case, this is the thing that makes it possible to get on stage and say things that, in retrospect, I would be too self-conscious to ever confess to a stranger. (“Hey, person I don’t know, guess what: I just want someone to love me.” Gross.)

I spent the entire day before the talk walking around Venice Beach and looking at everyone I saw—the barista and the bartender and the skateboarders and the weightlifters and the t-shirt hawkers—and wondering why I chose to make a career writing (and now talking—on a stage!) about the most intimate parts of my life. And if I had to write, why couldn’t I be more wry or funny or weird or cynical? Why sincerity?? Somewhere along the way I’d made a huge miscalculation.

But then I drank my new favorite thing—bourbon with a side of pickle juice (I know: hipsters! But trust me. It’s the best thing you’ve never tried.)—and I went back to the hotel and practiced about ten more times and the sentiment fell away again. I was the last speaker of the day and by the time I walked on stage, my only concern was making it from the beginning to the end. And I did. And the audience laughed at my dorky jokes.

So now the link to this talk arrives just as my relationship is having a difficult week. Maybe the most difficult week. And despite my frizzy hair (I’d thought LA wasn’t humid…), and my nervous smiling, and the fact that my voice doesn’t sound like my voice, I watched it and I remembered all the things I’d been feeling when I wrote the talk weeks earlier. And, honestly, I am kind of impressed with myself.

I’d been reading books and listening to podcasts in hopes of arriving at some sensible way of thinking about what it means to love someone. And there, despite the flaws, was some useful insight in my own talk. (tl;dr: love is always risky and hard and we should talk about this stuff more openly.)

So, what does it mean that I can’t even retain my own insights–just two weeks later–when things get difficult? (ugh.) Are we all stuck with our weird insecurities forever, despite all the work we put into noticing and dealing with them? (Probably.) Am I now invested in a career that involves saying sincere things to large audiences? (Of course.)

Watch this talk if you want, but keep in mind that it’s a first go. And I’ll do at least a dozen things differently next time. And my voice definitely doesn’t sound like that.

Or—alternatively!—listen to these great podcasts that have made my difficult week just a little bit easier. They feature sincere, thoughtful people who demand a lot of love and relationships are willing to talk honestly about it.

Dear Sugar: When life takes a U-Turn

Radiolab: Remembering Oliver Sacks

Death, Sex & Money: Life as a Wife

Longform: Interviewing George Saunders

Or! Watch this talk, my favorite from the TEDxChapmanU 2015 selection:

Okay. Here’s me:

33 thoughts on “I gave a talk!

  1. Wonderful delivery Ms. Catron. Thank you for sharing this experience with the world. Since you are a writer, perhaps a screenplay is in order…. Best of luck and continued relational success!

  2. I love your talk too, and agree with your realization that no relationship is ever really complete in it’s making. You never get to “happily ever after” even though that’s what I think we all yearn for. But it’s like raising a child: not easy, but deeply important.

  3. Dear Mandy,

    Saw your TED Talk, read your blog, and ‘follow’ed you on Twitter. I’m your newest, biggest fan. Do you fret because your delivery was not more polished? With all your openness and sincerity, your delivery could not have been more charming and disarming. It was a perfect introduction.

    And you are right to be impressed with yourself. Well done.


    • Thank you so much, Paul! I love the idea of having a “newest, biggest fan”–or even someone who uses the word “fan” at all. It’s such a strange experience to have been writing for so many years and finally have some readers–it is still blowing my mind. 🙂 I’m trying not to worry to much about the polish and just get more work done!

  4. Hi Ms Mandy –
    Just saw your talk and it goes straight to this deep level inside every human where emotions and rationality collide and try to find a way out together. Yes love is most scary and yes it is our only option to be vulnerable if ever we want to really be with someone.
    I also thought you delivered a great talk and you do not do anything remotely t-rexing with your arms – so don’t fret as you did it splendidly.

    Your honesty is refreshing and it also is exactly what makes the talk so powerful. Hearing these universal questions voiced is a relief for all of us who feel the same feelings but cannot always aptly put these into words.

    Hope your rocky relationship weeks are getting calmer and you find a way out.

    • Thank you, Ruthie! Hearing from folks who felt the talk resonated with them has been really cool. It definitely makes navigating relationship difficulties feel just a little more bearable–or at least more normal. I’m trying to keep that in mind these days.

  5. Dear Mandy,

    Grateful that you’ve summed up love (for me) in a brilliant sentence: To be known, to be seen, to be understood. (Sent an email too).

    Kind Regards,

  6. Dear Mandy,

    I have listened to your talk 3 times over the past 48 hours and forwarded it to a couple of friends incl. my partner. I thought it was just perfect in its simplicity and sincerity, and very clever. Thank you for your brave act of sharing, I’m sure it helps others like myself by resonating the messy experience of love, doubt and anguish in all of a sudden very clear way. Don’t worry about the delivery with the voice and trex arms, I had to laugh out loud when reading your self-deprecating criticism but honestly it was never annoying as I could only think to myself how endearing this person was and how I would have liked for someone like her to be my friend (true story, told my friend when recommending this talk to her!). Wishing you hope and endurance in these difficult times.
    Kind regards,

    Ps. In case you don’t know it already, book tip: “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson

    • Hi Kaman: I have not heard of Johnson’s book but I will be sure to look it up when I have a free moment. I’m still coming to terms with how many people have seen and shared the talk–but comments like yours really do make the vulnerability of the whole enterprise feel a lot more worthwhile.

  7. Hi Mandy,
    I think most of us sound weird to ourselves, but you sounded just fine and I enjoyed your talk. Thank you for sharing such a personal aspect of your life with us. Wishing you every success with your book!

  8. Hi Mandy, I loved your TED Talk. You came off as a sincere, relatable person. I am a newly emerging writer and just submitted a piece about marriage and love to a magazine. It was very personal and sometimes difficult to write. Your talk reinforced my current situation, that we make a choice to love (the kind of love that is long-lasting) and we don’t make that choice just once in a relationship. I hope you have continued success and love!

  9. Thanks for your insights and having the courage to share your learning. With all the ‘hype’ going on around the world from your discoveries, I’m sure we’re going to see and hear all the stories from those who try the 36 questions and 4 min gaze. Watch this space!

  10. Ms. Mandy,
    You did a wonderful job on TED, eloquent. In listening to your talk, I was left with the thought of the choice of love. I choose to Love my husband still, even though he has since passed over four and a half years. My choice of love has turned into a deep spiritual love.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gloria. This is a really interesting way of thinking about love. It reminds me of my grandmothers–both of whom made this choice again and again for many years. And who lived good, happy, full lives that way. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  11. Mandy–your blog, the famous article, and your talk on TED are all so spot on and beautiful. And your TED talk was so funny! (your audience didn’t laugh as much as I did). When you told the story of the guy with the line: “I think she just wants to be friends”, I guffawed loudly. Your thoughts around wanting a guarantee in love and the challenge of the risk brought to mind the movie “Enough Said”…I recommend it! Bravo on putting yourself out there again and again!

  12. Hi Mandy, I’m not sure if you’re going to read this given that I’m commenting years after this was published, but I feel the need to say this to you.

    In April of this year, I went through my own difficult break-up at the age of 29. And like you, I also found myself doing all the research I can on loveAll that brought me to your TEDx Talk and listening to it for the first time really changed my perspective on what it really means to love someone. I had always thought that love was a feeling, and that then turned into a choice. But your perspective on the heaviness of that choice is very true.

    I have been listening to the talk everyday pretty much since my breakup. And it has grounded me and provided me with the ability to be more empowered and assertive when it comes to love. I’m no longer afraid of being by myself, I’m more assertive in being clear of my needs and wants with potential partners, and I know the right one will come along when he does. Thank you for having done this talk and this blog post. I am very grateful to have found it 🙂

    I agree with you, we all do need to talk more about the realities of love and what it really means to love someone. We are not only too willing to accept the short version of the story (as you put it), but we’re also too accepting of how love is portrayed in media, and especially when it’s on social media profiles of the people that we know, and that skews the expectations that we do have when we fall in love and make the attempts to stay in the relationship. And so I started my own blog, hoping to answer some of the questions that you pose, but also to ask and answer my own questions about love and start a conversation: http://modernloveyyc.wordpress.com.

    P.S. I really enjoyed the humour in the talk too. You’re a very relatable and authentic speaker!

    • Hi Jade: Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I found your comment last week and have been feeling cheered by it. It’s strange write a post or give a talk and put it out in the world not knowing what will come of it (as I’m sure you’ve found with your own blog!). But it’s always kind of amazing to hear from someone who was moved by it. I still haven’t quite gotten used to it. So thanks. 🙂

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