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How to save a life in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley. The place where nerds’ dreams are molded into reality. Where ideas scratched out on napkins bloom into multibillion dollar fortunes in the blink of an eye. Where twenty-some-things drive Maseratis and Teslas. And where those same young men work seven days a week, 18 hours a day, and live in perpetual fear that they will never kiss a girl.

I met such a young man in Palo Alto at the local wine bar. Mop-haired and wide-eyed, he gained enough courage to talk to me after half a bottle of wine. Facebook, he said, had discovered him and snatched him up right out of high school and put him to work, which he’d been doing all day and all night, seven days a week, ever since. Because, basically, he felt work was the only thing he was good at. As he relayed his story, he kept saying “I’m so in over my head talking to you right now”. After assuring him he was easy to talk to and didn’t have anything to worry about, he blurted out “I’m so humiliated just saying this. I’ve never told anyone. I’m a 24-year-old virgin. I’m afraid I’m going to die a virgin.

“This kid doesn’t realize he’s lucky none of the money-hungry cougars in this area have discovered him and gotten impregnated by him”, I think to myself, trying to hold back a chuckle. “It’s really bad. So bad. I went to my first therapy session today.” He pauses, waiting for a reaction. I don’t react, because therapy is pretty normal. Especially in towns as wealthy as this, and I tell him so. Again he says “I don’t think you get it. I’m so in over my head.” He lifts his bashful eyes up from the floor, and stares right into mine. I notice just how blue they are for the first time. ”You just don’t get it. I’m thinking of killing myself. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I don’t even know how I can talk to you like this. I can’t talk to anyone. I don’t have any friends at work. I just freak out and don’t know what to say. I’m totally and utterly in over my head. And I’m really scared.”

OhMyGod! This kid is going to kill himself. I hadn’t understood. Before I could think, I reacted. I kissed him. His first ever French kiss.

Once the kiss ended, I looked into his eyes and I said “Now you’ve kissed a girl. A woman, actually. And it was a really good first kiss. So you can stop obsessing. And furthermore, you are an INTJ! You are the rarest personality type in the world. You’re, like, superhuman. That’s why you feel different. Because you are. In a good way. I need you to understand… Everyone thinks about killing themselves at some point. Everyone. You are not uniquely flawed in this way. Life is just doing one uncomfortable thing after another until it isn’t uncomfortable any more. So go to work tomorrow and say ‘Cool T-shirt’ and nod your head to the guy in the hallway who shares your obsession with that video game character and eventually you will have a conversation. This is how life works. Don’t you dare kill yourself because then we all might as well. You aren’t alone.”

Late that night, back at home, I texted my best guy friend “I kissed a 24-year-old tonight.”

Within seconds he texted back, with a twinge of gay male jealousy “You whore!”

I replied.

“No, you don’t understand.”

“I saved a life.”

 

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