There is a piece I am supposed to be writing about relationships that is due in three days. Just like my relationships, there have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I avoid it all together.
In a moment of brilliance, I thought it’d be good to go back to my first boyfriend. Document that patterns that it had created, the fondness and nostalgia that being a teenager in a relationship evoked. Except, that if I look at it with the most honest eyes I can, the patterns had already been set. We were merely playing our roles.
Last year, a former “fling” of mine died by an apparent suicide-by-cop in the desert, only two miles from my regular go-to getaway in Joshua Tree. We had not kept in touch over the years, it had been at least 12 years since I’d seen him. He’d kicked me out for being drunk and rude. The last things I’d said to him had been awful.
Big deal, everyone has someone like that in their life, I assume.
The thing that troubled me is that only three months prior he’d reached out to me. Out of nowhere. Sent me his address and phone number. The same address that would show up in the newspaper articles where his…. “being”…. stopped.
I had started writing essays on each former fling and love interest.
You’d think that for being 34 and single, there wouldn’t be much to write about. Or maybe you’d think there was more. I won’t tell you how many there are, and I likely won’t share any of those essays. It is a complicated thing to look back at a relationship and see that all I could see in it was myself. Where had I been wrong? Where had I been right? What did I lose? Who did I hurt? How had I been hurt? What had I hoped to gain?
The essays turned out to be less about the boys and the men, and more about my ego and self-obsession. There were very sweet, special memories that feel uncomfortable and undeserved. I am prompted by guilt to find the gentlemen on social media and make sure they went on to live normal happy lives. Yes, many of them did. Some of them, I can’t find. A few seem to be exactly the same.
There is, of course, a common and delicate thread that is woven throughout most of those relationships which now almost looks like it’s colored neon. The moments I picked the fights, the ideas I didn’t want to adopt, the times I slammed doors and declared, “This is over.”
It was always those delicate and brief moments when the person sitting across from me, probed my eyes looking for a reason I behaved the way I did. They wanted an explanation I couldn’t give. It was a general interest that did not make them run, but instead, begged of them to ask if it was okay to stay.
As you could imagine, I was fine making relationships all about me: except when it became about me. My insecurities and shortcomings were not suitable topics of conversations. In fact, if it was even slightly hinted at that I had some work to do to be a suitable partner, we broke up. You could not expect me to do work on myself when you were the one who chose to be with me. So we both suffered.
Until someone called it quits, anyway.
Being able to see that dynamic from a distance of many years, has been important as I consider the future. Of course, all this self-work has ruined my ability to view an interesting man as anything but an interesting human. Oh, so interesting.
So interesting that now I’ve become involved in their well-being. What a novel concept. The one I’m not always invited to but now I grow concerned by. Why does this guy have these weird responses to money? Why does he care about his hair so much? What’s his relationship to his dad like? Why can’t he hang out with me without smoking like he has a spare set of lungs stashed away somewhere? Why don’t any of his stories make sense?
Did it start as a child when he got picked last? Was he bullied or the bully? Did this all stem from neglect as a child? Why doesn’t he have baby photos? Was his mother a narcissist? Is this why he’s attracted to me – some Oedipian manifestation, a need being satisfied? Where does he find his identity? What is his identity? Is he going to mind if I don’t see him the way he sees him?
The point is that we’re missing the point. There have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I will avoid it all together.