Sunday, April 16, 2006

Blue Easter

So there I sat on a lonely Easter holiday. Separated from my family. Separated from my Manhattan. The patterns of my previous relationships staring back at me.

It was my day to complete my fourth step. In AA's twleve steps, step four is taking a personal inventory. You make a list of all the people you resent, you write out why, you try to assign what part of your basic instincts that person triggered, and then you write your part. You try to focus on yourself and figure out what actions of your own set the wrecking ball in motion.

Sure, that guy yelled at me in the street. But, I did run over his dog when I was riding my bike on the sidewalk. It’s not okay for him to tell me I’m a nasty ho-bag who mustn’t have had a mama to teach me manners, but it’s not okay for me to be riding my bike on the sidewalk either.

You get the picture.

After this painful exercise in self reflection, you isolate resentments that relate to the men you’ve dated or slept with and you make a separate list of all the ways you harmed these men. It's called a sex inventory.

I call it 'dangerous'. An excuse to sit in self-pity and think you are the most horrible person in the world.

In black and white, I'm reminded of how I meet men, how I get into relationships with them, when and why I sleep with them, what I expect from them, and how I run away from them. It’s a sloppy collage of repeated patterns, insecurities, frivolous fears and utter self-centeredness.

At the end of this exercise, I’m left wondering: Have I have ever really loved a man?

Because to me, true love does not have expectations. And my patterns show me that I’ve rarely entered into a relationship with a man without a hundred pre-existing measuring sticks of how things should look, how I should feel, how they should feel and how they should express it.

An insurance company won’t pay for your pre-existing conditions. But I somehow think it is fair to ask a man to enter into a relationship with me based on pre-existing expectations.

I called my father.

We talked about the weather and then I asked him when he knew he was in love with my mother. If he was like me, it would be love at first sight. But what he said, surprised me.

“It must have been about two years after we started dating. ”

Two years? Two years?? I wouldn’t date a man for more than three months if he wasn’t ready to profess his love. Two years? Are you snorting mom's cancer meds?

“Well, keep in mind. We didn’t have sex on the third date back then.”

That made sense.

In my mind, sex almost always equals expectations. Sex, or even the highly sexualized act of flirting, signals that a friendship has passed into a new category and now has guidelines for behavior. Is it possible to date without sexpectations?

And in this modern dating scene, who can date without sending out sexual signals. Perhaps this was possible in High School, studying late at night with that boy that sat behind you in Spanish class for two years, when suddenly your friendship dissolveds into a clash of intertwined braces. Today, the mere act of ‘going on a date’, sitting at a table with another person, grabbing someone’s arm when you are walking down a cobblestone street, brushing up against one another in a bar, is all heavy with the anticipation of sex. It’s nearly impossible to get to know someone without the hint of sexual promise. I live in New York City, where competition dogs your every designer shoe step. If you don't throw it out there, you might lose them to the red head standing in line behind you.

“It took some time.”

In Manhattan, time is your most precious commodity. Who has time to stop and get to know someone? See past their immediate flaws. There are hundreds of eligible men in this town, ready to step in as soon as I pick one off for using the wrong shampoo. I don’t have to be patient when there is more than enough supply for my demand.

My father went on, “How could I have been in love with your mother any sooner. It took me two years just to get to know her. And how can you really be in love with someone that you hardly know?”

And how can you really get to know someone once you begin weighing them against a lifetime of built-up expectations? And where do these expectations come from?

"You love your brother, Jane. Now whether or not he constitutes a man, I don’t know."

I love my baby brother. Does that count? One day, I just knew. He was visiting me and were playing racquet ball and he had a grand mal seizure on the court. I called 9-1-1 and lay on the ground next to his strong 22 year old frame to hold it still. Lying on the ground with him, calming him as he came around to consciousness, I clung to the image of an eight year old boy with gangly arms, a bloated belly, red galoshes and Dad’s old army helmet. I remembered making him laugh in the car by making funny faces over the back seat. There are few pains that a back scratch and ill-tuned lullaby wouldn’t temporarily relieve. But while he struggled with his helplessness, his eyes betrayed fear and I saw a pain that I could not make better.

I couldn’t leave his side for the next 36 hours. I had the nurse bring a cot into his hospital room and bought him six different kinds of Ben’n’Jerry’s ice cream that I watched slowly melt on his bed side stand while he slept. I would have traded places with him and taken any and more pain just to save him the humility of his body’s weakness. After that day, he could scream obscenities at me, eat off my plate, talk with his mouthful, chew three pieces of Bubblicious at a time and blow bubbles in my face, show up three hours late to dinner and loan my favorite pair of shoes to his girlfriend without ever threatening my affections. That’s love.

Dad told me to put down my pen. He told me to go outside.

“You’re right, you’re right.”

“I have to fix lunch for your mother. Jesus, that woman never gets enough grilled cheese.”

“Thanks Dad. I appreciate this. Happy Easter. I Love you.”

“You too."

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 4/16/2006 11:59:00 PM |


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