Posts tagged ‘Relationships’
At work we have to complete a code of conduct, a test that basically goes over ethics violations at the workplace. Most any American who works for a mid-size to large company has to nowadays. It goes over things like intellectual property ownership and access to sensitive information and the propriety of accepting gifts from vendors.
We all have a personal code of conduct. Some people’s is more laissez faire while others are more regimented in their beliefs. It’s frequently been noted that members of organized crime families and gangs have their own code of conduct. Mafia movies like The Godfather series are so popular, not solely because of their propensity for sex and violence but also because the mafia leaders have their own set of ethics, which, skewed as they may seem to the rest of us, they do adhere to.
Ethics seems like a pretty black and white proposition, and yet the older one gets the more one finds grey areas until much of the subject of ethics just seems like varying shades of gray with a little black and white thrown in, like the color on the picture of a black and white television screen.
When I was younger the world was very black and white to me. Every violation of what I saw to be the good and right thing to do seemed like a stab in the heart that made my view of the world darken with the black stain of my own dark heart. I was quick to be wounded and sometimes quick to believe the worst about people. How is self-righteousness any more attractive than any other sin?
I was looking at The Post In Which I Eat Crow and the two posts that led to that epiphany as a metaphor for my whole life in more ways than one. First off, it’s only one in a series of “relationships” I had with men that were categorized by my first picking out someone that I had a strong attraction for who was fundamentally unsuitable on some level.
I then obsessed over the guy when he was smart enough not to ask me out or eventually rejected me, for whatever reason. In the end, I would feel hurt because I’d been rejected by someone who was sending me mixed messages. I used to call it partial reinforcement, like it was a behavioral psychology term coined by B.F. Skinner, and for all I know, it could be. It reminds me of that management book, Who Moved My Cheese? It never once occurred to me that maybe, just maybe they were sending mixed messages because they were actually returning my own ambivalent feelings.
You know, one thing I always wondered back in the day is why Vern broke up with his girlfriend and then never asked me out, even though he’d shown every sign of being interested. I only found out about the chasing tail thing later.
Vern and Ernest are like the dueling banjos of character assassins. First, Ernest tells me that Vern spent the months when he was broken up with his girlfriend pursuing a series of shallow sexual couplings, and, of course, there’s that stuff about The Bet. Eighteen years later, Vern tells me Ernest was living with him as a roommate back then because his girlfriend got tired of him beating the shit out of her and kicked him out.
Well, since I dodged both those bullets, I kind of find the dueling character assassins analogy funny. Eighteen years between stanzas.
Anyway, it occurred to me that there were two very good reasons why Vern might not have wanted to ask me out, besides my own ambivalence. The breakup lasted precisely five months. That’s not very long. Jumping right into another relationship, because I was a relationship type of girl, would have been sort of like me going and immediately getting another puppy after the death of my beloved pet two months ago. It’s too soon for me to make that kind of investment, and it would feel like a kind of betrayal. But I still like dogs, and I like to pet other people’s pets when I get the chance.
So, for a certain kind of man, a lot of men, that’s part of their code of conduct. They have their own sense of honor, and some girls are seen as relationship material while others are not. Why he decided to violate his own standard of ethics at the last minute is a mystery for which I’ll never know the answer.
But one thing that I do know is that if Vern had ever actually asked me out, the whole thing would have played itself out with me eventually moving on, bored with him or convinced that he was unsuitable in some other way, and that would have been the end of it. I wouldn’t have been happy living in a small town in Oklahoma with a guy who studied business, spent his spare time watching football, worked at the Wal-Mart, and made constant racial epithets. Of course, he wouldn’t have been any happier living in the city with a self-righteous, politically liberal, poetry writing feminist who liked to spend her spare time with her nose buried in a book. The reason why I remembered it so clearly after so many years is because it seemed like he wasn’t interested, and ultimately, I wondered why he wasn’t falling all over himself to be with me.
Perhaps I’d do well to take a magnifying glass to my own code of conduct as well.
Wow. Statistics. I took a course on it when I decided to go to graduate school. No, I did not graduate. But I did pass statistics! I even got a B. Thank God for Eastern European geeks in the math lab and for partial credit. One thing I did learn about statistics, I mean besides that the Greek letter Sigma is not just the “funky E,” is that statistics can be and frequently are manipulated to come up with an answer that’s sometimes less than truthful.
Some stories about studies have come out this month about the marriage success rate in the United States of America. And, if you’re college educated, you make decent money, and you don’t marry too young, your odds are actually pretty damn good. Congratulations! You won the marriage lottery.
If you’re not college educated, if you’re middle class or working poor or, worse yet, impoverished, or if you marry young, you’re screwed. Well, not really. But your odds of success are way lower. It doesn’t take too much in the way of brains to figure out why this is. Since money is one of the big stressors in marriage, those people who have it are far less likely to be stressed over it.
You know how the media has been reporting for years that the divorce rate in this country was 50% or better, no matter what. Turns out the media is wrong. Check out these links.
The saddest trend I find is that marriage is becoming irrelevant for many young couples with only a high school education. They are becoming parents and cohabitating first, then perhaps marrying later when they can “afford” to do so. With the tax advantages for being married, particularly when it comes to having a family, I don’t see how you can afford not to be married.
This seems to me to be indicative of the greater trend in American society to think of marriage not as a serious lifelong commitment but rather a pit stop on Serial Monogamy Lane. A marriage is a ceremony, a great big expensive party that you host for all your friends, which is why you can’t afford it. Better to breed now and save up for that big party later.
If you’re married, please, please remember what a privilege it is to be married, to have someone who loves you to walk through life with, because not everyone does. Treasure it. If you’re not married, there’s plenty of rich, rewarding life ahead of you whether you get married or not. Happiness, like marriage, is ultimately a choice that you get to make. You can choose to be happy. Choose wisely.
The first time I fell in love, well, I almost don’t count it. I was a freshman in college, and the young man didn’t feel the same way. We didn’t even date. He was my best friend. We were both English majors. We worked together. We socialized with each other and had all the same friends. He was funny and kind and smart. He and his brothers used to throw Egg Balancing Parties during the Fall and Spring Equinox. I used to write him letters that were more like personal essays, like this blog, and he kept them in a notebook that he still has, and he treasured them.
We spent nearly every day together. Sometimes it was every day. When I first met him I asked him if he was gay, and he told me he wasn’t. I don’t know what it was about him that made me ask. He wasn’t stereotypically effeminate. Maybe it was a sixth sense and years of socializing with high school thespians.
By the time that I got around to pressing the issue my friend and I had been as close as two people can be without having sex and being close. I was too young to know that if I had to press the issue with a confession of any sort that I could know in advance what the answer was going to be. If you have to tell a guy how you feel about him in order to find out how he feels about you…here’s a hint…he doesn’t.
But he let me down gently. And he was honest about it. He didn’t give me any agonizing details. He didn’t lie. He just said he wasn’t interested in me in that way and that he wouldn’t ever be interested in me in that way. I took a friendship sabbatical and came back, and after maybe a few verbal jabs that he endured with patience and humility, I returned refreshed and renewed and envigored about the friendship. He told me he was gay a year or two later. I should always trust my first instincts with my gaydar.
Now I guess I could technically get upset that he wasn’t completely honest about the gay thing, but I figure that a young man in his early 20s in Oklahoma in the early 1990s can be cut some slack in the honesty department when it comes to coming out of the closet. He didn’t lie about his feelings towards me; he just wasn’t feeling it, and maybe if he were straight he would have not felt the same way.
The second time I fell in love was a little over a decade later. I had just turned 30. I met a guy at a bar who was nine years older than me and was obviously a bad relationship risk on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. It was a friendship and a casual sexual thing (which I’m not proud of and not terribly ashamed of, either). It wasn’t meant to evolve into anything else other than what it was. And then one day when we were in bed, he told me that he loved me. He clarified so I would know it wasn’t anything platonic, “I mean, I’m in love with you.”
I think that in my thirties, with nearly all my girlfriends having been married, and me having nothing to show for my life and very little in the way of dating prospects, that I was just desperate to be loved. I had worked it out in my head that love was a commitment, and I would commit to this guy.
Surely, he could see that he was getting better than he deserved in me and would treat me accordingly. I really thought that was what would happen; I thought that if I encouraged him and held high expectations for the relationship, that he would rise to the occasion and everything would be moonlight and roses and picket fences and 2.3 children in the suburbs.
Unfortunately, the second time I fell in love, I fell in love with a sociopath. He wasn’t capable of loving anyone, not even himself. He was incapable of fidelity. He was entirely self-absorbed. He was a pathological liar. He couldn’t hold down a job for any length of time. He had no discernible moral code. He’d been divorced twice and had abandoned two children, and I thought he could change because he told me he wanted to be a better person. I could oversimplify the relationship by saying that The Rat Bastard eventually dumped me because he told me he was gay, but the truth was that I had outlived my usefulness to him. The glass workboot didn’t fit.
I actually met Guy #3 before I met Guy #2. I worked with him, and then I didn’t. For a long time. We met up once during this time, and I stopped by the apartment he shared with his brother for a visit. I don’t even recall how this came about, since we had socialized with each other a few times, but we weren’t close.
About two and a half years ago, about eight years after we first met, I ran into this guy at the cafeteria at my work. I didn’t say hello. For one thing, I didn’t recognize him for sure. I thought maybe it was him, but I wasn’t sure. And then there was my crippling discomfort with the fact that I was now eight years older and several pounds heavier. I knew that I would be measured against the yardstick of my cute and skinny self and found lacking.
I looked up his name on the employee directory, and then I sent him an email. And then I waited. I think it took him a week or longer to respond. Obviously, I hadn’t made a very big or favorable initial impression. But eventually he did respond, and he asked me if I had plans for New Years Eve, and I told him I didn’t. So, we made plans for this pseudo New Years date, sight unseen. Well, I had seen him, but he hadn’t seen me.
It was a double undate, and I could get into the details of that night, but it’s unnecessary. He recognized me right away, and he didn’t register any shock or even any acknowledgement of my altered appearance. He kissed me on the lips on New Years, and then I drove him back to his car. That night I had worn some shoes that killed my feet, and I took them off, and he gave me his shoes to wear instead. That glass slipper motif again.
He seemed interested in pursuing a relationship, but what the hell do I know? Maybe he was just trying to encourage me to get out of the house more and get a life. I put him off with the excuse that we worked together and for that reason it would be unwise to date. Later, I added that I couldn’t pursue a relationship with someone who didn’t believe in God, and I stick by that decision. If someone refuses to acknowledge what’s most important in your life and denies its very existence, they can never fully know you.
Over time he became my best friend, and I think I became his. Again, the details aren’t important. In writing this I am breaking a promise that I made to not write about him anymore, but I think that he’s long since quit reading this blog. Also, I don’t want to write about how it all unraveled or my disappointment or what I perceived as his dishonesty. I don’t want to trash him for his failures or his frailties.
The most hurtful things he did or said I’ve kept to myself. Despite what seems to be my complete candor, there are still some secret scars that I don’t share with the world or with him. It’s like the gift that you do not give. I do not give it because I love him. I want to write about what made me love him in the first place…how he snuck up on me and caught me unaware and made me love him.
He was sweet. He was generous. He was kind. He had a great smile. I never went anywhere with him or did anything with him where he didn’t make me feel profoundly safe and provided for. He thought I was smart and funny and even pretty. He took pictures of me with no makeup on and saved them to his iPhone over my protests (I hate having my photo taken).
We could talk for hours. We went out into the world together and snuggled on the couch and watched television. He was a very talented musician. He had these great hands. And he had a quality about him that was fundamentally decent and boyish and vulnerable. It was like he’d grown up with the soft spot on his skull still intact.
You know how there were some experiments years ago about how family members could recognize each other’s unique odor by making these family members wear t-shirts for a day with no lotion and no deodorant? Then afterwards they passed the t-shirts around and each family member could recognize each other by smell alone. I could recognize him by smell alone.
And so I loved him, and one day I decided to tell him, but just like with Guy #1, if you have to be the one to break the news, then you should already know the answer. And his answer was perfect silence, which was, of course, humiliating.
There was an “incident.” There always is. But none of it matters. I was sick, and I couldn’t be in a relationship and still be in my sickness. You know that song, the one that says you only get what you give? He was sick as well. We couldn’t heal each other. We would both have to recognize a problem and then seek help to get well. And for that reason I can forgive any of the other bullshit and just remember that once I was in love.
Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I were having a phone conversation the other day where he brought up again, as he does every few months or so, the question of whether or not I should date. The answer to this question is always no. Sometimes I think the answer should be yes, but then I am wrong. The answer is no.
The last time someone talked me into accepting a date, the outcome was predictably tragic. I met this guy in a bar called Canary Hut or Canary Roost. I don’t know. Canary Something. I was out with Katina. This is obviously when I was still drinking, but I wasn’t drunk at the time. It was December of 2008, and I hadn’t been on a date in five years, if you count my relationship with The Rat Bastard as dating.
Wisely, after The Rat Bastard, I had made the conscious decision not to ever accept another date again. I am simply not meant to date. It works out for other humans, but it never works out for me. What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome.
The outcome of me dating is always disappointment. Sometimes it’s mild disappointment, and at other times it’s profound disappointment but what all these experiences have in common is disappointment. I was an English major, and I began to sense a theme. At some point, I decided that I didn’t want to be insane anymore.
So, this guy at the Canary Something was supposedly instantly attracted to me. Why I couldn’t say. I had not taken any special care with my appearance, and I was at least one hundred pounds overweight at the time. Now the way he approaches me is original, because he doesn’t.
He sends his sister and her husband over to ask for him, like he’s in junior high and wants to ask me to go with him. The sister and her husband launch an all out campaign to convince me that I want to go out with her brother. They point him out at the bar. He waves.
He’s nothing special, but he’s also not repulsive. Supposedly, he is painfully shy. This isn’t surprising to me. Shy guys love me. I swear to God if there is a shy guy within a twenty-mile radius of me, he will eventually gravitate towards me even if he isn’t actually interested in me in that way. I attract them like magnets. The kind of guys who major in obscure and cerebral things that require them to interact with things or numbers and not humans – IT guys and math majors and engineers and architects – they love me for some inexplicable reason.
Now I finally meet this guy after his entire family has talked him up to me. And that’s no exaggeration. This is the family that parties together. Mom, stepdad, brother, sister, brother-in-law. He’s awkward, and, yep, shy. He also strikes me as not particularly bright. As in, he has the IQ of a root vegetable. Actually, that might be an insult to some of the more intelligent root vegetables, like the rutabaga and the jicama, for instance.
His whole family made a big point out of telling me how brilliant he is. Oh, he’s so smart! It doesn’t seem like it at first, but just wait until you get to know him. Hmmph. I am not so convinced. Mr. Brilliant is several years younger than me, in his late twenties, hasn’t started let alone finished college, and is currently working two or three delivery jobs.
But he’s nice enough. He seems to like me. My girlfriend is encouraging me to do this. I should go out. It’s healthy. I should make an effort. What could it hurt? Free dinner, yada, yada. And I recognize the logic in this argument. How am I going to find someone if I don’t go out? Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone? If nothing else, then it will be good practice.
Monday morning I describe the entire scenario to Work Boyfriend 1.0.
“So, you’re saying that you’re going out with this guy on a mercy date?”
“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, um, yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, my God. Don’t do us any favors.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you said that I should date.”
“You should. Someone you really like.”
“But no one I really like has asked me out. They aren’t exactly lining up outside my door. These are my choices: stay home or go out on the mercy date.”
A couple nights go by. Mr. Brilliant calls me. He hasn’t gotten any smarter. It’s late, and I’m already in for the night, and he wants me to meet him somewhere right now. Now I’m not a strict adherent to The Rules, but I’m not running like a puppy dog because this guy has called. I don’t play games. I tell him that I’d like to make plans in advance. I don’t tell him why this is, but the reason has to do with the fact that I’d like to think that a guy actually went to the effort and trouble of planning something in advance. I’d like to think that he cared enough to do that for me.
He says he’d like to meet me somewhere for dinner the next night. Tomorrow night. No place yet. No plans. But I figure this is a compromise because I at least have advance warning. I can make an effort and try to look nice, maybe wear some of that Chanel perfume that I never have a reason to wear. Tomorrow night. He’ll call. Cool.
So, tomorrow night comes. I make an effort and shower and dress nice and get ready to fly out the door to wherever it is that he’s decided that we’re going to meet. But the phone doesn’t ring. Strangely, the phone doesn’t ring all evening.
The phone does ring the next day, after he’s stood me up. It rings several times while I’m at work, and once I actually hang up on him without saying a word. Work Boyfriend 1.0 is appalled.
“You aren’t even going to give this guy a chance?”
“You didn’t even want me to go out with him in the first place, and he stood me up.”
“You should at least listen to what he has to say.”
“Unless he’s in a hospital, I really don’t want to hear anything he has to say. And nope, not even then. They have phones in hospitals. You want to know why I don’t date? This. This right here is why I don’t date. It’s a perfect example.”
First, I’m wrong for having a no dating policy. It’s so isolated and closed off, and I’ll never meet someone that way. Then someone asks me out, and I agree to give him a shot, and I’m a horrible person for agreeing to go on the mercy date. Then he stands me up, and I’m a horrible person for not giving him a second chance. At what point is he the horrible person in this scenario? After he takes me out to an old deserted road and rapes me and leaves me for dead? Or will I still be the horrible person even then?
Mr. Brilliant calls again that night. His excuse is that he had to work. He works three jobs, after all, and one of the jobs asked him to work some overtime.
I tell him that I can appreciate that he has to work three jobs, and that if you have to work you have to work. I still would have appreciated a courtesy call.
His phone was dead or something. He’s sorry. Do I want to go out right now and meet him and his friends for a drink? No, I do not. I tell him he had his chance, and he blew it, and I don’t want to talk to him again. For someone who was supposedly so enamored of me, he doesn’t seem very broken hearted about it.
And THAT is why I don’t date. I suppose my standards are too high. Once, just once I’d like for the guy that I like to ask me out and not have to settle for letting the guy I’m not so crazy about try to convince me otherwise. But I give in on that. Every time. Because if I don’t, then I’ll be alone. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be courted. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be treated with common courtesy and decency. And before I know it, I’m in another relationship with another Rat Bastard all because I’m scared of (Gulp!) being alone.
I won’t do it. I’m tired of doing it. And I’d rather be alone, thank you. If that makes me bitter or “judgemental”, then I guess I’m okay with that.