So – I get the response and begin to unpack it.
First, I’m impressed. It’s taken a month (which I consider good – I didn’t want his instant reflexive reaction) and he’s responding better than I expected. That he didn’t run away is almost astounding.
Plus, I instantly want to jump in and amplify all the self-forgiveness he should be exercising, making it even easier and more complete than it already is. I’m making all his excuses for him in my head – so well intentioned, he did nothing wrong, etc.. etc…
Then, I’m honored by the compliments. Gratified to think I’ve managed to express something useful.
Then, I’m suspicious – where’s the catch? He doesn’t mean those nice things, how could he, I’ve attacked him viciously. He’s just trying to trick me. Or make himself look good. He’s either trying to make a fool of me, or he’s too passive-aggressive to know he hates my guts. (This part is all purely about me – I go through it with almost every compliment, ever.)
Woven into the above – I try to picture another lunch, but it doesn’t go anywhere, my imagination balks. No – I don’t want to sit down alone with him again. I feel invaded just contemplating it. I almost start to push myself to imagine it working well and recognize that as the original impulse to force more openness than I actually feel – but that’s the impulse that got us into this mess in the first place. Haven’t I learned anything? Actually, I have, I caught myself this time – I drop that imaginative effort and move on. Unless it arises as a sincere desire from my heart at some future moment, I rule out further face-to-face one-on-one dates. If I’ve learned nothing else from all this – it’s to stop pushing inauthentic openness.
I recognize I owe him something, having used him as I have. But not that.
Then I picture the 4 of us having tea, which at first strikes me as lovely. The implication there is that wifey knows the history, that they’ve done work around this whole mess, which, from my perspective would be a beautiful outcome – but he hasn’t said that directly.
And, celebration, what does he mean there? Celebrate what? That I got mad at him and said so?
Then, I’m mildly annoyed at his reference to his having caused me ‘so much pain’. I don’t believe I said pain. Shame, rage, contempt, exhaustion, violation, goo. Did I say pain? Why did he pick that word? Why does it bug me? It strikes me as a word implying importance (on his part ) and impotence (on mine) – as if he means something to me personally, as if I’m vulnerable relative to him, which I certainly am not. I don’t like that he used that word. I’m tough, no-one hurts me! Didn’t we do this one already? He’s not important enough to cause me pain – and all the other unpleasantnesses actually came from myself – he just bumbled into them and failed to slip out the back while he had the chance. He takes too much credit. Pain!
Then I can imagine my husband and I sitting with them and having a wonderful conversation, my husband is so good at his part of good listening, and I am at mine. It would be fun, I’m thinking, sharing all this wisdom about men and women and marriage, and witnessing the effects of all my wise words. I wouldn’t feel invaded, with my husband and lunch-guy’s wife there. It would be fascinating to watch that open space between us unfold itself.
Why didn’t he just say what has transpired with his wife? Why merely imply it, leaving me to either make a (potentially stupid) assumption, or be forced to ask?
And, celebration – that implies the work is complete. Where is he getting that from? My work, the work I can do on my own, is complete – there is nothing more I can or need to do relative to him, assuming no further interactions take place. His work, that he can do on his own – it barely looks begun to me, but that’s not my place to judge. But OUR work, if there were a we – that would just be beginning. No – celebration – this is more of the same, jumping to consummation prematurely.
I go back over it again and see ‘I am happy to share my own perspective and answer your questions’. Did I ask questions? I don’t think so. I don’t recalling caring. I recall thinking I know everything relevant there is to know. I recall boiling him down to a privileged boy who has had everything (but the feminine) handed to him on a silver platter, about which I feel absolutely no fascination. I don’t recall expressing any interest whatsoever. I don’t need to hear a John’s details to know them, my body hears all there is to know – haven’t I expressed that? I’ve heard him already.
No – what I said was it might be interesting if he contributed his perspective to the blog series. TO THE BLOG SERIES. IN WRITING. I myself don’t care, I’ve done my work. I left it open for him to contribute to the work, but I’m not going to do his work for him. Just telling me things privately – that’s not enough anymore. Plus, it’s how we got here. You know what they say about doing the same thing & expecting a different outcome. . .
That’s starting to bug me. He’s assuming, again, that I’m interested in him personally. I’m not. I have, all along, been mildly interested in this process (I say mildly because it’s a process I know and trust), and highly interested in deeper self awareness – it’s the content to be discovered in the process that fascinates me. Him – not so much. Stick any used condom in his place – it’s all the same to me, we’re not making a baby with that spent sperm. The boys of the world have had their megaphones and audiences forever. In and of itself, his personal perspective means nothing to me.
Unless he wants to share in the actual labor – the risk-taking, the word-weighing, the meaning-making, the raking your soul over the coals of articulating what really happened inside – and he’s clearly stated he won’t go there.
The tea party starts to feel too familiar. Why would we be doing that? Why would I drag my husband to sit there and smile politely at people who assume they have anything to share with us? More, why would we go further to give perfect strangers the benefit of our hard-won insights when what has already been offered does not yet seem fully digested?
It’s impressive that he hasn’t run away from it all – very impressive. But still. Maybe he didn’t run away because he was simply too stupid. Or too arrogant to absorb what there was to run from.
And why didn’t he state clearly where things were at with his wife relative to all this? Why make me ask? It’s really familiar – like the very beginning – a tease, an implied intrigue. Like his last apology – trying to suck me into hearing his piece in person, not troubling to put what is most significant in writing. Taking the lazy way out.
I take a moment to let him know I’ve received his email and will respond after it settles. I also point out that he’s implied his wife knows everything and ask if that is so, because, no matter what, I want to know what he says.
I’m starting to swirl around in a familiar confusion – am I being arrogant and judgmental or simply respecting myself and recognizing the difference in our depths and insights? Are his expectations reasonable? Does the work he’s done so far warrant something from me? How far does fate oblige me? What is my job here? My god! On a day to day level I’m so self-directed, so resistant to obligation, so agentic. But at a certain level of spiritual entwinement I lose all sense of perspective.
No – I don’t literally think I’m morally obliged to him in any way, but still – there’s this twisted spiritual/erotic florence-nightengale/mother-teresa in me that feels this call to tend to the sick, to feed the starving babies (which, in my case, evidently means erotically stunted boys). Like a co-dependent, always falling for addicts. If we’re all connected, and interdependent, and he needs something from me, something I am uniquely able to offer, how do I say ‘no’(even if I know without a doubt that I will get nothing back, even if he seems to have wasted what he’s been given so far)? On one level, that’s a really simple question, but on another, it’s impossibly murky. He’s appealing to that deeper level where I don’t know where anything begins or ends. And, frankly, that pisses me off. Because the takers in the world have a knack for finding that level, and the givers are so fucking vulnerable to it. And he keeps having an unerring instinct for that taker role relative to me – he keeps pulling my chain.
The further I think about this, the less inclined I feel like doing anything but writing it all down again and putting it in my blog. But maybe I’m being too judgmental? I’m on my own hamster wheel now. . .
I send the text of his email to a friend and ask for her initial gut reaction. She responds shortly:
Well, my immediate response is, Yuck!! Esp the part about 1) getting together for lunch, or 2) getting the four of you together. However, I haven’t finished reading your blog. I do know that you moved toward forgiveness toward him, but still this kinda makes me want to throw up. To me he seems too cheery – like he doesn’t/hasn’t gone very far inside himself. So if that’s true, what kind of a dialog could you really have? And, you’re not his therapist, nor responsible for moving him any. one. step. further down his path.
That’s right. That’s the part I keep missing – what kind of dialog could we really have? No – it doesn’t feel at all like he’s gone very far inside himself yet. Impressive he hasn’t run away, true. But then. Then.
Then I think – standing in place isn’t enough. We proclaim we should all be the change we want to see in the world. We always take this sexual confusion deeper, more private, more personal, hush-hush, whispering behind our hands – in doing so, we make it sicker. I keep telling him I’m not going to that place with him – this is in part the change I want to see. Making it less private, less hush-hush – surfacing it to learn more from one another. All he’s doing is applauding from the sidelines and trying to lure me back inside with him. No. My invitation is to get out here in the street and be part of the parade, and he’s playing coy.
Really, it’s that he doesn’t understand my language, and I, having had to claw my way up the cliff of that boy-noise language he speaks, with no help from anyone, in order to even begin to share in the goodies he takes for granted – I am not inclined to make it one hair easier for him. What the fuck more can I do? Spoon-feed it to him? I’ve written a book already! Explicitly in the context of HIM, reflecting his own deeds and words, and amplifying my response – how mere relevant could the lesson be? Go back and read it again, boy, if you don’t understand me.
Oh – never mind! I don’t know, I feel sick to my stomach now. We all want a nice clean happy ending – but if there is one, it’s not here yet.
I decide I need to let all that swirling settle again. I leave it alone for awhile and get on with my life.