02 May 2017
Tales From Relationship Land
A "do you have time to talk?" text is virtually a "Mayday" signal in our family. Although we love each other very, very much, we have a quarterly, monthly at most, need for verbal affirmation. So an SOS from one of our beloved, hyper-independent siblings is a stop-everything-and-clear-your-schedule type of event. Need nice words now!
Through dating, or if you're smart and learn through watching other people's mistakes, you realize that some things people might think are important in a partner, really aren't important at all, and that other things you might not think are important, turn out to actually be quite important. Take body type, for example, I've never met a body type, I didn't develop a fondness for on account of the person inside. Or take intellectual passion. It matters less what a person has a passion for, intellectually, than that they are intellectually passionate. And I realize this could open me up to some onerous counterexamples, but passion really can make almost anything interesting. If you've listened to NPR and had a "driveway moment," you know this. Although they certainly haven't considered all things, I don't think there's anything they wouldn't consider.
Through dating, or again, if you're smart and learn through watching other people's mistakes, you realize that there are some things about which you can agree to disagree with a partner, and some things on which, if they disagree with you, you simply cannot maintain the requisite amount of respect to justify partnership. I have found (1) that I need them to be agnostic about the existence of god, and (2) that I need them to care about humanity, all of humanity--not in a Bernie-bumper-sticker or Sunday-mornings kind of way--though voting is important, but in how their valuation of their fellow human beings is reflected in the way they spend their time and money. I need to know that they care beyond their front door, beyond their borders. I need to know that a heart which could hold love for me, is incapable of holding anything but love for each and any of their fellow human beings.
The first person I dated, during my blogging hiatus, thought my brain was the most beautiful part of me. We met on the internet, where I meet a lot of people, because it gives me super-vetting powers. We had a lovely correspondence, even lovelier conversations, and on a whim, he flew across two states for a magical first date. He was quick to blush, quick to giggle, and told the best stories. His words were always kind. He shared my love of public policy. And I thought we were on the same page during the early primaries, until one morning, when he had been up the entire night before, drinking. Now I'm a girl who can hold her scotch, and he wasn't my first partner who was fond of alcohol, so I had developed a pretty firm theory that alcohol doesn't change who we are; essentially, it just amplifies it. My baby sister, the third member of our relationship analysis sorority told me that drunk minds speak what's in sober hearts. I believe she's correct. On that particular morning, my partner proceeded to share what he really thought of the orange man who had yet to even win his party's nomination. He mentioned deal-making abilities, and seemed to think that self-avowed ability enough match for the most intractable of disagreements in the Middle East. He went on to dig himself further into the hole, citing outlying instances of racism in the Black Lives Matter movement--a movement designed to counteract the harms of racism, and outlying instances of misogyny in Islam--a religion, the core of which, is peace. His rant could not have been better scripted to prompt me to end our relationship. To this day, I wonder how I missed those positions during our months together. This is an example of not remaining with someone who does not share your core beliefs. It was not possible to remain with him after he expressed these ignorant, biased views. To remain at his side would have felt an endorsement of those views.
The next person I dated, during my blogging hiatus, was not a fan of the orange man. He was even perhaps a little pie-in-the-sky with his liberalism, but it wasn't a swing state, so who cares about fiscal and political feasibility?! He liked my brain as well. At first he was curious about me. I was like the odd, one-of-a-kind toy they only made one copy of and then never managed to replicate. When you pull her string, she says witty things! She drinks her scotch neat! She watches MMA fights! In sense of humor, we were well-matched. We sat down for "Meet the Press" like we were hitting the pew on a Sunday morning to hear Pastor Chuck Todd lead the Fourth Estate like it was the First, shouting out our "Amen's" and our "Hell no's". As with toys, perhaps the novelty just started to wear off. His curiosity in me dwindled, and my roll become ossified--the girlfriend accessory. He only needed an automaton, so all of me stopped showing up, because all of me wasn't needed. You need to be with someone who wants all of you, body and soul. You need to be with someone who stays curious about you. Who, no matter how expert on you they become, they never stop going to school, because there's always more to learn on a subject worth knowing.
The partner in the last paragraph is a fan of the artist, Amanda Palmer. One of his favorite songs of hers is "The Bed Song," which depicts a couple initially sleeping single-sleeping bag close, and then drifting farther and farther apart, never talking about why. At the end of the song, sleeping side-by-side in adjoining graves, one partner asks the other "what was the matter?," to which the other replies "I would have told you, if only you'd asked me."
Someone commented on this post, suggesting that maybe my partner simply hadn't been interesting enough to hold my attention. The suggestion that my partner had been somehow deficient, coming from what I assumed was a position of ignorance, incensed me. Who dared to impugn the brilliant mind and beautiful soul I had been privileged to know and love for almost a year? I realized in that moment, as I crafted a response, that I wanted to fight for him, and that I wanted to fight for us.
I rolled over, across the proverbial bed, and told him what was the matter on my side, and asked him what was the matter on his. And it wasn't easy, but we worked toward each other, until there was no space between us, back to the middle of the bed, back to single-sleeping bag close.
When I chose the cover image for this post, I thought she was doing all of the work--that he wasn't helping, imperious. But I think what is important is that you have to fight your way back to someone worth loving, even when it's hard. There are two sides to every story, two sides to every bed; and two people have to fight to get back to the middle. And sooner rather than later. For why would you miss even one night of single-sleeping bag close, if you didn't have to?