Something happened to me last night which has shocked me rather more than I thought it would, lingering perhaps a bit like a well-made perfume which only truly impresses itself on one’s consciousness after a time of hanging unidentified in the air – except that there was nothing sweet about this. A small occurrence, really, yet it made me think and with the thinking has grown my need to talk about it. To deconstruct it, as it be.
A friend came to visit me last night, bearing with him a bottle of impeccable red wine. It was late, past ten p.m., when he arrived, but it was Friday night after all and I didn’t mind the company. In fact, I enjoy his more than most – ours is a new friendship, but nonetheless uplifting in the sense that it feels like a meeting of kindred minds. We talk a lot. A lot. And I have enjoyed telling my stories to new ears, hearing new takes on them, and being told stories from a perspective that I am not used to but which, yet, feels familiar.
The only snag is that we have different plans for our friendship. I desire and cherish good uplifting thought-provoking connections almost more than anything else in life. So does he, but in a rather more literal sense of the word. From our first meeting I have made it clear that I, being rather in love with someone else, am not available for anything more than a meeting of the minds, so to speak. He has, albeit grudgingly, accepted this. Since then we have dined out together, shared various conversations. The subject of his competitor has popped up regularly, but I have remained clear on my stance. He didn’t quite stop trying, but I felt I could deal with it – the friendship was worth the occasional rebuff (and I do not cold-shoulder easily or without distress too), if that meant he would eventually come to terms with what I was saying and become a lasting friend.
Last night was no exception to the pattern we were starting to build. We sat and spoke, at length, about family history, about connecting, about a variety of things. In between he would interject with varieties on an “I want to kiss you” theme. My way of handling this was, consistently, to laugh and say “well, it’s not happening, so we may as well continue talking/have more wine/change the topic”. I tried to keep it light but after almost the entire bottle of wine (which I hadn’t thought would be too much, between two people), talk took a more serious ‘you-and -I’ turn. My arguments were less well-formulated. He was more insistent. We were well on our way to becoming properly tipsy. I thought I was holding my ground steadily, in spite of lack of good arguments. Yet, to tell the truth, I was starting to feel a bit beleaguered, a bit like Jesus, if you’d excuse my hyperbolic metaphor, beset with good arguments and temptations while in the desert in a weakened state. Not that I was tempted – I wasn’t. Yet my reasons not to simply give in and kiss him were becoming rather vague, especially when he pointed out that that could be the end of it, if we didn’t feel any chemistry.
The point is, I didn’t want to kiss him. I have kissed my fair share of random people, so it’s not as if I could take the moral high ground, but I didn’t want to kiss him. I would feel as if I had cheated, not on anyone else, but on myself, on my own intentions, on my own not-wanting to. Nowadays I hold my kisses as almost sacred (except, if I am to be honest, for a night or two of stupidity). I don’t want someone’s face so close to me if I can’t look at it with the tenderness that comes from knowing someone and cherishing who and what he is. Yes, chemistry is all good and well, but I want tenderness along with that. And this I could not give him, and this I would have felt awkward receiving, because my heart is elsewhere.
So I held out, but the arguments became more insistent. Then, of course, the inevitable happened – he put down his glass and leaned towards me. I was stuck in a corner of the couch, retreating further and further into it, holding my wine with no place to put it, repeating over and over again ‘Stop it, stop it!”, hiding my head this way and that. He just kept coming closer. I was alarmed but I also couldn’t help but laugh, which I always do in these situations because they are so odd, really. I turned my head away. He turned it back. I didn’t want to slap him, half to spare my wine, but mostly because it would have lastingly soured a generally good evening. Finally he managed to sort-of plant a kiss and I bit his lip. He sat back, shocked. I felt immediately bad and rushed to apologise: “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to bite so hard.”
He was fine. In fact, he was undeterred. He tried again, and again. Finally I lost my temper and told him so, which made him sit back for a second, before relinquishing his wine and declaring that he was going home. Immediately my anger fled and I was apologetic again. “Are you angry at me?” I asked. Yes, he was. I tried to reason with him – I had not been anything but consistent in my refusal. “Being consistent,” he said, “is not always a good thing if you hide behind it.” I remembered telling my mom the very same thing earlier that day, which felt rather uncanny. We walked out – he tried kissing me one last time, I pushed him away firmly. After that I tried to lighten the mood but he walked off looking both angry and dejected, and I went to bed with an unquiet mind, feeling vaguely guilty yet not sure why. Not sure what had happened, really.
I slept very badly. I kept dreaming confused dreams, conjuring up the person I really do like, but picturing him as an insistent, somewhat drunk, guy leaning towards me at inopportune times, coaxing a kiss out of me like one coaxes a ball from a dog’s mouth. I woke up feeling, despite my best intentions, rather down. Last night’s conversations had sown a seed of doubt in my mind – suddenly I was wondering whether I was being silly, wasting my time wanting someone who could have done something about it long ago, while here this opportunity was waiting, with someone who not only really likes me, sees me, but announces his intentions without a hint of doubt.
But then – thankfully – I got angry too. I became angry and I have not stopped being angry yet. I am angry because I feel guilty, while I did nothing wrong. I am angry at my friend because he managed to undermine my peace of mind, the peace I generally follow and which, behind everything, was the reason I did not want to kiss him (I would have felt at unpeace with myself). I am angry because he scoffed at my arguments, because he managed to make me look small-minded and silly for losing out on the opportunity of being with a force of nature such as him. I am angry because he depicted me as someone who is lying to herself, as someone denying her own desires in search of familiarity. I am angry because he did not hear me, no matter how much he thought he did. I am angry because my word was not respected, because my intelligence and my taste were not respected. I am angry because he did not heed my refusal, because he tried to override my arguments, because he forced an intimacy on me I did not want to have. I tasted him on my lip, afterwards (there was some blood. I bit hard). I did not want that. I wanted a friendship and he did not believe me, because I am sweet, because I allowed him to come visit me at night perhaps, because we did indeed connect and have stirring conversations. And I’m angry because good wine went to waste – if he had told me he wasn’t going to finish it I would have poured more for myself, for crying out loud!
I am angry because somehow my first reaction was not to be angry but rather to apologise, to placate, to wonder what I did wrong. There is something wrong with this, with this looking inward as if I am the cause, the temptation who must beat herself up for being a temptation. I am angry because I tried to let him down gently, as I have done repeatedly before without learning my lesson, and he took my friendly refusal as a sign that I was easily won over. He took my reacting to him on a mental level as a sign of my reacting to him physically too, and I should have been more blunt about it not being so, instead of hiding behind the fact that I like someone else. Therefore I am angry with myself too, for being a coward, and I am angry at him because I don’t think I deserve to be angry at myself and yet he made me be.
Attraction, romance, relationships – they are all basically unfair, as my friend said repeatedly last night. It feels to the person who is attracted to another that surely the attraction must be returned – what would be the point of feeling this great surge of feelings if the other person does not return them? Surely energy must sustain itself, surely this electric atmosphere cannot be imagined or felt by one party alone? And yet it often is.
I remember once loving someone very much who didn’t love me back. I felt I truly saw him; I knew him as one knows some people, instinctively, with great tenderness of recognition. Yet he did not feel comfortable in my love, he felt restricted by it, he felt annoyed, he felt I was asking too much. He misunderstood my heart and my intention completely, I thought. That bewildered me. How could I see someone so clearly (and, in my opinion, what we want in relationships is to be truly seen), so keenly, without being seen back? What was the point of my seeing him if he didn’t see me back?
I don’t know what the point was. I know I grew because of it, and the learning was valuable, but I still do not understand how it is possible to love someone so entirely – or to be attracted to someone, or to like them fiercely, or whatever – without it being returned. Perhaps it is so that we can learn that life is not the sum of our intentions, or a neatly balanced calculation where we always get back what we give. Perhaps it is so that we can learn vulnerability. Perhaps it is so that we can learn to protect our hearts, on the other hand. Perhaps it is so that we can learn to make decisions based on more than our perceptions alone. And perhaps there is no reason, and it simply is what it is. We cannot make people want us.
This morning I got a text message from another man whom I met recently and got along with famously. This one I told, too, that I was only interested in friendship and that I did not want to waste his time. He told me “Great! That’s exactly what I want too!” Well, good then. Except that he asked me to dinner today (I am going on Monday. I am packing my boxing gloves), and called me “most beautiful girl” as a greeting, waxing lyrical about how excited he was about our dinner. I feel distrustful. I feel he thinks that he is going to win me over. Who cares about my petty protests, after all? Obviously I will eventually be swayed before his superior charm and intelligence.
I am starting to feel somewhat like a stuck record player, like an ice-cream truck rolling all day to a single tune, as this post starts reminding me more and more of things I have previously blogged about. Let it be a recurring theme, then. The theme? That I, as a sweet/young/I-don’t-know-what woman, am not to be trusted with my own opinions. Yes, my intelligence may be acknowledged, but my desires and my arguments – obviously these are less reliable. I don’t know what I want. I am free for the taking by the most convincing arguer, by the most suave, or intelligent, or ardent, man. And should I refuse that man, well then obviously I am rather more stupid than I look; in fact, I am probably just in denial.