What do we think we’re talking about here? Something subtle, like an electric blanket and a leaky waterbed–or just the usual, mundane film noir toaster tossed in the bathtub?
I was reading the news from my aggregator, and stumbled upon this article on the Huffington Post, which can always be relied upon to annoy me with petty fluff the perpetuation of which I inevitably encourage by clicking and reading. It’s the old “can’t help staring at a car wreck” thing, except that I don’t stare at car wrecks. I once saw a dead body laying in the middle of the road, and it haunted me a little. Lesson learned.
I won’t make you read this article,–but here’s the gist: the by-lined author, Elloa Atkinson is “happily married” to her best friend, Nige, but there’s a caveat: “Today, my secret is this: I love my husband, but I often want to cheat”.
She found herself attracted to this man, the mysterious “K” whom she met at a dog park. Though she pledges that she wasn’t attracted to K physically, she thought about him a lot, changed her schedule to bump into him more often, and occasionally thought of him while having sex–er, “making love” with her beloved. In her mind this became a big deal, which I suppose makes it a big deal–especially since she’s confessed real, tangible betrayal in a blog entry elsewhere--and after a stranger mistook “K” for sweet, innocent perfect beautiful Nige, guilt bludgeoned her with the sort of giant hammer Wile E. Coyote wields, and she went skittering back home. To confess.
Now keep in mind: she didn’t do anything destructive except allow her imagination to roam. No torrid bodice ripping, no kissing or groping or rubbing or groaning. There would be no witnesses to report back to Nige, no whispers of innuendo, no children of questionable parentage and no need for large, quietly procured doses of antibiotics. Because NOTHING HAPPENED.
But, as I learned from Ms. Atkinson’s website profile, she is “a facilitator of truth who helps women + men navigate their internal and relationship struggles with love, honesty and a willingness to be transformed.” Indeed, after knowing Nige for four years they finally made a connection because “somehow, my honesty made way for love to enter.” Whatever the hell that means.
I fell in love with my wife because she’s cool, smart, beautiful, selfless and tough as nails–and when I hugged her one evening at the end of a platonic night out, and after knowing her for half of my life, I felt electricity sparkle like fireworks inside my spine. My first thought: huh, that’s new. My second thought: another fine friendship ruined by that intoxicating soup of testosterone and female pheromones. I haven’t seriously considered another woman as a partner since that moment, 22 years, 10 days and roughly 14 hours ago. I notice attractive women. I’m pleased when they smile at me, but I don’t require the affirmation of flirtation. My confidence is more than sufficiently buoyed by the beautiful woman who, like Nige is to Elloa, is my best friend.
I guess Ms. Atkinson does it differently, but at this point, I need to step back for a second and give her a little slack. She’s more trigger than target in my shooting gallery today, and while I’m obviously–and rather callously–sniping in her direction, I want to be clear that she’s symbolic of the conceit, and I don’t want to be petty. What I do want to do is offer an alternative take to what I believe to be a very bad example of how to stay in love.
She clearly went into her relationship with some heavy issues, and ultimately she’s got to do what she feels like she needs to do. It’s not personal, but I think her essay is silly. Of course, I didn’t like The DaVinci Code or most of the bible much, either*, so my perspective may be skewed when it comes to literary taste. I’m sure she’s really nice, and always goes back to McDonald’s when the pimply kid at the register gives her too much change, but when she confesses “…I had learned to practice radical honesty…” I can’t fully stifle the snicker chewing at the back of my throat.
It’s because I hate that precious touchy feely thready-breathed new age mystical blah blah. I’m sorry, but I do. I hate it a lot. It’s a time-tested cliche, especially in television and romance novels, for a person to do something they ought not to have done then suffer under the unbearable guilt of their actions until, in a moment of presumed (ultimately false) clarity, they realize they must be honest about whatever it is. Maybe Ashley put her tongue in Chase’s ear–or just thought about it–or maybe Kaiden is secretly a bag man for Hamas, or perhaps Zane–well, you get the idea. In this cliche, Zane knows he’s got to be honest with Delaney (before Bianca spills the beans, that bitch). You know what comes next: Delaney dumps Zane, at first, but then Bianca tries to sabotage the blueprints Delaney drew up for the new headquarters for the family’s fashion magazine that doubles as a cover for Vampires. In the end, Delaney forgives Zane. Melodrama. Yech.
In real life, “radical truth” is a real sonofabitch, cold and sharp as surgical steel, and things don’t get tied up neat and tidy in a set narrative time frame. What the hell kind of person drops that pile of shit on the person who loves them more than anyone else? On principle alone, I despise the idea of people who confess their minor, transgressions–particularly transgressions of the mind and heart, wispy and non-corporeal–transgressions of the imagination!–to unload and relieve themselves of the burden of their own guilt. So one partner slips the chains of guilt and finally sleeps free and easy, but at the cost of the other partner, who now lies awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering.
This business about working through her desire to avoid the compulsion, handed down like an old doily through generations of women in her family, to sabotage happiness, is melodramatic claptrap. As I implied above, there is a chemical element to love, but establishing a relationship and maintaining a marriage is a matter of commitment and (ask my wife) sacrifice–that’s why they call it, uh, “a commitment.” Like in the phrase, “we’re in a committed relationship.” It’s about will. I would argue that Ms. Atkinson’s “confession” and honesty has as much to do with her inclination towards sabotage as her attraction. She’s likely compelled to her admission by the deep-seeded need for validation, the desperate desire to hear her partner to tell her he loves her still, even after kicking him in the metaphorical shins. Better not to hurt the one you love to begin with. Better to carry your own weight.
Remember that other night, when I let you do that thing, and well the truth of it is that I was thinking about my secret crush the whole time. I felt really bad about it, so I thought I’d tell you, and you know what? I feel much better.
The caring, appropriate response is to take that guilt, suck it up, swallow it, then shut up and live with it. Suffer your guilt in silence–you earned it, you live with it. Unloading it on a loved one is an unforgivably selfish act akin to water boarding that person because you waded into the deep water and nearly drowned. Don’t want to feel guilty? Then follow the goddamn rules. Don’t punish your lover for your own weakness.
I should be a relationship guru–publishers, I’m open to offers.
*I liked the parts when they’re shoveling folks into furnaces and lion dens until those seven brothers who all look alike eat all the lions, drink all the water, and spit out all the water to put the fires out and–oh, wait….
I suppose by now everyone on the internet has heard about the Spreadsheet Guy, which is the downside of having a weekly feature on a blog–some stuff just isn’t going to be timely. Be that as it may, for those of you still unenlightened, Spreadsheet Guy is the hurt and resentful husband who kept a spreadsheet recording all of the sexual overtures he made to his wife over a couple months, detailing acceptance, rejection, and–in the case of rejections, his wife’s reasoning. He then proceeded to email it to her on her way out of town on a business trip, then refuse to answer her replies. His wife, not to be outdone in the immaturity department, took the matter–and the spreadsheet–to Reddit.com. It’s really worth looking at this close up.
I cannot be too happy about this. First, it makes my week two DAHoF inductee a no brainer, but it also proves I’m not the most hopelessly obtuse and inconsiderate husband in the world and gives me a belly laugh in the process.
In no way should that be interpreted as approval for the wife’s actions, though I can sympathize. That’s a lot of pestering and whining to put up with. My question is how did this guy ever decide on “anger and humiliation” as a marital therapy tool? Of course, I’m even more surprised by the battalion of equally frustrated men who have leapt to this guy’s defense, all but crying out “how dare this woman keep her vagina to herself?!”
Sheesh. Have they all forgotten when we were teenagers and sex was a magical land, carefully and scrupulously guarded, the key to which inspired us to unending quests, humiliating gestures, and most of our pride and limited wealth? Man, we’d do ANYTHING–at least, I would have–to visit that wondrous land, and yet somehow these guys have gotten to a place where they best they can do is make half-assed passes while their wives are watching old episodes of Friends? Again: sheesh. As Bill Cosby used to say: these guys are like a baseball team during a thunderstorm: NO GAME.
I’m not talking about that mysogenist singles-bar pickup bullshit, but regular old relationship maintenance. For the love of god, man: wash the frakking dishes, pal. Run the vaccuum. Do a load of laundry. Fully half the foreplay I’ve been part of, over the past 33 years that I’ve been sexually active (is that TMI?) began with a domestic chore–and I’m good at announcing the “man stuff” I do that might otherwise go unnoticed. “I just changed the furnace filter” or “I added a quart of oil to your car and checked the tires–they looked low.” It amazes me how many men are too dull-witted, or too stubborn, to actually do the things that make their women happy. Even an old (beloved, admittedly) bumpkin like Waylon Jennings can offer up some valid insight.
So, here’s the thing. My wife is kind of hot, and I’m regularly asked if I plan to start dressing up as Santa for the poor kids one of these Christmas seasons–I totally have that whole “bowl full of jelly” thing going on, and the last time I was at the Hair Salon the girl who cuts my hair–and knows me away from work as well–asked me if I got the senior discount. The Senior Discount. I’m 48. Mrs. Junk is certainly not into me for looks–although we can’t discount a bit of Stockholm syndrome after more than two decades together, and it’s not my sense of style: some of my clothes are older than my teenage children, but still. Or my money: I majored in Literature in College, which is actually a negative mark on most job applications, like answering “yes” to the “have you ever been prosecuted” question.
Does my wife loathe the sight of me sometimes? Yes; quite often, I suppose. Does she ignore me when I’m muttering about tire pressure and furnace filters? Almost certainly. Does she ignore me to the point that I call her out, specifically to hurt her, with attached documentation. No, because I’m not a dickhead.
Guilt doesn’t make someone want you, and incessant begging and whining and moaning doesn’t make a woman growl like a panther and whisper “Got to have me some of that.” Folding the napkins does, though. A lot of guys on that Reddit page would probably tell me it’s reverse sexist to expect the man to dance for his dinner, so to speak, and to them I would boldly demand: “So, what’s your point?” Women are soft and warm and they smell nice–that’s worth working for. And, while you’re at it: make a point to tell your woman you love her twice a day, and let her know you think she’s hot just as often–and do it with more than a slap on the ass and a rude suggestion (though, occasionally, if you’re careful, a little lechery can go a long way).