(I interrupt this blogging break, for a blog post...because why not?)
I was struck by the clarity of his image the first time we met. How very in-focus he felt. And how the nature of such clarity cast immediate aspersions over everything else.
As if everything had been ever so slightly out of focus and I hadn’t known. Until this man—this very handsome man with his sharp angles and neatly trimmed hair—stood in front of me.
But our first date was unmemorable and I walked away thinking, If that’s all this is, that’s okay.
The thing is, I am a sucker for a good story and the way we met felt like the start of a very good story. Chance encounter, locked eyes, all that nonsense. And so I emptied everything into that amorphous catch-all of in-service-of-a-good-story. And I glossed over the bad.
Like how at the end of our first date he didn’t offer to take my heavy bag as we walked away from the bar. Or how on our second date he complained about the table instead of simply asking to move. How his hand never, not once, went in search of my knee.
And how on our third date he ate his hamburger with a fork and a knife.
Let me explain.
I have this girlfriend Alisha who is one of the very smartest people I know (and I’ve known some smart people). But she’s smart in a bookish-meets-no-bullshit-way that is equal parts fascinating and unnerving. Alisha and I have a mutual friend who is married to a man who doesn’t like to get his feet dirty. Ever. I remember Alisha telling me about this and saying, Meg, a man with outdoor and indoor shoes isn’t going be great with the messier parts of sex. And let’s be honest, the messier parts are often the best.
So when he used his utensils to cut his burger and explained that he did so because he didn’t like to dirty his fingers, I thought of Alisha.
And how Alisha would say this portends not. good. things. And how Alisha would totally use the word portend.
But at twenty-seven, having never done it right before (as though that’s a thing) I thought, no need to sweat the small stuff—no need to worry that the small things actually point to the big things. Because what the hell do I know?
And so I went about it all a little bit differently. Chose not to worry so much. Practiced unfolding slower.
But there was no flutter. No sense of falling into something. And he was never so handsome as that first moment we met. And the person should become more handsome, no?
Thing is, the small things do point to the big things because there is no template for how to speak about the-really-big-fucking-things in this life. And sometimes everything else falls away and all we’re left with are small looks and small gestures and they should mean something.
It wasn’t all bad of course. Now I look back and think it must have been, but of course that’s untrue. Would’ve been easier if it was. Instead time passed quickly and we never ran out of things to say and upon occasion he would lean back in his chair and look at me like he could sit there forever.
Until he couldn’t. Until he became tentative and unresponsive and at a dinner party too far in he said about someone else, She’s thirty-two, I’d never date a thirty-two-year-old. And there I was twenty-eight wondering what the hell difference it made to a thirty-five-year-old man.
And holy hell if that wasn’t a different sort of clarity. More of the oh-so-he’s-an-asshole-variety.
And I was embarrassed. Both for him and by him.
I think back now to our first meeting . The clarity didn’t come so much from how handsome I found him as from how very present he seemed, like he was right there at the front of himself. And I was awed by that because I hardly ever am, if at all.
It took me far too long to realize it’s tremendously easy to live at the front of yourself if that’s all there is. And generosity, but only on your terms, has nothing to do with generosity and everything to do with control.
I’m so angry with him. But not so much with him as about him, about the actions and non-actions and experiences surrounding him.
There is a small list of men I owe a great debt to. Men who adored my body when I loathed it most. Men who revealed my beauty in the way their upper teeth caught their lower lips as I undressed. And the truth of their gazes pulled me across a very large, very deep chasm—one that separated understanding beauty from inhabiting it.
I know what it is to be ashamed of my feminine form. But until this man I didn’t know what it was to feel that shame in front of a person who claimed to adore me.
Didn’t know such a thing was possible.
Until I lay in his bed, wearing his t-shirt, and he had no interest in seeing what was beneath it.
And the experience of that took something from me. Made that space in which two people meet less safe. Made words less reliable.
And so I’ve been walking around feeling a little bit angry and a little bit resentful and a little bit less.
But then this week I thought about his hands.
And then I thought about my own.
And how there’s a bit of mess on mine.
And that realization makes everything easier.
Because I like a man who’ll go barefoot—prefer a guy who isn’t afraid of some dirt beneath the fingernails.
Life is messy—literally and otherwise. And to avoid the mess is to miss the point.
Ah. Okay. Perspective.
Clarity, at long last.