Tuesday, August 04, 2009

From A to S: a history

This side of my blood relatives, I have loved five women. Each broke my heart in turn. (I wonder whether there should be an "only" in there? But we are strictly talking about love, not people I am or have been fond of or like a lot.)

The first, and she was barely a woman, was A. We must have made an odd couple because she was barely five feet and I am well over six. But she was cute as a button, and posh. It was a big deal for me to have a posh gf, because this was in my first year at university and there's some backstory. When I moved to Gloucestershire, I went to the local comprehensive's sixth form. The students were fairly evenly divided between "snobs" and "dossers". The snobs were kids who would go to university, and worked hard to get there. The dossers weren't. So I hung out with the dossers, because I wanted to be cool much more than I wanted to be educated, and that was a mistake. The dossers were guys like A, a friend who lived on my housing development (I'd say estate, but I don't want to give the impression it was a council estate). He was set for a life as a clerk, and didn't want more. I didn't know what I wanted, and could not see past the end of the week I was in. Now I have perspective, of course.

Anyway, one of the snobs was H. She was a teacher's daughter, which counts as being posh in a country town. She was also part of the Christian Fellowship. So I joined that.

Why would I do that? I can sum up my reasons in one word: tits. Well, I was 16. My biggest dream was that I would get to fondle big tits. I was an uncomplicated boy.

H was not fooled by my conversion to evangelical Christianity, possibly because I was less enthusiastic in the clapalong singalongs than I might have been, maybe just because I was stupid enough to hang out with the bad crowd.

But A liked me, even though I was rough. I mean rough in behaviour and speech (I had a fairly broad country accent then, although you may not pick it now), not in looks, because I think I was decent to look at. I had a baby face and the same green eyes I have now (possibly less bloodshot and red around the rims).

We were both virgins, and I still feel honoured that she let me have sex with her. That wasn't why I loved her, btw (although obv. it doesn't hurt if you want to get on my good side). I loved her because she was so sweet. I like bubbly people. I'm probably not as dour as I seem to readers of this blog, but I suppose I would come across as fairly serious-minded, gauche, uncomfortable maybe. A was the opposite. She was always comfortable in any company. And she loved me (which is also a plus).

I am inclined not to be reasonable with romance. If I love you, I don't really do half measures. So we got as far as looking at engagement rings, and when she decided to defer her studies for a year, I decided just to leave university. Which was dumb.

So I was crushed when she told me she thought that having a nonstudent boyfriend would get in the way of her studies.

I got over her though, and went to another university, which was actually a more fun place, so I don't have too many regrets. While I was there I met S (prepare for S confusion -- we'll call this one S1). S1 was far from sweet. She was challenging. She was bucktoothed, ugly and had a bad dye job. But she was fun, and she loved fucking.

I don't mean she liked doing it the way all young people love it. I mean, she loved it. She would insist on being fucked literally for hours. And she would moan and howl the whole time, to the point that I was summoned to the campus accommodation officer to be admonished because my neighbours had complained. I am not kidding. I think people on the beach three miles away probably wondered what the noise was.

She didn't like foreplay. She didn't think she needed it and she was right. She would come round to my room and say "fuck me" and I would, of course, oblige. She did not stop for periods, never had a headache, was never too tired. I was 21 and I felt like I was on fire whenever I saw her.

We were together for, I think, a year, and when I went home for the summer vacation, she stayed on campus. I'm not sure why. She had fallen out with her father some, because he didn't approve of me (on account of not being Jewish and being a serious contender for marriage), so maybe she wasn't welcome at home. She was in any case two or three years older than our year's cohort. I visited her on campus and she had a great flat, one of the plum places, which she would keep in the upcoming year.

I told my mum about the flat. She said, yeah, she's probably fucking the accommodation officer. Oh, how we laughed. But she was. She married him.

I got over her fairly easily, for two reasons. One, I was smart enough to know that burning lust is not a foundation for loving someone long term. And two, I was still at university and they pack those places with young women.

The same wasn't true of my hometown, where I lived for a while. The UK was suffering a recession and jobs for underqualified linguistics graduates were thin on the ground. So I moved (back) to London and into a shared house, where I met K.

If A was sweet and S1 was hot, K was both, the full deal. I was half in love with her from the moment I saw her. She wasn't just beautiful, she was everything I wasn't: confident, outgoing, interesting. It took me back to my primary school days, when my babysitter and her friends had seemed to live in a different world from me: so worldly and smart. I didn't see how K could like me, so even if I had been able to pursue her, I didn't. I hoped somehow she would grow to like me, and resigned myself to a hopeless crush, like those I had had at school, too shy to approach the girls I liked.

I remember vividly one night she was dressed up to go out, and I commented on how she had dolled herself up. I have a hot date, she said, and I felt a lurch in my stomach. I was literally gutted, twisted with jealousy. A hot date! Not even an everyday date. I don't think I had ever even been on a date as such. (Such is my life that that can be possible!)

I was so envious that another man could have even the possibility of sleeping with her. She was luscious: that's the best word I can find for her, but I can think of plenty of others. She was womanly too. I've always liked women who are feminine and she epitomised womanhood for me: she had a body that begged to be touched, a smile that could (and did) break hearts. She was fresh: always clean, always positive and happy (maybe I romanticise her looking back, and certainly I remember sparking her temper, but her mood was pretty much always buoyant). She was uncomplicated: not dumb or lacking complexity, but untroubled, able to cope. I admire the ability to take things in your stride, because I lack it.

Man, I loved her! I loved holding her, looking at her, just being with her. I felt at ease with her. She was nice. I know that in this cynical world we are supposed to despise niceness, but there was nothing about her to despise.

When she was mine, I was entirely captivated. I could barely think of anyone or anything else. But there was a shadow over us: she had a visa that was due to run out, and she was slated to come back to Australia. She did, and I visited, and I don't think that it soured or went bad at all, but she was put in a tough spot. I wanted to come to Australia to be with her, but it seemed to her, I think, that I was risking too much for an uncertain reward.

I wish now that I had done more, found a way to make it happen. I don't even know that it was possible though. The worst of it is that I resolved not to be timid again in this spot, where when faced with a similar one later in life, I should have been, but wasn't, and compounded my mistake.

I never got over K. I still have a flame burning for her and I think I always will. She inspired me to want to be better than I am.

Mrs Zen didn't. The best about her was that she needed me so much. And I needed her in return. My love for her was steadier, and I thought it would last. I had been so hurt by K that I came to believe that it was better to restrain and cage my heart, to ensure that I didn't fall into the abyss that passion seemed to be. I made some rash decisions because of that but that's not to say that I didn't love Mrs Zen or that marrying her was a mistake. I don't believe it was, although for sure staying with her probably was. We split up at one point, and I should have stayed split up.

But I am much less smart than I am needy, and I loved her. I find love very hard to surrender. It feels like failure to let it go. She was loveable enough: you would like her a lot if you met her, because she is very personable.

I dunno. Is every choice we make rational? I know mine aren't. I just do whatever and often find myself afterwards saying, why the fuck did I do that? But it seemed right when I chose it. In poker, we call working from the results back being results oriented, and that's a huge sin.

So anyway, how did Mrs Zen break my heart? She stopped being the woman I loved. Or, more accurately, she stayed being that woman, but I needed her to change. I suppose she did change, but only to become more entrenched in the things that in small measure were good about her, but when they became more dominant were terrible.

It doesn't help that when you have children, your life becomes more insular. Or mine did. Particularly when I moved here. I had few friends, and spent a lot of time with Mrs Zen. She has never been interested in things that engage me, which had not been a problem. But now she didn't want to know at all.

I don't know. I suppose most marriages stop working, and then you have to figure out where to go when that happens. Mine is more complicated than some, because it is not as simple for either of us to give up on the other as it would be if I was Australian or she English. That creates a pressure all of its own.

So of course I am not over Mrs Zen either. It's not really that I do not love her either. We mostly get along okay. She has phases of trying to make our lives bearable. And there is, after all, a limit to how much you can be angry with someone for being who they are. Mrs Zen also has reason to have feel I have broken her heart, more I daresay, and I do not feel good about it.

Which leads me to S2. Each of the women I have loved have involved a different kind of love: first love, lust, passion, abiding love and in the case of S2, infatuation. When I first started talking to S2, I wanted to ensnare her, to take her way beyond her comfort zone and make her in some way dependent on me. I didn't like her much and I had realised she was, I dunno, intrigued by me. I was in a bad place, and I needed to be needed, as you can read here. But when I got to know her better, I found her better and better to know. S2 is messy: smart and capable if she would let herself be, but, well fuck it, I don't know how you can put it, mentally unhealthy.

Well, that worked for me. I became infatuated with her. I spent a lot of time spinning webs of words for her, and her for me. She is a fine writer, and she was great to talk to. I am not sure whether she was entirely unsure how captivating she can be, or knew it and was playing me. She is certainly unhinged enough for either to be true.

I adored how needy she was, in a different way from Mrs Zen. A common theme for me in my relationships with people is that I need to be needed, to be appreciated and wanted. I daresay there's some deeprooted childhood thing, but whatever it is, that's who I am.

Is it weird to love someone you have never met? It didn't feel weird. It felt real enough to me. But partly that is because I wanted to reach out and touch S2, to transcend the limitations of the digital. I do not crave online friends, after all; I crave the real.

S2 broke my heart through sheer unreasonableness and, simply put, by allowing me to believe I could illuminate her world and then making it clear that I didn't. If someone sets you on fire, it's hard to moderate yourself to lukewarm. Well, hard for me, apparently not for her. And being lectured on the benefits of lukewarmth does not do it for me: I am left scratching my head and going, why would we want to be cool to the touch when we can be ablaze? I suppose I do not understand people who want to rein themselves in. We only live a short while. Nor do I understand unkindness. I can be mean: but only to people who expect meanness, who court it. I hate to be unkind to someone who expects me to be good to them. Sometimes you have to, but when you are unkind purely because you are inconsiderate or thoughtless, that seems a failing to me in a social animal.

Not that I am never unkind. I intend to write a post soon about my understanding of kindness, because I feel burdened by how unkind I have been in my life. I realise that this is what led the Buddha to talk about karma. I think he was wilier than he seems at first glance, because it is largely unkindness (in the sense that I intend to discuss) that has weighed me down: not just unkindness to others, of course, but also to myself. I hope no one who I talk about in this post would feel that I have been unkind to them here: I loved them, after all.


At 6:09 pm, Blogger Arleen said...

A common theme for me in my relationships with people is that I need to be needed, to be appreciated and wanted.

Who doesn't?


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