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" Fake Plastic Trees | 2008 | Defensive Deriving "

03.23.08 11:20 p.m.

If those who are like wanton children
Are by nature prone to injure others,
What point is there in being angry -
Like resenting fire for its heat?

- -Bodhicaryavatara


Part Time Lovers

As a rule, I want to fall in love and, for a while, that usually involves unquenched lust, desiring to remove articles of clothing and faith that should adhere fast until I have earned their removal. Someone taking the issue of sex beyond kissing requires my brain to rewire and compensate, something it is not always keen to do when I don't yet know the woman's middle name or favorite flavor of ice cream.

With Emily, sex became a focus in our early relationship. We would be together in private and things would turn erotic when all that either one of us needed at that point was companionship and affection. We couldn't always figure out how to be together without exchanging bodily fluids. I told Emily that she didn't have to do anything with me that she didn't really want to do, but she just took this as a signal to reassure me that she really did want to. She was in a period in her life where everything - sex particularly - was confused and uneasy. She was trying to settle back into who she was and who she wanted to be after having traveled far from her sane core. That iteration of Emily called her mother after first meeting me and pronounced that she had just found the man with whom she was going to spend the rest of her life, such was her confidence in this one aspect of her life. She was not sexually secure, but her heart secured onto me. She has told me stories of the six months before she met me that suggest to me that she was just fumbling toward meaning within any relationship, trying to find someone who wouldn't use her and who would respect her for the brilliant star she was beneath her confusion. I am not claiming I was then that person, though I tried to be and eventually did become him once I could find the balance and security I needed.

So many issues in relationships come down to sex. Kate had a sex related problem that I won't detail except to say that I was far less understanding and reasonable than I should have been, effectively cutting my own throat when it came to getting her clothes off regularly. This problem weighed heavily because then I always wanted sex with her, if just for the confirmation that she wanted me in that context. If she could make love with me, then she loved me. It seemed as simple as that. I felt a union with her then that I struggled to feel outside of bed sheets.

You can't ever be everything to anyone else. Kurt Vonnegut has a quote I'll paraphrase as to the failure of marriage in America, that every divorce is really saying, "You aren't enough people." We humans are a tribal species, evolved to expect vast extended families that are no longer relevant in this modern world. So we sublimate all our social desires on one person and wonder why they couldn't provide us with everything we could need, why we could not be their everything. With work and patience, we can be someone's something. Ideally, a lot of people's something. This isn't a call to polyamory - heaven knows that hardly holds an esteemed place in my relationship strata, as you'll see - but rather one to the acknowledgement that it is okay to need other people, but you can't have all your needs met by a solitary soul and expect that relationship to flourish. We are not lone wolves. Wolves, I'd like to note, are not lone wolves because they die in the wild without their pack. Likewise, ask those arctic people how they do living alone in seclusion. Well, ask ones who haven't committed suicide, as they tend to have the highest rates of self-inflicted death. Most of us can't handle anything less than a herd.

Many people in my life don't seem to understand this. They try to cut themselves off from all but their latest lover. It is important to have a person you dote on and take to bed. I know I like that role filled, but I have also found that I don't particularly need it filled. I have been in the position where I not only put my lover before my friends and family, but before myself at well. While one can and should show selflessness for another, it should not be constant. The extinguishing of the self should not be at a heart-shaped altar.

It's not that I don't believe in soul mates, it is just that I believe in a bunch of them. A dozen people in your life at any time with whom you get on exceedingly well and with whom you should be in some fashion. I don't believe in just one perfect person. Relying so much destroys love in a fit of over dependency. This could be that I have yet to meet the one perfect person in the world for me and I can't imagine that to be consistent. For a moment, one person could be perfect, exactly what I needed, but that would change based on circumstances. Give it a year, give it seven. There are people with whom I ostensibly become only more compatible. For a long time, I counted Emily among these. Although how much was compatibility and how much was in my head, I am not now sure.

Early in my relationship with Emily, I dumped her because I simply didn't feel that we had become friends yet and that was a basal need that should be fulfilled by someone with whom I spent the lion's share of my time and sexual energy. Emily and I were good lovers, but I resented her then and I was unable to properly express that because I was fumbling with communicativeness. I had yet to fully establish the respect that should have been a prerequisite before one takes clothing off. I wanted to explore what is meant to be her friend without the option for sex. I possibly could have done this more elegantly by not sleeping with her a week or so after breaking up with her. Since she was my friend, I had to know how I felt. It isn't an excuse. It was accidental and inappropriate, not predatorial, though I can understand how it might have seemed this way given what I knew of her feelings for me and what I was trying to feel for her. I did find deep friendship in this woman, not just sexual release. This break strengthened our love for the next seven years.
Melanie and Xen  
This picture causes diabetes

Melanie is steadily becoming a very good friend, which may seem strange given that she has spent many nights asleep on my chest wearing nothing but a contented smirk, but it pleases me to no end. I don't forget that Melanie is still new, that we are still coming to be friends. We have a love and mutual respect, there is no doubt. I am fond and protective. I am enchanted, but not bewitched. I don't forget that she isn't my everything. I keep trying to expose her to my friends so she can see the various permutations of what is important to me. She had done well. The worst comment is only ever, "Well, she's young." But she won't always be and these confidantes have applied far more pejorative adjectives to others with whom I swapped spit. In the meantime, I am getting to know her, her quickness and silliness, her elegant mannerliness, her newfound cuteness.

It has become customary in my relationships and proof of what I am saying that we admit when we have crushes on other people. It began with Kate, she would mention friends she met for whom she burned slightly and I believe I gently reciprocated. It was an admission that we were still sexual beings outside the context of our relationship, but that we also preferred one another far more, that our relationship could handle a friendly conversation of attraction. It took the pressure off. I don't think I could have withstood the idea of Jen having crushes because I wanted to be her everything and, as such, an unexamined crush cost me my first sexual relationship.

As an extreme case of this, there was a time where Emily was interested in having a relationship with Dives Dives. I was willing to indulge this triadic situation. I couldn't just have an additional girlfriend, it would taste of infidelity. Emily formally decided to propose this new relationship at Free Spirit and renege once she left its liberating grounds. So I spent a five hour car ride alone with Dives Dives cobbling out what this additional relationship with Dives Dives would mean. I kissed her hand in lieu of lips as a promise that I would follow through on the promise Emily had made with me. I knew Emily had an interest in her before this and was not surprised when she had offered, just amused. Dives Dives got a boyfriend before Emily got her guts up again, if she was going to get her guts up again. There were other crushes on both sides, though mine always faded to friendship or less. Emily's did not in the end, a crush on a man she insisted she didn't like in that way, but I still don't regret this practice of emotional truth.

You can be a lot, you can be crucial, but you can't be everything. I believe with Melanie, I can build something. I am building something. It will take a while. I no longer think of getting married in the foreseeable future. The passing of the fifteenth, my wedding day, beat that out of me. I am not looking to be married and not simply owing to the youth of my lover. I want a commitment from her, even knowing that she will spend three months away from me this summer. I want the commitment knowing this, because of this, despite this but I'm not used to being parted from someone so new so soon for so long. She will change from my strange bedfellow to a devout pen pal, from the one I caress every weekend to words on a page in a delicate hand. I may preach about not relying so much on someone else, but this is a challenge to put to such immediate practice.

Soon in Xenology: Dan and Stephanie. Defensive Deriving. Xuan. Rainwater.

last watched: The Orphanage
reading: Dune
listening: The Vines

" Fake Plastic Trees | 2008 | Defensive Deriving "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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