Thomm Quackenbush, author

Post-Mortem | 2011 | Making Treaties

05.18.11 12:41 p.m.

[...] One woman
is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am
well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all
graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in
my grace. Rich she shall be, that's certain; wise,
or I'll none; virtuous, or I'll never cheapen her;
fair, or I'll never look on her; mild, or come not
near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good
discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall
be of what colour it please God.
 

-"Benedick", Shakespeareís Much Ado About Nothing

 


Of What Colour It Please God

Xen  
My tulpa is a robin. What of it?

I am not dedicated to romantic comedy tropes. I am aware of them, of course, but tend to feel they more or less would come off as codependent stalking in the real world. That being said, I recognize the long journey I see before me, to find Love again. Even action adventure movies throw in a "getting the girl" subplot if they want to sell more tickets, though I am fairly sure my story is closer to Bridget Jones than Indiana Jones.

The exemplar that keeps being thrust at me is Ted Mosby in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The premise of the show - growing a bit thin having finished its sixth season - is that Ted, a romantic in the city spurred on by his best friends getting engaged, is tired of the artificiality of the dating world and want to find the one woman with whom he eventually settles down (as he narrates the show to his children in 2030). Of course, this is largely demonstrated through lots of artificial dating shenanigans. (Journey or no, this is still a sitcom and shenanigans must be had.)

The example that strikes me, though it is a bit more obscure, is Richard Bach in A Bridge Across Forever. Richard, an author, decides he is tired of roaming, tired of pretty yet vacant faces, and sets off to find the soul mate he knows must be out there. Struggling to find her, he ends up deciding his perfect woman exists in many bodies and he should be able to have sex with them all because his freedom is more important than love. This is a shame, as his perfect woman does exist in the form of his best friend, actress Leslie Parrish, who gives him an ultimatum he nearly rejects because he is so in love with the cage of his "freedom" that he can't being pinned down by getting exactly what he said he wanted. He realizes what he could lose by giving her up for wanderlust and repents through much hard work.

In this spirit, and out of necessity to keep my fingers moving, I have compiled list after list of what I will require in the next woman I love. At the very least, these will keep me from what I do not, empty rutting with comely strangers. I had been making these lists on bit of lined paper that I managed to keep losing. The attributes I recall most readily now are rephrased deficits in my previous relationships, mistakes I will try not to make again, but they are worth transcribing.

What must she be:

  • Honest. I have been in a relationship where I come to doubt stories years afterward, because the woman in question wanted to seem impressive (she was without trying). I've been in one where my lover took every mental twinge for a truth carved in stone and would share her sleep- or food-deprived urges like they were gospel from on high. I would prefer to know than not know, but I would more prefer truth that isn't obviated by a nap and orgasm.
  • Ready to have the relationship I can provide her. I am through waiting for people to spank their inner moppet enough to function with another human being. I am not her parent, I wonít let her treat me otherwise because she has issues better dealt with by a therapist. If I come to her and she tells me to sit over in the corner while she figures a few things out on her own, she is welcomed to be my friend but she won't be getting my ardor. My energy is much better spent than on insisting the woman in my arms requite my feelings. (This likely counts out any woman who is still an undergrad as they just aren't ready.)
  • Not so entangled in societal expectations that she can barely move without hearing her mother, college adviser, first boyfriend, best friend, attractive stranger criticizing her. I am not trying to date them. A relationship between two fully present people is difficult enough without doing battle with ghosts every time I want to touch her.
  • Not married. I donít mean simply in the "legally tied to another human being" sense, which plainly must be the case. But I never again wish to be told that I will never rank above "mistress" status because the woman in my bed belongs to some discipline to the exclusion of romantic love. I am not out for nuns, even if they worship at the altar of Feynman or Shakespeare. If she canít figure out that she can love people and still work productively in her field, she is not going to get along with me long term. I understand attachment to something abstract. I will write until the day I die, I promise. If I were not writing right now, I would not be processing all the emotions this pain arouses in me. But I can manage to turn out novels and still love her forever. In fact, the soothing of love helps me write fiction much more fluidly. If this is a foreign concept to her, Iím not her type.
  • Monogamous. I have had long term relationships with a few women who were only looking for flings before they fell in love with me. You know what they ended up wanting again? Flings. I am not looking to be left for such lame reasons, Iím too good for that. Also, so sorry if you are polyamorous, and I am not judging your lifestyle. However, I will never date you. Decide to be with me completely without trying to hedge your bets shagging strangers in the back of your mind.
  • Beautiful. I donít simply mean "physically attractive" (though I wonít say I donít appreciate that) but having that inner glow that comes from contentment and fulfillment. I can think of no end of conventionally attractive women who seem like skin balloons to me. I want someone who will only grow more beautiful to me the longer I know her. I need someone who comprehends and practices loving kindness and compassion.
  • Passionate but in control of her passions. Not an artist who has no idea how to be a person.
  • Able to see me as a priority. Not her sole priority - that would get boring - but above an idle hobby or friends she does not seem to like. This means preferring to spend time with me when possible, not only coming over or inviting me over only if she has nothing else going on. I want to be a part of someoneís life, not an occasional option. I want to be as important to someone as she is to me.
  • Interested in knowing my friends and family. Yes, the things my family does (apple picking, pumpkin carving, family vacations, egg dyeing) are a bit cheesy, but they are my family and I love them. She doesnít need to like all my friends, but I will have to question her interest in me if she hates all the people with whom I willingly surround myself.
  • Proud to be with me. As Lauren put it, I can do much better than someone who hides me like an ugly pair of shoes. If she doesn't eventually want to show me off to her friends and family, I am going to have to assume she is hiding something or compartmentalizes her life. I cannot stay in such a relationship again, as she would be making it simple to excise me.
  • Interested in a future that could involve me. I remain fairly portable, but the moment she resents me for wanting to be with her or for hoping she will follow me on some grand adventure is the moment she should release me. I am not looking to be married this week, but I am hoping to find a commitment that lasts as long as we genuinely love one another. "Forever" would be a nice, round number.
  • Emotionally consistent and predicated on logic/facts, not hunger and hormones. This does not count out a girl who needs a pill a day to keep her fully stable, but it does count out one who thinks this excuses her from the responsibility for being callous.
  • Respectful toward me. I can't stand adoring someone who believes they get to use that against me. I cannot thrive in a relationship predicated on power dynamics.
  • Happily involved in the world, not sneering at society from my couch and telling me she is a hermit.
  • Not selfish or self-involved. She should be her own person, do what makes her happy, I will fully support her. But if her happiness comes at the expense of other people, if she thinks she can only be happy by taking her clothes off for random strangers or insulting the innocent, she should leave me out of it.
  • Capable of cuteness. I respond to it, I don't think I could love someone who felt she was above it.
  • Proximal. I am not looking for a long distance relationship, physically or emotionally. At least three of my four significant relationships ended in part because my lover was away from me for a little while and got distracted by someone else. This can't happen a fourth time. I am not a jealous person - at least I try not to be as it undermines trust - but I need to take care of myself.
  • Not dependent on being insulated from growth experiences.
  • Intelligent. She doesnít want me getting bored in conversation as that will be a sure way to get me to leave. The more brilliant she seems, the more likely I am to dedicate myself to her. I am an unapologetic sapiosexual. Someone who needs a dictionary to understand I am flirting with her is going to pass beneath my radar quickly. As such, being well read (I speak in allusions as easy as most speak in words, it would be nice to be understood) would be a boon but is likely not deserving of its own bullet-point.
  • Possessing a good sense of humor. I don't insist upon dead baby jokes (I will insist against humor predicated on bodily emissions), but I cannot love anyone with whom I have never laughed.
  • Not a cigarette smoker. Iím sorry, I find it to be a disgusting habit. My friends can have it as a distance, but not someone I am going to kiss. I also watched as a man who was like a second father to me withered and died of cancer, I wonít watch a woman I love give it to herself one cigarette at a time.
  • Hopefully copacetic with my need to write like this.
  • Possessing of strong morals and ethics, even and especially if these are personal and not dictated by a religion.

I can think of dozens of other qualities that I would find attractive (musical or literary ability, interest in the hard and social sciences, non-dogmatic spirituality), but can imagine loving someone without these. Anyone who can initially interest me, who doesnít fall into one of the above warnings/requirements, I can love.

As George Bernard Shaw put it, "I want my rapscallionly fellow vagabond. I want my dark lady. I want my angel. I want my tempter." And I worry that, in the three and a half years I cuddled Melanie out of her nymphancy, thousand of potential commitment-minded fellow vagabonds bonded inextricably to other men.

I have a great deal to offer the right woman. Aside from being obviously commitment-philic (which media inform me, perhaps erroneously, continues to be a rarity), I am now capable of giving myself completely to another person. Love is an important part of my life. I am an author whose publisher is eager for more, which I am given to understand is - and I am quoting here, mind you - something of a "panty-melter" in the proper circles. I have an established life, a job (or several...), a car, a social circle. I donít miss bills, I have savings. Perhaps I cannot yet jet to far away locales at a whim, but I am not without comfort and freedom. I am fit, if not precisely athletic, given to long run in cemeteries (really, the best place to work out story threads into a voice recorder). I am open with my feelings. I am endlessly curious about my lovers. I enjoy parties as much as sitting at home cuddling as much as plays as much as lectures. I fall in love fast, but not idly. Once I love someone, I always love them in some way. I genuinely want to be and make effort toward being a good person and live in a compassionate way with the world.

I do think of She Who Will Be My Lover as a concrete abstract, envisioning small moments from our life together. She will rest her head on my chest as we fall asleep. We will have inside jokes and pet names by the dozen. She will giggle through The Room with me, cringe and cry at the end of The Orphanage, argue with me about the objective reality in Pan's Labyrinth, squeeze my hand as the screen goes black at the end of American Beauty, watch Up and say she wants to be my Ellie (less the death). She will kiss me when I quote Lolita at her, will quote back Pablo Neruda. We will share music without judgment, hearing for the first time songs we had ignored previously. We will have a "song". We will sit at the waterfront as the day turns to night, sighing over lost loves and awkward teenage crushes.

She will be, but I cannot imagine when. Perhaps she won't be the next woman I kiss or the tenth - though I would prefer the former. I am not out to waste my time or hers. I don't think it is unhealthy to do my best to wait for her, but I know I cannot wait properly with the wrong woman keeping my bed warm. Melanie left, in minor part, because she decided I knew what I wanted out of life and she did not.

I don't think this is unhealthy, as I keep hearing from those who otherwise advise to "explore being single" when they really mean "lap me in bed hopping" or, more simply, "lap me". She will exist, I have no doubt. Until then, I will refrain. I am not looking for what most are. I am not what most are looking for. So I will wait with this tulpa, like attracting like. It seems a great deal safer than venturing crotch-first into the world believing I can find what I need in just any woman.

I need the thought of her to keep me strong in my waiting. If a part of the reason I go out with friends or go dancing is because of a woman I have yet to meet, if I work and write sometimes because I do not think she would be fond of a shiftless loser, what is the issue? I still enjoy friends, dancing, work, and writing. They are their own reward, but I like the added spice of continuing to build the foundation of the life we will have together.

I am not without feminine attention at present. Presenting oneself as an eligible young bachelor on the internet instantly brings those who believe that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a torrid fling. But they are not Her and (I think) we both know it. I am not inclined to settling, nor can I imagine these women would like to be thought of as something to be settled for. Likewise, I have had a few prior friends and acquaintances tentatively sniffing around to see if I am healed enough to pursue. I say to them plainly, if I wanted to be with you, you would absolutely know. I am brutally unsubtle and inclined toward telling people, "So, I am attracted to you. Is this the sort of thing we ought to discuss?" My only subtlety is in ignoring what I perceive to be advances in a cloud of feigned obliviousness. My emotional state in reference to this breakup is a completely different mental thread than my wish for Her to appear; I can continue healing and very healthily love someone else, when there is someone to healthily love. I had over seven months to prepare the schema I would need.

I've met those who cling to breakups (more than they ever did to the partners themselves) and find them distinctly unattractive. If you can't get over someone who left you years ago, if you dedicate your life to moping and looking over your shoulder at someone who vanished over the horizon a lifetime ago, then you aren't living. So I do the work necessary to conquer my feelings for Melanie in the breakup, something I need to do anyway, because it means I will be more ready for the right woman when I find her.

All this is hopeful, but, in the end, Ted Mosby has yet to meet the Mother (only her ankle, once) and has slept with dozens of faceless women who are little more than anecdotes for continuity hounds. Richard Bach divorced Leslie Parrish after twenty-five years together, reportedly because he felt the need to re-sow wild oats that made him seem so unsympathetic in the beginning of the book (if they start wanting flings, they go back to wanting flings). Maybe outside of media, these journeys work out better, when they happen in the quiet and the dark I fear right now.

Soon in Xenology: More dancing. Coping.

last watched: How I Met Your Mother
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Tom Waits

Post-Mortem | 2011 | Making Treaties

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes three novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods). His fourth book in the Night's Dream series, Flies to Wanton Boys, is due shortly. 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. He finds that friends do not enjoy the extremes he goes to in order to research books, as these involve mortuaries and UFO support groups. 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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