In an effort to distract myself from my blue mood of late, I've decided to delight you with one of my favorite chapters from my now defunct memoir. It's too long for one post, so we'll just string you along for a few days. Here goes!
One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “Tact is for people who are not witty enough to be sarcastic.”
After all this time and a tremendous amount of experimentation, I willingly admit I know almost nothing about men. They are a total mystery to me. I’ve read books, magazines and newspaper articles about them. I watched countless television shows dedicated to the subject of men and their quirks. I observed and discussed their strange rituals ad infinitum, talked endlessly with them and about them, and with all this research I’m still basically clueless. And, frankly, unless we can keep it to a just friends or working relationship they scare the hell out of me. I don’t do well in long-term intimate relationships. Okay, I don’t do particularly well in the short-term ones either.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was a chameleon. I molded myself to fit what I perceived as the needs and wants of my latest male companion. The other day I re-watched the movie “Runaway Bride”. Julia Robert’s character, Maggie, was unaware of the fact that she didn’t know how she really liked her eggs. She always ordered them based on whatever her current boyfriend ordered. (It’s a wonderful movie. Watch it and you’ll understand what I mean.)
I was a lot like that. I tried to be whatever I thought they wanted me to be – to like my eggs the way they did so they would think we were compatible and wouldn’t dump me. The problem was, by the time I finished molding myself to what I thought they wanted – which was usually wrong anyway - I no longer had any idea of who I was or what I really wanted. If I was attracted to them I was automatically afraid I was going to lose them. So even if they liked me for who I was, I had to change myself because I didn’t think just being me was good enough. I was a convoluted mess.
And God help me if one of them actually did like me – the real me. I would immediately decide there was something wrong with them because I thought I was unlikable. I would start shutting down emotionally and be overcome with feelings of panic and claustrophobia. Why would I want a man who would want someone like me? I ran.
Because I couldn’t deal with normal, healthy relationships, I always seemed to attract two types of men. The first type was the problem child. The problems weren’t always visible on the surface but the minute I walked on the scene they could sense my problem solving abilities and, like a tornado on a quiet summer day, they would burst into my world. They could be miles away and I drew them to me like bugs to a zapper.
Being good at solving other people’s problems is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when someone truly needs and wants help and appreciates your assistance. Then it’s a mutually beneficial association. It’s a curse when all they really want to do is find someone to help them wallow in their problems, revisit them over and over and over and over and over again, and suck the life out of you in the process.
That’s why I opted not to become a psychologist. I sensed early on that most people really LIKE their problems. They’re comfortable with them and have developed a lifestyle to accommodate them. If they actually solved their problems they would lose a huge part of their identity and security. Who would they be? How would they act? Rational?
So naturally men with problems were drawn to me like addicts to needles. They needed their fix but didn’t truly want to be cured. In my relentless quest to fill the void in my life, I thought if I could just fix one of them I would find everlasting love and happiness. This wasn’t a formula for a solid, long lasting relationship.
The second type was the controller. Now I wasn’t a supermodel cover girl type, but I wasn’t a dog either. In my prime, when I was a career woman with a great job, I turned a few heads. Unfortunately many of those heads were attached to arrogant, egotistical assholes who wanted to dictate my every move and thought. They saw me as a challenge and they were bound and determined to conquer me.
These men were usually smooth and quite accommodating in the beginning. They wined and dined me and sucked me in with flattery and presents. But as soon as I let down my guard they swooped in like buzzards waiting for the kill and started picking me apart. Of course it was all done in the guise of what was best for me and would make me better. Yeah, like breast implants were going to really benefit ME!
Finally it reached a point where I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I was going through the endless cycle of abandonment and rejection so often I totally lost my perspective on the reality of my situation. So to stop the cycle of poor choices and bad relationships I gave up men for a while.
It’s been over eight years now - eight happy, peaceful years of self reflection and introspection. It’s been a time to regain my self esteem, my idealism, and my inner calm.
You may be wondering how someone who was once so addicted to sex could walk away from it cold turkey. It was actually pretty easy. By the time I decided to take a break from sex, I was so hardened to intimate relationships emotionally that I was in danger of having it creep into the other relationships in my life. I realized that I needed to do something drastic to stop the cycle.
It’s necessary to understand that my obsession with sex was just another symptom of my abandonment and intimacy issues. It was just a physical act and I used it to attract men who seemed otherwise unobtainable. I thought it was the only way to get someone to love me because I felt I was basically unlovable. I used sex as a means to an end. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it physically. It was just never satisfying in any other way.
In the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, sex without emotional attachment was the norm for a lot of people. It was just a physical act and that was usually enough. But somewhere along the line, I realized that many of my acquaintances and friends had something more. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt like something was missing in my life. I kept trying – pretending to understand the dynamics of the relationships I saw between others. But I didn’t get it. Love was like a foreign language to me – incomprehensible.
Also, when I finally decided I needed to give it up I was just starting through menopause and my libido dropped like a lead balloon for the first few years. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. There’s nothing like a major hot flash to take your mind off sex and in those first few years I was flashing like dry lightning over the desert. Since I had cancer in my past, I refused to take hormones and my doctor agreed it wouldn’t be a good choice. I tried various natural estrogen substitutes but nothing really worked and it took a few years for those flashes to subside.
I didn’t intend to be celibate for this long. I’ve been really busy and time just got away from me. Occasionally I thought I might be ready to try again. However, since I haven’t done anything more than think about it, I probably still have a few issues to resolve. And those things I said about lack of trust – that really applies to my relationships with men.
To be continued!