Wednesday, November 26, 2003
So there's this guy. He is a collection of fairly garden-variety disturbing/appealing qualities including, but not limited to, narcissistic, belligerent, melancholic, alcoholic, and slutty. He possesses an over-inflated sense of his own potential while he achieves nothing. He is penniless, selfish, and doesn't bathe regularly. He complains almost constantly, and has a habit of getting into screaming matches with his girlfriends in the middle of the street.
Of course, I love him. He has enough charisma for ten men, kind blue eyes that have that "there's somebody home" presence in them, and the balls to announce passionate things about the temporary object of his interest in front of a crowd of people that make said object flutter like a pigeon in a strong wind. Nobody can refuse him anything. Everybody likes him, even his old girlfriends. They remember him happily, like aging rockers recalling Studio 54 and all that good cocaine: No, I wouldn't do it now, again, but I sure don't regret it. It was a time like no other.
I had watched him and his unapologetic, magnetic behavior for nearly a year. I was attracted by his willingness to be himself even as I made confident notes regarding the inherent unsuitability of a man who needed to be the center of attention at all times. I also knew, in that way we women have, that he and I were compatible on a lot of levels. "Compatible" here is not a synonym for "appropriate," but there it is. He had the energy of the lovely dreamers I have been most affected by in my life, and who have had, despite my somewhat low-key exterior, the vision to rolodex through a world of girls and light on me as the woman they want. One of these old loves said it best: "Because you believe it magic." They see it when others don't, and the reward for this sight is me, my love. So I've known for a long time that he should keep his knowing to himself, and that I should too. He's prone to joblessness and self-inflicted existential pain. He's a big ole Do Not Enter sign on the turnpike of partnership.
And so, again of course, it happened. He broke the seal and the whole sky fell out. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist if he dropped a spoon in the middle of our careful silence, and I couldn't. When they come, I turn into a goddess. I become ostensibly wise and somehow taller. I caress their faces and hold their tear-stained cheeks to my breast. I ignore them perfectly, and mete out favor in graduated doses until they're netted, hauled in, chopped, and canned. I collect declarations of love like money, sweetness for a rainy day, tiny certainties of my own existence in their reckless adoration.
It was messy and ridiculous at first. He was always drunk or half-drunk, and so his confessions were unreliable. So I relied on them. I thought the spell was weaving itself pretty well, even through his haze, even as I knew it was dangerous to keep on, to let this thing take root in me. My friend, who knows him better than I do, much better, warned me constantly. "I've seen so many otherwise powerful women get sucked into his web." But I felt different. I'm the one with the web, dammit. I feel certain this is special. Is it possible to declare something as pathetic-sounding and seemingly deluded as that last sentence and still be right? Anyway, I was in bliss, and in somewhat safe bliss because he was so often incapacitated by drink that I couldn't get that close to him, anyway. He was repellant, but like a marginally effective bug spray. I just hover until I find an opening. But I will get that blood.
We did have sex a few times during that period, and it was mostly incredible. I'm sure I mentioned the compatibility. I'm not the greatest lay; you don't fuck me for acrobatics or the generosity of my tongue. I'm pretty lazy. I'm even shy. You fuck me because fucking me is a kind of delicate secret that only you get to hear. And he listened to that secret like a man of intelligence. I knew he was smart (depressives often are), but it was in bed that he won my total approval. He didn't just fuck my body, he fucked me; he fucked my mind. Silently. With confidence. With subtlety. You know what I mean.
Then he was gone. Three weeks, maybe four. I stopped counting and focused my energy on keeping my mouth shut around unsympathetic, "you're better off" types. But I was broken. It's shameful. I'm a fairly exceptional woman, and his resume is for shit. But there it was. A cliché. I assumed that when/if he returned, I would be a) mad enough to be turned off, or b) in possession of my senses again. I assumed that he disappeared because he didn't care enough to stay in touch, and that was all the information I needed. I usually cut out at the first sign of flagging affection. I'm alert to any foul scent on the wind. I run fast on cold fuel. I win. But with this one, well, I couldn't believe that he didn't feel what I thought he felt. I just flat out knew different, based on an arrogant sixth sense type of thing (see above). And these are the exact ingredients of a bonafide heartbreak--the certainty, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that something's there. I stayed confused instead of indignant. I mourned like nobody's business. Then, of course number three, he reappeared and I wasn't mad. (He's fire; you can't hold him!) I was oddly devoid of pain or possessiveness. I didn't forgive him because I didn't blame him anymore. I had been thrown for a loop, and it had cooled me. I knew the old way of fishing was the wrong mode, and that he would never be mine, and that It Was Good. But when he surfaced, he still had the steady heat. The one thing I wasn't wrong about was the original attraction, a dependable thing, if you can imagine, in the abstract realm of love. I've never been wrong about that. I told you. So it was there, and my receptor site was still waving him in.
He is being moderate about his drinking now, and is working every day. He loves me still in his sobriety, although now, in the reasonable delirium of sobriety, he no longer says so. Instead, he has become kind. He has become kind, and affectionate, and strangely authentic. He seems older. He opens doors and puts his hand atop mine while I shift gears. He is quietly brave, measured, gentle, generous, disconcertingly humble. He is friendly toward children and grown-ups. He seems to have somehow become more himself, someone I didn't see before. I am surprised. I like who he is now, not just the acidic ripple he always gave me in my belly. It's the weirdest feeling.
He took me home (he had a home now) and we had sex again, and everything was as we had left it. This time, though, I lay above him and held his eyes. This time, I loved him back.
Our flirtations are still playful and lighthearted, but our kisses are full of the big stuff. The air between us is like an ache whose only remedy is contact. He now says things that blow the breezy, audacious declarations of yesterday out of the water, because they occur when he's sober, or better yet, when he's grumpy in the morning and hasn't had his coffee. Matter of fact things like, "You've been making me happy lately," and, "I'm so happy to see you."
He's doing bizarre things like calling when he says he will, and showing up. He seems slightly bigger than he was before. He goes out of his way. It's all wrong.
I have been playing cool. I don't return his sweetnesses, and then feel guilty and afraid that I'm hurting him with my aloofness. I try to show him with my hands, an anemic display of tactile affection, but when he says I've made him happy lately, I just smile. We don't communicate, by the way, or anything silly like that. There's no describing my reticence as a battening down of hatches before the next deadly-still storm of absence. I'm yet afraid he is the type that will begin to retreat if I show him my heart, or, for that matter, do anything but retain my chilly unavailability. But I hate to disappoint him. If he asks whether I'll be "around" some night, I make any wild orchestrations so that I am--seemingly engaged and cheerful with a friend or two, and stealing constant glances toward the kitchen to catch a glimpse of his face, his funny haircut. I must be there so he knows I care, so that he is not hurt, so that he does not misunderstand. But there is always the chance, hovering like a funky smell, that he will not be. When he is, all is well with the world. When he wasn't--before, before he returned--my world fell softly each time. This is the kind of summer camp situation we are working with, to clarify.
So, it'll never work, of course (four), for many important reasons, but in the meantime, it will never work because I demand unwavering devotion, and I don't know how long his attention span will hold. You see, I'm not very good at casual. It can be fucked up, but it should epic, not lukewarm. I don't do lukewarm. It's a pure love, or it's nothing. And so I hold my cards tight and away.
So anyway, if there were a question in here somewhere, I guess it would be, what do you think? How should I play it? I've revealed a lot of my ugliness here, but I'd like to say that what I'm about at a fundamental level is a very sweet kind of love. I like to see that love uncurl its tender little leaf and watch it sprout a bud and really show itself. There's such beauty there, and that kind of beauty is very important to me. So I guess I want to hear your assessment of the chances for seeing a really good flower display this season.
The other thing I forgot to mention is that he's cute.
Thank you for your time.
Glad you mentioned the cute thing. I just assumed that he was hideously deformed.
The whole thing sounds wildly egocentric to me. He’s a narcissist whose current good guy act is just another way of tooting his own tired horn. And for whatever reason, being adored and doted upon and admired from a hazy distance is more important to you than being genuinely accepted and loved. You know exactly how to “play” this, the question is, do you want your role in this relationship to be scripted indefinitely? Because at some point, you’re going to lose a soft contact or get a plantar wart or lose your temper with the credit card customer service guy and you’re going to forget to be aloof. Or you’re gonna run out of cold fuel or whatever your goddess engine runs on. And then, you’re just a sniffling, unraveled human being, and it sounds like you already know that egoboy has no interest in human beings.
I don’t imagine that you’ll change one word of the script at this point – you just enjoy seeing your own tragedy tumbling out onto the page. But when you run out of fuel and fall to pieces? That’s when you’ll have to ask yourself whether lukewarm is really a slow death, or whether it’s just an acceptance of the fact that life can’t play out like “Romeo and Juliet” unless someone wants to suffer, big-time. Do you prefer tragedy, and if so, why? Plenty of worthy, interesting people choose it. My only advice is, if that’s really your choice, at least become a writer or a performance artist or something, because all of that exquisite suffering should at least be channeled somewhere, instead of just taxing the patience of your more sensible friends.
I’m not saying sensible is where it’s at, either. Don’t get me wrong. Even if I sound snickery and snide about this whole matter, you know that you have a special gift for making life more dramatic and lively and colorful, and I don’t remotely want to suggest that you lose it. I just want to gently hint that you’re renting it out to unworthy clods instead of building something lasting and epic and fantastic with it, something that’s just for you, your own creation, something you barely have to talk to anyone about, it’s just there. Right now, you’re pretending that you already possess this magic power, that you built something special and that makes you special. But you don’t own anything right now, hence the acting aloof and the needing adoration and the unbearable heartbreak looming ever-present. You need to turn your energy away from this façade and focus on what you want to create for yourself. Once you’re focused on that, no more acting will be necessary, and genuinely interesting, good, funny, cute, sharp men who actually create things themselves and have confidence and generosity to spare will adore you genuinely, for all the right reasons.
But screw them, they’re just one small part of a bigger, more epic picture, one that you can create yourself with your own talents and passions.
This is the problem I have with egoboy. First of all, everyone does not love him, I can guarantee you that. I’ve met him before. Most people are downright ambivalent about him at best. Second, what good is a glowing light of specialness if its sole purpose is to prop up your tattered ego? After a while, that kind of glow turns into a stanky odor that floats around and then it’s gone, with nothing permanent to remind anyone that it was there in the first place. This guy stinks. He’ll continue to make bad, self-serving choices, and he only likes you because you’re playing along with his shallow act and not showing up. Plenty of guys will like you for not showing up – you seem to recognize that already. But will you really ever like yourself under those conditions?
You’re just a fancy, alternative-cool version of a Rules Girl right now. Maybe it’s the really creative, cute, crazy drinking guys who kiss your ass, but you’re a Rules Girl just the same. It’s utterly beneath you and you know it. You’re not going to dump the loser, but I want to strongly recommend that you take all of that drama and tragedy and channel it into something concrete, something that belongs to you. Only you can choose what that will look like, but when you pinpoint it, and really make a commitment to that thing and to yourself, people like egoboy will become mere footnotes in these very important chapters in your history.
Monday, November 17, 2003
THE XMAS FILES
I was driving in a suburb of Seattle on Friday, November 14 and saw a Christmas tree in someone’s front window. The encroachment of Christmas into everything else is well-documented and fodder for many tired jokes, but for fuck’s sake, November’s not even half over. Do I laugh? Cry? Sob? Pretend I didn’t see it? Pass on the metaphysical angst by emailing rabbit?
I meant to vent about it on my radio show last night but instead, and as usual, devoted all of my energy into not passing out onto the sound board instead of remembering clever things to talk and complain about.
Somehow I managed to complain on the radio about seeing Christmas decorations at Costco in September but the tree didn’t make the mental cut.
Something must be done. I only hope you (or Special Pillow - I’m not picky) have the knowledge and fortitude to lead us through this.
True, complaining about the unsightly premature Christmas ejaculate that’s spewed about the landscape by early November is well nigh cliché at this point. But I say fuck the critics! A million monkeys typing op ed pieces on a million typewriters wouldn’t be enough ink and paper and key-pounding for this lamentable state of affairs. It’s bad enough that Target and Walmart and Costco and the fucking mall roll out the twinkly red and green shit and Santas and elves right after knocking down the fake cobwebs and corn cobs and crappy ghost sheets of Halloween. But when the citizens of this great country of ours take their cue from the major retailers and start jacking up their fake trees (what other kind of tree can you put up two full months early without dropping enough pine needles to set the house aflame by mid December?) and rolling out their chintzy nativity scenes by the end of October, that’s when stupidity becomes a richly honored tradition.
And you know what, Matt? They’re stealing the magic of Christmas from us. Now granted, Christmas has a limited amount of magic to offer. Buying a little Charlie Brown tree and putting your three ornaments on it. Having some egg nog and a cookie for the first time. Unwrapping a wee gift from a friend, something small that says, “I know you so well that I recognized this hamster that sings ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ immediately as something you would treasure always.” But when you have that egg nog in early November? When you’re seeing glittery red and green shit everywhere and hearing “Deck the Halls” for a full two months before the big event? You absolutely hate Christmas by the time it rolls around. It makes you sick. You can’t even look it in the eye. You avoid Christmas shopping, that’s how sick it makes you. And then you feel all dirty and suckered, shopping for arbitrary gifts at the last minute. The whole thing becomes an ugly ordeal.
Remember when you just thought about the stocking and the stuff under the tree and maybe even a thing or two about Bethelehem and three camels and how cool it would be to sleep in a manger with a bunch of really nice horses and lambs?
The modern world impinges on our personal histories. It corrupts all of our private spaces, no matter how much we try to insulate ourselves from its toxic commercial fumes (that is, when we’re not eating In ‘n’ Out Burgers while watching “Average Joe” on our TiVos). Nothing can be private and precious and belong only to us anymore.
Let me give you just one small example. Do you know that when I started to type “Dear M” at the beginning of this letter, Microsoft Word popped up a little suggestion window that said “Dear Mom and Dad”? Is this some insidious family values campaign that Gates has accepted payola from? Does every American write little letters in Word to “Mom and Dad”? If my computer’s so fucking smart, why doesn’t it learn to be a little more sensitive? Why doesn’t it know that my dad isn’t around anymore? As long as it’s automatically offering up my address to every form I chance upon online, you’d think it could ask me a thing or two about my personal history before it goes making assumptions. Before long, it’ll be asking how my unfinished, long-untouched novel is coming along, or whether or not things are going well with my exboyfriend Jake.
All jokes aside for half a second, these things do make you think about how the world must feel to those who fall outside of the target demographic regularly. The second you find yourself on the fringes of the average American profile, by dint of tragedy or weirdness or gayness or any number of factors, you’d be amazed by the number of times you knock into these differences. Because all of our shared spaces – computer interfaces, TV screens, public spaces - are commercial now, and commercial spaces pretend to know you, because if they act like they can’t remember your name, you might choose to go home and read a book instead. So instead they sing happy songs to little families of four, and everyone else feels a little funny. But we still buy their plasma TVs and chenille throws and eat their double fudge brownie sundaes and drink their 32 ounce Bahama Mamas, even though we’re fat and dark and gay and Jewish and socially unacceptable in countless other ways and we have small dogs, not smiling children who want to go to Disneyland. We want to go to Disneyland, but only if there’s a discount and we can smoke pot with our fat, dark, gay, Jewish friends first.
There’s something comforting about the bland commercial cheer of American culture, I have to admit. We all want that “Outback Steakhouse” feeling every now and then, like you know what you’re getting, and no part of the scenery will be unexpected or disturbing or force you to think or feel. But horrifying shit is going on in Iraq, and instead of freaking out and fucking shit up, most of the country still feels stuck in some ‘80s haze of willful ignorance. The second we feel a little off-kilter, our commercial cultural backdrop reminds us where we are: just a few minutes away from a Bloomin’ Onion.
You know this premature Christmas shit is poisonous indeed when it can turn a normal rabbit into Dennis Miller in a few seconds flat.
HAPPY HAPPY MONDAY!
See, Monday isn't so bad, is it? You thought it would be bad, last night when you crawled into bed. You were filled with dread, unable to even picture walking into your office in the morning. And now here you are, in front of your computer, and it's not all that bad, is it? No. A little coffee, a little cheese danish, the circles under your eyes fade a bit, and work is just work. Something unpleasant to do during the day to make coming home and eating dinner on the couch seem like a luxury.
Your sad little life might be sad and little, but at least there's a chicken pot pie in the freezer with your name on it!
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Welcome to the Rabbit Blog. Please don't leave until you're 100 percent satisfied!
Once, when I smaller, I went to a drug store that had a picture of the manager on the exit door, next to the words: "Please don't leave until you're 100 percent satisfied!" I felt a little dissatisfied, so I walked back into the entrance and grabbed a family pack of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Then I drove back to work and ate half of them. This gave me a stomach ache.
You can recreate this feeling just by reading my column on Salon today, Thursday, day of sweet anticipation and longing!
Last night I went to a black tie banquet for Reason magazine. I'm not rich or a Libertarian, but I have some friends in high (get it? high? right? because the libertarians are into legalizing drugs? bahaha!) places. Black tie banquets are fucking weird! The food was great, though, and the speakers were pretty eclectic and interesting. And, I sat with some seriously fun people and drank good wine and ate good meat. Meat meat meaty meat makes the world go 'round! I don't eat meat very often, so good meat can be a particularly pleasing indulgence.
Anyway, it's strange when you're half-unpacked (I just moved) and living in relative squalor and you shove your piles of laundry out of the way and put on a nice dress and step over trash to walk out the door to your shabby car and sit in traffic for over an hour, park around the corner to avoid spending cash on valet parking, and put lipstick on while dashing for the entrance, and then you walk inside and the room is filled with good liquor and big chandeliers and clean, older rich people. And everywhere they go, things are shiny and clean and taken care of. That would give me a let-down prom feeling, though - when everything looks nice all the time, I get a weird feeling, like I should be happy all the time, like I'm a trapped bird, like Julianna Moore in "Safe." I honestly feel glad that I'm not loaded.
Then again, Mustique looks pretty cool.