Tuesday, May 31, 2005
TESTING YOUR HYPOTHESIS
"My only regret about the past 15 years of being single is that I spent so much time worrying about how I would ever make it work. Instead of worrying, just move on the second you know that you can't get what you want and need."
Seriously? That second? Shouldn't you wait another second?
I ask because my experience with love is that I don't have the first clue what I either want or need. When I was 20, like your young reader, I was pretty sure I wanted someone who was like my mom -- white, blonde, maternal, political, and made lots of meatloaf. And my girlfriends at the time reflected a progression of ever-whiter, -blonder, meatloaf-making politicos until I arrived at The One. Or so I thought.
Of course, Neo-mom didn't really like me all that much, and we had one of those stormy relationships where I was sure that she was Everything I Ever Wanted and she was sure she had my number around here somewhere. And on and on like that until I couldn't take it anymore and told her not to call me (which was, in retrospect, a little like telling a rock just to sit there, but still ...).
So I listened to Chicago and moped around in social occasions until one of my friends -- one who was indian, brown hair, little-sister-y -- suddenly started consuming more of my time, and then we started consuming more wine together, and today, I'm engaged to someone who (and I hate Matthew Perry for having coined this phrase in a movie as stupid as "Fools Rush In") is Everything I Never Knew I Always Wanted.
Or -- maybe she's not. Do I really like aloo mutter better than meatloaf because of her? Or would I really have been happier with Neo-mom if only she'd liked me more? I'll never know, and it doesn't matter because I'm happy. And I might have never gotten to this point if I'd stuck to what I thought I wanted and needed.
Anyway, those sentences stuck out a little bit to me, and I wanted to share and make sure you're getting enough reader mail to fulfill your every-day-posting promise, which you already broke, but we forgive you because you were honoring Memorial Day or whatever.
Wearing my rabbit blog t-shirt with pride,
You nitpicking motherfucker!
You have a point. Let's examine the second half of my statement:
"Instead of worrying, just move on the second you know that you can't get what you want and need."
First, let's discuss the meaning of "the second you know." Now, if you're like me, "the second you know" could more accurately be broken down into a few different parts:
1. The day he dressed exactly like MC Hammer
2. The weekend at the beach when you had nothing to say to each other
3. The week his mother was visiting and he told you both to be quiet whenever your conversation interrupted the "Law & Order" marathon he was watching
4. The three months you spent obsessively washing the floors and wishing you were living with your ex, the nice one, instead
5. The year you felt slightly depressed, gained weight, seemed to be PMSing around the clock, picked pointless fights with your family, suspected that you were insane, and daydreamed about buying cool lawn furniture with someone you didn't hate
The trouble is, of course, that "the second you know" should've been the second he emerged wearing Hammer pants. Sadly, though, most of us cling to bad things and try to make them good for far, far too long. We shrug our shoulders as the bad signs appear, saying to ourselves, "Well, I'm in love! What can I do? I'm sure I'll get used to it." Two years later, we fall out of love and break up.
And the deceiving thing is that, in some cases, you do get used to it. In some cases, you spend about a month hating the way he dresses and talks and argues, and then after that month, you realize that you were just feeling a little commitment-phobic when, in fact, he's delightful and smart and fun and easy to get along with. So maybe "the second" isn't the right word.
But you know what? No one decides in a second. We add up the Hammer pants, and the shitty vacation weekends and the "Law & Order" marathons and what do we get? The urge to spend thousands of dollars on couples therapy.
Now let's discuss part two of the sentence in question: "Instead of worrying, just move on the second you know that you can't get what you want and need."
It pretty much goes without saying that "what you want and need" evolves over time. Look, I used to think I really wanted a spontaneous, boyish, funny weirdo who has no interest in traditional notions of masculinity (um, except for a few sexual ones). Then, I grew tired of avoiding all talk of any kind of concrete future together, and I thought what I really needed was an intense, responsible, communicative adult who talked about kids and commitment and making big plans together. That was nice for a while, but I couldn't stop longing for another spontaneous, boyish, funny weirdo. Eventually, I narrowed my search to a cross between "spontaneous, boyish, funny, weird" and "intense, responsible, communicative, adult." There are maybe three of these in Southern California, but - good news! - I found one of them. So now I'm not plagued by doubts constantly. Frankly, it's bizarre.
You'll note that I didn't list "brown eyes" and "floppy hair" and "liberal" and "loves cheese with a passion." Sure, I knew a long time ago that these were my preferences, but I've dated plenty of balding, green-eyed guys. Then again, I never really go out with conservatives or people who don't love cheese with a passion. The point is, your criteria evolve slowly, through experience. That's why I tell a 20-year-old to look around for a long time, and don't just call someone your boyfriend after a few weeks of dating.
It actually bugs me that people so rarely date lots of people at once. How can you cast a wide net and find someone great, if you just keep falling into one long-term relationship after another? People tend to follow their hormones into bed, and then they're dating, and then they're "in love" because the sex is good and they see each other every weekend. Come on, honkies! Stop kidding yourselves! Talk to lots of people. Kiss lots of people. Tell them all you're just talking and kissing, no big deal. Find the person, out of the group, who you like talking to and kissing the very most. Then consider moving forward.
Naturally I've never succeeded at this, not remotely. Assuming that you won't, either, and you'll end up sleeping with whoever smells right at the time, the only thing that you can ask of yourself is that you get out if it's not everything you've ever dreamed of. In other words, if he seems really cool and funny and sort of says he loves you but doesn't act like he's absolutely head over heels, then screw it. Life is too short to spend it with people who don't adore you. I know that's pretty unrealistic, but you're the only person who can get you what you want, and the only thing that stands between you and the guy of your dreams is that other guy, the one who pees in the shower. As a wise man once said (and as I'm sure I've said before), "The right plane can't land if the wrong plane is blocking the runway." Time to clear your runways, honkies, because the right plane is circling.
See, I can tell you're doubting my words. But Mr. Aloo Matter doesn't doubt me! Mr. Knee-Deep in Mango Lassis agrees with me 100 fucking percent! So do it! Dump the ambivalent blonde meatloafist and find a hot Tamarindian with a heart of gold!
Same old advice, different day. Next!
THE ROARING TWENTIES
My Dearest Rabbit,
This email isn't really seeking advice about my current situation, but rather a comforting reply that I'm not, in fact, truly crazy.
I've recently broken up with my boyfriend of two years for numerous reasons, but the one I dole out to family and friends goes a little soemthing like, "Well he's four years older and I'm only twenty! It's the summer and I need to figure out life on my own terms without feeling guilty for every decision I make on my own."
Now, you're a smart, independent little rabbit - am I a truly terrible person for this? Mr. Boyfriend had his wild twenties, and though I'm not looking for tequila shots and new, flakey friends every night, the summer manages to coax the wild young girl in me to come out and say, "I've had enough!" For the next three months, anyway.
We've been together long enough that it was hard for Mr. Boyfriend to understand when I began, slowly but surely, to compromise and only want a little freedom. He, however, could not even understand "alone time" or even a break (to "step back and really analyze our relationship in terms for a future together"). Yeah. It's pretty much all-or-nothing with him.
Have I gone crazy and ruined a good thing? Or will you stroke my genius plan and agree that time alone could help us find our own damn opinions again?
Swingle (for now)
Ah, yes. You've taken me back to a time long, long ago, when I was 20 and had a boyfriend who my friends and family thought was the greatest guy on earth. He was cute, really nice, extremely loyal, and absolutely crazy about me. We had our whole future together planned out: We would both go to law school, become lawyers, move to Winston-Salem, NC, start having kids, and spend the rest of our lives together...
Zzzz. Zzz -- Wha... where am I? Oh! Sorry. Anyway, I fully intended on following this plan: I wanted us to be together, I thought it was sensible and wise and a good guarantee of never being alone and lonely like those sad, desperate thirty-somethings I read about in Newsweek. Plus, I thought that it was very possible that my boyfriend loved me more than any other human being ever would.
But of course, there's a difference between what your brain wants and what the rest of you can live with. So, instead of following the agenda we'd crafted together, I developed a huge crush on this guy in my Art History class because he was tall and funny and when he got drunk, he'd prattle on in a melodramatic, self-involved way. Sounds like a real catch, right? Suffice it to say there were some serious meat Chiclets involved.
Still, I was furious at myself for being obsessed with this self-obsessed drunk. I loved my boyfriend! He was the one who deserved my attention and devotion and mind-blowing lust, even though he sort of put me to sleep. I knew that if I broke up with him, I would break his heart and he'd be depressed for a long time. I hated the thought of hurting him. He was such a nice guy, and so devoted and good to me! I hated that I couldn't just stick to the plan. I even felt guilty for letting down my mom, who really liked my boyfriend. I thought I must be a really selfish, shitty person.
When I finally broke up with him, I told him that I'd be lucky if anyone ever treated me half as well or loved me half as much as he did. People have said that to me since, and of course now I know how patronizing and self-serving it sounds But I was right: I went out with lots of guys, and while most of them were really good people, only a couple loved me as much as that one boyfriend did.
But you know what, little honkette? Total devotion isn't everything. Or maybe it is, but not when you're 20. You know, once I found someone who really, really dug me again, I didn't take it for granted and didn't think that it made that person boring. The point is, I think you need lots of experiences to understand what, exactly, you want.
Yeah, I know. Same old shit. But most of all, no matter what everyone else thinks about your situation, I guarantee you'll look back and say, "Yeah, that would've really sucked, if I had stayed with him." It's obvious from the way your write about it. Getting space isn't even the point – you know that with more space, you'll like him even less. It's harsh, but it's true, and he knows it, too, at some level, or he wouldn't be so all or nothing about it.
I'd tell you it's all going to turn out the way it should, but you already feel confident about that, which is excellent. How great is it that you already trust your own instincts? And you don't mind being alone? And, look, if you fall in love soon, don't begrudge yourself that just because you have an idea that you should be swingle. It's nice to be in love when you're young, too. As long as you stay open and take in new experiences and appreciate how good you have it, then everything will feel like it's going according to plan. My only regret about the past 15 years of being single and is that I spent so much time worrying about how I would ever make it work. Instead of worrying, just move on the second you know that you can't get what you want and need. The only thing that keeps you from the right thing is staying in the wrong thing for too long. If you continue to follow your instincts and trust yourself and feel grateful for it all, you'll get whatever you want.
I could write millions of words on this subject, and one half of them would contradict the other half. Mostly, though, I just want to say believe in yourself, stand up for what you believe in (yourself), and have a great fucking time.
And then write it all down in explicit detail so I can post it here and me and other crusty old geezers like me can drool over it while we're waiting for "Jeopardy" to start.
Disgustingly old and stanky,
Sunday, May 29, 2005
THE DAILY RABBIT
While this so-called blog would more aptly be called "The Rabbit Occasional" after so very few posts this year, I'm going to remedy the situation (without remotely making up for the original injury or insult) by posting at least once a day this week, for a full week, in honor of something... The beginning of Summer, let's call it.
So send me some pleas for advice, desperate advice-seeking honkies! And no, none of the letters here are made-up. People ask me that a lot, even though they should know that the letters I get are far too clever or tweaked or disturbing for me to dream them up all by myself.
Spread the word, far and wide! Honkies, it's time to rise up and take the bad advice that is rightfully yours!