Wednesday, November 26, 2008
AIN'T NO USE TO SIT AND WONDER WHY, BABE
When you are in love with someone, and you want to marry them (him, in this case, but whatever), and they want to marry you until one day when they end everything, with very little reason and later offer such reasoning as "You need someone who can take care of you" (true) and "I have darkness" (huh?), how long before you stop wanting to call this person and be with him and have his baby even though every fiber of your stupid, stupid brain understands this would be calamitous and that you almost didn't make it out the first time he broke your heart?
It's been eight months. That seems like a really long time.
Also, he's a homicide detective. Also, he's boyishly handsome. Also, he was a women's studies minor. Also, he does not know who Bob Dylan is, and I'm not shitting you. Actual line from our breakup: "You tried so hard to understand my world, and I'm so sorry. i still don't even know who Bob Dylan is." It would have been hilarious if I hadn't just vomited I was so upset.
Also I so badly want to tell you all the million reasons why he's more complicated than what I just explained, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is not, actually, more complicated. I have a feeling the details are just unusually interesting.
So tell me, smart lady: What kind of time am I in for here? And in the meantime, what can I do when I miss him? Because yo, drinking does NOT work.
I'd suggest listening to some Bob Dylan. Why don't you start with this one?
It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don't matter, anyhow
?An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
?If you don't know by now?
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
?Look out your window and I'll be gone?
You're the reason I'm travelin' on
?Don't think twice, it's all right
It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe?
That light I never knowed
?An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
?I'm on the dark side of the road?
Still I wish there was somethin' you would do or say?
To try and make me change my mind and stay
?We never did too much talkin' anyway?
So don't think twice, it's all right
As you can see, Bob Dylan wouldn't have known who Bob Dylan is, either.
Or if Bob Dylan did know who Bob Dylan was, he wouldn't care. Bob Dylan wouldn't care about Bob Dylan, even if Bob Dylan (either one of them) knew how important Bob Dylan (either one of them) was to you. Even if you laughed when you found out that he didn't know who Bob Dylan was, laughed and laughed, and then marveled for a while about what kind of an odd little Hobbit hole you'd have to be hiding in your entire life, to be ignorant to such a basic, fundamental detail of American culture. Even if you sighed and took a sip of your beer and looked at him and thought, "My god, we are so very different and it made you a little depressed, but it also made you want to kiss him, right then and there, that wouldn't change his mind.
The fundamental problem here isn't one of simplicity vs. complexity. Bob Dylan is at once very, very complex and very simple. He is a man who can look at a complicated, bewildering world and boil it all down to a few heartbreaking images and archetypes. A hard rain's gonna fall, yes it is, and why? The answer is blowin' in the wind, child. So don't worry your pretty little head over it.
He didn't want to talk about the complexity in the world, least of all with a lady friend. He wanted his lady friend to lay, lady, lay, lay across his big brass bed.
I ain't lookin' to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.
Bob Dylan (the real Bob Dylan) wanted to be friends. He wanted to hang out. Maybe make out. That didn't mean Bob Dylan wasn't complicated. Bob Dylan had darkness. But Bob Dylan recognized that many women need someone who can take care of them, at some emotional, symbolic level anyway. Bob Dylan was too smart and self-aware to think for a second that he was equipped to exert that sort of energy for a woman.
Yes, I'm guessing and extrapolating, I'm no Bob Dylan scholar. If I were, would you like me more? No, because I would never, ever waste my time writing this fucking blog. I'd be dissecting some Bob Dylan minutiae instead.
So here's the question: If your homicide detective were a Bob Dylan scholar, would you like him more? No, you like him because he's more like Bob Dylan, himself, who would never, ever have dreamed of being a Bob Dylan scholar. Not only isn't your homicide detective likely to take care of any woman or study Bob Dylan or discuss the complicated nature of the differences between you, he absolutely refuses to even investigate anything about you. You're incredibly curious about him and his world, because he's so different. Is he curious about you and your world? No. He likes your smile, enjoys the sex, thinks you're smart, can't believe he landed a babe like you. But ultimately, he can tell that he's going to disappoint you. He's not all sunshine and light, after all, but he's not interested in telling you how or why. He doesn't care what you care about, really. He's not interested.
He's not simple. He's not worthless. He might be even cooler than Bob Dylan. That's the thing. There are men who are really delectable and incredibly interesting and cool out there, artists and burger flippers and businessmen and songwriters. Admirable, honorable, sweet, interesting men. But do they want to get seriously involved with a smart, complicated, intense woman? No, no, no. They don't want that. No. They are very, very clear on the fact that they don't want that.
For your practical purposes, both Bob Dylan and Doesn't Know About Bob Dylan are completely useless after the first-flush, great-sex-on-the-big-brass-bed part, no matter how awe-inspiring and intriguing and sexy and poetic and weird they are. I say that not because I know that what you really want is to get married and churn out babies. That's not what we're talking about. I say that because for you, Bob Dylan and Who The Fuck Is Bob Dylan? should both be as inconceivable, as long-term partners, as you are to them, if not even more so.
You don't want someone who takes complicated things and makes them very simple. You can admire this trait in others, particularly when it includes writing some of the most heartbreaking songs in the history of the world or solving a hideous crime and getting a murderer off the streets. But you don't want to share your life with someone who boils things down like that. Nor do you want to be with someone who uses the word "darkness" in a simple sentence, then doesn't explain himself or go into it after that, ever. Nor do you want to be with someone who says, "Aw, you tried so hard to know me, but I hardly tried to know you at all. Oh well. Smell ya later!"
You may really love men like this, but that doesn't mean that you should be with them. Because when you are with them, you act like someone who needs a man to take care of her, whether you do or not. Men who blithely refer to their darkness, who boil things down and make them simple? They make smart, complicated, intense women curl up in little balls and weep until they're surrounded by a sea of snotty tissues.
It's not "You can do better, girlfriend!" These guys are pretty fucking delicious, let's face it. It's more a matter of whether or not you actually want to be happy, to wake up feeling good. If you do, you have to challenge yourself to look for other kinds of men. Not good men instead of bad men, simply different sorts of men.
You want to find a guy who looks at you and sees a person who's as rich and entertaining and fascinating as… well, Bob Dylan. This will require finding a man who actually knows who Bob Dylan is. Not because not knowing who Bob Dylan is is some kind of a crime against humanity. In some ways, it's sort of admirable and intriguing to be that focused and/or oblivious. It's sort of macho, in a weird way, to be unaware of someone that fundamental.
But your guy knows who Bob Dylan is, because your guy heard "Shelter from the Storm" once on a rainy night when he was a little drunk at a lonely party in Soho, and he was feeling a little out of place among the very tall women in long black leather coats, and even though he'd heard that song before a few times, that night he thought, "Christ this really is some of the best music ever written."
Your guy will be able to tell you that. Or maybe he won't say it exactly that way, on the spot, over a beer, but he'll write it to you in an email one day when he doesn't feel like working.
And you'll respond with your own Bob Dylan story, about the guy you knew in college who sang Bob Dylan songs so badly while playing his shitty Ovation guitar that it ruined Bob Dylan for you for a long time. You were sort of indifferent to Bob Dylan, in fact, until this one time after a particularly bad break up, when you finally starting feeling decent enough to leave your apartment, and you found a marked-down copy of "Blood on the Tracks" and bought it on a whim and took it home and you cried through half of the songs on the album and thought, "Fuck, it really is a pity, not to know who Bob Dylan is."
Your guy will think this is a seriously nice story, and he'll say so.
Now you just have to believe that he exists. And you have to believe that he might not look as delectable to you at first as, say, someone who maybe looks like he has something better to do somewhere, he's not sure yet. Your guy might not have the same swagger that you'd find in a guy who'd ever say, "It ain't me, babe."
In fact, your guy will probably turn his whole body toward you when he meets you, and he'll look right at you, and you'll think, "I don't like it when men turn and face me and look me right in the eye and invade my personal space. This guy is nice but he's a little bit too much, he's just not doing it for me."
And then, instead of trying to charm the pants off your guy, you'll tell him that you were sick last week so your head is still filled with snot. The stakes will be low, after all, since you don't like him. You'll tell him a bunch of stuff, and he'll listen closely, and then he'll actually make you laugh, and you'll notice that he's actually sort of hot, very hot in fact and how didn't you notice before how hot he was?
A week later, you'll think he's sort of a ween.
A week later, you'll be in love.
A week later, you'll miss the homicide detective.
A year later, you and your guy will be listening to Bob Dylan on the couch drinking red wine and talking about moving to Chicago together because your guy just landed a faculty position at Northwestern, and you'll be laughing at the ridiculous line-up of jackasses you dated, before you met your guy.
It's not like that's the important part, though. The really important part comes now. Stop charming the shit out of men, and start showing them exactly who you are, from the start. Be honest. Use harsh terms to describe yourself, if you must. Don’t sleep with anyone who doesn't understand that all women can be difficult, all women need hand-holding at times, all women can seem needy here and there. Seeming needy occasionally doesn't brand you as the sort of woman who needs someone who can take care of her. When someone describes you that way, start saying, "So I'm the sort of woman who wants to be taken care of sometimes… let's see, you mean I'm the sort of woman who's actually a woman, not a man dressed up as a woman? You mean I'm the sort of woman who you've known for more than two weeks?"
And by the way, when you meet your guy? You won't feel like the sort of woman who needs someone who can take care of her anymore. You'll feel perfectly independent and confident and happy, and your guy will never describe you that way, in fact he'll marvel that anyone ever has described you that way at all.
Don't sleep with anyone who doesn't explain himself very clearly, using words. Don’t sleep with Bob Dylan or anyone who doesn't know who Bob Dylan is. That's not your match. Stop courting differences by showing off your smile and your jokes and your flair. Stop acting like someone who's fun, fun, fun.
Take yourself seriously. Walk outside and demand that the world see you as you are. Don't pretend. Don't hide. Don't act cheerful when you're not (unless you're at work, in which case, do). Don't act easier-going than you are. You'll be amazed at how relaxed you feel, leading with the truth, showing off your flaws instead of your strengths. Flaws are just as interesting as strengths, and anyone who doesn't see that isn't your kind of person.
And let's see, what else? Houses will be even cheaper soon. Buy one. Find a way. Get a really nice rescue dog, and a king-sized bed, and let the dog sleep on the bed with you. Paint at least one room a very, very obnoxious color.
Don't sleep with anyone. Learn to make pie from scratch. Listen to Sufjan Stevens "For The Widows in Paradise" or "Casimir Pulaski Day" and cry a lot.
You'll have a nice life, and Who The Fuck Is Bob Dylan? will just be a punchline. You'll be glad for that punchline, though, and for all of the punchlines you accumulated in the era you'll later refer to as The Dark Ages – a period that's about to shift into the Age of Enlightenment. Because that's what happens when you fall to pieces in a really dramatic way: You have a huge opportunity to rebuild everything, change your perspective, and be happier than you've ever been.
There's nothing wrong with feeling terrible, really, when you consider how good you're going to feel down the road. Just keep believing that you won't settle for anything less than someone who looks you right in the eye and wants to know more. If you believe that, if you make a promise to yourself not to settle for less than that, you'll feel good about yourself, you'll feel good in the world. You will create your own weird, flawed, happy life out of this rubble. You've already started to do it.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I wrote an Open Apology to Boomers Everywhere for Salon on Wednesday, then I walked around the rest of the day with a skip in my step that hasn't worn off yet. If it's naive to think that an American president can make a huge difference in the world, I don't care. I want to feel this way for as long as I can. Obviously the man will make mistakes along the way. But god, it feels so good to believe that he'll collect information and get a second and third opinion and be as honest as possible and above all, do his very best. I think it's possible to sense that about him, and that's one reason why he's been so popular.
Not that creepy losers aren't often popular, but let's not think about them now. Right now I prefer to see the world as populated primarily by smart people and loving mothers and adorable puppy dogs. After so many years of gloom about the state of things, I'm going to bask in this feeling of belief and optimism for as long as I can.
Too bad I can't just go ahead and love Jesus while I'm at it. Oh Jesus, I would if I could, I swear. Too many years of kneeling in that big old drafty Catholic church just killed it for me.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008