I’ve got a problem. Well, you could say I’ve got several, if you’ve been reading any of the recent entries on this blog. But I’ve got a problem I know must be in my power to fix – and it’s got less to do with having a mutilated foot and being housebound, and more to do with the awful way I've let myself love.
I’ve always been attracted to girls who withhold. And not just in the way you think. I’m talking about girls whose hearts are so closed up behind fortified walls that if we even tried for a moment to partner up, our organs would get caught and ripped up by barbed wire. Yet they always seem to go out holding the upper hand – their hearts surrounded by so many armed guards, while my heart just loses a man each year, and I end up sniveling on the ground, useless.
Among these women are the following varieties, beautiful girls who: a) are incredibly religious b) don’t really speak English c) just don’t do certain things or d) (RARE) are married.
It’s not to say I haven’t gone out with plenty of other women. It’s just that these are the only varieties I’ve ever come close to the brink of insanity over, time and again. It may account for much of the reason I am still alone.
It started in high school. I was obsessed with a girl named Alice Beekman. She was the school’s lone Mormon. She was also the school’s lone Depeche Mode and Smiths fan. She made me a Morrissey mix tape Sophomore year and I didn’t even GET it. That’s how far ahead she was. We passed notes all day long in the hall. Occasionally she would cut my hair in her basement. I worshipped her.
I loved her because she couldn’t possibly love me; certainly not the way I wanted. We could never kiss. I wasn’t even allowed to hold her hand, though I did sneak in a hand-squeeze whenever possible. Swearing was out too. She could never understand my agnosticism or my love of The Rolling Stones, and I couldn’t understand why she’d want to go on a mission around the world trying to make people convert to her religion. (I also couldn’t understand what was wrong with swearing or kissing, but kept holding out hope that my agnostic charm would wear her down.) I dreaded the ends of all our phone conversations, because she’d always press down the receiver as quickly as she could, with a “bye” that was so cold and so disinterested she may as well have been talking to her orthodontist. Maybe her parents or one of her siblings was in the room and she didn’t want to be affectionate in front of them. Maybe she just wasn’t that into me – though God knows we kept our “thing” going for quite a while. I thought I had hope of getting through – that I’d be the one to win her over to the dark side of good old secular fun. (And believe me, I too was a virgin, so it’s not like I knew what I was missing, or was any expert in the ways of fun.)
When I found out she kissed Mike Marshall, on the lips, I screamed in the street. I flopped down on my front lawn and screamed my lungs out. At one point I smashed up my room like a complete mental patient, incurring punishment after punishment from my parents.
Not something that brought out the best in me, to be sure. And for some reason this set the stage for so many of my early relationships. I kept having run-ins with religious girls who couldn’t possibly take me seriously. Catholics, Muslims, Protestants. And invariably I’d fly into a rage or descend into a deep depression when that rejection came to pass. It happened only two years ago with Samantha from Indiana, a beautiful and devout Christian who looked about seventeen. (she was 26.) This made me uncomfortable from the start. But she was gorgeous and sweet - and I must have some unconscious overwhelming desire to be accepted by the other side. I tried it out for a month or two, knew it wasn’t working and finally sought to take the initiative and beat her to the breakup. Afterward, I thought, Good. Dodged that bullet. Yes, I hurt her feelings – but it was for the good of all.
Six months later I stood facing her on the street in the dead of night, begging her to take me back - telling her I loved her. She declined.
It was the night of the 2008 presidential election. I biked to a Brooklyn bar afterward, where everyone was completely ecstatic over Obama and I felt completely destroyed over Samantha, a girl I knew I wasn't in love with. What a fool for acceptance. Acceptance from the good, the righteous, the holy, from those I don’t get or even like – from those who keep it in rather than let it out - that must be what I want.
Even the nonreligious girls I've upended my life for have had some gate around them, some gate I was determined to open. One summer I followed a married lady around like a tail. Couldn’t stop thinking about her, knowing she could never be mine. I spoke her name every night as I lay in bed. We never even touched.
I’d need four hands to count the girls who hated affection or intimacy, who were impervious to ardor, reluctant to passion - and yet who gave no thought to showing affection and ardor to other men directly in front of me.
Looking back, the amount of interruptus my life has endured is truly staggering. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been lots of uninterrputus as well – but perhaps I’m not happy unless I’m turned down.
Seems a shame because I genuinely don’t like being turned down. Plus these dramas, these battles of the heart, have taken up an unbelievable amount of time in my life. Perhaps it explains why I haven’t made inroads in the world of international celebrity or in literary circles.
I’ll be the first to admit that most things are my fault, including this unending pattern. But even I don’t like to acknowledge that I’m this self-effacing, this at war with my happiness. I was pretty sure I’d broken out of this pattern by now; sure I’d unearthed whatever psychological debris was making me want to stay on this side of the Wall of Love. But even today, I battle on – no matter how much I see it coming a mile away. I let run-of-the-mill withholding turn into outright rejection until all my organs fall apart.
I wrote a song several years ago called “The Start of My Career.” I’m thinking of it now. You can hear it here: http://www.myspace.com/elijamessongs
Tomorrow I shall think of a much better ending for this entry.