Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comfort or safety or some other impossible dream

Derek keeps saying I'm a different person, I'm a different person, but really he's not and I mean that in both senses. He's not literally a different person, and I'm sure he would agree with that. I mean he's the same person who made bad decisions three or four our five or six years ago and those decisions still affect me now and I want accountability. I don't think that's too much to ask. But also he's not a different person, because he still can't deal with my critique, I thought it was the alcoholism and the pathological lying and the psych meds that made him so sensitive, that made him nihilistic but now he's in a much better place, more aware of himself and his feelings and the way he interacts with the world and he still can't deal. I mean he can deal with some things better, but not my critique. Not my feelings, I guess.

It's ironic, because Derek has asked me several times to talk about things without processing them on my own so much, but now I feel like he's asking me to process things even more -- if he can't deal with listening to me for a half hour, a half hour, is a half hour really so much? So then he wants me to cram everything into five minutes or five sentences and that's even more work to do. In our conversation I kept thinking of what I wanted to say, and then saying what I thought he could hear. I hate that pattern and I don't think it's fair. I mean I think I'm right about what he could hear, I could gauge it in his face when he suddenly started to get enraged and then I backed off and said something else but I don't think that fear is a useful place for getting anywhere.

One of the questions I haven't gotten a chance to ask Derek is about his investment in masculinity. When we met I felt like we were in a similar place: masculinity in faggots disgusted us, it was something to rid ourselves of at all costs. But Derek has always embodied many aspects of the same masculinity we abhorred -- he reminded me that, even 16 years ago, I couldn't deal with being around him when he was drinking because he would turn into a stupid macho asshole. I think what was different was that I always felt he was challenging it too, I mean when he wasn't drinking. Now I'm not so sure.

I mean, there's a beauty to Derek's masculinity too, the way he creates shelter for so many flaming creatures, including himself. I guess we did talk about it a year or so ago -- now I'm self-conscious that he'll say we already talked about that, right? And he doesn't want to talk about anything that we've already talked about, I mean unless he wants to say those are your issues or you're dumping on me or some other misplaced regurgitated recovery speech -- but that's not processing, okay -- processing is the enemy. Oh, how I miss processing! But anyway, I noticed after that (processing) conversation about masculinity that Derek started trying harder not to get so enraged. Sometimes it even works, other times it stays right under the surface so it's almost the same thing. But he's never brought it up with me -- I guess I feel like I always ask these questions, and then Derek thinks about them and does take me into account while he's doing that thinking, but it never comes up again directly unless I bring it up.. And that feels like a masculinist pattern -- he'll do his work on his own, thank you, and if the woman says something she's an ungrateful bitch -- can't she see all his hard work?

Somewhere maybe five six seven years ago I think Derek settled into his masculinity and now he doesn't challenge it in the same ways. I mean, if I tease him by talking about how he's butch or manly then he looks offended, but of course he also gets a lot of positive attention in the world of the gay gaze for that exact masculinity. When I met him he was queenier -- he painted his nails and dyed his hair and pranced a bit more, but I can't say that I wasn't also attracted to him because of his masculine rage, rage directed at the world but still embodying that existential crisis fist-through-a-window mentality: even when the rage was directed internally, carrying a different blow. Back then maybe I shared more similarities -- I routinely hurled pint glasses down air shafts, never thinking that I might scare someone with my own attempts at a nonviolent solution to disempowerment. Once I even threw something across the room during an angry conversation with my first boyfriend; it took me a while to realize that even if I didn't throw it in his direction, that was a scary act.

Now I'm scared of that type of rage, I mean I've always been scared of it in people I love, so scared that I don't even go near most people who embody it, in spite of the fact that my sexual desires often swing my head in that direction. When Derek gets enraged, I can't meet him there without feeling like I've left my body, I've given up, and that just makes me hopeless so instead I turn into a little kid, silent and desperate with the need for comfort or safety or some other impossible dream.

2 comments:

Daisy said...

One reason the Christian "masculine" movement has been so popular here in the south (Promise Keepers, et al) is because the emphasis is on KEEPING masculinity but transforming it away from violence and aggression. It is impossible for some guys to give up masculinity completely, but they do seem to be able to channel it into this churchly incarnation, "what would Jesus do?" and all like that.
The problem is that it leaves the GUY (or the most guy-acting person in any situation) in charge of the interaction, the emotional exchange. He decides how much, and of what gets shared, decided, processed, etc.

That is what I hear you saying too.

A good rule of thumb for alcoholism is: how old were they when they started? Then they are still at that emotional age. Example: I started at 12, quit at 24. So, at age 24, I was really 12.

Now, after 26 years of not-drinking (I hesitate to say "sobriety"!)-- I am 38 years old emotionally, even though I will be 51 in 3 weeks.

Do the math, you might be dealing with someone very, very young, emotionally speaking.

(((hugs for my mattilda)))

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Daisy, what great insight --

"The problem is that it leaves the GUY (or the most guy-acting person in any situation) in charge of the interaction, the emotional exchange. He decides how much, and of what gets shared, decided, processed, etc."

That makes so so much sense!

I do feel like Derek is incredibly mature and insightful and caring and giving about so many things, but that's also an interesting point about, so I hesitate to do the math on that one.

And thank you thank you thank you for the hugs!

Love --
mattilda