Saturday, December 16, 2006

Relationship challenged

When I am confused, I go to ground. I may call the kind of friend who doesn't mind me sobbing snottily into the phone and blubbering the awful admission that I am a disasterous mess on several major counts. Or the kind of friend who, if I start the litany of self-abuse, goes me one or two slags better until, by the end of the call, we have declared me to be worthless dirt - but hysterically funny dirt. Mostly though, I pace from room to room, waiting for clarity. Clarity, like my muse, usually doesn't know what day it is.

Theoretically, I am a grown woman. There are people, here and there who may have time to time thought I possessed some small wisdom. Occasionally, while in the grips of dangerous attacks of ego, I might even lay claim to that sort of virtue.

Clarity suddenly remembers what day it is and visits immediately when that happens.

And there is no area in my life more muddled, less wise or more confusing than the area of relationships with men.

Recently, I tried an internet dating site. The object of my affection being, as usual, a mostly unavailable man, I thought it would be wise to try to move on. It did not deter me that my feelings were entirely unchanged for this man and that I had, really, no interest in seeing anyone else. My large left brain began talking down my right brain. Look here, it reasoned (for that is what it does) do you really want to face years more of being alone this much? Would you not like to have an actual date now and then? Actually spend Christmas with a man? My right brain is easily intimidated, and even though it's trying to stand up to the logic monster, it can't do anything better than But...but...I like this man. And the left brain groans in disgust.

I write an honest ad. My banner line? "I'm not her." (The right brain is sneaky like that. It will do what it's told, but it's passive-aggressive.) I try a little harder in the body of the ad. Very little.

Yet, people answer me. Desperate widowers, nice men who would like to have sex or a wife or any combination of those, 22 year olds who suggest that we could have sex once and then be friends. Angry men write. Misogynists write. Most of them write badly. Few of them can spell.

Worst of all, a nice, intelligent, interesting man writes - and I write back. I am drawn into hours of genuinely engaging conversation and end up making a date for just before Christmas.

I tell my current love-interest and he is heroically selfless about the whole thing. He thinks that maybe he should step out of my life and out of my way. He thinks that if he doesn't, I'll never really try, never really make the effort and that I deserve more.

And then it occurs to me. I never tried with him. It hasn't been smooth or painless, but it has been effortless. You can't try to make an attraction anymore than you can try to like a song that has one jarring note.

And even if my friend decides to be honorable, to leave so that I can find the "more" he is sure is out there for me, relationship is not something you can pick up during a stroll down some internet shopping aisle.

Better alone than trying, Clarity says. And much as I wish she'd get her feet off the coffee table and stop feeling so entirely, obnoxiously at home here, I know she's right.