Sunday, February 04, 2007

Growing old gracelessly

On Tuesday, I am interupted by a student. He asks his question and I answer, distractedly. He hovers and I look up. "How long has it been," he wants to know, "since you cut your hair?"
"Last week. Actually."
"I like how long it is," he blurts, "and how you always wear those clothes that...float."
I am wearing a tailored jacket at the time. I'm a little stunned by the comment. He is so terribly earnest and self-conscious and probably all of 22 or 23 years old. I'd never noticed that he even looked at me.

Now, it would seem a man only ten years older than that is courting me. At least, he is pursuing the "me" whose photographs he's seen. The "me" who is a voice on the phone and words in email. I begin by thinking we might be friends.
What is puzzling is that the more straight-forward I am, the less he goes away. "I am my age," I say, "I have the imperfections that go with it."
"Doesn't matter," he replies.
"I'm not rushing into anything," I tell him, "so the question is: how much of a hurry are you in?" Usually this throws men off in less time than it takes to finish the sentence.
"No hurry at all."

I tell him about the relationship I'm in. The bare bones facts. That if I take up with someone, this other person, who is very important and dear to me, will step back, out of my life. "I think you've made your position clear," he says. He says it calmly and evenly.

I send an email. "If there is chemistry in person, and that is if..." He replies, "that's not even a question."

He's so calm that it makes me feel a little frantic. I'm holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He's creative, even makes a living being creative. He seems too stable to believe...loves his family, his dog. No temper, he claims. He's attractive. No, he's really attractive. He's a loner but not so much that he can't function in a spotlight - which is his job.
Like me, he doesn't want a live-in arrangement and equally doesn't want superficial relationship.

I do a chart comparison. There it is again. "This is an unusual relationship and it will not survive being forced into a conventional shape." Some stuff about the depth of impact, the potential for changing both people. Do I ever get a comparison that says, "You will get along beautifully. This will be peaceful and harmonious?" No. I don't.

In the old days, women used to finish their lives in nunneries, in "severe contemplation." I wonder when it is going to occur to me that this might be a good idea. I wonder if this is a train wreck waiting to happen.