“I hate barbecues!” I screamed to my friend the other day.
She was offering me some perfectly lovely options of parties that might be fun to check out during the long holiday weekend, and my unreasonable reaction (what kind of monster "hates" barbecues?) came from an almost comically displaced anger at my ex.
My ex liked grilling.
I do not care about grilling, I told my friend. I do not care about getting some onions and red peppers and burgers and throwing them on the grill and really getting a good grill on. I do not want, I said. I got my grill on enough to last a lifetime with my ex-husband, I told her.
I’d rather see a movie. I’d rather go on a bike ride. I'd rather set myself on fire.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what I was really saying was something else entirely. What I meant was, “I don’t want a sort of happy but mostly toxic domestic partnership. I do not want that. Ever again."
Except -- why not? Wouldn't I be happier to have a life filled with couples barbecues again? I mean, we all want someone, don't we? Even if it's an imperfect relationship?
I think about this a lot. A largely flawed partnership is still great in so many ways. Why not find a lovely man who will bring that societally accepted domestic agenda out more in my life rather than all the sharpness, the pointedness, the alienating-ness that makes up more of my world right now. Well, because I like all that sharpness. I'm kind of afraid of ever losing it again. I lost it once before, and it took a while to get back. The sharpness was my sense of self, my not caring what others think of me.
Maybe now my not caring is stronger than it's ever been. Maybe this is not necessarily a bad thing.
I told one man that I met on Match recently, “Every woman is deciding on a date immediately whether or not she wants to sleep with you, date you or marry you — and it’s driving her every behavior.”
For him, I didn’t think that I wanted any of those things, which is why I said all that.
I've stopped pretending, I suppose. And it's fascinating to me how desperate I used to be to find partnership anywhere I could, even when the chemistry and compatibility necessary for any kind of future relationship was fairly nonexistent to begin with.
There was this one man, he looked a bit like Mark Sanchez if you were blurry-eyed and seeing him through only a pure lens of lust, and I saw him again recently without several drinks in me, and no. It was just: no. Of course he is a fine, lovely guy -- but not for me. And to think that my initial projection of maybe-I-could-be-with-this-guy-and-we-could-go-to-barbecues-together-fantasy-land, I couldn't see any of this incompatibility. All I could see was, "Oh, I could make this work. Probably. Why not, right?"
I have to be brutally honest and see though these illusions. I told another man recently why I am so careful to avoid falling for these traps anymore. He didn’t understand, and I said, “What’s the longest relationship you’ve ever been in?” He said, “Two years,” and I said, “Well imagine 10."
I was trying to say: When you’ve been there, when you've had a very serious and long-term relationship, and when you’ve had the total giving-over that occurs in one of those situations where you forget what you like and what you like for the sake of your partner, sometimes it’s important to assess your own prerogative and power first -- before you ever give it over to anyone else again.
I tried to explain all this to my friend, and she couldn't help but laugh at my hour-long answer to what was a fairly simple "yes" or "no" question.
"So... you don't want to go to a barbecue," she summed all of this up rather neatly. "Then what do you want to do?"
"Whatever the hell we feel like doing," I told her, and we did exactly that.
Now, while I do think it would be hilarious to end this by soliciting your best grilling recipe right now, instead I will ask: Do you have any ridiculous triggers like grilling appears to be for me? Did you in fact barbecue this weekend? And be honest: Would you rather be in a relationship that was toxic but had its moments -- over being alone?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.