To celebrate this year’s Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day for some), I’ve got a few guest posts for you. This one comes from MacKenzie Reed, an excellent musician and writer. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy!
My own history of almost is marked by intense romantic encounters with males who quickly and inexplicably disappeared, so any opportunity to air my grievances is a welcome one. The biggest question on my mind is how to live with a nearly constant feeling of interruptus whenever premature death so frequently mars promising romantic encounters.
There was the composition student in grad school who invited me to his dorm room after a concert where we stayed up all night listening to dark, ambient music and discussing whether art music was continuing to develop or whether, like disco and thrash metal, it had died. Just three days later, he would be pacing in nervous expectation when I was running late to go out to dinner with him. He would hug or kiss me, even in mid-sentence, and couldn’t stop smiling when I sat down next to him in class.
There was the professional clown and stuntman from New Jersey who would play word games with me for hours on end and excitedly showed my picture to his best friend before we had even met. I had made him a silly jar that referenced one of our earliest conversations (a long-running joke about how to use a jar as a motivational tool) and he had kept it in a place of honor in his apartment.
There was the law student who, anachronistically, called me nearly every day. He held my hand throughout most of our first date and told me how beautiful I looked.
The pianist who was a good friend until he surprised me with a kiss after a concert we attended together.
The guitarist who showed up unexpectedly at one of my shows and gently touched my hair while he asked me out.
The computer programmer who chased me for months.
The actor who nearly tripped over someone because he was gazing in my eyes.
The tall, funny guy at the bar. The animator. The guy who helped me when I had car trouble.
All of them initiated contact – they chased, they nervously tripped over their words, they smiled when they saw me approach, they listened intently, they reached for my hand as they spoke of the future.
All disappeared, typically after a particularly positive encounter. Some went so far as to issue words of malice when confronted with my gentle, confused pleas for an explanation (the composer said he “didn’t have time for this shit” and the Jersey Clown called me an “it” and a “waste of time”). I felt like a child who had been enticed with ice cream and then abruptly slapped in the face after reaching for it.
Well-meaning friends offered a checklist of possible bad behaviors of mine that could have repelled them so suddenly (“Well, did you make him feel like you liked him back? Or maybe you were too enthusiastic. Sometimes that’s a turn off.”) I, of course, racked my brain during countless sleepless nights, especially after the intense courtship-flight pattern began to emerge like streaks on a windshield.
What is wrong with me? Why won’t anyone stay?
Of course, I am not alone. A simple google search reveals countless people – women, in particular – who ask the world what is wrong with them since there must be something wrong with them for a guy to be so enamoured one moment and then so repulsed the next.
I don’t know the answer. No one does. That is the crux of the problem between women and men: few are capable of accurately reporting their internal experiences, and fewer still are willing to share them.
Perhaps the composer returned to his room after spending time with me and then, after wrestling with his own demons all night, realized that he was simply too fearful to be emotionally intimate with me. It is just as likely that, instead, he was distracted by a squirrel outside his window and then – blip! – forgot I existed.
I am reminded of the South Park episode where the woodshop teacher, Mr. Adler, is steeped in grief over the tragic (and twistedly hilarious) death of his fiancée. Throughout the episode, he bemoans the fact that he never got to say goodbye. Finally, she supernaturally visits him in order to give him that chance. When she asked him if he felt better, he said, “No!”
And that’s the truth. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether he forgot about you because of his deepest, darkest fears, the perfume you were wearing, or a rodent. The fact that he would allow anything to prevent him from continuing to pursue you – even after courting you with such (apparent) ardour – is devastating.
And so we grieve.
Coping with a life story that is littered with false promises and abandonment isn’t easy, and I certainly haven’t mastered it yet. Even now, I am getting over the abrupt and unannounced departure of a 35-year-old former music producer who I thought I might actually marry. A large part of my coping process has been to exorcise all of the things I had hoped for – and wanted to say – through musical compositions, writings, and sardonic facebook posts that sometimes lead my loving friends to question my sanity. I recently joked that, if someone wanted to actually make a person disappear, all they had to do was to have them date me. Some people (guys in particular) seem to be uncomfortable with this newfound, darkly self-deprecating sense of humor of mine, but laughing at my misfortune is preferable to being paralyzed by it.
Much of the way that I date has changed. I no longer draw linear conclusions on how a guy will behave in the future based on how he behaved in the past. I savor the interaction in the moment and then hold no expectations for the future. He must prove to me that he is made of more resilient stuff with consistent follow-through. Now, the loving gazes and hand-clasping no longer hold the weight they used to. This is a good start, I think, but let’s see what you do tomorrow. And the day after that. And six months from now. And ten years after that.
I don’t believe it’s unfair to expect a guy to prove his affection for you consistently and over time, especially since his gender is sadly characterized by rampant emotional underdevelopment. Doing what he says and saying what he means is, after all, what separates a boy from a man.
Of course, not all of the males I like disappear. The other ones admit no romantic attraction to me, although their friendship is the kind I cherish most because they had enough strength of character to be honest with me.
Will I ever meet someone who sticks around? Probably not. And I am slowly becoming more okay with that. The males I like may find me undesirable, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not an awesome, well-developed person. There is so much in my life that brings me joy – music, friends, the pursuit of lofty aspirations of joining the circus – and that’s plenty to be thankful for.