Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dear Lamar,

So much to say. You have been a phenomenal disappointment as a lover and as a friend. You know this. But you reluctantly place it on the laundry list of “Things That Are Unfortunate,” display the requisite sorrow, and carry on. This is what is frustrating. And because I know I will not convince you otherwise, I’m not going to try. Instead, I’m going to share what this has taught me about the fickle hearts of men.

M.K. is the one who got me thinking about this recently. During a deluge of discovery, she offered a passing lesson from Marriage Encounter (a form of group marriage counseling and exploration for Catholics): Love is an Act, not a Feeling. Very simple, but with profound implications. As she heard a happy couple of 50+ years explain their enduring love: “Neither of us fell out of love at the same time.”

The idea that we are going to be passionately in love every morning with the same person is an attractive proposition. I’m not so naive to think that there are many who believe this is possible. But even of those who accept that it “takes work,” most still seem to expect Love to take control and wait for it to act. M.K. was pointing out that love follows the act. When she is less-than-loving of her mate, she does something nice to reminder herself of how she truly feels.

Without knowing it, I think this is a concept I subscribe to. I’m still exploring its landscape. What I know is that those I have dated have not. Rather than acting, Lamar sat patiently waiting for his mood to sway him; for some divine intervention to smack him and say “LOVE!” or “Get out!” And just as I don’t believe that’s going to happen, it didn’t. Instead, I smacked him (figuratively), and we went for the default: Get out.

While this is a different approach to Love than the one I would opt for, neither do I fault the fickle hearted men. What I have learned, instead, is that I am not like them. Case in point: I have never broken up with someone. Even when I should I have. But with Lamar that was far from the case. Lamar was a good person, and he was good to me. Lamar was just waiting. I fault him for being complicit in that indecision, but I feel as if I can’t expect otherwise at this point.

What I’d like to expect, instead, is a bit more truth in advertising. Lamar, you see, pursued me. Lamar advertised himself as a man looking for a relationship. He would not admit this. He would simply say that he enjoyed spending time with me, and each date lead to the next. But I would argue that a man averse to being in a relationship would not allow the dates to follow. Take Ridic: He is just such a relationship-averse guy (though he’d argue the point), and as a result his ability to lead men on is decidedly short-term.

But the expectation that the BBB is going to intervene and put a warning label on these men is not the solution either. These men would not admit to being fickle, and even recognizing their track record, they would not find fault with it. The “life partner” of the post-modern professional metropolis is dead. It has been supplanted by individualism, accented by spikes of infatuation, exploration, and intimacy — a high that is intoxicating but unsustainable. As it subsides, the individualism and self-determinism returns. These men would acknowledge their life cycle and accept it.

I can’t speak to whether the punctuated highs or the sustainable buzz is better. But what I can say is that, in practice, I seem geared toward the sustainable buzz. I have stopped many pursuits before they’ve gotten out of the gate. Once I’ve found what I feel to be a connection that I can champion, I embrace it. Each horse has bucked me. If I can beat one more analogy out of this line of thought: I’m not interested in returning to the race tracks. I think I’ll go bowling.

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