gall and gumption

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How To Do It

L: He expected every woman he met to luhve him.

K: Well, you did, for about 45 minutes. And it was an agonizing 45 minutes. But then you spent some time with him, and you got the picture right away, and that put an end to that, but you still enjoyed yourself, and now you’re laughing at it. So I think you came out ahead.

Well, I confess I had high hopes when I encouraged L. to make the call. Wait, no, I didn't have what I'd call high hopes then, but I did have hopes. Then when he called her back I did have high hopes. And when he told her, "You must have been reading my mind," gosh! I fell for that line and it wasn't even my date!

This is the crazy part, no, I mean, this is one of the crazy parts. When L. decided, with her friends' encouragement, to call this guy, she had to overcome the fear of the sting of rejection. That is always how the thing looks to you before you call. You don't think that the problem will actually turn out to be that the object of your crush will turn out to be -- well, to put it kindly, a mechanic's special.

No, we always imagine that he’s the combination of Mr. Darcy, Alexander Pushkin, Pete Postlethwaite, and Morgan Freeman, and he’s going to reject us as soon as he finds out we like him. He’s going to reject us because we like him. Just like in high school, you know.

So my latest theory of the crush is that about 30 percent of it is fear of rejection; another 40 percent is actual liking, and the last 30 percent is having not the least idea what to do about it. (Individual mileage may vary.)

I’ve always been susceptible to crushes. I wonder if some people are more so than others.
In my case it happens like someone flipping a switch somewhere. As Screamin’ Jay Hawkins says it,

I was walking along, mindin’ my business,
When love came and looked me in the eye;
Crash! Blam! Allakoozam!
Out of an orange-colored sky!

(Yeah Nat King Cole sang it first but you never feel the same way about the song after you hear Screamin' Jay.)

My earliest crush dates back to when I was about eight years old. The silent unrequited yearning, the daydreams, the small encounters that would be insignificant with anyone else suddenly laden with possible but not quite accessible meaning and in need of tireless interpretation. The little things the crushee can do (smile, talk for five minutes) that set you mad with giddiness for a couple of hours. Somewhere in storage is my old high school diary, one long run of such agonies and ecstasies. In high school I never got past the politenesses, the being asked to dance etc., but I certainly got maximum emotional mileage out of those small things. I mean, I would take complicated routes around the school grounds just to meet whoever the latest was and exchange a nod of the head and a smile, and feel as if I really had something. When I was very young I could make a very little bit of reality go a long way in my inner life.

I remember one in high school that caused me no end of trouble for a couple of years. I had just started my senior year at a high school in the U.S. Virgin Islands, freshly arrived from boarding school in England. And this boy, a classmate, ran up to a pull-up bar and swung himself over it and I was gone, done. I just carried this thing around for two years. I took it away to college with me, where after a couple of months it went dormant, and then as soon as I landed home for summer vacations it was back again. It survived through other relationships – well, to be honest it made other relationships impossible sooner or later – and it only ended when I knew I’d never see him again. That particular crush was heavily loaded with lust, I must say.

Not all of them were lustful. I think I had a crush on Jamie, but I certainly never wanted to go to bed with him. It was a crush nonetheless, the feeling of life being more interesting and more alive whenever he was around, the wish to tell him everything, the wish to have his take on everything, the delight in his presence. Jamie’s spirits could pull me up out of anything, not because he gave me particular attention (though he did) but by the simple force of his energy, intelligence, and blunt truthfulness. Everything he did was interesting to me. It was a crush because I thought anybody who didn’t appreciate Jamie was The Less Fortunate.

I had one crush that grew quietly and slowly over the course of a long friendship. And when we finally did become a couple (we were together for seven years after that) it took me a few years to realize that I hadn’t really known at all who this person was. Actually I realized it pretty early on, but I couldn’t acknowledge it to myself for, like I said, years, and it was years before I made my escape.

Increased self-awareness may increase the possibilities for amusement.The last time, I felt it happening and there was nothing I could do; I met the man, he was talking I could hear my brain packing its suitcase and sneaking out the back door.

Anyway, with all these crushes you’d think I’d have some idea about what one is supposed to do with men. I haven’t the foggiest. I know less than I did when I was 15. I know less than I did a year ago. I know less than I did last week. I don’t mind not knowing, Not knowing feels real, at least. But sometimes I suspect that what I’m experiencing is not Socratic wisdom, just cluelessness.


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