Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bouquet of Clumsy Words

Dignity. Pride. Self-esteem. Self-respect.

If you look up the definition of any of these words, the other three will somewhere appear on the page.

For example:

a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect. 
a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect. 
proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one's character. 
Also, if you were to perform a Google search with both the words pride and dignity, even without saying anything about relationships, you'll get results about relationships. People asking if they should "swallow their pride" in relationships, how they can regain their pride and dignity, and other things of that sort.

From the very beginning of our lives, we're taught the importance of these qualities. If we don't respect ourselves, how will anybody else respect us? is the primary question that girls get, most often regarding sex and why we shouldn't have it, but the question, of course, encompasses more. We're taught that we shouldn't lose ourselves for our significant other (what that exactly means, I'm not sure), that we should know our worth and not let people treat us lower than whatever that is (I'm not exactly sure of this one, either. How do we determine our worth? Is it like, I'm worth seventeen dinners and a lunch? Undivided attention every minute of every day? One text for every fifteen I send?). We're taught that above everything else, these things are most important.

It shouldn't shock you that I'm here to disagree. 

I think all the time about this one scene from My Best Friend's Wedding when Julia starts a fight between Michael and Kimmy. Kimmy says something to Michael about his job, Michael gets angry and starts to accuse Kimmy of not being accepting of what he does for a living, and Kimmy, instead of getting defensive and saying that that wasn't what she meant at all (because it wasn't), freaks out and starts crying and says it's all her fault, that she was the one who was wrong, and begs Michael to forgive her. Since I haven't seen the movie in years and can't find this clip on YouTube, I'm paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea. Kimmy, instead of trying to maintain dignity or pride, completely gives in to Michael. And that, to me, is perfect.

Sure, I think dignity and pride and self-respect and self-esteem are important, but I think being with the person you love or care about and making that person feel happy and loved are more important. I hate the expression don't cut off your nose to spite your face, but in this case, it's the most apropos. Why would I intentionally not do something that I know in the end could make me feel better? To make a person think that I don't care in order to seem stronger than I really am? To act like I'm something I'm not because it's what all the books and experts and parents and people say I should be? To establish who has the power in a relationship? Call me devoid of dignity and pride and self-respect and self-esteem, but I don't want the power in a relationship. I just want to be happy.
The best revenge is living well.  Here's another one we hear all the time. But is revenge really what people should aspire to achieve? I mean, look at what it actually means:

the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.
Is this really what we're supposed to want?
Because if it is, boy am I far off from where I'm supposed to be.

In fact, right now I'm right about here:

the act or fact of fulfilling one's ambitions, desires, etc., through one's own efforts.
And I can't imagine another place I would ever want to be. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Are You So Scared Of?

While I was talking to my lunch people today at lunch, the subject of open marriage came up. When I mentioned that five years ago I briefly kinda sorta had one, my lunch people had what I could only describe as a minor freakout. What?! What!? Shocked laughter ensued. What?! You don't seem that wild! the fortyish guy said. In the next few minutes, which was only a few minutes because the bell rang and that was all we had, among other things, the man said he wasn't that modern and then added that he could understand having an affair but no way could he understand having an open marriage.


Am I the only one who sees something wrong there?

This man is so conditioned by societal norms and so comfortable with the notion of dishonesty that he thinks it's better to lie to a significant other than be in a relationship that allows for seeing other people. And he thinks that line of thinking is fine, as undoubtedly would the majority of people faced with the same two options.

Now, I'm not saying an open marriage, or relationship, is for everyone. It certainly didn't work for me. What I am saying, though, is that if two adults decide that the best thing for them and their relationship is to not be exclusive, that's perfectly fine. It doesn't mean that they're "wild," having sex with everyone they meet. It might not even mean that they're particularly into sex at all. It just means what works for them is different from what works for the majority.

Really, though, it doesn't matter what it means. I'm not here to argue the merits of an open relationship. I'm here to express my dismay over the idea that having an affair is fine and dandy--okay, maybe he didn't exactly say fine and dandy, but he did say he understands doing that way before having an open marriage--but people deciding to see other people is not. I'm here to express my disquiet over the judgment and ideas these people had both toward and about me as soon as I mentioned the words open marriage.

I guess what I'm actually here to do is say that society, with its rules and its judgment and its stay-in-the-lines attitude, absolutely, positively, totally

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Always Doesn't Last Forever

One of my favorite things about being a server was being touched. When you're a server and you're in the wait station and you're crazy busy, there isn't always time for excuse me. There's the hand on your back as someone reaches over your head to grab a straw, the fingers on your shoulder as someone reaches past you to grab a lemon, the occasional hand on your waist as you're moved ever so slightly out of the way so someone could grab a pile of share plates. Some people can't stand other people's hands on them, but I've always loved it, and when the hands are taken away, it's always felt like something is missing.

When I was in high school, my high school boyfriend, Louie, had a specific way of hugging me. Instead of a regular hug where he'd put his arms around me and I'd put my arms around him right back, I would hold my arms up in front of me, crossed into an X, right fist to left shoulder, and left fist to right. He'd then encircle what seemed like my entire body with his arms (it wasn't too hard since he was 6'2" and I was barely 5'), and there we would stand, my head to his big, wide chest, until I felt ready for him to let me go. I used to tell him that was my favorite way to hug because it was the only way he could hug all of me.

The last time Glenn and I were separated, when I was feeling particularly lonely in the middle of one night and couldn't stand to be alone in my bed for another second, I went downstairs to the family room where he was sleeping on the couch and lay down next to him. Since he was lying on his side, facing the room, and since we not only have a pretty wide couch but also an ottoman that butts up against it, space wasn't an issue. What the real issue was, of course, was that I had no business getting "in bed" with an estranged husband who for months I'd had nothing but negative communication and interaction with, but what I have no business doing and what I do are often different stories, so onto the couch I got. I crawled across the ottoman, turned around, and positioned myself right into the crook of his body. I don't know what I expected, but I know what I hoped, and that's that Glenn's arm would wrap around me or he'd pull me closer by my hip or his hand would settle on my arm. I hoped for any kind of acknowledgment at all. After about ten minutes of not getting any, I crawled back across the ottoman and left, even lonelier than before.

Now that I'm once again sleeping alone, whether it be physically or mentally, sleep isn't easy. I just don't do well with too much space.

I don't know why I've always wanted to be cradled, to be touched, or for "all of me" to be held, but I'm guessing having a mother who didn't even bother to call me when I found a lump in my breast substantial enough for my doctor not just to send me to get a mammogram and ultrasound but also to see a breast specialist probably has more than a little to do with it.

But this isn't a mom blog. 

It's not a feel-sorry-for-myself blog, either.

It's just a blog blog, like all the others.


A few days after the get-onto-the-couch incident with Glenn, I was telling a friend about what I had done. God, Kelly, you make yourself so vulnerable, she said, shaking her head. How sorry she felt for me--how pitifully she regarded me--was amazingly clear.

My stock reply when somebody tells me I changed my hair came to mind:


I don't know any other way to be.

But that's okay because I honestly don't think I'd want one.

This same friend told me once that when her cat dies, she'll never get another pet. She'd already experienced so much loss in her life, she said, that any loss she could prevent, she would. Why get a cat if one day it's no longer going to be here?

I may make myself vulnerable--incredibly, stupidly, embarrassingly, heart wrenchingly vulnerable--but I don't think I'm the one who needs to be felt sorry for.