Monday, May 31, 2010

Love and Disgust-- A Variation on Love and War.

Awhile ago, I was sitting in my Women in 20th Century Fiction class in Florence while we discussed the disgust of Penelope's emotions for Odysseus in Louise Gluck' and Margaret Atwood's re-tellings of the Odyssey. (Links to said works are under the author's names above if you're interested.) I was minding my own business, just sitting there and listening, probably doodling in the margins of my notebook as I am apt to do to pass time, when the thought hit me like a ton of unequivocal bricks-- "I don't want to end up despising you like Penelope despised Odysseus."

Women are, by nature and design, fickle creatures. We're hormonal and moody and we expect all together too much from life (see "Committmentstein: A Monster of Our Own Making" for proof of this). But whoever said, "All's fair in love and war," was obviously not a woman.

True, love and hate are inevitably intertwined emotions, but in every relationship, there comes a time where it's more one than the other. The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who has been in a serious, committed relationship for the past year. "It's fine," she said. "It's business as usual. But that's the problem. The romance is gone and I'm starting to get disenchanted."

Disenchanted, disgusted, despised, dismayed, disappointed--doomed-- all "D" words that cane describe the complex flow of emotions in a woman from the starting point of "You're my favorite person on Earth" to "What the fuck has happened to you?"

Coming back home was nerve-wracking. It's not a fun place to be in. I'm passive-aggressive by nature, though I hate fighting, but can't keep my mouth shut when it comes to expressing my displeasure. This may seem like a good thing, but when all that comes out lately is nagging, even I start to get sick of hearing it. What changed? Why can't you just follow through with things? As someone who has never really tried to make a solid go at things, I know this is a massive case of pot and kettle, but I can't help but wondering, when does being selfless turn into being selfish? When is it not about you and what you want anymore, and when does it become about me and what I want?

I've got some good self-destructive tendencies. Or, maybe if they're so predominant, they're not tendencies anymore, but rather, habits. But looking back through all my past trainwrecks of relationships doesn't make the fact that at 16 I could do exactly what I needed to any less poignant. What did I know then that I either don’t know now or can’t do? What we’ve been through changes us—the second time around, we tend to get more lenient about situations. It can be better, and it can be worse. I’ve been in both good and bad relationships. I’ve been in both physically and emotionally abusive relationships, and I’ve also been in relationships I couldn’t have cared less about and didn’t put any work or time into, taking the spoiled brat approach to love. But a relationship is not like a book. You can’t just put it down, walk away, and expect to be able to pick it up where you left off, no changes. As Penelope found when Odysseus returned, what can happen in the space of time between the leaving and the returning is where all the stories really were. Two people are like the covers of a book-- there can be lots of history and words between them. It can be a happy story, a sad story, or it can be an unfinished story.

What I've realized is that getting out of a relationship is not so much like parting as it is about shedding a man like layers. And as with onion, ogres, and clothing, some layers, no matter how hot and sweaty they make you, you just want to keep. Some people get so far under your skin that they become part of your make-up-- a smell that you'd know anywhere, a taste in your mouth that won't go away. So I guess I shouldn't bitch if it's my own decision. But what happens when all that is tangible is the questions? It's what I want, but I don't know if it's what I need.


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