Wednesday, September 26, 2018

On Being A Romantic

I never thought of myself as terribly romantic.

I don't shower my beloveds in the traditional romantic gifts...

  • flowers? "Here's a symbol of our love. It grows in shit and it will be dead within a week or two."
  • chocolates? in Eva's case, they can't possibly be as good as the ones she makes herself and in any case they'll be in the sewer before too long.
  • candlelit dinners? Can't see a damned thing.
  • jewellery? ....hmmm. Let me get back to you on this.
It doesn't help much that my loves aren't romantic in this way either. Every Christmas, anniversary, birthday, Eva gives me a list. Said list might encompass all of one item. This approach to gift giving does have the benefits of ease and pragmatism, but even after nearly twenty years it still confounds me. "Here's the thing, you know exactly what the thing is, for all the romance here you may as well have bought it yourself."

And Kathy? Arguably even worse. Ask her what she might want and the answer will invariably be a heartfelt "nothing". Surprise her with something and she'll fret about how much it cost. 

Aside: I never know how to take the words "you shouldn't have". I did it/bought it/gave it because I felt I should. If you felt I should, I probably wouldn't. Do I take it back? I hear this routinely on the rare occasions I do give a gift. It's disconcerting.

I certainly don't demand gifts. Like most people, I like my love to come to me the way I'm most comfortable expressing it -- words of affirmation and quality time together. Which isn't to say I don't treasure a trinket that you think says "us". Does that make me romantic, or not?

You all know how much stock I put in physical appearance: next to none. But in a world where people insist on putting so much effort into it, I struggle to express my ambivalence in a way that doesn't leave people cold. I've settled on saying "do whatever makes you feel good...wear that/daub that on/shave that if you want, but don't ever think you have to do any of it on my account." I don't know if the depth of that is truly understood and appreciated.  Does it make me a cold fish that none of lingerie, makeup, or $200 dresses have much of an effect on me? Or am I even more romantic for so deeply loving the person beneath?

I like the rituals. The good morning and good night kisses. The words "I love you". Those seem pretty romantic to me. Meaningful. I like meaning. 

When you start delving into personalities, mine skews "romantic" in nearly every particular. If I'm honest with myself, this is me to a T.  There are things on this list that I disagree with -- but only because I am aware of them and am working continually to overcome them. Those negatives are ugly. About the only thing I'd categorically deny is a superiority complex. You're damn right I'm special...but no more special than anyone else. Oh, and I am complete. Flawed, but complete.


"It's only words/and words are all I have/to take your heart away" -- the Bee Gees

Eva's love for me is unique. She is literally the only woman who has ever grown to love me having met me in the real world first. That has never been, and never will be, forgotten. I don't know if I can overstate that, because for many years before here, I was dead certain no one ever would love me that way, in that order. No one has, since, either, and people wonder why I think I must be some kind of repulsive troll.

Sorry, that slid a little.

What I'm trying to say is that historically, all but one partnership has been built on a veritable mountain of words. They've had to be, that's how online works. Only later do I get the opportunity to backstop my words with deeds....and I worry, constantly, that I can't. So I try very hard to show loyalty beyond the mush, and to match up my expressed love with the preferred language of my partners, be that acts of service or physical touch. This has noticeably widened my perspective and made me a better man.

That enneagram test thingy got one thing more than a thousand percent right. My biggest fear is losing my identity, becoming just another person, indistinguishable from anyone else.

That has, incidentally, been the most difficult challenge I've had to face living a polyamorous life...remembering that just as I love other people for who they are, I'm loved for who I am. It's something I have had to learn.

The thing you will most notice with my expressions of love is an emphasis on permanence.

As both Eva and Kathy have independently noted, some of this derives from losing my twin brother when he was two days old. I am convinced, and have been for some time, that a substantial part of the very real void I feel at the center of myself is Monty's subliminally felt absence.
I'm also a child of divorce, and while I cast no blame for that (in point of fact, my parents never should have married in the first place), it does have an effect.
Note, though, that permanence is a strong preference of mine. I don't "fall out" of love with people. It doesn't put an obligation on you.

An example: very shortly after an extremely vicious breakup, by far the worst I've experienced, my ex's brother was tragically killed. She called me. After what had gone down the week before, I couldn't think why she would call me. But I went to her and spent the night. Not in the same bed (that would have been awkward as hell)...I slept on the floor, next to the bed where she was, and she dangled her hand down. I held it. That was the extent of physical contact beyond a couple of hugs.

I'm not saying this to blow my own horn. This to me is a baseline for being human.

I still love her. She wasn't right for me at all, nor I for her, but I love her. Ditto my first love, the one who proposed to me after high school only to go and marry God instead. Definitely not right for me, nor I for her, but I loved her and still do.

That's another thing about my love that's hard for some people to grasp....yes, it's permanent on my part but non-binding on yours. I have preferences, of course. Strong ones. But no expectations beyond basic courtesy.


The other flaw that enneagram test points out is something I'm still working on: feeling needy. God, that word sounds horrible. I'd rather say I like to feel needed, but I concede it probably slips over the line from time to time.
That's probably due on some level to past impermanences, too, among other insecurities. And I am much better at shutting it down than I used to be.

Words and time -- and more time than words. What happens in that time doesn't matter. It could be in or out (or in and out, get your mind out of the gutter, Ken) -- it could be adventurous or relaxed, involved or lazy...hell, just being in the same room matters. I hope that the laissez-faire, whatever-will-be-will-be mindset offsets some of the neediness.

At any rate, being a romantic has its ups and downs...but I wouldn't know how to be anything else. 

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