I watched an episode of House that shook me to the core. It was about a wife who hurt her husband because she’d connected with someone over the Internet. He asked her to stop, that it really bothered him, and she said that it was what she needed in her life right now because it was easier to express herself through writing than through talking. Unsurprisingly, they divorced and for a while, she was with the man in Oregon…. not the same, but similar enough to set off my alarm bells and really think about how Dana must have felt, which wasn’t the same as the husband for a multitude of reasons, but again, similar. The one thing that jumped out at me was the difference in the episode and in my own life.
The husband asked his wife if she’d fallen for this man, and she said she didn’t even know him. You could tell in a hot second that she was lying, that her feelings were complicated and confused. The thing that I did differently is that I didn’t roll any punches. I told the truth. That yes, there were things I didn’t know about Argo, but the things I did were deep enough to create feelings of love, care, connection, protection, and honesty (both painful and real). It embarrassed the hell out of me that she was straight and I was gay, because lesbians falling for straight girls is the biggest cliché in the entire world. It also embarrassed me to lay it all out in front of Dana, but I thought that the absolute truth was better than trying to cover everything up, living in two different realities with compartmentalization.
Better or worse, to me, is now relative. Did I do the right thing? Was telling her this bit of my soul helping her to understand, or was it just to ease my guilt? Should I have worked out all those feelings on my own, knowing that my truth was Dana? It was always Dana, and a passing crush would never match up to the deep river of emotion that runs through me every time I think of her. Her words run through my mind all the time, that when it comes to Argo, I am not threatened. I think I have more than proved my worth…. and when I said that I wanted to be one of Argo’s people, and laid out what it would take for me to accomplish that goal, she told me I should do it.
It was amazing that she threw me a life preserver and I held on, because she was right. To think that anyone could take her place was ridiculous. I didn’t want a divorce until she betrayed me, and even then, we got back together and I held on until it got violent.
Because the longer my relationship with Argo went on, the more that feeling went out the window and was replaced by feelings of anger and jealousy, threatened by something that didn’t exist. If Argo had been bi-identified, there’s no way I would have allowed myself the luxury of feeling crushed out in the first place. The crushed out feelings made me feel good at a time in my life when I desperately needed it, but they were because it couldn’t go anywhere. There was the dopamine rush of an explosive connection without the real possibility of a new romantic relationship. I would have been threatened by it, and disposed of it promptly.
In retrospect, I think she just gave up… not on our relationship, but in telling me what I wanted to hear and then not being able to hide her real emotions about the subject as time went on. In short, I feel like I should have listened more and talked less… but even that felt hollow because I couldn’t tell truth from fiction from such mixed signals, because how Dana felt varied by the day, or maybe it didn’t, but on the surface, that’s how it seemed to me.
Sometimes, she told me that I should do what it took to be a loving and caring friend. Sometimes, she told me that she felt threatened by Argo, acting as if I was already moving on to someone else and she was being replaced. In my own mind, that idea was crazymaking. I had to work through my blushing teenage feelings, and the want to do it was massive, both for Dana’s sake and for Argo’s, because I was alienating both of them at the same time. It’s not fun for a straight girl to be the object of a lesbian crush, and it’s not fun for a partner to go through, either. For Argo, it was the feeling of me investing in something our relationship couldn’t sustain, and for Dana, it was the mixed up feelings of not really knowing whether I was present in our relationship or not.
With Argo, I never felt like I was jumping into something that the relationship couldn’t sustain, because I wasn’t telling her about my feelings for her because I hoped she’d reciprocate them, just to have compassion because surely she’d gone through a similar situation in which someone turned her attention when it was a bad idea, too…. commiseration, but never encouragement. The idea that love’s a bitch sometimes when your heart is leading you rather than your head. Logically, I knew the situation was fucked, but the heart is always irrational and overloads your brain with chemicals that turn it into mush.
Eventually, logic returned and dopamine was turned down from eleven… but not before Dana’s patience with me ran out.
Alternatively, I don’t expect a marriage to be invincible from passing crushes, that monogamy is a choice you make every day… that actions speak louder than words. There’s no way you can be together for forty or fifty years, blind to everyone else in the world. I am sure that there are some couples who can, but I haven’t met any…. and if I did, I’d have a little trouble completely believing it.
I keep thinking about what I would have done had Dana been the one with the crush and not me, and the only conclusion I’ve made is that marriage is a series of dealing with problems, and I hope that I would have had enough strength to handle Dana’s own dopamine rush- because I couldn’t expect her to be blind, either. My thought process is that if it could happen with me, whether it was now or later, eventually the tables would turn and I’d have to work through my own jealousy…. and Dana would have to make her own choice to remain faithful… or not… and with everything I’ve read about monogamy not necessarily being a natural state, I might have even been able to forgive infidelity if Dana proved that I was her choice and the other woman was just a side piece of ass and not where her heart truly lived.
But that idea is just theoretical, and I have no idea how I would have handled it in practice.
I also don’t feel that thinking about these things is a lost cause because you can’t change the past. I want to be prepared for the next relationship, and I think the best way to move forward is to examine what has happened in the past, both what I did right and wrong.
It was inappropriate not to meet Argo on the ground and to normalize the relationship before it just became operatic swells of emotion on the page… because then I would have seen the whole picture and not individual puzzle pieces. As I have said before, perhaps on the ground we both would have driven each other up the wall, and though she is absolutely drop dead gorgeous and would make any man fall all over themselves, really not my type. What is my type is smart and capable, what drew me in rather than looks… function over design, always. While genetic gifts are great, I won’t tolerate anyone I view as unequally intelligent and articulate to me. I like people who think about the world, issues bigger than them, how to make the world a better place, have a bit of idealism………… In choosing friends and partners, I seek people intentionally that I believe are smarter than I am to raise my own game; I want to rise to their level rather than bring them down to mine.
But there was no way of knowing how we actually felt about the other when we couldn’t see the other one emote. I wonder every day what it would have been like to do banal things like running errands, blasting music in the car with the windows and sunroof open, getting to know each other through activity and not e-mail. To know what it would be like to give her a hug because she’s done so many awesome things for me that no one has ever been able to do or will. Being able to say thank you in person meant a lot to me, but because of those operatic swells of emotion on the page, there’s no normalizing anything now.
My own idealism caused me to believe that as logic overtook emotion, eventually I’d have the marriage and friendship I so desired, but it fell apart at my own hand because I made some terrible choices.
It’s taken me a long time to accept that though I made those choices, it doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible person… mostly because it took me a long time to let go of Argo’s belief that I am… that her opinion didn’t have to determine my worth or my opinion of myself. She’s told me that she thinks the darkness will always be lurking underneath, words that destroyed me and I had to rebuild from the ground up, realizing that the only way she could say that is because she only saw individual puzzle pieces and not the entire picture, just like me. I would like to think that if we’d ever spent any time at all in the same room, she would have seen just how much I wear my heart on my sleeve, how I’d do anything for anyone that needed me because I was raised with the idea of if I have it, and you need it, it’s yours… how hilarious I am and how easily I laugh at the smallest things… how my faith colors my world, painting with brilliant colors to make the dirty become divine.
In short, everything Dana already knew.