The Madwoman Rant:
or, Grievences Against Doing Right.
CAUTION: Vitrolic, Twentysomething-Angsty Rant
Okay, so, I dated a girl in High School (gasp! shock!) and we got along all right, but it never went anywhere. Flash forward a couple of years, I'm finishing up school, she's married and has had a child. Then her husband turns out to be an abusive drunk and she starts calling me, and I'm such a nice guy that I try to talk her through some of the mess she's made of her life. There you go -- nice guy. But now, because I'm a nice guy, she thinks I'm "the right one" and has latched on to me like the Old Man of the Sea. See what being nice fucking gets you? A bridle and a bride.
It's not that I don't want to be married, you understand. It's that if I ever do get married, she has to conform to certain standards. Interest, for one -- we have to both interest each other. This doesn't apply here: She's heavy conservative and I'm libertarian left, she doesn't have much going for her beyond the fact that she's a nurse, she's not intersting as a person, and -- of all things -- she said, "Oh, it's okay, see, I don't understand your Medieval thing and you don't understand my knitting". Excuse me? You don't understand the major facet of my life, and you think that because I don't understand one minor hobby of yours (despite the fact that I do, it's a physical escapism, I do talk to Ana occasionally while she knits, you know), that's all right?
In many ways she's like a Madison Avenue caricature of a housewife: old-fashioned, conservative, stylish, cooks & cleans & loves without question, "pumping out another unit every nine months", as George Carlin said. But look, it's like Vivian Gornick and Barbara Moran write: "adorable in her not-very-bright submissiveness, charming in her childlike delight in shiny floors, even forgivable in her spiteful competition for the whitest, brightest wash, Madison Avenue's girl-next-door is all the American male could wish for -- unless, by some miscarriage, he should fancy human companionship." Put cruedly, if I wanted a maid I could screw, I'd audition for the role of Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
I've come up with a good line: "I can be your friend, even your confessor, but lover no and husband never." She doesn't seem to -- or want to -- realize the difference between a good friend and a lover. But when I delivered that liine she cried, and started whinging about how I never gave her a chance. Well excuse me, but there's no stipulation I have to give people "a chance at a relationship". There's a serious difference between being nice to someone and wanting to shack up with that person.
On the wall in my desk area I have most of a Christian bookmark tacked up which reads, "After a while you learn the difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. You learn that love isn't leaning but lending support. You begin to accept your defeats with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child. You decide to build on tomorrow's roads, for today's ground is too uncertain." I made this distinction with G-- C--, my "pain-in-the-arse (non-) simultanious-orgasm woman", and it's remained part of my philosophy since then. It is, however, an essential distinction this woman seems to be missing.
I'm a writer. I've written as characters all of my friends and family. I've shuffled their traits and dealed them like a tarot deck. But I do the same thing with everybody -- people I don't know, character traits I've only vaguely encountered, etc. In the process, I've written some pretty kick-ass women, many of whom, for whatever reason, manage to go on having functional (or dysfunctional) relationships with the male characters they're written with. And the truth of it is, this girl, this... K-- M--, she shares very few of the character traits I've written about. And this is important, you see, because all of those kick-ass women, those heriones, they're all distorted versions of the woman that I'd like to settle in with. Don't you see? She's not in my books, therefore she's not in my dreams, therefore... she's not The One. Not even close.
I realise, of course, that she wouldn't understand this in any way, shape or form, but then, I wouldn't expect her to; she wasn't written that way. She's like Brigit O'Shaugnessey in The Maltese Falcon: come on strong one minute, melt in your arms the next, and the whole time you feel like she's got something else going for her. (Astute readers will note that this puts me in the position of Sam Spade, a.k.a. Humphrey Bogart, but astute readers will also note that there isn't much of a happy ending to The Maltese Falcon, either.)
I just feel... I don't know... vageuly monkish about the whole deal. I want to help her out of her misery... but in many ways she reminds me of those old stories about the seal-women or mermaids, who seem to be drowning but will drown their prospective saviours instead. I don't want that.