I’ve never felt any inhibition or repression concerning being my own person around other men. It has always been around women that I have had a problem being my own person. Little boy fishes and little girl fishes are swimming in the same sea of gender messaging. When I watched the Our Gang Li’l Rascals reruns on TV as a kid the He-man Women Haters Club seemed as natural as shooting cans with slingshots. One can’t help but be influenced by the messages each absorbs about themselves and each other. I only had brothers and neither parent ever talked to me about what to expect from relationships with women.
Around women, I have always felt pressured to live up to some unachievable expectations or to meet expectations that I have not set for myself but felt pressured to meet in order to get laid. Young men will do just about anything if sex is part of the bargain.
My mother was more pro-active in trying to define who I would be as a man than my father and grandfather. I think that my Mother felt gender repression. She often said, “I should have been born a man so that I could have been a General.” This motivated her to push me to grow up prematurely. I think she wanted me to fulfill her disappointments concerning my father. My dad was often on job assignments out of town and he was the quiet type who didn’t talk too much about feelings or manly expectations or anything like that.
She is living her last months now and due to a stroke she has the mind of a two-year-old so I can’t consult her about this topic and my father is dead two years now. Having lived through my Dad’s Alzheimer’s I know the strangeness of having already lost a parent when you can still see them in front of you. I knew I would need to write something like this someday. Ironically, Elle Beau, you have stepped in her shoes and pushed me to address things earlier rather than later. That is the pressure I have felt from women all my life. An ever-present undercurrent to be more ambitious, more handsome, richer, witty, talented, etc.
I started reading adult-themed books at about age 11. By adult-themed I don’t mean porn. I mean titles like 1984, Brave New World, and Heart of Darkness. I did however find some time to fit in Candy and Lolita. When at the tender age of 14 my mother took me to an early private showing of the movie, Easy Rider, I figured that’s it — I was ready to hit the road — so I did!
Unfortunately, I had substituted book learning for actual maturity and by the time I was ready to get married and settled down at the ripe old age of 26, I still actually knew nothing about women. I married a recent immigrant from Taiwan who didn’t speak that much English and my friends would ask me, “How can you marry her if you don’t have the ability to talk about very much?” I would answer,” That’s okay I’ve got plenty to talk about with my buddies and also the language barrier will mean we won’t argue about the little things. Besides she is pretty and sexy and that will go a long way!”
Well, it went about 10 years at which point she decided my measly $80,000/year was peanuts compared to the earning potential of some guy helping startup a now-famous computer manufacturing company. She point blank told me that she was leaving me not because of being abusive, boring, unaffectionate, or a bad father to our children, but simply because she wanted to be richer.
After the divorce, I got into the Men’s movement (you remember — books like Iron John and Fire in the Belly) and got in really good physical shape. My Mother sought me out to help her establish a little hotel in Mexico as her retirement job. I did so and in the process learned how to tell her NO when she made unreasonable demands. For the first time in my life, I truly felt separated or independent from her. I felt like I understood why native American tribes are said to have prohibited mothers from talking directly to their sons after they entered puberty. That sense of separation made me feel more manly and able to support a new relationship.
After 3 years of mostly living like a monk, I decided to open myself up again to a relationship. It was like Robert Goulet was singing Some Enchanted Evening in the background. Having been hurt myself by infidelity in the past, and yearning to be appreciated, it was very easy to fall in love with a beautiful Mexican flamenco dancer who was ready to appreciate a man who she could trust to be faithful. I think we loved each other as well as we could for many years and for that I am grateful.
It took 26 years to really get to know each other, and we’ve been divorced a year now. Just four or five months before the divorce if anybody had suggested that our marriage was in trouble both of us would have dismissed the notion with a laugh. With hindsight though, it is easy to see what happened.
The standard narratives we had absorbed about appreciation and fidelity that seemed so key in our youth, were not pertinent to our situation as older people facing the basic struggles of aging and living on a fixed income. Suddenly it became apparent that our basic personalities and goals could no longer support a marriage. It was better to cash in our chips and move on.
I suppose that only Elle Beau will read through this long boring personal narrative since it barely addresses the prompt and would only earn a C- grade in composition class, but I thank her for that.
I’ve decided to move to a small city high in the southern Colombian Andes where I can now afford to be the hippy I always wanted to be. I’ll gratefully spend the rest of my days taking Spanish lessons, cumbia and salsa lessons, yoga lessons, working out in the gym, attending local SGI Buddhist activities, and volunteering to help kids get through their math courses. Will I ever be lucky in love again? Quien sabe. Ni modo.