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June 20, 2010

This is just a quick forget-me-not. I’ve been…well, let’s just say I haven’t been writing much and leave it at that. I have collected a few thoughts, however. First, a quotation whose source I don’t remember: “A second husband is like a new pair of shoes that hurt your feet in different places than the old pair.” I suspect that’s a misquotation, actually, since it’s neither elegant nor funny, and I remember it being both. Nora Ephron, perhaps? Anyway, the general idea (new shoes, different ache) has become a kind of menacing mantra, scuttling away whenever I turn the lights on in my head, but always creeping back out when it’s dark. Marriage aside (because we all know how to avoid a second divorce, right? Don’t get married), is this a gross, sexist generalization or a profound, wise truth?

I’m in my house in exile from the thrilling parts of my life–the back and forth to see the boyfriend, the counting days till his arrival/departure my arrival/departure, und so weiter. I miss him constantly, and I love him avidly, but he pinches my fucking feet. Actually, the whole experience of being in love this time has been less a delightful and soothing feeling of absolute rightness, and more like being flayed alive. On a weekly basis. One gets weary, from time to time. Is it wrong to want nothing more than to wake up peacefully and potter around deadheading the petunias in the windowboxes before poaching a couple of eggs, washing up, then wandering down the street with the children to the town pool?

“I’ve basically decided I look for five things in guys, and if I get them, I kind of just fold everything around that and forget it,” said my delightful about-to-be-divorced friend a couple of days ago, sitting on my porch. “Because the other stuff is all the same, you get the annoying shit no matter what, so you’re best just taking the five good things and running.” She is the absolute antithesis of the bitter divorcée–when others carp about their exes, she clams up politely. (As do I, when I hear some of the horror stories people think nothing of trotting out in public, the first time they’ve met you. Back away slowly, then run. And don’t look back.) She laughs at herself, and at her ex, and at my ex, and at me (thank god) when I make overarching ridiculous generalizations about the difficulty of love, and life in general, and my particular life most of all, because it’s so damned fraught and upsetting, and why can’t I just find peace with my porch and my windowboxes and my imaginary chickens? (I count five or six, by the way, in my head. Unhatched. I keep on counting and counting them.)

Who talked about the Myth of the Eternal Return? Nietzsche? Milan Kundera, at the beginning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? I remember underlining something in Kundera, and copying it into my journal, when I was an Unbearably Pretentious Seventeen-Year-Old Being, broken-hearted for the first time, about to go off to college. Was the idea of eternal return supposed to comfort us, or terrify us?

Are we all right back where we started, then? That’s what I want to know. You meet someone again, and you try again, but in the end, does it all finish the same way?

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Juanita permalink
    June 20, 2010 2:50 am

    Ah, so good. Your posts continue to be an echo, a more eloquent echo, of the things in my head. You’re like my own personal guru.

  2. Juanita permalink
    June 20, 2010 2:52 am

    Also, I think it’s the same thing over and over, different blisters in different places, but please let’s never believe that it all finishes the same way.

  3. June 20, 2010 3:59 am

    I read this and immediately I cannot get Dar Williams’ “Iowa” out of my head. For what it is worth:

    I’ve never had a way with women
    But the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could
    And I’ve never found a way to say I love you
    But if the chance came by, oh I, I would
    But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother
    We never make our passions other people’s concern
    And we walk in the world of safe people
    And at night we walk into our houses and burn

    Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-I, Iowa

    How I long to fall just a little bit
    To dance out of the lines and stray from the light
    But I fear that to fall in love with you
    Is to fall from a great and gruesome height
    So I asked a friend about it on a bad day, her husband had just
    Left her, and she sat down in the chair he left behind
    She said, “What is love, where did it get me?
    Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine.”

    Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-I, Iowa

    Once I had everything, I gave it up
    For the shoulder of your driveway and the words I never felt
    And so for you, I came this far across the tracks
    Ten miles above the limit and with no seat belt, and I’d do it again
    For tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion
    For I woke up from a nightmare that I could not stand to see
    You were a-wandering out on the hills of Iowa and
    You were not thinking of me

    Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-I, Iowa

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 20, 2010 10:16 am

      Oh, I don’t know that song!!! I’ll go find it right now. It’s amazing. Thank you.

      • June 20, 2010 11:56 am

        if you like it i can only recommend her entire life’s work to you. she is a true poet. possibly my favorite artist of all time.

  4. Rachel permalink
    June 20, 2010 7:37 am

    Ah, I feel your pain exquisitely (although not so elooquently). I must admit my new partner is a lot more like trying on a handmade pair of kid slippers, not a blister in sight, but I do keep looking and checking for them. I try to remember back to when I was first in love with my ex, and thinking that it must have seemed this perfect too (although I suspect that was only to 19 year old me – 37 year old me would have run a lot earlier). And endlessly worrying about how to stop this relationship ending miserably. Fortunately current partner is as determined to make things work as I am. Here’s hoping. But I am still always waiting for that other shoe to drop (in keeping with the footwear theme).
    In more specific answer to your question – does it always finish the same way? My parents are still in love after 37 years. On a smaller scale, my sister and her husband are still very much in love after 9 years and three kids. It can and does happen. But to me? (to you?) Never know unless you try,I guess.

  5. June 20, 2010 1:01 pm

    I couldn’t swear to it but I think I once read somewhere that in India they commiserate with you with they hear you are in love. I reckon it’s the first part – the hormonal fever – they are referring to, know what I mean? So, maybe, (my tortured logic goes) you are still in that uncomfortable state with your fellow? Or maybe not.

    I do think about these things. I weigh it up solemnly and I conclude the main reason I keep my one is that he gives me a good laugh. I like him. And I want someone to talk to.
    Mostly, that’s what keeps me from pushing the destruct button.

  6. June 20, 2010 1:03 pm

    Uh. That was faint praise. Forgot to mention I love him.

  7. Penny permalink
    June 20, 2010 6:32 pm

    Wait. What are the five things?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 20, 2010 8:46 pm

      I know, right? I stupidly forgot to ask her, but I will. I’m actually not even sure what MINE are, or if there are five, or eight, or two, or what. I’ll find out. What are yours?

  8. SarahB permalink
    June 20, 2010 8:07 pm

    Ahh…no Dar?

    Oh, dear, go get the Mortal City, the CD which contains Iowa, mentioned above, and also the song The Blessings which is appropriate for discomfort and heartbreak.

    Also, Chris Pureka’s Driving North album. Just fantastic for letting you FEEL.

    Dar got me through college and its attendant heartbreaks, and Chris Pureka through my long-distance relationship with my now-husband and his deployment a couple summers ago. It’s all Very Good Stuff.

    • June 20, 2010 11:16 pm

      In between listenings I am somehow able to forget bow beautiful Chris Pureka is, so when I put it on again it is re-astonishing. So gorgeous.

  9. June 20, 2010 11:07 pm

    Oh, god. Thinking about being a heart-broken teenager is enough to make me sick. It’s so disheartening to think that we could spend the bulk of our lives going through the same pattern over and over again. I choose to reject that model, because it’s too exhausting to imagine. I think it’s possible to get it right. Or something resembling right.

    • Mary permalink
      June 22, 2010 11:55 am

      When I got divorced someone told me, you’ll reach in and grab the same one the next time! yikes, thank heaven I did not, my husband is the greatest and nothing like the 1st one. Good luck

  10. Take 5 permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:31 am

    Everybody has 5 (or so) different things they’re looking for and want in a good relationship. If you don’t know what your things are, please start a list, now. You’ll be glad you did when you go out on the next date or sit next to your mate. I’m into guys, so I’m just talking about “guys.” But I suspect “gals” could be easily substituted. Let me know. Anyway, for me these 5 things break down into a few categories like the 5 senses: hearing (sound), taste, touch, smell, sight
    Because the “hormonal fever” (thanks, Twangy) lasts just so long before it becomes a pinch or blister, I usually keep my five things constantly running in my mind/heart. (Think the adult version of “These are a few of my favorite things”, yeah, I like “Sound of Music”.)

    Hearing/Sound: I like talkers…guys who talk and talk and talk and never shut up. But that’s me. What’s essential is a guy who has the ability to express feelings, listen to yours, and have a sense of humor through language. I’m not saying he has to be a “funny guy” or a “sensitive guy,” but I don’t want to have to say “use your words” to another adult. Please.

    Taste: The first kiss has to taste great. No fooling! He also has to think you taste great, too. Ask. Other things have to taste good too, but this one is key.

    Touch: Sex must be fabulous, if not, then fulfilling. Okay, probably can’t be always, but most of the time.
    More to the point, though, are your basic touching points before, beyond, or in-between sex. The sleeping spoon and hand-holding are the two big fundamentals for me. Do you fit together? I mean literally. My sleeping-spoon guy fits me like a scuba suit and sweats all over me; I love it. He takes my hand and kisses me whenever he sees me.

    Smell: The smell of sex has to be so good you want to preserve it for safe keeping or the occasional lonely night. And, he’ll want to take your sexed up panties home with him, to the office, to his workshop, keep them in his gym bag, tool box, under his pillow, or wherever. Yup.

    Sight: Can’t underestimate how you feel when you look at him. What do you want to see? When I look at my guy, I want to see someone who is self-reliant.

    What I absolutely can’t live with: Introverts and impoverished, unfulfilling sex.

    What I can live with: Guys who can’t cook, don’t read fiction, don’t shower in the morning, don’t vacuum and who watch TV, sing off-key, have mustaches, drink sweet cocktails, listen to 80’s punk at full volume, tease mercilessly, among other things.

    • Lisame permalink
      June 23, 2010 11:40 am

      OK! So you and I don’t agree on the five points but I’m so in love with you right now! Great points! ALL OF THEM! Mostly, just the breakdown of senses.

      Reading this I realized that I too have this list – yes, it is different from yours but it IS the five senses and I created it about seven years ago. After a most horrible leave-him-at-the-alter breakup that resulted in hospitalized depression. I made this list in my head and it was my best decision ever.

  11. rose permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:56 am

    This may sound odd, since I am very happily married, but I think about what it might be like if I had to do it again. Honestly, I don’t think I would want it. We’re happy because we have worked very hard, and basically grown up togehter. At this point, in my 50s, anyone I would meet would be grown up , jelled, already. I can’t imagine trying to work even harder to make things work.

  12. txmama permalink
    June 21, 2010 12:50 pm

    I don’t have anything edifying to add but just wanted to write and tell you that I really enjoy reading your writing. I hope you’ll put all this in a book one day.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 21, 2010 1:19 pm

      Thank you–very very much appreciated.

  13. Anne permalink
    June 21, 2010 1:28 pm

    My “things” are:

    1.The guy has to like me for my “me-ness”–this doesn’t mean he has to like all my little foibles, but that he appreciates and honors and celebrates the big major chunks of my personality.

    2. Sense of humor. Most definitely. Smart-assedness is a plus.

    3. He has to have a genuine sense of compassion for others who are struggling, and to demonstrate this in a concrete way. I’m not looking for a “touchy feely” guy, but I also would never date an investment banker type, KWIM?

    4. He has to eat fairly healthily and exercise fairly regularly. And maintain minimum levels of personal hygiene. Other than that, I’m pretty flexible.

    5. Sex needs to be at least “good”. And I agree with the commenter above about smells! 😉

  14. n dolan permalink
    June 21, 2010 1:42 pm

    how much do I love you? Milan Kundera is my all-time favorite writer- you should read “Book of laughter and forgetting” and “Immortality” as well. The idea of eternal return is supposed to terrify us, that we cannot know what choices to make, because we cannot live two lives and compare the outcomes of either choice. Life is light- like an outline we can never do over “right”

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 21, 2010 5:05 pm

      I have read Book of Laughter and Forgetting, but not Immortality. I once found a czech coin on the street in Paris and told myself he’d dropped it (he was living there then too.) Eternal return bites.

  15. June 21, 2010 2:30 pm

    I think that it is possible to be in love for a long time and stay in love. Not ever moment will be perfect, but we are not capable of being loving every minute.

  16. kathleen permalink
    June 24, 2010 1:24 pm

    my ‘five’ are actually three, that i repeat again and again and again.

    he must be: smart, funny and kind.

    i can put up with lots of irritating other things (and am currently) so long as those three hold true.

    also, the idea of eternal return terrifies me. even thinking about it feels like drowning.

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