Jealousy

A2G2186I have been with her for about six months now.  It has a title, and yes, she is my girlfriend.  I claim her and she claims me.  We are committed to one another.

It’s a typical night out.  We are at a bar.  Friends of hers are there, as are friends of mine.  While I am catching up with my buddies, she stands maybe ten feet away, in a circle of girlfriends.  Everyone is having a great time.  Catching up, laughing, drinking, the usual.

And, right on cue, enter that group of guys… you know the group I’m talking about.  The group of swaggering single  dudes with their heads on swivels.  The pack of hunters.  The pride of lions (or jackals depending on the personalities).  The dudes dead set on chatting up women and landing phone numbers… if not more.  Prowlers.  I know exactly what these dudes are up to, but I have no disdain for any of them.  I was single not too long ago, so I know what it is to be out with your close single buddies, looking to meet women.

I notice one guy in particular eyeing my girlfriend.  He musters up the courage, walks right up to her, says hi, and tries to get a conversation going. My girlfriend smiles politely, indulges him with a light conversation, acts like a lady, and then tells the guy to have a good night.

My girlfriend has it all figured out, and my life is easier for it.

You see, as this is all going down, despite some random dude hitting on my girlfriend, I am more focused on what’s going on with my buddies and their lives.  One of my friends notices the guy hitting on my girlfriend and points it out to our group.  My buddies ask me if I am jealous.  I simply respond “nope.”  When pressed as to why not, I offer a two part response.

One:

Simply stated, who wants to be with someone that no one else wants to be with?  When a guy walks up to your girlfriend in a bar, you should be flattered.  Good for that guy… he has great taste.  You should also be secure enough in yourself and your relationship that you don’t see the guy as a threat.  And further still, why shouldn’t your woman be made to feel attractive by someone else?  It’s okay for her to feel attractive and beautiful beyond you.  So, for those reasons, I am okay with this random dude validating the same things I see in my girlfriend… a beautiful, kind, and engaging woman.

Two:

On the opposite side of the equation, if my girlfriend ever attempted to make me jealous, I would simply back myself and let her know that I won’t stand for it.  There are women I have dated who would use jealousy as a tactic.  They would try and make me jealous by flirting with guys at a bar in front of me, mentioning guys randomly in casual conversation, bringing up ex boyfriends and what they “used to do,” etc.  My response was always the same… cut it out.  That kind of nonsense doesn’t fly with me.  When I am in a relationship, I go out of my way to make my girlfriend feel secure.  I couldn’t imagine actively attempting to make a girlfriend jealous or insecure.  What kind of a relationship is that?!

So, as I sit on the bar stool, chatting with my buddies, and this guy hits on my girlfriend not more than ten feet from me, and I am perfectly content.  Not a care in the world.  She is a big girl, and she can handle herself.  So, I don’t need to spring to her rescue and defend her honor.  Now, if the guy said or did anything disrespectful, that would be another story.  I have no trouble addressing disrespect, especially the disrespect of someone I hold dear to me, and even more especially the a male showing disrespect toward a female.  But again, the guy is just hitting on her, trying his best.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  Again, good for that guy… he has great taste.

In the midst of it all going down, my girlfriend glances over and grins a reassuring grin.  I do the same with a nod and a smile.  And that is all that is needed.  She is a big girl, she can handle herself.  And for that reason, I don’t have a care in the world.  Just another great night out with my lady and my friends.

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Planting The Flag

pink toothbrush

It’s like any other morning that she has stayed over.  We have been doing this for a little over a month and a half.  “Dating,” or “seeing one another” I guess you would call it.  We have not made anything “official,” haven’t had “the talk.”  It’s pretty nice actually.  No labels.  No drama.  No fuss.  We simply spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.  If only it were always this easy.

On any given morning we wake up, roll around under the sheets, push it until the last possible moment, phone alarms blaring, then spring out of bed… her to her car so she can get home and get ready for work, and me to the coffee machine in my place so I can begin my day as well.  I give her a gentle hug and a kiss, she smiles, tells me to have a nice day, and she heads out the door.

If only it were always this easy.

I check e-mails as the coffee is brewing, take some vitamins, down a protein shake.  A little Facebook.  Online news.  Twitter.  The usual morning routine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I head to the bathroom, and as I round the corner, I see it, plain as day.

Why does it have to be this hard???

Hanging smugly, almost triumphantly over my sink, is her toothbrush.

It stares at me.  Challenges me.  Stuns me.

She has planted the first flag.  The invasion has begun.  Shit has gotten real… real fast.

I do what any man in my situation would do.  I FUCKING PANIC.  Not because I don’t see myself with her.  Not because I don’t want to be with her.  But because this toothbrush brings us to an entirely new level.  A level to which I had not yet agreed.  The toothbrush itself is inherently symbolic of the very thing that has allowed our time together to be uncomplicated… the toothbrush is in and of itself, a label… a statement of  her intentions.

In my mind, I am confident it won’t be long before I am surrounded by candles and oils and scents I don’t understand, colors I cannot pronounce, and plants I did not know existed.  I will lose all privileges in deciding housing appearance (“decorating”), I will have more “show” towels (you know, the kind that look good, but can’t soak up a single droplet of water?!) than I know what to do with, I will have more throw rugs and more pillows than any human being could ever need.  And when I only have 1/16th of the closet space I once had, I will look around, accept my defeat, and think back to the day, not so long ago, that the toothbrush was firmly planted on the side of my sink.

This toothbrush, that I stare back at now, signals the beginning of the invasion.

“Come on, man.  She accidentally forgot the toothbrush.  Calm down,”  you might say?!  Oh… really.  When, in the history of time, I ask you, has a woman ever done something “accidentally?”  We need to give women more credit than that.  They are creatures of great ability, with impeccable planning skills, and powers of persuasion (sometimes manipulation) that no man can resist.  Even when a woman tells you she doesn’t know why she did something, in the end there is always some kind of purpose behind it.  Even the accidents are on purpose!  And how can we, as men, defend against it?  Well, if we really truly like the woman and have developed feelings for her, the answer is… we cannot.

And that’s the point.  She didn’t leave her toothbrush behind on day one, or week one, or even month one.  That would be a true accident.  She has brushed her teeth every single night she has stayed at my place over the past month and a half , and without fail has taken the toothbrush with her every time she has left.

But now, here it sits.  And why?

Because I caught the most dangerous STD known to man… I caught feelings for her.  I like her.  I like being with her.  I want to keep spending time with her.  And she can sense it.  She knows.  And she also knows I am male… so she knows I have a deep seated, intrinsic, carnal fear of commitment.  So she knows I will shy away from commitment any chance I get.

And with this knowledge, she plants her flag, not only announcing the impending invasion, but even more importantly, announcing our connection.  It is an unspoken gesture.  She has gambled, and she has gambled correctly, that I won’t say a word about the toothbrush.  After all, that would lead to an actual discussion of “what this is,” a Q&A with questions like “what are we doing,” and  “are we girlfriend and boyfriend?”

And yet, in not saying a word about the toothbrush, I silently submit to a connection beyond just hooking up, dating, and/or booty calls.

This is my dilemma.  I either quietly accept the toothbrush and silently admit that this is in fact becoming something more serious between us, or I confront the situation head on, mention the toothbrush, and get into the ever-dreaded conversation about the state of affairs and labels.

I, as most men would, choose the quiet route.  Why?  It is a way to let her know that I accept things are moving forward, but allows me the “out” in the future to still be able to say “we never talked about this… we never decided on a  label.”

It’s a guys silent relationship parachute.  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.  That’s how we can sleep at night and not be in constant fear of the commitment we just entered into.  Is it a delusion?  Yes, most definitely.  Because, let’s be honest, if shit does hit the fan and things go sideways, the “we never put a label on this” defense isn’t going to cut it anyway.  Actions will always trump words.  And inaction (failing to confront the toothbrush head one) ultimately serves as an action (conceding to an agreement that the relationship is more than just casual).

But I digress.  The fact of the matter is, I like her.  She is very high quality, we get along great, and I want to spend more time with her.  But, I cannot articulate that to her as simply as I just wrote it in the previous line.  Absolutely not!  Why?  Because I am a commitment-phobe, like the majority of the male population.

So, as the toothbrush continues to sit defiantly on the edge of my sink, I think to myself, “why does it have to be this hard?”  And in the midst of my panic, I find a glimmer of happiness, and I start grinning.

Why?

Because this toothbrush, this flag of defiance, this signal of the ensuing invasion, means she is into me just as much as I am her.

Memories

I am alone.

I am in my room. I am throwing a tantrum. And I am so very terrified of my incarceration.  I am three, maybe four years old and this of all things is my earliest and most vivid memory of childhood.

My parents are doing the best they can. I am the oldest child. I am locked in my room on the advice of the family pediatrician. In his infinite wisdom, he has counseled my parents to reverse the door lock on my room (so it locked from the outside) and to put me in that room on “time out” whenever I act out.

I acted out a lot as a child.  Thus, I found myself alone a lot. After a while, even at the very early age of three or four, I associated any expression of emotion (other than happiness) with a dreaded “time out.” So, even from that early age, I did what I do best, and overachieved and overcompensated in the form of suppressing and bottling up any and all emotions that could be seen as negative. I went even further to make sure I bottled up the ones that could be mistaken for weakness or sadness or even simple discontent.

It was safer not to be emotional.

This series of events… This connection between emotional outbursts and isolation paved the way for me to become the ultra-rational being I am today.  To this day I can rationalize it all. I can rationalize all the feelings away. I can rationalize all disappointment, heartache, sadness, and despair away. I can place them in boxes, compartmentalize, store in dark corners of my mind. Some say to feel is to live.  If that’s the case, I may well have died in that room when I was three.

Alright, enough with the dramatics.

The point is, my parents did what they thought was best. They really did. And they did an amazing job raising me.  After all, the theory of locking me in the room for bad behavior came on the heels of a CT scan to make sure I didn’t have “brain damage,” which would have been causing my extreme tantrum riddled behavioral issues. Imagine being three years old and being outside an office building. All you remember is grass and trees and the serenity of the setting, in the midst of your mother trying to explain to you that you were about to go through a test to have your head examined to figure out the root cause for why you were so abnormal.  Turned out the CT scan showed “normal.”  There were no excuses for the way I was, so my behavior had to be “corrected.” And corrected it was.