This American Woman

I once dated a guy who made me a mix tape (technically a CD) and one of the songs he put on was, “American Woman” (which is a great song, and he’s English, and I’m American, and we had a very adversarial relationship, so it fit, but… anyways). A great song, but not really what I’d expect to hear, if I were expecting a mix of lovesongs. Which, y’know. Having given him the soppiest CD I’d ever heard, not 2 months earlier (and to this day, I regret wasting all that sugar-sweetness on someone so unmoved by it) I sort of *did* expect something reciprocal.

That was my first mistake, in that relationship. When you’re with someone who always brings a gun to a knife-fight, for whom the Horn of Gondor is never enough, no, they need the One Ring… expecting what is right and deserved and equal is a futile hope. In a relationship like that, the only reciprocation comes when they’ve broken you enough that the meanest hint of human kindness feels like an outpouring of the Balm of Gilead.

Which, you know. Is meant for–let me recall that song I sang in high school–making the wounded whole, and healing the sin-sick soul.

When *you* are the one wounding someone, and making them soul-sick, you don’t get to be the balm that makes it all better, as well. That’s not love–that’s emotional abuse–and although it works in the short term (turning a would-be lover into a tearful, sighing, queasy-stomached dependant, eternally hanging on your next word, a word they’re never quite sure is coming) eventually, the spell wears off and the person who thought they loved you, who *does* love you in some way, realizes that, mostly, they’ve just been played.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me a hundred times, and I’ll burn everything we ever were on a pyre of self-preservation; and I’ll rise, jewel-toned plumage brilliant in the sun, eyes as hot as the flames, a strange, dark-haired Mother of Dragons, from the ashes of you, me, and the fiction in the space between.

And then I will scorch you to the bone and eat you alive, you fucking shitbag.


Love As A Battleground

Have you ever fallen in love–I mean really, truly, head-over-feet in love–with someone, even though you *knew* it was a terrible idea? Like, you were already convinced when it started out, that you were about to bodyslam your own heart into a floor made of railroad spikes, but the visceral, unable-to-be-ignored pull of this person tugged you right off the platform of your own good intentions, and into the path of what was, in fact, a fucking train?

I have done that exactly 3 times in my life–and one of them was last year.

The first time, I was 17-going-on-18, and I can be forgiven. As the song so helpfully informs us, “young hearts are foolish; they make such mistakes. They are much too eager to give their love away…” and I really, really was. Think of the most hopelessly romantic teenager you know, times it by a factor of 3 or 4, make sure you imagine them as female, long brown hair, 100 lbs overweight and plagued by cystic acne and lopsided breasts, and that’s me.

Like Janis Ian, I learned the truth at 17. I got over it. I left one love for another, and had at least some comfort in being loved, however badly and selfishly and superficially, by the man I went on to marry.

We’ve been divorced since my youngest child was a toddler, but we’re on good terms, these days. And he gave my children just enough of his DNA to widen their eyes from the narrow slits their mother possesses, to give them a touch of effortless grace I will never claim, and some hint of slender proportion in the sweet clean lines of their little bodies. Also, he is much kinder to me, now that he doesn’t have to put up with my incessant demands, every day.

My ex-husband is not a bad man; merely a very weak one. I can’t blame another for a failing I share with them. And the boy I loved when I was 17 was too clever for his own good (or mine) too morally and ethically and intellectually fine to be ignored, but that was hardly his fault.

The man I fell for last year deserves at least some portion of the blame. He knew, going in, that he could never handle my polyamorous lifestyle… and he let me fall for him anyway. Made me fall, really–how dare he ham for me while driving, how dare he amuse me with a dozen flawless accents every time I ask, how dare he sing to me when it’s just the 2 of us, how dare he look at me with tears in his eyes while we make love.

But worse: how dare he tell me that if I can do this, he will do that? How dare he tell me that if I were more of one thing, he could love me fully? How dare he keep spinning the line that if I’ll just jump through this hoop, now this one, now this one, he’ll commit to me, to this lifestyle I share with the men I love, and try to make it work forever? “Whatever I do, you raise the same objections,” my Soldier.

He cannot love me the way I need to be loved, any more than I can stop loving him.

But I’ve seen this movie, and I know how it ends; and shame on me, for kissing him with my eyes closed so tight.



What makes a person desirable? I’d love to take a poll, but I’m not sure there’s anything new to cover, here. Psychology and evolutionary biology have a lot to say on that subject, and the media chime in as well (especially celebrity culture and pornography–those 2 are *great*, not only for telling us what we find attractive, but shaping our attitudes to same, especially if we’re not paying attention).

To some extent, I think I’m guilty of a sort of reverse-psychology reaction, there. Do I *really* find tall, slim, not particularly muscular guys with dark hair and pale skin attractive; or did I just SO HATE being told muscles, blonde hair, and a tan were attractive (when I was growing up, rather than now) I’ve semi-consciously chosen to find something else beautiful?

Is *that* what it is? Is it that, as a rule, I like men who are a bit androgynous, because it is *beauty* I’m looking for, rather than some stereotypical ideal of masculinity? Most of the men whose faces I like–though not necessarily the men I’ve had sex with, historically–fall into the category of “pretty enough to pass for female”. You know the type: slim, as I’ve said, usually with relatively large eyes and full mouths and not-too-big noses, relatively free of body hair (for a dude, at least) and able to shave away their 5 o’clock shadow (as opposed to men with perma-stubble) and if their skin is soft and smooth and their nails are clean and trimmed and they can fit into my clothing, so much the better. (And if they actively want to *wear* my clothing, that’s cute, too–after all, I rarely pass up the chance to wear the clothing of a man I’m crazy about.)

Is it just the way some men smell? Rather than liking macho, sweaty men, I like men who smell clean or fresh or appetizing–one of my ex-boyfriends smelled like a cross between rainwater and cut grass, and both of my current lovers smell a bit like baked goods to me (brioche and unbaked dough, respectively; brioche-lover smells sweeter, unbaked dough-lover smells more wholesome; both of them smell like something I want to bite).

Or is it the *other* thing they have in common, that really appeals to me? (Not an urge to have sex with me–that’s not so uncommon it would make me notice a man, particularly. I do alright for myself.) No, the *other* thing they have in common, the thing besides the pleasantly yeasty scent, is their unbridled enthusiasm for the things they love. (Which, hopefully, includes me–and that *is* uncommon enough to catch my eye.) They love very different things, generally (they have different careers, different hobbies, different tastes in music, different sexual styles–albeit with some overlap–different morals, different aspirations)… but in either case, what the boy loves, he loves passionately. I can listen (and have done) to either of them talk, sometimes for 20 solid minutes, about something that excites them; and usually, even if it’s something I have little or no interest in, it’s a sincere pleasure.

I love to talk; I love to hear other people talk; I love it when I’m confronted with a *man* who loves to talk. (They don’t all, you know. I mean, there are possibly more of them among the gay population–and God knows I’d have made a fabulous gay man!–but I’m a woman, and I really do prefer a man I can talk to AND shag.) I’m also quite keen on some styles of talking–a lovely turn-of-phrase goes farther than it should, with me–but just the willingness to talk, at length, with enthusiasm, is enough.

Well, no. Thinking about it, a man has to start with enough natural intelligence, before I’ll even give him the chance to wow me with his words… but that’s a subject for another day.