Micro pen pal

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Years and years ago, I knew a guy who was intelligent, nice and cultured. We lived in different cities but had many lovely conversations about music and art and the world in general. But at some point, he kept backing me into corners with his feelings and suggestions. And what do I do when backed into a corner? I push my way out with (verbal) fists flying.

For me, he was a pen pal, whom I saw on occasion when in his city, but he interpreted all of it to mean I also wanted some kind of romantic relationship. I thought after meeting that I had made it – and repeatedly did – abundantly clear, that I had no interest in this whatsoever. But beset by lack of self-esteem, an inexplicable persistence and jealousy, I suppose he thought anyone who would talk to him as much as I did must have felt something else, something more, but … it was next to impossible to see redeeming qualities that would make someone be attracted to him. Not because he was repellent, ugly or stupid or anything like that. No, it boiled down to his COMPLETE lack of confidence and accompanying spinelessness.

One summer when I was visiting his city, I stopped by his place to pick him up to go to a gallery. While waiting in his tiny flat, he came out of the shower (undressed) and said, “OH, I did not realize you would be there.” Where the hell else would I be in this micro apartment? (I could not help but notice, in the midst of this particular awkward “overture” on his part, that the apartment was not the only “micro” item in the room.) Eventually this kind of behavior made me run away, realizing that it was not possible to be friends and that he could not, in the absence of other viable options, deal with the direct truth (my telling him he is cool but not for me romantically just made him try harder and annoy me more). Given his hard luck and “nothing going for him” nature, I also didn’t want to hurt him. But any compassion or kindness, he misinterpreted as (ardent) interest. After enough of these misunderstandings, I felt frustrated, angry and trapped, and this is when I lash out most cruelly.

At some point, in the midst of a couple of stupid affairs I was having (which I used as fodder for making him jealous/angry enough to stop talking to me and leave me alone, which never worked. Instead I got lectures about devaluing myself; certainly all true, but nothing I wanted to hear) I indirectly compared his penis to Brussels sprouts (i.e., when he said I had never had sex with him, so I should try him out to get over an obsession with someone else, to which I replied, “That is like telling a heroin addict that she will stop shooting up if she just eats some Brussels sprouts.” As he well should have, he got angry and hurt).

But what upset me was that the next day — and this was the crux of his total problem with women, people and success in general — he sent me flowers and apologized for getting angry. Seriously?! He had every right to be hurt and angry, and what he should have understood is that he needs to own that anger and lay down the law. He should have told me, “You have no right to talk to me that way.” But no, he just took it. And that is so utterly unattractive in another person.

At some point this kind of talk finally made him so angry that he stopped contacting me for three or four very peaceful months. I enjoyed that time because, most of all, I respected that he finally took a stand. Unfortunately he was never going to know about the respect or get credit for it because it would all disappear if he were to contact me again, which he did.

Thereafter (still years and years ago), for the most part he seemed to accept that I would never be interested, but on occasion he would do something like send flowers at Valentine’s Day and make some remarks that would again push me into petty territory (talking about my ultra-promiscuous life with lesser intellects) and sheer cruelty: “Ah the Married Idiot (one of the erstwhile affairs, whom this guy hated and had the most jealousy for) is in town this week and wants to get together.” His reply, “That guy has HUGE problems.” Seeing “HUGE” written in all caps like that made me immediately respond, wickedly, cruelly, inexplicably, just to be hurtful, “That’s not all he has that’s huge.” ?! What on earth was wrong with me?

After this, he got mad, as I hoped, and went silent… for a while at least. I am happy to report that sometime soon after, he finally met someone who loves him and probably does not treat him in a cruel and careless way, the way I, his pen pal, did.

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