indifference and boredom

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Ella Mi Fu Rapita! (She abandoned me)
Gavin Ewart
“Die Liebe dauert oder dauert nicht.” –Brecht

Her boredom took her away. So simple.
She just became bored with me. No other rival
experienced the entrancing smile with the dimple
or put down his drink in joy at her arrival
or loved her in taxis that stream like ants
through London, fingers under her pants

caressing her holy of holies. Oh, no,
it wasn’t someone younger, bigger or better.
She went because she had the urge to go,
Without a phone call, telegram or letter.
From our last meeting she just walked out –
a few pretexts perhaps. What were they about?

Nothing too serious. A red bow in her hair,
as she lay naked on the bed, knees-raising,
stays in my mind. I know I had my share.
Love is all programmed, it’s all phasing,
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
A lover’s life is not that of a friend,

who by and large is able to take it or leave it.
For love there’s a critical path – it goes on.
It can’t go backwards or sideways, believe it,
That’s all; a dream, a tremendous con,
And when it’s over, you’re out on your own.
Most life, they say, has to be lived alone.

And what can the lover do, when the time’s come,
when THE END goes up on the screen? Yelling,
rush into the street, lamenting her lovely bum?
Get friendly with men in bars, telling
how sweet she was, praising her statistics,
or admiring his own sexual ballistics?

No, that’s no good. Love lasts – or doesn’t last.
And all the pink intimacies and warm kisses
go into Proust’s remembrance of time past.
Lovers must never crumple up like sissies
Or break down and cry about their wrongs
If girls are sugar, God holds the sugar tongs.

spring is never summer

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Spring Song
Gavin Ewart
Lovers are rolling over like cats in the sunshine,
allowing their tummies to be tickled,
licking one another,

full of the excitement of finding a new person,
happy in the warm emotion.
The questions come later.

Soon they will discover there are two different people
involved in these affairs; quite simply,
spring is never summer.

gone away

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Ending
Gavin Ewart
The love we thought would never stop
now cools like a congealing chop.
The kisses that were hot as curry
are bird-pecks taken in a hurry.
The hands that held electric charges
now lie inert as four moored barges.
The feet that ran to meet a date
are running slow and running late.
The eyes that shone and seldom shut
are victims of a power cut.
The parts that then transmitted joy
are now reserved and cold and coy.
Romance, expected once to stay,
has left a note saying GONE AWAY.

Photo by Raul Petri on Unsplash

 

Make manifest the hypocrisy

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“Should I be a killjoy now and point out that we are objectifying all these people?”

Not two days after two acquaintances were railing against gender inequality, the continued need for active and vigilant feminism and the gross objectification of women, insisting that we are not heard and are constantly interrupted, not only did they interrupt and talk over each other, they wheeled out loads and loads of pictures of people active in CrossFit and started commenting on their muscles, their bodies, their appearances, and their preference for “muscular women who don’t appear muscular in clothes”. Normally I would not care – this would be something I’d happily and easily ignore because this kind of commentary is not my thing, but this time, suddenly I was thinking, “What the hell is this?” It’s somehow okay to objectify people (granted, these people have public, visible Instagram accounts where their muscles are on display) and critique them like it’s the fucking Crufts Best in Show? As I say, I don’t care in theory – this is just what we do as people, even if I don’t participate, but the muted hypocrisy defied reason, smacked of inconsistency and screamed ‘double standard’.

I’d argue that most of us are objects and objectifiers in one way or another. It’s how we make sense of the world and the people in it. I’m hypersensitive to it and, at the same time, questioning my own blind spots. Whom am I objectifying, overlooking or generalizing about without knowing it?

En garde: Gotta be vigilant and police the self.

Short Time
-Gavin Ewart

She juliets him from a window in Soho,
A 'business girl' of twenty.
He is a florid businessman of fifty.
(Their business is soon done.)

He, of a bright young man the sensual ghost,
Still (in his mind) the gay seducer,
Takes no account of thinned and greying hair,
The red veins webbing a once-noble nose,
The bushy eyebrows, wrinkles by the ears,
Bad breath, the thickening corpulence,
The faded, bloodshot eye.

This is his dream:  that he is still attractive.

She, of a fashionable bosom proud,
A hairstyle changing as the fashions change,
Has still the ageless charm of being young,
Fancies herself and knows that men are mugs.

Her dream:  that she has foxed the bloody world.

When two illusions meet, let there not be a third
Of the gentle hypocrite reader prone to think
That he is wiser than these self-deceivers.

Such dreams are common.  Readers have them too.

Speedboat

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I always listen to Lloyd Cole in the summer.”

I feel the chill of it – the words, actions and interactions feel like the movement of a speedboat, racing effortlessly over just the glistening surface of the water. I am watching from the firm ground of the shore – he waves as he becomes a remote speck. The interaction is one-sided and fragmented, much like the speedboat’s glide, interrupted by occasional bumps, as it flies across the water.

What feels like a purposeful distance is created, preserved and extended, the boat traveling further out of reach by the second. What is it that makes this so? The not knowing where to take a deeper discussion? Avoiding having an unpleasant conversation? An inability to know where to plunge your anchor? Too many things going on at once? From the edge of the water, I can only wave back meekly, knowing I won’t actually be seen, and anything I could say or ask cannot be heard. And for some time, seemingly forever, standing stock still in the bitterly cold wind, which isn’t much time at all really, I wait and wonder.

Pierced by this whole experience, shockingly brief as it is – I am changed and restored to a better version of my truest self, but this imparts no magical wizardry – I am unable to make anyone else feel the same way as I do or to feel anything at all, really. And am likewise unable to know exactly what it is that another feels because I doubt he even knows with any clarity, or if he does, he’s sailed so far away that he can’t convey it to me. Which is part of why he is out on the lake skimming lightly across the water, possibly going so far out that there’s fishing to be done and lures to cast.

It’s strange how the more, and more deeply, you feel you love someone (and consequently want to be with them), the harder it is to tell them that – or tell them directly exactly what you feel – or talk about it in any way. Especially when you feel certain you bear your feelings alone – there is nothing mutual or shared about it.

In response, I embody a second, separately functioning person from myself, involuntarily splitting into two parts – the one I allow to feel, be open, be vulnerable and to question, and then the one I preserve for logic and analysis. Maybe this is an astrological trait (dual roles), maybe this is, as the New Age book I read cautioned, the “Loyal Soldier” who went to war for me in immature ways to foster self-preservation as a child (and whose tactics continue to drive emotional life in an immature way now that the “war is over”, as the book put it*).

Either way, both identities are paralyzed and don’t say one direct word about real feelings because revealing comes with not only the possibility of being destroyed but also feels like an imposition. Saying things aloud makes them not only real (and unerasable) but starts to force an agenda on the other person, influences them unduly, may pressure or oblige them to take on something they don’t want, are not ready for or even inveigle them into a conversation they don’t want to have. I have no desire to set a trap or inadvertently create an environment in which it’s possible to feel trapped.Thus the whole matter becomes a blizzard in the brain and heart, obscuring the words and actions that should be realized, or becomes something that is haphazardly regurgitated in circuitous, erratic, piecemeal blog posts here or there.

…And yet after some time feeling as though a part of a curious speedboat détente, he, rapidly speeding away from me and disappearing into the horizon, and my daily life returning to normal, one of the parts of the split identity, the non-feeling split, begins to dominate. It becomes a lot like the time I advised a dear Australian friend that if she wanted her American boyfriend to show more interest, she had to pretend she wasn’t interested. To which she replied, “But by acting less interested, won’t I just actually lose interest?” To which I enthusiastically exclaimed, “Well, yes! That’s the beauty and the whole point of it!“At least for the emotionally stunted! You do it initially, ostensibly, on the surface, hoping to be seen, acknowledged and missed (knowing this will not be the yield), but the real underlying and long-term aim is to lose interest yourself so that any outcome is a manageable outcome. Or it will be an outcome that does not hurt, at least not the part of the personality that pursued this savage, self-sacrificing strategy.

The analytical part that remembers and looks at all the words that have been said, all the clues and hints dropped (even if there weren’t really clues or hints – all words once spoken are now being processed and interpreted that way in this part of the brain) ascribes a unilateral verdict to the situation and moves on accordingly. Move on. It feels logical, familiar and comfortable because it pre-empts most possible pain. Move on. It soothes the mind with the casual way it gives birth to an indifference that grows day by day, so that I no longer even look to the water to see the speedboat buzzing, making its rounds, or perhaps no longer even walk to the shore at all. Move on.

Eventually feigning disinterest leads to the promised land of real disinterest and – bonus points – boredom. Moved on. At least the logical half of the self can buy into that, offering itself sterile congratulations for not getting its hands dirty while nevertheless doing the dirty work of crushing the feelings of the other half. It does not matter that it was early days; it does not matter that I knew what I was getting into and that this was always where it could lead or end.

The heart – the crushed part – has no response to this logic. It does not even speak this language, but the heart is not driving, so it has no say.

Ella Mi Fu Rapita! (She abandoned me) – Gavin Ewart
“Die Liebe dauert oder dauert nicht.” –Brecht

Her boredom took her away. So simple.
She just became bored with me. No other rival
experienced the entrancing smile with the dimple
or put down his drink in joy at her arrival
or loved her in taxis that stream like ants
through London, fingers under her pants

caressing her holy of holies. Oh, no,
it wasn’t someone younger, bigger or better.
She went because she had the urge to go,
Without a phone call, telegram or letter.
From our last meeting she just walked out –
a few pretexts perhaps. What were they about?

Nothing too serious. A red bow in her hair,
as she lay naked on the bed, knees-raising,
stays in my mind. I know I had my share.
Love is all programmed, it’s all phasing,
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
A lover’s life is not that of a friend,

who by and large is able to take it or leave it.
For love there’s a critical path – it goes on.
It can’t go backwards or sideways, believe it,
That’s all; a dream, a tremendous con,
And when it’s over, you’re out on your own.
Most life, they say, has to be lived alone.

And what can the lover do, when the time’s come,
when THE END goes up on the screen? Yelling,
rush into the street, lamenting her lovely bum?
Get friendly with men in bars, telling
how sweet she was, praising her statistics,
or admiring his own sexual ballistics?

No, that’s no good. Love lasts – or doesn’t last.
And all the pink intimacies and warm kisses
go into Proust’s remembrance of time past.
Lovers must never crumple up like cissies
Or break down and cry about their wrongs
If girls are sugar, God holds the sugar tongs.

It may even feel somewhat comforting to let go of the idea of being in love (“it’s so hard to love when love was your great disappointment“) because I think we all know that when you are in love, no one wants to hear about it. They want your misery. Misery loves company.

Photo (c) Paul Costanich – not quite a speedboat, but it will suffice. (It’s a “ski jet” according to S. Haha)

*From Soulcraft – Bill Plotkin:

“Each of us has a Loyal Soldier sub-personality, a courageous, creative and stubborn entity formed when we needed somewhat drastic measures to survive the realities (sometimes dysfunctional) of childhood. This sub-personality’s primary task was to minimize the occurrence of further injury, whether emotional or physical. The Loyal Soldier’s approach to this task was – and continues to be – to make us small or invisible, to suppress much of our natural exuberance, emotions, desires and wildness so we might be sufficiently acceptable to our parents (and/or other guardians, siblings, teachers and authority figures). The Loyal Soldier learns to restrain another sub-personality we might call the Wild Child, our original, sensual, magical, untamed self that has an essential relationship to the soul and is not interested in limiting itself in any way.

Common Loyal Soldier survival strategies include harsh self-criticism (to make us – the ego – feel unworthy and thus ineligible for Wild Child actions that might bring further punishment, abandonment, or criticism); placing our personal agenda last (so as to not displease or arouse anger or envy); other codependent behaviors (e.g. caretaking, rescuing, enabling) to stave off abandonment; pleasing but immature and inauthentic personas; partial or complete social withdrawal (to minimize hurtful contacts); adopting an unpleasant or downtrodden appearance (to protect us from criticism); restricting our range of feeling by encouraging us to always be in charge, busy, angry, ruthless, withdrawn, and/or numb; and suppressing our intelligence, talent, enthusiasm, sensuality, and wildness by locking up these qualities in an inaccessible corner of our psyches. … The Loyal Soldier’s adamant and accurate understanding is this: it is better to be suppressed or inauthentic or small than socially isolated or emotionally crushed – or dead.”

“The Loyal Soldier did, in fact, keep us safe (enough) in childhood. The problem is that the Loyal Soldier’s strategies become bedrock to our survival and are defended to the death – even after the war is over.”

The 50-somethings

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When exactly is it that most men hit the point of peak entitlement, non-listening, world-class dullards and yet, despite being more closed off to the outside world and the most out of touch they have possibly ever been, feel perfectly comfortable being outlandishly demanding?

It’s a slow process, perhaps simmering within them for their entire lives.

A friend and I discussed her observation (and I agree) that many men we know (mostly men in their 50s) are mind-numbingly boring, selfish and self-involved conversationalists who are so lacking in self-awareness that they don’t realize they have monopolized the one-sided conversations they start with the most boring of rambling. My friend is a social woman and tries to engage everyone in conversation, which I admire but also cringe at, knowing she will end up in more than her share of these time-suck monologues. I have no small talk wizardry at my disposal so avoid this kind of stuff as much as I can. Most people are boring, in the end. I have often found myself in challenging and awkward social situations, where I overcome my aversion to idle chitchat – at considerable pains – and want to almost congratulate myself that I kickstarted a conversation, only to hate myself for bothering minutes later when someone starts talking ad nauseam about himself, his stodgy perspectives, insipid opinions and lifeless hobbies. Conversation thus becomes tedious, drudgery… and work. And the monotony is wearisome.

But these guys were certainly not born this way? Before they hit 50, and found themselves on the loose in the world as single men again for the first time in years, they did manage to get married and have families.

One friend told me recently about how hard marriage is. The man she fell in love with was gregarious, outgoing, curious, adventurous – always looking for new things to try. And these were the qualities that attracted her, the things they had in common. He was the life of the party and could win anyone over because he’s so talkative; in fact, he dominates every conversation with his stories and opinions. He had life experience and adventures to share, though, and stories with which to regale even the most reluctant listener. With each passing year (click the link for Gavin Ewart‘s “Short Time”, brilliant poem on self-deception) though, he has grown less adventurous, more closed-off and closed-minded. But he still turns on the charm in social situations and dominates the conversation. For how long, though, will it seem charming, as the ratio of adventures/new stories dwindles versus the urge to dominate, and eventually tyrannize, the conversation?

I started wondering if this is the trajectory of the 50-something man. Not every man has been quite as witty or engaging as this friend’s husband, but is there something to the idea that as these guys’ experiences, influence and curiosity diminish in breadth, reach and frequency, everything about them becomes more limited in scope? And for men who dominate conversations, they reach this period of just-beyond middle-age and do not realize they aren’t the life of the party. My theory here could be way off, but isn’t there a correlation here? These guys, if they ever had “it”, have lost it – and they and their wives are no longer in the same place… for the same old reasons. One changed, and the other didn’t.

What gets me, though, is that these 50-something men often get divorced but then don’t even question or evaluate how it all broke down. Could it have anything to do with the fact that every time they opened their mouths, they showered their wives with routine, interminable selfishness? And if that assertion is anything close to true, wouldn’t it make sense that they might recalibrate before striking up conversations with new people (whether colleagues or dates or potential partners)? I keep running into this exact scenario – sometimes being met with obliviousness (I could walk away and these men would continue to babble), sometimes being met with absolutely foul, sour and hideous behavior and insults (and here I mean real nastiness). Either way, this demographic – maladjusted pricks and dicks (of any age) – isn’t one I am keen to be around.