Thursday, January 12, 2012

ten points if you make it through

Last night Matt and I disagreed about something that happened on a TV show we watch and I couldn't form a coherent argument as to why it bothered me so much. Not the fact that we disagreed, that's not a rare experience at all, but that we held such different views on something that we had seen simultaneously, under the same circumstances, the only differing variable being the interpretation of our own minds.

At the risk of this explanation becoming more boring and verbose than it will already be, I'll say that this was a moment built up between two fictional characters over a period of almost two seasons. That's the marketable way to do it, stretch the viewers' patience as long as possible. In this case, two seasons of meaningful glances/smiles/wistful looks,  near-misses, and talking about their feelings to everyone but each other and finally, finally, a kiss. Not just any kiss, a big whammy, an embrace, a block-all-the-world moment.

It was cathartic, for me, to watch this thing under the surface, that was so clearly just out of reach, finally come to light.

Finally a release.

As the viewer, I watched in anticipation of this moment, willing it to happen every time the two characters were in the same frame. It may be fictional, but that doesn't mean the people watching don't invest emotionally in what we see. So while I essentially squealed with delight at the dramatic first kiss between two people forbidden to be together by circumstance, I glanced over at my own love, to gauge his reaction. It's something that I do often, look to see Matt's reaction to things, because as well as I know him, as much as I like to think I've pieced together a reliable map of this mind and heart, we are two beings independent of each other, and there are always mysteries.

He was not as thrilled as I was.

Actually he was disgusted and he accused me of condoning infidelity because I was so thrilled to finally see these two characters get to share a truly happy moment together.

You see, the man of the pair was in an on-again-off-again relationship with a woman who didn't know many things about him, one of which being his feelings toward the female lead. But then again, everyone on the show lies to the people they care about. For the sake of their safety, of course. The lies, the covering up of the lies and the near-misses with them, it's a central part of the story line, woven in with the romance, another factor of suspense.

Another reason we watch.

But does it justify lying?

Matt's disapproval led me, of course, to think about my feelings on infidelity.

Cheating, I know, I believe, I fully feel, is wrong. It's grounds for separation,  for re-evaluation, to end something special that has been mutually worked for between two people.

As a person that has experienced first-hand the feelings of disgust and pain and fury and just filth that surround the person you are with, to whom you've handed over part of yourself, to whom you've tried to make yourself fit, betraying my trust for the cheap thrill of the warm touch of someone else when mine wasn't convenient and handy, I know what it's like to feel seared alive. Then to continually press on the seared spot of your being to try to understand the pain, the motive, the reason. And to find that sometimes, there is not a reason, sometimes there is not logic, sometimes the only thing you know for certain is pain. However, I have never been left at the discovery of someone better, either. Only someone more opportune.

I also can't say that I've always played my heart exactly by the rule book. Because in truth, I've never been able to find a rule book that seemed fair to me.

I'm not a cheater. I feel that my integrity is intact.

But come on. I'm not perfect either, as hard as it is to admit about something so charged, being faithful and trustworthy and sturdy and true, I can never claim that my slate is clean. Not completely.

In college, my first two years, I was in love with a man so sweet and gentle and caring. He thought we were going to get married. I wondered often what our life would look like in five, ten, fifteen years. Would we still have the same arguments? Would we still be able to make each other laugh? Would we ever stop drinking every weekend?

I felt committed, devoted. We practically lived together. We spent every possible moment together. It was so much fun.

And then I would come home for the weekend and I would immediately call Matt and hop into his truck and we'd drive around together for entire nights. Driving no where, looking at the stars, laughing and singing along to the music.

And I loved that too.

And it made me feel like a monster.

So that meant I was doing something wrong. Your insides know past the rationality of your mind when something strange and wrong is afoot. Anything that feels that wrong means it is wrong. Just to be clear, it doesn't seem to work both ways, just because something feels right, doesn't necessarily mean it is. Another lesson hard-learned.

And yet during that time Matt and I never kissed. But more than once we went down to visit friends at their colleges and got drunk at parties and I'd wake up in the same bed with him, with his arm thrown over my body, both of us fully clothed and on top of the blankets, like we'd fallen where we stood talking.  And I'd think, "Fuck fuck fuck."

And then I'd pretend it was nothing and I'd done nothing wrong, not violated any sacred unspoken agreements, not been a poor example of character or someone that cannot be trusted. Because I hadn't kissed him, right? I always reminded myself of that. But it felt wrong because I knew how I felt, pulled in two directions, stretched. And I knew how they both felt about me, and I learned that you don't get to dole out permission for someone to love you.

Sometimes, they just do.

And sometimes you don't get to decide either. Sometimes, even the most disciplined of us cannot stop the runaway train of emotions that hits unexpected, violently, defiantly.

I know that it was wrong that those two characters kissed before the writers made them single and available, morally right, but it adds to the drama. It adds to the conflicting emotions that stir within us and keep us coming back. Is it truer to life? If they're so broken and they're beautiful and we get to watch their most private lives unfold, then it's okay, maybe, that I'm broken and imperfect too?

 Am I able to be the kind of person who will close my heart off to that explosion of attraction? Is monogamy a pillar of my heart's fundamental belief system? Of course it is, but what constitutes cheating? Why are we so compelled by the idea of forbidden love, even in a fictional sense? How big should be the guilt in my soul for the sins I committed in the past on the journey to discover the lessons I've learned? How much weight should I feel for the hearts that I've surely damaged along the way?

I was 18 then, 19. Everything I felt, I meant. I meant it all so much. I don't know if I've ever let myself feel so much since then. That love at college was sacred to me, it still is, because it was my first. But this love that I feel now, it is more sacred to me. I tell myself, completely honestly and truthfully, that I would never let it go there now, not when I've learned so much and lost so much and come so far.

Not with this love. Maybe then I had the steady truth that I'd never let my feelings be proven, my lack of faith be brought to light with a physical manifestation, a kiss, but it is my perhaps ignorant belief that emotionally bonding with someone other than my partner, my lover, my best friend, Matt, would hurt him far worse. And now, certainly, I would never let myself take it there. Not only because I know pain of heart but because I treasure what I have too much to risk it, to play with it. It is not a game, not that I ever felt like it was anyway. 

Also what of the media? Is is desensitizing me to monogamy? Is it fucking with my moral code? Am I less now, less because I wanted, hoped, wished, imagined, obsessed, fixated these two people sharing that first kiss?

Is Matt hypocritical for reacting the way he did when in fact, he told me he was still in love with me before he'd had the chance to end things with his ex-girlfriend after reading my letter, in which I begged, calling him back to me? Or is it okay because we didn't actually see each other until after it was done, ended. Who am I to declare my feelings at the expense of some other girl's happiness anyway? Is it because I felt we were meant to be together, that despite circumstances and obstacles in the way, I was willing to forsake the code to make it known?

Is 'fair' just an ideal we can use as a point to strive for, like Utopia? What is fair? Who gets to say? I want to know.

In life, things are less compressed, action packed. When events unfold slowly as they usually do, some of the drama of the situations we endure is lost, or spread out to seem less extreme. And thank god for that, our lives were not fabricated for the entertainment of others. But have we been trained to set that as the benchmark for success? Do we need the explosions and fireworks or are they just a precursor for disaster? I recently learned that we're not the only organisms that can manipulate one another. Is that all we are,  animals? 

Would we tolerate all that drama that we get sucked into,  or do we long for it?


I don't need to know that answer to the last question.

I just want to get back to my show.

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