I Been This Way Ten Years To The Day
Like most of my peers, I don't much like valentines day. It tends to be an artificial creator of stress, unwanted and advantage-taking. I resent it conceptually, even though in practice it has worked out on occasion.
A decade ago a friend of mine drove me from NYC to New England where my then-girlfriend was going to an all-girls college. The first love of my life. That turned out to be a very good weekend, the cold brisk Massachusetts air and light through leaveless trees, frozen ground and beautiful old architecture and heavy quilted blankets. Probably the best valentines to-date.
Five years ago I went on a first date, out with an artsy clever brash girl, a self-described bad girl, a girl who brought me gifts from the dollar store: this garish yellow notepad I still have (and use) today, and a bar of soap called stud which set the tone but was promptly lost. We had drinks at Beauty Bar, and it was the night before the big protests against the Iraq war. That one worked out alright too, even if we didn't stop the war from happening.
This year I stayed home, begging off from seeing the cute soccer-playing girl I've gone out with a few times in the past couple months, probably signaling finis to that going-out. I didn't intend for that to be the case, but the tone of her voice strongly suggested displeasure at our scheduling difficulties, or more specifically my lack of attention and follow-through in that regard.
It's something I have some experience with, the way that women get gradually fed up with me and my half-heartedness. It's not something to be proud of, but I've learned to recognize the scorn this inevitably brings, even in trace amounts.
I would like to be a better person, and sometimes I am. But I'm also fickle and picky, especially when it comes to women. At the same time I want them all to love me always. It's literally childish, I know. This is one of the main reasons I've tended to avoid dating people who I know socially. It makes things simpler, operating without the additional pressures that a second-degree friendship brings. It makes it easier to play it straight when there are fewer people to please.
"People to please." Jeebus, Koenig! This is how you know your life has gone off it's philosophical rails, when you start thinking of your day-to-day like a public relations campaign. The truth always feels better, right? Even when it seems unpleasant and hard, especially when it seems unpleasant and hard.
Yeah, shit. So what is the truth? The truth is that my purposes and objectives have changed over the past several years, and my romantic sense of self has yet to really recalibrate. I was having a little heart-to-heart with my man Luke down in the Cornell Club, and I vocalized for the first time -- which I've been saying and feeling in so many words some time now -- that what I'm really interested in is finding someone to settle down with. Speaking the words made me realize how true they were.
That's all well and good, laudable, obvious even, except that in tandem with this I seem to have lost my lust for visceral experience, the flame of Dionysus gone flickering, low and cold. Couple that with my vanity, my hubris and ambition, the height of my high-side soulmate standards and a recent spate of confusion about my life's purpose and future, and you've got a potent recipe for long and lonely times, which is what the past 18 months have been, for the most part.
The truth is I really don't care about sex for its own sake anymore. It's not motivating. Well, that's not really true. The more accurate truth is that I don't care about sex as much, and I care about its consequences a great deal more than I used to. The cost/benefit analysis has changed.
This feels grown-up, but also sad. There's a loss of faith in there, a cynicism, a dimness, a pessimism, even some fear. I don't know whether this is just an aditudinal phase or the irrevocable effect of experience. I hope for the former, if for no other reason than life's more interesting when one believes in mystical and potent powers which supercede the narrow realms of consciousness and logic. And because I don't want to be ruled by fear. And because I have a lot of fun memories, and would very much like to make some more.
Something's amiss. Pure fun is still nowhere to be found, and more of my philosophies are offended. "Presence is perfection." "The most important thing is to stop struggling." These are catchphrases for the self, yeah, but they're also things that I have believed in, ideas I still intellectually embrace. Presence is more illusive than ever, and this paradigm of public relations -- expectation/perception-management -- produces crippling bouts of precisely the sort of "struggle" it's most important to stop.
As the philosopher says, "beliefs are habits of action," and in that light many of my so-called [[Axioms of Living]] are no longer things I can truly claim to believe, at least not in the utilitarian sense. They are not the principles that I live. Which is probably why I feel so estranged from myself.
The crisis of meaning has always been with us though, and the fire and the blackness wait around every corner. It feels good at least to be able to put my finger closer to the likely source of my discomfort, even if I remain clueless as to a resolution. This is not exactly new territory (as a survey of recent posts tagged "sex" confirms) but it feels more precise.
The best that can be said for artificial constructs like valentines day is that they provide a focus, an inflection point for things that are already happening. Learning is always a plus.