"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

The Romance Report

As I've been casually dropping in conversation for some time now, I have a girlfriend, something that hasn't happened in a while (and which I haven't copped to in speech or writing for even longer). This is a happy occasion, and a good thing in my life. Lovely Rina has been a wonder. The only down-side is that she is living overseas, working in the London branch of her employ. It's not permanent — the posting is temporary enough to make this whole idea less than completely insane — but it's a challenge and a burden for sure.

Neither of us were really planning on this — the whole thing sort of snuck in back-door subconscious style: whilst the relationship developed neither of us were taking things seriously in the way that could/would have scuttled the whole affair before it ever got off the ground — but now that it's happening, and it seems good and strong and real, we both agreed we would go for it.

Whaddya mean, "go for it?"

First, given my relative freedom and flexibility with my work, it made the most sense for me to go to her, so I headed off to spend some time in Londontown last fall. At the time we both acknowledged this was something of a test: if it didn't work being in the same city, well, that would have been sad but it would also have been pretty straightforward what came next.

Instead we developed a good little rhythm. We got to know (and make fun of) one another's daily habits; we'd make coffee and read the paper on the weekends, meet up for lunch, cook food in the evening. Honestly we didn't do much of anything special or exotic, just hung out and kept good company, enjoyed the city and life together. It felt good; we invented a multitude of pet names and inside jokes; it felt like we were only scratching the surface.

Things weren't all wine and roses of course, but I'd sought out some advice in advance of the trip from people I know who'd done the long-distance thing like this before and wasn't expecting unqualified paradise. As my friend Dr. Droller put it, "screaming and slamming doors are a really bad sign; occasionally disagreeing or needing some space to yourself is probably healthy."

Anyway, this was good, and so next-steps were to spent a week traveling together in Brazil over New Years; also successful, proving the concept in another format.

So I'm bullish. We're different people (she, for instance, finds my habits of personal over-sharing via interwebs to be abominable; I, for instance, can't really see the value in Bruno Mars). But our differences, many though they be, are largely contrasting and not conflicting. We don't pull in opposite directions very often; more like we have different perspectives and some unique tastes. We're both adventurous and openminded people and so this largely works.

The biggest worry I have is that much of our relationship has been me going to her — literally traveling to where she is, existing within her milieu — and I want her to know more about me and my world; my friends, my family, my places and scenes and things that matter.

The good news on that front is she's planning to come out to San Francisco in a couple weeks. My mom will also be around so ZOMG it's all happening.

Back to the thread, this need for me to have "my world" be a part of the relationship also highlights a non-insignificant internal struggle I've had for the past couple years and which has only gotten more pointed since moving out of Westhaven: that being I don't have the strongest sense of "personal velocity." Not that I don't know what I'm doing (indeed, I'm often embarrassed by my conventional success) but I really miss that good old epic sense of trajectory. It's part of growing up I'm pretty sure, the tail end of Saturn's Return, the exit of youthful vigor, naiveté and faux-immortality, or maybe just being a little burned out on Everything.

But the end result is the same, and anyone who's read this blog can probably see it. Used to be I had a lot of loud things to say about anything, and wasn't shy about expressing them all. That was Outlandish Josh: wild bohemian values and no fear of the truth. These days I hold my tongue more. Partly that's good, because I listen better; partly it's self-serving as I've learned he who speaks last speaks with authority; but partly it's sad because it feels like self-censorship and I miss that righteous certitude that used to set my blood a'runnin'.


The best lack all conviction, while the worst.
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

To bring it on back around to me and my sweet little thing — I mean really, she's effing gorgeous and outscored me on the SATs; what else could a man ask for? — this particular existential scab gets picked because much of the time we've spent together I've been effectively on her turf, with her friends, doing her things*. She's not overbearing about it, and her scene isn't a stretch for me to enjoy, or any kind of favor to her to go out with her crowd, but at the same time it ain't me. Being caught up in someone else's stronger wind made me acutely (painfully) aware of my own listlessness (which I hate, by the way).

But we talk about these things — correspondence, happenstance IM, a scheduled (damn you, timezone offset) phone calls on the weekend — and she's actually a good source of support for me. That's something that took a little while to realize, that I could lean on someone else even as I also lent them strength. Starts to get at that whole being more than the sum of the parts bit, slightly.

And of course there's fear. There's always fear, but often I've found that fear is a positive sign. Back when I was an impoverished post-college bohemian sharing an East Village room with Frank, I read this book of interviews with Allan Ginsburg. In it were many great inspirational ideas for a young man just beginning to find his way, but this one passage which stuck with me and which is (slighly embarassingly) from Playboy magazine and available in archive form via their (safe for work) website:

PLAYBOY: As a poet who's become famous for his erotic verse—and for his brutal candor—why were you so hesitant to read this poem before an audience?

GINSBERG: I don't know; it was the first time in years that I've really been scared to read something I'd written. When I get to a barrier of shame like the one I felt when writing this poem, I know it's the sign of a good poem, because I'm entering new public territory. I write for private amusement and for the golden ears of friends who'll understand and forgive everything from the point of view of humani nihil a me alienum puto—"Nothing human is foreign to me"—but it's fearsome to make private reality public.

That jived exceedingly well with my experience making performance, coming up with my own theatrical material: nervousness or fear was often a good indicator that I was onto something meaningful or effective. It's stuck with me as a life-lesson, and its in this spirit that I view my fears and worries about this highly improbable and sometimes vexing international romance I've got going. Fear means I'm onto something.

In conclusion, the romance report is good. Challenges ahead, but lots of potential. This is a totally unique experience for me since I'm really a different person since the last time I was in a relationship. Lots to figure out, but nothing I'd rather be doing with my personal life, to be honest.

*One notable exception was that I did fortuitously reconnect with Joe Duerr and his wife (at long last) Lauren, who had happened to move to London the same weeks I was there. That was kind of an awesome coincidence.