A Lack of Self-Respect

I’m hard pressed to understand why it is that I can’t seem to muster up any more self-respect than this.  Why would an otherwise intelligent man continually subject himself to the whims of a person who doesn’t value him?  How long does he go on making excuses for someone who doesn’t communicate?  Who toys with his emotions and shows no more concern for his well-being than to completely ignore him all week-end and then offer up some mostly useless excuse for why?

Anyone with a modicum of self-respect would have washed his hands of this a long time ago!  So why can’t I? 

I doubt myself.  That’s the only answer I can come up with.  I doubt my worth.  I doubt my judgment.  I doubt my sense.  Because what if I’m wrong, and this guy is the guy that I’m meant to be with and I’m just dealing with some incredibly painful, seemingly interminable growing pains at the start?  Twenty years from now, will I be looking back at this time and appreciating the struggle we had to go through to spend the rest of our lives together?

I doubt it.  I think it’s far more likely that 20 years from now I’ll be looking back on this time and kicking myself for not washing my hands of the whole thing faster.  Probably from my deathbed, where no one will be there to hold my hand and see me off.

Most of the time I feel like he’s toying with me.  He doesn’t want me.  But he doesn’t want to let me go either.  He likes having me hanging on and when it seems like I’m about to let go, he throws me another bone.  It’s cruel really.  We have these deep emotional conversations and I think yes!  Finally we’re getting somewhere! But then his behavior doesn’t change.  He still doesn’t respond to his text messages in a timely manner.  He still ignores the ones that make him uncomfortable.  And he still offers up worthless explanations.

He has all the control.  I’m not sure if he realizes it or not.  He might.  He might be doing it on purpose.  Or he might have no idea. 

But in my own sickness, I’m afraid to hurt him, so I don’t say anything, and I continue to just hide in the corner and wait for his next scrap of affection knowing it will never be enough.

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Crushed

“What are you doing, showing off in that dress?”

The office is so small, and so open that there is no chance that I won’t hear the conversations of other’s as they take place. This time around it was The Guy talking to his manager who was, apparently wearing a very flattering dress that showed off her figure… I guess. I don’t pay attention to such things…

The thing is, he used to make those comments to me.

“Don’t be walkin’ around in here, showing of that ass!”, he would text me. I didn’t really know what he meant. I have, all along, used my anti-decision making, decision-making tactic (or ADMDMT) of picking the next pair of work-worthy pants out of the drawer and then finding the first shirt on the closet rail that went with the pants I was wearing. As it happens, I have lost about 65 pounds from my heaviest weight and some of my clothes fit better than others. He liked the view of them all…. I liked to wear my smaller sizes, because they fit better and make me feel better about myself, actually fitting into them despite their significantly smaller sizes. I admit to you, the reader, that I wear those clothes proudly and with confidence – Not because I am “showing off” for The Guy, but because I am happy to be thinner and in better shape. And yes, I was aware that some of the articles would elicit… Well illicit comments, from The Guy. But I never at any point picked clothing, based on how I thought The Guy would respond to it. I still wear the larger sizes too, I don’t have enough of any one size clothing to call it a “wardrobe” so I cycle through them. As it happened, the “fat clothes” came back around in the cycle, right about the same time that The Guy, broke my heart. He has interpreted that as some sort of “keep your hands off” message from me, when in fact it’s just “what was next in line”.

This time, the comment wasn’t aimed at me.

“Just ignore me,” I texted him, “because I’m sure I’m being unreasonable, but that ‘don’t be showing off…’ comment to (his boss’s name) just now, kinda bugs me…”

He replied “Well… She’s showing off her body today just like you used to do…”

Used to do

“Yeah. That’s why it bother’s me.” I answered. Using the same “complimentary” terminology, with someone else, feels decidedly (to me) like having been forgotten or ignored. It certainly makes me doubt his sincerity toward me.

“I see the statements as very different. We had a physical connection / attraction. I complimented her… Very Different.”

had a physical connection

“That’s a big part of why this was a bad idea in the first place,” I told him. “Sooner or later, probably sooner, your interests will move elsewhere and I’m not going to enjoy watching / listening to it happening.”

“I don’t think I’ll be engaging in amorous activity anytime soon. I mean, I’d do you. And I’d do (senior boss’s name), just ’cause it’s cool to hook-up with the big boss… but now I wouldn’t do you because I know it makes you and me crazy.”

Seeing as how he never “did me” in the first place, I’m not sure where this conclusion of “makes [us] crazy” comes from.

I was already struggling with some jealousy just watching his interactions with people, before the poop hit the fan. Now that it has, I’m really not happy to hear him using the same lines on other people that he did on me… It cheapens whatever it was that we had.

I began to think better of the whole conversation and told him, “You’re probably taking this all wrong and feel like you need to modify your behavior to ‘protect’ me. That wasn’t my point at all.”

“No, I’m acting the way I alway have… I am an extrovert and I compliment folks, not with intentions to sleep with them, but because I like to see their faces light up when I say something flattering or nice to them.”

And the fact that he’s using the same terminology and tone that he used with me, the person he made a choice to reject out of hand, is, apparently, completely unimportant…

My Own Addiction

It wasn’t an exaggeration when I told The Guy that I have thought about him every minute of every day.  It was the absolute truth, and it is disturbing.  It’s been fourteen weeks.  Only fourteen weeks.  All of fourteen weeks.  Fourteen very short, very long weeks.

I can offer no explanation for my behavior.  There’s nothing I can say that would tell anyone why I let him touch me the way he did, when he did, where he did.  There’s nothing to justify allowing him to convince me to sneak into the never used stairwell at work to experience the first kiss with a man in my adult life, though, I suppose that experience helps to explain why I allowed him to convince me to do it again…  and again, and again…

Certainly there’s nothing I could say that would make any sense out of the fact that I really did fall in love with him after just six weeks of not dating.  We spoke every day during that time.  Flirted at work, had short private conversations, hours long text-athons in the evenings.  Back then, we really talked…  or so I thought.

I tried to really explore where that feeling could be coming from.  I wanted to be the first to disprove it.  “I can’t love him,” I tried to tell myself, “It’s just the newness.  It’s just that he’s the only person to express interest.  It’s just that it’s my only shot at this.”

None of that bore out.

It had long since stopped feeling new to me.  (Honestly!  Has it really only been three and a half months?  It seems like it’s been years.)  It wasn’t that he’s the only person to express interest.  It would have been more in character for me to discourage his attraction and to do my best to turn him off, than to reciprocate out of desperation, or loneliness.  I thought long and hard about the fact that this was my only shot at this.  I had to know that I wasn’t allowing that to affect my thinking on the subject.  I had to be certain that my feelings for him were based in something more real than fear of losing my one shot.  And the day I realized that I already knew I would be none the worse for the wear when this ended, that I wouldn’t have lost anything that I had before it began; that was the day I knew that what I was feeling, however absurd it may seem, however little logic there was in it, was, in fact, genuine love.  And really, who says there’s any logic in love anyway.  How you act on it, sure, but the feeling?  Not so much.  When I knew I wasn’t going to run away from this, just because it was destined to end, I knew that, for me at least, it was real.

And I still stand by all of that.  But at the same time, it makes it really tough that it’s still true, even though it’s over; even though any hope that once existed for a miracle has been killed.  The hope?  It is bloodied and broken and lies helpless and alone in the corner of some alley where reality and certainty ganged up on it and kicked the crap out of it, before leaving it for dead.  Even as I type these words, hope is breathing its last breath as it watches the puddle of blood in which it is lying, spread.

So knowing all of that, why is it that I still spend every minute of every day thinking about him?  Why do his words continue to waltz across the stage of my mind, reminding me of all the questions that went unanswered and that fact, ignored.  Why do I continue to search for, and yes, ask for, clarity where none can possibly exist.  I know I cant trust him to give me the truth.  Not that I think he sets out to be deceitful, but one minute, he’s ashamed of the truth, the next minute he doesn’t want to hurt me, the next minute he wants to push me away so he tells me things that might be the truth, but how can I be sure, because later he tells me they weren’t, that he just wanted to push me away.  And really, if he wants to push me away…  Why am I holding on so tightly?

This afternoon, even as I was sitting in the theater with Lil’B waiting for our movie to start, I was thinking about my conversation with The Guy on Friday evening and I thought about how badly we have communicated this entire time.  He says things that are cryptic, and I don’t always ask for clarification because I know that his hold on the emotional gravity of the situation is already tenuous at best. He misinterprets my words, (which I always think are clear, but apparently are not), and rather than ask questions, he goes off on an internalized tangent of what he thinks I mean and how he should react, to satisfy me, or to push me away, depending on what seems like his best course of action at the moment.

I made my usual, pre-movie trip to the bathroom, because apparently the 11-year-old has better bladder control than I do, and I won’t make it through the movie if I don’t do my best to empty the chamber before the movie starts and then I’ll make a mad dash for the restroom again after the credits, while he stands in the corner of the restroom and waits, (after having consumed an entire vat o’ Icee).  This restroom run, also gave me the opportunity to shoot off a “quick” text to the Guy wherein I established our poor communication and that I needed to be sure I had properly understood something he said on Friday.  I told him to tell me the truth, because it won’t change anything at this point anyway.

“You were being dishonest with me when you said you had not ‘done anything in months’, right?  You are still actively having sex with anybody who will, on a regular basis.  And when I started working there, you hoped I would be one of those people.  That fact that I was not going to be one of those people has not slowed you down.  Did I understand you correctly?”

“No,” he answered, “I never wanted you to be in that category and I have given that life up.”

He told me on Friday that all he wanted to do was have sex.  That he doesn’t want relationships or dating.  Just sex.    Now he says he told me that to push me away.  He wasn’t after that with me.  He would have pursued me differently if he had…  I can’t even imagine what that would have looked like.

When I pressed him, he did admit to having had sex in the last few months. He says he has “an arrangement that is fizzling out.” but that he hasn’t pursued anything new with anyone.

Like a sucker, I listed the contradictions he’s presented on this issue, asking him what I’m supposed to believe.  I wanted to know just how much of a fool I have been.

And then I told him never mind.  “There’s nothing to be gained by continuing to hash this shit out.”  I know how much of a fool I am.  The degree of my foolishness is directly proportionate to the number of breaths hope has left.  Except, it’s like someone has found hope and is attempting to administer emergency care.  Hope flatlines, and gets revived and flatlines again.  Some good Samaritan, determined to save hope’s life, is only prolonging the agony.  Hope’s inevitable demise is still on the horizon, it’s just taking longer than it should to arrive, and I continue to be slave to the foolishness that is my heart, imagining the possibilities of something that just becomes more and more complicated and seemingly impossible by the day.

I genuinely do not know how to put a stop to it.

 

Round Two

Go ahead and imagine the scantily clad woman holding a giant card with a big number “2” printed on it, prancing around the border of the ring, in high heals …

I mean, if that’s what you’re into…

 

“What are you still doing here?” I asked him as evenly as I could manage.  I wasn’t exactly happy to see him, under the circumstances, but I didn’t want to be uncivil to him, as I promised I would not be.  Besides, if we have any chance at all of being “friends” it’s got to start somewhere, right?

That’s the same argument I made to myself when I questioned whether or not I really wanted to go to lunch with him the other day.  That turned out well, right…

He stood there, hands on the edge of the counter with his head hanging down and looking at me sullenly.  I repeated the question, and after heaving a heavy sigh, he said, “I’m going in a minute.”

“Okay,” I answered, continuing to sort through the papers on the counter in front of me.  He asked me what I was doing with them.  They were related to a small, but important task that I had needed to accomplish for the three days, but hadn’t had the time to get to.

 

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system or “BART” is having issues.  Some union that they’re involved with has decided to go on Strike, starting Monday, and there will be no service for an indefinite period of time.  They went out a month or so ago for four days, and my 8 mile, usually 15-20 minutes commute was taking closer to 45 stressful, fuel guzzling minutes.  Some days longer.  I told my boss on the fourth day of that event that I was going to start taking my company issued laptop home with me so I could work for a couple of hours in the morning and then come in when traffic had died down.  She was fine with it, but as it turned out to be the last day of that strike, it didn’t even matter.  I spoke to her yesterday afternoon and proposed the same arrangement, to which she agreed, as long as I had things to work on, which I do.  Plenty!

As I was preparing to go home last night, I looked at the stack of papers in their folder, frustrated that another day had gone by and I couldn’t get this simple task accomplished, when it suddenly dawned on me; I’ve got lots of tasks that I have to struggle to get to because of all the distractions and interruptions I deal with on a daily basis.  There will be no distractions and interruptions while I’m working at home next week.  I can get the nagging stuff done then, as long as I plan ahead for it!  I took the stack of papers that I needed to sort and scan and walked to the counter in the open Kitchen, near the scanner.

 

Without looking up from my work, I answered, “I’m sorting them so I can scan them into a couple of emails and deal with them on Monday morning.  What’s happening right now?”  I asked the question so quickly after answering his it was almost a part of the same sentence.  I put the papers down and looked up at him waiting for an answer.  He just continued to stand there with that dopey look on his face.  “What?!” I asked again, slightly bothered.

“I don’t know,” he said, “you just seem so unhappy.”

Actually, I felt quite a bit better than I had the day before, but that’s not really saying much.  There are a number of factors about work that have had me really stressed out and this emotional turmoil with The Guy has only added to the stress and tension.  It feels like there’s been a lot of tension in the air in general and I don’t know if I’m imagining it because I’m so tense, or, as I’m afraid might be the case, it’s just wafting off of me and affecting everyone around me.  I just looked at him.  I didn’t know what to say.

“I feel like it’s my fault,” he said.  Fucking genius, that one!

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic or unreasonable that I would be hurt and angry, six hours after being told what you told me,” I said, referring to our text argument on Wednesday night.  “The fact that you think I shouldn’t be, just pisses me off more.”

“No, I guess it’s not,” he said.

We ended up talking for over an hour.  It was one of the most emotionally open conversations he has had with me.  I suppose, in some ways it was for me as well.  I’ve always been honest and sincere with him, but I’ve also not said a lot of things that I knew he would have a hard time hearing.  There was no reason to hold back any longer.

He changed his story, not for the first time.  He claims he didn’t say, “not ever”.  To be fair, I don’t remember word for word what he said, I just know the gist of what he said and the tone of his voice.  The “ever” was implied, if not actually spoken.  He said that he thought about me the entire time he was in the UK.  He and his friend were “running around at all these different sites,” and all sorts of events and the entire time, I was on his mind.  He couldn’t understand why that would be.

“I have thought about you, every minute of every day, since I met you,” I told him.  “The difference is, you think it’s a bad thing.”  The look on his face caught me off guard.  He seemed genuinely surprised by that.  “Do you even understand what I meant when I told you I ‘completely fell for you’?” I asked him.  “I haven’t said it because first of all the word terrifies me, and secondly, I knew you couldn’t handle hearing it.  The Guy,” (obviously, I used his real name here), “I fell in love with you!  It’s stupid, really.  It shouldn’t have happened.  There’s no logical, explicable reason for it.  But here we are.  This doesn’t happen to me.  But I thought you were worth taking the chance.”

I think if I had exhaled a little more forcefully, he would have fallen over.

One of the most tragic things about this situation for me, is that something new happened in me and I thought he was worth taking a chance.  Something new happened in him and he didn’t think I was worth taking the chance.  The fact that he doesn’t think I’m worth taking the chance, is probably why I was wrong about him.

There are a lot of things I need to sort through, now, things he’s said to me over the months that I have to figure out.  It would be better, of course, to not rehash any of it and just let go, but that’s not really how I function, especially not with him right in front of me every day.  Even if I made the “decision” to do just that, it wouldn’t actually happen anyway.

He opened up a lot last night and a lot of the aspects of his damaged psyche that makes him who he is came to light.  The recovery he’s claimed to be in for the last seven years, is really just an explanation to use to when offering up excuses for his lustful behavior.  He admitted that his efforts in that arena have been minimal at best.  Which lead to the revelation that he lied to me right at the start, when I asked him what his intentions toward me were in acting the way he did.  “So you really were just trying to get in my pants.” I said.  “You really just wanted to fuck me.”  When he nodded, I climbed down off the counter, picked up my papers and walked away.

I finished at the scanner and walked back to the kitchen.  I was silent for a long time.

“The bottom line,” I told him, “is that I have never lied to you.  Everything I have ever said and done has been completely sincere.  But I’m no magician.  If you think about me as much as you say you do, that’s because at some point along the way, something happened inside of you and I started to mean more to you.  And that scares the shit out of you!  But it’s all! Inside! Of you!!

 

We went back to our desks to pack up and go home.  It took me longer, but that’s not a surprise.  When he walked past my desk on his way to the door, he stopped.  He just looked at me for a minute and then without a word, he walked into my cubicle, put his arms around me and pulled me to him.  With my head against his chest, I listened to his heart beat while I put my one free hand on his back and squeezed lightly before giving him the thanks-for-the-hug double tap, but he didn’t let go and neither did I.  It felt amazing to have his body pressed against mine, again.  It’s a feeling I’ve missed and longed for.  It’s been three long weeks since the last time I felt that.

When he finally let go, he just whispered, “Good bye” and walked away.

Sucker Punch

“I have no intention of ever getting into a relationship with a man.”

Those were the first words out of his mouth, the first thing he said to me in ten days.  Longer really, but I’m not counting the ten days he was on a different continent.

“I still think you’re really hot.  And I still have really strong feelings for you.  But I have the option to go the other way; why would I voluntarily put myself into a second marginalized social group?”

Apparently, “for love” is not an answer that would occur to him.  And so, that’s it.  Things with The Guy really are over, and I’m left completely alone to deal with the aftermath, the heart ache and anguish that comes from falling hopelessly in love (even though I knew better) with someone who doesn’t love himself enough to let anyone else love him.  Someone who I still have to see every.  Single.  Day.

I have been such a fool.

But he has been, and continues to be, a cruel idiot.

As a person who has lived an entirely too long already life, devoid of love, it is inconceivable to me how anyone could sit face to face with someone who wants them, admit to having feelings for that person, and then shove them away, determined never to consider giving that connection a chance.  I was dumbfounded and didn’t quite know what to say.

Hours later, I was finally leaving work, well after everyone else had gone home.  If the parking lot was any indication, I was the only person in the building, something which I’m determined not to repeat, work load be damned.  (If you don’t provide me the right resources to complete the work you give me, in eight hours or less, it’s not my fault it didn’t get done.  It’s yours!)  I finally had a little clarity and I pulled out my phone to send him a text message I knew would be ignored for hours, if not forever:

“I want you to know that I really do respect your right to decide what you want, even if I don’t like what you decided…

But, telling me that you think I’m really hot AND that you have feelings for me, but that your making a choice not to be with me because of what other people will think…  You’re telling me that other people’s opinion of you is more important to you than I am…  I’m hard pressed to see that as anything other than rejection and hurtful…”

I entered into this, certain that I knew what I was getting myself into.  I knew the chances of success were minuscule at best, and I believed I was prepared for the inevitable end.  I knew that when that end came about, we would be mature and handle it like civilized adults, which we have, but which he somehow interpreted as “We’ll stay friends.”  That would’ve been nice, but I never imagined his reasons would be so hurtful and demeaning.  Being friends might be an option down the road, but right now, I don’t know how to do that, and I can’t just decide not to be hurt by his reasoning, despite his assertions that I should be doing just that.

Over the last three weeks of radio silence, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on his behavior, which I probably shouldn’t do a lot of.  When a person of already questionable and precarious emotion health begins to psychoanalyze the behavior of an addict, that very quickly leads to an ugly little thing called Co-Dependance.  But while I was, I realized that there’s been a long history (or at least as long as a history between two people who’ve only known each other for three months can be) of The Guy utterly and completely avoiding emotions.  I’ve known that for quite a while, but I thought it was just my emotions, and I convinced myself that those avoidance behaviors would end, as soon as he stopped hiding from what he was feeling.  I realize now, that he avoids all emotions, especially his own (other than lust and desire, apparently) and refuses to face those feelings and what they mean for him.

I drove home with the top down, assertively pressing the “next” button on the steering wheel, unable to listen to the sappy, I’m-so-excited-to-be-in-love songs that seem to permeate my iTunes (go figure – is that all anybody sings about?), in search of some “angry and hurt” music to soothe me.

(Sidebar:  Apple needs to add a “mood” function to iTunes, kind of like the Genius feature that creates a list of 25 songs that have some, often indiscernible thing in common.  The Mood playlist, would pick 25 (or all) of the songs in your devices library that fit the mood you’re in; sappy, madly in love, depressed, hurt, angry, heartbroken, murderous rage while stuck in traffic…  On second thought, that one might not be such a wise addition.)

As I drove, and jabbed, I thought about the days ahead, in which I get to sit at my desk at work – a position that is already fraught with stressful emotions, without adding this complication – and watch and listen as The Guy puts on his usual jovial, everybody-loves-me, all’s-right-with-the-world, show as if nothing was bothering him, and nothing in the world could touch him – and think about how hurt and disappointed I am that things turned out this way; how unfair it is.  I thought about how he gets to see me everyday, and experience the attraction and affection that he claims to feel for me, before the shame and self-judgement takes over and reminds him just how horrible his life would be if people thought of him as black and gay, and the inner-conflict kicks in (because apparently closeted bisexual is not a problem).  And then I thought, “How can we possibly be friends?!”  If we’re both walking around the office everyday seeing each other, and seeing each other is hard on each of us for different reasons, how can we be friends?

Less than an hour after I sent my text to him, he responded, much to my shock, saying “I hear you completely.”  I replied, posing my “How can we be friends?” question.

“Well, I think you can see a person, like a person, and not be with that person.  And yet still have positive feelings for that person.”

Right.  What was I thinking, asking the person who chooses to ignore his feelings a question like that.

The Guy made the first move… Several first moves, in fact…  Several very aggressive first moves even.  I’m not blaming him there, I have free will and I played my part cheerfully, but I would never have initiated things.

He went on to say, “I mean, I don’t expect us to be best buds, but I don’t want negative energy with you.”

So in other words, not only am I not worth the investment of attempting a relationship  with, but I’m not really even worth valuing true friendship with.  From the moment he saw me for the first time, I’ve been nothing more than a play thing.