There is no anger.
For why curse at clouds that catch free flight on the wind?
There would be no remorse.
For surely we do not expect oceans to resist their nature’s ebb and flow?
Faking it, ay? I’ve never really had to consciously do this before; as a strategy to manage a relationship. I’ve been lucky. And privileged. My lovers and partners have been my equal, mostly. One or two, teachers. Interested and interesting. Keen to give as well as receive. Giving time and creating opportunity to flesh out what is fun or intense or powerful. Early lovers were as inexperienced, but I was a curious, explorative girl… so enjoyed the delight and charm of surprising and awakening a bed-friend.
In my first long term relationship, of almost 10 years, he was older. And kind. Sexy and a little dark. Certainly intense. And while towards the end, sex became more scarce, I loved him with all that I could. He had become my best friend and lover and family and we were forever bonded, no matter the passing of time or our distance. But I needed adventure, the world. And he let me go.
More recently, a Big Love, one that etched its scars on my heart and my personality, caused me to question my trust in the physical beauty of, and emotional sharing through, sex. He was a powerful man, strong of body and intellect. He vocally adored all the things I was – the passionate, social, tactile, nomadic, confident woman. The twist showed itself too late. I was already hooked. Smitten. Loved him. Monogamous and dedicated. Happy, and engaging in thoughts of future. Rare and scary for me.
Then things moved slightly, shifted. While he craved me in the bedroom, he started to censor my history, my passed lives. What made me who I am and the journey. The essence of me. He benefited from my experience and congratulated our prowess, but started questioning my journey to that pleasure. He would celebrate our specific union but chastise my general enjoyment. And slowly he began to make ultimatums. Requests that I remove male friends from my life, limit my social interaction with others. He’d ask me who I’d seen, what my history was with certain friends. He would memorise the list of my male friends on Facebook, and drop names from my past into conversation, feigning a casualness neither of us believed. He suggested I had been disrespectful to myself and allowed others to do the same. Surely and certainly he became obsessive. Demanding the cessation of friendships, some of more than 20 years… lessening our social activity, and increasing the reasons why I hadn’t quite measured up to his expectations.
And I was so in love with this man, I began to comply. I said silent goodbyes to a number of good men. Sacrificed connection with treasured friends, to appease my Lover. It was a relationship that started so healthy, so ‘good’. With fizzing stomachs and silliness and fun. Months of lovely. And became one of such highs and lows, intense, tumultuous, fraught. And there was bargaining and challenging and eventually my almost complete submission. But not quite. I couldn’t understand fully, his need to delete my past, and I didn’t delete my past fully. So at the height of his commitment to me, he removed himself. And that complete circle, that meeting and living and loving and losing, almost broke me. It has taken a long time to heal those scars. It undermined who I thought I was, made me question my innate attraction to both emotional and physical intimacy, and closeness and bonding, with a lover. I lost my sexual confidence; an ember starved of oxygen, no longer glowed.
I guess in outlining that story briefly, I explain the time it has taken to reconcile all the bits of me again. I have become a new version of myself; an almost me. Not quite who I was, the happy energetic, heart-on-sleeve woman that existed, but close. More wary. More weary. The cynical romantic, always hoping that someone will hold me in arms that keep me safe, but let me breathe. And yet never letting any one close enough to try.
I am reacquainted now, with the woman who was open and honest and explorative and comfortable with sex and intimacy. Mostly she is me. But then last year I met a man, who become a lover. An Almost Lover. Not exclusively mine; a journeyman plying his trade. And I was so in awe of him, of the wanting of him, that I found myself faking. Don’t get me wrong. The sex was good. Hot, passionate. As a female of the species, one who understands her body and loves it, I know I don’t need an orgasm to have wonderful sex. I guess it was because after a while, I realised it had the same pace each time. The same scenarios. And endings. For the first time in my sexual life I had become hesitant, to ask for what I wanted, wonder out loud at what he craved, or direct us to a mutually fulfilling climax. That says more about me, and my lack of trust in him; for it to be ok. And also, at the time I really did think we’d have opportunity to learn each other’s desires so was in no rush. An illusion.
We didn’t spend long hours together. He was gone from my home quickly, like that thief in the night. Or early morning at least. But, in the nature of our bonding, I knew I needed to pretend. I was not gifted the relaxing moments a couple share; when just a small flex, a feline-stretching, can blow… minds.
Now, looking back, I don’t know who I was pretending for. Was I scared he would suggest it was me? My fault? My inadequacies? Would he quietly take it as a further judgement, withdraw privileges as a punishment? Perhaps it was for my own benefit; if I dented his ego, he would not return. And I did not wish to wound him with my needs, sensed somewhere that may sadden him. I think worst of all and more likely in hindsight, I subconsciously knew he would not care. That would wound me most of all.
Whatever instinct stopped my voice, he never noticed from my body. I don’t think. Maybe he did, and this at some level led to his repeated disconnections and then returns. But I doubt it. The clarity of time, makes me laugh at my predicament. Humbly and with a lop-sided smile. Because for the first time in my adult life, I had chosen a lover who was not A Lover. Not a lover of me at least. His wham-bam was indicative of his feelings. Yet so sure, so certain, I chose to believe the romping would evolve into cherishing. And it turns out, I was wrong.
My mistake, in being honest. Making statements, sounding out my understanding, acceptance. Embracing pragmatically flaws and brokenness. And to the engaging heart just beginning to open towards my voice, it is heard as judgement. In my certainty, I forget the suspension of reality, the romantic game of illusion. And whilst my soul knows beyond all, they are quite the most beautiful of creatures, formed with a treasured mix of goodness and recklessness… they are already turning towards another. For to be giddily idolised, is more alluring than to be known.
Why are we even having this conversation still?
The article (linked below) from a couple of years ago, hit my Facebook feed this morning. And I usually ignore the pap these guys publish. But reading it, I oscillated from righteous indignation to vehement nodding. It’s pushed a button or two.
Read Good Men Project article: The pros and cons of loving a ‘strong woman’…
If you have been reading my blog, you will know that someone who I was starting to care about, walked away leaving the parting suggestion in his wake, that I am “too headstrong.” And I was bewildered and saddened and confused by the seemingly barbed accusation. Still am. I don’t know what he meant. I know it was important enough to guarantee the demise of a short-lived entanglement. And I cried. I cried because he called me headstrong. That doesn’t seem very strong to me. I cried because I think I know what English men mean when they say this kind of thing about a woman. And it is never a compliment.
I was sad because I spent well into my 30s wanting to be the exact opposite of this horrible thing he had leveled at me. What I would have given to be soft and compliant and little and vulnerable, non-threatening… to appear like I needed protection, to be that perfect blend of needy and nurturing. I have never been able to strike this balance. I am not needy. I am independent and come out fighting more often than I should. I know this. I wont ask for help, rarely give ground – not because I am right, but if I admit a chink in the armour, I can be hurt. I have scars far too deep to let that happen again. The battle cry stays just at my throat. Not because I want to, but because this is what I have learned from life.
And as I type this I am weeping big ol’ silly slow tears. Because here I sit more vulnerable and scared and in need, than any one I know. Not many people have ever seen me cry. That is not something I do in public.
My Mother is a wonderful mix of resilience and resourcefulness. She is also beautiful, and petite, and feminine. She was sophisticated and elegant. In my child’s eye, I remember watching her; coquettish, complimentary, she would tilt her head back laughing prettily. Men were enamoured with her. I’m not sure she ever knew that. She only had eyes for my Father. Still. Still. Almost 50 years later. And I was so jealous of her. Her dark skin and big eyes and tininess. Men wanted to help her and rescue her, and fell in love with her. And I was a wobbly giraffe-like giant – I towered over her so quickly that it feels like it was always me giving her hugs not the other way around. Like we’d flipped roles. I was tall and ugly and clumsy, gorky and questioning and clever. And a lot of the time I was scratchy, like a wounded cat, terrified and backed into a corner. Least, that’s how it felt in my teens. Like I had to fight for myself, because no one had my back. Even as a little kid, no one seemed to believe the best in my intentions or support my dreams. I was a good girl without a voice, and no one seemed to know that.
I wont paint the detail into the picture here. It’s not the time. Lets just say I was bullied at school for being different. Even at 5 and 6 years old, sometimes physically. Taunted and ostracised. Add to that, the feeling that I never had the full or unconditional support of my parents. I always seemed to be the one in the wrong, the one being told off… even when I had done my very best. And I repeat, I was a good girl. My very best was usually for someone else, not for my own benefit. Anyway, they seem small things, these two contributors. But in a sensitive and innately empathic little girl, this was an anxiety-causing combination. I had to be my own hero, as the adults in my life had life happening. So I toughened up. I was financially supporting myself at 17, had been kicked out of home, had little contact with my parents. This is unusual where I come from. Rare in the community I grew up in. I was pretty young. So I got tougher. But on the inside, to my inner circle of trusted friends, still a softie who wore her heart on her sleeve.
So then add in that I am a Kiwi chick. A product of a country where equality is a bedrock of our culture. The pioneer spirit. Gender equality. We are expected to be independent thinkers, practical and pragmatic of attitude, partners in the true sense – not possessive or possessions. I like my space, I have an opinion, I have found my voice. I am sure of myself and am fully formed. Finally embracing the strong, confident, woman I have become, and being proud of the wise, thoughtful, sensitive little girl I was.
So yes, I am headstrong. Strong. In all the negative ways the article lists. In the unwanted, unbidden, ways the Lover implied. I am not what most English men have been looking for. I will not bend to their whim, or pretend a submission. I challenge status quo and have a fire in my belly. I speak up for an injustice – be it my own or others’ – in the bedroom or boardroom. But I am also the wonderful things that having a true partner offers; trust and loyalty and laughter and great sex. A confident woman will still have days when she feels frumpy and inelegant and not good enough. And she will speak too loud or too quickly when she is tired or scared. But she will be honest and open and want the best for her man.
But isn’t that the problem? All of this means there is a need for a man to step up and match the energy and faith a strong woman offers. And how scary is that?
“Oh, take a turn with me
Around the misty lake.
Hold my hand and lead
Ever you may take.
Pay me heed, incline your head
At all my non-sense.
Pace me slow and bring
To heighten my suspense.
Promise me a sailboat ride
Just an evening stroll.
And I shall smile at your
Even while I count it’s toll.
One day in Summer, you decry
Or walk the dunes?
A concert in the park,
With all our favourite tunes!
You craft a charming promise
Seducing with your eyes.
But I have been here so before
Already know your lies.
So take my hand and walk
Around this pretty pond.
Shower me with kindness
Feign that I’ve been conned.
Make it feel sincere
Like a line you have believed.
Then part your way again,
– We’ll pretend you’re not relieved.”