Tag Archives: d’amour

Alone on Valentine’s Day

14 Feb
Source: Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America on Flickr Commons

Source: Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America on Flickr Commons

The post has been and gone. My message box is empty. The telephone remains silent. What else could it be but another typical Valentine’s Day, a manufactured marketing ploy by cake, card and confectionary companies to maximise profits. A day in which it seems that the entire world scrambles to find some smattering of affection and goes overboard with public displays of affection to prove just how ‘special’ their relationships are. And yet, in spite of my deep-rooted cynicism of the whole tawdry thing, I can’t help but take my outsider stance as proof of my own failure.

With the exception of a few years in the mid 2000s, my Valentine’s Days have been pretty miserable. I’m either a definite singleton, or I’ve been in an unhappy place with the person I’ve been seeing, and the whole thing becomes an overpowering chore. In the past I’ve sent cards to women that I’ve been harbouring crushes on, but the overwhelming silence and/or rejection that follows means I am no longer likely to do this. Its kind of creepy anyway, especially if one does it anonymously, and in our days of psycho stalkers one has to be mindful of respectful distances.

This year has been harder. I’ve been dreading it for months, and that hasn’t subsided. Mostly because I found myself falling for someone last year, and those feelings have refused to shift in spite of all attempts to do so. Unrequited love is a painful pleasure – the euphoria of intensity of feeling is at loggerheads with the excruciating agony of rejection and rebuttal. Its not as if I’ve had my affections spurned before, I have, but the way this has been handled and where it has ended up doesn’t make sense. It’s perfectly possible to remain friends with someone you’ve declared an unreciprocated interest in, or had a relationship with. And it isn’t like I haven’t made inroads into moving on from that relationship either, but you can’t help how you feel, and I’ve no desire to bury those feelings because they’ll just sit there stewing and eventually will erode anything else that comes along. Better to be honest, to embrace them, to see what happens.

I suppose I must have had a tiny hope that perhaps things would change. That this wonderful woman that I still have a bubbling chemistry with, might have taken a (second) chance on us, but instead its gone the other way and I’m deeply saddened by the extreme measures taken. Not because we don’t get on, not because we don’t like each other, not because we couldn’t actually be friends, but it strikes me because of all of those things. The positive attributes are exactly the reason why she isn’t talking to me. And that’s especially awkward because our circles are closing in on each other and eventually paths will cross in the flesh again. As long as she’s happy and doing what she wants, that’s all that really matters. My personal happiness isn’t dependant on her, but she definitely brought a great deal of happiness to my life. I just wish she was part of the 2017 me, a much improved take on the person she knew. Though every bit as sincere.

Damn regrets. I tried so hard to keep a safe distance only to find myself slipping deeper and deeper into a vat of affection until I was washed with love. I always seem to fall for the wrong person. People who live impractical distances away, or have unworkable schedules. Social and economic backgrounds and thinking that struggle to accept mine. People who are also damaged, kindred spirits, who are hell-bent on rejecting something with potential because it scares them – only to seek out the same sort of damaging relationships that have ruined their lives and selves in the past. I’m trying not to be that person anymore myself, trying not to repeat my mistakes.

So today I allow my mind to wander for a period through bittersweet sadness, heightened by an unnecessary silence. I distract myself with music and writing and memory. I’ve no friendly benefits to claim, no cuddle buddy to snuggle up to, no human touch. I don’t really know any better. So you can take your Valentine’s demonstrations and keep them to yourself. Unless that is, you want to share them with me…

My Valentine (imagined)

13 Feb
citylights

City Lights (1931)

Dear woman in my dreams – the one who caught my eye and my heart, and who has bewitched me. Would that circumstances allow. But they don’t. And so I must conclude that you don’t exist. At least I assume you don’t. I don’t appear to exist within your world, so logically you must be a figment of my imagination. Shared exchanges, looks and words, are all simply the product of my over-active mind, along with the still-ringing emotions, heartbreak, and confusion.

I don’t believe in using this one day of the year to focus all one’s amorous energy, it should exist on a daily basis. But there’s something about this whole farcical ritual that demands we give it attention, acknowledge feelings and sentiment that is in danger of going unremarked. Sitting here, my thoughts return again to you, as they do so often, dear Figment. An admiration from increased and needless distance, an honest heartfelt affection, an affinity denied. A love that has been battered and neglected but has not died. I cannot let the day pass by without giving voice to this pained desire

I don’t make wild promises of everlasting devotion, or make grandiose gestures I cannot possibly meet – manipulations of expectations that doom us to failure. I seek not to control or bind the recipient of my affection. I will never ask you to do something you don’t want to do. I can only tell you that I care for you more than I have any right to, I love you beyond the point it hurts, that each day without you diminishes me. It’s a mistake letting you know I care at all, that I’m still here. But if we’re honest, you’ve always known that. You’ve always known my sincerity, however much you deny it. There is no hidden agenda, no falsity, no leading you on.  At some point today you’ll think of me too, and you’ll wonder.

The problem with being the recipient of a valentine, particularly when there’s an anonymity involved, is that one never quite knows how to respond. What if you’re wrong about the identity, and you say the wrong thing to the wrong person? What if you missed a clue, messed up? What if they’re exactly the person they claim to be, and all your fears are unfounded? What if being sensible means that you miss out on something special for the sake of something safe?

I could pretend I felt some other way, but what good would that do? I could lie to myself and to you, tell you that I feel nothing, but eventually that will come back to haunt us both. I have nothing to be afraid of, I have already laid myself bare before you, so humiliate away with your silent rejection of the whole of me. Deny the truth that we both know exists – my futile affection isn’t without foundation…

But dear Valentine, you exist only in my mind, so there is no point in me singing your praises, declaring adoration, or vowing passion, platitudes and pleasure. It is redundant for me to appeal to your emotions, and call upon you to open your shuttered heart. The clock ticks ever closer to the day when it will all be too late, when I am finally lost completely. Until then you live on in my dreams – beautiful, wonderful, unreachable – and I remain (unreciprocatedly) yours.

The thing about the movies… 

19 Dec
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The thing about the movies is they perpetuate an impossible promise about people. They suggest that hope doesn’t die,  that redemption is always possible and reconciliation is only a meaningful glance away.

They tell us it’s OK to bombard and harass our exes to get their attention. They teach us that we should never take no for an answer. They delude us into a belief that there is one magical moment in which our futures are clinched.

Loneliness is a temporary state and secret admirers are waiting for us to see they exist. Friends are waiting to bed us if we’d only look up. Mistakes happen and are admitted. Lessons are learned. Changes are made. And everyone gets a happy ever after.

They don’t teach us the real pain of rejection. The crippling agony of feeling for someone until it hurts and them feeling nothing back. The way a photograph,  a sound,  a scent sends us into a spiral of pain.

All those happy endings tell us pain is an illusion, worth it,  that we’ll find release and understanding. But that’s not always life.

Films may give us a warm sensation of acceptance, and optimism,  but they don’t warm our beds or our bodies. They don’t satisfy the craving for mental and physical stimulation. When they end, we can hit replay and experience it all over again. When our relationships end we can’t do that – we can spot the things we did wrong,  what should change,  but we don’t get a second shot,  no matter how strongly we feel about it.

So much of actual life involves the absence of hope. We’re programmed to think we’ll get what we want,  a perfect partner, one who accepts us and who we can feel for completely. Life is about compromise and imperfect people and chance. Chances are you won’t find a happy ever after,  you’ll be let down by those you focus on.

I’ve stopped hoping. I’m still feeling. I ache. But it doesn’t matter. No words from well-meaning friends and observers can mend me. Time doesn’t heal – it just lets you remember differently: perhaps you’ll forget, maybe you’ll remember. For a while I was alive – more intensely, more fully than ever before. Now I am as Cesare, sleeping through my existence. I want to feel again. I try to feel. But no conversation, no interaction, no thought hits me in the same way. I have loved before, but it was not this.

I heard a voice in the darkness and my brain fired up, every spot on my skull spluttering into life, a cacophony of sound and sensation. A Vertov stimulus. A euphoric beginning that builds but gets no release. A nitrate fire fills my head, and nobody can prevent the combustion.

Being gaslit was easier than this pain. This pain that will not end. That I cannot control. That leaves me spent.

Cinema teaches us to be voyeurs, to watch complicit other people’s relationships, to engage vicariously with their worlds. But that is not this one, a world in which we have ceased communications, in which my name is no longer on your lips, in which our time isn’t even a memory. I am the spectator, unable to view, forced to replay the memory of a past, seeking a conclusion denied, a sequel impossible. These remakes and reboots are pale imitations, the casting feels wrong. There’s no chemistry on the screen. The characters lack conviction.

I don’t want to be a script doctor, helping other people’s stories flow. I want my own story, my own happy ending. I’d take the grief if I thought that was next. From childhood the screen says: boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl back again. This act 2 has fallen flat, I thought you needed space to make your own film, but we should have stopped sizing each other up and just collaborated. I know there will be no act 3 for me, and I sit in the theatre, watching a darkened screen with tears cascading down my cheeks. I accept everything about you, I love it all, I see your potential and I’m proud. I wish you could see and accept mine; I’m worth the investment – the hard work has been done already. No cinematic edits to colour the narrative needed – I relish every frame of the rushes, the raw material from which something magical is constructed.

No blue pages to take account of my changes, no pink to rework the ending, no yellow to line up the next installment. Oh for a romantic comedy to accompany our heartfelt drama. But its all dreams, fantasy and wishful thinking and no amount of rewriting can change your mind…

 

Self-worth

5 Nov
Stairway. © 2016 Robert JE Simpson

Stairway. © 2016 Robert JE Simpson

How we view ourselves very much affects the relationships we form. Our potential for eternal happiness is shaped by how we feel about ourselves more probably more than how we feel about our partners. Somebody suggested to me that as a nation we get the politicians we deserve. The same could be argued for out objects d’amour.

My self esteem isn’t great. For all the performance-based work that I do, I have a low sense of my own worth. I find it hard to sing my own praises, and tend to shy away in the corner. I find it difficult to take compliments. I love receiving them, but am overcome with a sense of embarrassment when someone tells me how gifted or pleasant I am.

It is I think ruining my chances of a relationship.

I find that I am overly cautious about setting into something with another person. Part of that is the hard-learned lessons of life experience, but most of the time I simply can’t believe that anybody would actually find me interesting enough to want to be with, attractive enough to want. And so I inadvertently make the whole damn thing more difficult than it needs to be. I struggle with PDAs, because I don’t think I deserve them. I put myself down. I find excuses for things not to work out. I place hypothetical obstacles in the way – not helped by being an over-thinker anyway. I give them all the space in the world to leave, to not have to commit to this fuck up of an individual. That becomes very difficult to take after a while.

Essentially I don’t think I’m good enough to warrant happiness. I don’t deserve to find the solace of a loving situation. I must feel pain and rejection and disappointment. For the bleakness confirms my darker thoughts about myself. It sustains my senseless solitude.

Constantly there is a battle within me to find a balance. Because while I do myself no favours, I do have a heart – I know deep down that I am a good person, capable of loving and deserving of someone else’s love. In the right nurturing environment I could be an excellent partner, lover, friend, father. But to get there, I need to feel comfortable. And to feel comfortable, I will probably test your patience, your views, your sincerity. I will test me, my interest, my trust, my willingness to compromise. I can live alone. I spent years in isolation. But I don’t want to live to my life end alone. I want to have someone to share it with, a companion, an intimate. That’s a normal human desire. I just don’t think anyone has quite enough patience to see us through the more testing days.

Dating as I’ve so often said, is a nightmare. I don’t make first moves as a rule. A lot of that is down to issues of consent and not wanting to be misunderstood, but it is also because I don’t believe people will think I’m worth it. I’m too much like hard work. I have little self-worth.

I suppose this is what manifested itself a fortnight ago when I had my breakdown. An overloading of self-doubt that had been building for several months. I loathe the ineffectual nature of my self-hatred, my insecurity. I talk about it to counter-act the affect it has on me, but still it wins. I drive the people I care about away. I worry that one day I’ll end up ageing and desperate and cling to a poisonous abusive partner because they will once again remind me of how useless I am, how worthless my existence has been and how nobody else would want me. Someone I am with because there is no choice left. Because the people I would have chosen rejected me because I am me.

Adventures in dating: Chapter’s end

18 Oct

I’ve been feeling down again the last week or so. “No change there,” I hear you mutter.

Guess it must be more than usual as its been commented on by various family and friends. Which doesn’t happen too often. And as usual it is the cumulative effect of various unhappy occurrences which are to blame. Part of it is the come-down following a period of personal happiness.

Recently I’ve let someone in again in a way I haven’t in years. I let down nearly all my defences and let them witness the complete extent of my fucked up head. I’ve healed so much this last 12 months, from the psychological and emotional damage of the past, that to do this is no small thing. I have learned to trust again, to give myself over to someone else completely, to think about possible futures. I have learned what a normal healthy relationship feels like.

And yet it has all come to an abrupt end. And I’m saddened. I cared far more than I let on, far more than I realised. Timing is everything. And I messed that up.

That I’m not worried about my secrets becoming public knowledge as a result of the given trust is a huge step up for me. But I’m already feeling a loss, because I think I’ve mis-handled everything badly. I’ve said too much, too late. I played my cards close to my chest for too long. I’ve been so caught up in the intense emotion and connection that I didn’t give it the time to breathe it needed. I misinterpreted and was misunderstood.

Relationships demand trust and compromise if they are to succeed long term. And it must be reciprocal.

There are stages in dating when you make decisions – shit or get off the pot moments when the next few months or years are decided. I think I was still deciding, because there was potential the last time I saw her. Or so I thought. Heck, I still do if I’m honest, even though I know now that it will never come to be. I have to move on. I will move on. But I remain deeply affected. I can’t switch my emotions on and off like a switch.

A good relationship should be mutually beneficial, should be supportive, should be exciting and tender. I also think it should challenge us, our hopes and dreams and beliefs. It was all that for me and more, and continues to challenge my thoughts in its aftermath. Already I miss its safety, companionship, intimacy, and possibilities. I was excited as I let my mind adjust, accepting that I was in a relationship and actually felt connected to another human being.

And this in part explain my morose state of mind. The grieving process begun. I’m so tempted to just curl into a ball and shut out the rest of the world and lick my wounds. But I am so thankful, because I know I picked the right person this time. I just wouldn’t have picked this moment to stop.

Today I’m uncertain, but its probably not the end of our story. I think we could be friends. If the timing had been better maybe we’d have remained lovers. But for now the chapter has reached its end.

Relationship Status

3 Oct

‘I’m free’ – John Inman’s status declaration in the BBC’s Are You Being Served?

Dating again after some years in the wilderness I find myself faced with all manner of new problems. Not least is the dreaded social media. 

How quickly do you add your new squeeze, and just how ready are you for the inevitable cyber stalking and Catfish style investigation of your prior life? You know that your every photo will be scrutinised for glimpses of exes, a survey of family for genetic possibilities should offspring ever become an option. A check that you weren’t on a stag weekend in Ibiza that time you said you were at home working.

On that last line at least I am not guilty. But my past is inescapable and I’m pretty open about it, warts and all. And I refuse to sugar coat it for anyone. I’ve been here before. If I am going to delete material relating to the past then it’ll be on my terms and when I decide.

Once you’ve decided it’s a good idea to add your object d’amour, is there an appropriate time to declare one’s relationship status as changed? Surely it’s not wrong to date and still declare oneself as single? How many dates does it take before one is in a ‘relationship’? And even if you are in one, do you want every stranger to know its details?

I’ve had former partners and girlfriends cyber-stalked and  trolled in the past, and it’s been detrimental to friendships that had extended beyond our time together. As a result I’m now vary wary about saying too much about those I’m entangling with on a regular basis. While we’re still getting to know each other I don’t really want to risk them subjected to that sort of scrutiny. And nor do I wish myself to become a target either, for as it turns out, I’m not the only one with cyber stalkers.

I think unless one is secure that one is in for a long haul, some objective distance is required. If one is treading water, unstable, or likely to be switching partners during the dating process then the declarations are unnecessary. It becomes quite irritating seeing a chum’s Facebook constantly displaying a revolving rota of relationship failures.

But we as fragile humans seek reassurance. We want to know that those we give our time, minds and bodies to, are worthy of it – that they reciprocate our commitment. We want affirmation of our place with others – proudly displayed. We want to know that right now we mean as much as those who have gone before us – that we might be recalled as fondly. Where are the photos, saccharine statuses, and hormonal hashtags? Who cares if next week we aren’t together – we want the world to know now.

Just remember,  we curate our social media. The tweaks and filters and judiciously pruned lists of friends allow us to project an image or ourselves that we want. We can be the biggest assholes in private but be affable and inclusive on Twitter. Whether our hundreds of online friends know who we get up with isn’t important. What we did in the past isn’t important. Only what we do now and how we treat each other.

Desire & Insecurity

15 Feb
Still from Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960)

Still from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960)

I don’t want to be needed: that’s too much like dependency and insecurity. I want to be wanted. And that I suspect is true for most of us. To feel that rush of desire, a passion that can’t ever be truly sated.

My own learned insecurities are such that often I struggle to accept that someone else could find me in any way desirable, physically. I know my friendship is valued, and my company, but it’s a rare thing that someone should declare they want to jump my bone, and I believe them.

Thinking it’s a ploy, that there’s a catch, I’m more likely to try and dissuade a prospective partner than attempt to court their desires. Which is silly. Almost to the point of pathological self-destruction. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve met someone lovely and then either put myself down, or do/say something utterly imbecilic and permanently destroy any positive association that had built up. What is that about, seriously?

I rightly got called out this week for making disparaging comments on the physical attributes of certain people who had been messaging me via my dating profiles (yes, they’re active again; I know, I’ll never learn). I do try not to make impulsive judgements, but with online dating, as in the real world, the physical does count in the decision making process. It doesn’t matter if they’re the most articulate thinker of the 21st century if there’s no glimmer of visual attraction. And yet, I’m sure that the reality is that at least 90% of those I message feel exactly the same way about me – “he may talk well, but he’s utterly unattractive.”

To be honest, I’m quite annoyed at myself for even voicing those thoughts. I sit watching The Undateables on Channel 4 and often I find myself feeling for the candidates who’s warm personalities can be hidden behind physical attributes which put most people off. I find myself empathising with their plight, and seeing through to the inner beauty. And yet, I seem unable to do it in this online world. Is it a case of me being shallow? Or is it more about working with the limited amount of information available amid a sea of potential, and removing as many as possible in a bid to find someone suitable?

There are those who would call me fussy, and would remind me that I don’t really have a lot of choice. As one gets older there are few enough people that have the potential to click with our own personal needs bracket. But that doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everyone that shows an interest. And I don’t. There are very few that I actually engage with in this online pool, even fewer that I make any attempt to socially interact with, and even consider dating. Surely that’s not a unique position?

But regardless of my despair when someone doesn’t even manage to tickle the very lowest of my checklist, I shouldn’t be so shallow as to berate them to someone else. That’s ungallant. At least wait until you meet or they send you messages of supreme crazy.

Most of the time I’ll talk to anyone that messages me, even when I know it isn’t going to go anywhere because I’m simply not interested. I know how it feels to feel rejected, unattractive, unmerited of attention. I can’t help but read every silence when I attempt a conversation of validation of my low opinion of myself. And how that lifts when someone just says ‘hi’ back. Someone spoke to me just today about how they felt judged when guys saw their pics, and seemed genuinely surprised that I’d engaged in conversation. But why wouldn’t I? The talk involved none of the crazy I’ve had from others. I wasn’t being pressed for my number within two messages, wasn’t being subjected to a stream of smutty lines in seconds (give me a couple of hours first, please).

Within me, as within us all, exists a contradiction.

I have been happy emotionally in recent times, a large section of my personal needs fulfilled through my relationships with others – my closest friends. But while I cherish that love, it leaves an obvious vacuum where a more physical/sexual sort of love should be. And that’s primarily my issue with Valentine’s Day, it reminds those of us on our own of that sexual absence. I’ve not been serving it via dating let alone a full-blown relationship, and so I feel it more strongly perhaps than my single friends who’ve never stopped indulging those whims from time to time. I’m very aware of the absence, of the need, and the importance of that part of my life. Which means I have to bite the bullet, assume that the few that vocalise an interest aren’t actually lying, and consider the odd date. Wanting to be wanted is all fine and well, but one has to actually allow someone else to be in a position of not just wanting, but be able to reach you.