There’s a reason I don’t blog about relationships. (Okay, there’s actually a fair number of reasons, such as the fact that nobody I’m interested in needs 3K readers watching over his shoulder on every date, but that’s neither here nor there.) Granted my luck over the last year, and the fact that y’all have listened to many a tale of woe already, I’d rather not test your patience. And it tends to lead to drama, and all kind of other unpleasantness, and nobody needs more of that in their life, either.
This isn’t something I particularly wanted to talk about, for reasons that will become clear. But at the end of the day, the way I process many events is by writing. Turn it into words and it’s over. It can get filed and shelved by the librarian that lives somewhere in the back of my brain (and yes, she wears a robe that covers the eyes) and then everybody can get on with life.
Plus, O blog of my confessions, every time I blog about something painful and personal, I tend to get flooded with e-mails from people in the same boat who say it helps. I’ve had a couple people tell me they sought treatment for depression after last year’s blogging. And shit…if there was ever a good reason for anything, that’s it right there.
So. Here goes.
Found out last week that apparently he’d been cheating on me the whole time we’d been seeing each other….and never mentioned it. (I got to find out from the internet. Go, me!) Confirmation on at least one chick, possibly more, hard to say. (One must stand in awe of his time management skills, if nothing else.)
This isn’t fun to learn at the best of times, but I’m a little hypersensitive to the issue because of another thing I didn’t really want to blog about at the time—namely that my ex-husband kinda-sorta-maybe left me for another woman.* If you’ve never had this happen to you, may the gods keep such a fate far from you. If you have HAVE…well, you’re probably aware that it makes your sense of your own desirability and general self-worth sink to somewhere in the toes.
When it happens twice in what was apparently rapid succession, it doesn’t so much sink as grab a shovel and start to dig. (Perhaps it wanted to see wombats.) My self-esteem is usually pretty resilient, but that sorta thing will break you but good. I REALLY didn’t want to talk about it the first time around–who wants to admit that they didn’t measure up like that?–and the second time wasn’t much better.
And of course there’s that sudden moment of “suddenly much becomes clear,” and then boy, do you feel like a REAL idiot.
So I cried for awhile, as one might expect, and my buddy Pseudo played virtual bartender for an hour or so, much to his credit, and then I called up my buddy Kevin for moral support and he said, “Oh shit, oh shit, we all thought you knew—“
And that, O best beloved, was the sound of the other shoe dropping. From a great height. On my head.
Ah. Yes. Suddenly a lot of OTHER things came clear.
“…we did think you forgave him awfully fast.”
Soooo…apparently a fair number of people knew about this. And thought I did too. Lovely. I debated whether to hire a skywriter to read “Attention World: I’m Actually Just An Idiot, Not A Doormat,” or whether merely killing Joe would be cheaper and more satisfying.
To give Kevin the credit that he is absolutely due, he was on my doorstep as fast as humanly possible, and I cried on his shoulder for another hour or so, and he poured whiskey into me** and made all the correct noises of sympathy and dismay until I’d cried myself out, and then put me to bed. (We like Kevin.)
And the next morning I got up, and did a little work, and spent a little more time wallowing in misery.
Still, while lying in fetal position under a blanket on the couch is all fine and good while it lasts, sooner or later you have to get up and feed the cat and figure out what the hell you do next.
(“I can’t believe I thought he was my friend,” I said, rather miserably, into Kevin’s by-now-quite-soggy shoulder.
“He is,” said Kevin, sighing. “He’s a lying cheating stupid guilty dumbass, but he actually is.”)
And that, alas, was the problem.
If it was just a case of finding out about some asshole I used to date having cheated, I’d go “Ow,” and move on. But what do you do when that asshole’s been a really good friend for months? When he held your hand for two hours while you got a tattoo, and rescued your cat from the woods, and bought you drinks and told you you were beautiful after yet ANOTHER date had gone pear-shaped in short order, AND made sure you were sober enough to drive home afterwards? When he knows 90% of your friends, in a very small and incestuous community, and you have no hope of avoiding one another, and you’d hand him your cashbox without a second thought? What the hell do you do then?
Well, you feel like somebody stabbed you in the back with a claymore, for one thing.
I went back to fetal position for awhile.
My friends—and I have some truly excellent friends—were awesome, as they always are. Carlota bought a titanium spork and arranged to have it engraved with his name, suitable for stabbing*** My buddy Linda offered to drive up at once if I needed it, either for killing or hugging, whatever was needed. Kevin was pure awesomeness incarnate. (We quite like Kevin.) My buddy Mckenzee betrayed his status as my honorary nemesis by calling daily to check in. The Sofawolf guys assured me that there are actually good non-gay men out there. Really. Honest. Somewhere. I have the best friends around.
But my buddy Graydon gave me the best advice—which was simply that you have to do the thing that lets you like yourself afterwards.
Like all deceptively simple maxims, this one was very hard in practice. What DO you do?
I could pretend nothing had ever happened. (And then my next tattoo could go across the forehead, and read “DOORMAT.”) I could engage in some kind of scorched earth vengeance, possibly including “This guy broke my heart. Here’s his full name, address, e-mail, cel phone, and blood type. Sic ‘im.” (I am occasionally spiteful, but there is nothing in me THAT petty.) Break his kneecaps? (A pleasant fantasy, but largely impractical.) Leave the room in an icy rage whenever he entered? (I would sooner slit my wrists with Carlota’s spork than make my friends uncomfortable in such fashion—the fact that one Does Not Make A Public Spectacle Of Oneself is hammered in at the cellular level.) I could…shit…what could I do?
Sometimes I think that growing up on adventure games warped my problem-solving skills. Somewhere in my brain, there is a belief, on a very fundamental level, that if I can just find the rubber-chicken-with-the-pulley-in-the-middle and use it on the right clickable point, everything will be fixed. The squishiness of human problems with no solution galls me deeply. The universe should be better organized, goddamnit.
Well. Go at it the other way. What don’t I like about myself?
I don’t like the fact that I cry when I’m mad. I don’t like the fact that I feel like I AM a doormat—like I never lose my temper, and when I do, I mostly just dissolve, instead of reading the riot act to whoever deserves it. I don’t like the fact that no matter how bloody furious I am, I would sooner gnaw off my own limbs than be rude, or raise my voice. I forgive easily. Probably too easily.
It’s very hard to make me angry. You have to work like hell. And once you have, if you grovel and admit wrongdoing, I’ll always forgive you. (If you don’t, mind you, I will hold a grudge until the stars die. When the universe has gasped out the final death of heat, the last decaying atoms of hydrogen that used to be me will still be pissed at a handful of people. But it’s REALLY hard to do.)
Now, Joe was willing to grovel. Actually, he was already groveling. I told him I’d talk to him later when I could think straight, and meanwhile please die alone, unloved, and in pain. That bought me a couple of days while I tried to figure out what the hell to do next.
So. What do you do? My loyalty to my friends is one of the things that I DO like about myself—call me at 3 AM to say “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die, and now the body is starting to smell,” and I will sigh and say “Not again!” and get my coat–but unfortunately I’ve never figured out how to turn it OFF. What is forgivable behavior in a friend? How do you deal with this while not coming out feeling like a doormat? And how do you do all this when your faith in your emotional judgment has just been kicked down to a level not seen since the darkest days of your divorce (and possibly a little lower?)
I do not know, O best beloved, what’ll work for you in that situation, and if the gods are kind, I hope you never ever find yourself there. But some of you have, or will, or are, and so all I can tell you is what I did.
I met with him face-to-face—when dealing with rank cowardice, one does not let them hide behind phone or e-mail—and I reamed him out like a drill sergeant with a bad bladder.
It took nine minutes. I am nothing if not efficient.
I used the phrase “dumbass” and “coward” in multiple variation. I accused him of inadequate self-loathing, profound idiocy, and crimes against ethics and aesthetics. I told him in loving detail just what a lousy human being he was. And then I told him that if he ever pissed me off again—if he so much as cut me off in traffic—or if I ever got wind that he was pulling this stunt on another woman, I wouldn’t leave anything left of him but bones.
“Do you understand me?”
“Do you believe me?”
I did not cry. I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the delivery—I neglected to bring a form on the “Please rate your ass-reaming experience…” line—but I’m proud of myself for that, if nothing else.
And now, so far as I’m concerned, it’s over. My tale is told, and like all my processing, the story will become more important than the events themselves, and I can put it all behind me.
And whatever happens, happens. We’ll see where it goes. As the hag might say, you forgive, but only an idiot forgets.
And you know? I still like myself pretty well.
*There was a whole lot of stuff going on there that we won’t get into—ever—but, well, yeah, there y’are. It didn’t do him much GOOD, and whatever else one may say, he was never anything but honest, and this is where discussion of the matter shall end.
**I have generally been skeptical of the power of good vs. bad alcohol, but let me tell you, 25-year-old whiskey takes one HELL of an edge off. Mind you, at that point, Nyquil might have taken the edge off. Hard to say.
***I’m so glad she’s on MY side….