Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Necklace



I find myself in a funky, artsy southern town, with a quilt shop on every corner and cobbled streets. Shining like a lost koruna in the street (and about as out of place) is one sleek, minimalist, polished-concrete-floored gallery of stainless steel jewelry, handcrafted by the gay couple behind the counter. I think, perhaps I will buy Lover something from here. We’ve been a bit disconnected, challenged by distance and lack of coordinating schedules, and I’d like to give him something heavy and expensive and permanent, but not intended to be worn all the time (see gold earrings). I choose a necklace, but intend to come back later and pay cash following a time of agony about whether or not I want to a) buy a meaningful present for him at all and b) spend that much money outside my household.

I return shortly before closing…except that they are already closed. There is no phone number on the window, or on the front of the business cards face up on the display table inside the window. They are not listed, as a business or as proprietors (their names are in the window). Myspace to the rescue, and later that night, I reach them at home and they agree to open up the shop for me. Gotta love small towns.

This time, I have Husband with me, as he has come along on this primarily business trip. We have also been rocky, and I add to my purchase a heavy bracelet as well as the necklace I claim is for me, or possibly for a girlfriend if I can bear to give it up. The bracelet has a dull sheen, and I tell him, I will get it engraved inside, I will have them put, I would marry you again in a minute. Husband is moved, we are both connected. Lately, it has been a very clear connection. I wear the necklace out of the store, and am indeed half in love with it myself.

* * *

Lover has a new friend. That kind of friend. I call her the Hershey’s Kiss. You know, like when you really, really want chocolate, and you’ve promised yourself that you won’t burn calories on crap, you’ll hold out for Belgian dark chocolate, not that sugary crap that gives you a headache and a weird feeling in your mouth, but then you find that bag of leftover Halloween candy or maybe there’s a bowl on the receptionist’s desk and it’s just…soooo…easy…

This is demeaning to her and unworthy of me.

I’m supposed to be this liberated free spirit, fucking my way around the world and far, far too busy and happy to be jealous and irritable that Lover is FUCKING SOMEONE ELSE.

I meet Lover in another town, one of our last private meetings for months. He has driven a long way to see me. I have told a lot of lies to see him. The necklace burns in its tissue in my bag, and at first, I think, well, no. The hello kiss is nice, we take it slow, he’s very respectful and supportive of my numerous conversations via cell with Husband, who is having a rough night/week/marriage. Good food, a good walk, good conversation. Caution.

It’s not that something’s missing. It’s that something’s there. Focus is divided. He is only with me, yes, but I am also with her. When his cock slides into me, I wonder how tight her pussy is. When he kisses me, I think about how she’s an easy come, it strokes his ego that he got her off with kissing. When he goes down on me, I worry that I take too long, it’s unfulfilling, the few times – very few – I actually come this way aren’t enough.

I sleep all night in his arms, thinking only a few times, do you do this with her? We have already decided that the boundary is no anal, that’s saved, and he tells me fancy dates are also only for me, TGI Fridays is fine for her. I feel a prickling of female solidarity. If I’m truly out for maximum happiness for others and not solely my own selfish gratification, it would be nice if other people had nice things, too, and not just what they’ll settle for, machined corn syrup lowers him and me both.

In the morning, he is actually fucking me when I ask when he’ll see her again. This is not as stupid a question as you might think, given that they live in different states, she has a full-time not-traveling job and he is not due back in her state for quite some time.

She’s coming to see him in three weeks.

He blathers on about how she’s not up for a relationship, he natters about how they’re both only into this part time thing, he whinges about how it’s not a big deal but it would be rude to back out now, and I’m weeping in the shower, washing him off me, packing my things, blind with pain and fury and the realization that men are utterly, utterly stupid. Then I put my contacts in.

A brief note to my Male Gentle Readers: GIRLS WHO TRAVEL TO ANOTHER STATE TO SEE YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MORE THAN A QUICK FUCK. No matter how “busy” or “not into commitment” she is, no matter how many “other people she’s seeing” or “doesn’t have time to see,” NO GIRL NEEDS TO LEAVE HER CITY, LET ALONE HER STATE, FOR A QUICK FUCK. Your friendship isn’t that good. If she doesn’t have another reason to be there (and “my girlfriend was coming up anyway to see her boyfriend in your city” sure doesn’t count – who the hell wants to be a third wheel on a fuck trip?), this is not a no-strings-attached fun time. They may not be the strings you’re expecting to dodge, but trust me, they’re there.

I round up my things in the hotel room, I can’t bear to have him touch me. He says, “I’m terrified that I’m going to lose you.” I say, “you already are.”

Somehow, we achieve détente. And I arrive at a solution. We will break up. I’m not sure if it will be only nominal, if the convention will be enough to relieve the sick, burning jealousy in my stomach, but I have to do something. I will see him one more time this month, and then we’re done. If we want to get back together after he sees her, perhaps. But I can’t be his if he’s with someone else. And the thing I value most about Lover is being utterly, completely his.

A brief note on hypocrites. I AM ONE. I’d like to be able to fuck whomever I like and have them only fuck me.

Breaking up seems, thus far, to be working. I don’t think about Lover fucking the Hershey’s Kiss. In fact, I don’t think about him much at all. I’m certain this is a compartment of some kind, but really, I’m a bit busy for pain right now. And hey, if subpar chocolate is worth using up the calories you’d spend on the good stuff, well, at least it was easy, cheap and available when you needed it.

I gave him the necklace. I told him I hoped it would be something he’d like wearing, and that he could never wear it around Husband.

(“It was worth, at most, five hundred francs…”)

17 comments:

Z said...

"I’m supposed to be this liberated free spirit, fucking my way around the world and far, far too busy and happy to be jealous and irritable that Lover is FUCKING SOMEONE ELSE."

and...

"A brief note on hypocrites. I AM ONE. I’d like to be able to fuck whomever I like and have them only fuck me."

Yes, yes, yes. 100% with you on both of these points.

Stupid emotions, I hate them and wish I could do without them.

unbridledesires said...

I completly understand those emotions...aren't they part of human nature? Kind of falls into survival of the fittest.

The memories will last long after the pain subsides. You will be ok.

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed your blog but this last post has me really confused. Let me get this straight - you're married, whoring on the side and you have a lover. But you're lover isn't supposed to have a girlfriend he sees occasionally? Wow! At least you realize your hypocrisy. You say you love your husband but what would it do to him and your marriage if he found out about the lover and the prostitution? No judgments from over here in kettle land, I'm just curious. Presumably one of the reasons you've married your husband is his intelligence, which means sooner or later he'll probably find out about your secret lives. What will happen then. Again not judging, just wondering. I've really enjoyed your blog and look forward to vicariously experiencing a life which is fairly foreign to me, but all to real to you. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

my darling, your complexity and your honesty, your unbridled sense of entitlement, and indeed, somewhat, your hypocrisy are all part of what makes you so amazing to me. lover-boy will tire of hk (shall we call her morgana?) soon enough, and will come knocking at your door again. (sorry L. you know it's true!), and you will have fabulous make-up sex and begin once more your circling, whirling little dance.

i often measure the pain of events against what art comes out of them. was it worth a song? a poem? several? a blog entry? make the hurt beautiful and appreciate the raw open-ness of your heart for these brief periods of time, before you salve it with words and experiences to ease the ache. loving you, me

Anonymous said...

You have two dangerous necklaces in your life now. I hope cheap jewelery doesn't destroy you too.

Steve

Mandy said...

Z - glad I'm not the only one. It's like you and LFM posted - "I'm the adorable slut, you're the ever-faithful lover."

Anon- yes, he's smart. But he also doesn't want to lose me. He is mostly choosing not to know, and I respect his choice enough to be a very, very good liar.

Beautiful Girl - yes, undbridled sense of entitlement :) With the obligation to pass the swag around when I can get it! So far, the pain is worth it worth it worth it - you notice I am writing again after a hiatus, eh? Which brings it all full circle to the point I originally made some months ago - that good art is worth inflicting pain on others. But I sometimes forget that it's also worth pain for myself.

Steve - still surviving...past the age of believing myself immortal (God! When I watch young people drive!) but still believing that my survival is proof of my righteousness...

The Invisible Spinster said...

Mandy,

I am sorry that Lover has pulled such a bone-headed move. He is losing (has lost?) a beautiful, intelligent woman. I think both you and Anonymous 1 are wrong about one thing, though: it's not hypocrisy to want something (someone) for yourself. It's being human.

I.S.

PS: Thank you a thousand times for linking to that story. I first ran across it sometime in high school, but had never been able to find it since.

Tom Paine said...

Is what we're doing great art? Or is the hope of making great art a justification for swinish behavior? Do I give C. the freedom to enjoy herself, or pressure her to assume the role of porn star I need for my own obsessions? I admire your work, and I know you admire mine, but I don't know I'd put it up there in the category of Rilke, who left his wife and kiddies to write The Duino Elegies in a hut in the Alps. At least not yet. Survival doesn't prove righteousness, even leavened with a pound of salt.

Just finished a bio of Louise Brooks, whom you resemble in temperment and lifestyle, just not with a bob and bangs. She was clearly a force in movies, though her place is still debated. By her own admission she was a total bitch who chased away nearly everyone who loved her and threw away the help others consistently extended her. Your retinue is loyal, but we don't hear from Husband or Lover. Do they accept you as the force of Nature that Z, BG and the others do? Or is Lover letting you go because holding on isn't worth what they clearly think is a price worth paying?

I'm far less of a free spirit than you are, and therefore open to the charge of being uncool for saying these thing, and I know that on some level I let others lie to me to cover for what I don't really want to know. But I'm skeptical of using "art" as a cover for my own failings, and find it hubristic in you, whom I think talented and fascinating. Maybe when you land the big book contract, though American publishing is just as likely to enjoy your story for its shock value as much as for any literary merit, which is harder won, though often just as ephemeral. I know it's me, but justifying what you do by saying it's making you produce art diminishes you both as a writer and a human being. We admire Brooksie for her beauty, brains and unconventionality despite her bizarre, perhaps borderline personality. Interestingly, she didn't claim her achievements in cinema justified who she was in real life. Maybe in your euphoria you're getting ahead of yourself?

What I say is harsh, but said because I find you so fascinating on many levels. I think you should wait on ordering the crown until the coronation has been scheduled. Perhaps it's my growing discomfort with deception in human relationships that makes me say these things, despite the consequences it will have in our friendship. Pain is a driver for you; just not sure those you run over are buying a Ferrari for you yet. We see your weaknesses, but you take back the points you earn with your posts by the crowing tone apparent there are certainly in your comments.

George said...

Interesting post Mandy ... you raise so many questions .. I think you have answered them correctly. Being hypocritical is tough on people because, looking at you as a stranger (as most of us are), we don't know which side is the real side and which is the hypocritical.

Mandy said...

Tom (and George), I think you make good points. And yes, I'm in the phase of my year where the only thing that keeps me going is a tremendous belief that what I'm doing in my life - professionally and personally, not necessarily Mandy-ly - is worth the sacrifices I'm making to do it, which breeds its own brand of hubris.

I've never read any Rilke :) So I can't compare. But I do know for certain that I have written work based on my life that has changed people's lives and motivated them in their own work as well as bonding them with their own loved ones and giving them new perspective. I know this because they have told me, in person and in writing, and have come up to me years later to do so. This blog has generated a few responses that tell me what I'm writing is worth what I've done - or am doing - to generate subject matter. The blog may not right now be "great art," but from my past experience with developing my best work, this is raw material I will be delighted to work on to make something amazing. Some of the posts are among my best writing to date.

The side of myself I share in this blog is often the mean, selfish, hateful side, because part of what I'm writing about is dealing with that part of me and how it is in constant conflict with the loving, gentle person I would like to be. As a writer, I'd rather have wabisabi than nice - I think beauty shows up better against dirt. Keep in mind that while this blog is factual, I'm not here to present a balanced picture of a good character with a happy ending in sight. It's not chronological all the time. And dramatically, it's a lot more thought-provoking (obviously, based on comments received :) ) to skew the picture. It's not all that interesting to rattle on about what a great person I am and all the things I do for Husband, yadda yadda car payments total acceptance support of his work yadda yadda, or for that matter, the times I've gone above and beyond for Lover. I'm certainly finding more compassion for Husband's dislike of our open relationship when it's me being run around on, an irony that has not escaped me.

That said, one of the things I noticed about ten weeks ago was that while there is a lot of love in my life, there's not a lot of love in the blog. I've been drafting a few posts dealing with love, and trying to figure out what is ripe to be posted without being sappy, trite, or repetitions on a theme.

Finally, Lover may well be reassessing whether the price is worth it. That is his right, and he and I are very frank in our discussions about our relationship, to the point where we joke that the meta-relationship is sometimes as interesting as the relationship itself. I hope we both win. Either way, it'll be something to write about.

Mandy said...

PS - I'm also several time zones away and having some damn long days. Most nights I've been hitting "post" barely before my eyes shut. So some stuff is perhaps less nuanced than it will be in the rewrite :)

G said...

The last few comments are as good a read as the post. I came back specifically to see your answer to Tom. (perhaps my life needs a bit more happening in it?;)-g

la fille mariée said...

Mandy, I'm not sure how to add to this fascinating conversation. As if often the case, I agree with Z. I AM the same kind of hypocrite. If it were tenable, I would keep my lovers to myself, absolutely. I love being the centre of someone's world. In my case, though, I know that would also take away from who I am, and I can't make that adjustment. You are freely admitting your hypocrisy, and accommodating the best way you have figured out. It's not better or worse... it just is.

Gillette said...

This discussion of the "hypocrite" makes me smile.

When I read this in the post, Mandy, I laughed and said "Oh, HI, Aphrodite."

She's alive and well in you and I am not in the least surprised that both Z and Fille say the same things. All of you are highly sexual/sensual women and that's a part of her. Aphrodite's sexysexy and she DEMANDS total attention, adoration and devotion. Remember all the shit she did when she didn't get it???

Go for it! I love it when people admit their unPC stuff. Many, many, many of the highly sensual women I know are territorial. I mean...once a man has had YOU why in the hell would they want anyone else? What's up with THAT??? And if they do, fuck 'em.

I love it.

Thanks for this and to the ladies for the discussion (and my entertainment in getting to meet other Aphrodites).

Evan said...

The real question is, how would you feel if Lover came back to you and swore his unalloyed devotion, but then you found out he was still seeing his other girlfriend behind your back? You'd be hurt at first, presumably (who wouldn't be?) but once you'd had time to reflect, would you just say, "Oh well, that's how the game is played."?

Thinking you deserve freedom that a person you care about doesn't deserve is creepy. Yes, it's human nature, blah blah blah. It's also human nature to eat the last piece of cake and leave the dishes for someone else to clean, but I don't do that, because I'm not a jerk.

Mandy said...

Evan, that's a good point - one of the ongoing questions for me is how much to weight action vs intention.

For example, am I a racist because I acknowledge that I notice someone's blackness as a primary characteristic and treat them differently? Or does it count in my favor that the way I treat them differently is more nicely, to "prove" I'm not a racist?

Am I depriving Lover of a freedom I reserve for myself because I acknowledge both my desire to have him tied to me and the essential hypocrisy of that position, or does it count that I don't actually stop him from seeing other people?

To use your analogy - if I have to force myself to do my dishes because I know it's the decent thing to do, does it make me a jerk because it doesn't come naturally, as it might to a nicer person? (Calvin might have something to say about this...)

Fundamentally, it's not that I feel I "deserve" a freedom that he doesn't, it's that the part of me that wants him for myself only is at war with the part of me that knows that's not the right thing to do. That seething feeling in my stomach is the conflict between my rational and my animal nature.

It's human not to share - children have to be taught it. I don't want to share. Lover knows this. I am not turned on when Lover fucks other people. Lover is, however, turned on when other people fuck me (I also feel conflicted about using other people without their knowledge, when I tell Lover what I did with them for his pleasure). We've both decided that whoring doesn't count.

In the end, I am not denying Lover his freedom - I'm only saying what I can and can't live with. My demands may be completely unreasonable. Or I may be such a fabulous fuck that it's worth it to have me. Either way, it's his choice, and I have only determined my behavior, not his. I can't control what he does - nor would I want to - I can only control my response to it.

Gillette said...
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