Tag Archives: monogamy

Thoughts on The L-Word, Cont’d

When I teach creative writing, like everyone else who who’s ever taught it, I constantly remind my students of the old adage “show, don’t tell.”

“Don’t tell us you hate your ex-boyfriend, show us that using scene, and voice, and image, and setting,” I say. “Dramatize!”

I repeat the words of one of my former teachers: “Nothing is less beautiful than beautiful”–the word is so abstract, so entirely subjective, to describe something as simply “beautiful” doesn’t tell us anything concrete.

When we study nonfiction, I tell them they’re allowed to show and tell: I read to them from an essay by Philip Lopate about the importance of reflection and tell them something I learned from a different professor: that the story is not as interesting as the sense the author makes of the story. (Whatever that means–like any platitude, it’s imperfect, and not always true.)

Lately I’ve been thinking about how this applies in life. Because I want people to show me their feelings–love, hate, whatever–but I also want them to tell me. For reasons I can’t explain, I need the reassurance that comes not just from affection, from meaningful actions, but from being told: from the statement “I love you.”

“You need something more detailed,” D observed when we had the conversation. More detailed, he meant, than the gestures and behaviors that signify love: I need the words themselves.

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Getting Over the “Princess Fantasy.” Slowly.

On Thursday D, as he frequently does, made dinner for me and a few of his college friends.

One of them has gone on a few dates with a girl that he likes, and all week had planned to call her the following night–Friday–in order to see her over the weekend.

The rest of us, myself in particular, took umbrage at this strategy.

“So if you want to hang out with someone during the weekend, when would you call them?” I asked the group.

“Thursday” was the immediate, obvious consensus. This suggestion provoked a response so aggravated, so extreme that even the guy in question couldn’t help but be amused–at which point the conversation turned comic.

“I don’t just think you should call her,” one guy chimed in. “I think you should marry the girl. Might as well propose.”

“You’re compatible, you’re physically attracted,” he continued, his wife making salad a few feet away. “That’s all you need. The rest you’ve got to work for anyhow. There’s no such thing as ‘the one.'”

This is a theory with which, in the abstract, I completely agree. There are lots of people one could find happy partnership with. With any of them, there would be persistent challenges. Different ones, perhaps, but challenges all the same. Sharing a life is never easy.

In other words, intellectually I know he’s right: the myth of “the one” is just that–a myth.

Emotionally, though, I’m not sure I do.

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Science, Sense and Cheating

In the past couple of days I’ve been inundated with emails from people alerting me to that recent New York Times blog post, for a while the most emailed on their website, called “The Science of a Happy Marriage.”

(Okay when I say inundated I actually mean I heard from two people, my grandmother and my best friend R, both of whom frequently send me links to things. But that is two more people than normally email me the same article in a given week. So there.)

Anyway R suggested, specifically, that I weigh in on this idea that what fosters commitment is not so much genetic but a specific dynamic in a relationship, that of “self-expansion”: “how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons.”

Apparently you’re more likely to be faithful to someone who you feel challenges you and makes you a better, more interesting or more virtuous person.

Okay, I’ll buy that. I mean, I’m often drawn to men who I think are smarter and more creative than me: I want to be with someone who I can learn from.

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On Monogamy, and Love

The term “serial monogamist” has always bothered me.

I mean, I use it–like everyone else–to describe people who go immediately from one relationship into another.

But I’m not sure what differentiates those people from those of us who go spans of time out of relationships. I often think I’d like to be a serial monogamist, if only I could find people I’d like to be serially monogamous with.

But then, as came up over beers last night with S and A (I realized, by the way, that an odd preponderance of my male friends have names that start with D; this is another one, who I’ll call A instead for differentiation’s sake), there are people who really are not interested in, or perhaps capable of, monogamy.

Each of them described someone they know who is frequently in relationships, but who is always cheating.I don’t think I have any friends who fall into this category. I’m fairly sure, though, that the person I once, for five minutes, was an “other woman” with, does. I think he really cared (and, I’m pretty sure, cares) for his girlfriend. But he simply couldn’t help himself from indulging his wandering eyes. And hands. And various other things that one should not indulge when one is committed. But did (and does) he truly love her?

I’m not sure.

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