When I was little, I thought I was going to rock at relationships. All the celestial bodies were waiting to orbit around me and my male co-star.
While other kids were focused on their coloring books, I was envisioning a technicolor widescreen romance. I could see the grand establishing shot and everything.
But what actually happened was, I failed at them. A fantastical, zoom lens faceplant fail, looping over and over.
Let me try to explain, using illustrations.
Have you ever done drugs?
Then maybe you can understand how I got off track. I got hit by the gullible train, and it was packed with fuckable-men-who-didn’t-love-me-back. If you’re interested in that, it leaves the OKCupid station every day. If you set up a profile now you can probably catch the Fiver.
And when I say “drugs” you should know I mean “love”; and by “love” you should know that that shit’s definitely not love. It’s super attractive; it looks and feels like love, and everyone calls it love so it gets confusing, but yeah no it’s not.
Let’s call it intensity.
Intensity is like pyrite. As opposed to gold, which has to be painstakingly extracted with dredgmining, poverty and crushed dreams, pyrite is conveniently available in every polluted stream. All you need is a Dixie cup and some imagination. Loneliness works also.
Let’s interject a little context: fast forward from the coloring book about 30 years, because you don’t really know what it means to be in
love intensity until you’ve been single for a decade post-divorce while raising three or more kids alone, jobless and broke, thousands of miles from family, and with no unmarried friends.
That’s not the young fun wanna-smoke-a-fatty-J kind of single, where your tits get 300 likes because they’re #aloneandlovingit in #cabo #soblessed.
I’m talking about the kind of single where you’ve just been released from a #penitentiary made of #diapers and #ingratitude, and you find yourself swapping nudes with @MuffinThumper88 to resurrect some semblance of “fun” and maybe forget about the custody battle for 30 minutes, okay maybe 10, but you haven’t showered in a month because the babies have been sick so you try to escape the routine with your phone and a shitty app and a deep, hollow-eyed urgency that you yourself can’t face for fear common sense will prevail, so you jump JUMP out of the frying pan and leap into the fiery thermosphere of online fuckery and WHEEEeee it feels like you’re a FIREWORK! Or a SHOOTING STAR! Or living a teenage dream!
But actually no. You’re just, like, busted space junk.
What I didn’t know then, that I understand now, was this: I needed independence and I couldn’t admit it. I didn’t like that about myself; assumed it meant that I was destined to be sexless and alone. So I did the next best thing to being alone. I chased Unavailables.
But since I was not ready to accept who I was, I didn’t chase these men consciously. I just had a Pavlovian response to being ignored.
That’s how it would start, every time. I sensed something in a guy that was completely wrong for me – slightly unattainable, non-communicative, potentially psychotic, something — and that something clicked in me like the pin of a grenade. Like the lock on Pandora’s box. Next, he’d bust out some heady compliments and throw down his pride and step 3, I’d throw down my panties. I wasn’t looking for long term so yeah, let’s skip the get-to-know-you part and fuck right out of the gate.
Problem was, during coitus with an Unavailable, something disgustingly special happened for me. I bonded. I saw his true self revealed. I didn’t burn up in the thermosphere. I stayed aloft, gloriously aloft. And in love.
Houston, we have love.
It was so blissful. So true. And also the beginning of the end.
Worshiping an Unattainable felt like the way starving people might feel as they hallucinate about hamburgers. Or the way a junkie feels as he’s knotting the extension cord above his elbow, hurry jump jump jump on this slide feeling, a brief euphoric readout that says, you got this.
After all, intensity isn’t mild, it’s seismic; it doesn’t even need reciprocation or physical proximity to feel awesome. Between our stratospheric fuckfests the Unavailable would do what Unavailables do best – disappear – not just physically but emotionally too.
And in that insecure interim, my longing would unspool like magical kitestring woven from the fraying threads of my purple Walmart lingerie. Every love song would whip my brains into stiff, white, oxytocin peaks. I would masturbate to mental snapshots of his profile, and most importantly, I would project all my unmet needs onto his absent but caring face.
Because hey, I wanted to be alone, right? This is perfect, right?
But he was ignoring me. He was keeping me in a mental compartment labeled “Fuck As Needed”. Worse, he was treating me like a second rate stand-in. I was not equipped to survive it. And my beloved Unavailables, they were clearly not concerned about my survival.
The intensity was potable, edible, transferable — but not at all sustainable. When I got woke, my string broke. I showed him who I really was.
Once, I told an Unavailable that I loved him (big no-no). I helpfully informed another that he wasn’t over his ex (oh lord no). Another time? I acted as if I was in charge and started setting the ground rules (BAAAhaha gerrrl, stop).
The endings varied but one thing was predictable. These dudes got triggered like Old Testament deities. Sometimes they slamdunked my head onto a pike and wiped out my entire city. Other times they would ignore me so long and hard that bam, I turned to stone. There I was, frozen on my hands and knees, forever begging for make-up sex.
You can’t win with an Unavailable. They will drag you to their level and beat you with experience; also sometimes they will break down your sliding glass door and waterboard you with Natural Light.
It’s like going to Six Flags one beautiful day, riding the fastest, highest ride in the lower 48 with the hottest guy in a 50 mile radius, and falling off the fucking ride because the attendant didn’t click your safety bar enough clicks. It was supposed to be three clicks. You only got one. ONE FUCKING CLICK.
Oh and also the attendant is you.
Boom. I hit the deck facefirst with all the lost visors and cell phones. I was broken, hungover, limping away with a Dollar General sack fulla of puke and an empty blood transfusion bag, ready to panhandle for more of him.
They say you grieve a month for every year of a relationship. But me? Nah. I grieved a year for every month because I’m retarded. A year for every day.
I’m wired wrong, y’all. My corpse rots in the yard like fermenting pears. Dogs and squirrels get drunk on what’s left of me, post-intensity.
Alas, what a rainbow of shitty fruit flavors.
But this THIS is where art saved me.
I got so supralow that I had no choice but to reanimate him in a story so we could spend more “time” together, finishing conversations left undone, living out sex scenes with zero repercussions. And that ex he loved more than me? Yeah fuck that. I was now poised to play all three satisfying corners of that awful triangle. I drew in the backdrop and set the stage and started writing.
But the true restraint was hard won. It was role modeled for me by wise women in a 12 step SAA program. They taught me foreign concepts like resting when you’re tired, having fun when you’re sad, and when you’re lonely, reaching out to people who actually care – and closing doors on those who don’t.
They helped me keep the door closed. They helped me abstain from dick, and I don’t just mean metaphorically.
If you’d told me back then that I was going to go three years without dick, I would have just sobbed. Just dropped outta the game and given up. But the thing is, once freed from the emotional quagmires that come with dick, I’ve been incredibly effective.
I’ve gotten so much shit done.
I’ve written my second book, then screenplays based on the book, and then I acted and produced a web series based on the screenplays – all that fueled by fantasies, failures and unfinished business.
And that stratospheric high I was craving? I found it again years later, acting in front of the camera. True, I wasn’t getting laid, but I was having cake and it was fucking delicious. I was steady. I was a closed motherfucking circuit. Not only that, I was a better mother.
I know now what I like and what I ought not like. I know what I don’t like, and what I don’t like but should. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. What to watch for and what to allow.
During this period of sexual abstinence, I’ve been asked the same question on a couple different occasions by a couple different guys (with the purposes of convincing me to fuck):
“How many years do you have left?”
As in, you’re gonna get old and that pussy gonna dry up and fall off, so now that I’ve solved your problems, where’s the slot for me to insert my dick?
My reply is some version of: Listen, motherfucker, we come into this world alone. We go out of it alone. And so will you, with a pick up line like that.
Togetherness is nice, but not if you have to force it or settle for it. Further, despite what the songs and movies tell you, instant attraction can’t be trusted, period. If you start fucking someone you have only known for a month or a day (unless that someone is a blended cappuccino with freshly whipped cream), it’s just a honeymoon, son. It’s just intensity. And that might work for you bitches but, it sheared years off my life. I almost died in the name of not dying alone.
And yes while that is a satisfying rant, there’s another less satisfying piece to it. This is the thing I don’t tell those guys.
I may have taken it a step too far. I’ve told myself I don’t have human needs like other people. The truth is, I’ve been afraid that letting someone in would be like kryptonite for my craft.
Maybe it’s possible to have independence and a relationship. To have the fantasies that fuel my writing and real life fulfillment – at the same time. I think it’s time to take a look at that.
What have I been running from? And if I’m no longer chasing intensity, then what am I after?
One thing I’ve learned from acting is that the good stuff comes in the quiet between words, where I’m not delivering anything. I’m not cutting up or entertaining. I’m just feeling my feelings, here, while you watch. This is me, open for attack. Open for love. This is me, trying to get to the opposite of intensity.
That’s the way, I’ve discovered, to open up without fucking. You let people see exactly who and what you are, flaws and all, and trust them to not destroy you. You stand there offering nothing but yourself, in exchange for nothing but a shared moment of being alive, together. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating.
That’s not intensity. Let’s call it intimacy.
I’m working on it.
CROSSLAND web series releases soon. Click here to watch it.
Read the book here.
copyright © K. Dawn Goodwin 2017