October 12, 2012

How To Love A Screwed Up Man

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What is the issue?

His name is either Adam or Sam or Sean. No, his name is Jack. You meet him when you’re 22 and have time to kill and want to fall in love. The first time you see his face, a calm washes over you because you know you might’ve stumbled upon something special. You don’t have to look anymore. You don’t have to worry. He’s right here.

Jack isn’t the best looking boy in the world which makes you think that there’s a greater chance he’ll be kind to you. His face doesn’t have the luxury to be cruel. It has to be sweet to survive. Right?

Even with an unattractive face, everybody loves Jack. Jack loves Jack. He doesn’t so much enter a room as he does torpedo through it. He makes his presence known, he tells solid jokes and, well, everyone likes to be around him. He’s that guy who makes you feel less interesting the second he opens his mouth. At first, this makes you feel bad about yourself but then you think that you might soak up some of his personality by osmosis so you stick around.

If Jack is loved by so many people, that must mean he has a million lovers, right? Wanting someone to entertain you with their stories is the same thing as wanting to sleep with them, correct?

No. Not correct. They’re not the same thing. In fact, they’re entirely different. You didn’t know this though because you were young and unable to see the difference between the boy you take home from the party and the boy you leave behind. Common rookie mistake.

When you spoke with Jack for the first time, you knew instantly that he could be yours. Fatigue was written all over his face. The more jokes he told, the more cynical he appeared, and you could just tell that he was content to give it all up and lie in bed with you.

So you did. You took him home from the party like he was a stuffed animal you won at the fair and you kissed his face and held him tight. You made sure that he knew he didn’t have to perform for you. That’s not what this was about. Nope. Rest easy, buddy. Let me take over.

The first night you spent together was sweet because the first time is always sweet. It’s hard to screw that one up. You spent the following morning entangled in bed, feeling each other’s bodies, and telling stories in that cautiously optimistic way you do when you’ve just met and slept with someone. “What do I want to show this person? What do I want to hide?”

You started to date each other. You went to a midnight screening of some horror film and walked through the park at two in the morning. You went to a concert in some dilapidated warehouse. On these outings, Jack was his usual gregarious self. Only when you were in bed together did he finally become more calm and reserved. In fact, he kind of shut down completely. The second the lights were off, his energy seemingly left his body and he just hung there like a limp french fry.

That’s an important lesson you were about to learn from Jack: sometimes the warmest personalities can leave you feeling cold in bed. It’s like they used up all of their inner resources while out and about, and when it came time to truly connect, you discovered that they had nothing left to give.

Despite the warning signs, you decided to power through and try to love him anyway. The more time passed, however, the more obvious it became that he was emotionally defective. You weren’t dating him, you were dating his issues. Every time you would get together, the energy would start out high and then slowly deflate over the course of an evening. At the end of it, you’d be like strangers making small talk.

Jack would also show you glimpses of his cruelty. He liked to make you feel stupid in that sly way that’s hard to pinpoint and therefore, difficult to ever address. He would rarely go to your apartment and spend time with your friends. Actually, he took no active interest in your life at all. You seemed to only exist within the confines of his apartment. That’s where it felt most safe for him. That’s all he was really able to handle.

“You’re a cold man,” you said to him one night while lying in bed. There were rare moments of honesty in your “relationship” but when it did occur, it felt like you had finally smashed open a piñata.

“I know,” Jack responded. “I’m trying to be better. I’m so sorry. I’m crazy.”

The cowardly thing about Jack is that he would own up to all of his problems and then do absolutely nothing to fix them. He thought that admitting his shortcomings was enough to absolve them. This, of course, isn’t true and it also gives you nothing to work with.

“The amount of rejection I feel from you on a daily basis is almost breathtaking.” Oh, that was good. You couldn’t believe you just said that.

Jack then buried his head in your chest as if to show remorse for the situation and then whispered, “I don’t mean to. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

You didn’t know either and what’s shocking is the amount of time you wasted trying to figure it out. You know what’s most pathetic? He ended up breaking things off with you, not the other way around. It was like the final dump he took on your face.

After Jack, you learned that you could never date a cold man ever again. And also that sometimes there is no big reason why someone is incapable of treating you decently. You’d like think that it must be because of some deep-seated issue stemming from childhood or something but that’s not always the case. Some men are just born with warm hearts while others are born with cold ones. It’s the luck of the draw really.

It’s been a few years since you’ve last spoken to Jack. You’ve met men since who remind you of him but they never make it past the first date. Because now you know. Now you know that when you date a screwed up man, you also become screwed up yourself. You don’t regret the time you had together though. Sometimes the worst kind of love teaches you the best lessons. Right? TC Mark

image – Mad Men
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