I remember the precise moment when my love was commodified: Doug was at work, texting me. He was complaining about a parking ticket. And then, It would be so hot if you paid it for me. And it did seem hot in that moment; him commanding me to ruin myself, me doing it for him. He sent me a picture of his cock and said do it. I felt pleasantly powerful and yet also completely out of control. I would not be able to pay rent that month. The minute I did it, a deep shame washed over me. Good Baby.
I still feel the shame, too.
Maggie Nelson writes, “The end of the story was clear from the start. I just didn’t care. People in love rarely do. And like most people in love, or maybe like most writers in love, I thought if I could keep formatting it correctly, if I could keep finding the right words to house it, maybe I could change it. But, of course, I was not its sole author.”
When you are in a relationship with someone who has betrayed you, you face the same dilemma that one does when writing about a lover. You must choose: be loyal to them, be loyal to yourself, be loyal to the relationship. I chose to be loyal to the relationship– until now.
Feelings were measured in dollars: Halloween night, I make him drive me home because I do not have service to call an Uber. He is livid. The next day he barely speaks to me, I am living in terror, my head pounding, sure that he will leave me. Let’s get lunch. I buy him a $30 dollar meal. Then it is time to go shopping: I buy him $200 worth of clothing throughout the day. With each item, he becomes measurably more affectionate, even begins to joke about my repentance.
The “presents” quickly turn to cash. He steals my phone and Venmo’s himself $30. When I get jealous about another girl he refuses to speak to me until I send him $60. When he cheats on me I get speakers, shorts, and a CD (actual, unsolicited gifts– the commodification was always one sided). Love was bought.
The dollar amounts increased with my feelings. I fell deeper and deeper in love with him and was willing to do more and more shameful acts to keep him. I bought him a plane ticket, groceries, Ubers, everything. I was not rich; my credit card debt increased steadily; like most people in love I didn’t care.
It was not the enviable position of a sugar momma/baby. I was trapped. The web of money and feelings became increasingly complex, a game in which only he knew the rules, and I paid all of the price. He would hit me when I paid him, ignore me when I didn’t. My shame grew, and with it my weakness.
Doug enjoyed his power. My love was visible, I would ruin myself to ensure his happiness. Not only his happiness, but his comfort, his luxury. And my insecurity grew in tandem with his power: my love was visible, but where was his? I would ask him about the money. It’s just a game he would answer. But it was the words that were the game, the words I knew in my gut were false, but that I chose to believe.
Games breed bitterness, and in my weakened state a shred of fight was left. He committed a terrible act, and I said I would forgive him for $60. He broke up with me.
My love’s allowance was spent.