[So many commas & parentheticals]
Earlier, Dave, my husband, and arguably my much taller half, made an off handed comment regarding how he is received (in the workplace). He was like,
“If they don’t like my tone, then they can deal with it.” (In truth, I think he said something more nuanced like, “if they don’t like how I write, then maybe we are not a good fit.”)
WHAT? No. Like, really? WHAT? How can Dave so confidently believe that he does not have to step aside or change who is for the sake of someone else?
My brain broke.
Immediately I fell 300 feet down a rabbit hole, or maybe just a giant figurative pothole, one that my short-circuiting mind could not see.
As I tried to climb out of that deep, dark brain hole, Dave left the kitchen. I am certain he did not notice that I really could use a hand, or maybe even a very long rope, like that kinetic rope he recently purchased. Dave’s rope is shinny white nylon, long, strong and braids into an even stronger rope, “which translates into lower impact but higher energy transfer to the stuck vehicle.”
(Dave’s new kinetic rope arrived two days ago. Yesterday before Eli left for his friend’s cabin, and while standing next to the front bumper of our 4Runner, Dave sweetly and fastidiously explained how to attach the rope. Dave LOVES Eli! So do I. I love watching Eli become his own adult person. I love that he has grown his hair out and has found his own beautiful mountain man style. I also love watching Dave and Eli’s connection. Eli was patient and also anxious to go. At that, Dave enthusiastically admonished,
“Eli, you can use it for helping others out of tough spots.”)
Of course I imagined Eli helping his friend’s crazy dad free his Prius from a ditch. That dad is also the one who owns the cabin and who also [insert air quotes here] “accidentally” touched my left boob as Eli’s wide eyes met mine. (We still talk about the boob touch, of course with accompanying air quotes.)
Back in the kitchen I realized there was no kinetic rope in sight. I was still stuck in that emotional hole. Eventually, I decided to climb out myself.
There I was. I was standing next to the trash can drawer. Then I turned, looked out the west-facing window, and noticed the spring blossoms.
“Everything’s so green and alive.” I happily thought to myself.
Dave walked back into the kitchen.
“Hey buddy.” I gently said.
He paused to look in the fridge.
“I have been thinking about what you said regarding your writing. Honestly, I cannot wrap my head around your words.”
Dave stopped foraging and looked at me. Before he could speak, I blurted (in a nice voice — for real),
“Come on, man, how can you be ok with not adjusting yourself for someone else? It makes no sense. See, I never thought I could just let someone, especially a work colleague, accept me the way I am. I come from the generation where a woman was told to hide her emotions. You know that place where a woman’s workplace tears are a sign of weakness. I come from the family where I was told if I want a man I should learn the rules of football. Thank God you don’t like football. I come from a religious heritage where I was told that a man is the boss of our home — a.k.a. the patriarch. As a result, what I have received is the message that my own thoughts, feelings and insights are insignificant, or better, that my thoughts are significant unless I check them with a man first.”
I don’t know if I had fully processed what had triggered me. I am certain Dave had no idea why my words were directed at him or how they had impacted me. I think that is ok. Should he? Possibly. I am certain no one ever told him that his directness makes people think he is a bitch, or that his effective organizational skills makes others feel threatened, or that his confidence would disrupt the ‘sorority-girl’ vibe, or that his human tears make him appear unstable, especially in the workplace. Nevertheless, I think it is ok that he (and men in general) understand this perspective.
After I finished processing out loud, Dave walked toward the sink, turned on the faucet, and rinsed his hands. Then he walked in the direction of our west facing kitchen window. He paused again, turned toward me and said,
“If anything I have been told to show more emotion.”
We both laughed and quickly fell into a tangent, where I compared his family to Vulcans from Star Trek:
(According to Wikipedia, “Vulcans are a fictional extraterrestrial humanoid species in the Star Trek universe and media franchise. In the various Star Trek television series and movies, they are noted for their attempt to live by logic and reason with as little interference from emotion as possible.”)
I thought to myself,
“Our therapist always says that logic is an emotion, (which I love more than I can adequately articulate here).” (She says “logic is an emotion,” in response to Dave asserting that all I ever care about are feelings not facts.)
I was not mad at Dave, yet I wanted to be mad. Somehow I managed to do some quick self talk. I told myself,
“Beth, it is time to stop. Please do not walk this strange and introspective moment into a heartbreaking fight.”
Thankfully my self talk worked (enough). Instead of fighting, I quoted the most prominent Vulcan, Spok:
“I do not understand your human emotions.”
Then I looked at Dave and said,
“Dave, you are like Spok. You don’t understand my human emotions.”
We laughed again. We talked about why Dave likes every incarnation of that television series from, “Deep Space Nine,” to “Discovery.” I said that it makes him feel closer to his people (as if to imply that he was raised not to consider others or their feelings). Even though I said it in a fun loving tone, I thought I was being mean. In truth, I was not mean, nor was I kind.
(*By the way, I call these humorous digs pain avoiders. Instead of feeling and processing pain, these funny slights are effective at undermining the impact of my words. Thus they keep me lodged in a self-reinforcing space, a space where I believe I need a man to tell me that I am ok.)
I was connecting. I was feeling the pain of my conditioning, the one that tells me my worth is based on the concept that I need a man to validate my worthiness.
In the sunny afternoon light, I paused again, (not something that comes easy for me).
I let myself feel the intense flood of my past pain and inadequacies. For a second I thought I would drown. I looked at Dave, and he became my kinetic rope. Thankfully, he took it, at least enough so I could catch my breath.
A few hours later:
As a result of yesterday’s allergy shots, my right bicep is twice its normal size. Because we have dinner tonight with some relatively new friends, I am feeling terribly insecure. I reach for my new eggplant-grey colored shirt. I put it on. I love how the color looks on my skin. I walk over to the office wearing my new shirt and ask Dave if he likes it.
“Why?” I asked.
“It looks like one of those ‘Flashdance’ shirts.”
“That’s the point!”
“Well, you asked me if I liked it.”
Defeated, I try to muster a comeback. Nope. I feel myself falling. Then I say something like,
“But my arm. I need something to cover my crazy swollen arm. Are you sure it looks bad?”
“It looks fine.”
“I wish you would throw me a lifeline. I wish you would like it.” I say.
Dave quickly responds, “If you did not want my opinion, you should have not asked.”
“Dave, you are not wrong,” I say to him and then play those same words on repeat to myself:
“I should not ask for his approval. I should not have asked for his approval.” Then I add, “Beth, you should trust yourself.”
And really, what does Dave know about fashion? Have you seen his dark brown, bright orange bottomed snow sneakers he is currently wearing? Eli often says that it looks like Dave is wearing potatoes on his feet. (I point out his “potato shoes.” We both glance at them.) The difference is: he does not care that we think his shoes are hideous.
Maybe that is it (at least for me). I have been conditioned to doubt myself and to seek a man’s approval/validation. Can’t I wear the shirt if I like the shirt? Apparently not. I am returning it. In between sentences, I am packing it up now.
Artist’s rendering of my shirt (By artist, I will mean, while editing, Dave inserted this image into post):