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24 January 2002 (Thursday): not because i have to, but because i want to

There's nothing in the world quite like struggling with a black mood all day, leaving work and hitting a nasty traffic jam on the way to your second job, making you late for said job, watching the clock and hoping to god that this night gets over with soon -- and looking up to find that your boyfriend has driven fifty miles just to come give you a hug.

Soren is too cool for words.

I like to think that I'm not a high-maintenance girlfriend. I open my own doors and pay for my own dinner, don't drop hints for expensive jewelry. When the football game comes on I sit down and watch it too, even though I'm still fuzzy on what a tight end does. I like to think that I don't ask for much, and demand even less. (There's an asterisk here; more on that later.) I try to make being with me as easy as possible.

But I'm a complete sucker for a random act of love. It just makes me light up inside. Seeing Soren walk in last night, when I was tired and hungry and lonely as all hell, was exactly what I needed, and he knew it. "You sounded like you needed some cheering up," he said simply. After I got off work we went to get me a late dinner, and as I ate he told me stories about the people he'd seen on the bus that afternoon, how he'd gotten lost in a bad part of town and found his way out again, how he'd been writing a lot lately and looking for inspiration everywhere. I forgot about my own bad day. He made funny faces and spoke in made-up accents and generally made me laugh until I hurt all over. He asked me how my day went, and listened patiently as I rambled on about office politics and frustrating projects and my total lack of motivation to do anything useful. And then he kissed me. It'll be all right, he told me, maybe in so many words, maybe only in the subtext of what he did say. I have faith in you. Everything will work out fine.

"Thank you," I said.

"Of course," he said.

In my family's house there's a photograph in the hallway of my father and me, when I was five or so. I'm sitting with my legs going across his lap, and he's holding me gently but securely. We both look like we're laughing. Underneath it, in my dad's handwriting, is the caption: "Without love, respect, and a sense of humor in our daily lives, this lovely family of ours would quickly become a trap of obligations." My mother always thought it was a rather ominous statement to put under a family photo, but I like it. All relationships need a kind of give to them if they're going to work. Doing things for each other not because you have to, but because you want to -- because you care that much. Once that's gone, everyone's just going through the motions, and the same gestures that were once gifts, given away gladly, either disappear or become heavy burdens.

On occasion I'd run into trouble with this when I was dating Zach. I'm not entirely sure how or why it happened, but sometimes I'd become the classic bitchy girlfriend, telling him essentially that if he loved me, he'd [insert uncharacteristic behavior here]. Combine this with Zach's fundamentally passive nature and zero tolerance for manipulativeness, and you have some ugly confrontations. Sometimes he'd see my point, even wish he could be the way I was requesting him to be, but the fact that I demanded it of him just erased all desire to try. Obligation, not love. No fun.

I try not to do that anymore. On a good day it's easy; I give without wanting anything in return, and ask no more of the one I love than I have a right to. On a bad day it's not so simple. My generosity becomes poisoned with stifled expectations, and everything becomes a not-so-subtle hint or ammunition for a future argument. I'm not proud of being this way. Fortunately it's been lying latent for some time now, and I'm hoping I might have finally outgrown it. We'll see.

posted by enjelani @ 01:15 PM PST

Replies: 1 comment

That's something I definately had problems rectifying in past relationships... How I felt I *should* act, and how I *wanted* to act at that moment in time...

I longed to be the perfect boyfriend. To take care of her, provide for her in every way that I could, open the doors, cover her with my jacket and scurry her through the rain to keep her dry... But it faded. I was no longer doing those things, as you said, because I wanted to, but rather out of obligation.

What a sinking feeling...

posted by syndromes @ 04 07 2002 11:40 PM PST