One of the things that I’ve consciously neglected to talk about here, because it’s embarrassing, and because I want the people reading this (family, friends, God, universe) to believe that my partner is a wonderful, considerate, and mature individual, so we can make with the babies already, is that Doug is not perfect.
I’m sure that comes as no surprise, because nobody’s perfect, but had someone informed me of this fact, say, three years ago, I never would have believed it. At the time I was divorcing, Doug appeared to be perfect, or perfectly what I needed, anyway. He was the exact opposite of my then-husband: young, reckless, macho, quintessentially American (my ex is British). He was physically strong and emotionally open, without being a sissy. He was also a great storyteller; in fact, he seemed to have a story for everything. And I believed them all.
The stories, of course, were all false. As it turned out, Doug had taken the male tendency toward exaggeration (“the fish was this big“) and turned it into a lifestyle. Before I was even in the picture, he’d woven a web of tales and created a whole new life for himself, one he liked better than his actual life. And of course, over the next few months, that web came crashing down around him and onto me.
People wonder why I stayed with him, once I realized our relationship was built on sex and lies, but to me, it wasn’t really a question. First, I understand why he did the things he did: growing up, he was made to believe he would never fit in or be good enough, so he learned to create a persona he thought was worthy of love and acceptance. Second, I trust him when it counts: I may not always believe him, and yes, that hurts, but when it comes to the big things like, say, his love for me, he’s the most honest man I know. Third, our relationship was built around my lies, too: I lied to my husband, my family, and my friends – so if Doug had been lying to me, didn’t I kind of deserve it? And most importantly, I love him. He is still all those wonderful things that made me fall in love with him in the first place: strong, protective, playful, and attentive. So he exaggerates, so he has low self-esteem – so what? He’s young and resilient, and, I told myself, if I love and accept him for who he is, he will begin to do the same, and will mature into a wonderful and honest potential husband/father.
It hasn’t been a straight path, and it hasn’t been easy, for either of us. There have been times when I’ve caught Doug lying (usually about paying bills – he doesn’t want to admit he can’t provide for me as much as he’d like); there have been times when I’ve accused Doug of lying and he was telling the truth. Trust and honesty are difficult things, and I never have been able to get that riddle about the two men at a fork in the road, one of whom always lies and one of whom always tells the truth, and you only get one question to find out which is which.
I’m telling you all this now because of something that happened at work today. A bunch of us were standing in the back room, and Doug and this other guy were eating cookies. This isn’t so out of the ordinary for us, but this time, one of our supervisors decided to make an issue out of it. He asked who opened the cookies, and Doug admitted that he and the other guy had.
“What for?” the supervisor asked.
“Because I was hungry,” Doug said.
At this point, I had to leave the room. I didn’t want to be seen smiling at my boyfriend’s obvious faux-pas. But I was so fucking proud.
I told Doug later that, had I found myself in the same situation, caught with my hand (literally) in the cookie jar, I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t have panicked and made something up. For his honesty, Doug got harassed by a few supervisors, was made to pay for the cookies, and had to explain himself to the store manager. Ultimately, though, he went unpunished, which may not have been the case if, facing confrontation, he had started grasping at stories and excuses.
I’m not sure Doug understands why such an awkward and embarrassing moment is cause for me being proud of him. But for me – even as I was a little upset that he saw his job as equally valuable to a cookie or two (because they did not have to let him off so easily) – this incident is a symbol of all the progress we’ve made since those early days. His telling the truth this afternoon was almost a reflex, which is a beautiful and refreshing and reassuring feeling for me; it means that I haven’t put all my eggs in the wrong basket here, and that maybe he’s more emotionally and psychologically ready to make with the babies than I’ve been giving him credit for.