I was hanging out with my friend Squeak today, baking vegan cookies, drinking cheap wine, and catching up on the last year or so since we’ve seen each other. Squeak is cheerful and fun and flirty, and has the power to make me feel cheerful and fun and flirty as well.
I like this feeling, the feeling I get being around Squeak as we compare notes on guys we’ve dated, or flirted with, or exchanged half-naked pictures with. It makes me feel young, independent, and significantly less damaged, to rediscover this side of myself.
Only then I came home, and I reached into my arsenal of safe guys to flirt with (of which most are exes with whom I’ve remained friends, and of which, yes, of course, Doug is one), and in between innuendo-laced conversations and photo sharing, I went about a very normal, boring evening. I reheated some spaghetti, and I caught up on some emails, and I put on Christmas music, and I ran the dishwasher. And then I imagined the guys going home to their girlfriends and their wives, and Doug going back to work after his lunch break, and the perfect ordinariness of it all. Because in reality, the lives we have chosen are not as primal and exciting as the life Squeak has chosen. And that’s okay with me, because, for a moment, we can all suspend our disbelief and pretend that they are.
I do wonder, though, what the guys must think of me, now that I’ve made a habit of exhibitionist-ing myself in words as well as pictures. This blog is public: it’s out there, it’s open to anyone, and it pops up on my facebook every time I write in it. So I’m guessing that my flirt-buddies have read at least some of it, and have garnered some insight into how I work, emotionally.
So when we’re doing our flirting thing – providing each other with moments of daring/excitement/instant gratification in our otherwise comfortable, ordinary lives – are they thinking of me as someone damaged? Are they taking pity on me, the girl who can easily flirt with guys who are safely miles away, but who can’t bring herself to flirt with her boyfriend in person? Do they wonder what’s wrong with me, or with my relationship? Or are they able to separate my damaged and emotional self from my cheerful and fun and flirty self? Do they get the same momentary thrill and gratification from this harmless flirting as I do, without thinking they’re being offered damaged goods?
The exception to all this speculation, for better or for worse, is Doug. I know he doesn’t mind that I’m damaged, because he was there for the damaging, and maybe he’s damaged too. But maybe that’s also what makes it so hard for me to flirt with him without keeping my distance: he knows too much, he understands too much. He is less capable of suspending his disbelief with me – less capable of seeing me as young, cheerful, fun, flirty, sexy – than are my male friends scattered around the country.
Only, Doug has never stopped seeing me as all those things. He constantly begs me to let him see me as those things. And I am the one who can’t suspend my disbelief and be those things for Doug, unless he too is scattered around the country (or, you know, down the street at work). Because, as usual, what I can do for others, I cannot do for myself: I am able to ignore the reality of these other guys’ lives so that we can share a long-distance moment together, for whatever it’s worth; but I can’t ignore my own long enough to share a real-life moment with my real-life boyfriend.
Or with myself. There is some part of me that knows, as ridiculous as it is, that the only one around here thinking I’m damaged goods is me.