So yesterday I started up the car and, unfortunately, the radio station I’d left on was one of those morning talk shows. (Seriously—who wants to listen to a bunch of yammering in the morning? Can’t they just play music? I know it’s a radical idea—music on the radio—but if some brave station would just give it a try, it might catch on.)
And there was some poor guy crying (literally) to the DJs. His wife of 15 years—FIFTEEN!—is having an affair with an old boyfriend she never managed to get over. This outraged me for two reasons:
- Doesn’t this guy have brothers he could go to for much-needed sympathy? He has to call a popular radio station to vent? And sniffle?
- What kind of idiot is this woman, who had feelings enough to marry this guy and stick to him for 15 years—although, evidently, she was never not in love with this stupid ex-boyfriend? Come on! Either you’re in or you’re out. Get married or don’t. But don’t try to do it all. I mean, what’s the point in staying married to the guy if you’re not in love with him—you don’t like to watch TV alone, or what?
Okay, even I can see that I am perhaps (perhaps!) overreacting to this poor stranger’s sob story. But it just got under my skin because I can see in the situations of the friends who surround me how common this way of thinking is.
I have one friend who’s so hungry for a new relationship—the ink on her divorce papers hasn’t even left the pen yet—that she’s already cried at least three times about a guy she’s only been out with twice. Do you see the irony there? She’s cried about him more times than they’ve actually dated. She really, really likes him—well, that would be fine if it were true. But it seems to me that she’s just so caught up on the idea of finding a new harbor that any guy who seems remotely normal, remotely nice, remotely catchable would be someone she would really, really like.
Everyone wants a safe harbor, right? Wouldn’t everyone like a person who’s always on their side, who’s always supportive, who’s absolutely reliable and constant and faithful? And when you don’t have that, don’t you hope that each new potential partner you meet will be the one who offers that harbor?
The answer to all of those questions is yes—but don’t you have to be smart about it, too? Don’t you have to keep your eyes open until you’re so blinded by affection that it doesn’t matter what position your eyelids are in? Anyone who’s ever had a monster crush on someone, or tried to build a business, or attempted to break into a new group of friends knows: if you are too hungry, you are bound to make huge mistakes, to let yourself be trampled all over, to accept very, very bad offers because you’re terrified another offer won’t come along.
Another friend is in a strong, secure, longterm relationship—and she wants out. But she just can’t break free. It’s not the kind of relationship she wants—but she can’t bring herself to leave the safety of the harbor she sailed into. The problem is that it’s eating her up: should she go or should she not? Is this love or is it not?
Oh—and you know what this all reminds me of? The world’s most obnoxious song: “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder.
“Honey why you calling me so late?
It's kinda hard to talk right now.
Honey why are you crying? Is everything okay?
I gotta whisper 'cause I can't be too loud
Well, my girl's in the next room
Sometimes I wish she was you…”
For God’s sake! If you wish you were still dating her, then date her—don’t just sit there whispering into the phone so your current lover won’t hear you.
Hey—maybe I’ll try to connect this rant to writing now.
Hmmm. Okay, here’s an idea: one of the great pleasures of writing fiction is that we can create a world the way we want it to be. We can be sure that the jackasses who can’t turn left or right, the ones who can’t decide to stay or go, get taught a thorough lesson and finally make a decision. We can make our characters’ clouded minds magically clear, and watch them choose to move forward—without trying to stand still at the same time. We can create characters we can understand, with motivations that are comprehensible—the kind of people we’d like to be surrounded by, although we are probably not, because people are very, very complicated and often very stupid.
(Okay, maybe this post is a downer—but you have to admit, there’s a lot of truth to it. Which, yes, may not make it less of a downer. But there you go.)