(I'm planning to work on some new material next month that I want to collect into a book of essays for submission to a publisher. In order to keep my writing chops up, I decided to sit down for a bit and come up with some new material for the blog. This was just a one-draft, unrevised piece; I don't expect anyone to take it too seriously.)
“Empiricism, Or: Why There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Soul”
© Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 28, 2010
Sometimes it's the little things that force a certain level of reflection on times gone by. And what better time to reflect on the awesome power of women to simultaneously crush me and rouse me to feats of astounding levels of rage than my ex-wife's birthday? Curse my great memory for dates and history. Useful when writing about wars and keeping the timeline straight when writing down the silly old stories that impress people on message board forums. Not so much when noticing the numbers in the bottom right corner of my computer screen leads my mind astray.
But that's not what this is about. Not directly, at least. Only in the sense that my ex-wife belongs to a long and illustrious tradition of women eroding my naturally trusting nature and leading me into a position where I tend to assume the worst given any sort of situation. I think I hold the record for highest percentage of lying, cheating, untrustworthy, confused, lost, or otherwise broken female souls per unit of relationship (and don't bother trying to quantify that one.)
I've run into so many failures that the mere act of dating reminds me of Rita Mae Brown's dictum (often misattributed to Albert Einstein) that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” To date (pardon the pun), I'd say I have been in various degrees of romantic involvement, from promising-but-never-got-anywhere to flings and one-night stands to full-on relationships to a failed marriage, with something on the order of three dozen women in the sixteen years since I first figured out as a high school junior how to ask a girl to go on a date and not be immediately laughed out of the room. A bit over two a year, some long stretches with one girl, other times a full-fledged swinging bachelor going through women like raw materials through the Memory Factory cranked up to eleven. And in that time I have found that either I'm meeting the wrong kinds of women, the good ones truly are taken, or there is something about me that inspires them to behave in a manner consistent with a misogynist's view of the universe.
Take the girl I dated this summer (as three girls all look up like “huh? You mean me?”) Long-distance relationship through calls and text messages since we had the better part of the whole “from sea to shining sea” United States between us. She was a delightful girl, affectionate, friendly, quick to let me know when she had a free moment...and all was well until she got drunk, slept with a complete stranger she met at a bar, and that was that. At least she had the decency to confess what happened, not that she had a choice when I noticed she'd gotten distant on me.
Then there was the five-night stand. Fun fact, girls: Asking a guy to meet your family and making it a precondition to your continuing to date him when you've been together less than a week is a recipe for scaring him away. Hell if I know what she was thinking on that one.
And of course there was the complete lack of sense of honoring one's commitments that characterized my divorce. I'm pretty sure that “'til death do us part” does not mean “until you have an existential crisis, go in a matter of a couple of weeks from affectionate and loving to 'I don't want this anymore', and leave.” Hard to trust anyone after that one, especially since when I pressed the issue, she flat-out admitted to me that I'd done nothing wrong and been nothing but a dutiful, loving husband. She just didn't want to be with me anymore. The hell?
I could go further. The girl I'd been with three years who met a new guy and left me inside of a month when before she met the guy she'd been talking marriage. The girl who literally went crazy right before my eyes, and I mean that in the DSM-IV diagnosable illness sense of the word crazy. Watching her have an honest-to-gods psychotic episode remains the single most heart-wrenching thing I have ever personally witnessed because after that happened, the girl I'd fallen in love with and planned to spend the rest of my days with turned into...someone else...as sure as she'd been possessed. For a brief moment I completely understood the rationale behind the old exorcisms and witch trials that accompanied such episodes before modern science got its head around the idea that such things were not caused by evil spirits. Were I a superstitious citizen in a pre-modern society I'd have been sending for the priest myself. The net result, however, was that she broke up with me. Nursing her mind back to health was simply not an option presented to me, not that I'm convinced it would have been the same even in the best case. A few months after the breakup, some of our old mutual friends informed me that “you were the only thing keeping her together, she went off the deep end after you left.” I haven't seen her in twelve years, and all I could think of if I saw her again would be that I hope she turned out OK.
Not that I'm completely beyond culpability in the state of my own failures. I've met and been with girls who have left little doubt in my mind as to the state of their romantic loyalties, the sorts of girls about whom I can say unironically that they worshiped the ground I walked on. Those would be the girls whose hearts I've broken. All three would have married me and borne my children had I merely deigned to ask...and in one very notable case my decision, when faced with a choice, to take the other girl on offer was the single poorest decision I have ever made in love and romance. Not that it matters; it's been seven years, it's not like that girl's sitting around waiting for me and even if she were she'd be out of her mind to trust me.
Which in turn makes me wonder if it's less bad judgment and more me still needing to atone for some perceived sin by the goddess of love that makes me sit here, reflecting on a lost marriage on a notable historic date for same when I should be doing other work, and wondering if I'm ever going to come out the other side of all this with not just my sense of self intact but also with the one thing I've wanted that has always eluded me; a girl to call my own and grow old with. It's not like I'm planning weddings on first dates, but it would be nice not to face failure after failure due more to choosing or attracting the wrong sort than to being anything less than a guy worth loving.
There exists the dreadful possibility that I'm simply fated to be alone. Such a fate is too awful to even consider. There will be plenty of time for that sort of reflection when my mind is not thoroughly caught up in itself on other subjects as it stands. But Goddess, if you're listening? I'm not Job. My heart and my faith are not playthings. Thanks.