Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Your Biggest Fan

I sat down to write yesterday -- write write, not blog -- but found myself getting nowhere, so I decided to tap out a blog. Nothing doing, I was overwhelmingly distracted. I'd promised my friend Milly another blog and felt bad: I'm hard on myself when I fail to deliver on promises. I sent her a text, told her it was a struggle, and her simple, straightforward response was right on the mark: "Blogging shouldn't involve struggle. Write the blog of least resistance, right?" Absolutely. Blogging is a lot like daydreaming. If you're determined to daydream but instead find yourself, I don't know, building a birdhouse or learning German, well shit, build the birdhouse, man. Sprechen some Deutsch. Don't pin yourself to a pointless pursuit when your heart has already moved in another direction. I didn't have any lofty ambitions yesterday, so I just crept from the Bear Cave, took a long walk in the sunshine, and then spent the rest of my day reading All Quiet on the Western Front (hence the German on my brain). I'm tempted to write about that, but I can tell you right now, a story about young men at war would not constitute the blog of least resistance. I would get angry. So I'm going to write about girls and women instead.

Someone -- a girl, actually, one of whom I was once exceedingly fond -- told me some eighteen months ago I have tragically bad taste in women. I've been around for a pretty long time, and I have to tell you (as I should have told her, but I'm pretty sure I just smiled and waited for the next nugget of wisdom to fall from her twenty-four year old lips), I don't think there's any such thing. To quote my favorite fictional writer, Hank Moody, "I love women. I have all their albums." It's possible to have tragically bad expectations, of anyone or anything, but taste, little girl, taste is a matter of taste. But for a few singles featuring admittedly rare B-sides, I have all your albums, even the live stuff. And I dig the shit out of 'em.

In the summer of 2009 I started writing a book the working title of which was A Brief History of Girls and Women. It was going to be loosely based on my own experiences, from the first girl I kissed (Jennifer Simon, when we were both five) all the way to the brink of turning forty. We've had some times. I still like the concept, and I really like the title, but after a few months I had to put that book away. I had slipped up in ways that made me feel like I wasn't the right guy at that time to be writing that particular book. After the collapse of the most substantial relationship of my life -- the one that by great good fortune resulted in the existence of my super cool daughter -- I chose to embrace my own personal primum non nocere. I didn't want to be consequential to any woman, for a variety of reasons, but not least because now I had in my life a girl who had a right to expect to not have to deal with the fallout from what I did when she wasn't around -- angry phone calls, slashed tires, stray bullets, that sort of thing. As Jeff Tweedy says in the song "Hummingbird," "His goal in life was to be an echo/Riding alone town after town, toll after toll." Just like the Incredible Hulk. Well, sort of -- I wasn't hiding out. As a former assistant of mine liked to say, "Hey, if you're single, mingle." (I gave her a big raise after that.) In other words, there's no sense sitting home alone crying into your lube. But I was both blunt and honest. Lying is a bad habit anyway, there's no long-term profit in it, but it's also only about half a stride this side of rape if you lie to women to get them to sleep with you. So I don't lie to girls, but I'm also blunt because leaving anything to the imagination can lead to the echo's least favorite thing: misunderstanding.

For a while I lived up to my self-prescribed ethic, but at some point I got a little turned around and started to do a bad job: I got a few hopes up, induced some tears, generated a little disappointment. I wasn't doing anything differently, I simply wasn't paying close attention, and minor tempests resulted. All of which should have been enough to straighten me up, but then I did something much worse: I fell in love with the girl who told me I have tragically bad taste in women. Not surprisingly, she very slowly set about fulfilling her own prophecy. Regardless, I did my part, too -- I went there knowing better. Suddenly I had become everything I'd spent more than a dozen years avoiding: first a breaker of hearts, and then the victim of one. So you see, I was, for the time being at least, no longer qualified to write A Brief History of Girls and Women.

I've had a handful of bad relationships, the kind of bad that I've seen turn other guys off of women, or at least make them wary and/or mean. I collected so many "women suck" stories from my friends over the years, I started taking notes for a tongue-in-cheek book I intended to title The Misogynist's Handbook. I've tapped away at that one a handful of times over the last fifteen years, but as it turns out, it's really hard to write that book and not make it seem mean-spirited. I hear a collective "Well, duh," but don't rush to judgment. The title notwithstanding, this isn't the story of how women suck and they're crazy and they mistreat good men and blah blah blah. It's the story of how we all fundamentally suck because we have the wrong ideas about so many basic things. I'll pull that book off someday. Right now, today, I'm more interested in the premise than the details.

It's too easy to blame your woes on somebody who makes you crazy and subsequently breaks your heart. It's not only too easy, it's also lazy, and it's fundamentally self-deceiving if who or what you're blaming is, in sort of a global sense, something you love. For instance, I have a particular fondness for booze. I enjoy it, I enjoy spending the evening with it, and as a result, I find myself with the occasional big head and funky stomach the next day. Do I blame the booze? Hell no I don't. If there is blame, it is the blame of Othello, "of one that loved not wisely but too well." I've gone off the rails over girls and women, and in the aftermath I've sent my own shots back across their respective bows, but I resist the urge to apply the broad brush. Because in a very real sense, some of my best friends are women. Because in the course of considerable research I've discovered I like kissing women a lot more than I like kissing dudes. Because spending quality time with the right girl, I've learned, can teach you things about yourself you can stand to know. And because, in spite of all the perceived contradictions, we are in truth quite complementary.

So, Milly, here at last is the blog I promised, such as it is. It's about girls and women, but really it's about you. Because you are in fact really smart and very attractive, but you're also sweet and patient and insightful. Plus you indulge my endless verbarrhea. Plus you don't reinterpret what I say. Plus you let me nap. Plus a whole lot of other stuff. And I'm glad you've reminded me why I like girls.

And I kinda miss you.

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