Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Enamored of an Ass

As a young writer, I identified most with Shakespeare’s romantic characters. Viola, Rosalind, Helena; the girls with pluck and moxie who had great adventures and won the handsome protagonist too. They fit with my world view of how my life would go. As I get older, I find instead, I resonate most often with Titania. Not just because she’s queen of the faeries. Of course any title helps. But because, after a too-long night lavishing her royal attention on the donkey-head-transformed Bottom the Weaver, the spell is broken and she comes to her senses, puzzled as to why on earth she would sink so low. Out of sorts, she murmurs to Oberon, her king, that “I dreamt I was enamored of an ass.”

I am not the best judge of character as last summer’s subletter debacle can attest along with countless questionable choices of boyfriends. With my Pollyanna heart in full force, I take people at face value too often buying into their knight-in-shining-armor acts until I wake up one day, rather embarrassed and a tad horrified wondering why the truth wasn’t so obvious before.

The funny artist who turned out to be a broken child, the suave producer who turned out to be a selfish and cruel lay-about, the regal cook who turned out to be an uptight asshole… Oh ‘Tania, I feel you.

It’s not just in love either. It’s friendships too. Early in film school, I became fast friends with a girl who was always up for life’s adventures. We soon agreed to carpool to campus. It actually took me months before I realized she had never once offered to drive and I was the one going twenty miles out of my way for her on a weekly basis with nary an offer of gas money. But desperate for a good girlfriend in my new Tinseltown life, I clung to her.

We excitedly planned a girls’ night out and when we walked into the bar of her choice, I recoiled. It was filled with frat boys and plastic piñatas. Not the classy, low-key wine bar I had in mind. “Isn’t this great?” she gushed. Wake up call! A mutual friend later told me that this girl had once imposed on friend to drive to another state to bail her out of jail. On the way home they made a highway fast-food pit stop and she hadn’t even offered to buy the girl’s Big Mac.

My lack of people radar extends to my business life as well. I once bought so completely into a new friend’s business consultant act I set my best friend up with her for a consultation. My friend had taken precious time off her day job to have a half-hour lunch with this woman and get key guidance for the business she was launching. Instead of being the grand business match up I had imagined, the woman kept my friend tangled up for a two hour “meeting” that was garbled by email, and text interruptions and other clients needing “just a minute of her time.” The woman was actually rude enough to field several phone calls while my friend sat there, watching the minutes tick by and imagining her boss’ face getting redder by the minute as she wondered how to explain her quadruple-time lunch absence to him. To top it off, the woman later emailed expecting payment for her pearls of wisdom which had never been part of the discussion. I was mortified that I put my friend in this position and that I had been foolish enough to think highly of the woman’s business skill in the first place.

It doesn’t stop there. I once brought another new friend into my business. Dazzled by his professional talents as well as his smile, I bought his act hook line and sinker. We all did. Well, most of us did. Several of the other guys at work grumbled about all the flash and dazzle but I put off their comments. I actually thought “I can’t be wrong again, surely.” Of course I can, and don’t call me Shirley.

I watched waitresses melt for him when we had our business meetings out and I felt twinges of jealousy as he returned their smiles. I didn’t have a personal interest in him, not in that way, but I still wanted to be the girl he was focused on. What can I say, I’m a Leo, I need the spotlight. I listened to him tell me things that in any dating scenario would have been huge red flags: past bad break ups, low opinions of women in various parts of his life, a tendency to use people. It’s OK, I thought, I’m not a girl in his life in that way. Whew.

One day, some part of his pedestal slipped. I saw his self-admitted user tendencies as draining and selfish rather than starving artist bohemian, his righteousness as insecurity rather than maturity, his unresponsiveness as flakey rather than mysterious. At a certain moment I watched him with a date and thought “thank god that’s not me.” At least he was good at his job.

Despite this relief, I found myself as angry with him as I have been with any ex, former friend or evil subletter. For weeks I stewed in my anger until my boyfriend, ever the wise one, pointed out that I was angry because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that I defended him to people who had seen more clearly than I, embarrassed that I had been fished in yet again by someone unworthy of my heart and my esteem. Donkey heads!

Unfolding from there, I finally saw clearly why I hadn’t been able to let go of other angers. It wasn’t that I hadn’t forgiven the exes for their assorted transgressions and cruelties. It was that I hadn’t forgiven myself for having chosen them in the first place.

That realization made waking up next to my real life Oberon all the sweeter. The irony is that for all these months as I reminded myself of these past judgment failures, I subjected him to a vetting of presidential proportions. Sure, he seemed like a fabulous boyfriend but I’m probably wrong again. Better poke and prod as much as I can to be sure.

He bore it all with grace and patience; far more than I deserved. The one person I have been the most suspicious of is the one person who didn’t merit my doubts. Figures I would turn the Spanish Inquisition on the wrong guy. I’m just lucky that he stuck around through it, waited till I washed the last of those faerie dust dreams away and laughed with me at the sight of all those donkey-headed former lovers, flushed friends and current folk.

Could it be? Could Pollyanna at long last be tempered by some real clarity and on-target intuition? Dare to dream.

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Blogger Carlo said...

Oh, I'm sure he'll turn out to be a colossal jackass as well. :)

4:27 PM  

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