Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Little Polyphobia, Two “I Love Yous” and a Blocked Number

            In the past, I’ve always found a way to diffuse my shame and sadness at the end of a love story by making the guy into a villain, which only one character in this blog every really was. The hurt is normal, the shame is my problem and my responsibility, and the rejection is not personal, so I want to treat the end of the Mr. Makeout Music story as kindly as possible.

I’m not sure what made me think I should be as out with him as I was. Maybe it was our mutual love of Steven Universe, the fact that he used to write erotica, or just the attraction making me all shiny and self-love-tastic. The librarians who supervise me at work range from queer-friendly-and-ready-to-learn to genderqueer and poly-leaning, so I don’t really feel the need to hide my queerness or poly tendencies. It’s not like I’ve talked directly to the kids about it, but I never worry about them overhearing. They all know by now that my ex-wife is my best friend, that I enjoy handsomeness, and that I’m active in LGBTQ and feminist causes.

There have been a couple of painful misunderstandings, but for the most part I feel safe to be myself—it’s part of why I love the job so much. Through honesty and careful conversations, I’ve helped make it a home that accepts me.

And before I tell this story I should say, it’s not like I haven’t acted polyphobic before. In my frustration and failure to fit and find love in the poly world, (Or, it sometimes seems, any world…) I’ve lashed out and been judgmental, impatient, and pushy in ways that I really regret. I’m grateful that my poly friends have been so generous and patient with me while I figure out what the heck my deal is.

Anyway, so Mr. Makeout Music. I REALLY missed him over Thanksgiving break. I wasn’t due back at the library until Tuesday, but I started wanting to sing out his name around Monday night. When I walked in and saw him at the front desk, everything seemed to go really well. He knocked me out telling me that he’d tried to watch some Gilmore Girls for me! We had a little awkward moment when I told him I didn’t like the book he’d leant me (Y: The Last Man, because apparently he thinks feminism means murdering all the men through childbirth…) but I felt like we were settling back into an easy flirty rapport and I was so delighted to see him.

He came to visit my department almost right away and we were talking about how awesome Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was. The conversation randomly wandered to my arbitrary dislike of Helena Bonham Carter (It’s probably because she killed Sirius Black!) This topic opened a surprising and irritating can of worms.
“I think she had some kind of love triangle thing a while back? Although, that doesn’t seem right. Why would I not like a love triangle, they’re kind of my thing.”

“Children’s department…” He said warningly, and I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.

“I’m not ashamed of being poly, and I don’t expect you to be, either.”

“I’m not ashamed, but they’re kids. There’s a time and a place.”

“You don’t need to protect the kids from me.”

“I need to protect them from everything.”

I was completely shocked by this exchange for several reasons, mostly because we had been talking about all the topics for months and months! Never anything it was inappropriate for the kids to hear, but definitely things more scandalous than a love triangle, which is the basis of like A THOUSAND Disney movies. I didn’t like his assumptions about what I was saying and the fact that flirting and being me was suddenly something he thought he had to control, something that was suddenly wrong. It was one of those loss-of-trust moments that’s hard, maybe impossible, to come back from.

When I got a crush on somebody at work, what happened next was what I was afraid of. I asked him to come into the meeting room and talk just a few minutes before the kids were due to come in and make paper snowflakes.

I told him what it’s like to have grown up queer, to have so often been perceived as a threat to children. The bad thanksgiving was weighing on me so much and I’m sure that made this more fraught than it otherwise might’ve been.

Though we’d spent months sneaking in flirting into a million different library conversations, he kept insisting that I’d been talking about sex in front of the kids this time. He kept repeating the “time and a place” thing. I think when I said “love triangle” he heard “threesome.”
It was Annoying Heteronormativity 101. I explained that some of the three-or-more relationships I know are families, that I was talking about love rather than sex. If he wouldn’t feel bad for talking about his family, I shouldn’t have to talk about (VERY VAGUELY ALLUDING TO,) other kinds of families. He was really mad and defensive, but he did try to listen.

From there I told him how hurt I was that he acted so afraid of me back when I took his hand, that he was sometimes treating me like a threat. Not as much the rejection part, but the fear. He insisted that he wasn’t afraid, but it did look like fear to me, then and now.

I started to sob and he said “Ms. ________, please don’t cry.” And came over and sat right up against my side, so sweet, so loving.
After some more back and forth about polyphobia/rejection/election, he said “Ms. _______, what do you really think of me?”

“I love you,” I sobbed, and cried the ugliest, snottiest tears you ever saw.

“I wasn’t expecting THAT answer! To tell you the truth, I really do love you too.”

So that happened. In the midst of all the mess and misunderstanding, we love each other, in whatever way. It counts for something, although right now I can’t imagine what.

I genuinely tried to keep being friends, but I was madder than I wanted to be about the threat-to-kids thing, and he must’ve been mad too, because the next time he came to visit, he was grumpy and he kind of glowered at the paper snowflake I’d made him. (Pink and blue for gender harmony. Maybe that was a stupid thing to say.)

After a few minutes of him grouchily making one sixth of a snowflake and me trying to be professional/lighthearted/friendly, he said he had to go to dinner and left the snowflake there. I felt disproportionally sad about that. We’d given each other so many pieces of art, from homework margin doodles to a leaf rubbing that he named “Ms. ________ in Autumn” because the colors reminded him of me, to watercolor galaxies to me singing out his name, to these paragraphs, and his forgetting the snowflake made me feel like I couldn’t give him one more unrequited thing.
It wasn’t about the snowflake, of course. I texted him about it after work and we got in a really dumb fight that ended with me telling him he was using the wrong “your.” He was mean and I was mean, and I blocked his number and deleted the thread.

I’m stupid right now because of unrequited love. He’s stupid from love, too, and whatever else is keeping the friendship from being what it was. Nobody’s the bad guy, nobody’s wrong, nobody’s the patriarchy (Well, he’s a little bit the patriarchy.) Just a thing that didn’t go where we wanted it to. I can’t try to be gracious and cute about it anymore right now. I can’t quite get to magnanimous and sparkly and generous about it. We can’t fix it right at the moment and I can’t wish myself fine about it.

If I’m going to trust my heart, I have to trust the heartbreak too, and give it time, and take myself gently and firmly forward. Onward, and, more than anything else, outward.

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