Mind Of Man: How I Learned To Approximate Something Called Love
Hi, I’m single. Like, what’s up with that? Word. Can I buy you a vodka tonic, super fox?
Okay – let me interrupt for a second, and preempt our regularly scheduled programming to get some things off my hairy, muscular, barrel chest. I’m guessing you heard that the guy with the lizard neck lost the presidential election to the guy with the lady fingers, right? So…
I normally make a conscious choice to reject the idea of identity politics, which is to say, to gravitate towards politicians who are just like me, either ideologically, or, on a more base level, culturally. I am instantly distrustful of politicians who tell me they drink beer just like me, or listen to the music I listen to, or who suggest that I vote for them because their biological fortunes confer an expertise others cannot possibly claim. These notions are nothing more than cheap, aspirational lies.
I will admit, however, to indulging in Obamamania – albeit briefly. And while I’m a nerd about a great many things, I am and have always been a civics nerd. I take my social responsibilities seriously, if only to counterbalance the personal responsibilities I frequently neglect. I vote issues, especially those issues that straddle my self-interest and the interests of the greater good.
President-elect Barack Obama knows what it’s like to have grown up walking around with a mother who is a different color than him. He knows what it’s like to be stared at, to be judged, to not even, I imagine, be thought of as a white woman’s son. See, I’m what I lovingly call a “wetneck”; my mother is Mexican-American and my dad was a nice, white Southern boy. I am the happy product of a wetback and a redneck. And it just hit me, this week, that the confused shame I felt as a gringo kid with a beautiful, brown-skinned mom has suddenly evaporated.
Once upon a time, during my first birthday party celebrated with friends, I told a pint-sized guest that my mother was actually my maid. Because I didn’t have the words to explain why it was that he was white, and his mom was white, and my mom was different. Little kids fear being different. We would be followed by floorwalkers at department stores, sneered at by neighbors who discovered I was not being toted around by a nanny, and privy to the casual, tossed off racist slurs and jokes of strangers and friends who took my ethnicity at face value.
No more shame. As to why I’m sharing this: I frequently contribute to the “Thoughts From Guys On Our IM” column that Amelia writes and edits. My handle is “Tortured Soul,” so you can now go back and read all the instances where I’ve been shockingly sincere and hetero-gay (here’s the official definition of hetero-gay: a straight dude who is comfortable with fabulousness, emotional nuance, and the finer things in life.) Yes, it’s embarrassing, but screw it. This officially, by the way, is the end of my tenure on that column. I’m already writing this column, and to quote The Joker from “The Dark Knight,” “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” And I’m pretty good at being a mixed-up, confused dude with an ever-evolving code of brodawg awesomeness.
Yesterday I IM’d with Amelia about dating younger women, and it morphed into a stream of consciousness instant message session that felt like lucid dreaming. The long and the short of it is – love is a risk, and there are winners and losers. And you might end up a loser; there’s no guarantee. I wrote about something called event horizons, something I know very little about. Event horizons are, apparently, the point you cross as you hurtle into the churning mystery of a black hole where all the known laws of physics break down.
For most of us, there are rules and laws that govern hooking up and breaking up. Following these laws, adhering to advice on how to best execute them, can ensure that two people can have a fair shot at connecting sexually and emotionally. But for some out there, the rules don’t apply.
President-elect Obama’s parents made their own rules. My parents made their own rules. Get in a time machine and try starting a bi-racial relationship in pre-Civil Rights era Texas. Tell me how that goes. In my parent’s case, it went like this: over forty years of marriage, four kids. And a love story that is truly romantically disgusting, and one that is personally hard to top. Buy me a beer at a dive bar some day and I’ll tell it to you the story. He was a rock DJ, she was a rabble-rousing young Chicana running with gangs. There’s Luche Libre, Baptist preachers, the rough-and-tumble border town of El Paso, and lots of odds, stacked against our heroes. Something for everyone.
The election of President-elect Obama has sandblasted away the cobwebs, and given me the gift of a perception that shouldn’t be new to me, but was most likely simply ignored. My parents wrote their own rules. They crossed that event horizon. I love them for that, amongst many other reasons. Jack and Aida remain, forever, my life heroes.
There are many reasons I’m single, mostly because I have been a total selfish bastard. I’ve treated many women poorly, and one in particular I let slip through my fingers. That is a regret I proudly lug behind me like an anchor, a reminder that like comedy, love is frequently all in the timing. I probably treated you poorly, and I’d apologize if that didn’t seem like a slimy abdication of my culpability. I did it, whatever it was. I know I did it.
But one reason, I think, that I’m single is because I’ve never allowed myself to write the rules with someone. Society, religion, culture be damned. Parents don’t approve? Who cares. A law bans your hearts singular directive? Man’s law has proven wrong in the past, over and over again. Friends chide, experts disapprove, coworkers gossip? Be shut of it. The rules, as we understand them, should be followed, until such time you find someone who will scream with you: “Hey rules, go take a flying &%$*# at a rolling doughnut.” This is not a belief in “Happily Ever After.” This is a belief in “We Are In This Together Ever After.” Anything short of this, and maybe it’s not so bad to be single, live single, not give into the mobs demands that you glue yourself to someone you’re only 51 percent in love with until you croak. Because, let’s be honest, we all die alone anyway.
So maybe now I will allow myself to write the rules with someone, an unintended consequence of the election of a man who could either be a cynical campaign contrivance or the real thing.
And now back to the regularly scheduled programming. Next week, this column is either going to be about why dudes are emotional iceboxes after a break-up or why a chick who can open a bottle of beer sans opener is worth her weight in gold.