Day 4 of The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook Meditation Challenge: Rhett’s Quesadilla Things. I have to just quote the author on this one: “Is it karmic law that at some point everyone has to put in her time with a devastatingly attractive, brilliantly witty, total misogynist jerk who’s incredible in bed? He was everything I’d never wanted in a boyfriend: didactic and argumentative, moody and uncommunitive. He assumed all women read Cosmo, was prone to statements such as ‘You know, I probably know more feminists than you do.'”
The lesson for today: Hmmm. This is harder. I think it might be this: when you find yourself putting up with more than you ever thought you would, there must be a pay-off to which you’re drawn. It might be a negative one. It might be a quesadilla.
I’ve definitely put in my time with these guys, but really, not for long. I don’t have much patience with someone telling me what I “really” think or need, which is not to say that I haven’t had to hear it. Please step forward if a guy has never broken up with you on the grounds that he knows what’s best for you, and tell me how you avoided hearing that single most obnoxious statement uttered because I would pay my eye-rolling weight in jeweled gerbils for that secret. But back to the jerky boyfriend. Many people assume that you must have low self esteem—that you believe you “deserve” to be treated that way. I am 100% confident that, like the authors of this cookbook, I fall firmly into another camp: the camp of “I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear you say that because there is just no way anyone attracted to me would say that.” It’s not that you believe you deserve it—it’s that you can’t believe it happened.
But when you do, finally, believe, you have to figure out the pay-off. As the authors note, really great sex is . . . sometimes it. But there’s no finite market on that—the road to hell is paved with irritating, virile young men.
How did this meditation help me understand anything this week? Well, I’m still teaching Wuthering Heights, a novel in which every single character puts up with lies, rage, abuse—we’re talking Heathcliff throws a KNIFE at Isabella, and it sticks below her EAR—all in the name of love. They put up with it, largely, because they live on the MOORS, which sounds romantic until you visit them and realize they look just like parts of Kansas—which means you can watch your dog run away for three days. There is simply no one else around. Cathy, Jr. badgers Hareton, then falls in love with him, because the pay-off for hating him is simply more isolation. It gets boring. She got bored.
So, we turn to love, sometimes, when we are tired of feeling superior.
Elsewhere in my life, I took a yoga workshop intended to help us transition into Spring. Jessica, my beloved yoga teacher, has also been working through a break-up, so she was focusing us, literally, on rebounds: on the possibility of the mind, the body, and the spirit to snap back, to be resilient. It was a concept that I realized I don’t honor enough because, frankly, my default to happy is pretty quick. I don’t really “earn” my resilience; it just happens, usually. I don’t have to struggle to find the pay-off; “happy” is usually the pay-off. (Brady Becker is the exception here–the relationship in which I decided “hilariously funny” is not an adequate pay-off for “unkind.”)
But the idea of finding the rebound when we are pushed down made me think about my own rebound relationship. For what it is, I have some happiness. I am not purely happy for the obvious reason: it’s not the partnership for which I felt ready, at this point in my life. Occasionally, I hear faint echoes of the detested “I know what’s best for us both” in his assertion that he “causes suffering” and that he only wants me to stay as long as the happiness outweighs the suffering. But he’s not a jerk. When our limited relationship makes me sad, it does not depress me thoroughly–a deep thumbprint in the dough. The (light) weight of the connection means I can try to grow in small increments, openly acknowledging what doesn’t make me happy and talking about it with him, without having to push or be pushed hard in order to get some sense of spring, of invigoration. When you are faced with a Rhett, their sheer, unbelievably bad behavior eventually yields you the high pay-off of knowing you are the better person. Sometimes you date them so you can hate them cleanly, later. Sometimes, like Cathy, Jr. you hate them until you’d rather date them. But hate is boring, if pure; it does not require you to think, aside from “What was I thinking?” And so, we find stimulation in these other, messier moments, putting up with low-grade annoyances, the pay-offs minimal but satisfying, like a good quesadilla.