Safe in One’s Arms

I’ve been going along feeling quite fine overall for a long while until I stumbled upon this old chestnut about two weeks ago, whereupon I suddenly felt the floodgates of mixed emotions opening up.

Something in Jimmy Somerville’s voice never fails to touch me. He got me back in ’84 with his opening wail in “Smalltown Boy,” which still sends shivers down my spine. And there’s the fact he’s been such an unapologetic gay boy even when it wasn’t a “so what” like it is today.

Anyway, first I need to give you a bit of context, not to say give you a full confession.

I need to start off by stating, unequivocally, that I’m okay. I’m not unhappy. In fact, I’m content. Those little “things” that have occurred in recent months have not driven me into a funk — the kind of funk I’ve known whereby one wishes to be able to crawl out of one’s skin to escape from everything, including one’s self. No, I think I’m just taking stock at this point.

I’m still satisfied with living in Montréal and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I still think I have a very decent job despite recent events that have made me look at it more than ever as “just a job.” I still have no post-divorce regrets. In fact, on that last point, I still don’t feel any sadness through wishing it had worked out, especially knowing as I do now that it never could have worked out.

But on the other hand there are five fingers.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I spend way too much time on my own — as in 99 percent of my time. I think that it has taken me a while to notice it for a few reasons: first, I have never minded — in fact, always enjoyed — my own company; second, because I spend so much time talking to people on the phone at work, I am not as disconnected as I would be if I were a mere office clerk working from home; and third, I do run errands and stuff like everybody else, meaning I do see people other than on a screen.

However, when weekends come along, I notice that I have no great desire to go out socializing (especially since summer temps have become but a memory) or doing anything much outside my routine. For instance, one of my rituals is that I always have brunch on Sunday at Restaurant Lafayette directly across from Métro Papineau. Going to that noisy Village diner where all the staff knows me by now has become my one and only “big outing” of the week.

But then, whenever I think about doing something else, like maybe a short weekend trip to Ottawa, I just don’t feel like it. In fact, I know my sister expects me to go for a few days at Christmas, and already there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to go. But then there’s another part that says, “Well …what else are you going to do? Just stay home …again?!”

Except for tomorrow when I will be connecting to work because of an impossible Friday deadline, I spend most of my evenings and weekends doing mindless or not-so-mindless stuff at the computer. For instance, in the last weeks, I’ve spent way more time than I probably should have tweaking my budget. But it totally gets me off to see how successful my first year of returning to budgeting was, and since budgeting is all about looking ahead, I find it to be a fundamentally optimistic activity because, in the time when I had stopped doing it, I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to think of myself in a few years.

WARNING: I’m getting to the part that might be “TMI”… On most weekend late evenings, however, instead of going for a drink at the bar, I sip on some red wine at home and go to some x-rated sites. One in particular could, if I wanted to, lead to some cheap (as in “easy”) hookups. In fact, back in Halifax, I did indulge in that manner from that site. It is what it is. Then another site is merely to watch “dirty” videos. There again, it is what it is.

At the first and very superficial level, those sites have tuned me in to an obvious fact: I’m not getting any younger. Whenever I come across guys for whom I could easily be their father, I lose interest. In fact, no matter how attractive they are, they give me the creeps because it just feels wrong to me to look at them in that way. Although NowEx was considerably younger than me, I could not have been his father; I couldn’t then, and I can’t now, cross that line even if it’s not in the physical world.

That being said, even if I have no intention of seeking hookups these days, I can’t tell you how pissed off / annoyed / insulted I get whenever guys of any age go overboard in posing judgement while stating their preferences in mates. Due to my own stance about age difference, I can’t be hypocritical; however, I don’t think gratuitous putdowns based on age are necessary. Also, because I’ve always been very average physically — neither an Adonis nor an ogre — it bugs me that someone would exclude me on those grounds. Granted, that does tell me that I wouldn’t want anything to do with “that someone,” but it bugs me more because I know my other attributes far outweigh the physical aspects.

I know perfectly well that such sites — even more respectable ones — are not the place to “go lookin’.” But that’s just it: didn’t I just catch myself “lookin'”? Morever, while listening to that old Jimmy Somerville song I dredged up, didn’t I just catch myself “wantin'”?

Even before the NowEx/divorce fiasco, I never could have been accused of being a sentimental sap. I gave up idealizing “relationships” at about age 25. At that point, having a relationship became a “would be nice to have” rather than a “must have.” Part of the mental equation that ran through my mind at that time was the realization of how I crave perhaps more than most being alone. I can’t stand the thought of having someone clinging onto me at every available moment. Maybe that’s a selfish trait, but if it is, then be it. I know deep down that I have far more non-selfish traits than selfish ones.

But while that may be true, am I not also coming to a point of my life when I’m wanting a bit less solitude? Moreover, am I not coming to a point when I’m wanting a so-called “significant other”? My gut reaction to that old Jimmy Somerville song suggests that I am.

I remember at the height of my Depression Lite phase wanting others to take care of me because I didn’t have the strength to figure anything out, and thankfully others did step forward and helped me. Indeed, I remember hearing myself say to myself at the time, “Please take care of me.” Today, the context is completely different and entirely better. I don’t need someone to take care of me like I did back then. But I certainly wouldn’t mind not being completely on my own, occasional helping hand from friends and family notwithstanding.

An honest assessment of most of my past relationships and certainly those of the past decade or so is that they weren’t partnerships between equals, so I guess I’m feeling at a deficit at this point of my life. But whenever I start thinking about how I might want something other than being alone, I worry that my past might be a huge strike against me in the eyes of someone else. I worry that the deficit I just mentioned might be so plain to see for others that it might make a potental suitor run fast the other way. I even worry that the deficit might (have) turn(ed) me into precisely the kind of guy I wouldn’t want for myself.

But you know what? The more I think about this, the more I think I still view a relationship for myself as a “would be nice to have” rather than a “must have.” Maybe it’s just that it would be nicer than I’ve been feeling previously……

When It Really Starts Sinking In

Boiling FrogLast night, I found myself watching and at the same time not really watching TV as I sipped my way through a bottle of my favorite cheap red wine. As a result, I found myself heading to bed around midnight, not drunk but certainly relaxed enough to fall asleep fairly quickly. However, as I fell asleep, I had a bunch of disconnected thoughts and memories floating in my head — some of those memories going back decades — which inevitably made their way into my dreams in a virtual hot mess.

One of those thoughts went along the lines of, “My ‘divorced’ marital status feels more real to me than my ‘married’ status ever felt.”

I was trying to figure out, as I was falling asleep, why that’s the case. I came up with two plausible explanations:

  1. the way I felt like I was in some kind of fog throughout most (if not all) of my marriage, and
  2. the comments I received from those who’ve read through what I’ve dubbed my 1,763-day weekend.

I’ve sufficiently described Point 1, so it’s Point 2 that interests me right now.

I believe there are two crucial premises — or two attempted cause-effect explanations — in “The 1,763-Day Weekend”: my tendency to rescue (to put it mildly) and the supposition that NowEx has BPD. My blow-by-blow description of events was my attempt to support that supposition, and it would seem many who read the series either implicitly or explicitly agreed with my theory. However, while I still hold onto that explanation, I can’t help wonder if I constructed it because it was more palatable than simply dismissing NowEx as a selfish, immature and rather evil asshole — or as one friend put it more simply and more bluntly, “that freak” — as that might imply that I was doubly in the wrong by virtue of being a poor reader of character.

That caveat aside, I wish to share some of the comments I’ve received, and don’t worry: I won’t attribute any of the comments in order to protect the innocent. 🙂

The Impossible Heaviness of Being [With]
One of the first comments came from a friend who confided having a good friend who ended up divorcing due to the spouse turning out to be very mentally ill. There was no sign of this illness until a very short time after the marriage. At the time, my friend, holding onto the “sickness and in health” vow, didn’t view kindly the divorce decision, but in the end my friend’s friend went through with it and has since happily remarried. But my friend further confided that reading my story, with all its excrutiating details, led her to rethink the position she had taken back then. Then, almost immediately after I read this friend’s musings, another friend expressed her belief that perhaps the most impossible type of relationship to maintain is one with someone with BPD that isn’t being treated. Those comments not only reinforced in my mind that divorce was the right decision but also banished forever any vestige of remorse onto which I still may have been holding.

The Frog in Boiling Water
Another friend who recently has had to deal with someone who is almost certifiably a BPD case proffered a concept that captured my imagination to explain why I stuck it out for as long as I did (even though it wasn’t really that long considering that the estrangement period was longer than the courtship and marriage combined). The concept is that if one were to drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it would jump out to save its life; however, if one were to drop a frog in tepid water and very gradually bring the water to a boil, it wouldn’t notice and would allow itself to be cooked to death.

Oh. My. Gawd… Yes, it was so like that! I felt the water getting warmer but thought I could endure it. But when the water reached the boiling point, this frog jumped out and it was the marriage that ended up getting cooked to death.

A Page Turner?
Several friends admitted that they either don’t read much or only read my (long-winded) blog postings diagonally. However, all my friends who commented back to me prefaced their remarks with a variation of “I read ALL the parts of your blog and…”

That certainly made me chuckle, but it also meant a lot to me. Many had already heard some of the stories, but not all of them and certainly not all at once. Many admitted that they initially thought “oh my gawd” when they saw that the narrative was 15 webpages long, but they told me that, aside from caring about what I had to say, they just got sucked into the narrative itself. Everybody who knows me knows how writing is important to me, so while I recognize that my writing is not of the calibre that would allow me to write a novel, I do enjoy the feeling (or delusion?) that my writing can occasionally be good enough to draw readers in.

Everybody got how the exercise was cathartic for me. Everybody who already knew some of the stories has said something along the lines of “I knew it was bad but I didn’t know it was that bad!” One friend who hadn’t known any of the stories even went so far as to admit never having wanted so much to get in a car to drive the long distance to Montréal for the sole purpose of giving someone a hug. And yet another friend said that, as he was reading, he would think to himself that he never thought I was the kind of guy who would “put up with so much shit” …until he remembered what I was allowing to go on in my life when we met more than 15 years ago. (Yeah, another rescue operation that didn’t end well…)

What Would He Think?
I mentioned at the beginning of this entry that all these thoughts “made their way into my dreams in a virtual hot mess.” I suppose the reason for that is that probably the very last thought I had before falling asleep is that NowEx did not respond to the e-mail I sent him a few days after I got the letter confirming that the divorce had gone through. Although I figured he wouldn’t since he hadn’t acknowledged my lawyer’s letter advising him I had (finally) filed for divorce, I suppose I was hoping for at least a “fuck you” or “good riddance” kind of response from him.

Why? Maybe it’s because I believe and resent that he has occupied so much space in my head for as long as he has while he has probably succeeded long ago in making me persona non grata not worth even a cursory thought. Or maybe it’s because there’s a part of me who still fears him and how he’d react upon reading my diagnosis of him.

So my dreams last night brought me to a place that posed as Mexico City but that wasn’t the real Mexico City. It felt like I was only passing through, recognizing certain landmarks, and simultaneously hoping that I would and wouldn’t bump into him. Eventually, someone I supposedly knew, though he didn’t look like anybody I ever met, got the word to NowEx that I was in town and *poof*! There he was, right in front of me, wearing that ridiculous (woman’s) winter coat I bought him in Halifax. But when he removed the hood from his head, letting his long hair tumble out, it was not his face but that of a woman — a friend I lost touch with since 1999 when she jumped the fence from “dykedom” to “straightdom.”

Like I said: these dreams were a virtual hot mess.

Maybe I should just reconsider my liking of that cheap red wine…

On the other hand, there are five fingers.
It’s become a platitude to hear that divorce (or the circumstances leading to divorce) can be traumatic, and that might explain why I still have some stuff to purge despite already spilling so much virtual ink on this topic. But I suppose it’s only now that it’s all really starting to sink in: that I am divorced; that I am grasping what is probably the most important lesson of my life; that I have an uncanny capacity to put up with a lot of shit but that I probably won’t put up with as much for the remainder of my life.

As it really starts sinking in, I find that what’s on the other side is territory that’s unfamiliar to me. It’s not scary; it’s simply unfamiliar. In the past, I either remained friends with my ex or held no animosity. But for the first time in my life I do hold some animosity, and I worry that I won’t be able to totally let go until I let go of that, too.

Or maybe that’ll come when it will have all sunk in rather than just start sinking in…

The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 1 — Free to Tell the Tale

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I went to the Second Cup in the Village one night about a week ago to cool off by sitting outside and re-reading a Marge Piercy novel I’d read more than 20 years ago. When I got back home, I found the letter from Le Maître in my mailbox. That means it’s now official, so sing it for me, Tammy!

Yup! Just call me the Gay Divorcé but not Mimi, as my story has zero resemblance to hers.

Reading Notes

This recounting represents more than four years of held-back storytelling. In the first two years I didn’t tell the stories, in part due to denial on my part and in part because it would have amounted to a tacky exercise of “washing the [marriage’s] dirty laundy in public.” In the following years, I didn’t tell the stories because I didn’t want to publish anything that might come back to bite me in the ass during the proceedings. But now, I’m the Gay Divorcé and I can do (and write) whatever I want …at least on this topic.

Because I held back the stories for so long, I have much to write. That’s why I decided to break up this blog entry into several entries. However, because I have WordPress, the software I use to manage this blog, set to present the most recent entry first, I am publishing this series in reverse choronological order — last one first — so that the entries will appear in their logical sequence on the blog’s main or monthly search page.

Also, because I refer extensively to previous blog entries and other online sources in order to place every twist and turn in its rightful context, this series is better read online. Therefore, I am providing navigational aids at the top and bottom of each entry to help you see where you are and to allow you to move around among the entries — either backward, forward, or anywhere — as some of you may choose to read in more than one sitting. What’s more, all links within the text open a new browser window (or tab, depending on your browser settings) to prevent you from losing your spot.

What you’re about to read is, of course, completely one-sided: it’s MY side of the story. But let’s be clear: this has been my blog for nearly a decade so I call the shots around here. Besides, I’m writing this for me first and foremost because it has become too much for me to carry.

That said, I don’t think that this is a simplistic or maudlin account in which I pose as The Victim and depict NowEx as The Monster. I also don’t think that I’m stooping to trying and convicting the entire nation of Mexico based on my experience with one Mexican, except perhaps for occasional comedic effect. I mean, anyone who’s ever read me must come to expect me to inject some humour every now and then, because I certainly have to laugh about some of this stuff now that it’s finally over. But, at the same time, there’s no doubt that my bias does impose its limitations.

As much as I try, Mexico is now and probably in perpetuity low on my list of favourite places, thus making it a country I’m as keen to visit as Uganda or Burkina Faso. Moreover, as much as I try, I can’t find it in myself to draw a sympathetic picture of NowEx even though at one point I did fall in love (or thought I did) enough to marry him. Yet as I’m finally putting out this narrative for anyone to read, I’m prepared to accept that, to the reader, I, too, won’t necessarily come across as a sympathetic character, for I married him for the wrong reason.

Indeed, I was either unaware of or denying it when I did it, but when I married NowEx, I did so to rescue him from himself, despite himself. In marrying him, I repeated what I had done countless times before in my life, whether at work, at play, in friendships or in love: to try to rescue. Obviously that’s the worst possible reason to marry someone.

However, by now I’ve come to view this “urge to rescue” not unlike a disease, which I think I’m finally putting in check, borne of a sense of rejection whose roots I’ve only recently uncovered through therapy. The sad result in this instance was that a whole marriage ended up resting on the faulty premise that assumed that, once the rescue would be over, the flow of reciprocal love would be boundless: I love you so much, I just had to rescue you; I love you so much because you’ve come to my rescue even though I didn’t know I needed rescuing.

So while in this narrative NowEx may end up coming across as unsympathetic, I’m bound to come across as desperate and foolish for wanting so much to have someone love me love me love ME…

Not exactly glowing character traits on either side.
 
 
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The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 2 — The Guilt of the [Recovering] Rescuer

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RescuerOkay, I admit I selected that image for the caption, just to be a bit salacious.

I first went to Le Maître’s office late last September, while I was off work for a few weeks, to finally start the divorce proceedings. I should have started them a year before — perhaps even sooner to get the ball rolling ahead of time in preparation for the inevitable — but I was in a state of inertia in all aspects of my life. Initially, I wanted to spare my mother of the anxiety; I wanted to simply casually tell her one day that not only was it over between NowEx and me but that it was legally over, too. However, I delayed and delayed filing for divorce. My mental tailspin last year wasn’t because I had to file; rather, the delay was one of the results of my tailspin. There’s a difference.

While I didn’t want to admit it to myself that morning I drove NowEx to Trudeau International, a full four months before he absolutely had to return to Mexico due to not yet having his Canadian PR status, I knew deep down that we had crossed the point of no return. But I still reserved, in a tiny corner of my heart, a place to hold onto the desperate belief that the sudden separation might somehow be reparative rather than be marking, as it was, the official beginning of the end.

Why? Probably because, as any good recovering Catholic, I also felt a lot of guilt: guilt for being the only one among my siblings to have failed at marriage (as in, why could they succeed where I couldn’t, not as in what will they think of me when they learn the news), guilt for having ignored all the signs telling me — nay, SCREAMING at me — not to marry NowEx in the first place, guilt for unconsciously having attempted to rescue him despite himself, guilt for essentially sending him back to a country where life is hard and opportunities to fulfill his full potential are few (despite his frequent and tiresome claims until his penultimate day in Canada that everything in Mexico is superb and everything in Canada is not as good or downright contemptible).

I also felt some guilt for having had two very clear opportunities to rescind the marriage proposal itself but doggedly staying the course. Rather than recognizing the signs, I rationalized them away, converting those signs into proof to myself that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that I lacked sensitivity. Little did I know that NowEx would intuit my rationalizations and sense of guilt and come to project them back at me to accuse me of always and only thinking of myself first.

But I would be misleading you if I dove into an exposition of my missed opportunities “post-proposal” without first coming clean about the signals that should have had me running the other way and never propose in the first place. In fact, whenever I think about the “pre-proposal” signals I chose to overlook, I can’t help but feel some shame. However, today I’m choosing to look at the whole debacle as similar to an alcoholic having to reach bottom so that the only way from there is up, except that my addiction, as I’ve established, was the urge to rescue people.
 
 
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The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 3 — Willfully Blind from the Start

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Willfully BlindWhile I know that clichés are bad form in writing, there’s a reason they exist: they neatly and succinctly encapsulate common truisms. One cliché my brother from Moncton used when I was confiding to him about the collapse of my marriage a few weeks after the fact was, “Love is blind.” However, I would go further and amend that cliché to better describe my case in this instance, to “Love is willfully blind.” That adverb, in my mind, brings a significant and pertinent amendment to the cliché.

NowEx certainly did charm me off my feet during my Summer 2007 vacation in Montréal. Yet I feel a little queazy now when I re-read my blog entries from August of that year onwards. What bugs me is not what I wrote back then (although it doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside) so much as what I omitted — stuff I brushed aside as petty trifles — as if the act of omission denies existence. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, a part of me would be tempted to delete or drastically edit those entries. However, I don’t and never will do that, as that would be counter to how I’ve blogged in the last decade. How and what I chose to narrate is as significant as the existence of that narration itself, replete with flaws, inaccuracies, and selectiveness.

The omissions and denials amounted to my not trusting my intuitions about people. I had — I’m better now — the bad habit of not trusting them because doing so struck me as being superficial and judgemental. This mistrust of my intuitions was a by-product of that long-past sense of being rejected, whereby I never wanted to be found guilty of rejecting anybody without knowing all the facts, not to mention without cutting plenty of slack for the sake of what I perceived as fairness. So while my intuitions were telling me that NowEx could be bad news, I turned a deaf ear to them and even denied I had them by omitting them from my narratives in 2007.

Let me give you a sampling of my most glaring repressed intuitions.

NowEx had to attend a party the night after we met but he said he would call me around 11:00 so we could meet up. Being that it was the middle of a canicule, I hung out in the Village where we’d probably meet and where my B&B was, and like a fool I waited and waited for his call that didn’t come …until nearly 4:00 am. It wasn’t only the lack of couth in calling at that hour that offended me but moreso the fact he hadn’t done what he’d said he’d do.

Anyone brighter than me — there are legions — would have told him to fuck off, hung up and gone back to bed, and thus my narratives in the next five years up to today would have taken a radically different turn. I would still be in Montréal and working for the bank, and I might be in the same apartment, but very little else would be the same. I probably wouldn’t remember his name, I wouldn’t know as much Spanish as I do, I probably would have been debt-free for a few years instead of by the end of 2013, and I certainly wouldn’t be spending all these hours writing this more honest narrative!

Then there’s the conversation we had in our hotel suite when I’d come back a few weeks later for the Labour Day long weekend. An aura of melodrama surrounded him as he was preparing to leave the place where he was living without giving any notice. In other words he was stiffing his roommates, but that’s because they were moving to another place and he started seeing the impossibility of living illegally, so he didn’t want to move with them but rather head back to Mexico.

By this point, he had presented himself to me as a “journalist” back in Mexico and a student who only had his thesis to complete. (I came to find out much, much later that he was merely doing newspaper clippings for an American journalist based in Mexico City and that the thesis in question wasn’t for his master’s but his undergraduate honours degree.) So, I playfully asked him a serious question: “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

“Lots of parties and lots and lots of drugs” was his reply, very serious, not at all playful. I seem to recall that, after he said it, he even made a pout reminiscent of Paris Hilton (whom everyone knows I can’t stand) as he was nodding with dreamy eyes, as if his answer described the summit for which anyone could ever aspire, but my mind and the passage of time could be playing tricks on me and editing in that flourish. “But of course!” Cleopatrick said as I was recalling this response over lunch one day many years later and my incomprehension toward it. “He was describing to you a life of leisure, of little effort, or where any effort should go on doing ‘grown-up things,’ feeling good and being seen in what he viewed as the ‘In’ crowd.”

Alas, instead of taking NowEx’s answer as the signal to end that conversation with a dismissive “Good luck with that” and go on our day trip to Québec City, have fun playing tourist, finish the weekend and say, “It’s been nice knowin’ you,” I repressed how my intuition was telling me to react to that answer and rationalized that, being 13 years my junior, he was still a bit young and he would grow out of it.

More than that, I would help him grow out of it. He was still holding onto a teen-like idealized view of what adulthood was supposed to be like.

I would rescue him.

Mind you, I didn’t hear myself say those exact words to myself. I never did. I never would.

Meanwhile, my intuition was protesting, to no avail: “Run away from the flake!” But now you know why I chose to title this series of blog entries “The 1,763-Day Weekend.” I should have listened to my intuition and let this encounter be a simple one-weekend folly.

But no. Instead I let it run from August 10, 2007, when I met NowEx, to June 6, 2012, when some judge in Montréal pronounced our marriage dissolved. Echoes of the Queen of Sheba, whom we teased that her maternal instincts made her the Madonna of Alberta, come to mind: I seemed bent on vying to become her equivalent from New Brunswick.

Shortly after NowEx had returned to Mexico that early September, I took him up on his invitation to visit him and booked myself on a flight to Mexico for Christmas. We conversed somewhat regularly on Skype and, by late-November, I had decided I would arrive there with a ring that I would offer him under the full moon on Christmas Eve on a beach in Oaxaca State.

Which I did.

I know, I know! It’s all incomprehensible… Remember how I told you that NowEx wouldn’t be alone to come across badly in this narrative? In fact, I think that so far I’m coming across worse than him, unless you’re a particularly generous reader and are thinking we’re just about even. But that perception should change as you continue reading
 
 
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