I am certain if I get skinny enough, Alan and I will live happily ever after. That must be the missing element. The deal-breaker all these years. If only I were prettier– sexier, he would love me right, treat me like an important part of his life, not just a part-time playmate. Be proud to bring me home to meet his family at the holidays.
There is a impotent rage simmering beneath my insistent yearning for his attention, but I don’t dare show it. I am so skinny now, weighing less than I ever recall, even less than when I was in high school, thanks to the Atkins diet and the appetite-suppressing effects of sexual adrenaline. And yet, I’m still the one making the phone calls, initiating our dates when it seems he’s forgotten me again.For the first time, I have a health insurance plan and it includes sixteen mental health visits per year. In therapy Dr. Susan and I don’t talk about my sexual history. We talk about everything surrounding my anxiety and codependent behavior. My present situation with work and family. We visit the foreign country of my unmet needs. She urges me to find a CODA or Al-Anon meeting, but I just don’t have the time, I say.
Nevertheless, my knots slowly begin to untangle. I realize I want and I need to get out of the hospitality business, at least for a few years. I need to be more available to my kids. I need to stop all this acting out. But, for the moment at least, the three sexual partners still cycle through my nights and my days as some sort of assurance that everything is okay. That I am okay.
I call Alan on the morning of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. I am freaking out at the horror unfolding across my television screen.
“Turn on the TV!” My voice quakes frantically.
“Oh, wow,” he says in an offhand manner. ” Armageddon is here.”
I am blown away that he can retain this passive, blasé posture with what is happening. But he shows no evidence of alarm. In this moment, I am stunned to realize suddenly that this man is terminally depressed.
I relate this story to Dr. Susan later in the week. She asks me to examine how that felt and what it means to me. The voice inside tells me: This is not a man I can ever have a future with. This is not a man I WANT to have a future with. This man needs professional help AND he needs to get off drugs if we are ever to even attempt a real relationship.
I feel like the spell is finally broken.
Sitting in his tiny kitchenette with an ashtray between us, I tell him that therapy has brought me to important decisions about my life. I suggest that he may benefit from talking to someone himself. I tell him I love him for who he is when we are together, but I need a true partner. Someone who can be present with me in every aspect of my life.
We move to the sofa and wrap around one another, one last time. The TV show “Who Wants to be a Princess” plays in the background, but we are not watching it. We are huddled together saying our goodbyes. It makes for a strange soundtrack to our conversation.
“I am bad at being a boyfriend. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too.” We lie together, face to face, bodies flush, in the complete absence of sexual tension.
“I thought after high school, that I would date more people. That I would…”
“What, that you would have mad game?”
We both laugh in spite of our situation.
“Well, don’t let me hold you back from playing the field, Baby.”
“Hey, it’s not like that. You are special. You are the barometer by which I measure every experience I’ve had with women since. It’s just…”
“I know.” I stroke his hair and kiss him one last time then make my way toward the door.
To be continued…