Jealousy, paranoia et Les Femmes

dimanche, le 30 août 2009

I will openly admit that I am a spendthrift with little parallel. And I spend on myself, on L’homme, on extravagant holidays, on exclusive weekend getaways, on luxury train journeys. Spending for sex, for love, for closeness, for acceptance, for approval, spending out of control to sooth the pain caused by the emptiness left by spending for all the wrong reasons.

Not long after we came back from France in August last year, it was evident that the spending spree had to be curbed and quickly. My shop was now licking up the cream in dollops that it once spread lavishly on my life. And access to funds was diminishing fast.

I had no choice but to thrust L’homme from the shelter of his wage the shop used to generate into the cruelty of an economic recession that offered little to aging white males with gaping holes on their resumes. And I expected him to accept this enthusiastically.

And disrupting the rhythm of the comfort I had provided him over the past more than two years, drove him straight back to the only rhythmic comforts he knew how to create for himself. The comforts of booze, of bars, of porn and of searching for uncomplicated sex. And then L’homme started putting his plan in place for his sudden, malicious and surreptitious departure from my life in June this year.

In mid-April we had a fight were L’homme debased me with one sentence: ‘I have no desire for you.’ My knees buckled, I steadied myself into a chair and tried desperately to control my raging emotions. He continued to accuse me of being paranoid about what he does and about continuously suspecting him of chasing after other women. And all my ancient insecurities about never being good enough, never being sexy enough, never BEING enough, fell nakedly to the floor, staring back at me, accusingly.

Am I paranoid? Yes, I do sometimes have bouts of paranoia, but about one thing and one thing only: about being assaulted, about being attacked, about being slapped through the face continuously by someone wanting money from me and bearing a gun. That is the beginning and end of my paranoia. I’m paranoid about being a victim of crime.

Am I jealous? Yes, I can be jealous. But only with reason, only when my insecurities are laid bare.

When I met L’homme, he boasted about the more than 150 women he had slept with in his then short life. With all his charm, his worldliness, his experience, I imagined him to be quite the lover. For the first two years I knew him, we didn’t have sex, we were just friends, a façade I managed to maintain, despite being in love beyond reason. But when together, we were always very tactile. And I can’t recollect how we managed to drink so much wine, smoke so many cigarettes and tell so many tales because I cannot remember us not kissing, not hugging, not touching each other. He’d come to visit and we’d roam the streets, hand in hand, arm in arm. And we’d fall asleep, mouth to mouth. But then one day he brought another woman along. They hanged on to each other, hand in hand, arm in arm. And I realised I was not as special to him as I’d thought I was. It hurt, but we were not involved and I hid my pain.

When the job he had was no longer viable, he moved to his parents. From there I got mails from him, telling about girls he had uncomplicated sex with and girls he wanted to have uncomplicated sex with. It hurt, but we were not involved and I hid my pain.

And then 18 months later, L’homme moved in with me. He was an aspirant author, writing his debut novel. I rushed out to buy him a computer, complete with legal software. At night I’d lie in bed and dream dreams of one day, maybe, while he was pounding away at his keyboard and pouring experimental concoctions of alcohol to awaken his muse.

It was at this stage that I should have realised that I liked him way too much for my own good. And that after liking comes wanting and needing that’s when somebody gets hurt. I fundamentally understood that people were neither heroes nor villains, they’re just human beings. They make mistakes, they fall in love. But I was far too naïve and infatuated to realise that I had fallen for one of those ‘I’m only human’ guys who go cadding after every sex pot who gives them the eye. And that after knowing the count of women he had pursued. But that I thought that was only exaggerated boasting. How on earth do you keep track of more than 150 different sexual encounters in any case?

And a month later he declared his love, laid out his conditions for the relationship, refused to give into any of mine and consummated the relationship with drunken sex. In the beginning we’d go to strip clubs, go off in search of girls, three-somes being one of his then fantasies. And we’d make love when we got back home, never really finding the right girl. And the sex was not the kind that I thought it would be, it did not make dam walls burst, the earth shatter nor the Eiffel Tower topple over. But being a conventional girl and sexually inhibited, I never had the courage to speak out, but had a strong desire for more passion, for more daring, for proving to this worldly, experienced man that I could shift my boundaries.

A year later we moved to a different city. The trips to strips clubs continued, one night dragging another couple home with us. His inability to perform set alarm bells off, but I ascribed it to the amount of alcohol we had both consumed. And that night I felt vulnerable and his distance was tangible. And I felt our by now shaky intimacy had been cheapened.

Shortly after moving into the house he liked and I paid for, L’homme started staying out late in bars without me. With the history of always searching for other women together, I was sure this is what he was now doing on his own. Our sex life had for all intents and purposes come to a grinding halt. Sitting on the kitchen counter one day, I plucked up the courage to discuss this with him. He glibly replied that he couldn’t have sex with me because it always looked as if I was six months pregnant. And all my ancient insecurities about never being good enough, never being sexy enough, never BEING enough, fell nakedly to the floor, staring back at me, accusingly.

We went to the Sewing Machine for sex therapy, the first of a few abortive joint counseling efforts. But before the real therapy had begun, L’homme had moved out of our home and into the bars, the streets, chasing skirts and pursuing promises of uncomplicated sex and getting the uncomplicated sex he so desired and finding women who desired him so much, they drop their pants as soon as they came through the door. This is not a figment of my imagination or wonderings of the jealous mind. This is fact. As told to me by friends, both his and mine, by himself and gleaned from his own writings at the time.

We once had an arrangement for him to house sit the many felines we had chosen together while I was off on a business trip. My house was being renovated by a wanna-be builder L’homme had met in a local whore house. On the day L’homme was meant to arrive, I got a call from him. He was in another city and had misread the dates or times or both on his train ticket, I don’t recall, but he would not arrive as agreed. It later transpired that he had followed a potential French love interest there for a few days of fun in the sun, the promise of uncomplicated sex and, it would surprise me not, the hope of a life back on French soil.

For the next four years we did not really live together, but saw a lot of each other. He often stayed over on weekends and every now and then would move back for a month or more. We had a closely distant, distantly close relationship. When L’homme was desperately ill, he’d move in, depending on me to nurse him, when his financial situation was precarious, he’d move back depending on me to tide him over, when he was hungry, he linger for a while depending on me to to cook him a delicious meal. When he was well, when he had two coppers to rub together and when his tummy was full, he’d leave as suddenly as he arrived.

L’homme was dependent on me for the comfort, security and stability I provided. And I did this unreservedly, because I love him.

Through all of this L’homme told some of his friends that the two of us were one day going to grow old together. And to the many who didn’t like me, he’d say they just didn’t know me. And through it all he always had profiles on internet dating sites.

In June 2005 I took L’homme to France with me on my Lucy Jordan holiday. I rented a convertible and drove through the streets of Paris with the warm wind in my hair. In the weeks before we left, but after I’d already bought and paid for the tickets, he behaved strangely. Some nights he’d be kinder and gentler. Some nights he’d be biting and angry. On these nights he’d tell me he’s no longer going to France with me. On the kinder and gentler nights he’d make holiday plans with me.

On the flight over L’homme managed to secure each of us a row of seats, an unheard of luxury in cattle class. Somewhere between dinner and passing out, he pleased me under the flimsy airline blanket. With pleasure rippling through my body, I knew it was the closest I’d come to joining the mile high club.

On our holiday L’homme was often distant, often aloof. Sex was unglamorously reserved on one or two occasions for tacky cabins in sex shops, always with some lesbian porn on the screen, L’homme zapping through the scenes with his toes. Most nights L’homme wanted to retire to bed early, very uncharacteristic of him. On the flight home I sat in a row of my own, shedding tears for a holiday which I had intended to pull us together, but felt had torn us apart.

Back home we somehow managed to keep the closely distant, distantly close relationship going. In September I’d booked a trip to a Eurocentric hotel in Mozambique. In the lead up to our departure, the ‘I’d love to go, I’m not going’ battles continued. Two nights before we were scheduled to leave, I pressed him for an answer and the truth came spilling out.

For months, since before our trip to France, L’homme had been hopelessly, utterly and intensely in love with his boss. On the Friday night in Maputo, we chatted through most of the night, him explaining the anxiety his infatuation caused and how, through sheer will and with brilliance of mind, he managed to overcome it. I tried to explain the hurt and confusion his actions had caused, but he ignored that in favour of his own perceived brilliance at beating the infatuation. The Sunday we had messy sex in the Eurocentric hotel before heading back home.

Three months later L’homme announced out of the blue that he was moving back in with me. Ostensibly to look after me and care for me, particularly after a recent burglary I had. He told me he loved me, he showed me that he loved me, he told me we were going to grow old together and he told me that no-one had ever been as good to him as I had.

I was deliriously happy. Oh la, la, my boyfriend’s back!! The shop was doing much better and life all of a sudden had meaning and prospects and I took his hand as he led me up the garden path. Only later did I realise that his decision to move back in with me was partially based on the fact that he didn’t like his digs at the time. But I was too happy to care. And those three long, hard years of desperately clinging onto a business through good times and bad times only to see L’homme on most nights, had finally paid off. I was so deeply content. I thought we had turned a corner and that no amount of hardship, would ever tear us apart again. And I never admitted to him that I never would just have closed the doors of my shop as I often said I wanted to do. In his time away from me, I knew as long as I had the shop, I would get to see him. Get to spend time with him. I would never close a door on that.

But in August last year we came back from France and the rot slowly but surely started to set in. There were always the bars and the booze, but now the porn started creeping in. Being forced to make decisions like a cat on a hot tin roof to avoid bankruptcy, I became needy of L’homme. I needed to feel his love, to experience his caring, to discuss options to hang on to a semblance of solvency. But L’homme was becoming increasingly distant, increasingly withdrawn. There were increasingly fewer sober moments to discuss matters at hand and the not so sober lashings out at me, increased. And my frustration grew. And the liking too much was turning into wanting and needing and it was evident that soon somebody was going to get hurt.

In these months I wasn’t concerned in the least that he was actively seeking uncomplicated sex in bars. In fact, in the past three and a half years I hadn’t given this a vague thought. By now his sex drive was so numbed by the effects of alcohol that it had been reduced to a vague possibility in the mornings only and then only with the help of little blue pills on the rare occasions that he drew enough desire from the girls on porn sites and felt obligated to penetrate me. On other occasions when he wanted to avoid the after effects of the little blue pills, I’d see him wank in the shower. And I wanted and needed. And by now he was again searching for uncomplicated sex, virtually, hidden under a Scrabble game he was pretending to play. It was complicating my life hugely. And all my ancient insecurities about never being good enough, never being sexy enough, never BEING enough, walked nakedly around the house, staring back at me from every corner, accusingly.

What L’homme never understood was that giving into my wanting and needing of him, of giving into sex with me, would uncomplicate my life and in turn, his. It would set me free of his dependency on me. And I was not able to articulate this then. And I increasingly could only see myself as the ‘Welcome’ written on the mat at the front door that L’homme wiped his feet on with every exit and entry and the glittering eyed, arms wide open, uncomplicated girl I once was, was gone.

What I didn’t understand then was that if L’homme had given into my wanting and needing in a really difficult time of our relationship, he would have had to overcome his fear of commitment. Pretenses of committing in good times is easy, it’s uncomplicated, because good times are by nature less demanding. Committing in tough time is what puts commitment to the test. Because then you need to stick with what you committed to. And when I put pressure on L’homme to act out the commitment he so easily verbally gave, the stable doors flung open and the horse bolted.

So, was I jealous? Yes, in the in-between times there were times that I was. You be the judge whether I had reason or not. Towards the end, I had enough work, business and financial problems of my own and only wanted and needed his love and these emotions ran so deep, that jealousy had no foothold. In the final analyses, jealousy was the furthest from my mind.

(This painting is lifted from a book L’homme gave me for Xmas in 1998. His inscription reads: ‘Dearest Ris, only dearest Ris, your beloved, L’homme.’ I love this artist and I have a painting by him we both referred to as ‘a painting to dream by’. This particular painting is called Les Femmes and the inscription beneath it reads: ‘You won’t find an image of yourself in running water. It’s the still waters that allow you to rest and find yourself.’)

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