Lessons learned: people change, and they sometimes even date strippers


So, Thursday, out of the blue, I get a visit from  G,  (the one who sits beside me in “Love Addict.“) I’m always so caught off guard and surprised when he calls or shows up. Not entirely in a bad way. Pleasantly neutral, I guess you could say.

We say hello, we hug, we catch up. OK, so it’s good to see him. I show him around the house, to see all the new changes that D and I have made. And I think that’s it. That’s usually always it. He’s still the same, I think. He’s always the same. Same house. Still working at the diner. No one in his life. Still miserable about his health and his lonely lot in life. But never doing anything about it. He never changes. He will be the one constant in my life that is truly rocklike and unchanging. And then he tells me, after about 40 minutes into all his usual unchanging sameness…”I’m  living with a 28 year old exotic dancer.”

Huh?

I’m blown away. I cannot even fathom such a non-sequitor, let alone this man living with another human being, let alone a woman, let alone a woman who takes his money, changes all his furniture around, drives his car and insists on having the internet (something he’s never wanted in his house and adamantly swore off along with cell phones, cable TV and a microwave). But above all else, I can’t believe he’s with a woman who’s dependent upon him to take care of her. G could always take care of himself very well, but was resentful and angry if, God forbid,  he had to take care of anyone else. I learned that lesson well. If I depended on him for anything, he’d disappear for days. He wouldn’t even consider a pet. And now he’s got a woman AND a cat.

My first thought at hearing all this: What nerve! In the three years we dated it was like pulling teeth trying to convince him that we should live together. I couldn’t touch his stuff or move his furniture around. His way or the highway. And I ended up on the highway. I was a little angry, a little hurt.  I always let him be him. I respected his nature. I thought that was the right thing to do.  I never barreled my way into his life like this woman seems to have done. If he didn’t want cable, so what. If he didn’t have money, it didn’t effect me. And if he wanted to keep his house a mess, go right ahead. Emotionally, I felt betrayed. Maybe I should have been more forceful and needy?

But those feelings didn’t last long. They evaporated along with the anger, hurt or jealousy I might have felt the moment I looked into his eyes and recognized two solid truths that recovery gifted me long ago:

I always have and always will deserve better than what this particular guy was offering.

And…

People are different with different people. It’s nothing personal.

So, I smiled. I was happy for him. And I wholeheartedly wanted to hear more about his new girl, S. I wanted to find out who she was and secretly, what she possessed that I didn’t.

“So, what’s she like,” I asked. “How did you meet?”

In his usual, deeply descriptive way he tells me this: “Well, we went out for a date on Valentine’s day, and that night, she moved in. The next night, I moved her out. And the night after that, she moved back in and she’s been at my place ever since. She’s got ADD, BPD, and she’s Manic Depressive, . She’s addicted to coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, bad food, amphetamines, and God only knows what else.  She was working at the diner but, as soon as her dosage of lithium kicks in, she’s off to get a job as an exotic dancer. She’s moody, has extreme highs and lows, imbalanced, chaotic, drawn to drama and bossy. Aside from her creativity, which reminds me of you, she’s singularly unique.”

(You can say that again.)

And then he adds: “But she’s a train wreck. And I’m crazy in love with her.”

Nice that he’s so aware. There I sat, in my office chair, him sitting on the floor leaning up against the wall. It was the therapist and patient relationship playing itself out.  I was flabbergasted. Disappointed, actually (Unlike a therapist, I was emotionally invested in his less than healthy choice of a mate, not because I loved him or have any feelings for him, but because I wish the best for someone I loved once who hurt me the least of all my PoAs).

Really? This is your dream girl? This is all you’ve ever wanted for yourself? I was awash with subtle shades of confusion. The narcissist in me thought: I could never compete with someone like that. The whole idea of her brought me back to SS, the guy I was in love with and with whom I secretly knew would never be able to love me deeply because I was not his type. His type was that dreamy, laid back, apathetic, pot-smoking,  hippy chick type that I so desperately wanted to be but couldn’t ( I was not laid back, I was anything but apathetic, I hated drugs and I thought following the Dead around at age 38 was ridiculous and escapist).  For the life of me I couldn’t be anything but me. Lord knows I tried. And yet, part of me wondered, “If only I was a little seedier…” So here I was in the same situation. Wondering what I didn’t possess and thinking maybe I should have follow that career path as a stripper that I never had the guts to do.

The altruistic side of me thought: What the hell is G compromising himself for? He’s a smart, stable guy. OK, he’s a little beat up, and maybe he’s a pot smoker at heart, but he’s not broken. He’s not crazy. Surely he deserves better? Or does he? I don’t know. I think that’s what stumps me the most.

I always believed that water seeks its own level. And yet, it was only a few short years ago that I was in her shoes and I was with him. Was I that girl? Or was G more confident than he is now. Two years of celibacy can force a man to be a lot less discriminating.

And yet, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) if you peel away all the layers of hurt and addiction and defense mechanism and damage and frailty, there is still the spirit of this girl. And I guess that’s what he’s attracted to. He was always able to look beyond the broken facade. And I was so broken back then.

So, this new girl in his life shines a new light on the man he is. Heck, back then he was just G: dirty, disheveled, pot-smoking drummer who worked days as a fry cook and nights as a musician playing small gigs down in Atlantic City. He was Greek, hairy, a great communicator, knew the most exotic names for every color known to man and was the greenest guy I knew. He had no TV, no cell phone, washed his clothes by hand, collected rainwater in barrels, drove a Geo Metro that got nearly 50 miles to the gallon and had a monthly electric bill of $34 dollars.  He rarely wanted  sex. But he called me as often as twenty times a day just to laugh about old Mrs. Hemsley and her animal hoarding.

D on the other hand is a business suit wearing attorney, who plays golf with judges and mayors and other bigwigs in town, goes to cocktail parties, President of the Bar Association, is a fabulous dad and an altruistic member of his community and church. His nails are always manicured, he plays guitar and he loves me deeply. Our life is balanced, respectful, loving and stable.

When you look at it like that, the two men are worlds apart. And I feel a little guilty even comparing them. It’s obviously not apples to apples anymore.  Maybe I even feel guilty for believing that D and I have a much healthier, stronger, better relationship than G and S. This sounds so judgmental of me. But the truth is, I recognize G’s good qualities. And I recognize that S might be a really beautiful person on the inside. But when a person causes damage to herself and others to the point of creating a highly unstable, chaotic life, then is the beauty worth it? For some, I guess it is. But there’s a pretty high price attached to it. And I’m glad I’m no longer willing to pay it.

So, I guess with G coming back and describing this new woman in his life the shock to my system was not so much that G is settling for such a “trainwreck” but shocked at my own ability to climb up and out of that place where “love” and “passion” and “drama” are outweighed by commonsense, personal dignity and self-preserverence.

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