Everything I Thought I Never Wanted
On Saturday morning I awoke with the most awesome sense of unsettledness. I had spent Friday night imbibing considerable amounts of alcohol with some of my coworkers, and our conversation naturally fell towards the office, and everything that was wrong with our company, and how we were surely all about to be randomly fired for no good reason.
I knew in my heart that such talk was probably just paranoid speculation, but I still couldn't shake the fact that something was very wrong. After a nice brunch at Cafe St. Ex with friend A, I asked if she could drive me to the office on her way home so I could do some work. I have never before in my life voluntarily gone to the office on a Saturday. Normally, I view such behavior as the kind reserved for Type-As and people with no social lives. But I knew that if I didn't I'd be plagued all weekend by an intangible combination of guilt and pessimism, and they only way I could avoid that would be to get some work done.
Turns out than an empty office on a weekend afternoon is the perfect environment for cranking out some quality work, while taking care of some previously neglected communication. I had made plans with Mr. 46 for that night, and he kindly offered to come pick me up. At 6:00 he rolled up to my office building in a late-60's silver roadster convertible. Now before you start making sarcastic comments about how clichéd that is, let me tell you that I hear your snark and can at least say that he's owned the car for 15 years and purchasing it was not a result of some sort of icky mid-life crisis. Anyway.
Back at Casa Mr. 46 he prepared a light snack for us that we enjoyed while sipping a nice Spanish white wine and talking about our days. We ate produce from the local farmer's market--fresh cucumbers lightly salted with sel de mer; an heirloom tomato seasoned with the same, drizzled with balsamic vinegar; zucchini squash stir-fried with their tendrils in olive oil, garlic and plenty of salt and pepper. The harmony of sweet organic produce cut with oil and salt, combined with the effects of the wine and Mr. 46's assurances that my life isn't actually falling apart dissolved the edge I had previously been experiencing. From there he prepared a main dish of pasta with fresh clams and a nice simply sauce. By the time he brought out a bowl of fresh peach sliced seasoned with balsamic vinegar, I had all but melted into an extremely relaxed and contented pile of mush.
Sure, my cynical side was still present, softly whispering to me that this was all a seduction ploy--pamper me into complacency and all that. But my romantic self loved every minute of it. My well-developed sense of independence has been a pervasive theme in several of my past relationships. I've found myself with guys who like my low-maintanceness and spend little time doting on me or lavishing me with extra attention. I've used my lack of need for such attention as a selling point for why I'm such a terrific girlfriend.
But the fact of the matter is, I really like being tended to in the manner in which Mr. 46 has been courting me. I used to think that there could be no place for nurturing in a romantic relationship. That the impulse to protect your partner and shield them from the harshness of the world wasn't appropriate within the context of a physical relationship. And now I see that perhaps I was wrong.
I also thought I'd never want to be with a man significantly older, balding and not much taller than me.
In yoga [yeah, groan, I know] there's a theory that the poses you least want to get into are the ones that your body and spirit need the most. That when you find yourself resisting a certain experience, that's the thing you actually need the most. And I believe that notion applies to the situation with Mr. 46 perfectly. On paper, he is nothing like what I would want in a man. But the reality of the situation is that he truly cares about other people, is a good listener, goes out of his way to do nice things for me, appreciates my good qualities, but isn't afraid to call me out on my shit. And after years of dating the same emotionally unavailable, self-centered 20/30-something guy, this experience with him is truly a rewarding one.
It's also causing me to reflect on the perceived power dynamics in male-female relationships. I've been skeeved out in the past by the notion of dating an older man simply because I held a bias that men who date women who are much younger than them most likely have some sort of inadequacies that might compel them to seek out partners who are easy to manipulate. But what this situation is illustrating is that every relationship is composed of a complex network of interpersonal dynamics where the balance of power frequently swings from one partner to another. Sure, he might seduce me with bowls of fresh peaches and bottles of fine wine, but I'm pretty and young, and surely that has some influence over his actions. And whenever the seduction routine gets a tad heavy-handed for my cynical feminist sensibilities, I call him "old man" and that's his cue to lay off.
So forgive the long-windedness of this post, but I guess what I'm trying to say is this: if you're willing to shift your expectations of what the ideal partner looks and acts like, you may be handsomely rewarded. I knew there was a reason why I felt like the earth split wide open the second we reunited. Because in a sense, it did.