Saturday, July 02, 2005

Burning away the roses

I sold the breakup painting. Or rather, the head of the BWAC mafia sold it, as she majestically informed me, when I went to pick it up and couldn't find it. "I told the English lady, 'It will change your life,' and offered to carry it downstairs for her," she said, in her sonorous Russian accent. The people at BWAC are starting to be friendly toward me, at least the ones in with the mafia. The price of that painting was probably twenty percent of their gross for the closing weekend. I'm shocked that it sold; it wasn't a painting I'd ever hang in MY home, but then I was the one who painted it to a repeat loop of John Mayer singing "'All you need is love' is a LIE, cause WE HAD LOVE and we STILL said goodbye, now we're TIRED...battered FIGHTERS...". It also weighs about twenty pounds because it was painted on canvas stretched over a made-in-Mexico panel; the irregularities of the edges were one of the things that the head of the mafia had to explain away as 'feature, not flaw.' I'm so glad it is out of my life. It will also pay my rent this month.

I sold another little painting a couple of weeks ago, to a high-school friend I hadn't seen in 20 years. Then another friend looked at my website and wanted to buy the same one. This baffled me; it was my least favorite painting in the show by far, to the point where I almost didn't hang it. The second friend said she liked it because it was more optimistic than the rest of them. She also said that it was obvious, from looking at the work, that I've been depressed all year. So much for brave concealment of suffering under a stoically cheerful exterior.

It was wonderful to see my high-school friend. In high school we had the kind of friendship that is described by child psychologists as "parallel play." We attended the same ballet classes five or six times a week, and sat together at lunchtime and at football games in strained, awkward silences. We both had blonde hair and blue eyes, had good grades and no boyfriends, and people got us mixed up. I always figured that deep down, we probably had nothing in common.

Come to find out, we've practically got parallel souls. Once we finally started dating, we were both drawn to men who did their own repairs on their trailer-park cars, having acquired in high school a visceral repulsion for the ones whose parents gave them a Beamer on their sixteenth birthdays. She had either better instincts or better luck than I did, however--she's been married for thirteen years to a professional dancer who grew up in a trailer park. They have their own dance company Santa Barbara, a house in Sedona, and a six-year-old daughter with blonde hair and glasses. She spends a month every summer with her daughter in a different exotic location--last year, it was the next town over from Guanajuato. She says she loves my work because "it's so spiritual." I told her, "let's keep in better touch."

Before meeting my friend and her family for dinner, I had a crisis of confidence and bought a new outfit with a poufy skirt, anti-aging eye cream and toenail polish. I gave myself a pedicure, super-conditioned my hair, and put on eye makeup. Well, my friend is still a ballet dancer! And I've gained, like, thirty pounds since high school, I limp, I'm single, financially unstable and live with cats.

"We look almost the same as we used to," said my friend. And so we do.

I've been getting acupuncture. The first session seemed like a total waste of time. I got needles all up and down my problem meridian, from right scapula to left ankle; it hurt, it wasn't relaxing or fun, and it didn't do anything. The acupuncturist insisted that I return. We were swapping, so at least it didn't cost me anything. Codependently, I agreed.

The second session was astonishing, just like acupuncture is supposed to be; she stuck needles in my right arm, and my left ankle felt better. It didn't happen all at once--I could feel a steady stream of pulses running up the arm, through the shoulder, down my back and threading through my left hip, to bop down against the injury in the tendon at the ankle bone. "I think we've found it," said the acupuncturist. "These meridians aren't directly connected, but they're distantly related." The ankle tendon got better immediately and stayed better. Moreover, I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream about telling off my bastard ex-boyfriend, with my right arm meridian in knots.

So it is as I suspected--this is about codependency. Codependency, I have discovered, is the ace of spades on my forehead. I did not know it. My best instincts have created my worst problems.

When one of my best friends stopped bathing in college, I continued to hang out with him. I sat through movies at his right elbow, trying desperately not to breathe. We even made out once or twice. I never said those magic little words, "R., please take a shower or I will not sit with you. You STINK." I thought this would be rude and unloving. Eventually I started avoiding him instead.

In nearly all of my relationships, especially sexual ones, I cut people slack. I cut them way, way too much slack, for all the wrong things and all the wrong reasons. Some part of me is always thinking, "they know they're being rude, vulgar, unreliable, mean, and treacherous. They know they're trampling my boundaries. They can't help it. It's not personal. To show I love them, to show I understand, I will not object. I will accept them the way they are, knowing they are perfect. And when my boundary gets blown to smithereens, I will adapt."

Also, I don't want to be a weenie. A spoiled princess, like that girl in "Free to Be, You and Me," who insisted, "Ladies first, ladies first! Untie me this instant, Mr. Tiger! My dress is getting mussed!" So they ate her. Recently I have realized that this was wishful-thinking propaganda. High-maintenance women, far from getting fed to the tigers, are status symbols in most human societies. Cool-ass workhorses like me are wives for poor people.

But now that I know, I am working on it. It's a slow process. Last weekend I went to a party upstate, an overnight "bacchanal" with costumes and bonfire. I went as a bare-navel'd gypsy, and brought my body paint.

(Note: Sexy, for me, is not at all like sexy for Badger. Sexy for me is taking my hair down. "Hot" is wearing a 'tiny-fit' T-shirt with a pair of pants that aren't two sizes too big for me. So for me, letting down my hair, tying a scarf around my forehead, donning a sarong and an Indian top cropped just under my bra-less cleavage, then painting a curly gold sun around my belly button, was tantamount to declaring, 'I am a wanton woman. Let me paint your neck.')

Unfortunately, ninety percent of the men attending were married, gay, or wearing a satyr suit with no butt coverage. (Badger should have been there instead of me.) The married friend attending with me, with unerring instinct, seized the one single, overage male, who was happily engaged in welding a trellis, and dragged him over for a paint job. He was cute, in an earthy sort of way, and we got along. He's an organic farmer and artist's contract welder, and visits my neighborhood once a week to weld for a 'famous artist.'

To cut a short story short, the next day four of us girls got a tour of the organic farm. It was informative and charming, and we harvested strawberries and snap peas. Even in my new vigilance, I failed to dock him points for the fact that, although he'd slept in his own home and not in a field of four-foot grass the night before, he had failed to shave, bathe, or put on clean clothes that fit properly. Well, he's a farmer. Farmers work in the dirt. Don't be a weenie.

But I really, really needed to use the bathroom. The farmhouse wasn't on the tour, but I got a neighbor to show me the way. And on the way home, I wrote a new Rule: "Never date a man whose home is as clean as his barn."

Chickens. Chickens in the living room, and all that that implies. No books, either. This man does not need a wife. He needs a MOMMY. (Thanks, Beck-beck.)

I was pretty depressed about it--not the farmer, that was a quiet triumph of the New Boundaries--but about the fact that the way I see it now, most of my past has been a waste and a tragedy. Most of what I thought was "patience, love, forgiveness and understanding" was codependent behavior that did other people no good at all, and landed me in a yearlong depression and near-bankruptcy. I felt that maybe it's too late, I've lost my chance, and that since I don't know how to relate to people anyway, I'll only live with cats for the rest of my life.

But that was yesterday. This morning I woke up feeling that the past was, finally, past. I don't need to DO anything about it. I don't even need to write back to the ex-lover who invited me to visit him, and then wrote again to say that another girlfriend was visiting, but who knows when she'll leave? As soon as I figure out how to do it, I will delete the phone number of the investment banker from my cell phone, the one who committed to helping me fund my project, then announced that he was moving to Vermont to study Chinese. When I invited him to attend a members-only event at the Whitney last winter, he made another date for the same evening, and immediately after the opening he left me standing on the corner in a blizzard as he jumped into a cab. I figured that maybe he didn't KNOW this was rude.

And as for the future, well, it will be easier. I will no longer follow the Rule that it is rude to TELL someone when they're being rude. Miss Manners writes for a class with a clue, and unfortunately, I don't always socialize with those people. I'm practicing, in my head, phrases like, "Please don't whine. It bothers me." "No, it's not okay, thanks." "No, I'm not interested in a polyamorous relationship. It was nice meeting you. Goodbye."

Who knows what will happen then.

1 comment:

badger said...

yay - I love that painting... when I was visiting you gave me a slide of it!

I still can't get over being weirded out that you do something so intense and then sell it and never see it again.

- badger