Friday, June 24, 2011

When You're Explaining, You're Losing.

It's been awhile. That's not because I have lacked for Uncomfortable Moments. It's because I have lacked for discipline.

Tonight I was walking along P Street by myself, having deposited a check at the Citibank branch on Connecticut Avenue and 18th, and moving toward Whole Foods. Once again, it was past dinnertime and I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner on this Friday night alone.

And I was talking to myself. Sometimes an internal monologue becomes so strong that I have to mouth it to myself. I wasn't talking audibly, but that didn't make me look any less crazy. I was sensible of this and trying to confine my murmurings to points along the sidewalk where there was no one else around.

Until -- shit -- I failed to take in the periphery and saw that a twentysomething guy with a baseball cap on backwards had a perfect vantage point of my crazy from a stoop where he sat with a companion.

I looked up too late -- and immediately stopped my lips from moving. Acted like I was normal. Nothing to see here!

He smiled. I was busted. As if to make it worse, he said, "Hi," as I passed by. Like, "Hi, I totally caught you talking to yourself," was the subtext. "Hi, I totally know," was the subtext of my response. I moved along, mortified.

Why was I talking up such a blue streak? It started with "How Divorce Lost Its Groove," an article by divorce artist Pamela Paul, in The New York Times. A few related conversations later, I was revisiting my whole split. Again.

I find myself trying, over and over again, to tell my "story." Why did I get married? Why did I divorce? What happened?

I know his story is very different from mine. And that makes it even harder. Why can't our stories be the same? Can I see his story, understand it? Could there ever be a version that we'd both agree on?

I'm not even going to get into the Pamela Paul article. That's a whole other post. My ex hated Pamela Paul, and I actually found myself wondering what he would say. I will just submit that no one decides not to get divorced because it's not as cool as it was in the '70s (and I doubt it was really that cool in the '70s).

Anyway, back to P Street. I continued on, mortified and reminding myself that I really needed to get a grip. I told my significant other what happened. You know, the talking to myself part.

"It was a big moment in your life," he said. "Just let the feeling pass through."

That's when I realized -- and this is related to the Pamela Paul -- women are charged with explaining shit all day long. (Yes, I know, vast generalization, there are lots of exceptions.) There is a ton of accounting and judgment, no matter your relationship status. We analyze stuff with each other: There has to be a storyline. Justifications. Most of Paul's article involves women spinning their stories.

Guys don't explain anything. Do you think that, when a dude gets divorced, he sits with his friends over beers hashing it all out for awhile? Explaining what happened? I'm going to guess in most cases, no. Yet three years later, I am still confronting this decision and trying to account for it -- wanting to account for it -- with others, and with myself. But the story, with all its fine-tunings and new insights, doesn't change anything.

When I got to the store I bought some lamb loin chops on sale. I cooked those up for myself -- just me. My guy (damn, I hate the word boyfriend) doesn't eat lamb. I have heard people say that they don't cook very often because they're usually alone. I used to feel that way too -- and certainly if I wanted some nice cut of meat, I'd accept that it would have to wait until that far-off, undetermined day where maybe I'd be in a restaurant and maybe they'd have just what I wanted on the menu. I couldn't spend that kind of money/make that kind of effort just for myself.

Now I feel that being alone is all the more reason to cook. Because what are you waiting for? Make a gourmet meal for yourself, and talk to yourself freely. Who cares. Drink some very good wine. Slowly. Watch In Treatment, or Breaking Bad or The Bachelorette or some other equally dark, depressing show that no one wants to watch with you. Light a candle, because now your place smells like meat, and you have all these candles that you buy and never light. And try to drop the story.

So that's what I did. I don't know if I have cured myself from explaining. But I have started trying.

Music: "Dancing With Myself"


  1. There's only one thing you could have said to that guy on the stoop -- just one thing: I accept your condemnation.

    That quote, as well as some thoughts on the topic of divorce, courtesy Woody Allen's "Another Woman":

  2. In cases like this, the other person's stories are usually different from yours because they're crazy.

  3. Oh Marcel. I have to get this movie. I find it remarkable how everyone -- and the room -- fits in one color palette. Sir Michael -- Of course. Thank you.

  4. Wow, you're making me want to be childless and living on my own! I used to cook steaks for myself. Entire briskets, even. I cannot truly enjoy a meal now unless the kids are asleep or elsewhere.

    Talking to yourself is also no fun with kids around. Because when you're having a good monologue the last thing you want to hear is, "What?"

    I have no idea why, but I was under the impression you were a vegetarian - were you ever?

  5. Wow, whole briskets! That's awesome. I was indeed a vegetarian for about 13 years -- I wonder if it came up when we crossed paths in NYC. Anyway, kids are a good reality check. It's only a matter of time before you'd say "What?" to yourself anyway.


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