Goodbye No. 6 to the motorcycle man

This guy is so bad for me it feels really good.


Cary Tennis
December 4, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

Yesterday I found myself saying goodbye, for at least the fifth time, to a man I have been having an affair with for the past six months. Each time I have left him, it is because I have recognized anew that our relationship is unsatisfying and negative for me because he is controlling and manipulative. Yet no matter how much I scream at him, kick him out of my house, or hang up on him, each time he comes crawling back in a matter of days. And I let him back into my life, simply because he shows up and is willing to apologize for ways in which he has wronged me ... and I know will continue to wrong me.

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I can think of a few reasons why I won't allow myself to get rid of him once and for all: I live in a city where it has been difficult to build a social life, even after living here for several years. He is the only person out of the several dozen I am acquainted with who calls me and invites me to do things. And though I have a successful professional life (not due to being a workaholic), I feel fairly lost in life and probably unconsciously have been looking for someone to control my life for me. For his part, he has had the same experience in not finding a social life here as I have, and he also seems to need to be needed. So we make a perfect, though twisted, fit: I need him to tell me what to do, and he needs me to need him.

The problem is that I don't really want someone to control my life for me. I do want to be a self-realized person. I also know that I feel just fine without him, as I have felt during the brief periods between goodbyes and hellos, though I don't get the thrills (albeit distracting and ultimately unfulfilling) of late-night drinking and sex and motorcycle rides at midnight. I think the real question is: How do you remain convinced of your own intelligence, friendliness and attractiveness when no one calls you? How do you go about being satisfied, even happy, with your own company night after night when you long for the energy that the company of other people can bring? Must I return my extroverted self to the shelf and rebecome the introvert I was as a child?

Lost in Loneliness

Dear Lost,

Open wide, close your eyes and accept yourself. Put that down. Close the refrigerator door. Turn off the TV. Put a bookmark in the book. Unplug the phone. Stop in the middle of the room. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Take another. Do it again. Let your shoulders down. Let your hands fall to your side. Don't brush the hair out of your eyes. What are you looking at? Keep looking at it. Now sit down, but don't pick up a book. Just sit and think for a minute.

What were you doing as an introverted child? What's that all about? Is there something about childhood that you wish you could recapture? Is there a wish from childhood you thought would be granted when you grew up? Is it the wish for the motorcycle man to pick you up and ride you over the bridge and out of the city at midnight?

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Who is that introverted girl you mentioned? What did you like to do when you were that little introverted girl? Were you sitting in your room drawing pictures while the other kids played? Was that OK? Did you care about the other kids at all? Did you wish they would come to your door and ask you to come out and play? How long did you wait, lying on your bed, drawing and reading and looking out the window, before you realized they were never going to stop playing and come to get you? How many times since then have you hungered for the delicious rescue of a reckless man, only to fight the helplessness, the insecurity, only to pound your fists and say I Want to Be a Self-Realized Person!

Accept yourself. Open wide, close your eyes and accept yourself. Stop doing things. Let it go, this self-realized thing. Accept yourself, self-realized or not. Accept the hunger. Accept the passivity. Open wide, lie back on your bed and accept yourself. Whatever you are, that's what you accept. Whatever it is, you let it be. Doing things doesn't work -- not if you don't know what to do. You're up on a test stand, spinning your wheels. So don't do anything until you know what to do. Stay on the test stand, spinning your wheels, until you run out of gas and the wheel slowly spins to a stop. Wait until you've accepted yourself. Lock yourself in your apartment for a week and try to remember what it feels like to be you. Stop trying to fit in. Let them come to you. Let them figure you out. Let yourself be the way you are. Stop trying so hard. Stop trying to be transparent. Be opaque for a while. Take a long bath. Eat some yogurt. Pad around barefoot in your apartment. Sit in your favorite chair for an hour and try to remember how it felt to be something before you felt you had to be something. Remember a happy time from childhood. Remember how the sun looked through sprinklers. Remember how the grass smelled while lying on a towel in the backyard or the front yard or the deck or the balcony or the stoop. (Was there grass on the stoop? Were there cracks in the steps? Is there a hole in your head where the rain gets in?) Perform magic in the dark. Don't answer the phone when the motorcycle man calls. Don't answer the phone for a week. Then get some rope and tie the motorcycle man up in the closet and take his motorcycle. Ride up to the Hamptons. Buy some apples up there. Put the apples in a bag. Ride out to the shore. Sit down on a blanket. Eat the apples.

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