Adventures in Domesticity

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dog-tuxedo_small1.jpgThis is something that I wrote in October of 2007, still the best way to get to the point.

This is a true retelling of a night that I lived through a couple of weeks ago.  And, before I get into it, I want to explain a little about my daily life.  It’s tough.  I work a lot at a job that is tedious and difficult and creative and to say that my employers are so insanely aggravating I contemplate homicide regularly is putting it mildly.  On top of this, I often have to work late without notice and this is of constant consternation to many people in my life, including multiple friends and, of course, my girlfriend.  All this makes her pretty mad on a regular basis and, in turn, I seethe with rage throughout nearly every day as I live in fear of breaking plans.  And then pay the price when I do.

But, I’m getting off topic.  Let me get back to the night at hand.
It’s a Monday night and I’ve arrived home around 9 pm.  For the first time in years, my girlfriend is not home waiting for me, somewhere between slightly miffed and absolutely furious that this, this, is when I’ve walked through the door.  Instead, the apartment is dark.  It is quiet and cold.  Almost shockingly so, like what it must be like to open your summer cottage after a long winter (I’m guessing, I’ve no idea what that actually is like).  I remember putting my bag down slowly, as if trying not to wake someone who isn’t really there.  I settle myself on the couch with a beer and listen to not much of anything.  The apartment is dark, the only light from the street outside.  For a moment, it seems like peace.  But it’s only the eye of the storm.

It takes her one second to get into the door, throw down her coat and bag and get several sentences into a story involving at least three people I don’t know.  She’s arrived home from her weekly tennis game, and there is tons of club gossip.  Forgetting the fact that I don’t care, she regales me with three stories at once using very few proper names.  Then, she convinces me that I should have a salad and while we’re slicing carrots, she cuts off the tip of her finger.  There’s blood everywhere; the salad is ruined.

As I hustled over to the bathroom to get some Neosporin, Band-Aids, gauze, tape and a scissor (we’ve run this drill before), I have one prevailing thought: I am not meant for this.  It’s not that I am so selfish that I can’t be bothered to look after someone I care about after they’ve done something painful.  It’s not that I’m morally opposed to being considerate.  It’s not that I’m against salad.  It’s that I feel like I am a wild animal in captivity.  Trust me, this isn’t about feeling claustrophobic in my relationship, it really isn’t.  This is about me, as a man, feeling like I was raised in the wild and that living this way, eating salads and drinking wine all the time, these are the things of domesticated house cats.  Simply put, I feel like a monkey dressed in a tuxedo.

I’m not gonna pull the “I’m too young for this” card because it’s just not true, and besides, age has nothing to with mentality.  And that is what’s really at stake here: I’m not ready to think of myself as this domesticated animal.  Instead, I’m all wild, and my ferocity is somehow enhanced by my self-awareness, which is ironic at best.

But I know this shouldn’t be the case.  It’s childish, it’s immature, and most of all, it is extremely rude to the woman I share my life with, who is nothing but an absolute gem (most of the time).  Yet I can’t shake the feeling of wanting to rip someone’s head off.

I mean that entirely literally, not at all figuratively, and I don’t mean her, as I’m sure you suspect.  Mostly, it’s strangers I want to bludgeon, passers-by who piss me off.  I’ve reached the point where nearly any off-hand remark or gesture from the guy at the end of the bar sends me into a frothing rage.  What’s so funny about this is that I’m not a fighter.  I like to argue, debate, engage in challenging discourse, but, in a very typical liberal open-minded sort of way, I’ve been taught not to take an argument physical until all other options have been exhausted.  And, with some very minor exceptions, that teaching has held strong so far in my life.  And yet all of a sudden, I’m overcome with anger.  All the time.

In the time since I wrote that, things have changed somewhat in my life.  Maybe it was trading in my insanity-producing job for the laid back roller coaster of freelancing, maybe it was discovering a deep love of endive, but somewhere along the line, things have changed.  Wiling away a Sunday making chicken meatballs and drinking rose champagne is actually kind of fun.  In fact, I hadn't thought about the preceding half-column since I fired it out one particularly furious morning nearly fifteen months ago.  But it cropped back up in my memory on my way to work the other morning.

perrier-jouet.jpgI was standing on the train, wedged by the door, as people unloaded at Canal street; typical crowded N train and a typically sardine-like commute.  As people were filing past me, a young woman tripped over the foot of the guy leaning against the pole between us and she spilled towards me.  Out of some instinct, I put my arm out and found myself catching her and helping her right herself.  She stood up and turned around; having lost her shoe in the act of falling, she spotted it still abutting the pole-leaner's boot and stuck her shoe-less toes out to get in and maneuver it back on.  While doing this, she clutched my still-outstretched hand.

She turned back around.

subway.jpg"Thanks," she said, only flashing me the blue of her eyes for a moment before dipping her head and pushing her hair back to show me the crimson ring of her embarrassment.

"Sure."

She left the train and I realized that I truly am domesticated now.  Because I'm still standing there, instinctively acting as a human guard rail, hard-wired to be that thing.  And all the bar fights, all the red-faced anger and white-knuckled fury in the world can't change that now.

And the thing is, I'm not even bothered by it anymore.  Because people change.

We change often and we change a lot, and yet, we never notice that change.  At least the true changes that are organic and real and actually reflect some sort of emotional progression, they don't really register as they fly by.  I can't sit back and pick out moments here and there where I chose to bypass one reaction for another.  I simply don't remember ever making a choice at all.  It's just another part of this that I'm ok with.

Usually this sort of change is called "growing up," but there's something not quite right about that, I think; it doesn't make sense to me to attach such a judgmental term to any old alteration in attitude or whatnot.  There's no line in the sand, on one side you're this thing and and on the other you're that.  We're constantly changing and at this point I'm domesticated, and that's why I'm fine with being so.  It probably wont last forever.

But one thing that I think it is key to be aware of is the fact of these phases.  I know people who've thrown themselves into this thing or that seemingly without any understanding that they won't always feel the way they do now.  And, whenever they protest this point, I somehow feel their commitment to be even less viable, you don't have to talk up something genuine.  And you never make a pretense of longevity for something which actually might be; it's only the weakest and flimsiest things that cause us to rebuke everything else and anything that might have once interfered with that.

As for my domesticity, well, what can I say?  This is the place that I find myself now, and all it took was someone falling on me in the subway to make me realize it.  And realize that it's not so bad.  That's seems to be true of so many of the things we dread turning into.  I'm sure at some point, I'll find that I've changed again, that I've turned into something else entirely.  I'm sure I won't have seen it coming.

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