Sometime back, you may recall, Lo and I met a couple whom we lovingly referred to as “the protégés.” Erin and Zach were, in many ways, a younger version of Lo and me. We had met them through an ad on Craigslist that Lo had placed looking for a third – male or female, or a couple – to help her with her insatiable appetite for sex. They answered the ad and we hit it off right away. Unfortunately, they lived pretty far away and meet-ups were difficult to arrange before they moved to the other side of the country.
Well, recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a new couple whose moniker here will be “the doppelgangers.” A while back I was presenting at a conference out-of-town when a friend said, “Oh, I have to introduce you to Jim. You two have so much in common.” At the dinner reception that night she made good on her promise and it turned out that Jim and I had even more in common than our match-maker imagined. Not only were our interests aligned, but we had studied at the same college, knew many of the same people professionally, and, oddest of all, it turned out that Jim lived in the same city as Lo and me. How had we not met before?!
But the uncanny coincidences didn’t stop there. While at the dinner, I noticed that Jim was sitting next to a slender, attractive blonde whom he introduced to me as his girlfriend Lilly. Lilly, I found out, was a student of sexuality and gender studies.
“You must meet Lola, my girlfriend,” I said, explaining that besides having the same consonantal pattern in their names, they are in a similar field – though Lo is engaged in sex therapy. I soon found out that Lilly’s focus was getting people to be “in touch,” literally and metaphorically, with themselves. Our dinner conversation was far better than the usual polite chit-chat. It was deep and philosophical and I couldn’t wait to introduce Lo to the doppelgangers.
The first weekend back at home we went out for a double date and, much to my surprise – though I should have seen it coming – Lo took to Jim right away but was not sold on Lilly. “Oh my God!” said Lo after the date, “Can’t you see it?”
“See what?” I asked, innocently.
“All that talk about sex and helping women to squirt and finding ways to treat men’s impotency – all of it!”
“What about it? I thought you’d find it. . . interesting.”
“She’s showing off. She’s looking for attention. She’s trying to shock us with her ‘open-mindedness,’ her – grrrrrrrrrrrrr!” Lo couldn’t find the right words and was frustrated.
“Lo,” I said, trying to be conciliatory, “Don’t you think that maybe it’s just that you two are so. . .” I hesitated to use the word, “similar?”
I knew it. I shouldn’t have said it.
“How could you even suggest that?! She’s such a, such a, a, a. . .”
She agreed with me right away, but a split second later, the irony of it set in – the fact that I had specifically said about her in the past that she is an attention slut. She gave me a sidelong glance. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “You’re thinking that I’m also an attention slut.”
“Well, aren’t you?”
“Not like she is!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see the difference.”
She was ready to knock my block off when I said that. “She’s desperate for attention,” Lo insisted. “I’m just good at getting it and I enjoy it. That’s the difference.”
“Whose attention is she desperate to get?” I asked.
“Don’t play dumb with me.”
“Whatever do you mean?” I admit, I was toying with her a bit and found the situation amusing.
“Don’t think I didn’t see how she was flirting with you. ‘Oh, HH, tell me more about. . . and, HH, what do you think of. . . .’” She quoted Lilly in a mocking, bimbo caricature voice, batting her eyelashes at me and smiling falsely.
“Was that how she was talking?” I asked.
“Yes. And don’t think for a second that I didn’t see her checking out your package.” She looked down at my crotch and stared.
“Was she?” I asked with mock naïveté.
“So is that really what this is about?”
“You’re afraid of her attracting my attention.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” There was a pause. “No. I mean, I’m insecure. There. I’ll own it. I’m afraid that you’ll find her waiflike, Kate Hudson, faux-innocence with a dirty mouth attractive and you’ll leave me for her. You know I have abandonment issues. And frankly, it’s not an irrational thought, is it?” The levy had broken and now the flood of her thoughts was unleashed. “I mean, look at your history – you’ve left every single woman you’ve ever been involved with. You’ve never been broken up with. You’ve only done the breaking up. Why shouldn’t I be insecure? You tell me practically on a daily basis that you are free as a bird to do whatever it is you want. For our first anniversary you bought me a bracelet that said ‘Impermanence.’ I mean, what the hell?! What do you think a woman is going to understand from that? Don’t you think that I have a reason to feel threatened, to be insecure? Look at her – she’s your dream come true. Isn’t she? She’s skinny and she talks about sex incessantly and she looks at you with those eyes that say fuck me and she wants an older father-figure of a man and she shuts me down and. . .”
She wasn’t done talking, but I grabbed her and held her closely and with a bit of a grin on my face, amused at her sudden confession, I said, “Even if all that were true – though I deny that it is – but even if it were true, so what?”
“So what?” she asked, looking up at me with the tears running down her face, pulling her mascara down in straight lines over her cheeks.
“Yeah, so what?”
“I’m scared you’ll leave me. That’s so what.”
“Lo,” I said, “even if everything you just said was true, there’s one thing that you are leaving out of the picture.”
“What’s that?” She was more quiet now. Ready to listen.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not to me.”
“Lo,” I said, looking into her eyes, “she’s not you and I’m in love with you. Only you. All I want is you. Yes, I may be a bit flattered if a woman shows some interest in me now and again. Can you blame me? I’m not anywhere near as attractive and appealing to others as you are. You get men and women showing an interest in you all the time. So, let me bask in some attention on occasion. I’m not interested in anyone else but you.”
“What do you mean why?”
“I mean, what do I have that she doesn’t have?”
“I don’t know. I can’t explain it,” I said as I put my lips to her forehead and took a deep breath with my nose buried in her hair. “The way you smell. The touch of your flesh against mine. The sound of your voice when you call me ‘Daddy.’ The way you know when I’m depressed before even I do. The way you make me laugh. Everything. It’s as if every cell in my body shares DNA with every cell in yours and that DNA is meant to be intertwined together in its double-helix union. My genetic structure calls out for you and only you answer that call. It’s as if we are of one psyche. Your thoughts are mine and mine yours and without you I’d be braindead.”
“If that’s really so, then why do we fight so often?”
“Don’t you know?”
“I think you do.”
“We fight,” I said quietly and gently, “only because you’re afraid.”
“Afraid? Afraid of what?”
“Say it for me.”
“Afraid of admitting the truth – that we are so closely connected that if I were to leave, your biology and psyche would also be severed. You’re afraid of accepting my love because you fear, deep down, that I am going to leave you. And so you fight it rather than accept it. To accept it wholeheartedly would mean being fully, completely vulnerable – even more vulnerable than you already feel. Deep down you want me to leave. You want your worst nightmare to come true because then you wouldn’t be vulnerable. Then you could put up your wall as high as the stratosphere and sit comfortably alone behind your defenses and not sit with this uncomfortable insecurity and vulnerability. You want me to hate you and leave you because you don’t feel that you’re deserving of me and my love and you want to prove yourself right. Well, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. I love you. But, it’s like Bruce Springsteen says, ‘You can’t shut off the risk and the pain without losing the love that remains.’ Love is never secure, never complete, never safe. If it were, then you’d leave and look for someone else.”
“Who’s to say that I won’t leave, looking for someone else?” she asked, defiantly.
“Oh, you might go looking for someone else. You might find someone else. You might fuck someone else. But you’ll always come back to me.”
“Why should I?” she asked, still as stubborn as ever – trying to disprove my accurate insight into her psychology.
“Because you love me.”
“I love you because you can leave me at any time and because I love you, I want you to leave me? That’s your theory?”
I nodded yes.
“Well, you’re wrong,” she said, obstinately. “I hate you. I just love hating you so much that I want to fuck you, cause when we fuck, I know I’ve got you in my power and you’re mine.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” I said.
“Shut up and get in the bedroom,” she said.