I am sitting in my brother’s house, feeling the after effects of too many whiskey sour’s and talking about men and women, and I am suddenly keenly aware most of us are mostly speaking, writing, and interpreting words in a swampy mess when it comes to romantic relationships. Listening to a guy’s point of view, without a careful filter, however, is both horrifying (or maybe it’s just the coffee hitting the lemony acids in my stomach) and illuminating. Talking to someone who has known you since birth and who has known every wall you’ve ever walked into relationship-wise, all those 3 in the morning crying on the shoulder over so-and-so jags, every epic romance that was entirely fictional (as in just in my head), and seen you stuff a dozen roses into a garbage can, kind of allows you to talk and not have to illustrate your point. They just get it.
As we talk about relationships, however, I realize things are very different at our age (in our 40’s) then they were when we lived on West 11th as kids. In your 40’s you have baggage–we all do–anyone who says they don’t is either in a weird sci-fi state of frozeness or just a wanker. The other certainty at this age is that you don’t need a romantic relationship in your life. You don’t. You have all you need or you can buy all you need at this point–the question is do you want a romantic relationship? And this is where it gets a little tricky with the way men and women use words.
Because when you are old enough to know better, words can get you into a lot of trouble. You don’t blithely throw them around like confetti at a wedding–that was what you did in your 20’s when you couldn’t care less who it landed on or what lout or lass might get the wrong impression from your half-hearted I love you’s. More importantly, you didn’t think about the consequences those words could have on your life. In your 40’s, you step gingerly, (my brother would say even skittishly), holding romance in your arms like you are disarming a bomb, slightly excited, but also scared shitless. Apparently, I am told, men are even more nervous then women because they’re happily holed up in their man caves and a hell of a lot less likely to come out when the word ‘commit’ is used as a knocker. This whole man cave thing is interesting to me–as though women don’t have need of one! Talking to my girlfriends, it’s apparent we need it in our lives yet why is it so cliche that women are always trying to somehow rob men of their inherent right to retreat? As I write this, I have a married friend retreating 2 hours away from her husband, holing up in her woman-cave, and immensely enjoying herself. I have a woman-cave, or what I like to call, my writer’s vortex, but it’s really the same premise–a place to escape and know that you can be entirely yourself, and entirely unhindered by obligation to anyone else’s needs. Perhaps we are all in fact primal hibernators in our natural state with only a limited amount of energy to be plugged into relationship?
Words weigh more as you age. They’re handled differently, with more reverence but also with more hesitancy; they have the depth and the oomph of the past to them, and when in relationship, implicitly heave more emotional luggage towards any door to intimacy. It’s clear listening to my brother that the man-cave doesn’t want throw pillows when the man in the cave has already ‘been there, done that’. What then are we wanting in relationships as we age? Fun? Adventure? Shared humour? Are these not the things we actually first sought out in our 20’s, when we were tossing that confetti and I love you’s around on New Year’s like lunatics? Maybe we weren’t so stupid afterall, maybe we had it right. Maybe love isn’t supposed to come with a membership to the Brick, but rather with a free pass to meet outside the proverbial cave, like the Germans and Allies did on Christmas Eve in 1914, with all the differences between me, woman, you, man, and share that in-between space, where song, and humanity, and a maybe a little warm schnapps can feel like love.