Sunday, May 10, 2009

Duck Soup Island Style

“Are you two dum-dum-dah-dah?” Ron asked to the tune of Here Comes the Bride. Ron & Pat stood before us, having spied us across the restaurant as they entered. My eyes flew wide in alarm, appalled at his audacity and hubris. “No,” I said with finality that should have ended his questioning. “Well, are you dating?” he grinned devilishly. “No,” I answered with an edge he should have heard. “Oh honey, don’t embarrass them,” Pat piped in. “Why aren’t you dating?” he persisted, “He’s a great guy!” “Got it. Thank you.” I did little to hide my growing irritation and swatted him like a pesky gnat. “You two would be great together,” he continued. “I’ve known him for years.” Tom and I reconnected in the Kaiser Roseville parking structure, ending a yearlong hiatus. Our food, newly delivered, steamed from the tabletop. “You two should date,” Ron waggled a finger with a parting shot, even as the hostess summoned. Why does this conversation make me see red? What has me hunker-down, defend, protect and want to kill? The dating conversation puts me on edge; is an edge. In this conversation, I am an unwillingly participant. I’ve attempted to establish a boundary and train others to avoid the topic that always delivers a shock to my collar. Obviously with little success. Duck Soup is a colloquialism of dubious origins, dating back to a 1902 cartoon. It conjures a popular island image of ducks floating in a large, soup-filled rice bowl, chopsticks laid across the lip. More akin to a sharp chopstick in the eye, the dating conversation is anything but duck soup. “Anyone catch your eye?” Jared asked as we looked out over the ballroom, into a sea of faces. “No.” “There are a hundred and twenty people in this room,” he squared up and faced off, “At least one-third of them men. And you mean to tell me not ONE MAN caught your eye?” My male friends often seemed frustrated, even angry at my disinterest in dating. “What about Chance?” Not a chance. I raised a brow and shot him a sidelong sneer. Monkey’s lip twitched, baring an incisor. I took a deep breath to calm us both. “Oh,” Jared bore a look of consternation, shaking his head, “He’s probably too pretty for you.” “I’m old enough to be his mother!” “How ‘bout him?” He pointed at a tall, thin man with a ponytail reaching mid-back. How ‘bout you let me do the choosing? I rolled my eyes. At least he chose a model featuring a long-and-lean chassis. “What about James?” “James?” I scowled, “Who’s James?” “Frank.” So much for long-and-lean. “Does he look like he owns a pair of used running shoes and a bicycle?” My words dripped with sarcasm. “You're so superficial,” Jared admonished before giving it a rest. Perhaps. But long-and-lean can point to something, something in which I have great interest: a commitment to fitness and an active lifestyle. I answered my cell-phone to a familiar voice. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I’m standing in the Apple Store; my Mac died.” “Can they fix it?” “Dunno yet. I’m waiting for my genius to perform the miracle of resurrection.” “Good Lord!” “Exactly.” “Okay, hope it works. So, how many people are there?” “Um…” I looked about, scanning Apple’s milling shoppers. “Lots, the place is packed.” Like mealy worms milling and drilling an apple. “About forty.” “How many guys?” Here we go. “Um… at least twenty-five.” “Anyone catch your eye?” Jared was nothing if not persistent. “No.” I responded easily without another look. Any long-and-lean man would have pinged my sonar upon entering. “You’re telling me there’s not ONE MAN in that store that interests you?” It was more accusation than question. I am so tired of defending this. What had I learned in Wisdom about bringing play to areas of life that are difficult? Suddenly the game appeared out of thin air, like 3-D, holographic chess. “Here’ the deal sweetie…” my words oozed, dipped in honey, sweetness, and irrefutable love, “They’re not you.” Check. “A-u-w,” he melted into a puddle. Checkmate! I knew he would never insist that an unknown, unseen man in the Apple Store was better than he. I win! People have no idea, would be surprised to learn, the frequency with which I am pushed into the conversation for dating… and why I’m not. The question: Are you dating yet? occurs with quotidian regularity. “Because laced within that question is the implication that I want to date, or need to date, that I am not whole and complete without a man… and I resent it!” I stood at the front of the room, venting my frustration at the Wisdom City Team. “I’m not the one saying I want to date. Y’all act like I live in an ivory tower, lamenting my lonely life, awaiting my white knight on his mighty steed. I’m not! I am fully engaged. I meet more men and have more men than I can manage and they are lovely, but how it occurs for me is: I’m not interested. I’m not a No-never; I’m a No-not-now. I know myself to be reliable to create another long-term relationship and partnership, but not now.” “Got it,” Joan leaned to one elbow and blinked slowly. “You know, there is a cultural conversation that if you are not in-relationship, there’s something wrong with you.” The City Team giggled. “No really,” she addressed them in earnest. “And we can hardly tolerate someone who’s not; like they need fixing or something. And we ask about dating to deal with our own discomfort because we don’t have any capacity to be uncomfortable. Is there anything else you want to say about this Lorin?” I wanted to scream, Get off my back! to drive the point home. “No, I think that’s it,” I said, returning to my seat. The City Team, all 80 of them, took to merciless pestering in their commitment to expand my capacity for discomfort. Damn them! Collin had expressed a similar sentiment. “Based on results,” I said over dinner, “I am reliable to create another long-term relationship; you are not.” “Maybe I don’t want one,” he wore a strained, pained look. “Maybe I’m not committed to relationships. Any relationship!” “Maybe you’re not,” I agreed, “It’s a good thing to know about yourself. If it’s true… quit dragging women through relationships with you.” “People approach me all the time and say, ‘There’s someone I want you to meet.’” Collin’s voice rose. “And I often think, what makes you think I want to meet anyone?” “Maybe that’s not a lack of commitment to relationship, maybe it’s a barrier to relationship, that’s in your blind spot, that you can’t see. There is an exercise coming your way called Limits to Participation – pay attention.” “I will,” he said with a genuine smile. Is my limit to participation secondary to a barrier residing in my blind spot? Like a growing cancer in my cranium, undetected until it’s inoperable? Until I’ve spent a lifetime alone? I am often unavailable and inaccessible on many, many fronts. “It comes up,” Pua said, “Because it’s a mismatch. It’s not consistent with what you’re committed to.” “I am not going to date someone just to make y’all happy!” I was exasperated and defensive. “I just haven’t met anyone I’m interested in, who is interested back. I don’t think I need to defend that. Listen, the bed’s not even cool before some find another partner. Like they’ve barely had time to launder the sheets. Nothing wrong with that?” And really, there is nothing wrong with that. We are social beings, pack animals with behaviors across a continuum. The behaviors in question represent opposing tails of the bell curve. “I have a cadre of men who cast a very long shadow,” I continued. “I see them regularly. They love me, support me, guide me, console me, help me, and want the world for me. With them I feel loved, wanted, desired, beautiful, all that. I don’t have to date to fill that hole and… none of them is my lover. Can I be content with the way things are? I can!” There is no paucity of people pointing to my foibles. “Why are you attracted to unavailable men?” I dunno, my Daddy complex? My Dad, a long and lean drink of water, is as unavailable as the dance is familiar. I didn’t know how to undo that. I could meet a wide variety of men in all shapes: check, sizes: check, and colors: check. I could have close relationships with non-athletic men: check. I could spend time with men of different educational backgrounds: check, and socio-economic levels: check. I could foster friendships with men outside my standard lanes of traffic: check. I could ask men out: check. I could accept dates: check. I could date men to whom I am not attracted: er… that seems like a pointless and futile exercise. “Why is this okay with you?” Wendell pressed, “Like, this is okay for right now.” “No, it’s not this is okay for right now, this IS right now,” I defended. “Right now is all there is and my life looks like this right now. It doesn’t quite match my picture… and there is nothing wrong, nothing broken, nothing lacking, no unmet expectations.” "But don't you missed being kissed and hugged and cuddled?" he asked. "We won't even talk about sex." "Of course." “But then you’re not even engaged.” As if the frenetic search for a mate is all there is. Certainly not a bad game but not the only game. “I don’t know how you can say that,” my heart zoomed, sending a flutter into my right carotid. “I am on the phone or attending a function up to five nights a week. That’s a lot of engagement. But I’m not on eHarmony or if that’s what you mean. I have no lack of men nor do I have trouble meeting them.” “But you’re not even interested,” he changed tack. Interest is an entirely different matter. “I was interested in Collin.” Wendell hated hearing about Collin. I was guilty of brandishing Collin like a proof-of-purchase that now and again, and contrary to urban legend, my sonar did indeed – ping. “Get over Collin already,” he scolded, “He’s unavailable in more ways than you can imagine.” Tall, dark, handsome, lean, aloof and unavailable. Purrfect! “I am over Collin; I was never stuck on Collin. But Collin got me out of the gate, for which I thanked him. Here’s what Collin proved: if I’m interested, I’ll saddle up. But for the most part… I ain’t interested. Is that the product of a barrier? I don’t know. But y’all act like I’m sitting in the duck blind and need help choosing my prey and pulling the trigger.” Duck soup: shooting ducks in a pond is duck soup. “What few seem to understand is: IT AIN’T DUCK SEASON!” That’s it; isn’t it? The what-is-so of it: it ain’t duck season. Shooting ducks in a target rich environment is an expedient starting point for making duck soup. Funny... no moah duck soup on da menu. (Said in my very best Charlie Chan.) Ah-so, no wondah no likey duck. Not everyone pulls a permit when hunting season opens. That the barren bed draws for another like a vortex may imply a universal law, to which I am at odds. Funny that common denotes normalcy, as if there is such a thing. Society presses and pressures with constant comment that relegates deviancy uncommon by virtue that it goes to ground, underground. Neither is better, only different points on the spectrum, once again. The noise of others, like a concerto in my head plays second fiddle to the rhythm of my heart. I am not moving to the duck waddle, the hunter’s dance, the fertility dance, the mattress mambo, or the moon dance. I move to the I-like-my-life-just-the-way-it-is-and-just-the-way-it-isn’t dance. No fixing, no defending. I sway to the tune of: blossom where you’re planted. There is a chord of deep contentment in that melody. Ha’ina ‘ia mai, ana ka puana la. My life, my song, my hula. I understand that my hula may be an acquired taste and not for general consumption. There are many, many halaus in which to dance. This is my halau: kick off your slippahs, take up your ti leaves, move da hips, bend da knees, tell da story in your hands… and dance with me. Happy Mother’s Day! Mahalo to my Mother, for birthing me, for raising me, for teaching me the love of books and quiet time, for instilling respect of my heritage and my elders, for allowing this tomboy to trade crinolines for footballs, for music and horseback riding lessons, for my 1st Kamaka ukulele and my love of family, for standing in women's rights long before the vogue, and for dancing a distinctive and synchronous hula. Fearless and progressive, Mom provided forward-flow to my life. Mahalo and Aloha Mom. Me puuwai na oe.

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