Friday, January 27, 2012

How Does One Stay The "New Toy" Forever?

I can’t remember (and am WAY too lazy to do the research to check) if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but one of the things I most adore about my Dad is the way that he always makes it feel like my arrival is a wonderful occasion.  No matter how recently we talked or saw each other or how mundane the occasion my Dad is always and sincerely thrilled to see or hear from me.  Like I’m saying he and I could talk on the phone for an hour and then sign off, and then I could realize I forgot to ask him what size shoe he wears or how many ounces in a gallon and call him right back to cover that super-important detail and even though we were just talking only minutes before when my Dad hears my voice he still honestly sounds thrilled to hear that its me.  This is about the best quality a person could have and my Dad has it in gallons.  (or a BUNCH of ounces, because apparently there are 128 of those in a gallon!)

When T.E. and I first met this was a quality that I recognized in him:  that he was so eager for my time and attention.  That he seemed like he, too, couldn’t get enough of me; wanted to hear all about me and my days and my stuff.  He would even be bold-faced in his interest to the point he’d ask incredibly personal questions or to read my emails or listen in on phone calls.  He knew that it was pretty danged nosey but he was unapologetic about it because it all came from wanting to know everything about me.  He was that enthusiastic and I will admit that I loved it.  I joked that it was just “new toy syndrome” – that thing that so many people do when they find a new person and are fascinated by the coolness and the differentness and the just plain newness of the new person.  But I was the Buzz Lightyear of his world right then and I would take every bit of it.

Now look, I know that everybody talks about how relationships can’t keep up the level of intensity with which they start – this has been repeated over and over, and I’m sure that just about everybody out there believes this to be the sad fact:  eventually things have to become boring and average and plain and you just can’t keep feeling so over-the-moon about a person.  You just can’t.  Honestly I’ve had some people explain it to me with such fervor and certainty that it almost seemed like they wanted it to be true; wanted to know that nobody could possibly maintain that level of intensity.  It’s just not possible.

Is it?

This spring I read this book written by the last woman to love the great comedian George Carlin.  Here’s this book about one of the crustiest, surliest, most curmudgionesque icons of this or the last century and it’s all about how he never, ever stopped courting this woman that he loved.  He, contrary to popular and very depressing belief, felt like it was totally up to him when he should stop doing the things that make us fall in love with each other in the beginning – notes, gifts, gestures, lovely words and amazing acts – and he decided that the time to stop doing that stuff was never.  And when the man is right, he’s just plain right.  So this became my rule too -- never stop courting.

The enthusiasm that T.E. had for me in the beginning was intoxicating and made me feel fascinating and amazing and just possibly worth all this attention.  I ate it up with a spoon shovel industrial grade forklift.  I also made very sure to lavish him with the same level of fascination, which was easy because I felt it just as strongly.  And to this day I still do.  Every morning, no matter what time I have to drag my sad, old bones out of my super-snuggly bed, the thing I’m most eager to do as soon as possible is get online and see if T.E. is around to talk to.  There’s this tiny little whisper noise that our main chat application uses to indicate someone has logged on and when I hear that noise my heart skips a beat every.  Single.  Time.  I adore every minute with him, and I’m really excited and proud that my level of adoration has maintained even after years and distance and age difference and even a little heartache.

When T.E. and I first connected there was another big difference in his world as compared to now:  his social life was pretty quiet.  He was just finishing up his equivalent of high school and, as is often the case the end of the summer after graduating from high school, most of his chums were heading off to new adventures.  As a result he had a lot of time available to chat with me, his newest toy.  But as the years have gone on and he’s started his University experience and built an amazing new social group of bright, funny, cool people his “new toy” attentions have waned.  Given our time differences I’m often that thing he can do for a while at the end of his day before he goes to sleep.  The more social fun he has with his chums the later the end of his day is, and the less time before sleep needs to happen. 

Recently I’ve realized that gradually I’ve become his “if there’s nothing else to do” option.  If he doesn’t have fun social things to do with his group there’s always me to chat with, waiting eagerly on the other end of the skype line because I’m still that excited to make our connection whenever I can get it.  For a while it seemed romantic, but now I have to admit I’m starting to feel like the classic old toy:  that old, beat-up, dog-eared teddy bear that you’ve had since forever but you really only cuddle up to when the world has treated you roughly and you need the kind of hug that only your old toy can give you.  I love being here for him, but sometimes this dusty, lonely old shelf can seem a little sad.

If I were a better, person – closer to the person I thought I was before I actually fell in love with someone – I’d decide to walk away from this and show my independence and my ‘stand on my own two feet’-etedness and all.  But one of the rules that T.E. and I have been very clear about is 100% honesty between us, and if I’m being 100% honest all of this doesn’t change the fact that I think about him constantly and clamor for the chance to connect.  So for now you’ll find me where he does:  between the Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots and that damned Jack in the Box.

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