Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Breaking Bad

"I don't give a damn about my bad reputation
I've never been afraid of any deviation"

I'm kind of a rebel.

I've always resented "the system" that expects one to live within the lines of social norm and I've intentionally worked against it throughout my life. When I was flying for Pan American, I thought it was unfair that married folks got to have their spouses fly free, while single folks' friends had to pay, so I got married just to share my flight benefits with a friend. I moved to Brazil because it seemed so foreign, I hitch-hiked and traveled alone and I've had sex on the first date, despite admonishments that none of those men would ever love me (many did, including my husband).

Of course I give a damn about my reputation, and I'm frequently hurt by others' judgments of me and my choices. But it doesn't affect my decisions. So when a boy 25 years my junior took a shine to me, after the initial shock of it, I thought, "What the hell?" and rolled with it. I knew from day one that it was crazy, that it would end in heartache, but I went all in. I let myself love him.

We got all kinds of reactions, none of them original. I was called a "cougar" by some friends, which I resent as sexist. People take for granted a younger woman with an older man but disdain the reverse. My girlfriends mostly accepted it as a lark and warned me not to take it too seriously. His male friends couldn't understand the attraction and he found himself having to defend our relationship again and again. It weighed on him, I know, because he brought it up weekly. And in the end, it was our demise, as expected.

And it hurts like hell. As expected. So why did I do it?

The context is important. I left an 18-year marriage to my closest friend - not to mention my beloved pets - and moved alone into a tiny studio six months before I met the boy. My job has become tedious and dissatisfying. I've been job searching, trying to make a career change for a year and half with very few nibbles. I've been picking up side jobs, like house cleaning, to make some extra money, because my current salary is barely enough to cover my expenses. I have a student loan hanging over my head that's gonna double in a few months. Although I have many great friends and get out dancing and carousing more often than ever before, I'm in a precarious, transitional period of my life without any assurances that it will work out alright.

I wanted something completely different from my last relationship. I wanted a break from my life. I was on the couch for 18 years; I needed to play and dance and try new stuff. I chanted him up, and there he was. I thought the Universe was throwing me a bone. I thought I was getting a do-over.

Never mind that there were so many red flags that should have made me run like hell. I tried, too, but I let him convince me he loved me and stuck it out for another go-round. Twice. I spent so much time feeling sad that he didn't act like a man in love, or anxious that he didn't or wouldn't call, that I lost 10 pounds in the three months we were together (we don't need to discuss the additional worry lines and bags under my eyes). I knew that, any day, he would reject me.

And in the end, he did.

I get it. The age difference was insurmountable. I just wish he had been braver and given me the courtesy of a conversation before declaring he would no longer be making love to me. Instead, he waited all night, dropped that piece of dreaded news like a turd on my pillow and promptly fell asleep, leaving me alone with the stench of it, gagging and feeling like a fool.

So why the fuck did I do it, knowing my heart would be shredded? 

I'm a relationship person. I long for connections with people and have dedicated my life to forging them. Even knowing that someone isn't a suitable mate, I will seek the experience and the connection with them anyway. Nobody can tell me who I can and can't love, damn it, I make my own rules! And there were ego and hormones involved. It feels good to be in love! It became a habit, thinking about him, being with him - even the anxiety is like a drug I'm still trying to kick.

I can't say I regret any of it, though. I'd do it all again. In fact, I just got a 3-month subscription to 

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