Thursday, May 14, 2009


if you're very lucky then it will happen to you once or twice or several times over the course of your life that you'll spend a smitten season with someone, and with this someone romance, when it concludes, concludes simply and in an easy affection.  smittenhood itself lives on. smittenhood deepens, even.

i'm very lucky.  so lucky!  but my friend hannah (with whom i spent a smitten season) is moving away.  i'm feeling surprisingly stricken!  she's moving bravely, i think, to an unfamiliar city where she'll learn to do the work she loves, and work in a new way on the love she's in (grad school, in other words, and the pleasure of domestic partnership).  so we're all being scheduled, all of us lucky ones, for a little quality hannah time before she goes, and mine was yesterday.  i should have been writing a paper, as i should be writing a paper now, but it was such a worthwhile conversation, as our conversations are (i can't say how much i'll miss them).

hannah and i have both been thinking some, for various personal and pragmatic reasons, about domesticity.  i feel surrounded by it all of a sudden.  i'm sure it wasn't actually sudden.  i'm sure it sauntered up to me slowly, in plain sight, waving.  but here it is-- a collective turning inward toward shared homes, and marriages, and pets, and babies.  everybody wants a damn baby!  i can't even love babies without being accused of wanting them, too.  can't i like babies for themselves, for being awesome, without self-serving motives like wanting to own one and dress it up and do things i think are cute?

not coincidentally, i think, i've made a series of apparently offensive comments over the last few weeks regarding the children, pets, and relationship dynamics of my friends.  frankly, i haven't said anything that i'd never thought to myself (or even said out loud) before, but i've begun to say these things too loudly and at just the wrong moment.  i've been courting confrontation.

the summer i met hannah was a conspicuously undomestic moment in both our lives, and this was reflected in the politics and circumstances of our friends and wider community.  'i was living on whisky and air' she said, and i was explicitly practicing a kind of friendly pluralism in which anything like the formal or informal expectations and hierarchies that come along with romantic relationships were strictly prohibited.  and this was, it's true, a moment, but our views and commitments weren't, i think, fad-ish.  i was two years in to a four year stint of this way of doing things, and most all of our friends were trying for something a little weird, where they were trying for anything at all.

i still think that there's something ethically dubious about the expectations and hierarchies that tend to structure romantic relationships.  on the one hand, arranging one's priorities and expectations around a single other person can undermine other relationships-- to friends, to oneself.  but i also wonder if the relationship in question-- the very one being prioritized-- doesn't tend to wither under the weight of prioritization and expectation.  right or wrong, i've spent a long time trying to live by the conviction that one way of making relationships sustainable is to resist the impulse to expect, and, spun out to it's conclusion, this conviction has at times led me pretty far off the beaten path, romance wise. 

my concerns aside, this primary relationship business seems to be what people are up to these days, even me, sort of.  and i'm mostly proud and impressed and happy.  this winter i visited with another old friend,  unexpectedly living with someone and liking it, and she said to me that loving someone alone is not reason enough to think that you can make domesticity last.  partnership-- sharing your life with another person-- is the deepest kind of compromise.  it's an agreement to negotiate on the most important and distinctive features of what your life will be like.  you have to think, she said, that this kind of compromise is valuable in itself-- not just something yr willing to put up with because you love someone.  loving someone is one thing, wanting to be close to them no matter the cost-- honestly, that shit's a dime a dozen.  any asshole can fall in love, and they generally do.  it's another thing to think of someone that your own life would go better if it were decided by what you come up with together, even through conflict, then it would guided by your judgment alone-- to think that even the conflict itself generates something of vital importance-- that you're better for it.  conflict will always be a reason to leave if you see things any other way.

i'm not sold on it yet, myself.  it might be a good way to do things, and it might not be.  it might be a good way to do things for some people, but not for everyone.  "it" might be several different kinds of things misleadingly disguised as one, or one thing misleading disguised as several.  i don't know.  but i'm lucky, as i've mentioned.  i'm surrounded by people i trust and admire who i can observe and talk with as they run their own on-going experiments on how a life might best be lived.  h.lewis is just one bravewondefullovemess of an example.  the greater the diversity of the experiments, earnestly undertaken, the more i learn and the better i can imagine.  and the less fucking cranky i get.  i want to romance my friends, and be a friend to my girlfriend, and i want my friends to be my teachers, and i want to treat babies like they're my friends, too.

hannah helped me think about it.  she's put a damper on my bitchery with brave thoughtful goodwill, and thereby saved the rest of you from my aggressive heckling.  sucks for you, she's leaving.  no wait, sucks for me.  no wait, i'm so happy!  another city with a comfortable couch i can sleep on. xo, HL-- xo.

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