Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Word About Relationships

I’m going to enter TU Blogger Kristi Gustafson’s world for a bit, even though her stuff isn't really my bag. Maybe I’m just threatened because we’re the same height (6’0”), but for solace, I’m sure I would crush her in a pickup basketball game. Anyway, I’m going to talk about relationships. I assure you what follows won’t be brand new or groundbreaking. Just an interesting story. Or stories.

In the last two weeks my two best friends have ended long-term relationships. Both guys are about 30 years old. But that’s where the comparisons end. My first friend (we’ll call him Mick) lives in NYC. For the last two years he’s been dating a millionaire heiress, living in Manhattan, and rubbing elbows with Alec Baldwin and Mr. Big from Sex & the City. A real dream come true for a kid from Watervliet? Maybe. But he’s Ivy League educated and could make it to 57th Street on his own talents, trust me. And one day he will again, double trust me. Anyways, their relationship is over and he’s Queens bound on July 1. Sad? You’d think so. But Mick’s a positive guy, who’s dated a lot of girls, and he’s convinced the best is yet to come. He refuses to let a woman define him, and has always pledged to suck the marrow out of life. Selfish? Perhaps. So what. He reads, writes, travels, never says no to an adventure. Downside, he admits his relationships always grow stale, and when they do, he just let’s go. No tears or cinematic nonsense. He has no fear of ending up alone, despite the fact that most at his age get afraid of that, do anything to make sure it doesn’t happen. Mick’s good looking and makes good money. He sees the world for what it is. He knows the Sopranos is modern Shakespeare and Sarah Palin's a joke. He gets it. He’ll be alright in the end.

My other friend (Keith) lives outside of Troy. For the last two years he’s dated an older woman, who wanted Keith to act a certain way. She had a vision for their relationship, and that was that. Before her Keith had been divorced. When this older woman came along, he was convinced this was his chance to make a relationship work, to get it right. She became his world. Keith lived his life exactly the way she wanted him to. Did what she wanted, gave up habits adopted new ones, fought to keep her approval upright and rolling. In the end it wasn’t enough. She walked away over a minor misunderstanding, and Keith’s convinced she was his soul mate and he’ll never find another like her. He’s afraid of being 30 and alone and would do anything to avoid the pain that comes with a lost relationship. To him the hopelessness is too scary to think about, the loneliness that he believes will never end. Keith could have anything he wants in this world, but believes he has no identity without a woman. And the thought of testing the world’s waters is scary. Translation: He’s in Hell.

Someone once told me that nothing ends well, because if it was going well it wouldn’t end. All things end badly. I myself remember when I had to deal with a breakup. (You remember, the Chili’s waitress who made $150.00 a week and spent $500.00 on pedicures and purses.) I felt all those same feelings of fear and hopelessness that Keith feels now, and going on without her in my life was terrifying for a while. I was convinced she was my world, that I had no friends left, and would fade away without her. A few Alive at 5’s, Saturday nights on the loose with “Mick,” and trips to LBI and Virginia Beach, etc, made those feelings go away after a while. Then one day I woke up and the hurting was gone, which was hard because I had gotten used to the hurt, grew to like it, expect it, crave it. Soon after all that phony/necessary therapy, the real thing showed up. But no life can be defined by a relationship. It must be the other way around, or it isn’t right, right? It isn’t meant to be. Nobody should have to manufacture love or recreate who they are to appease their partner. When you’re with the right person, you’ll know that all the breakups, and bad luck, and broken hearts were what led you to that point and that person, led you to your best friend. And then you Thank God for it all. Wow, I just went way too Carrie Bradshaw there. If I start with the dumb puns you’ll know I’ve gone to the dark side for sure.

Maybe we’re looking for the same relationship our parents had because that’s what we’re used to and what we feel comfortable with. Maybe we’re looking for the exact opposite of what are parents had. Ask me: everything is parenting. My upbringing was a lot like the sitcom Roseanne. My dad was like Dan, my mother like Roseanne, and my aunt like the Jackie character. I kinda looked like Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years. Money was always an issue and fun came from simple things: homemade pizza, movie rentals with microwave pop corn, fires in the backyard pit. Although it's sad, I love the last scene in the sitcom Roseanne where she’s going around the kitchen table telling viewers what became of all the people in her family, and the whole time her husband Dan is trying to get her attention by being goofy or waving his hands at her. But by the time she gets to him, his chair is empty, and she reveals that he had died of a heart attack years before. All that was left was his voice calling “Rosey, Rosey.” Ironically, that’s kinda how my parents’ relationship ended. My father spent his whole adult life holding my mother’s attention, and now that he’s gone, she still struggles to function without it, accept the fact that his chair at the table will be empty forever. She knew she loved him in '86 when she was 28 and went in for emergency surgery, so she says. She told me how he cried and cried as they wheeled her away to the operating room, and at that moment she would’ve been all right dying, because she would’ve died knowing she had been loved. I guess that's what I'm looking for, in some way. Nobody understands that. But I do.

The lesson from Keith's and Mick’s breakups? Easy. Neither relationship was right, that’s why it didn’t work. The guys are complete opposites and the relationships themselves were totally different. But in the end they both shared the same fate. When it’s right, it’s right. Simple as that. Whether it’s NYC or South Troy. I think both guys will be OK. My only fear? Don’t these things always go in 3’s? Uh-oh.

Brian Huba

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