Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mars and Venus: Not a Zero Sum Game

Sometimes, when I’m at the supermarket waiting in line, I read the magazines they have displayed to pass the time. I grab one and open and random, just to see what I can see. What’s the world at large up to?

Emotional affairs, it seems. I don’t even know how to go into this all because, while the concept of an affair is easily understood, the underlying principals of this one article seemed to be that 1) Love is finite. You only get so much. Once you use up your day’s supply, you’re s.o.l. & 2) Adults of the opposite sex can not be friends. Ever. As in never ever ever ever.

A very big W.T.F. moment for me.

It starts like this: an article written confession style about this woman who realized she had entered into an emotional affair with a gentleman at work. Okay. What’s an emotional affair, I wonder, intrigued. I read on and learn that, according to the author, it’s when you spend all your emotions on someone other than your primary partner, and you have no more left to invest in that primary partner. Love, it would seem, is finite. You get an allotment, not sure if it’s each morning, or night, or week, or month, whatever, but apparently, once it’s gone, you don’t get no more, son. Now, I later did research to confirm this and apparently, this is not the widely accepted definition of the emotional affair. That has a far more complex set of criteria and equates to roll playing As the World Turns primarily over the internet, i.e. engaging in a fantasy affair with a person who must first fist your fantasy criteria, be into your brand of drama, and should you two ever meet, would fall seriously short of the fantasy stats of the characters you both portray. Which, dear reader, is certainly fodder for another blog. But let me not digress.

'Love is finite' struck me as patronizing, and simple minded. Does that mean, if one day I love my cat too much, my husband gets less of my love? Do I have to save my love for special occasions? The author was female in name, but there was something strange weaving through the narrative. I thought to myself, it’s like a subtle brainwashing. From what the person described, she exchanged emails with this man in a professional environment and went to the odd meeting with him. They never did the horizontal bop nor did they even consider or hint at that. They exhanged the occasional laugh, over the span of a year. And yet it read as lurid as any dime store pulp novel of outrageously tawdry sex and deprivation.

Okay. I’ll admit it. I was hooked. I had to know more, if only to understand what in the hell this author was raving about. I stepped out of line to finish the rest of the article. It was like watching an accident where you can’t turn away. At the end here is what I concluded: if I buy into the concept that should I dare use any emotions on another during the day I am shortchanging my primary partner, in this case a husband, and that this behavior would most certainly lead to something dangerous. Having a friend of the opposite sex. For you see, there is one thing we need to know, by virtue of this author's experience.

Men and women. Can. Not. Be. Friends.

Speaking as a woman who had a best man at her wedding instead of a maid of honor, I was a little stunned. Who knew? Mars and Venus could not be amicable, in any way, shape or form. And if they thought they were, they were just lying to themselves.

The author had a very conversational style, as if she were gossiping with you over a cup of tea and crumpets between vacuuming the living room in her pearls, and garbing herself in saran wrap and nothing else to greet her man at the door after a hard day in the trenches. If you are a woman, and you are married, and you should run across a man either in professional or personal circles, and you should dare venture into the realm of friendship, you are letting the devil in and allowing him to steal the small coins that are your limited emotional currency. He’s mowing your man’s lawn, so to speak. If a man is behaving in a friendly manner, he wants to get into your pants. I think that’s the sum total I came away with. Now, years ago, that worked as a great sex ed talk from my grandfather, and it did stand the test of time through the hormonal years, but, I also managed to come away with a number of male friends where there was never anything other than friendship, and those friendships continue to this day. So I'd say sometimes there's fire to that smoke, and other times, there ain't. It's hardly an always situation, and any good mathemeitican worth her salt would tell you them's a sucker's odds. 50/50 is pretty much anyone's game.

And, my stars, I’ve acquired other male friends during my married years. And female friends that prefer women to men. Do they count in this equation? Gods it’s all so confusing. And then you start with the math, adding, subtracting, percentages, haves and have nots. Sheesh!

I have genuine affection for my friends. I have professional acquaintances that have evolved into friends. We have couple friends, where I can speak on intimate terms with either. And still, I somehow manage to have enough emotional coins left to spend with my spouse. How is all this possible, given the world view of the author, I think?

Now, a lot of this starts off with funny emails and business emails, she cautions. Well, I guess I’m fucked then, because most of what I write with folks are either funny emails, business emails, or some combination there of. In fact, I even put the little face pictures in those emails to make sure everyone knows how much emotion I’m running when I write them. Oh dear! And yet, my bank balance doesn’t seem to run down.

I don’t mean to minimize the significance of the emotional affair. Given the actual definition in other articles, it’s a very real thing. They’ve caused very real, very painful situations and dissolutions of unions.

This article, however, took something that is real and warped it into this twisted diatribe the likes of which blew my simple little mind. I think what caught my attention was the belief that love and emotions can’t be infinite, and that woman, read 'Eve', can not be trusted with another snake in the garden. It put me in mind of the old romances where the other woman was the big black moment. And it put me in mind of how important in writing it is to ensure your heroine is not that woman: you know: too stupid to live? To stupid to make decisions. Too stupid to be friends on equal footing with a member of the opposite sex. *snort* Could you just puke? Really!!!! Perhaps this Eve, she's a snake charmer, or snake wrangler, and can handle herself just fine? There's some outside of the box thinking for you.

I think what it came down to was the claws of the old trying to hold onto the fast evolving future, where woman is a decision maker with a life outside of the household, and one that is not on hold for anyone. Because the flip side of this author not having enough for her man was her man not having enough for her, and that underlying threat of abandoment. I think what I love most about romance novels is that love and hope abounds. There’s enough for everyone to go around, so much so, it bleeds into other books. Romances are not stingy. The characters, like anyone living a rich, full, complex life, give it 110% without worry that they'll wake up the next day without enough to get them through. And romances are modernizing now, so that our heroine has a full rich life, that she lets the hero into, and does not dispose of so she can keep the him by her side. The hero stands taller still because he doesn't need to sweat that independent life she has and enjoys. Sure, he gets jealous, he gets possesive, however, he gets it. He gets her. And he doesn't try to lock her away, or lock away love and dole it out only on some banker's schedule.

Mars and Venus. They can be friends. They can be lovers. And they don't play a zero sum game.


K said...

I believe that the opposite is true. Love is infinite. The more you love, the more you will be loved, the more you will love in return (love is contagious like smiles).

As for men and women being friends, I have quite a few great male friends.

Kaz Augustin said...

Aw, that crap really gets me. It also sets up an artificial adversarial dynamic between the sexes that's so wrong. Most of my best friends have been male.

Methinks the writer was looking for some kind of excuse to rationalise the fact that her marriage is falling apart.

Ursula said...

K, I agree completely. Love has an infinate quality. I think the article described comes from the scarcity perspective. Very defeatest.

Ursula said...

Good observation, Kaz. It does seem like the writer is trying to shift blame, come off as the wronged one without taking any ownership.