Response Crafting

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On the brink of everything

Last Monday, I woke up to a 7 am text telling me I was on a 9:15 flight. I was up, packed and out the door in 15 minutes. I was flying standby to see my factory.

Truthfully, when I say “my” factory, I mean the one I’ll probably work with, at least for a while. And when I say “factory,” I mean sew shop, which is smaller. But when I call it a “sew shop” people only hear “shop” and then they think I have a storefront and wonder why it’s in another a state. (Then again, when they hear “factory” they think “sweat shop,” so it’s really a lose/lose, which is just part of the reason why I tend to not spend a ton of time getting people up to speed when they ask “how’s business?” That, and I just spend way too much of my day talking and thinking about it as it is.)

I’d been meaning to take this trip for weeks, struggling to fit in between client appointments, production, and capricious flight loads. And now it’s like a perfect storm of “open” across all three and here’s this text on my phone at 7 am, and I’m now making this 24-hour trip to another state. I even got the middle seat, which I love. (Seriously. Don’t make it weird.)

Most normal days, I am on client appointments all over the city and working on production in town for this little company that I started earlier this year, and more often than not, I feel good about the way that company is growing.  I work odd hours and every day, though frankly I kinda dig it. I ride a motorcycle to see my clients, which makes no sense at all in terms of either professionalism or product representation, because I sell dresses, but I don’t care, either count.

I spend most of my time with – or thinking about – clients, playing this game of “being a woman” and trying to better understand them, as it pertains to my business but also in general. And I love my clients and love solving the fit problem for them; love meeting them and making them feel awesome. But part of starting a business is that you will go a little crazy – first from isolation and then from client interactions, because they take on a certain nature that’s deeply satisfying, but only in very particular ways. End of day, I want little more than to crack open a beer and talk to a dude, about anything other than dresses.

It takes a degree of risk-taking to do things. You make these tremendous investments in areas of your life and you’ve got energy outstretched way beyond your core in one direction, you end up doing things to balance it out in others. You toe the line of recklessness and sometimes you have to brush up against the wall to know it’s there. It’s deliberate and it’s rowdy, it’s tender and it’s rough.

You practice restraint in some areas; you bleed out in others.

I love my clients. But moreover, I love the game. And then the game seeps into your life and that right there is the shit.

This December, I turned 30.

I am super excited about this.

I have felt 30 for years – at least half a dozen; maybe more. In a way, I’ve always been 30. One of my dearest guy friends tells me I’ve been 30 since we met in high school, and I’ve been telling strangers in bars “I’m 30” since this time last year. I take pause each time someone asks my age. How old am I? Eh, 30 sounds right.

Designer Diane von Furstenberg wrote, in her memoir “The Woman I Wanted to Be:”

“When I turned twenty and my mother asked me, ‘How does it feel to be twenty?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve been telling people I’ve been twenty for so long that it doesn’t make a difference.’”

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Christopher Dugas

That’s my 30. I’m finally legitimate. Like most people’s 21, when you can walk into a bar and use your real ID for the first time. Like, yeah, you’ve been drinking for years, but now you’re a real boy! It’s a thing.

I’m even at peace with the less exciting parts. I regard my fine lines with amused interest; the extent of my concern not going much further than assessing whether they’re age or dehydration / fatigue (because there is a difference.) I’ve been eyeing my hairline for my first gray hair for months – and I haven’t anticipated a change in my body with this much attentiveness since I was waiting on my first period. It’s not excitement, per say, but it’s also not dread. Rather, it’s an eager acceptance, like “c’mon c’mon! Let’s get this over with already so I don’t have to be surprised.”

I have so much other living to do.

People started asking me a few months ago what I wanted to do for my 30th, and I told them “a huge blowout!” Then added “and none of that ‘kiss your 20’s goodbye’ sadness!” Because this is exciting – like graduating college. (And I say that as someone who skipped her own college graduation ceremony. To be fair, I was sitting for the CFA exam that day, but that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t go, which made my mother worry I hadn’t really graduated, a concern resolved only when I asked my alma mater to send a copy of my diploma home to her.)

But I wanted The Whole Thing turning 30: champagne, bottle service at a club, confetti from the ceiling, sparklers, maybe a flying Pegasus – I don’t know. But I wanted my own little personal New Year’s Eve. Because it is.

There was a time when I thought I’d celebrate my 30th by buying a designer handbag. Instead, I bought another bike.

My excitement with turning 30 has a lot to do with shedding the connotations of a girl in her 20’s, which become assumptions, then expectations, then burdens.

When you’re in your 20’s, people put shit on you. And they also strip shit away. Women older than you hate you for no reason at all. They come at you in the office break room, telling you as you’re refilling your Styrofoam cup with bad coffee: “I’d give anything to have my 20’s back. Enjoy it while you can.” And you’re just left standing there with your mousy ponytail and loose-fitting business-casual clothes, too young to know who’s right to feel uncomfortable. Men eye you in uninvited ways, and you haven’t yet figured out how to redirect that. You get a lot of backhanded compliments like “you’re smart for as young as you are.” Or worse, lines like “you’re younger than me. You don’t know.” 

Which, in a way, can be true. Until it’s not.

Finally turning 30 feels like being free of the burden. It’s getting up and announcing to a crowded room: “alright, I’ve played by your rules. Now it’s time for mine.” 

HOW WE GOT TO NOW 

Throughout my 20’s, I had a list of things I thought I wanted by 30. A lot of them were the generic, check-boxy things that people do – and the sort of things we all advise on down the line back to others. I graduated college,  made six digits, invested in the 401k, drank water, figured out some hobbies and interests, strengthened my relationship with my parents…  I also loved, lost, backpacked through Europe, read, ate some Oreos, moved to new cities, figured out what kind of wine and whisky I like, and discovered that not only is friendship harder as an adult, but intimate relationships are too (both, however, are also a lot more meaningful than whatever we had during school.) 

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Christopher Dugas

But at some point, you’re like “hold up.” Do these things really make me happy?

Because the checklist things can become just things we barricade ourselves with. We build little fortress walls of “achievements” we can point to whenever we wonder about our own lives. Like “nah, I’m alright – I got married” or “I make money; it’s okay.”

And maybe at some point you get serious and ask yourself: what really makes shit worthwhile? And if you could only pick one thing that mattered, what would it be? Because focus is everything.

Mine was starting a company. I got the fever like most women my age start to get frenzied about marriage and babies. It’s been everything since I started. And it was a major step in meaning and purpose and problem solving. 

And if that’s the snapshot of meaningful work as I round 30, there’s also a snapshot of thinking. About business and people. Friendship and love and life.

HOW TO “LIFE” and other things I think I know

Look, I don’t have it all figured out. But I have thoughts on a few things. And at this point, here’s what I’ve got and what I’m working on…

My own big list of Do This, Not That:

  • Pursue meaning over happiness. Chasing happiness for the sake of happiness, especially if it’s in the form of hedonism, isn’t real. Happiness is a side effect of pursuing purpose and problem-solving. 
  • Make decisions out of growth, not fear. And sometimes fear looks a lot like “comfort.” It can also be avoidance or escape. Don’t do things just because you’re afraid of the alternative. Don’t not do things because you’re afraid of the outcome. Live balls out and see how far it gets you. (You’d be surprised how far it gets you.) If you’re not growing, you’re dying. 
  • Choose creation over consumption. The latter is only sadness. 
  • Action over deliberation. At some point, planning becomes procrastination. Do something. 
  • Don’t be scared; just try. 
  • Assume a position of ownership over victimhood. Take responsibility. Even if for nothing more than your own response, because that’s always in your control. 
  • People over process. Especially in management, but probably also life. 
  • Progress over perfection. Done is better than perfect. Just ship it. 
  • Move towards, not away. Frame decisions in terms of acquisition, not avoidance. (Though sometimes knowing your “away” can help define your “towards.”)
  • Be “definite” rather than “indefinite.” Lifted from Peter Thiel. Choose something and go deep. Being a little bit of everything means you aren’t much of anything.
  • Invest in things that appreciate, rather than depreciate. When it comes to money and time, but also mental energy and the investments in yourself. Looks fade. 
  • Make major life decisions (kids, work, marriage, etc.) for the right reasons (see above.)

Also, other general good things to bear in mind:

  • People frame things in terms of themselves. The reason people do things is because of and for them, not you. This is good to remember in business and relationships alike. 
  • “Burn the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melts in storage.” Don’t let things be so precious you don’t even use them. Drive your luxury car, wear your designer shoes, and drink the Dom before some punk kids break into your place and steal it.
  • Or just slum it. If you’re not going to enjoy the car, champagne and clothes, don’t bring them into your life. If you want to appreciate things, don’t get adapted to them.
  • “It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” And I haven’t even seen the Rocky films.
  • Don’t make excuses. Bonus points for not accepting others’ excuses, either. 

HOW TO CAREER

This isn’t my focus anymore and there’s already a ton of material out there, but here are the two things I’d share with anyone asking:

1. Promote yourself

I understand that loads of people have stuck it out with one company and made great money – that’s fantastic for them. But here’s what worked for me: I worked at six companies between graduation and now, not including my own. I transitioned from corporate banking to custom software to a software startup, and with regard to moving up in a career, understand this: companies are not in the business of promoting you. This isn’t Boy Scouts, and their purpose isn’t to hand out badges. They are running a business and are incentivized to get a job done. To the extent that you’re good and they want to keep you and keeping you involves the occasional bonus or promotion, they’ll do so, but it isn’t a primary goal for them like it probably is for you. You think you’re worth more? That’s on you. “If you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth.” Either with them, or elsewhere.

2. If you’re managing people, don’t be a douchetool

This, I do still care about. Deeply. If you’re a manager, care about people, then products, then process. Never the other way around. I’ve had horrendous managers who had no business managing people, and I’ve also had great ones. The difference between them is this:

  • Understand the domain of the work
  • …Then admit to the limitations of your understanding
  • Hire people who are better at the job and/or domain than you are
  • Trust them to do a good job (if you don’t trust them to do the job, you shouldn’t have hired them for it)
  • Praise publicly, criticize privately
  • “Eat last” – take care of your team’s needs before your own
  • If you want them to throw themselves at the work for you, take every blow possible for them
  • Let them take pride in their work
  • Let them take the shot
  • In the very least, I don’t know, read a management book or something. Or, if you’re just real pressed for time, try out Napoleon Hill’s essay on Leadership.  

HOW TO STARTUP

i.e., what I’ve been doing since leaving “Career.” I still mostly have no idea what I’m doing, but here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Do it for the right reason: solve a problem 
  2. To get huge value, give huge value
  3. To give huge value, figure out what they value most.
  4. Understand others by understanding yourself 
  5. Focus on growth above and beyond everything else.
  6. Define growth as “sales,” long-term
  7. Learn how to sell
  8. Manage your mindset

HOW TO BE A WOMAN

I do not do a very reassuring job of being a woman. On the one hand, “how to be a woman,” as a woman, should be as simple as doing whatever the hell you want, because it’s not like a label that can be stripped away. But on the other hand, there are social norms and shit, and I still haven’t decided which ones I care about and how much.

ON BEHAVIOR

I am rough around the edges and perhaps a little reckless. I’ve done some cool shit and like to think of myself as a pretty cool person, but I am not a “lady.”

As women, there’s an overarching expectation to behave. To fit into a situation rather than drive it; to supplement the lives of others rather than lead any charge, and frankly? That’s all bullshit.

I hope to god people have more to say at my funeral than “she was pretty. And pleasant.” 

What a tragic waste of a human life – my own – that would be.

I once dated a guy who thought it was a greater offense when I dabbed my bread into the butter ramekin at dinner with friends than when one of his buddies across the table told me – for the umpteenth time – that my breasts were too small for his taste.

Amy Schumer said “You become a woman the first time you stand up for yourself when they get your order wrong at a diner.” But it’s really when you finally just stand up for your right to a self-respecting seat at the table.

It’s not about being rough for the sake of being rough – I don’t need to make a point of being a “nasty woman” – but it is about confidence and self-worth.

I wanted a motorcycle for about ten years, and over that time dated a dude or two who had one. They never wanted to ride as much as I did and never wanted to teach me to ride on my own and for a long time I sort of thought this was okay. But after I broke up with them and made a certain salary, it suddenly occurred to me: “whose permission am I waiting on?” and I bought one. And to date, it was the best purchase I’ve ever made. That thing brings me immeasurable amounts of joy, rain or shine or cold.

People ask me if I have a bike because my boyfriend does. On the contrary, one of the reasons I am with my current boyfriend is because he knows a thing or two about bikes.

Being a woman – and not a little girl – means realizing you’re entitled to your own seat at the table, your own boobs, your own bike, your own self respect… preferences, opinions, thoughts, and questions. Even when it makes people uncomfortable, and it doesn’t fall in the category of “pleasant.”

“Now that I’m out of school and there’s no threat of a principal’s office looming down the hall, I ask whatever the fuck questions I want. It feels pretty good. Pretty womanly, too.” -Amy Schumer

Humanly, in any case. Which is more important.

ON BEAUTY 

I’m in awe that we think “beautiful” is still the highest compliment we can pay most women – or what many women regard as the highest compliment they can receive.

I’ve never measured my self-worth first and foremost by my appearance, and I’ve never viewed others this way, so I was shocked when the realization caught up to me and hit me like a ton of bricks somewhere in my mid-20’s. Suddenly this “truth” was everywhere and I realized it’d been there the whole time.

“I’m not the first to point out how women are taught that our value comes from how we look, and that it takes a lifetime (or at least until menopause) for most women to undo this awful lie…Women who relied only on their beauty can feel invisible later in life.” -Diane von Fürstenberg

That’s an awful long time to live without valuing yourself properly.

I don’t understand why we do this to ourselves. I mean, have you ladies not heard that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent?

I’ve met fantastic women in their 30’s and 40’s who are harboring deep unhappiness and will confide in me, over our third glass of wine, that every year their husband gets more and more attractive – while they become less and less pretty. And they let this heartbreak destroy them from the inside.

But the most shocking thing is they put that invisibility on themselves. And they strangle every other part of their being – and everything else that makes them amazing – in their pursuit of something fleeting.

“Counting too much on your appearance limits one’s growth.” -Diane von Fürstenberg

There’s just so much more to life than that. We’ve got so much other living to do.

ON BODY

One of my great gratitudes to my mother is for raising me with a healthy body image. I became vaguely aware of body consciousness in high school, of course, though I wasn’t quite sure how it worked and so was never all that great at it. (At 15, my boyfriend’s mother greeted me with the now-familiar female coo “you look great – have you lost weight?” and I blinked and replied, “I wouldn’t know. I don’t weigh myself.” Looking back, all awkwardness was on her.)

My roommate (and now best friend) and I of course did the college girl thing of hanging photos of Victoria’s Secret models, torn from the catalogues, up in our dorm room. One of my still-dearest guy friends, a digital media student who already knew about all things photoshop, came in one day, took one look at it, and said, “Darling, take that down. You’re comparing yourself to something not even she has achieved.” That is still today one of the most powerful body-image lessons I ever got.

Early-20s phase aside, I am very fortunate – and grateful – to have a healthy, happy perspective of my body. When I am occasionally asked what surgery I would get if I ever did, I shrug and answer, “Lasik?” You may think this comes naturally to someone who has a pleasant build, but you’d be surprised what sort of body image woes plague beautiful women – I have had friends built like runway models who don’t like their knees. I work with women’s bodies every single day, and every single woman – right down to the petite, size-zeros – wishes her belly was just a little flatter. We put this shit on ourselves. I do what I can to not.

…WITH OTHER WOMEN

I often don’t share women’s biggest goals (husbands, babies) and even our higher-level values often feel unaligned. They’re shocked I ride a motorcycle and I’m like “yeah, I mean… there’s not an application or anything.” I’m not real into dresses (despite making them) and makeup and doing my hair; I strike very few people as “soft” or “warm” or any number of other things women are “supposed” to be. Boyfriends’ female friends dislike me, I have a very select number of female friends, and most of my female bosses have fired me or asked me to leave. Just for starters.

I upset a lot of women – and probably some men – with the way I “woman.”

(1) I don’t care for the “women’s issues” conversations. I don’t want to talk about gender issues, and the “women’s fight” is not my fight. I don’t like the way they define the issues as being all women and only women – my favorite example of this being the “women have families” argument in defense of work:life balance. Because not all women have kids. And men have kids too. This stereotype isn’t helping. It’s holding us back. Women come at me with these grandiose statements that are supposed to be about “me,” and I’m supposed to care as a default, but girl, there are only so many hours in the day, and taking some kind of political position for work:life balance is literally the opposite of my jam right now.

(2) I do my best to avoid anything where they’ve put the “women” prefix in front of shit. “Women in tech” events are probably the worst offenders, and they are an absolute waste of my time. Because rather than talking about tech, as women, all they do is huddle around and gab about being women and all of our woes and struggles in tech, all while being kinda hostile to any male allies in the room. I don’t want to circle around and talk about being a woman – I don’t feel compelled to get any better at that. I want to talk about the domain. 

You want to know what’s holding you all back? Bullshit conversations like these. If you want to make headway in anything as a woman (or a man), focus on the thing itself.

I side with Morgan Freeman when he criticized Black History Month, saying,

“Stop talking about [race]. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, ‘I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.’ Hear what I’m saying?”

I don’t care as much about being a “woman” as I do about being a “human being.” If you want to stop being seen as the “other,” stop calling it out. Men – white or otherwise – don’t stand around and talk about what it means to be a “man in tech.” I don’t want to, either.

A lot of women share this viewpoint. Amy Schumer said, regarding the release of Trainwreck:

It felt pretty demeaning when they called it a ‘female comedy.’ This meaningless label painted me into a corner and forced me to speak for all females… They don’t ask Seth Rogen to be ALL MEN! They don’t make ‘men’s comedies.'”

“The pressure is on. Because the movie doesn’t have to do well so that I can feel proud of it or so the studio can make money – it has to do well for the 50 percent of the population I am now apparently representing… I write about my life and how I see and experience the world, without assuming that my views are universal.”

That. And I go as far as to add: it goes both ways. I don’t want other women’s  experiences being assigned to me either, especially when they expect them to override my own.

…WITH MEN

There’s something here about balance and negotiation and push-pull. Depending on what you want from dudes – friendship or a partnership or professional support – I guess you have to make space for them to coexist.

For a long time I would just do what I wanted to do and let dudes figure out where they wanted to stand in relation to it, but maybe there’s something to say for actually carving that space out in opposites. Which can be frustrating, because “carving out space” for them sometimes looks and feels a lot like “being a lady,” i.e., being warm and soft and pleasant, which I either cannot or will not do enough of, or consistently. (See above.) I shouldn’t have to soften for a man to feel Like A Man, and a man’s masculinity shouldn’t hinge on how convincing my “femininity” is.

Sometimes I think I can get away with being one of the dudes, and I can say and do whatever I want without intimate implications. I once told my mom “I can’t wait to be the age where I can just tell a dude he’s attractive without him assuming it’s on.” And she laughed and goes “oh honey, that’s never.” And I was like, well, shit.

I just want to be able to tell a dude he has nice hands without him and half the dudes within earshot thinking It Means Something.

HOW TO LOVE

Balance, give and take, and what’s healthy

How to give enough. How not to give away too much. What’s okay and what isn’t. Whether you’re improving as a partner and listening better and accommodating… or relinquishing your self worth and self respect. You read these resources on what it means to have a “healthy” relationship and you’re like “surely nobody really nails all of these! That’s just not real.” So then it’s a matter of understanding which are non-negotiable and which are only nice to have, and whether you’re permitted to pick and choose. 

Real love / loving someone for the right reason

Some of the wrong reasons are obvious. “Beauty” and “money” are clear to most people.

But I’m pretty sure there’s a slew of other bad reasons to be with someone, like: you want someone to travel with. Or someone to have kids with. Or because you’re afraid of being alone. Or it’s just time to settle down. Or you’re not sure what else to do with your life. Or everyone else is doing it.

And you may be with someone and think you got it right. But the truth is, nothing will save you from the day you ask the person you love most why they love back and they say “because you’re beautiful.” Full stop.

It’s like that scene from 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl’s character finds out that the local wedding announcements are written by someone who hates weddings, and she says, “I feel like I just found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich.”

That, except the “song” is your real life.

Pushed to add more, they may go on to say “and because you agree with me on religion and politics! We’re like the same person.” Which is weird as phrasing alone, but even weirder when you don’t, and aren’t. And you’re just left standing there with your dick in your hand, realizing you wasted good love – with right reasons – on carnival games you were dumb enough to think were the love of your life.

Loving someone vs. loving the idea of them.

Only loving the idea of someone means you actually love a bunch of ancillary things that could easily be stripped away: their looks, their job, the fact that you both have the same hobbies.

It also looks a lot like:

  • Making a checklist of your Ideal Partner and then looking for someone to fit into it
  • Loving only those checklist things, and remaining oblivious or indifferent to anything else about them
  • Falling in love with them hard and fast
  • Calling them your “everything.” No single person should be “everything” to you. If they are, you’ve assigned far too much value to them. It’s not romantic. It’s sad.
  • Loving drastically different things about them than what they love about themselves, especially if your things are “smaller” or less consequential (like, yeah, beauty.)
  • Loving showing them off to friends, family, colleagues – acquaintances
  • Being routinely – or even periodically – surprised by their actions or words
  • Loving how “easy” the relationship is, and cherishing not putting in a ton of effort
  • Feeling impatient whenever they have complaints or concerns you don’t share or agree with
  • Loving them because you love having a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife and they’re yours
  • Losing feelings for them when you meet someone else

I don’t know what it would look like for someone to really love someone for real. That’s why it’s an open question. 

The reality is, to some extent, we all do this. We say we love people unconditionally, but short of parent’s love of a child, we don’t mean that. If your partner went crazy and wanted to spend the rest of his or her life counting out grains of rice one by one, would you stay with them? I mean, that’s the real them now. And it’s different than “the person” you love. 

We all partly only love the idea of someone. We all love people partly because of what they represent. Because we all frame everything in relation to ourselves. We’ll always only have a version of other people that exists in our heads, framed by our own thinking – and the context of our lives at that time. We look for fun when we’re bored, decisiveness when we feel lost, stability when we’re ready to settle down.

Maybe the best case scenario is that we can still strive to see our partners at least as big as, if not bigger, than they see themselves.

Types of Love and Partners

The Greeks had seven types of love – eros (lust; love of the body), philia (love of the mind; brotherly love), ludus (young, playful love), pragma (longstanding love), agape (love of the soul), philautia (love of the self), and storge (love of the child.)

And maybe that’s comprehensive, but I think there are more.

They say eskimos have 50 words for snow. Humans are far more complex than snow, so there’s no reason there wouldn’t be just as many types of love.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, “there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” I like that — so long as I may take license and interpret it to mean: there is a new kind of love for every combination of each 2 people, forever. (Which is exponentially more than “number of hearts,” just to be clear.)

I love my parents differently than I love my siblings. I love my clients differently than I love my childhood best friend. I have a handful of terrific guy friends, all of whom I love.

I have loved deeply but platonically. I have loved superficially and fleetingly. And I have loved at arm’s length. Some of the greatest loves of my life so far would probably be surprised to hear it.

And, likewise, I have also loved each partner differently, each love an oyster tucked into one singular shell.

Duration

Once I love, I love forever. A lot of my partners – and friends – would probably laugh at this, because I don’t “love hard.” I am more “fighter” than “lover,” a love-avoidant over addict, and often the one to end things. But for what I lack in intensity I make up in longevity – my low-burn love is also slow-burn love, and once I love someone, they are a chapter of my life I neither remove nor rewrite.

Charlize Theron, on a podcast with Sophia Amaruso, said that she “marries” all of her boyfriends. “But I am now divorced from them all.” Because apparently the “healthy” way of dealing with breakups is to erase the person – and all physical reminders – from your life. That’s bullshit. It’s not healthy. If you wouldn’t grieve for your grandma by throwing away everything she ever knitted you, then it’s bizarre to do this to other people we love more.  

The problem is that some people see “partner” as a singular slot to fill – then replace, erase, refill. For many, it’s only ever a snapshot, point-in-time relation. But partners are people on the other side of our own short-sightedness, who existed before we met them, existed together with us, and go on existing afterwards. Tearing each one from our story is denying ourselves – and them – the fullness of our own lives. I’m being honest when I say that people I love stay bound in my binding. My love has an exceedingly long half life.

Diane von Fürstenberg agrees: “Parting ways does not mean erasing entirely someone from your life.” And even when they are but a flicker in the grand scheme of things, “it was a phase, but it was real.”

Needs

In some way-off future, I bet we’ll finally realize that our needs are incredibly complex, and expecting a single person to satisfy all things in our life was always setting ourselves up for unhappiness.

I have friends for different needs. I have the fun friends, whom I can count on for a lighthearted pick-me-up. I have the deeply intellectual, artistic friends who are ready for discussions on psychology and love and happiness and pain. I have stable, consistent friends and offbeat friends; friends who love to work hard and friends who barely work at all. I reach out to them for different things. I would never live my life with one friend. 

A single person simply cannot be perfect at all roles: parent, lover, playmate, best friend, mentor, aid. I think we settle for “good enough” and tell ourselves it’s “perfect” in the name of security and social norms. That, or maybe we’re all just that simple-minded. But I don’t think so.

I say this to people and they assume I mean polyamory, but what I really mean is closer to the role nannies provide support in the parental role. Or chefs for cooking. Or friends, in most anything else.   

I’m not suggesting a company have more than one CEO. But I am saying that, in the same way a company has a role for each person who is good at it, our personal lives might one day also have other “chief” roles. Someone for sex, sure, but also brotherly love, love of the mind, play, and love of self. 

They say that cheating is often about satisfying needs that aren’t met inside the core relationship – sometimes sex, sure, but often appreciation or excitement or, hell, just laughter.

And if the core partner is unwilling or unable to fulfill your needs, as most people can’t do all things, then maybe fulfilling our basic human needs (not sex, but all of these other types of complexity and companionship) elsewhere should be viewed with more love and compassion.

On The Brink of Everything

There is no real concept of past or future, only as we exist as people and the way we spread out as fabric, interweaving with one another and taking up bits of other people as ourselves.

I feel nothing short of awe and anticipation for what’s beyond this; nothing but excitement for the grit and gift of life. Now. Next. Both. Everything as it is and will be and already has been.

Which is everything, really, beyond “pretty and pleasant.”

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