A Thing I Maybe Should Be Horrified That I'm Doing

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

About every seven years, I become a new person. Who is usually horrified by much of by what the old person did.
Which is to say that much of what I am known for today – the jazzy hats, the vibrant fingernails, the Hawaiian shirts, the kink-blogging – simply did not exist seven years ago. Fourteen years ago, I doubt I’d even heard the word “polyamorous.” Twenty-one years ago, I was thrashing in the mosh pits and cursing the suburbs.
I keep finding new hobbies, and new wisdoms to live by, and so I keep evolving into different people.
And when I look back upon the drama that I fomented when I was nineteen, I shake my head and wonder what the hell that Ferrett was thinking. I evolved from him, yes, but spend many of my days cringing underneath a thin fog of apologies, because holy God, look at all the dumb shit I did to people.
But it’s rare that I evolve into someone who a past Ferrett would be horrified by. In general, I become a more stable and honest creature who past-Ferretts might not understand, but would admire on some level. Which makes sense: I’m what they were aspiring to be.
Yet if I prick my ears and listen to the past, I can occasionally hear old-me lecturing current-me. It is a disconcerting feeling, listening to punk-ass twenty-two-year-old me talking about how I’ve “sold out” by living in these lame-ass suburbs.
But lately, I’ve been hearing old-Ferrett talking about what a scummy, passive-aggressive bastard I am.
Because past-Ferrett believed, and believed firmly, that everything should be talked out. Every need he had should be unboxed, lovingly, like a man opening a new iPhone, and presented to his partner. And that partner, in turn, should be educated as how to use this new need, why it’s important, given a seminar on How This Fits Into The Greater Ferrett psyche.
(Similar gifts of needs are expected in return, of course. Past-Ferrett wasn’t selfish. Just… obstinate.)
And so, no matter how trivial the relationship past-Ferrett was nurturing, whether it was a silly crush or a committed partnership, Ferrett would pull a full halt and say, “OKAY, HERE IS WHAT I NEED.”
Whether that was “I NEED YOU TO BE EMOTIONALLY HONEST WITH ME AT ALL TIMES OR I WILL SELF-DESTRUCT.”
Or it was “I NEED YOU TO BE PHYSICALLY AFFECTIONATE WITH ME OR I WILL WONDER WHAT I DID WRONG.”
Or it was “I NEED YOU TO SCHEDULE VISITS FAR IN ADVANCE OR I WILL THINK YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE ME.”
And every time – every time – someone violated one of those necessities of my life, we would pull the car over to the side of the metaphorical road, rehash why these things were necessary to my well-being, and then explain.
Because if they hadn’t done these things, then they clearly didn’t understand. And my job? Was to make them understand. Once they got how vital these bits were to me, they’d either agree to the Terms and Conditions, as it were, or they’d go “This isn’t what I can provide” and leave.
So my relationships – all my relationships, even the trivial crush-flirtations – were punctuated by these freightloads of Meaning.
These days? Not so much. At least not with my lighter relationships.
It’s not that I don’t say, “Oh, by the way, if I send you something sexy and you don’t reply, I’ll feel embarrassed all day.” I mention it, a few times.
But if I express a need to someone and they don’t fulfill it, I start thinking, “Well, either they’re not listening, or their core competencies just aren’t compatible with mine,” and I quietly start pulling up stakes.
Enough missed needs, and I’ll still be friendly – I mean, I like them – but then I quietly slot them into the “Flirt, but do not engage” box, where I’ll smooch ’em on the cheeks and express joy at their arrival, but do so stiffly, at an arm’s length, because I told them “Wow, for me, scheduling visits is critical,” and they shrugged and never brought it up again, and so they clearly want something that I do not.
It’s interesting, because it has the net effect of entangling me in a lot more flirtations. I spend less time with each individual person because, well, I don’t have to slam the gavel and go, “FOUL! This act wounded me. Let us go to the evidence lockers and haul out the offending sentence, and dissect it before your eyes…”
I just shrug and say, “Well, they don’t get me.” And I move on.
And old-Ferrett is horrified: all of them, actually. To a man, they all believe that what I’m doing is the worst kind of passive-aggression, I’m not giving these people a chance, and in fact I’m quietly rooting for these folks to fail by not instructing them properly in the Ways of the Ferrett.
Yet there’s another part of me that says, quietly, “You instructed them for thirty years, Ferrett. You pressured them into doing things they were simply not intuitively capable of doing. And your whipping them with guilt until they did the things you wanted turned out not to be terribly effective, in the long run. Why is it so bad to just let people be themselves, and find folks who naturally provide you what you need with minimal prodding?”
Old-Ferrett has lots of thoughts on the matter. He’s trying to tell me I’m wrong.
Then again, that’s mostly what he did back then, so… heck with that guy.
And yet I’m not sure I’m right here, either. Maybe I’m not giving people enough of a chance. Then again, the prize is, well, dating me, and “being without me” is a pretty lame-ass punishment, as most of the world gets by just fine without it.
And I know that many people will do what they always do in essays like this, the thing they think is helpful: They’ll say, “Have you tried ${TALKING_THIS_WAY} to tell these people what you wanted?” And yes, yes, I have, I’ve tried telling them every which way I knew how, and I’ve mastered a lot of communications, telling me Yet Another Redundant Way to educate people in my needs is useless.
What I want to know, what old-Ferrett wants to know, is whether it’s better to find someone vaguely compatible and to educate them, or to find someone tightly compatible who needs little direction.
I know that after decades of bad dating, I found Gini, and I educated her severely (as she educated me), and we managed to make each other extremely happy.
What I don’t know is whether that was a fluke, and maybe it’s just better on the whole to look for people who you don’t have to work that hard upon.
Or maybe whether everyone really is someone you have to work that hard upon when the rubber hits the road.
Old-Ferrett thinks they are. New-Ferrett is still glistening with embryonic fluids, and he is not certain of anything.

2 Comments

  1. Hel
    Jun 15, 2015

    I don’t think it’s other or. I think you have to find a balance. You put some effort into educating people, you ask why they aren’t doing the stuff, and if it’s clearly not working, *then* you let them go.

  2. Ali M
    Jun 21, 2015

    Interesting – Although I identify a LOT with what you’ve written, I think I kept expecting the “moral of the story” would be “get close to them and love them anyway and just accept they are different and can’t give me what I ask for . Probably because I wonder a lot if it would be “good for me” if I managed to just relax and not mind when people don’t” Regardless, lots of food for thought.

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