I was recently involved with someone who deemed himself a gentleman, but arguably didn’t consistently act in that manner. The ambiguous feelings I had toward him have subsided. Time, and the recent horrific events in Santa Barbara, have brought some clarity. And more questions. I write this in the hope it invites further dialogue as it relates to the realm of male and female relationships, which mostly reflect on our relationships with ourselves.
My particular situation, which saw me ultimately acting without integrity (I comment-vomited on his new girl’s Instagram), had me questioning my own sanity, despite the hurt I felt at his hands. So what’s the tie between the “nice guy” and my “crazy girl” behavior?
The hidden gradations our society has for the roles of heterosexual men and women work against us and the gender-relations’ cause.
The alpha male. The slut. The girl-next-door. The stalker. The gentleman. The bachelor. These are the roles that limit our capacity to love in a whole way. These are the narratives we let ourselves believe in order to limit ourselves, to limit uncertainty and the discomfort of acknowledging our ever-changing identities.
Elliot Rodger’s mental state and his YouTube manifesto, describing his loneliness, his frustrations with being a virgin at 22 and at having never kissed a girl, are incredibly troubling. The mental-health issues aren’t things I’m going to get into, and in no way do I want to downplay their significance. It’s the idea that an entire community exists, one centered around picking up girls – frustrations with girls – “playing” girls, (not to mention the unspoken solidarity females can exhibit when complaining about men), that also troubles me. It’s an indication we may have lost our way.
An old roommate once summed it up nicely: We are all just looking for a profound love. The path to finding that love can make for bumps on the road, perhaps more for some than others. But these hiccups are simply leading us to a place where, not only do we love ourselves, we can be the best partner possible to someone else.
It reminds me of a favorite quote: God has put people in our lives so that we may be a blessing to them.
Binaries can help us make sense of our relationships, for a time, but they aren’t truths. If Elliot Rodger had been mentally able to take a leap of faith to look beyond the “narrative fallacy” of him being the nice guy, he may have found himself in another position. As a boyfriend. As a husband, and later as a father. Watching that video – I saw a boy who had decided something about himself years ago. The irony, of course, is that the girls he felt had rejected him are reconciling their own heteronormative relationship roles, and he used theirs (“sluts”) against them. And now there are six victims who won’t be able to love on this earth again.
We are more than these roles. In love, we take advantage of others and find ourselves taken advantage of. We act without integrity, and surprise ourselves with our restraint. We don’t need to pigeon-hole it, or why. If you’re stuck in a relationship-role box, I encourage you to question it. And never doubt how whole you were all along.
Was it Eleanor Roosevelt who said to “do one thing every day that scares you?”
In case you haven’t heard, today is Easter. I have a number of Christian friends who I’m sure are celebrating in style today. They are incredible people.
So what does Easter mean to those of us who may not subscribe to organized religion?
I think it’s an incredible opportunity to reflect and connect.
There’s power in prayer, be it religious or not. Knowing we are not alone in this universe. Even if we simply think and honor the small ways in which we are all connected – we become kinder. Humbled. Mindful. Peaceful.
Maybe it’s a good day to decorate easter eggs just as a meditation (which is typically a ridiculously messy way of celebrating, but I digress). It can just be a celebration of our life on earth, if nothing else.
I wish you the best of days!
Most people outside of California probably haven’t heard of Huell Howser. A fixture in public television in Los Angeles for 25 years, Huell hosted and produced the ubiquitous “California’s Gold” series, in which he traversed the state in search of the cool, amazing and little-known. Much of the time he didn’t run into the cool and amazing (the episode chronicling his trip to In ‘N’ Out’s headquarters potentially the exception), but he did run into the left-behind, tedious and even sad. It was how he reacted to all of it that was remarkable.
He died Monday at the age of 67. The outpouring of sadness in this state has been really beautiful.
As far as I know, Huell had no surviving family members. He wasn’t married, had no children. I think there is a general consensus that he was gay, but I don’t know if that’s relevant.
I first found out about Huell in 2009, a result of a conversation with my then-boyfriend Greg. Greg had just seen Mr. Howser at the grocery store, and Greg called me afterward with an urgent energy I couldn’t understand. Who is this Huell Howser? This guy must be something special, to make a grown man at the grocery store excited.
My relationship with Huell was cemented later that year when Greg got sick and had to take six weeks off of work. I wasn’t working at the time, and Greg and I spent our stolen, lazy days lying on the couch watching public television. (Greg didn’t and still doesn’t have cable.) We made fun of Huell’s Southern drawl – Kaliforneeya’s Gawld – and were constantly in awe of his awe. He was excited by everything – the butterfly that got into the shot, the people who walked by, the Socal woman who furnished a room using only lint! I remember one episode where Huell interviewed the employees and management of a plant that manufactured grass, as in on-the-ground GRASS, for corporate clients. And there was Huell, in his yellow button-down and shades, the epitome of the invisible protagonist in Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, grateful for the experience and excited by everything he heard.
Huell stayed with me as my life circumstances changed. As Greg and I started dating other people. As life threw its inevitable wrenches. I kept episodes of the spin-off Visiting with Huell Howser on my DVR, probably just so I could listen to Huell’s voice anytime I wanted to. I made it a goal to meet and interview him one day.
I didn’t know Huell was sick. I don’t think anyone really did. He was such a fixture and larger-than-life figure that it didn’t seem like he would ever be gone. Right now it seems like nothing has happened, with his show, seemingly asynchronous, still airing in re-runs. But over time his absence will seem more profound – especially the absence of his joyful voice, which once upon a time narrated my life.