I recently spoke with a friend of mine about the man I am dating right now. He is a Southern Christian Man and I am a former Christian nomad. I asked my friend to help me translate between Christian-speak and my own values, which she and I share, but what I learned was so much more than just how to speak.
My man and I frequently butt heads about our differing views of sexuality. Even as he is the most masculine, arousing, sexual partner that I have ever had, I cannot help but sense the sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle, disdain for my sexuality under the surface. My friend said to me that, “all fundamentalism is about fear, fear of judgement, fear of ostracism, fear based on an experience of and therefore a theology about, a scarcity of love,” and she advised me that the only thing within my power to deal with this man’s attitude was to love him.
The scarcity of love
The idea that love is scarce is strange to me, and yet I am beginning to understand how it drives the actions and the beliefs of people around me. If love is scarce, then my love for one person is proof that my love for you is lessened. That’s why people become jealous and territorial over their lovers, because they think that if even a drop of that love spills out then it will be lost to them forever. In speaking with my man about other things I’ve come to realize that it’s not just jealousy that springs from the competition for scarce love, but an intolerance and a callousness for the feelings of others.
Lately in Granite City where I’m currently staying, the cold and rain have been unrelenting. Every day for nearly two weeks it has been gray, dreary and wet. He works outside in it getting chilled to the bone for long hours and comes home ragged. I stay in the trailer working and writing on my computer and slowly withering from the isolation and the dark. When I told him that the weather was wearing me down his response was, “try working outside in it all day!” I was looking for some understanding from him, but instead what I got was this aggression, as if daring to experience suffering from the same dankness that was plaguing him was trying to steal away his right to compassion!
Thinking back to my childhood, I can see the same attitude in my own mother’s reaction to me whenever I became down about something. My father, to a certain extent, was similar. If I ever admitted that something was hurting me, something that couldn’t be “fixed” like having period cramps, my mother would tell me how it could be worse, or even explain how she suffered worse in some way or another, implying that until my suffering exceeded hers that I ought to suck it up. My father’s reply was simpler: he’d just offer to smash my toe with a hammer so I’d forget about whatever else was bothering me.
My mind whirls continuously, trying to find a way that I can communicate with my man and diffuse his ever-present defensiveness. I don’t know that I can. He has to want to view me as a companion instead of an adversary, and to do that he has to acknowledge his own powerlessness to earn my or any other person’s love. That’s a big ask for anybody. But I do believe that we are meant to love, built to love, and better off when we love infinitely and unconditionally, or as close to it as humanly possible. It makes us better people, and allows us to be more compassionate and more at peace. Love by its very nature is infinite and unconditional, and I know that this very idea is terrifying. I know that it is not given to me make him or anyone understand the awesomeness that is true love, but only to choose for myself what I will do.
I choose love.