The Nondating Life

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Part Seventeen: The L Bomb

[Ed. note. Tired of fooling around with the date stamps and such, I've decided to just start posting these in regular blog fashion. I think you're smart enough to figure out where the other stuff is]
(Previous Post)

"Dude, Kenny, she thinks she loves me," he says. I'm on the phone with a close friend of mine out in California.

"And we know this how?" I ask.

"She told me."


"Well, how long have you been dating?"

"See, that's the thing. She thinks we've been dating eight months. I'm only really counting two."

Let me explain. My friend had met the girl (by all accounts a lovely young lady) and dated her for a month or so before the duties of a scientist called him to a land far, far away. While he told her he would not pursue other options on this trip, and while he was true to his word, the fact remains that they had very little contact during this time.

So Dr. Scientist, being both a scientist and a fool, is applying the rule of logic and pointing out that, in real time, they've only dated two months tops and they don't really know each other all that well. Definitely not well enough to go dropping the L Bomb all over the place. And, Dr. Scientist, being both a slow mover and a decent man, explained to the lovely young lady that he couldn't in good faith drop said L Bomb.

This, of course, went over like a Hitler costume at a Seder Supper.

Now, what's left of the relationship is limping along until one of them--and without a doubt it will have to be Dr. Scientist--takes it out behind the barn and puts a bullet in its head.

"Kenny, dude, you have to write about this. Chicks just say it way too soon. And, honestly, I think she's just in love with the idea of being in love."

"Ah, I see, I see," said I. What we have here is a classic case of Carson McCullers' "lover," referenced in the very first post of this series.

Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. ... Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else—but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit.

Dr. Scientist is by no means treacherous or greasy-headed and is only rarely given to evil habits. Still, I felt I had to correct him on one point.

"Dude," I tell him, "this isn't just a chick thing." Or as McCullers more eloquently put it: "this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth"

"Whatever, dude," says Dr. Scientist. "You have to tell people they just can't run around saying 'I Love You' so soon."

"Fix this," he says. "Make this right. You, Ken, have the power to do this. I? I am only a simple man with a doctorate, a humble scientist. But you?" He takes a breath as if to reveal to me the secret of the universe. "You are a BLOGGER."

Yes. I am. And while that may be a true and important thing, sadly, I cannot fix this thing. Sure, it may be within my power, but it would make me out to be the most obscene of hypocrites. Because, as I told Dr. Scientist, the horrible, embarrassing fact of the matter is that I am JUST the type to rush head-long into dropping the L Bomb, I am squarely in "the lover" camp, am besotted with the idea of being in love.

This may surprise some of you who only know me through the blog or who've only seen Ken Wheaton:American Badass and not Ken Wheaton:Simpering Fucking Fool. But it is the truth. Yes, I do go through my Ken Wheaton:Man Whore cycles and I'm quite willing and able to bed down with three different women in the same week (or, hell, at the same time). But...

But when I feel that spark. Whu-hoooaaaaa Nellly. Look out boys and girls. It's all over but the obsession, massive waves of emails, thoughtful little gifts and that horrible moment when I confess my feelings. Oh. And the crying.

And that's when the woman in question DOESN'T necessarily like me. If she is feeling the spark or fanning a flame, even if it's at a slightly slower burn? I think I'd be within my rights to quote The Heart of Darkness and say: "The horror."

Take M., for example (and I keep going back to that well because, luckily or unluckily, I've only had a few girlfriends in my life.) There was the moment in Brazil--halfway through the trip, after a night of drinking--when I looked her in the eyes and she looked me in the eyes. I knew I was going to say the words. She knew I was going to say the words. And the look in her eyes was clearly telling me: "Ken, don't do it fool. Cuz you know I'm not going to say it. And this sort of thing can really throw off a relationship." And the look in my eyes was telling her: "You know, I know that, but that's not going to stop me. Because if I don't say it, I'll pop. And I'm an idiot." (Also, my eyes were saying, "Damn, I'm fuckin drunk, yo!" ... My eyes curse more than I do.)

And I said it. And she didn't. And we carried on. But, yes, it stung. After all, how could someone who seemed so right, someone who seemed content to spend all that time with me, who sent ME gifts, who seemed at times trying to woo ME, how could she not be feeling the same thing?

Well, that's easy to answer. She just wasn't. There are different types of people in the world, some who fall in love easily, some who find it harder to do so, and still others who don't fall in love at all--cold, passionless people who never know the ups and downs of a tortured heart. I call these people "lucky."

The sad fact of the matter, and until now I think my good friend Cat was the only person who knew this, is that I was ready to drop the L bomb on M. after her first visit here, after only one week of sparks flying all over the place. I almost said it on the train platform as she was pulling out of town. Then again, I guess it was sort of obvious.

And this is where I run into a wall when it comes to advice for either side, lover or beloved. Typically, my overly romantic side would say "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." If you're the type who wants to say I Love You, say it. If it breaks the relationship, then so be it. It was destined for failure anyway. You two are probably a bad match if you're that emotionally out of balance.

But on that train platform that day, I summoned up all of my strength and will and kept my mouth shut. Had I said it, it probably would have derailed everything right then and there. But I didn't and the relationship chugged happily along for a while longer. Rational thinking won out for once. And I said to myself, "Good work, Ken. And you know, all those people who talk about rules and such, they might be onto something."

Then again, what did rational thinking get me? I'll tell you what it got me. It got me deeper into a relationship that may have been doomed from the start thereby increasing the misery at the end of it. That's what rational thinking got me!

So what's my advice to people who are just dying to say I Love You? Well, we all know the smart thing to do is to keep your damn mouth shut. When you feel that first urge, tell yourself "I will wait one more month before I say anything." Then, after that month, tell yourself, "I will wait another month." And so on until the person inevitably dumps you because, hell, he or she didn't love you in the first place.

Sorry, that was mean. But seriously, try to wait it out a little. Better yet, adopt the rule that I now live by. Never, ever be the first to say it. That'll solve part of the problem. Of course, if you are "the lover" sort, we all know you're not going to listen to this sort of advice, so go on. Say it. Go ahead. Now see what happened? You happy now?

And my advice for the recipient of an unwanted L Bomb? Well, I've had a long lucky streak of keeping myself out of that situation, so I can't provide you with anything from personal experience. Really, it doesn't matter what you say. Anything short of "I Love You" is going to leave you both feeling foolish and wondering what the next move should be. You should steer clear of shouting, "What?! Are you fucking crazy" or saying something like "Ohhhhh, aren't you so cute when you're emotionally vulnerable. Yes. Yes you are!" I would say that, if at all possible, you should spend thirty seconds to look down the road a bit to see if you can imagine yourself EVER saying "I Love You" to that person.

If you can't even imagine it, if you see a dead end rather than a long uncertain road, just stop it right there. Say, "I just can't say that." Then, "Maybe we should think about this."

Then you can have that sort of slow, sad sex that people have when they know their relationship is doomed. Then the next morning you can both go back to pretending everything is fine until the relationship dies further down the road, you know, after things have gotten really, really complicated.

And oh, by the way: "The horror."