Speaking Strictly for Me
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.
No one else heard the tone of voice or the sincerity in it or the want. They saw things, at best, from a distance. Anything they heard was second hand, usually from me in defense of what they didn’t understand, in defense of what I myself had heard.
How you see things depends on how close you are to the issue. And no, I’m not talking about my ex.
With my ex, most people never saw what was happening within the walls of our home. They thought we had the perfect marriage. Some even thought I “wore the pants in the family” because outside the home, they saw my independence and fortitude. It was easy to look at a mild-mannered man with his Goth-flavored wife and assume I was the one who was either out of line or kept him in line just because I had trouble coloring within the lines. It was easy to assume a nice, stable guy was a certain way and any rumor to the contrary was certainly either fabrication or a runaway imagination. Except for my children, no else heard the tone of voice or saw the silently undermining looks of disgust that I let change the way I dressed and acted and lived. No one.
And few believed me. Even when I finally broke my silence.
So why then do they choose to believe the best of certain new men in my life and the worst of others? And why is believing the best reserved for men most like my ex?
“Give him a chance,” I’m told of a man who really doesn’t interest me. Yes, he seems nice. And yes, he seems stable. And yes, he has a great career and a bright mind and a wardrobe of business suits. On the surface, he’s everything my colleagues and acquaintances could want for me. They can’t understand how I can look at him and see shades of my ex.
But then, they weren’t there. They don’t know the subtleties.
They don’t know the subtleties with a man who sometimes charms me, though I don’t often see him. The fact that I don’t see him often makes him undesirable in the eyes of those around me.
“Why couldn’t he be here?” they ask, and I explain. They don’t understand. They don’t understand his career or why he sometimes—well, often—has to put it ahead of his social life. I do. I “get it” just as he “gets” me.
As for me, I may be disappointed that he can’t be arm-candy on a given night, but I do understand and his absence doesn’t keep me from having a grand time with friends. I’d love to see him, but I’m not sitting and moaning about it. In fact, I spend more time defending his absence to acquaintances than I do concerned that his plans have been pre-empted by his life’s work. I’m not married to him. I don’t have a commitment to him or from him. I don’t go out with him enough to call myself dating him. But for some reason—maybe because he’s so different from the kind of men they’re used to seeing me with—my colleagues and acquaintances are especially focused on what’s wrong with this man.
From my viewpoint, not a lot is wrong with him. There’s much joy in being with him on the times when we can actually be together, and between times, when I’m not otherwise engaged, there’s also joy in thinking of him.
The words may be the same as all my women friends have heard before—“I’m sorry, but I got called into work and can’t make it tonight”—but it’s the subtleties that make the difference. The intimacy in his voice when we talk. It’s a quiet, desperate, deep connection that no one else has heard. Even if I repeated every word of it, I could never match what I hear in his voice.
Nor would I want to. What I hear in his voice is for me and me alone.