Love, Actually: Four Haiku

something less like life

and more like this, the richness

of your soft brown skin

*

more like heartache, less

like heartbreak, the depths of which

i’d die to venture in

*

something more like soul

and less like woe, something i will

only hope to know

*

it wasn’t fair or

kind or nice or sweet, but it

was love, actually

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Love Poem for the Ages: Three Haiku

I love the place your

heart resides (with me, alight–

and alive) in mine

*

I love the way your

eyes align (with me, alight–

and alive) in mine

*

I love the way your 

life ignites (with me, alight–

and alive) in mine

Hunger, Thirst and Yearning: Haiku of Desire and Fulfillment

hungry for your time

and attention, affection

undivided and free

*

thirsting for your touch

and energy, your calm cool

hand smooth upon me

*

yearning for your words

your voice reverberating

sounds are all the same

*

take what you will now

give me what you want to feel

call me by my name

The Frog and the Prince: Reflections on Sex Appeal, Sweetness, and a Walk in the Woods

Can I give you a handshake, or a hug? he said.

A hug, I said. It was the beginning of our first intended meeting, and the hug was attenuated and avuncular.

Yesterday I went on this sweet and beautiful hike with a very sweet and kind and gentle man. It was a date, of sorts, and it should have been awkward (we are both awkward) but it was in no way awkward. It was a calm adventure, a winter walk down a slippery trail, the air cold, the possibilities like the trail itself, mysterious and unknown to me, and seemingly unending. And in its utter quiet, the pristine quality of winter seemed preserved.

And I knew, in a manner visceral and a sense immediate: this was not a man who would ever hurt me. Not a little. I could have a quiet, happy, pleasant, simple, intellectual sort of life with him. It is presumptuous to project that sort of delusion outward, but it is also self-evident in a way that I cannot explain, I just know. He would always have follow up questions, he would always make time, he would be present and available. And that is nice.

The trouble, with this particular man, at least as I understood it, was a plain one. It was nothing in his personality or temperament or demeanor. He had flaws, sure, a compensating ego, a measure of baggage, a certain quality of absentmindedness that might have been adorable, but in his case, was entirely devoid of charm. Overall, though, he was a catch in most measures. Smart, capable, sometimes funny. Sweeter than honey. His only shortcoming to speak of, one I am almost too embarrassed to admit, was an utter lack of sex appeal. It’s not that he was physically unattractive; I found him handsome, masculine, generally good-looking. I just didn’t fall into a spell on his sight.

There is more to life than sex appeal, I realize. One should not be so shallow. Sex appeal is not going to make you tea when you’re sick or hold you when your grandmother dies or render a commitment to be faithful. Sex appeal is not going to spoon you while you’re sleeping or cook your favorite food for dinner every Thursday or love you if you gain a lot of body weight, if you’re grumpy, when the chips are down. 

And in my own experience, I’ve known a lot of men with a lot of sex appeal and where has it gotten me? It’s gotten rocks thrown at my window, and that’s about it. So on the balance, sex appeal is overrated, I think.

Nevertheless.

It’s something.

And it’s a hard something to get over, especially when your most recent and best-loved ex was so full of raw physical appeal that in spite of how horrible he was as a boyfriend, he is still on your mind.

But I am trying to change my pattern of choosing men who aren’t in the business of staying, who are beautiful but broken, well-intentioned by unavailable, who are brilliant but unkind. So I went on this date, knowing full well that my initial reaction was a pleasant one, but that I did not feel compelled by him, physically.

Nevertheless, the date went well and he was sweet and we talked and did a lot of laughing, I was never bored, and it was never awkward. I enjoyed being around him, liked the ease of speaking to him, appreciated what he had to say. So at the end of the date, I asked can I give you a hug? and he said yes, and the hug lingered, and somehow found its way into being a kiss. Not the sort of  kiss you’d give your grandmother, either. After a moment I drew my face away from his and looked at him, in stunned silence. 

He kissed me again. I kissed back. It was surprisingly good. When I looked at him again, I saw him in an entirely different light. And in my mind, I kept replaying that moment for days.

 

On Dating Angst: Dealing With Walls

He’s looking for love in all the wrong places, I told Chana.

Or maybe you are, she said. 

The words stuck with me.

Young Marlon was young, but he was present and he was available and he was real.  And yet, he was a complex figure. He’d experienced his share of life, relative to his years. And yet, he wasn’t anxious or frustrated or conflicted.

And maybe that was the problem.

Maybe the problem wasn’t young Marlon–maybe the problem was me. Maybe I couldn’t be interested if I didn’t have to overcome a wall. And maybe the wall in this case was not a man’s ambivalent mind, distant body, impenetrable heart. Maybe the wall wasn’t his. Maybe in this instance, the wall I’d need to scale would be my own.

My Heart Still Beats: Coming Clean to Marvin About My Longstanding Crush

A man I’ve known nominally for about seven years asked me out this evening. My attraction to him is longstanding, and frustrating, and tempered by what I perceive as a difficult personality (his) and an inability to accept the prospect intimacy with those of superior intellect (mine). Still, I remain curious, as always, and thought I’d seek out additional evidence before I responded to this query.

So I called on Marvin, my main man, a good friend of the asker outer. I asked Marvin, off the record whether he thought I should give his friend a whirl.

He has impeccable taste, Marvin said, so I’m not surprised.

(Swoon.)

Marvin should have stopped there, but he went on.

He is a brilliant man, with a big heart and has been through a great deal and still has nothing but a smile on his face when he sees a friend.

Marvin is a good guy, I know, but I also think: he knows precisely what he’s doing. By categorizing his man friend as such–brilliant, big-hearted, smiling), he effectively delegated him to Nice Island, an abysmal no man’s land where the fellows are milquetoast and chemistry is nonexistent. Thanks, Marvin. 

Nevertheless, the late night conversation opened a window, through which I was able to pass a message, which amounts, in its most tactless form, to the following sentiment: when we initially met, I could think of nothing more complicated than I want you to lie on top of me. He was surprised I did not make my affections clearer. I was surprised it wasn’t obvious. We flirted, a little, the chemistry palpable, even if the passage of time precluded the possibility of anything beyond our current frame of almost friendship.

Still, when we met one another, my truest thought was Marvin, Lie On Top of Me. In fact, that’s what I called him, for a long time, behind his back: MarvinLieOnTopOfMe. I wanted to be underneath him, then. Wanted his huge arms around me then And if I was being honest, part of me still did.

But there is nothing quite like the intensity of an early crush. I was initially quite starstruck, almost adolescent in my respond to him. Categorically fixated, irrationally heartsick, wholly obsessed. The infatuation was so heavy and so deep and so great that for years, I avoided him entirely; for in his presence, I risked a sort of self-annihilation: could barely speak, could hardly breathe, could scarcely remember my own name. And in those incipient stages, any time we were together, the thing that carried was the beating of my heart: always louder than anything else in the room, mapping a cartography of possibility, sounding out the echo of his name. And it beats differently for him, these days, but it still beats.

 

When a Man Doesn’t Try To Bed You: Thoughts on Marlon Brando, Self-Preservation and Fulfillment

I spent much of last night with this young man I’ve been seeing briefly, a man I call Young Marlon for his physical proximity to my pretend husband, the first, the last, the only: Marlon Brando.

If you’re unfamiliar with Brando, or your only association relates to his later work (I’m talking Apocalypse Now/The Godfather/Last Tango In Paris era stuff), you may be unaware: this is a man of great physical beauty, of wit, of charm, of steadfast, glorious erotic energy. If you’re unconvinced, feast your eyes on this:

Image

And this:

Image

And this:

Image

Or even this:

Image

(You’re welcome.)

My physical attraction to Young Marlon is intense, and not just for his casual resemblance to the original. He is a force to be reckoned with, his eyes are bright, his body is strong, he is sweet and kind and generous. I am excited by him, and I inhale sharply when he touches me. Nevertheless, our attraction is somewhat fraught.

My most recent and most beloved ex and I shared an intense physical connection that threatened to drive me crazy. Some chemistry we have, I said to him once, early on in our relationship. More like nuclear physicshe said. And it was.

But as attractive as I find Young Marlon, that instantaneous, peel-your-clothes-off-immediately-or-you-might-combust energy does not exist here. It’s tempered by something else, inexperience on his part, perhaps, or too much experience on my part, it is unwieldy and it is bumbling and it is frankly, a little awkward. I can’t remember an encounter that was similarly off-kilter. I can’t remember ever becoming intimately involved with a man with such a bumpy start, and I worry that physically, we will never work.

Give it a shot, my friend Jessie implores

Maybe he’s gay, Dave offers.

Dust yourself off and try again, Brian says.

He’s probably just really nervous, Kelli promises.

*

Whatever the case, young Marlon–very hands-on in his general approach, deeply affectionate, a giver of sweet kisses and bearer of great emotion–falters in his approach to the bedroom. Last night, for example, he wanted me to stay.

I’m not going to try to have sex with youif that’s what you’re worried about, he said.

Some men might have trotted this out as a line, a come on, a false promise. In this case, I felt he was sincere. And it bothered me, for some reason.

Actually, I thought, that might compel me to stay.

I really have to go, I said, but thank you.

My decision to leave sprung in part from a deep need for self-preservation, but it also reflected what I did not realize was a psychological imperative: I had to ignite unstoppable sexual desire in a man, or else: what was there?

For this reason, I could not accept the fact that this man could genuinely want me to stay, and be attracted to me, yet have no intention to pounce. He could exist, and I could exist, and there might be sexual attraction, spoken or unspoken, but he could go forward without any sexual agenda.

This troubled me. I could not put it into words last night, but I did not like it, and I was not comfortable with it.

For better or for worse, the men I know have a tendency to roll up, sometimes with a bit of smooth, sometimes with a bit of swagger, and ask for it, or take it, or at the very least, indicate that they’d like it–as Marlon Brando might. So I ask myself:

Why does it jack you up so badly that this man did not immediately try to know you, in the biblical sense? Why do you seek out men whose highest purpose in your life is to get you into bed and one way or another, and at best, if you are very “lucky”, to confine you there? What does it mean that if a man does not try to get to you sexually at the first possibility, you see him as suspect, as lacking, as somehow less than a man? What does it say that if he declines to avail himself of that opportunity from the start, you cannot trust his interest?

These are the questions, and maybe if I am careful, and contemplative and lucky, I will find my way to the answers.

On Not Spending the Night: Reflections on My Evening in Bed With Young Marlon

I want you to stay, he said, cradling me against the warmth of his skin. And maybe I should have stayed. And maybe I should not have been there to begin with, maybe his bed was the wrong place for me to be, maybe the awkwardness of our brief physical encounter should have been proof enough that this was the wrong game for me to play. And maybe he was lonely or looking for love in all the wrong places, maybe I was misguided in my belief that I could continue to see him and preserve the contours of my own independence. Maybe I was compelled regardless because he resembled a young Marlon Brando, because his deep bass soothed me, because he offered sure and steady hands. Maybe he offered me exactly what I needed, which was a man who was not simply looking to use and discard me but who was ready and able to provide something more. And maybe he was limited in ways I could not abide, maybe I was limited in ways I did not yet understand. 

I’m not trying to have sex with you tonight, he said. I did not understand if this was an approach or a statement of earnestness, but I believed him.

I’d better go, I said, and I meant it. I did not want to go, did not want to leave the warmth of his body, his breathing, his bed. I did not want to crawl out from against the sweetness of his G-rated cuddle, did not want to remove myself from the crook of his neck. But I did. He walked me downstairs and kissed me at the door. You’re so warm, I said. 

I’ll see you Saturday, he said. 

I walked out of his apartment and into the freezing night, in search of my car, my agenda, my own dignity, all that was left. I knew that I made the right decision; it would have been problematic to spend the night, and in many ways. I knew that I would have my work cut out for me with this one, that he could love me in a manner holistic and explicit and complete, but that it would be a challenge and an examination and a steep learning curve. I could smell him on my skin, and I liked that. I could feel his arms lingering around me, and I liked that too. And though I was not sure exactly what I wanted, a part of me dearly wished that I had stayed.