and buying a house next door to a man who lived in our old neighborhood before we moved to our (now) pink house.I'd had a short-lived crush on this married man with 3 boys a few years ago.
Last night I woke at 3 am
with a dream where I'm renewing my vows with Gary in some sort of hotel conference room. I'm in a dressing room immediately next door getting ready and Gary's mother is late. She finally arrives and is getting ready. We are polite but not warm. We've been waiting for her, but then I realize I don't have any stockings. I have the dress I was originally married in, a beautiful vintage gold dress my mother wore when she was pregnant with me, to an officer's wive's-club dance (it was not her wedding dress!), back in the mid 1950's. It's not full-length, but strikes me at mid-calf. I consider just going through the ceremony bare-legged, but I can't quite accept it. So I go to the little gift store next to the dressing room (glancing into the conference room and seeing that people have gathered and are sitting uncomfortably in the chairs. I remember the service was supposed to be at 12:30 and it's nearly 4:00, oh holy shit now it's me keeping them waiting. I'm sure there'd be nylons in the gift store, or maybe some leg make-up. I'm not finding any stockings though I do find a curious plastic envelope with something that looks like it could be stockings and some of those peculiar faux-beaded ballerina-type slippers that often go with elderly-lady robe-and-nightgown ensembles. I realize I don't have my shoes, either and so I should buy this. I ask the clerk to pull the flesh-toned stockings out just to be sure they're full-length, and it turns out they are only about shin-high. The clerk asks me if I've looked "upstairs" (is this a hotel, or a hospital?). She doesn't know if they'd carry stockings up there either.
I've had enough time to muse that the re-vowing is a mistake anyway. There's no life to it, we're just going through the motions. I really don't want to do it. It's hardly worth these machinations I'm going through of considering the various dilemmas: go upstairs in case there are stockings in that shop? But keep people waiting potentially even longer? What if I can't find that store? I'd be wasting even more time and not gaining anything. But I still can't see my going through the ceremony barelegged. Should I call the whole thing off? But these people have been waiting so long.
I wake with this dilemma and realize my dream self had not considered it a viable option to cancel. The ceremony was on a par with one of the everyday 'necessary' shams such as, "Fine, how are you?" or "I like that haircut." It was just easier to get through it, classic go-along-to-get-along.
The day that preceded this dream saw me joining two friends, Toni and Marti for breakfast. Toni is recently divorced after 23 or so years of marriage to her college sweetheart and 12 years of burning for the man who is now her boyfriend. I haven't met him, but she describes him as a man that women gravitate toward. This is a source of major anxiety for her. She's a woman who has always been envied in our group as having a perfect figure (petite height, but blessed with long, muscular legs, and, as Marti once said, "Not one speck of mis-placed fat!"). She's bearable because she herself doesn't see how gorgeous she is. Still, she's over 50, and there are many beautiful women in the world, many younger, and they all seem to find their way to her new love. So she's always in fear of losing him. We'd been deep in conversation about some serious issues Marti's been having with her husband, and her son from her first marriage when we'd arrived at the restaurant. I'd jumped out to secure us a place on the long waiting list and when I caught up with them again the conversation had switched to Toni's fears about losing Richard. That's essentially where the conversation stayed for the rest of the morning.
She no longer, at least, wears make-up to bed. But the other night she realized she'd left her curling iron at the office where she works; 9:00 at night and she decided she had to go and get it so that when the morning came she'd be able to plump up her wispy bangs before he'd see her. The office is at least a half hour away and across a toll bridge. Of course she couldn't tell him the reason for this excursion and he wasn't buying her attempts to distract him. He finally asked if she had a boyfriend there. She gave up then and didn't go. I told her I hoped she'd left him with a shadow of a doubt about whether she did.
Richard has a sister, who is married, to a man who is an education snob. It is very important to him that he went to a prestigious school, as did his wife, and Richard, and Richard's ex-girlfriend. Toni went to an "acceptable" school, for a year.
I realize I've known this woman for nearly 30 years now and I don't know what path her higher education has taken. I knew she'd met her (ex) husband in Bozeman, so I assume that she went to Montana State, since her home town's not far from there. I had no idea how long she was there, or how she'd ended up roommates in Spokane with Marti and what school they'd gone to. We'd all been out of college several years when I met them. (And we all came to Portland in the same year, late 1979 or 1980, through separate paths. It was only by coincidence that they'd met again; I'd met them through a boyfriend that was friends with them.) I do know that she graduated at the top of her class in the local community college's dental hygiene program.
But apparently this won't pass muster for Mr. BIL, who probed her credentials early on. When he heard she'd been to school in Montana he assumed that was her alma mater, and she allowed him to believe it, without baldly lying.
So she was going to be joining Richard and family at a concert in the Columbia Gorge and heard from a friend of hers she'd graduated with from the local hygienist program. Pat was going to be at the same concert, and was thrilled they'd see each other. Toni was terror-struck. Her true educational well-spring might be revealed!
I can't remember how our conversation led into this story. She may have been telling me this by way of filling in a background for some other story. I listened in disbelief as she related that she'd called Pat to tell her about Mr. BIL and to ask her to please not reveal that they had gone to the local community college together. She said, "And Pat said, 'oh Toni, that's ridiculous! You shouldn't care what that guy thinks!' " And then when they did run into each other at the concert, and Mr. BIL had asked how they knew each other, Pat had said, " 'Oh, at school' ", almost as if to emphasize it!" Toni was angry with Pat.
I can't help it; my head kind of lights up with the implications of stories like this. I was imagining that it must have felt almost like an affront to Pat; if Toni is attempting to deny her/their education as if it's something to be ashamed of, then to ask her to cooperate in its denial...well, that is a bit of a tall order. And by god, that did seem to be what Toni was asking her to do. And if Mr. BIL is this kind of education snob, my bet is that he can smell an evasion and will be hot on its trail.
So it was because I was startled and not thinking straight that I kind of burst out with, "Why don't you just disarm this weapon with the truth? Just brazen it through: 'I graduated from a community college
"Well, he won't respect me. And I can't stand it if he doesn't respect me."
"But...then his respect for you is based on something you're not."
"Yeah. That's just what Pat said." She's shifting around in her seat now, looking in the glove box, shuffling through her purse. I can tell that Pat must have been critical, and this must have hurt her. "I can't stand it if he doesn't respect me."
"But...what's the worst that can happen if he doesn't respect you?"
"I can't stand it. I don't respect myself, and so I can't stand it if he won't respect me either."
"But..." I didn't know how to put into words the realization that she was assisting him in judging her. That she was believing herself that she was so repugnant that risking a quasi-lie and having it exposed was more acceptable then just telling the truth. "But... then you always have to live in fear."
Well, that's how I live my life, I guess." Defensive. This may have been as close to angry with me as I've ever seen her.
It's odd to me that it's easier for her to tell this truth about herself to me; that it is more important to her to maintain a false pretense and risk being called out as a fraud than to stand by a simple fact about herself. If she could say, "I went to a community college and what of it" to him in the same tone that she just said to me, "I'd rather live my life in fear because I don't respect myself--and what of it" this torment would be done.
I would have found it much more difficult to say that I didn't respect myself.
I said, "Well, I respect you. I think you're an admirable person, and a true friend with good character."
It ended there, but I was troubled for much of the rest of the day.
I was troubled that it may have seemed to her that not only was she feeling afraid, but I was telling her she was flawed for feeling afraid. It sounds like she feels flawed anyway, and I certainly didn't want to add to that. I wrote her an email to tell her that I understand that she's afraid and that I respect that she's making the best choices she can make.
When I slept on it I had the dream about renewing wedding vows. And I see some parallels. In the dream I too was going through a lot of gymnastics on behalf of the sensibilities of others. Not-going through with the ceremony seemed on a par with detailing various ailments instead of simply saying "fine" when someone asks how I am. It's allowing a fiction to continue unchallenged.
We're heading in to a holiday season again. I'd hoped to not go through another one under the pretense of us as a married couple. Parents are coming to visit under our roof. I'm not trying to promote us as a perfect couple, or even as happy. For my parents and his, status quo is more than plenty.
When I told Sharon the dream about buying the house next to the man I'd once had a crush on but had reconciled myself to the boundary that married men are entirely off limits and was glad when it had burned out--she said, "It's like there's something in you that can't quite let yourself see yourself in a different pattern yet. Even though you leave a bad pattern (marriage) in your dream, there's still a way it's perpetuated by moving next to someone unattainable. How's that for torture?"
Similarly, in my dream last night I'm about to go through with a status-quo preserving ceremony that's merely wearying everyone.
And too, I look at yesterday. I went for a later-than-I-wanted-to breakfast at a place that was farther away than I wanted to go, which was far more expensive than I wanted to spend, and took more time than I wanted to devote. Each step that I conceded made it more difficult to not concede to the next one. And this is a parallel with what my friend Toni must be facing. I wasn't trying to impress my friends that we were financially better than we are; I suppose I would have liked it if they'd been sensitive to it without me having to overtly call it out. Each stage where I didn't object added more momentum and made the next objection harder. I didn't fear they wouldn't respect me, but I did fear the discomfort of that period where several people want different things, and aren't sure how to stay present to negotiate it.
I guess my dreams, and life's synchronicities are telling me I'd better not cancel my therapy sessions yet.