Something Ellen said in one of her latest blogs about doing things she shouldn’t have been doing got me to thinking about what it means to be human. Bear with me while I try to make sense out of what’s been ricocheting around in my head, okay?
When I was young, I’d always hear other adults talking about live, saying things like, “You’re born, you live, and then you die – and life is all about what you do in between…” Of course, that’s a given but I went from there to thinking about other things about living, like, determining what your purpose is, learning life’s lessons in a great many things and, oh, yeah, doing your level best to abide by the rules that govern our existence at all times. Once upon a time, there were no rules except doing that which it took in order to survive: You eat, you find shelter, you reproduce, and life goes on. Over time, the rules that govern our behavior and even our ways of thinking came into play and the one rule that binds some folks up worse than being constipated is monogamy.
It’s not my purpose this afternoon to give monogamy a good mugging and a good old-fashioned ass kicking. What I am thinking about is what Ellen said and just why there are things that she shouldn’t be doing and all because she made certain vows when she married… but did that mean that Ellen stopped being… Ellen? When she bound herself to her husband, did she sacrifice herself, did she give up her individuality? History teaches us that the institution of marriage has evolved over the centuries… and not so much, depending on one’s view of this. What I was wondering is if marriage requires any of us to give up being who we are and in favor of whatever someone else wants us to be?
Ellen and I had a discussion some time ago about emotional monogamy, i.e., is it cheating if you have feelings for someone other than the person you’re married to? Some say it is, some say it isn’t but that’s not the point of this writing; the point – or the question, if you will – are you supposed to give up your ability to feel things for other people? We know that love, being the powerful emotion that it is, doesn’t care about the rules under which we live; it strikes when it wants to, where it wants to, and whomever it wants to strike. It’s so random a thing that when we go looking for it, we never find it; it’s as if love has to sneak up to us and slap our eyeballs out of our heads to let us know it’s our time to love – love is rarely subtle.
Depending on who you’re talking to, if someone’s married and they’re walking down the street and – zing! – someone catches their eye, makes their pulse rate double and light all kinds of fires in places we don’t mind being burned by the heat of lust, well, you’re just supposed to ignore this, to act as if that moment never existed and, indeed, we are made to believe that such things are never supposed to happen once two people become one and all that other romantic stuff monogamy brings to the table. And I have asked myself if we become less human when we deny ourselves the ability to feel things for others.
I know what the rules say, just as I know about the vow made before God and company; I also know that some people can totally self-destruct trying to keep their vow – and I’m not talking about them actually going out and cheating on their partner; no, I’m talking about the internal struggle that can take place because, as a human, you’re reacting to someone else just like you’re supposed to… but the rules say that you should not, that you cannot react, and that anything you feel should be confined to your spouse and them only, no exceptions, no excuses, and no recourse. We know that a couple is supposed to show and give affection – and, yeah, even sex but that’s not quite what I’m talking about at this time – and that there is no excuse for any lack of affection… yet we also know that spouses don’t always keep up with this and when it gets to the point where someone doesn’t feel loved, wanted, or desired, shit happens when someone on the outside comes along and provides those things that should be given to them by their spouse… but doesn’t ever change the fact that they ain’t doing their job properly or at all.
All it takes is for one partner to take their eye off the ball, like, they have so much shit going on with themselves that they can no longer give their full attention to their now-needy partner because, of course, we all know that we can’t take care of someone else if we can’t take care of ourselves. Being the creatures we are, we might even know that we’re not holding up our end of things and can make excuses to why we aren’t… but we’ll shit several gold bricks if someone else tries to step in and do that which we’re unwilling or unable to do – and even when you know for a damned fact that the person you’re married to needs you to do these things. So if a woman does what Ellen did – and you’re gonna have to read her blogs to find the specifics – and, big picture – gets all emotionally hot and bothered by someone else, some would say that she was wrong, that she was being emotionally unfaithful to her husband – she did something she shouldn’t have done. I know that she – Ellen – kinda beats herself up about it because her beliefs and the way life tends to go have caused conflicts; she believes, as so many do, that a wife should be faithful in mind, body, and soul… but she also knows that life doesn’t give a shit about the rules that bind her, that as long as she draws breath, she’s pretty much fair game as far as life is concerned.
Life doesn’t mind if she acts like a human being even if the rules would mind. To expect someone to be so tightly bound to another each and every day of their existence together – and I mean to the extent of not even looking at another man or woman or entertaining any of the thoughts that normally pop into one’s head – is patently ridiculous; yet, this is what we’re required to do and there are those who question whether this is the way we are meant to exist, they question if monogamy, as a social contract/construct, actually does more harm than good; you can get your head handed to you just for being human.
Some say that being married somehow puts you above the standards that unmarried people live by, like there are life-related things that don’t or won’t ever apply to those so joined together and by stating that they should “behave better,” like anyone who isn’t married doesn’t know how to behave, like ‘good’ behavior is an alien concept that goes unlearned until one gets married. Your existence depends upon being human… yet so many of us are willing and even determined to enter into an institution that, truth be told, doesn’t allow you to retain your humanity or your individuality: You must be the entity the rules say you have to be. How many of us have gotten married and lost friends? Have had even relatives turn their backs on us? How many have gotten married and found themselves strangely isolated from everyone else and how many of us have questioned why it is that married couples tend to flock to each other, something that sets them further apart from friends and family?
Yeah, okay, I know that you’re supposed to behave a certain way and at all times and, yea verily, I know that there are people who actually pull this off with the appearance of flawlessness – and that’s an important distinction because we should always publicly show that our marriage is perfect in every way even though, out of the public eye, the shit’s circling the bowl rather quickly. And I do know – been there, done that – that at some point, the question of “What about what I want?” always comes up and I think this is one’s individuality realizing that, hey, this shit’s holding me back from getting the things I feel I need for myself, stuff I want to do for myself and, honestly, anything I think is required for my continued existence because, okay, I know it’s me and you and all that… but I can no longer overlook the fact that “I” existed before there was an “us.”
Any of this sounding familiar to anyone? It should… and you know that monogamy can do a pretty good job of stripping one’s individual wants, needs, and desires in favor of a set standard of behavior that’s inviolate and cannot be altered in any way or for any reason… which also has never changed the fact that we, as humans, have always had a knack for bending and even breaking the rules for our own purposes – even if that purpose is to make our marriage in our own image, as it were, instead of that ancient ‘standard’ way of existing; isolated from everyone else who isn’t married like you and living by someone else’s idea of how you should behave, what you can or can’t do, what you can think and can’t, what you should feel and what you cannot ever feel.
So if “Pam’s” husband “Eric” hasn’t been doing his job properly and “Pam” meets “Henry” online somewhere – say, Facebook – and “Henry’s” giving “Pam” the emotional attention she needs as a human being – but not making a move to sleep with “Henry” – did she, in fact, do something wrong… or is she just really being human? There is a given here, something that I know I learned early on in the game: If you don’t take care of your man/woman, someone else can/will – that this given doesn’t give a fuck about whether you’re married or not; those rules mean nothing at the human level because it’s still about survival and the best man/woman winning when something’s there to be won, like, the affections of another. The rules say that we should not ever give into this temptation… but it is part of the nature of the beast that we are, isn’t it?
Sure, we should learn to behave better in a lot of things and in a lot of way and monogamy does have a way of making people settle down, right? But how long can we stay settled until it occurs to us (in some way) that we’ve become stagnant or, even better, static, and in a state that whenever we are required to give up something that makes us the individual that we are, we always see it as sacrifice, that necessary evil that’s a mandatory requirement to maintaining a relationship? And we all do it… until we learn, in one way or the other, that assing ourselves out like that doesn’t have to go down like this, that we can bend the rules without breaking them and, yeah, if we have to break them, oh, well – there’s a reason why there’s a saying that goes, “Rules are made to be broken…”
Should everyone behave like this? Nah, it just wouldn’t work for a lot of people; some folks are just fine giving up all they are and all they could be in favor of an entirely different way to be. But not everyone is wired like that; we know the rules, know what is expected of us… but our humanity can still reach out to us – or it can catch up to us, if you will, and we can’t help it: We want what we want; we need what we need, and without these things, what’s the point in this life?
Shit, this sounded better inside my head but it’s the gist of what I was thinking about. Ellen said that she should be judged… and I don’t agree with that and I even said to her, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…” and that I didn’t see any stones lying around. I sure as hell don’t live in a glass house, either; I’ve been in that position and then some and when you’re in that spot of trouble, it just doesn’t make any sense to deny yourself something that you know – and better than anyone else – you need in order for you to be the person that you are, the person that you need to be. People see giving into temptation as being weak… and I’m not so sure of that because if you get tempted and give into it, it could just be a survival instinct and even when one looks at it like that, fuck, doesn’t survival and self-preservation trump any of the rules that our humanity requires us to live by?
Time for me to kick back and read…