To Flip or Not to Flip (Part 2)

To Flip or Not to Flip (Part 1)

To Flip Or Not to Flip (Part 2)

February 18th, 2018

Dear X,

It’s become apparent to me that a discourse must begin between us. The time is right.

I want to start by letting you know that when Jenna and I met, she was married. In an open marriage. I have no doubt that many of the difficulties and much of the hurt that you’re experiencing by being in the position which you are is very well-known to me. For Jenna and I, that particular arrangement went on for two whole years with plenty of stops and starts throughout including one period of separation lasting a full year. Why would we break up? Because I would lose patience with the limitations of being with a married woman, and I would leave. (Only after Jenna came back to me after that full-year apart and I refused to see her unless she divorced did we finally begin this current twelve-year run). So, to be sure, I empathize. I do. Truly. 

I know Jenna loves you, and that you love her. But over the course of the past months an aspect of your relationship has come to concern me. Although Jenna knows well about this because I’ve expressed as much to her many times, it’s not clear to me that you do.

I’ll say it as succinctly as I can:

You have entered into a relationship with a woman who has a family. You are a human being, and you, of course, have your needs and vulnerabilities, too. That said, you are limited in your relationship by the existence of this family, Jenna’s and my own. And as painful as that may be, that is the reality. From my perspective, it’s not clear to me that you know this. But, you must.

From what I’ve learned, you seem to have been raised by good people. I was brought up by savages. (My cross to bear.) But if I see Jenna come home ravaged by too many more day/night-long rows having to do with your relationship, I’m going to step in. And when I say step in, I mean, step in. I don’t think you want to see what that looks like.

Which is to say, lighten up. Jenna does love you. Receive her love, give love back, and have your time.

I don’t know you, and I don’t know if this is possible for you. But if not and you mean to continue a relationship with Jenna, I’m here to tell you that you’re going down. I will make sure of it. Don’t fuck with me. 

What will that look like? I’ll make Jenna decide between starting a brand new life with you and seeing just what that life might mean, or, continuing on with the life she has with me and her son and ending your relationship permanently. And I will force her to make that decision at once. It’s as simple as that.

Again, I want you to understand that I both know exactly what it’s like to be in your position and also that Jenna loves you. And with that I say, take the love you do get—which, may not be the kind you idealize but is surely something very real—or prepare for some shit.

                                       All the best, Julian

*

Jenna dissuaded me from sending the letter to her girlfriend. I shouldn’t engage her, I was told. It would not serve me. 

Not serve me? Was I thinking of myself? I believed the letter had been written to protect Jenna. Fact was, her lover was cantankerous, moody, the kind of person who fished for deeper feeling through argument. I thought Jenna had the skills to defend herself from this sort of emotional tidal wave. Her mother was her own thirty-footer. But what was the purpose of spending nights and days engaged in argument? Why would she spend her time like this? 

Sex and love was why. And sex and love with a woman, in particular. It had been a long time since I’d fought for sex and love. But, of course, some sex and love is worth so much confrontation. I would never say otherwise. Or, I might say it, but I wouldn’t mean it. 

* 

What was your greatest fear as a child? Me, that my mother would die. She wasn’t ill. But after my parents’ split, she had a nervous breakdown, and the fear was born. I saw between my mother, my older brother and myself that I would have to be both the very foundation of sanity in my household as well as the emotional caretaker for its residents. This didn’t seem like a problem, not at the time. 

It was.

I look at my life going all the way back to those early days and can chart its ebbs and flows almost perfectly by the act of running away from or directly towards those who would have me take care of them. Especially as far as the heart is concerned. Attraction/repulsion. I want to help, I can help. But I have to offer this help in the first place. It has to be an act of love, nothing that’s been extracted, coaxed or driven out of me like ants scattering from the blast of a flamethrower.

*

But how do you get what you want? How do you go about trying to fulfill your needs? Better yet, back home growing up, how’d you go about being heard?

Among my family, everyone used flamethrowers. How did the flamethrower work? Easy. You brought it right up to shoulder-height, pointed it at the person you imagined to possess the very thing you believed you needed, and then pulled the trigger. As far as success-rates went, I knew of no better method. Yes, in the crosshairs of a flamethrower, whatever the flamethrower was after, without protest, you'd hand it over.  

I was shocked to find Jenna in a relationship with a flamethrower. And yet I knew it wasn’t an impossibility. I, too, had been romantically involved with them. For me, it was like sex with Mom and Dad. 

*

Jenna didn’t want me to send the letter because she was afraid it would setoff her girlfriend. Put that way, I had to think about it. Was I trying to set her off? And then Jenna clearly desired this heat. Was I serving her now? 

We were in bed that night. Jenna finished reading the letter, and now I was being thanked for looking out for her. Jenna began to question whether we should go on seeing other people. 

“We can stop,” I said. 

“I do like your letter.”

“Well, she could end up getting it one day.”

“Don’t even,” she told me. Then she said, “I don’t like what happened the other morning,” referring to my jogging to my lover’s and returning home before breakfast.

Again, I said, “I don’t think we should do this anymore. It’s not worth it. I’m almost certain.”

But now Jenna wasn’t listening. Perhaps because I wasn’t using a flamethrower.

*

In my family, everyone was armed with one, Dad, Mom, Brother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles. I was, too. Flamethrowers tend to breed flamethrowers. More literally, if you want to be heard among flamethrowers, you have to yell. They don’t take you seriously otherwise, and most likely they can’t even hear you. 

And yet once I got beyond my fear of these blood relations—age thirteen or fourteen, say—and was able to stand in a rage-storm with the best of them, I noticed that more often than not those who were shouting didn’t actually know what they were saying, and in most instances didn’t even understand what they were crying out for. Furthermore, by the time the words were being screamed at you, if you were me, and you’d been screamed at hundreds of times, you were expert enough to know that this flamethrower wasn’t really talking to you but many many people. You could have been anyone. You were just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. But you were being yelled at and you were still here. Around my house, we called that kind of sticking-around love.          

*

And what about my rage? Was all of it internalized, turning into cancer and heart disease? Or else, being born of savages, had it been surfacing all along? 

Well, how do you get what you want? How do you go about trying to fulfill your needs? Better yet, back home growing up, how’d you go about being heard?

(End of Part 2)

To Flip or Not to Flip (Part 3)