A Hawksley Workman song has been running around in my mind: Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off. The theme behind it (or at least the one I’m feeling right now) is the idea what you love and admire in somebody else can foster those traits in you.
I fell for a guy once. Met him through some mutual friends, and we’d end up talking way into the wee hours of the night, long after everybody else went home. I was so amazed with this guy, so sincere, so open, so candid. It was the first time I’d ever found the word earnest to be really applicable to a person. Now, I’m innately shy, much rather listen than talk, and much prefer to keep my personal struggles and challenges to myself; but being with this unassuming guy as he just calmly talked about his inner world, inspired me to step up to the plate and match his candour. It led to some juicy and fruitful conversations.
Eventually I felt compelled to tell this guy how I felt about him. As an aside, do you ever have that? That deep drive to do something even though your intellect is saying: “shutupshutshutup! This can’t possibly go well!” Sure enough, the conversation didn’t go well; it didn’t go badly either, it was just brief. Mostly just long enough for him to tell me he was flattered, though I think flabbergasted would have fit just as well. A week later, after a bit of processing time, we met for tea and a debriefing, for lack of a better word.
True to all our other conversations, we had a straight-up candid conversation where we each talked about our romantic histories, what influence that had had on us, what we were still working on now, and where we wanted this to go. Everything laid out on the table, so we both knew where the other was coming from. I was amazed we could both just talk openly about all of this, it had never really occurred to me before. My deepest gratitude to this man for showing me this was possible; I have subsequently had several loving and decidedly undramatic break-up discussions based on this model.
But I digress, I’m sure you all want to know how this love story ends (pssst, I’ll tell you now, it ends happily). When we got to the part about where we go from here, he said: “My heart just doesn’t lead me in that direction.” Which, please take note, has got to be one of the nicest ways of dumping somebody I’ve ever encountered – so remember that, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you stole his line. There really wasn’t much to say after that, plus I needed a bit of processing time of my own. I walked out of there with the voice in my head saying: “See, you take a risk and end up disappointed AGAIN!” and as I felt the walls start to climb up around my heart I heard another voice, it said: “Nope, I’m good.” And I relaxed and softened inside and didn’t really feel I’d been hurt or affronted.
Now the strangest part was for weeks after that I would walk around with hummy-falling-in-love feelings, smiling and chatting with strangers (I hate talking to strangers!) and I couldn’t understand where that was coming from. The fella in question was a no-go, I should be mopey and disappointed, where were those feelings coming from? Then I realized, those hummy in love feelings were for me, for the part of me that had opened up, and met him in that earnest place. Through him I’d learned to act in the ways I’d so admired in him. Letting walls down, talking to strangers, not holding everything so close to the chest. A whole new part of me revealed. Something beautiful I never even knew I had, never even knew to miss. Something I saw in him, which he showed in me. Falling in love with a buried part of myself, his beauty rubbing off on me.
I wonder how often that happens, particularly in cases of unrequited love. When you feel so in love with someone who isn’t returning those feelings, perhaps it really isn’t about them, it’s about what they are opening in you. I’ve got a friend who’s basically the guy equivalent of There’s Something About Mary and everybody crushes on him (I’d be lying if I said he didn’t elicit some hummy feelings in me too). A man who carries with him a quality of peace that just feels good to be near, and like Ben Stiller said at the end of the movie, I suspect most people don’t realized they probably aren’t in love with him, so much as they are in love with the way they feel when they are around him.
I’m sure he struggles with trying to stay open and loving and to still shelter himself from all that attachment. A struggle I can relate to. I spend a good majority of my time with happy-hummy-in-love feelings for life, and the world in general – and all of the specifics too, I once spent a full 20 minutes completely smitten by a bunch of daisies, and have found the soft brown eyes of a homeless man absolutely dreamy. I’m sure the beauty I see all around me, the beauty that fills my heart so much of the time, rubs off on other people. People who think those hummy feelings they are having are because of me, or because of how they look through my eyes, without realizing it’s got nothing to do with me, it’s all just sparking something within themselves.
This year in particular has been challenging for that. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like a fat doe in a dark forest, surrounded by wolves hungry for what I’ve got (that sounds a little more menacing than I mean, but I hope the visual makes sense). I’ve honestly never been hit on or sought after so much in my life as I have been in the last 6 months. I’m sure there are women who’ve dealt with this their whole lives, but for me it is novel and decidedly uncomfortable. And like my peaceful friend, I don’t know quite how to stay in that beautiful loving place, and still protect myself from people who want things from me it is not in my power to give. I think somewhere in me there is a centred grounded place where what other people want and feel does not perturb me, but I haven’t found it yet.
At best all I can come up with is a variation on a childhood rhyme, something I’d like to put on a T-shirt and wear all the time:I am rubber You are glue What you see in me Resides in YOU
I should probably get one for my peaceful friend too.
I think this idea of beauty rubbing off pertains to what I talked about in Queen of Unrequited Love, and the challenges of intimate guy-girl friendships presented in Puberty Ruined Everything. You may want to check out those articles as well.