Thursday, January 17, 2008

In which I compare the Dementor to modern furniture, and other stories

I saw a couple friends last night, one of whom I hadn't caught up with for months, except for random emails.

She asked how things were going in my personal life. And then she said, "It all seems so drama-free."

This struck me. There isn't any drama. No manipulation. No attempts to undermine my self-confidence.

And I thought about the Dementor, who is very, very good at all of those.

The Dementor played more of a role in my life over the last couple years than I think he would have in a different time and space. I was in a bad place, which made it easy for him to treat me poorly, but I understand now that it also made him an ideal person for me to work some things out with.

The kinds of things better worked out in therapy, but still. A process is a process.

One of the things I'm thankful about is that we didn't actually get into a long, serious relationship. Because had we, he'd have systematically undermined my self confidence to the point where I would've been pretty sure I was worthless.

Of this, I am absolutely certain, having gotten to know him better in a non-relationship. And in retrospect. With time and distance.

So I was thinking, in particular, about the kinds of compliments I used to get from him.

Because, you see, I was always on edge with him. He prompted things like the purchase of emergency shoes. We have the kind of chemistry that makes you a little dizzy, where you can feel the air buzzing around you. I imagine the constant on-edge-ness increases that immensely.

Although I'm no longer emotionally connected to him, I'm sure I'd be on edge if I saw him tomorrow. There's no settling into the soft, comfy warmth of his company.

If he were a chair, he might be a Le Corbusier. Black leather and chrome. The kind with little give when you sit down, and the back that only sticks up a little, so that there's no lounging, or even leaning comfortably. In fact, there's no leaning at all, unless you want to rely on your abs for support.

There's only sitting awkwardly, but with the understanding that you are sitting on something very fabulous, very exclusive, and very expensive. You should feel privileged, in other words, to be sitting in this uncomfortable seat.

And then, sitting in a chair of such meticulous design, beautiful condition, and impressive expense, you look down and realize that you're just not dressed well enough to be sitting in it. Your sweater, while purchased at a cool boutique in Paris, suddenly feels too bohemian, and your pants are from Ann Taylor (on sale), and your boots are scuffed. And you know for a fact that though nobody can see it, you have a hole in the toe of your silly purple stripey sock.

You get the picture.

I realize, in retrospect, that being on edge is where he wants people. He's charming when he wants to be. But you're never supposed to be at ease, or actually feel good.

So back to compliments. Of the dementing kind.

Not having seen each other for months, he's say things like, "Wow! You look beautiful! Exactly the same as the last time. Except your hair is flat. Why is it so flat? Probably because you were wearing a hat? So anyway..."

And so then, although you felt totally pretty and confident when you arrived, you then fret about your flat hair throughout the evening.

Or this one, my favorite. "You look amazing. And you're really skinny."


"Is everything OK?"

"Totally fine. And I'm the same size as when we were dating."

"No, you're thinner. I mean, you were thin then, but sort of on the verge of getting fat. Like, I was thinking, she looks great now, but in a couple years..." He made a face, and widened his hands.

It's embarrassing to think back on the kinds of things he'd say, and the ways in which he'd make me feel bad, and know that I didn't actually have the wherewithal to say, "Stop it."

Instead, I made allowances for his childhood, which is the worst of anyone I actually know. And his mean, fucked up family.

When I had angst or hysteria about personal things, he was a really, really good source of advice. Because manipulation? Was what he was fed for breakfast growing up. Abuse? That was lunch and dinner. I could call him with questions or upsets, and if he wasn't the person dishing things out, he was great at saying, "That's bad behavior. You're worth more than that. Tell that guy to fuck off."

Odd, huh?

But at some point a very wise woman said to me, "Understanding his issues makes you a good therapist. It doesn't make him a healthy person for you to be emotionally involved with."

I don't miss him, but that doesn't mean I don't think about him. The people who evoke such extreme emotion, they take a long time to dissipate.


  1. Sometimes, when I read your work, I wonder if I'm one of those people who would twist horoscopes around to fit their lives if she read them.

    Or, alternatively, if this isn't all just in my head, and that the reason I agree with everything is that the Powers That Be are using us as their "rats" in the same social experiments.

    If we are the rats, I assure you that your fur is perfectly fluffy, and that you're just the right size.

  2. Oh, Dag, I don't know if I've told you yet this year how much I adore you. If we're rats in an experiment, at least we have each other for company on the exercise wheel.

  3. I have always thought it such a great injustice when someone who puts you so on edge is also someone with whom you share such overpowering chemistry.

    You can sit back and see yourself making so many allowances that you know you shouldn't, and in most cases wouldn't, but feel powerless to stop it.

    I'm glad you don't miss him.

  4. lg,

    i was in love with a manic depressive man for over 4 years who treated me similarly to how the dementor treated you. and i didn't realize how not ok it was until i started dating my current boyfriend and saw how it was supposed to be. i got so used to making excuses for him and for his shortcomings that i forgot about me. it's devastating to be in love with someone who is incapable of loving themselves and seeing how great they and you are. and instead of appreciating everything you do for them, they throw it back in your face or make you feel insignificant in the grand scheme of their tortured lives.

    love is never easy, but it is nearly impossible with someone who is damaged and doesn't want to discover the road to repair.

  5. I once had a friend like this, she was fantastically fantastic or crushingly cruel in subtle, manipulative ways. I'm glad to be rid of her, just as I'm glad you're rid of anyone who would say those things to you. The good advice/words he occasionally offered are ones you can find from a lot of other people (people who won't turn around and make you feel terrible about yourself 6 minutes later).

  6. There isn't any drama. No manipulation. No attempts to undermine my self-confidence.

    Congratulations... That's a beautiful thing. I am so happy for you.

    *hugs* :-)

  7. I believe in thin-slicing, so I'm just going for it, here:

    Fuckers like this are the WORST kind of fuckers, because of the long-term damage they can do if they aren't quickly identified and removed.

    They slowly, bacterially, become the only source of what eventually substitutes for self-esteem, and execute pirouettes of crazy-making behavior which causes people to fill with self-doubt and lose the kind of personal density that allows for independent thinking in a true relationship.

    I know these fuckers. They may be tempting, but hell, so's booze to an alcoholic. And I ain't drinkin.

    Anyway. Hi.

  8. TMM - You are so right - it is a great injustice. And it just seems impossible at the time.

    Anon - Thank you so much for sharing. You put it perfectly - it's nearly impossible with someone damaged who isn't looking to heal. I'm glad you've found someone healthy and kind.

    Nicole - Yes - fantastically fantastic or crushingly cruel - and it changes every 6 minutes! You know exactly what I'm talking about!

    VVK - Thanks, my friend. :)

    Rich - I appreciate the candor, and yes, you are absolutely right and you described their insidious behavior perfectly.

  9. Phew. After I wrote that, I was a little like, "whoa, dude." Glad you weren't offended.

  10. I'd put that Le Corbusier up for auction on ebay. Stat.

    What's the point of beautiful and sleek and chic if it's just one uncomfortable encounter after another?

    Glad he's not part of your current scene.

  11. I had to re-visit this entry to pass on my heartfelt thanks...

    We moved into a new office building over the weekend, and I was remarking on how strangely comfy the curvy plywood waiting area chairs are, when someone said 'Oh those are 1958 *cough* and *cough* design, classics...'

    I was able to shoot back, without missing a beat - 'Of course, I prefer Le Curbusier myself, but I can see your point'.

    Go me!

  12. You should have no regrets, your past is what makes you who you are today. What a great post.


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