I have never strived for power. Attention I’ve desired, but power over others seems like a waste. If you are forcing one to do something against their will, then will they truly enjoy it, and will you truly enjoy having made them do it? I wouldn’t.
I stood on one side of the street demanding that my friend come back to my side of the street. We were walking to Kowalski’s at two in the morning and I wanted to walk on the side of the street that I wanted to walk on. This friend of mine was a girl I had no desire to be romantic/intimate/sexual with but knew I was supposed to have all of those desires for. She was a friend that I spent nights with discussing her inability to find the right man, while I joked about my inability to find a woman at all. She was cute, but willing to talk about “boy” stuff with me. I was not quite as attractive, but cutely self-deprecating and would be willing to cry in front of a girl. We were a match made in teen-movie heaven.
During my junior year two of my best friends studied abroad. Without the two people I had spent most hours of the day with in the previous year, I found myself alone waiting for a call from somebody to tell me something interesting to do. One Friday night I sat on my couch with my two roommates watching Scrubs not because we enjoyed the show, but because it was 6 o’clock. I suggested that we call somebody, and while everyone agreed, we couldn’t think of the right person to call. I opened my phone and began calling every female in my addressbook. My intent was to call every male the next day. I blame my lack of following through on the next day’s plans on the first day’s utter failure and not on a misogyny.
As I was finishing my story, she started to walk away. My story was not that bad. It wasn’t a great story, but she was still desperately seeking an out. Why now? Why after seven minutes of me forcing myself to seem interested in your cats are you unable to wait the twelve seconds it will take to finish my story before you walk away? Whatever. The fact that we both spent time in our lives in Minnesota was not enough to sustain a conversation, and I was well aware of that fact, but she was the only one in this bar talking to me so I was milking it for all I could get out of it. I guess the cow’s udder had gone dry.
As she attempted to brush her hand against mine, I retreated upwards to grab a glass. “Water?” I offered a possible inclination. Though my thirst was quite quenched, I now had to drink water to follow through with my desire to stay far away from a girl I had once had mutual sexual feelings for. This trip to her house was a week after all sexual activity had stopped and was my attempt at being honest as opposed to leading her on when I knew that my feelings had faded.
Instead of going out with one of the many women that I called that night, I spent the night on my computer writing a script for my comedy troupe. Sitting down, I had only the idea of writing about a date that went awkwardly. An awkward date was what I wanted, so I thought that if I created it in fiction, that it would be like I almost experienced it in non-fiction.
She took two steps to my left in a desire to exit our bar-convo and my voice began to falter. I found a quicker way to finish my sentence and pretended I had to leave also. This was my way of making her feel okay with the fact that she was forcing me to stand alone in a crowded room. I couldn’t even blend in because I was at the birthday party of an old childhood friend of a friend who I only knew through my parents’ friends. I like him fine, in fact we get along famously, but our social circles and life experiences have little in common. If you were to make a ven-diagram of types of people we have as friends they would look like John Lennon glasses. Yet, I was here, the only one without a dry-cleaned $40 collard shirt, instead opting for my hunter’s jacket, fishing hat, and Kanye glasses. I was the only one in the room with facial hair, and even that looked like I went through a car wash that threw mud on either side of my face.
My soon to be rejected ex-lover sat on one couch, and I sat on the furthest one available. “I don’t know how to start this.” I started my planned explanation of why my desire to touch genitals had faded. After my attempt to rationalize our previous relationship and analyze the parts that had led to its demise, I caught a glance at her face. She was stoic. There weren’t tears, nor was there a smile. There wasn’t a smirk, and there wasn’t even relief.
I knew we were this supposed rom-com match because I was being approached weekly with the idea that I was crushing on my friend. Beyond that, I was being approached weekly with the idea that I was soon to be rejected by my friend I was supposedly crushing on. How was I already being rejected without even having a desire to be rejected?
She knew that if she showed even an ounce of emotion, it would be proof that I was important to her, and this rejection was me proving the power I had over her. Instead she stayed stoic. I didn’t want power over her, I just didn’t want to be over her physically any more either (or, more likely her over me). Our time had passed. I extended an olive branch: “I hope we can hang out, but if you don’t want to, you can just reject my phone calls or whatever.”
She stood on one side of the street, and I sat down on the other curb. Her face lit up by Jamba Juice’s yellow glow, I saw an expression of confusion, disgust, and sadness. I sat stubbornly underneath a broken light post demanding that she come join me on my side of the street. It wasn’t the side that mattered. It didn’t matter to either of us. I just wanted her to bend to my whims for once. At least that would prove to all the people who had suggested that I had an undying and unrespected love for her that I was an equal partner. I could force her to cross the street and follow me.
Though I thought I had escaped the situation and I would just have to avoid the former Minnesota resident the rest of the night, she stopped me with the explanation that “this was awkward.” Usually an admission of awkwardness is a turn on for me, but when the awkwardness is something that you forced because you find my inability to match my wrinkled clothes to my other wrinkled clothes disgusting, then I no longer am complimented. I responded by explaining that “I understand.” Meant to pacify her fears that she had insulted me, and that I understood that she had other friends, and I was going to hang out with my other friends too. Instead she took it as though I was explaining that I understood why she was rejecting me; that her 5’3” 115 lb frame was just too good for me.
My olive branch worked. She took my offer and rejected my phone calls from then on. I ran into her through a mutual friend two weeks later and offered up sad stories from my life to prove that I had not done better without her. She provided evidence of sexual success and happiness since my departure with nearly the same stoic stare that had started my descent down the hole of powerlessness. This time there was something different about the stoic stare: it had the slightest hint of a smirk.
Though the script I was writing started out as a story of awkwardness, it quickly became about how awkwardness and power were negatively correlated. When one became more uncomfortable, one also lost any power they may have possessed in the relationship. The sketch then added in the extra thesis that confusion caused awkwardness. When one didn’t understand how to react, one was forced to become a stumbling uncomfortable mess. This led the sketch to the conclusion of both parties on the date being confused and therefore awkward – and it wasn’t happy.
“No, I’m sorry. Don’t feel bad.” She responded to my claim of understanding. I didn’t until now, when you made your rejection of me public in the middle of a crowded room. I could not respond without appearing desperate, defensive, or douchey. I just walked away, depressed.
I continued onward to Kowalski’s alone, as did she. We didn’t see each other in the grocery store and walked back alone as well. I came home to find my facebook wall with a new post. “Don’t give up on your friends.” She was right, but it’s hard to have faith in a group that so constantly disappoints.
One of my favorite lines in all of cinema is “A relationship is like a shark, it must constantly move forward otherwise it dies.” I think it hits deep to the heart of my hatred of the steady and stable. I have used it in order to end things with a girl, I have used it to ask to move to the next level with a girl, and I have used it to gauge where I was at with a girl. I no longer think that it is accurate. It isn’t that a relationship must constantly move forward, it is that the power dynamic must constantly be shifting. Power exists in any relationship between two people, and there is no such thing as constant equality because no two people have the exact same opinions on everything so therefore there will be disagreements in which the couple will have to choose one’s opinion over the other’s. I always thought that if I just refused to desire power that the other would be happy and therefore so would the relationship, but the truth is that that power dynamic must shift back and forth for everybody to be happy. My lack of power has been too constant to correlate to any happiness.