What The Fuck Am I Doing Wrong?

So, it happened again. Another woman from my daughter’s Kita has feelings for me. And of course, just as perfectly and just as terribly, I have feelings for her too. I saw it months ago: joking to my husband “I think A. has a bit of a crush on me…”, hearing how she talked about me “People are staring at you because you have those flecks in your eyes… and you’ve been cycling.. you look so healthy..”. It was obvious and I ignored it and ignored it because I didn’t know what to do. It felt sweet and maybe (just maybe) like I had imagined it. I talked to my friend M. and said “Am I losing the plot here? She’s just into me in a platonic way, right?” and M. said “Yes, platonic, platonic.”

And no, it’s not platonic. Not at all. A. told me that she’s bisexual, or queer, or pansexual, or whatever you want to call it: not straight. She told me she wanted to go to this club with me…. KitKat. It’s a sex club, a fetish club. We went out for drinks, got drunk, and went there. I couldn’t focus on anyone but her. I wanted her, and I knew I shouldn’t.

After things ended with S., all those months ago, S. and her husband split up. They both reassured me it wasn’t anything to do with me, and that their marriage had actually had problems for a long time. They don’t hate me, they both still talk to me, and as far as I can tell, they are telling the truth about it not being my fault. But I no longer feel like I would do it again: I changed my mind, I think it was a mistake.

So now with A. … beautiful, smart, wonderful A. … I can’t do it. I want her to like me, I want her to have a crush on me, I want her to lose control and do all the things with me that she and I both know we shouldn’t do. But this time around I just can’t do it. I like her so much, and seeing how S. and I grew apart, seeing how we broke our friendship in the end, seeing all the pain and complication surrounding our lives, there’s no way that I can do this with A. I cannot do that to A. and her family, it would be so reckless, with foresight, knowing exactly how badly things would end.

I might as well say her name, because it doesn’t matter anyway: Anna. I love how she laughs. I love how she smiles. There are so many things about her that I can’t help but feel so drawn to, not least of all that she seems to understand me. We are so, so different in lots of ways, but we are both that friend who is a bad influence. We both like doing things we aren’t supposed to do. We’re both intellectual, I love hearing her talk about her PhD and all the academic stuff she’s working on. At coffee this morning she mentioned something about illuminated manuscripts and I felt my eyes grow wider and I felt my breath catch in my lungs. Yesterday she tried on some clothes for work, some business outfits, and one of the items was a leather jacket. When she put it on I just felt this “Oh god..” feeling in my body. She looked hot, and as much as my brain could try to ignore it, my body told me in no uncertain terms how I felt.

But I like Anna so much. I can’t do it to her. And so instead we live in this parallel universe, this world in which we like each other but it will never be realised. Nothing will ever happen, and one day when one or both of us decides we don’t like each other in that way anymore, it will be the end of a relationship that never happened. And thinking of that, makes me sad.

In all of this, I wonder: what kind of impression am I giving to people. What are the chances that in my kid’s kindergarten, there are two mothers, two married women, who are both falling for me. What am I doing wrong? It’s not supposed to be this way. Anna and I did some work together, editing someone else’s document, and the guy had written that to determine the history of an object when assessing it for art acquisition purposes, that one should circle the object first from far away, and then up close: like prey. I joked that a friend calls me a predator, because I always seem to get the people I’m interested in. But I don’t feel like a predator, not at all, rather I feel like sometimes I am so confused and so uncontrolled, that suddenly I am leaping into something completely blind and that it just so happens to work out the way I wanted it to. And of course… sometimes it doesn’t work out, at all. When this happens again, first with S. and now with Anna… I begin to wonder whether I really am treating people as if they are a goal, a challenge to beat. Am I unknowingly seeing these people as not people, but prey? Am I disregarding what is right, what I should do, how I should behave, purely for my own selfish interests? Life isn’t supposed to be this complicated. I can’t help but think that I am making it so… but another part of me wonders if this is just what life is, sometimes: complex, uncontrolled, inconvenient, pleasurable, hard.

Fate Can Meet As Well As Follow.

What I Need

For the first time in ages I have told someone what I need. Not what I want, what I need. A girl that I’ve been sleeping with keeps wanting to meet up, but I lost all my energy to socialise and have sex and it all just fell away before I even noticed it was gone. I told her that it’s nothing to do with her, but that I can’t meet up with her and I just need to focus on myself for a little while.

Even though my mood feels okay, I’ve been spending the last month in bed, at home, not venturing out much other than places that I have to go to. I take the kids out, I go to the supermarket, but I actively avoid everything else unless it’s with a close friend. These are the little blinking orange lights that show me “Hey, look out, things could get a lot worse from here if you’re not careful.”

5 years ago I didn’t notice this was happening until it was too late. I sat in my bedroom every evening, ignoring M. and refusing to interact with anyone unless I was drunk; I would wait for that blurry feeling to wash over me until I could show affection and say what I thought and crack jokes and then as soon as it was over I was back into my bed and thinking some of the darkest thoughts I’ve ever thought in my life.

We did go on holiday to Edinburgh; it felt safe and familiar — the city is laid out like Dunedin; the street names are all the same and even some of the buildings felt so much like home. Everyone was speaking English instead of German and I could just breathe for a moment. It also felt like as soon as I caught my breath, I was suffocating all over again in everything that came with those home-feelings: memories, people, damage, the small-city-ness of it all. I missed Berlin and the trains, I missed the queerness, I didn’t feel as secure walking around just being me, even though visibly I look like some boring 30-year-old Mum. I don’t look like anything strange or weird or like I push any boundaries in my life ever, but I do feel inside myself like I just don’t fit in some places. A woman I met at a rooftop bar the other week told me that in Berlin she feels like she can really be herself and relax and everyone just accepts her. She said:

In Berlin, everybody cares about who you are. But nobody minds.

And she was so right, this is true for me at least. That feeling of freedom is incomparable, I didn’t even feel it in New York. For ethnic minorities it’s another story, and to pretend that Berlin is not racist is to be completely ignorant of the issues. But in my privileged middle-class white-girl bubble, Berlin is the place to be free.

My fuck-buddy replied quickly, she was kind and told me that she understands. If I want to message her again one day, I can, she said. I told her what I need and everything was fine. I’m not used to this.

I need to focus on myself for a little while, I need to gain back some idea of what I’m doing and where I’m going. The emotional responses I’m having to M. and my friends and my kids is something that I didn’t expect – I’m not feeling so grumpy or angry or short-tempered as usual, instead it’s openness and love and this good feeling for them, mixed in with this bad self-feeling, this lack of motivation and quiet fear of venturing out into my neighbourhood. But why do I feel this confused bundle of emotions, why do I feel so simultaneously buoyed and flat? That’s what I need to figure out.

We’re With You

Everyone cares about what other people think. I’ve been fighting against it for so long, taking tiny steps towards doing what I feel is right, presenting my true self, and living authentically. But there are still times when I think to myself “Am I doing enough? Do I still care too much? Should I come out of the proverbial closet just a little bit more?”.

We’re all driven by a desire for people to like us. It’s only problematic when that desire overtakes our own selves, to the point where we don’t ever do anything weird or unconventional or challenging, simply for fear of having the people we care about turn their backs on us.

One tiny thing that has helped me has been (surprisingly), Twitter. I started posting things. My thoughts. Re-tweeting jokes I thought were funny. I stopped worrying if anyone liked what I posted. I slowly gained followers, random people who saw some reply of mine to someone ‘bigger’. Some Twitter comedian that nobody knows unless you spend too much time on the internet.

I wrote about my ex-girlfriend, and how she dumped me. I wrote about my queer identity, my marriage, our lives, our kids, my political views. I forgot that my husband’s father follows me on Twitter.

My daughter E woke up one morning with tonsils so huge that they were blocking her throat. I rushed with her to the ENT, and struggled to explain in broken German what was wrong with her. The doctor looked in her throat for a few seconds at most, and said with a serious and firm voice “She needs surgery”. I posted on Twitter about this experience, and later that day sent an email to my in-laws back home, explaining what was happening and when the surgery would be.

When my father-in-law replied “I saw your Tweet and photo” I felt this weird feeling in my stomach. He saw my Tweet? Does that mean he saw my Tweets about my girlfriend? About getting dumped? About polyamory and getting high and being queer? I wondered what he thought. I love my husband M with all my heart. I had this cold and heavy thought that my father-in-law would think I was cheating on M, or that I didn’t love M, or that I was somehow messing up our family.

I hurriedly replied with a huge email, detailing various aspects of our lives, being careful to include how happy we are, holidays we planned together, information about our mostly-very-normal life. And then I wrote it: “You follow me on Twitter?! I tweet about a lot of stuff I don’t put elsewhere so that’s… Probably raising various questions for you…”. I decided that tackling it head-on would be best, and that if he had any questions about my other partners or about the stability of my relationship with M, he could just ask me.

It turns out that when you marry someone as wonderful as M, you should not give his parents too little credit.

My father-in-law replied within an hour, giving me all the updates on their life back in New Zealand, expressing sympathy about E’s surgery, asking me what I plan for my career when both my kids are in Kita.

And then at the end he included one final comment:

I’m a very rare twitter viewer – mostly just look when I have a few notifications come up. Don’t worry – just be real 🙂 We’re with you.

So I guess that’s the end of the story. I care immensely about what they think. Nothing worse than having your husband’s family hate your guts. But they’re with me. They’re with me, despite all the life decisions that I’m sure they wouldn’t make in a million years. That’s a pretty wonderful thing to happen; to accidentally take your mask off, and have the people that you love still support and care for everything that’s underneath.

Loving You Was Breathing

Finally it happened. I wrote before about choosing love, and not being afraid. So I walked that walk and let myself be carried along with a feeling that years ago would have terrified me. It turns out that when you open up your whole heart, sometimes it gets broken.

After J, I started a relationship with a woman called S. She is married and has a little girl called E. My own daughter and E are such good friends, it’s gorgeous to watch how much they adore each other.

S and I met at our childrens’ Kita. We started with playdates, ‘Mom dates’, and wine. But something began for us, something totally unexpected and way out of left field. One night at dinner she touched my arm, and the attraction that flared up was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt my heart leap while this dread sunk into my bones: “Don’t get a crush on her. Don’t fall for her. She just wants to be friends. Fuck.” I tried to be nice, friendly, caring, without letting myself get in too deep. I didn’t want to be outed as queer, I didn’t want to mess up our friendship. So I kept quiet. For months we would hug outside Kita when we picked up our children, and I’d breathe in and not want to let go. I’d bury my face in her hair and my whole chest would turn to butterflies.

I found out months later that the spark had not just been me. She had panicked and messaged her best friend, scared about what she was feeling, uncertain about what to do about it, unsure about having this feeling for a woman for the first time in her life. Afraid of ruining her relationship with her husband, S went back and forth about what to do; should she pursue something, stay silent, ignore it? She gave me small and quiet hints; a comment about loving my hugs; a text about wanting to feel that uncertainty of not knowing if someone likes you back or not. Over time these hints became louder, and I began to feel like she wanted it, she wanted me. Every time we hugged it felt like I was going to burst, the attraction was obvious and urgent and clear. My husband M was already cool with what I wanted; smiling, he encouraged me to go for it. S decided to take the risk, and asked her husband if it was okay if she and I pursued something. He, wonderful man that he is, said yes.

She asked me out for drinks and told me that we could do what we liked. I drank the rest of my wine so fast, from that moment my brain had turned to static. We walked out the door of the bar and I couldn’t do anything but kiss her. We made out on the street, reaching into each other’s clothes with a rushing intensity that only comes with tension that has been denied for too long. She ran her hands over my body, dragging her nails over my skin, kissing me with a feverish desire for more; when she pushed up my dress and put her mouth on my nipple, my heart and blood and body dissolved. People were watching. I didn’t care.

We continued as we began, frantic, desperate. She called me her girlfriend, our families began to spend more and more time together, I got to know her husband, I began to love her daughter.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over. Suddenly, out of the blue, it was gone. She was too tired, too exhausted by motherhood and life and everything that made demands of her, she had nothing left for me. I’m the kind of person that takes a lot of energy to get to know. I’m complicated and anxious, intense and moody, and sometimes so sex-driven that I can’t focus on anything else. It was all too much for her, and she and I kept saying things that hurt each other. We crushed our romance with our rough hands. I saw it happen like a drip of water falling from a tap not quite shut, dripping and dripping over the course of a week and then the faucet was suddenly on, extinguishing everything.

We met up for a sleepover, and it felt as if her body had turned to stone. She told me she didn’t know how to say it, but I already knew what she would tell me. It was gone. We had lost it. I hugged her and I felt her face twist into this painful disappointment. I didn’t understand it but this horrible feeling was too obvious to ignore. We cried at what had happened.

I grabbed my things and she drove me home. Her husband was confused; he had been so supportive of the whole thing from the beginning. He liked me, he cared about me, he wanted “our thing” to work. She was sad. I was sad.

The morning brought this strange pain into my chest, like something was raw inside. She didn’t want it anymore. Somehow, this thing, this beautiful and special thing, was over. She sent me a text saying “I love you”.

She said that most people feel too proud to want to carry on a relationship after they get dumped. I felt the opposite; I felt so happy that I had let myself be open and curious and ultimately, hurt. Life goes on. I downloaded Tinder and got a ton of matches within the space of two days, and I have a date tonight with a beautiful woman who seems intelligent, kind, and interesting. My husband still adores me, I love my kids, I’m enjoying my study and my life and all that lies before me. Getting hurt and letting someone else be in control was a big thing for me. But somehow I felt good. I felt strong. For the first time in a long time I felt powerful and confident and secure.

Now when I hug her and breathe in, I smell her perfume and feel my heart skip a beat. I just let it beat this way, this shuddering, gasping beat. I saw the joy in her smile when she was with me. I saw the love in her eyes and felt it in her kiss. I saw the pain in her heart when it was over. I don’t ever want to be afraid of loving anyone ever again, because the joy, the passion, the desire, her smile and excitement when she looked at me … it was all worth it. In the end it was gone too soon, and in the end we both got hurt. But if I had to go back and make a choice of whether or not to have it, even knowing that it ended this way, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would do it again. I’d let my heart beat again, and again, and gasp “yes”, a thousand times over.