Stop him! He’s getting away!

I searched and searched because I was sure I must have written something about this before here, but I can’t find it. Oh, who am I kidding? All my posts are basically meditations on the same five or six things. I’m OK with that!

Whenever I hear someone say, often in a voice that betrays an odd inner echo, that someone is “getting away with” some behavior or other, what I hear, damn near every time, is, “This is something I desperately want to do and don’t have any concrete reason not to do except for my own internalized self-loathing and hypertrophied sense of my special lack of freedom.”

For some people, it’s sex stuff. Who doesn’t hear all that in the red-faced rants of the homophobic? Or the unhappily monogamous? Or the repressed pervert? They’re getting away with fucking anyone they want in exactly the ways they want! Since I never have sex with anyone for any reason, this one doesn’t have anything to do with me. God bless all of you who have to deal with this.

For others, it’s work/reward stuff. Students who would like to think they enjoy reading and writing get very anxious about the possibility that someone, somewhere, is spending slightly less time doing reading and writing, and still getting the same grade. Even professional adults I know react to hearing a half-assed conference paper by complaining that he got away with putting that on his CV! Since I watch the same conference paper in a state of rigid empathic humiliation for the moron giving it, no, I don’t think of them as getting away with anything. That idiotic fraud has to be himself; I envy him nothing.

For me, it’s emotional/communication stuff. The people who really get my crank turning are people who complain, or ask for help, or demand love, and then—and then!—they fucking get it!* No one just coldly walks away, or stops returning their calls, or pretends not to recognize them in public. They’re getting away with murder, these people! They don’t just ask for petty shit like hand me that salt or whatever. They say, “I’m lonely! Comfort me!” or even—unimaginable!—“You’re not paying enough attention to me!” How many thousands of times would I die of shame before uttering those words?

One of my biggest problems in communicating with other people, I think, is that I have different “getting away with” stuff. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone should feel hung up about how other people are getting away with fucking people they want to fuck, or producing the kind of work they do. But man, it boils me up when other people get love by doing things I was trained never to do.

I’ve been working on this resentment for about eight years now, since I met my then-boyfriend’s kids. I remember thinking at first that they were unbearably needy. I want to sit in your lap. Read me this book. Watch me do this trick. I recognized this weird part of myself that couldn’t understand why these little people thought it was acceptable to demand attention, and that they always got it, every time. I didn’t deny them, either, but I felt a sting of resentment. Then, I realized that sting was my own feeling of unfreedom, never having asked for love, never thinking it was something one could ask for.

That’s when I realized that no one ever gets away with anything.


* – A friend was telling me about how someone she tried and failed to establish a relationship with is seriously dating someone new, and, having been through this a million times, I immediately responded, “Lemme guess: she complains constantly, and she brushes her hair.” This was immediately declared completely accurate and also hilarious. As far as I can tell, straight dudes just really like two things I don’t do!

5 responses to “Stop him! He’s getting away!”

  1. FPS says:

    It’s funny, the idea of working on a resentment–unfortunately, not foreign to me. I’m sure I’ve said this to you before, and I have no idea if you find it convincing, but I’m pretty sure you do something I do, sometimes, which is trap yourself in narratives about yourself that, while not comfortable, are somehow perversely compelling. I wonder if this is one of them, because I bet there are contexts in which you are fully capable of asking for what you want, including help.

    But probably not including love. Unless I’m just reading you wrong, love isn’t something to ask for anyway. You have friends and people you love and do get things you need from them, don’t you? I’m sure I’ve heard you say so. I wonder if there’s a buried story not about things you can’t ask for but things you won’t, are unable to accept?

    I mean this to come off as gently speculative vicarious introspection and hope it is not overbearing instead.

  2. AWB says:

    The self-analysis here is pretty reductive, agreed, but I meant it only to make a larger point about the “getting away with” construction, that I don’t see how people use it without seeing it as an expression of envy. Right? As far as the asking for help thing, I have genuinely gotten a lot better about it over the past eight years, and when I met you was near the height of the concentration of it as a project. But I didn’t realize until I saw how deeply I resent others for doing it (not to me, which I don’t mind for some reason, but to others) that I realized I had an inaccurately intransigent sense of my own unfreedom.

    Asking for love, though, Jesus fuck I can’t do that. Or better put: demanding love. I think people really do this. I try to obtain love by being so excellent, but it turns out this is not a very good way.

  3. LP says:

    But… does demanding love really work? I kinda think it doesn’t. Seems like it would have the opposite of the intended effect. When someone demands love from you, are you really so willing and eager to give it? I have a hard time imagining you do.

    I don’t mean to be reductive myself, here, but isn’t the whole point of love that you don’t have to demand it?

  4. Dave says:

    I used to have an argument with my shrink about “needs,” where he said I should acknowledge my needs and I said he was really talking about things I wanted but didn’t really need. “Need” was just too strong for me, and it carried a sense of entitlement that I think is related to your “getting away with” analysis.

    So maybe to say “I demand love” is too strong, but it actually is reasonable to say that one deserves love, even that one needs it. And it’s reasonable to ask for love (not okay in all situations, but okay in some), or, alternatively, to expect love.

    In other words, as LP says, you shouldn’t have to demand love in the sense of ask for it, but it’s ultimately healthy to realize that you deserve love (and, as my shrink put it, you might even need love).

  5. Tim says:

    Today I witnessed someone getting away with something away with which I’m certain I do not wish to get: a perfectly abled man using a disabled placard to park in a disabled spot and save himself walking a few extra yards. This may be the only thing.

    Anyway, when it comes to asking for love, perhaps it’s more a question of asking for certain types of demonstrations of love, not the love itself. I agree that love is freely given or not, and asking for it is likely moot. Asking “Will you please hold my hand?” (or whatever demonstration one wants) is perfectly reasonable, but also something many people find difficult or even impossible. Seeing other people ask for and receive affection can be maddening to those people who feel profoundly that it’s not so simple as just saying, “Kiss me, you fool!”

    (Says the biggest PDA fool of them all.)