THE ULTIMATE EXPERIMENT
To my Naked Capricorn: Everyone in my life groans when I ask them to tell me something profound, except for you. In fact, you are the unique exception to everything in my life, and what is ‘comical’ is that most don’t believe you exist, and many times I think that maybe you really don’t. You flipped my seemingly bold concept on its head and said, ASK me something profound. So here goes: what’s the point of ever getting dressed?
I exercised my newly discovered right at concocting my own devils advocate scenario with the arrival of my Disarmer.
The Disarmer was a charming man who could make me laugh just as easily as he could terrify me with his stoicism. Whereas most of the people I dealt with felt me to be too difficult to comprehend, he called attention to my middle before I initiated the conversation. In many respects, he had created a similar world for himself.
He could pick through a room full of strangers and tell me who was going to do what next and why. He stood at the perimeter and epitomized the art of what it means to catch someone off guard.
He was provoking and provocative at the same time, an unlikely pairing that I found absorbing. He weeded out the bullshit that I had surrounded myself with and made himself at home in me, planting himself inches from my eyes, while at the same time ready to recoil if I followed his lead and leaned in.
He had me under a microscope, squirming on a cellular level.
He admitted to walking through life thinking he would prevail in a game that lacked competition. Then he met me, and instead of feeling him stumble, I felt the flurry from his stride interrupted and watched him revel in the excitement.
He needed only seconds to recognize the chaotic space I had tumbling about me. He refused to believe that everything in my life needed to be drenched in the sweat of middle crises, despite his uncanny ability to list my causes and effects. To me, I almost felt like he was crouching under my radar screen, unwilling to see what it was that made me, me. But I was probably wrong.
Our relationship was intermittent, which felt jarring to my diving board mentality. I couldn’t decipher what sort of precision devices made him tick. I recognized his awareness of my formulating questions and tried to reclaim them out of the air before he did. At that stage, I wouldn’t have pegged him as a game player, despite the bobbing and weaving he seemed to carry out so effortlessly.
He shared bits of his life without any regard to my schedule, and I found myself removed in a way that I wasn’t accustomed to. He wasn’t asking for anything, and he had a flair for making it seem like he was revealing more than he really was.
I became so comfortable with his nonchalance, his glitter-less slant, that I found my shoulders easing down a little from their usual strenuous position. I stopped treading muck for a while and floated instead. This surface treatment he had applied to me felt like a layer that I could deal with… much more natural than it actually was. I felt safely tucked, I was without recourse, and my plans seemed irrelevant.
And just when I settled in under his comforter, I watched him sit beside me, thinking he was going to tuck me in metaphorically. He looked at me and asked me what would be the most pivotal question of my life.
Disarmer: “Could you stand before me naked?”
Me: “What naked? Sex naked?”
Disarmer: “I am quite sure you are familiar with the mechanics of sex, but how about vulnerability, exposure, critique? Can you remove all of your barriers with me?”
My mind tilted and I spoke with my heart leading, “I do everything afraid. Did you know that? Everything new, recaps, all the sequels. Mostly, I’m terrified.”
Disarmer: “Is that your answer?”
Me: “Can I stand before you naked?”
Disarmer: “Are you asking me or answering me?”
Me: “Can I close my eyes?”
Disarmer: “Do you write with your eyes closed?”
I fumbled my retort, literally lost my breath.
Disarmer ignored my tremors, “Can you?”
Me: “What would be the point?”
Disarmer: “To prove society wrong. To take something inherently wrong and do it right. To remove the walls that “I” put up every day and ask “you” to look at me, really look at me, and leave courtesy at the door. Look at me and tell me what you see without telling me what you think I want you to see. I have a wife and children and a company full of employees who try to read me before talking to me, who make it their purpose to flutter about me, build me up instead of leveling with me.”
I said I didn’t know and he nodded, which was just as disarming as his poignancy.
My answer was hiding somewhere in between.
When he planted the scenario without details, I could visualize the act as a whole, but not the finer points of process, not the undressing, not the conversation that would surely be clumsy and stiff, and especially not the feedback.
I was at first hung up on the minutiae … what if he had an exceptionally small penis that I couldn’t keep my eyes from questioning? Or the opposite? What if he was hairless? What if I started laughing for no reason? What if he became aroused and I stuck my tongue out in light of the barriers that should prevent me from doing so? What if he was a god and I choked when it came to my turn to shed the clothes? What if I could never erase his nakedness from my mind and our relationship crumbled in the aftermath? What if we failed and proved everyone else right?
And then there was one more small detail… what if everything I feared about me was true?
We philosophized the concept for months before I turned the tables, wondering with him out loud if the tone of his pivotal concept would change if set to the tune of an actual time and place.
Essentially, I was asking him the same question, bringing to him the attention of his own prodigy, calling him out on his own theory because I was tired of what I determined was hypocritical theorizing on both of our parts. We had come to a place where we could decorate anything as long as it remained abstract, kind of like I had been doing with the concept of choices that the Surveyor delivered to me.
Finally, and probably thankful to most around me, I was tired of talking.
I found myself grateful to the Disarmer for helping me transform my middle into a new shape when he introduced this seemingly simple concept into my life. And I wanted both of us to own this or move on.
The Disarmer rarely skipped a beat, and this was no exception. He said yes and quickly asked me if I was in our out.
I was honest, and told him I had come to the point of having no choice but to do the same. I had exhausted this topic with him and discovered the simple but embedded fears wrapped around complete exposure and knew that I had to follow through. It was astonishing to see how easy it was to lean on emotional convolution, to go on and on about revealing those “inner” parts, and finally feel that the actual nudity would be the easiest part of the situation.
We set the date and we talked in interesting fragments during the weeks preceding the experiment. I couldn’t believe me… I had cultivated a life of clothing myself in the patchwork of others’ lives that I couldn’t quite understand how I was allowing such extreme vulnerability to manifest itself with the Disarmer.
Even closing my eyes could not have equipped me with the proper response to such Disarmer comments like:
Disarmer: “Have you ever had dark chocolate poured between your breasts?”
I actually contemplated the rainbow goodness and color complementing of milk and white before realizing what he had just said.
Disarmer: “I worried that I would be on my period when we did this.”
I dreamed after that comment that perhaps he was really a woman, and was about to really disarm me when he shed his clothes.
Disarmer: “I can write the alphabet backwards.”
This in response to me asking him for a phone number.
Disarmer: “I simply cannot believe how good looking I am.”
This after telling me about being utterly and profoundly rejected by a woman he once knew.
And my favorite, “I would like to profusely apologize to you for being a taken man. The package that is about to be unveiled will immobilize your waking thoughts and most definitely your dreams.”
The only thing I could think of to match his beguiling skills was to jump vigorous rope once I shed my last layers.
The Disarmer was not a byproduct of my middleisms, yet he was serving himself up as the host to my party, facing me without pretense, deciphering the code that was flashing behind my eyes.
I prayed that my middle would dissolve when I bared it all to him.
When I let go and pushed past all of the what ifs that came tumbling into my brain in the hours preceding our event, I knew that the liberation I felt at the moment of total exposure had to be valuable, but perhaps not in the all-inclusive way that I could count on with vacation packages.
As I went through with the experiment and removed everything I had, every cover, every hope, every desire, every plan, every white lie, every false truth, I felt a shift. The Surveyor came into full view when I realized that without him making me see that I had choices, there would have been no visibility toward the actual exit points to which I already had entrée.
The Disarmer took his chances at a game of dicey dodge ball with me. If he hit too hard, he might paralyze me. If he played me just right, I might come out and find life.
Partial arrogance on his part, but mostly keen vision.
He was essentially asking me to move away from my middle without total abandonment, the way I kept pushing myself to do. He wanted me to recognize that it didn’t need to exist in order for me to exist.
And true to form, he waited until weeks after the experiment to ask me if I considered him ‘hung.’
He was a man, a simple man he always reminded me and he had his reasons too.
GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT
Paranoia set in at precisely minute thirty-one. Hell, he wasn’t even on the plane yet and I was jittering around, feeling like something was going to interfere with his arrival, wondering what I would do if I was wrong, especially wondering what I would do if I was right.
I opened the door, put the deadbolt in opposite use, and sat for five solid minutes looking at the door, realizing there was no backing down once and if he arrived.
I got back up, relocked the door. He won’t be here for hours you idiot.
He was coming; I would’ve heard otherwise by now.
I paced, rearranging items in the room as if I had the right, as if it were my home instead of my luxury.
I made coffee, and then spit out the first sip, hoping the mineral-watered caffeine could be undone by my mouthwash, not wanting that to be the first thing he tasted on me. What would he taste like? I needed a drink.
I called room service out of anxious boredom, asking for everything that wasn’t on the menu, only to end up ordering a better cup of coffee. With a splash of Baileys. And a side bottle just in case I wanted to refresh. What a liar, I knew I would drink the first one straight before even smelling the coffee.
I turned the bed down, and then made it again after fifteen minutes, down to tight corners and fluffy pillows. I even took out the extra two from the closet and made a funny little plush triangular heaven with them, too decorative for my taste.
I called room service back and changed my order to two glasses of Cabernet.
I called a third time, apologized, and added my first order to my revised one.
I hung up my clothes, something I never do, not even for a week’s stay at even the nicest hotel, but then tried to capture the art of “strewn” to mirror my attitude, something I had always wanted to do.
I failed. My strewn looked too much like Pottery Barn’s picturesque bedroom. Angular and stagnant. I spent ten solid minutes fussing with the thermostat only to end up at
the same temperature, with the addition of my sweat. I sat down and sent a couple of harried follow-up emails in an attempt to quiet the twittering inside me, only to have automatic replies from those that were out living.
They were doing. I was redoing.
Lord, help my shaky limbs. Oh, how cute. Ask the Lord for help with this one, Aly.
I knew reading would be a mistake, but I tried an article, and ended up feeling idiotic at the end of it. I didn’t need visions of date rape passing before my mind’s eye in preparation for my precious Justin. I threw the magazine away.
The only thing I could find in keeping with myself was the mantra, “This is soooo not me.” I said it out loud after the room service girl departed. And into the mirror after using the restroom, for sport. I said it after I gulped some of the laced coffee down. I said it to the room, hating the sound of my voice. I toasted myself with the same, hoping to soft en my anxiety.
I had essentially offered such a blatant invitation to sex and didn’t even know what I’d done until my mouth gave me away. I started to dial Jack and remembered I was trying to come away from agitation. He would offer some great advice and most definitely a bit of relief, but it would be lined with a surefire subsequent path into Hysterics.
After I nitpicked my way around the room for an hour, I took a long bath under Vanilla Rosemary suds, and calmly conjured up his hands underneath the water, wondering if I was getting riled up like a fool, waiting for some unrealistic fantasy to play out. What if he was just bantering with me in the spirit of many of our conversations? What if he didn’t get lucky with a last minute flight and was trying to make his way home, only to call me later and apologize, like the gentleman that he was.
Then he would be like everyone else you know, and Justin doesn’t belong there.
I hadn’t seen him in over six months, and I wondered if he would look different…a silly thought, similar to our first post-flight meeting. I went from that simple thought to the shout inside, “OF COURSE he’ll look different. Look at what you’ve just done!”
After what seemed like too countless hours of soaking, plucking, too much time positioning a wardrobe of the slimmest magnitude, and putting the finishing touches on moisturizing, I heard the door click down below.
I heard my own harsh intake of breath, and wondered if my breath carried through the room like my earlier toast did. I crept to the stairs and peered over the edge. Justin seemed to materialize into a standing position, staring up at me. I leaned my head over to the side, smiled at him, and he seemed transfixed, like he was just another invention of my aerobic mind, this time poking at me with such tangibility.
Ever so slightly mocking my fantasy. Almost.
Excerpt from Mama’s Boy:
With Mama‟s Boy, there is no question that you will have to act as the more dominant one in the duo. Undoubtedly, you will succumb to such labels as „wearing the pants,‟ „Oedipal complexity,‟ or any colorful variation, but you better believe that there is only one woman that holds the spotlight and that is his MAMA. And nothing she could ever say, spew, do, undo, or kill, even if it‟s straight out of Mommy Dearest-ville, would be wrong in his eyes. And nothing she will ever say, spew or have against YOU will be worthy of his defense of you by him… to her. So, while that may bring out a bit more compassion or sensitivity, in his non-mama-entrenched times, you will have to buy some market share into the tit from which he receives routine nourishment.
Excerpt from Viagra:
Ahh, the magical V-word. It becomes hysterical when you discover that his find still doesn‟t make him any more attuned to the female parts that you do have actively functioning on a well-oiled basis. But man-o-man, now that the cat is out of the bag, Viagra can‟t wait to tell you his dick has sprung, or at least is going to, because of the magic of the V.
Excerpt from Never Been Married (NBM):
Some basic questions to consider:
When you ask him why he‟s never been married, how does he respond? Does he openly admit that he has been at the engagement stage any number of times and it gets called off? For what reasons? Or does he say that he believes there is one meant for him and he hasn‟t found her yet?
Does he subscribe to the ever-popular blame game of no woman ever being able to appreciate just what a goldmine he is?
Does he have kids? Property? President of a multinational company? Any responsibilities to speak of? A job at all?
Is he terrified of commitment or inept at closing the deal? Does he show up when he says he will or is there always an excuse he has tied to his backside?
Any one of the above reasons carries with it an obvious trail tied to his personality. It‟s sink or swim for you here.
Excerpt from Desperately Seeking Domestication (DSD):
“DSD has one goal and one goal only and unfortunately, it requires someone she doesn’t even know yet to fall in love with her enough to marry her super soon and, OH YEAH, get right on board populating the baby train. That’s a helluva lot of unknowns for someone to carry around while making it their sole lot in life.
DSD can’t go to the grocery store without making sure she is in tip-top shape, lest she find Mr. Right in the produce section.
She has no plan for a career of her own because that would take entirely too much time away from her rigorous activities geared toward her life’s dream of officially latching onto someone else.”
Excerpt from Jewish American Princess (JAP):
“The urban Dictionary describes Jewish American Princess as the following:
“A bitchy, spoiled, gold-digging Jewish female; raised in a wealthy household, selfish, high-maintenance to the point of sheer insanity, stuck-up, the worst woman to date/marry on planet earth, yet deemed the most desirable by Jewish mothers, who attempt to force them down the throats of their unsuspecting sons.
A female who collects designer fashion items and status symbols (including men). Bane to the existence of dating men.
The key to an unhappy relationship for the rest of your life.
Large-breasted, outwardly attractive, internally spoiled, greedy, complicated, self-righteous and obnoxiously difficult.”
This concept is so damn prevalent, yet it’s one of ‘those’ stereotypes created that errs on the side of truth.
As a woman who has (unfortunately) dated a Jewish man, I never knew how much this powerful label could hold so much truth in the real world. After what I went through with the Jewish man I dated, I can no longer say I hold to that theory. I never really believed in stereotypes for my own dating preferences until I gleefully arrived to the end of my relationship with him.”
Excerpt from Journal Chick:
“Journal Chick is a classic example of a backwards day dreamer. She absolutely lives in the past and it’s a painful show to watch day after day, after endless night
The main problem with Journal Chick is her inability to move forward period. She won’t make a good business partner, mother, sibling, wife... you name it.
There is no way to conduct a healthy anything when all you’re doing is comparing to or extracting from the past. The whole point of your past is to learn from it. Reflection is beautiful but it should ideally resemble a sort of photo album rather than a leaky valve.”
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