The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Soul Mate Part 4

After I made my observations, and devised a theory to explain it, I decided on a little experimentation to test the theory. Now, I have to be a bit careful here, because if certain people read this, they might be a bit hurt, so please understand that I’m being oblique.
However, I have to address this, because it is specifically pertinent to the meeting of my soul mate, Tananarive Due.
Here we go.
I had been invited to a symposium on the African American Fantastic Imagination, held at Clark Atlanta University. There, all of the black writers involved in science fiction/fantasy: Chip Delaney, Octavia Butler, Jewell Gomez, and someone named Tananarive Due—and I, would be giving a series of talks. I flew in, and on the way, was deep into chewing over the experiences I’d been having in my dating life. What I had done was hold the energetic of “disinterested interest”—a focused appreciation combined with intense focus on my own goals and dreams. It’s hard to describe. You’ll have to read between the lines here. Let’s just say that I hit that conference like a bomb. The support staff was in a tizzy such as I had never really experienced. I had women writing me erotic love poems within minutes of meeting me. I was picking up waitresses while other women were at the table with me, glowering possessively. It was a totally unique experience, and I had enough comparison of other events and conventions to know that this was not normal, not at all.
That night, they put me up in a dormitory, and I sat on my bed and thought. I could be REALLY good at this, I thought. I could cut a swath such as I had never experienced before, and frankly, that would be saying something. But a hollowness in my heart told me that that was not for me. I didn’t want just sex. Or just dating. I yearned for something much deeper. Much. In that place, completely confident in my ability to bed just about any woman that I wanted, I grasped that I’d glimpsed an aspect of what women really want from men: strength, direction, self-confidence, an appreciation of their femininity without drooling. This was what differentiated men from just another girl friend. I remember talking to a male friend who was complaining about the fact that women treated him like a buddy. I asked him: “what is it that you have to offer a woman?” “Well, I’m a good listener, a faithful friend, I’m kind, and gentle, and honest.” I had to shake my head. “She can get all of that from one of her girl friends,” I said. “What is it about you that makes you a MAN, that makes her want to take the risk of exposing herself, making herself sexually vulnerable in the way a woman must?” You see, every human being will give the least they can to get the things they need. If a man offers too much of his softness before he has established his strength, he gets put into the ‘friend” category, and may never get out. Conversely, if a woman offers too much of her strength before she demonstrates her softness, she gets put in the “buddy” category, and, again, may never get out.
In other words, we want friends who hit our buttons, who complete us in the male-female dyad. And there has to be a little bit of slow revelation involved. We all meet liars in our lives. So we assume that the surface personality isn’t the real one. If you give everything you have initially, the male or female we’re interested in HAS to assume that we aren’t exactly what we appear to be. Any other assumption is suicide: too few people are honest about this stuff. So you have to withhold a bit, pull back, slowly unfold. A man who is too sensitive at first isn’t taken seriously. A woman who is too sexual at first has one hell of a time getting men to take her seriously as well. It isn’t fair, but it’s just the truth.
For me, I realized that what I wanted was a partner. Someone I could spend the rest of my life with. Someone who WOULD grasp who I was even if I was completely honest. Someone who could be my friend, confidant, lover, collaborator in life. And there, from a position of power, feeling that my sexual needs could be filed at anytime, I made a commitment that, if it took me the rest of my life, I would never again be anything less than the most honest person I could be. Unafraid to project both my power and my vulnerability. And I didn’t care that this was contrary to the “game.” And with that commitment, I went to bed.
You guys can guess what happened: the very next morning, I met Tananarive.

More later.

No comments: