The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Soul Mate Part 7--Tananarive's story

So.  Tananarive was the relationship columnist for the Miami Herald.  I lived in Washington state.  And we sensed, after only three days, that we were supposed to be together.  I admired her mind, her spirit, and her waistline.    Yeah, I checked it out.  If I hadn't liked it, I would have backed off.  Is that honest enough for you?  After all, I needed someone as energetic as I, someone with similar values and beliefs and behaviors.  You think its easy to stay in shape?  That you don't need all the support you can get?  Hah!  Ever have a husband or wife sabotage your efforts to train, or eat healthfully? It's notoriously common.  So I needed a partner.  Period.
And so did she.  Talking to her for many many expensive hours over the next months, I learned that she had, quite brilliantly, positioned herself in that relationship column partially to learn, to speak with  countless happy and unhappy lovers, seeking to learn what made a decent relationship tick.  She was unhappy wth her relationship history (a red flag!) so she went into therapy to try to get to the bottom of it.  It's not my place to discuss the issues she was digging into, but let's just say the work was hard, and serious, and honest.    She was also unhappy with the way she had been sharing her sexual energy, and had made a commitment to not have sex again unless it was with someone who loved her.  Wow.  Are we seeing a pattern here?
I was, and am, fourteen years older than Tananarive, and took that VERY carefully into consideration.  She is a powerhouse with her own destiny and drive, and I wanted to be fair with her.  Would I be able to help her?  Stand with her?  Suport her?  She wanted a family.  Was I prepared to accept that responsibility whole-heartedly?  Fourteen years her senior, physical fitness was going to be crucial to ensuring that I kept my energy at the highest possible levels--emotionally, intellectually, sexually, and physically. She is a lioness.  She deserves a lion, not a broken-down old man by the time she is sixty and I am seventy-four.  Was I prepared to do EVERYTHING in my power to give that to her?  If not, I had no right ot court her.  She had the right, the responsibility to want a man who would be an active, vigorous father to her children, a protector, someone with enough sexual energy to balance hers , to make her feel desired, needed, wanted, appreciated.  Was I prepared to place my personal history, my fears and disappointments behind me?
And another issue.  Quite probably, T is a better writer than I am.  At least, for a variety of factors, there is a VERY good chance that her career will exceed my own.  One reason is that black female readers are FAR better organized, and greater in numbers than black male readers.  And that women tend to read other women's work across color lines far more than men do.  Was I prepared to put my ego away, to suport her in every possible way,, even if her career soared and mine crashed and burned?  Well, I thought...if she made a ton of money, and I didn't, I guess I could handle being a kept man...heh heh heh.
When she came to Washington to visit me for the first time, I took her to Toni's house (my ex.  We lived on opposite sides of a duplex, so that Nicki would have a home.  She came to my house after school, and her mother's house for dinner.)  I introduced T to Toni and Nicki.  Nicki immediately hugged her. the kid was what?  Ten at the time?  It was perfect.  Love that little girl.  then I put the three of them together in a room, said, "talk about whatever you want to" and left them for a couple of hours.  I figured that if I really loved T, if I really wanted what was best for her, I  wanted her to be as informed as possible about the decision she was making.  Who better to tell her the kind of man I was than my ex?  I mean, if your ex trash-talks you, doesn't that say volumes about who you are, whether or not it's the truth?  So THAT was one of the bravest things I've ever done.  And one of the smartest.  I had worked very hard to clean up my relationship with Toni, who I love dearly, and is one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever known.  I may get into that question, because that was part of my emotional foundation, and there is no doubt that we collaborated in screwing up our relationship, big time.  Sigh.  Another story. At any rate, T saw more deeply into who I was, and who I've been, and who I hope to be, big time.  Yeah, like Steve Perry says, I had something of a reputaion in the Sf community.  I had a lot of shallow fun, and even some deep fun.  And of all my old lovers, I think only maybe two of them dislike me now, can I say this without bragging?  Maybe I can't .  I got WAY into triple digits.  But like Harlan said once, all that means is that I was searching for love.  Desperately trying to complete myself, understand my self, heal myself.  At the core of it all, I think each and every one of us is searching for Ourselves, looking to peer more deeply into the mystery of life and love. That sexual dance is the most delightful mirror I know.  Nothing says more about you than your sexuality: at one moment you have touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight engaged. When else is that true?  The Baud  (Bawd?) rate of communication is through the roof.  You learn about inhibition, pride, creativity, intelligence (sex with low-normal folks isn't much fun.  Don't ask.)  physical energy and tone, maturity, balance, and a host of other factors.  All at the same time.  So I was searching.  Faaaaar and wide.  Ahem.
When I met Tananarive, I grasped instantly that she was a hot-house flower, raised in a loving, traditional, conservative black family, and the shadow of the church. There was no way in hell that she would feel nurtured with anythingless than a monogamous relationship.  Unless I was willing to offer that to her, I knew not even to start.  And further, because of my reputation, I had to offer it to her, NOT WAIT FOR HER TO DEMAND IT. AND I HAD TO MEAN IT, AND STICK TO IT.  Wow.  I had never been monogamous in my life.  I'd always been honest, except perhaps to myself.  Was I ready to step into a completely different level of maturity and focus?  To be with one phenomenal woman for the rest of my life?  The answer was yes.  So I promised her.  I told her the truth.  And I am proud to say that from the moment I met Tananarive, even before we were officially committed, I haven't been with another woman.  And that blows my own mind.  I didn't even know I had it in me.  that's not just love.  I loved Toni.  That is something else, for which I have no good name.  Do any of you?

More later

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