This is disturbing for a number of reasons, one of them being the genetic thing. My dad is kind of crazy. And my mom has always been really worried that I'm going to lose it. It's funny. And tragic, and if she's reading this, Mom, come on. You know I find it utterly endearing. After all, I'm already thirty-two and still haven't lost it. :)
She probably doesn't read my blog anymore. I pretend she does from time to time so I don't cuss too much. Occasionally I forget how much I cuss until Stoker starts teasing me with things like, "I won't say ______, if you'll stop saying _____." That's when it dawns on me that I must say _____ a lot. And then I feel bad.
Back to the paranoia.
Part of not becoming paranoid or crazy is realizing the potential you have for losing your mind. Right? I mean, that's the paradox, so beautifully illustrated by Joseph Heller in Catch-22. You can get out of the dangerous mission if you're crazy, but if you're cogent enough to NOT want to go up in the belly of the bomber plane, then you must not be crazy. Only a crazy fool would want to be a sitting duck in that bomber plane's belly turret.
I'm not paranoid, really. But long ago, I dated this one guy for several years. I was 18 and stupid (but no stupider than most 18-year-olds. If you're eighteen and reading this, I apologize, but someday it will all make sense), so of course I put up with his general awfulness for far too long. Like three or four years too long. One week should have sufficed. Did I already mention I was very young?
Plus I'm a stayer. Some people are takers, some are leavers. I'm a stayer. I just mean, when I decide I love someone, I stick with them. I had decided that . . . . Ted, yes, Ted was great and that I loved him so much that if I had to, I would go into hell with ten screeching cats dangling from my limbs and sixteen dogs chasing me, the human cat tree, just to retrieve him, so great was our, er, my love. Of course, I never thought, but why is Ted in hell in the first place?
If I'd thought that, I would have realized he was in possession of an innumerable amount of sins strong enough to banish him to, if not REAL hell, then at least Dante's vision of it. One of his sins was saying this to me at one point, "I don't love you. I'll never love you. Plus, you're not exactly what I'm looking for in a wife. I want a woman I can sing duets with and who will teach our children to sing."
Even at eighteen I realized how insane he was for thinking something so absolutely childish and ridiculous. I bet I laughed like my grandma laughs when she sees through the crap and finds a kernel of happiness so delightful, she can't contain her jubilation. Like the time on that family trip when my aunt was scolding my cousin in the parking lot of a national park (who, lots of parks there) and a bystander tried to step in and my tow-headed cousin said, "Butt out lady, it's none of your business." The scolding resumed.
You can see why my cousin was being scolded with an attitude like that. My grandma thinks that story is really hilarious.
Anyway, Ted. He was awful. But I overlooked it because that's what you do when you fall in love. Sometimes love is absolutely insane and stupid. Ted was twenty-six and I was eighteen, and Ted had never had a girlfriend in all his life. He'd always loved from afar. He had no concept of what a relationship was like and he had no understanding of the reality of women, being the oldest of six boys. I was willing to work with that because I was young and pliant when it came to my expectations of a man.
Ted continued to not want me, but then he'd want me, and then he'd break up with me, and then he'd want me back, and then he broke up with me and it really was the last straw. So I started dating his brother. I had no scruples. Plus his brother and I were good friends and we could talk about books for hours. His brother, Tom, asked permission to date me of course. We had cleared it with Ted. That made it kosher, right?
So to make it more dramatic, Ted decided after I was involved with Tom that he wanted me back.
I had started a war. Completely unintentionally, but still, it was the one time I really understood Helen of Troy.
I was nineteen by then, but still utterly naive about certain rules. If no one explains them to you, how are you supposed to know you shouldn't date the brother of a guy who SWEARS he wants nothing to do with you because you don't wear makeup, and you ought to, you know (so then you start wearing makeup, because you're a whelp and you don't get it yet).
This is getting around to my paranoia, I promise.
After a few months of battling over me (I won't lie to you, it was kind of amazing to be fought over, but I'm completely ashamed of it now), I picked Ted. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, you moron. You should have picked the brother. Tom had no history of not appreciating you. And you're right. But the brother DID have a prison record*, which COULD have been difficult to live with.
This was LOVE, right? The prison record shouldn't have entered into it. I tried to base my decision on logic somewhat, and also, my mom was really vying for Ted. She has a will like the moon. Try as you might, there's no way to escape her power—she flexes and your tides answer and you find yourself telling Ted that you picked him and saying goodbye to Tom.
Even after the harrowing war that almost split the brothers apart for life, Ted still didn't appreciate me. Surprised? I know. You saw it coming. Behaviors don't change that drastically. Patterns die hard. Etc. Etc. He wanted to get married. I didn't. Whoa, I know? Didn't see that coming, did you.
Well, I had grown up a little bit after all his ping-ponging (is that an expression? Maybe it's pinballing. Or billarding. I don't know. Flip-flopping). Yes, I can only withstanding so much abuse before I learn a little. Slow-learners raise your hands. Let's form a club.
Here comes the paranoia part, but forgive me for the long prelude, the back story seemed necessary somehow.
Ted wanted to get married. We did the long distance thing a while because he'd graduated and moved to the city. In that time and after several attempts on his part to do the classic fade and disappear, I fell in love with someone else. A guy who was the complete opposite. And I realized that Ted was a loser, not only for how he'd always treated me, but for his lack of passion. His bitterness. The fear that ruled him.
Ted sensed me slipping away and asked me to marry him (remember, he only wanted what he couldn't have . . . the proposal didn't seem genuine). I said no, then I said goodbye forever.
Little did I know.
*For burglary. He'd done it at eighteen. Forgivable, right?