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In love? We have a form for that.

one cute couple and me--1992

one cute couple and me--1992

“Are you in a relationship?” he asked. I didn’t think to lie. “Yes.” The tactophobe and I had been dating for only a few weeks. I was still filled with hope.

The question was part of my Peace Corps application process. As my recruiter explained–most people who quit their service early do so for a relationship. This cost the Peace Corps money.

The tactophobe had the same recruiter, and I thought this would work in my favor. “My boyfriend already has his invitation,” I said. “We’re okay with going to separate countries. It isn’t a problem.”

In truth, I could so rarely ever say I had a boyfriend that I couldn’t resist admitting to one now–even though perhaps he was no boyfriend at all.

“You’ll have to have him fill out a form,” the recruiter said.

“Excuse me?”

There was a form that I would have to give my boyfriend about our relationship. I started to protest, but shut my mouth. When I got the form with its five questions, I set it aside. There are pages and pages of forms to get into the Peace Corps. Maybe no one would notice if I failed to turn this one in.

Four months later my recruiter told me he had my medical forms (four visits to four different doctors), letters of reference (eight), personal essay, written answers to interview questions, actual interview, application form, financial documents, and transcripts, but he didn’t have that form.

I thought of telling him I had no future with my boyfriend, that it was just a thing, not a relationship, but what would that sound like? Did I want to sound like that for a guy who wouldn’t kiss me? And how could I admit that after five months, my boyfriend hadn’t kissed me? That wouldn’t do.

I dug out the form.

“Hey,” I said to the tactophobe, standing in his living room. “Could you fill this out for me?” I held out the form. “It’s stupid, but, you know, I can’t get my invitation without it.” Maybe he would think I was crazy. Maybe our relationship was all in my head. Maybe he would say, “What do you mean boyfriend?”

He took the form. “Oh this,” he said. “I should’ve warned you. You should’ve lied.”

“Yeah, well. What did I know?”

He sat on his sofa and scribbled some answers. I didn’t look at them when he handed the form back to me.

That night, alone in my own room, I pulled the form out of my purse. I skipped down to the last question–What are your future plans for this relationship? We have no plans to be together.

One day you will put your work out into the world and someone will look at what you’ve done, and he will shrug. All your friends and a few strangers will love what you do, but there will be someone who just doesn’t. This is not the end of the world. This is not a final judgment. But often we let the person stay in our thoughts and undo our confidence. Why do we give this person such power?

Is there one person you keep trying to please even when you know you never can? Does this soul deserve this power over you?

Or have you ever thought that you were that person? Have you seen someone trying to please you, and nothing that soul does reaches you? Do you try to explain it? Perhaps put it in writing?

Should I even say Happy Valentine’s Day at this point? ha.

6 thoughts on “In love? We have a form for that.

  1. I don’t understand why people act the way they do in relationships. Why do otherwise sane people act like neurotic freaks when they get close to someone? But then, maybe they aren’t otherwise sane. Heh heh, that’s my dig at various ex boyfriends.

    But then, I also think that it is all for the best that all those relationships ended. All I can do is take what I can and move on.

    I guess that goes for those people who don’t like our work. We can’t please everyone. We can’t be soul mates with every one, and we shouldn’t, right? We have our loves and our friends, just as we have those people who connect with our work, right? If they don’t like it, then those aren’t our people, right? Maybe we can learn something from them, but trying to please everyone is not the way to make work that’s true. I think about that when I see all these wonderful artists. I can’t be them, because I’m not them, I’m me. Better to go on, being myself than try to change to please other people. Right?

    I’m still working on this concept with my work. I understand it with people, so thanks for making the connection between a romantic relationship, and the relationship of our work with our audience. But it’s interesting, that’s not a two way relationship. We do our work and put it out there, and then they can fall in love or not, does the work love them back? Is it about us at all?

    and happy bleeping valentines day to you too.

  2. rowena, interesting point. The work doesn’t love them back, I know, so that must make part of the relationship short lived–that part where the artist makes the work with an audience in mind. Maybe we feel part of the artist in the work when we look at it. Or what we perceive to be the artist anyway.

    I don’t know. Seems in making the art we might be trying to please an unknown somebody and that in viewing the art we’re trying to see an unknown somebody.

    That makes no sense. Well, thanks for your thoughts. And a happy bleeping valentines day right back at you.

  3. Oh, Girls, I totally disagree about the work of another’s capability of love for its audience.

    Tepper’s work loves me. I know this. And, I’ve written back and forth with her and I know the love, the understanding, the simpatico of spirituality that is in her books is wholly intended. If I didn’t feel my books loved me, I wouldn’t have such strong relationships with them. I wouldn’t go back to them over and over for 3rd, 4th, 5th readings -each time discovering a new pattern in the tapestry of our relationship.

    I love Sharon Shinn, Marge Piercy, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Toni Morrison for the same reasons. Philip Roth’s books could give a shit about their readers, as could the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley. Their books are brilliant, but the work is there to be observed and appreciated. The books submit themselves for your consideration; they do not care about an interpersonal relationship.

    Happy V Day, Marta.

    I LOVE YOU!!!!
    (and I’m so glad you’re not with the fecking tactophobe anymore)

  4. Is there one person you keep trying to please even when you know you never can?

    I’ve been lucky on that score: the only such person is keying this comment in right now.

    Rowena’s comment was interesting — the analogy with readers loving our work. And I agree that it’s not really a two-way relationship, that the work, for the reader, will always be a sort of passive object which behaves or functions for them however they want.

    BUT the relationship between the author and the work might be a lot closer to the love(ish) relationship between one person and another. I often feel as though I’m locked in a critical relationship discussion with a story or book, a very much interactive, two-way back-and-forth. Sometimes it’s amazing we haven’t strangled each other yet.

  5. I have no idea whom I try to please or why, but I do. I do to the point that I don’t even write. I mean, after all, if there is nothing to read, I won’t have to go through the pain of rejection. I know this is a loser’s attitude to have, but, trust me, I don’t mean to have it. I think it is because I’m too critical of everyone and everything else.

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