The therapist looked away from her keyboard for a moment, started at an adjacent wall as though she were checking to see what comes next, shook her head in a movement that could have been described as "tossing her hair" had she hair long enough to toss, crossed her legs, and asked: "Why do you consider yourself 'difficult', exactly?"
The first thought that came to mind was purely statistical: my failure rate for relationships generally is right at 100 percent, and there has to be some reason for that, right? But this seemed a bit facile: there had to be some reason why they failed other than the fact that I was involved.
At the heart of the matter, I suspect, is the fact that I am woefully inept at reading signals: I can observe until the cows come home, but I won't necessarily pick up on what message I'm supposed to be getting. Even being aware of the context is not sufficient, with the result that if there's supposed to be a first move being made, it's extremely unlikely that I'll make it. About half an hour into a visit with a female friend, about thirty-odd years ago, the conversation was suddenly cut off, and the following question was posed: "Shouldn't we have taken our clothes off by now?" Utter blankness descended upon me for a moment. I mean, this outcome wasn't entirely unexpected, but there wasn't any way I could have pushed it in that direction; I am not the sort of person who says briskly "We're clean, we're eighteen, let's boink." We were actually in our early thirties, but the statement stands. The event probably shouldn't have taken place at all — my divorce wasn't final, hers hadn't even begun — but turning back the clock is not happening.
There is a bumper sticker which reads:
It's not so much that I think my own way is better; it's just that I think your way is worse. This is sometimes considered to be stubbornness, and I don't think I can really deny it, but many are the times I have grudgingly assented to something, with inaudible but indisputable undertones of "You'll be sorry!" This would be less of an issue were it not for my world-class capacity for holding a grudge: the details have faded with time, but there's a Braum's not too far from work that I haven't visited in nearly twenty years, and it's been nearly 40 years since I set foot in a local 7-Eleven. (Oddly, my ill-fated Los Angeles adventure began with a trip to a 7-Eleven — in Redondo Beach.) As time goes on, we are told, we become old and set in our ways; I think I was set in my ways long before I became officially "old."
There are several other reasons why I might think of myself as "difficult": I thrash badly at night and probably — don't know for sure — emit untoward noises while so doing; I have recently developed a tendency to postpone chores past all understanding; and there's that whole lack-of-wardrobe thing, which I have to assume is a disqualifier all by itself. Presenting these characteristics as though they were PowerPoint slides, I think, is probably extremely silly; by now, she should already know all these things, or at least have inferred them.
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