Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Good Girl

Well, the lovely Freebird has played me the compliment of thinking I am morally superior to people who are having affairs. Kind of her, but hmmmph! Morally superior is not something I have ever aspired to be.

Even in my recent attempts at greater spirituality, I like to think of myself as, not so much a saint, as an attempting-to-reform sinner. But am I really?

I was a bit of a brat when I was a kid - naughty, loud and attention-seeking. But as I went into my teens, I somehow became a Good Girl. It's hard to put my finger on why. Some of it was the churchgoing that I just seemed to take more seriously than the other kids. Some of it was a desire to please my parents and especially my father, who didn't seem to like me much. Some of it was a genuine pleasure in things like rules and order - we kids from chaotic homes, we like a little structure and discipline! Also, I was good at schoolwork and I enjoyed doing it. I know. It's embarrassing.

It came over me gradually. It seems like one year I was cheerfully shoplifting with my scaly little mates and being kicked out of class for being naughty and, only a short time later, I was dux of the school and- wait for it - teaching Sunday school.

In my teens, I tried to be a little bit cool. I wasn't very good at it. I could pretty much fake my way through the clothes and the music part, but really I was always too earnest and too responsible to be cool. I used to sit up the back of the class laughing and flirting with those boys, the ones that always disrupted the lessons, but it was just a gesture really. When the grades came out, I was always exposed for what I truly was.

My Big Dude, initially, was a kind of rebellion against all that. I had a nice Christian husband-to-be and I rejected all that to live in sin with my rock'n'roll sweetheart. It was a nice try. But you all know how that turned out.

Then I had another little period of rebellion. A bit of partying. A bit of fucking around. What I was looking for was... liberation. I wanted to be free. And in a way, I was free.

I even finally acquired a slightly cooler exterior - a liking for indie music, better clothes and, more importantly, a much thicker skin. A manner that could become, when required, just a little intimidating. I liked keeping people a little off-balance. I learned how to take my pleasures and not have to pay for them. Basically, it was about not giving a shit. It was about always being able to walk away. Some people, I knew, didn't like or approve of me. But they didn't cross me very often, either.

During that period, my favourite album was Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I loved those dirty, explicit lyrics, that pared-down punk energy, that bravado. I saw myself as finally toughening up in a cold world and sometimes I hummed:

Its cold out there
And rough
And I kept standing 6'1"
Instead of 5'2"
And I loved my life
And I hated you.

I'm not quite sure when I realized this period was coming to an end. I remember saying to a friend, "My ego has been stroked but my heart is so empty". I missed my Big Dude and I slowly realized how much of all this was actually about our relationship. Too much love. Too much pain. No wonder I didn't want any more of either. Over time, I found myself humming a different song from that album:

I know that I don't always realize
How sleazy it is
Messing with these guys
But something about just being with you
Slapped me right in the face
Nearly broke me in two
It's a mark I've taken hard
And I know I will carry with me for a long long time.

Now I pretty much see my promiscuous phase as a kind of facade. Despite the sex involved, I'm not sure how much it really expressed my sexuality. I think what it really expressed was wanting to be free. Trying to escape love and pain and that whole Good Girl thing.

But now I do love my Big Dude again, undeniably, and somehow the Good Girl is back.

Not long ago, I talked about wanting to be a person of integrity. About feeling like I had wandered up to the attic and found my grandmother's wedding dress and been surprised by the desire to put it on.

Well, I think I can now report that if you put that dress on, what you get is a very uncomfortable dress that doesn’t fit very well. It's too tight. It's itchy. It chafes in all the wrong places. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe.

And yet, there is something familiar about it. My inner Good Girl, a person I have always disliked and distrusted and thought I had successfully banished, seems to have been there all the time, quietly awaiting this opportunity. She quite likes her dress. It's just me who doesn't.

I have been sulking this week about lack of sex. And affairs. Quite honestly, it seems like all the people in blogland who are having affairs are having so much more fun than I am that I’m jealous.

I know it's not like that. I know that affairs, which can be full of passion and joy and love, are usually full of heartache and sadness and even hopelessness as well. But hey, I’m full of heartache and sadness and hopelessness and I’m not getting any of the fun stuff. My own suffering and whining and complaining is boring even me. Their form is suffering looks more interesting.

So in case anyone who is having an affair is wondering - no, I am not feeling morally superior. Actually, I feel like a teenager again. Like I'm watching all the cool kids sneaking up to the treehouse for a cigarette, while I trudge grumpily off to Sunday school in my stupid Good Girl dress.


Blogger Fusion said...

It seems like you've been to both ends of the spectrum Emily, too bad you can't find the place in the middle right now. Being the good girl/boy sometimes really sucks.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Just Me said...

I love your imagery. Your way of expressing your feelings and ideas makes things vivid four your readers. Do you have anything published?

8:44 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Fusion - I agree. I've never been good at staying in the middle. Moderation is not my strong point. But I'm curious - what do you think would constitute a place in the middle in this situation?

Just Me - I wrote and published a non-fiction history book a few years ago. And actually, I'm thinking about starting a novel. What do you think?

12:42 PM  
Blogger kissmekate said...

Emily you look absolutely gorgeous in your good girl dress depite it feeling uncomfortable.

The answer is not to go outside the boundaries of your relationship. It is to look within for solutions and that is what you are doing.

The answer is not in the form of a bandaid. It is dressing the wound appropriately and by looking within, as you are, you are applying the correct treatment.

Infidelity is just too painful for ALL concerned. Please don't do it.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Mu Ling said...

Emily, as you know from my blog, I've had sex outside my marriage and regret it enormously. And yet even I, knowing what I know, sometimes long for the excitement and passion and plain old variety of an affair. I know that it will not solve any of my problems, and that it will certainly create new ones. But I sometimes get so tired of trying one more day to be good.

As I fall into step beside you, wearing my ill-fitting Good Girl dress, I'm going to offer you a tentative little smile. We're doing okay. We're going to be fine.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Christian Husband said...

What a wonderful post. You have very keen insight and a refreshing amount of self-honesty.

It seems that there are a couple of related dynamics here. First is that you have wisely and honesty rejected any notions of moral superiority. People who feel themselves morally superior to others really haven't ever looked very hard at themselves or others.

We all have faults, and knowing that we have them should keep us humble, but they should not hold us back from getting past them. Our past can keep pulling us back in two ways. First, through guilt at what we've done. Second, through the very real attraction to the pleasures that come from doing such things.

In trying to be your "Good Girl" persona, who you've been in the past can pull you back. Either through guilt (I know I'm not really a good girl because I've done...) or because there is attraction to it (At least then I was having fun...)

All of which brings us to the real ultimate question here: what benefit is there to being the Good Girl? The philosophy of our culture, the world, etc will tell you that self-actualization is the key to happiness, so denying yourself what you want just to be "Good" is always at the cost of all hope for happiness. So, instead, do whatever you can to get what you want. Hopefully you can do it without hurting anybody, but if not then do it and maybe feel a little bad about it. Because, sacrificing what you want just to keep from hurting someone else might be noble, but it isn't a way to be happy.

So, what benefit is there to being the Good Girl? Is there anything beyond simply knowing that you've been "good"? Anything other than maybe that existential ego-pumping thrill that you did The Right Thing (tm)? Anything other than maybe a conscience left over from childhood keeping itself quiet? Anything real or substantial?

I mean, if not, then why be good? The dress will always feel ill-fitting, and you'll always be looking back at what you've left behind. You'll always have a voice in your head saying, "they're having more fun. Sure they also have pain, but at least they have some happiness along with it. At least they are trying to be free."

And, if there was no real benefits from being Good beyond feeling that you've been good then all those voices would be right. And anyone who chose to be the Good Girl or Boy would be most pitiable.

Fortunately, we DO have a real reason to be Good beyond just feeling superior at being ethical (which is something we reject anyway because we try to stay honest). There IS something real. Something to hang onto. Something attractive. Far, far more than the attractions of the world.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. - Phil 3:7-11

6:26 PM  
Blogger Fusion said...

Well that is the problem Emily, I don't see a clear middle ground for you right now, unless things were to change drastically in your sexual relationship with Big Dude.

Sexually I guess masterbation would be a middle ground, but emotionally (and relationship wise), I don't have an answer for you. When a marriage is off kilter so much in one area, I don't know if it can be balanced. I know mine was not, and that was why it was circling the drain.

I wish you the best, I know you are trying hard and that counts for something. Keep working on it!

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure you have heard it many times, but you are a wonderfully talented writer. Definitely write that novel, and let us all know when it's published!

6:44 AM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Well, Em, of course you know that 'saint' and 'sinner' are more like synonyms than antonyms. Every saint is a sinner, and every sinner is at least a potential saint. . .

7:42 AM  
Blogger freebird said...

Well thank you for calling me 'lovely'!
As you know (but maybe others might have missed) I plucked the words 'morally superior' out of your post - just wanted to keep it in context here! Not to be confused with 'sanctimonious' or anything like that.
Don't fight it Emily! You are a good person - anyone can see that! Be yourself and wear it comfortably.

Silly me, for a moment I thought old CH was building up to something useful and meaningful there. Sheeeeesh!

10:35 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

I think society often falls under the misconception that you have to be "bad" to have any fun.

Besides, some of us might just have a thing for "good girls." :-)

12:20 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Kate - Now you're talking. If I thought I looked beautiful, I might become a bit more reconciled to the whole thing. It's feeling rather ridiculous I don't like.

I totally get why you're concerned and I'm touched. Does it help at all if I say that, if I was seriously thinking about having an affair, I wouldn't be blogging about the possibility on a blog my BD knows about and could easily find?

Your blog is an important reminder to me about the costs of an affair. Not the only reason I read it but one of many reasons to read it.

Mu Ling - [tentative little smile back - adds hand squeeze]

I can't help feeling that if YOU'RE also in the Good Girl club, it's going to be a LOT more fun :-)

XH - Thanks, I appreciate that. I can't say I feel the same way at the moment, but I can say that I'm open to feeling the same way.

Fusion - Oh, well, if masturbation is part of the middle ground, then maybe I'm not as bad at the middle ground as I thought. I certainly get in plenty of practice on that front :-)

Anne - Thanks for the encouragement. It's nice when people still encourage you even AFTER they have read something you've written. Sadly, I don't get enough time alone to polish up the writing on this blog so its a bit hit and miss in that way.

Desmond - Sometimes I feel like one of those characters in a cartoon, with an angel and a devil on each shoulder...

Freebird - Well, you are lovely. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Now, if you would just incorporate more misery and confusion into your blog and less love and passion and hope, then I might wear this stupid dress a bit more comfortably :-)

FTN - I have a fair amount of fun. Just not enough of THAT kind of fun, if you know what I mean.

I pretty much picked you for a liking for a girl next door type :-)

3:08 PM  
Blogger flutterby said...

This reminds me of the time I sat for five hours through my brothers graduation ceremony. You know, my dress fit me fine and was comfortable enough, but as the hours dragged on, all I could focus on was how uncomfortable I was -- I could feel every wrinkle, seam and pucker. The chair pretty much sucked, too.

Anyhow, I say that to point out that perhaps your Good Girl Dress is absolutely perfect for you, but that the venue has been a bit of a flop. You're sitting there wondering when the hell this is going to end; you don't see how the event can become better;l why did you buy tickets for the stupid thing, anyway; and damnit... now your dress sucks.

I pray you two find a way to happiness and fulfillment again. Some way for your event to switch from blase to bombshell. Some way to find health and love for the both of you.

Best wishes, Emily.

ps. I second the notion about the book... unless it's one of those huge, historical tomes you speak of favoring. Don't know if I could hang in there through it -- not even for you, girl!! You do have a great way with words -- you seem to express yourself so completely.


10:09 PM  
Blogger Summer Rose said...

A well written post, Emily you look lovely in your good girl dress. Sorry to hear Big Dude isn't feeling well, I pray that it does get better, for the both of you.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Finished Last said...

I understand the feelings of being caught between two worlds and not really knowing which one fits you the best. You wrote this beautifully and if I had any answers i would share them . Just know you are far from being alone.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Digger Jones said...

Wow! you really struck a chord with this one!

I knew you'd grab a big following once you got your own place!

Those of us who endure, who seem to carry whatever crosses we have and's so easy to look like we have some sort of moral high ground to those who have fallen or dropped their burden or fled.

After being flogged and forced to carry His cross and being nailed to it and hung, Christ wept and cried out bitterly.

Which doesn't exactly lessen that good-girl complex...

But I think it is okay to not like it and wish for relief and to not want to be there. I certainly have more compassion for anyone else who has had to endure the long, lonely, cold nights alone. I so identify with that skin hunger; the burning desire to touch and be touched.

It's my fascination with Good Girls that got me into the mess I'm in!;-)


5:42 PM  
Blogger karmawendy said...

my blog gives the bad girl side of life a voice regarding affairs! And opens up the bad girl life to the internet! Good luck- love the blog.

8:53 PM  

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