"It's written all over you face," is an expression that has been said to me so many times, that it often echoes in my head. I am not mysterious and have never bothered to attempt to be. I don't have time for that and I would never want to be bothered wasting time concealing my emotion, unless absolutely necessary, like perhaps in a work setting on an unpleasant day.
Contrary to my "open book" facial expressions, stands my ex-husband. During the time we were dating and married, nearly 8 long years, he would get extremely frustrated with me for not concealing my emotions and putting on a face. His M.O. is for everyone to think he is wonderful, happy, and living a fulfilling life at all times, but more importantly at all costs. This is certainly not his way behind closed doors. His own personal motto (and who can believe that someone would even have such a thing?) is, or at least was, "Never let'em see you sweat." He was always fake smiling and fake laughing, and I would crave, not unlike an addict, to see him crack a true smile, which to me at the time was the equivalent of a rare, precious gem which held promise of a new beginning. Levinas describes his behavior in writing,"there is an essential poverty in the face; the proof of this is that one tries to mask this poverty by putting on poses, by taking on a countenance." (p.86.)
At first, I, as many people who fall victim to various unwell behaviors, was charmed by his life of the party behavior. At age 21, I frankly loved to party- whoa how the birth of my first son has changed me! My ex-husband was initially attractive to me for a few reasons, and mainly because his face made absolutely everything seem so great. Pathetically, I was sucked in by his very bizarre turquoise eyes that are a very rare color, a mesmerizing very light, clear turquoise. Sadly, I had not read Levinas who warns, "The best way of encountering the Other is not even to notice the color of his eyes!" (p.85.)
To clarify the beginning of this relationship, I will describe one of the first memories of a seemingly mild abnormal behavior that was demonstrated on our first date. We ran out of gas on the middle of a beach road, after I had spent the latter half of the day suggesting we stop for gas. I was nervous as the sun was setting - mind you this was pre cell phone ...basically other than the huge things that were actually attached to limos and such. He was laughing and saying unwaveringly, "This is fun. This is an adventure." As a one time thing, this may be romantic and running out of gas may seem to be an innocent mistake; after 20 times, it was not so much.
What would evolve over the years proved that events like purposely running out of gas were among the most mild of situations that this man, four years my senior, would put us in. No matter how dire, the man was smiling and laughing, like a true lunatic. His face showed lunacy. The same behaviors continued once our precious son was born, and will not be written on this blog to allow the craziness to live, even if only in words.
With the birth of love of my newborn son came the birth of my maturity and realisation that I needed to escape from someone I found extremely abnormal. It seemed almost that I was forced into motherhood before I was ever pregnant, but the unconditional love a mother has for her own baby had been missing until my first child actually arrived.
Through the years described above, I tried everything I could to defend my decision, however poor, to be with this man. I lied to my closest family and friends with silence and by covering for apparent horrendous things that my ex-husband would do. It was exhausting and I was troubled that the next sixty years of my life would be like this. Cognitive dissonance allowed me to reason with myself and believe that each new chapter or life event would promote miraculous change. Woops. Another, if only very intermittent deterrent from reality, was waiting for the moments when I pleased this troubled character. Lacan discusses this and concludes, "The subject has a relation with his analyst the centre of which is at the level of the privileged signifier known as the ego ideal, in so far as from there he will feel himself both satisfactory and loved." (p.257.) When someone is so dissappointing and so unkind and abnormal, a significant other may find him or herself waiting for that feeling.
For my entire life, I have been a very naturally happy girl/woman, until sometime in the midst of this relationship, when I stopped turning a blind eye to the array of occurrences, recurring and unique, that were not quite right, or worse. My mother, a psychologist, tried to steer me clear of this relationship from the first time she met my ex-husband, then new boyfriend. I was furious at her, and the only reasoning offered at the time seemed pathetic- she said repeatedly, "His eyes are not right, Kimberly. Please, I don't know what it is exactly, but I know there is something not right about this young man." It just infuriated me to hear her say this! It makes me, she in general leads me, to think about Lacan writing," ...to know what we mean when we speak of the subject of perception. Don't make me out to say what I'm not saying- the analyst must not hear voices."
My friends, siblings, mother, and even the man's own sister-in-law asked me to run from this relationship. My immaturity and naivete ensured that these warnings were dismissed and made me stick like glue to prove everyone wrong. These people all made frequent comments, particularly my own mother, who would say, "Where is my happy, laughing daughter? Please don't shut us out. What is happening? Where is your smile? You always used to be such a happy girl. Please, please let me help you." The morning of my wedding, my mother came in and asked if she could talk to me and told me that she would not be at all mad about anything, the guests, the money for the wedding or anything if I wanted to change my mind. I spazzed inside, but turned her down gently-ish. In the end, I could not escape fast enough once I became mama bear with a baby bear cub. I had screwed up big time and it was written all over my face, I just wouldn't look in the mirror.
In Cory's NY Times article, I think the families realized they had screwed up too, but it is so hard, particularly when one makes a major life change like marriage, to face the music when it was a mistake. With some people, you never can tell what is going on. With others like me, all you have to do is look at our faces.