Don’t Worry Be Happy

Jonathan. I’m doing a terrible job of explaining what was going on between him and me because it so much easier to tell the dramatic stuff like getting assaulted by a drug-crazed supermodel.

It’s a lot more difficult to figure out what’s important to say about a relationship. Maybe that’s the problem. At the time I still didn’t know what a relationship was, and so a huge part of the development of our relationship was him schooling me on what a relationship was supposed to be.

Those words, “supposed to,” came up a lot–well, maybe they came up in my head more than out loud. How is a boyfriend supposed to act? For that matter, what is a boyfriend supposed to look like?

By the time Chris and Lacey visited, I thought I had figured out how a boyfriend was supposed to act. If I wasn’t stupid and didn’t, for example, stay out too late without warning after playing a session, everything was pretty smooth. If I waited until the weekend to ask for sex, we had some of our best sex ever. (It was still a luxury to me to have sex with the same person multiple times.) One really tricky puzzle was this: what was the right thing to do when neither of us could figure out what we wanted to eat? I quickly learned that if I let that get out of hand, a meltdown was imminent, so it was better not to let it get out of hand. I wrote a list of restaurants we liked onto the back of a business card and when I got desperate I would peek at it. I’d make suggestions hoping he would jump on one and that would solve it.

Eventually I figured out that sometimes what Jonathan really wanted was not tacos or falafel or Italian food. What he wanted was for me to decide what we were eating. Far as I was concerned, I would have just made us a schedule of places and we’d rotate through them, but somehow I knew that wouldn’t work. And then I figured out that Jonathan wanted me to decide what we were eating, but to make that decision by figuring out what we would actually both enjoy most.

I’m not so good at mind-reading, you know? When it came to actual relationship stuff, Jonathan was all for getting it out in the open and talking about it. I mean stuff like how we felt about each other and what boundaries we were going to set and sex. How come we could get that stuff worked out and yet somehow falafel versus tacos was a life or death decision? What’s a good boyfriend supposed to do?

Jonathan idolized the couple upstairs, Jerry and Robert. We got to know them a little, he better than me. Jonathan called them the Queens of West Hollywood, and at first I thought, okay, queens is a term and it’s okay for gay men to use it for each other. But as time went on I realized how appropriate a term it was. The two of them went around with their noses in the air as if they were some kind of benevolent monarchs, and they treated everyone else like subjects. Plus we saw them being treated like elder statesmen from time to time. They also went everywhere together. Jonathan often ran into them at the bookstore or the cafe when he would get up on weekend mornings to grab coffee and do some writing while I slept in. (A few times, with Jonathan’s blessing, I went out to shows after dinner when he went to bed. Generally speaking he always had to be up earlier than I did.) Overall I didn’t spend as much time in the neighborhood as J. did, between driving around to different studios to do sessions, and sometimes spending a day or two at Remo’s, I just wasn’t there as much. So it’s no wonder that J. got to know our upstairs neighbors much better than I did.

I’m saying a lot about them now but at the time I hadn’t given them that much thought. I didn’t interact with them all that often and wasn’t even sure which one was which. They were two fifty-something white guys who dressed alike and talked alike. One was slightly taller, but they both had the same amount of gray, similar haircuts, and they were always together. So I never heard one mentioned without the other, either, as if “Jerry and Robert” was their collective name.

One Saturday afternoon Jonathan and I had sex after lunch and then we were lying in bed listening to music.

“Let’s see a movie,” Jonathan said.

“What movie do you want to see?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen a movie at Mann’s, though, and I feel like I should.”

“Mann’s?”

“Mann’s Chinese Theater?”

“Oh right.” There was a photo shoot of us standing in front of it from that long-ago time when we’d done that warmup tour for MNB. That was the day after Ziggy and me…. yeah. It was. “I think there are photos of the band there. Were you in that entourage?”

“I was,” Jonathan said.

I wondered if it felt as long ago to him as it did to me. Almost a year and a half. “So is seeing a movie there kind of like actually going up in the Statue of Liberty instead of just walking around it?”

“I guess. I just feel like here we are in movie-land and we’ve hardly seen any movies.”

“We’ve seen a ton of movies. Beetlejuice, Heathers, A Fish Called Wanda…”

“I mean in a theater, not video rental.” He gestured at the plain white ceiling above us. “On the big screen.”

“Okay, sure.”

He had perfected the mind-reading thing of knowing when I actually meant “okay, sure” and when I was saying that because I wanted to say no, but couldn’t actually think of a reasonable objection. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s a great idea.”

“You’re all tense.”

I wasn’t about to tell him that it was because it reminded me of me and Ziggy’s first time. And I don’t even know if that was why I had tensed up. Maybe that wasn’t it. “Isn’t that kind of Paparazzi Central?”

“I thought you decided not to worry about that.”

“Me deciding to stop worrying and actually stopping are two different things.” I rolled onto my side to face him. We were buck naked still, and under just a sheet. “Although it has been pretty quiet.”

“Yeah.”

“I mean, not that it’s good that nobody gives a fuck about us–the band, I mean–but…”

“I know what you mean.” His hair was blonder than usual from all the sun he was getting. I played with the sex-tousled wisps of it. He’d let it grow a little. “Why would going to Mann’s be all that different from us seeing a show at the Whiskey?”

“Good question.” We had been out plenty of times to see shows and live music all over the area. “I think it’s two things. One, at a movie theater you’re trapped in one place whereas at a show you can move all over.”

“Well, that’s true, but in the actual theater it’s dark and no one’s going to be taking photos in there. What was the second thing?”

“Crap, I don’t remember. I guess you’re right, though.” I reminded myself most of the photos were from cocktail parties where we could walk around freely, and the fact that most of them were taking in the parking lots. “Would it be stupid to take separate cars?”

“This is really bothering you, isn’t it?”

“I guess so. I keep trying to talk myself out of it, and I keep thinking of other things.” I lay flat on my back and stared at the ceiling. “Am I being nuts?”

“I wasn’t trying to turn it into a whole big deal–”

“No, no, it’s okay, I mean, let me get over myself and then I’ll be fine.” I’m pretty sure that if there was a video game called Good Boyfriend that line just lost me half my points.

Jonathan was pretty smart, you know. He caressed a squiggle on my chest with his fingertip. “Is it because it’s a date? Going to a movie is really like a ‘date’ thing.”

I thought about it for a second. “That might be it. It seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?” I sat up suddenly. “Wait. Wait-wait-wait. Did you suggest it because you want to have a date kind of thing?”

“No. It was more the movies equals Hollywood thing.”

“Are you sure? Because I’m sorry and I suck if that was what you wanted and here I am worrying about bullshit.”

“Daron, you know, a date would be nice, but seriously, that isn’t what this is about. If you want to romance me, a candlelight dinner works just as well. But seriously, I don’t need candles and flowers when you’re here with me every day.”

He pulled me down to snuggle with him side by side and I relaxed. He was warm and his skin smelled comfortingly familiar and that was worth something, you know?

But that was how a simple question like “what do you want to do tonight” could turn into a whole bout of relationship processing and introspection. I started to understand how Lacey could go down the rabbit hole of figuring out what was wrong with people. I don’t think you ever get to the bottom of it. At some point you have to decide you’ve gone deep enough and it’s time to stop.

We didn’t go to the movie. Does that mean I won?


(Okay, if you thought that Culture Club video ctan picked on Tuesday was weird, have you seen this one? Yes, that’s Robin Williams. -d.)

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Comments 8

  1. Connie wrote:

    This relationship sounds–well, I think I’d want to go back the Allston House about now. (And Lacey won’t be there!!!)

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    You think it’s not worth working on?

    [Reply]

    Connie Reply:

    I’m not sure. What do YOU think? Do you like life better when you’re around J? Are you more content overall? Less lonely? If so, I’m not hearing it from you. Regular sex is nothing to dis, but putting energy into a relationship is a big deal.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I think you never know until you try. And I don’t think I’ll be content until I can figure out where my career is going. How much of the feeling I have that I’m in a holding pattern is because J. is a model of stability, and how much is that I am playing sessions? Maybe it’s impossible to separate it, though.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Sep 2013 at 1:06 pm
  2. AK wrote:

    Daron to be cliché and quote the song I was listening to while reading your post “Since your history of silence won’t do you any good – did you think it would? Let your words be anything but empty. Why don’t you tell him the truth?” Silence is the same as lying by omission, intentional or not, it hurts all the same. But who am I to talk, I never talk about relationship stuff either!

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    But I’m not being silent. We’re talking all the time about relationship stuff. ALL THE TIME.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    I think the point there is ‘Why don’t you tell him the truth?’ What you’re learning here is a whole lot of how to twist yourself into what Jonathan wants you to be and how he thinks relationships work, not really how you want or need to function in a relationship. You’re never going to be comfortable emulating the Queens of West Hollywood, while it seems like that’s exactly what Jonathan wants for himself and whatever partner he has. It also seems like there’s less talking about the relationship stuff and more talking about what Jonathan thinks you did wrong in the relationship and you apologizing for doing it, for the issues you have around whatever it is, and then changing to suit him. It’s not that different than what you were doing with Ziggy, just less dramatic.

    [Reply]

    Connie Reply:

    ditto, sanders. What do YOU want from the relationship, Daron?

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I want to learn how to be in a relationship without going insane.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    “It’s not that different than what you were doing with Ziggy, just less dramatic.”

    See, *that’s* the part that worries me.

    [Reply]

    Bill Heath Reply:

    It is diametrically opposed to what you were doing with Ziggy.

    Ziggy loves you and wants you to make yourself more accessible without changing who you are.

    Jonathan loves the person he thinks you’re supposed to be and wants to remake you into that person. The truth is that J doesn’t love you, he loves a construct that doesn’t exist, and won’t exist until you stop being you.

    That’s not loving, it’s using.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I think if Ziggy could’ve changed me into what he wanted he would, but that seemed pretty hopeless so he didn’t pursue it.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Sep 2013 at 3:32 pm
  3. Averin wrote:

    What’s not up for discussion is the blue elephant in the room, Ziggy. You can’t make a decision or resolve your feelings because Ziggy is out of reach. You don’t bring him up, because Jonathan will get hurt. So you hurt all the time, for yourself, J and Z. Shouldn’t Remo, the voice of grounding, be back from Germany soon?

    [Reply]

    AK Reply:

    Yeah, that’s totally what I meant about silence, Daron’s not discussing Ziggy with J.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    J. doesn’t want to hear me whine about him. He’s let me cry on his shoulder plenty enough in the past.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    Thing is, your partner should be your friend. If there’s something huge bothering you—and hello, there are several huge things bothering you—you should be able to talk about it without him reading it as whining. The biggest thing in your life, the band, is on hold because of three situations out of your control, and if you’re going along like they aren’t happening when you’re around him, that’s cutting a huge part of yourself off from the relationship. And yes, it’s going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt until you have some resolution to the current uncertainties. It’ll probably hurt even after, knowing ctan and her ability to twist the knife just a little more right when you think she’s done breaking your heart.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Thing is, your partner should be your friend. If there’s something huge bothering you—and hello, there are several huge things bothering you—you should be able to talk about it without him reading it as whining.

    Yeah. You’re right. And it occurs to me that before we moved in together I had no qualms about crying on his shoulder. Why did I clam up now?

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I don’t think I’m not talking about Ziggy because J. will get hurt. I think it’s because *I* will hurt… But yeah, as you point out, it’s never stopped hurting in the first place.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Sep 2013 at 8:37 pm
  4. LenaLena wrote:

    Well, fancy that. You’re doing the same fucking thing I did in my first long relationship in my early twenties: obsessing how to make him happy. Are you sure we weren’t separated at birth?

    Let me tell you where that went for me: Twisting myself into knots to accomplish more relationship ‘benchmarks’ that felt forced to me. Starting to believe it was my job to make him happy. Feeling like a failure when he wasn’t happy. Watching him like a hawk for all those unspoken expectations I was supposed to meet. Losing sight of what made ME happy in the process, to the point that I couldn’t even tell you what made me happy anymore. Falling in love with other people, yet staying with him.

    Ugh. Most important lesson I ever learned: You can’t make other people happy. My happiness is my job. Your happiness is your job.

    I hope it takes you less than the 7 years it took me.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Um, I don’t think I’m obsessing over how to make him happy… but maybe I am and I just don’t know it. I do think it’s the first time I’ve actually tried to take into account that there’s someone’s needs other than my own, and the first time I’ve realized how much of an effect I have on someone else’s feelings, though.

    [Reply]

    Connie Reply:

    Compromising to make a relationship work is good. So you’re on the right track, there. I’m sure there are things J. is compromising on, too. We’re just not reading about them. Right?

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Time to nag ctan to finish Jonathan’s story. Ahem.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    Ah fucker! I’m having enough trouble keeping up YOUR story while I finish this %&*#^@! novel that is now two months overdue! *hits daron with rolled up newspaper*

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    *laughs hysterically*

    [Reply]

    LenaLena Reply:

    Maybe ‘obsessing’ is a big word. But this?

    And then I figured out that Jonathan wanted me to decide what we were eating, but to make that decision by figuring out what we would actually both enjoy most.

    Classic example of the stuff I am talking about.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Yeah. Yeah exactly. How the hell am I supposed to figure out how two people together are supposed to work when I can’t figure out my half of the equation? I keep muddling along hoping that some stuff cancels out on each side and a simple thing will be left. But that works on paper in math class better than it does as a relationship analogy, I guess.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Sep 2013 at 9:28 pm
  5. Joe wrote:

    Great post!

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    All talk, no action, though! (Well, okay, the action was offscreen.)

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    +1 for off-screen action bonus posts. Just sayin’.

    But seriously, this post was full of the “growth” type of action.

    He pulled me down to snuggle with him side by side and I relaxed. He was warm and his skin smelled comfortingly familiar and that was worth something, you know?

    Would you have said that a year ago, D?

    But that was how a simple question like “what do you want to do tonight” could turn into a whole bout of relationship processing and introspection. I started to understand how Lacey could go down the rabbit hole of figuring out what was wrong with people. I don’t think you ever get to the bottom of it. At some point you have to decide you’ve gone deep enough and it’s time to stop.

    *sniff*

    The boy’s got hisself growed up, Ma.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    At least a little, yeah. :-)

    [Reply]

    Posted 06 Sep 2013 at 12:26 pm
  6. sanders wrote:

    I just realized that I don’t think we ever heard the outcome of Jonathan looking into who had taken the photos of them. Did I just miss that part or is it still to come?

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    You didn’t miss anything. He didn’t finger a specific person but had some leads.

    [Reply]

    Posted 06 Sep 2013 at 3:44 pm
  7. mb wrote:

    Hahaha I didn’t find anything to be particularly off about this conversation, and I was surprised by some of the comments. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised, what with you two processing like a pair of lesbians. :)

    Is that unhealthy? Maybe. But my partner and I have been together for a long-ass time and we spent five minutes standing outside in the cold yesterday trying to decide if insisting on Korean vs. Greek food for dinner would hurt the other’s feelings. And we have a great relationship.

    Then again, if you were lesbians you’d spent the other half of your time talking about how much you love each other and what a beautiful home (and wonderful cats) you have, so. Maybe you should leave the processing to the lesbians after all…? ;)

    [Reply]

    AK Reply:

    mb – what I thought was off about the conversation was that Daron tensed up at J’s suggestion because going to Mann’s reminded him of Ziggy, but he couldn’t bring himself to be honest with Jonathan about it. Instead he allowed J to misconstrue his reaction and turn it into a whole another issue about being seen together in public. Whether I’m accurate or not, I can’t speak for ctan or Daron. But I can speak for me, ’cause I do this all the time.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents or four…since I can’t seem to stop posting comments…you wouldn’t think I actually have a job I’m supposed to be doing!

    [Reply]

    mb Reply:

    Oh no definitely, I forgot to say that having read those comments I totally see your point. Frankly even most lesbians aren’t delusional enough to actually believe that endless processing necessarily leads to more honesty in the relationship, it just…somehow…happens, like suddenly I’ll be overcome with the fear that when she said I didn’t need to make her oatmeal this morning what she REALLY meant was that I’m being too strict about her health and she think I don’t think she’s beautiful the way she is–not that, you know, she wanted a bagel (which she did).

    I think what I meant to say was that while D & J were failing to emulate the Queens, they would be right at home with us lesbians.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Because I overthink everything and Jonathan’s an intellectual and will analyze things for the sake of analyzing them. At least we’re both doing it, though, instead of it just being me spinning my wheels in my head all the time.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    what I thought was off about the conversation was that Daron tensed up at J’s suggestion because going to Mann’s reminded him of Ziggy, but he couldn’t bring himself to be honest with Jonathan about it.

    Oh. Yeah. You got me there. Crap.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    I have to wonder if there’s also something still really valid about how publicly out you are, and whether being with Jonathan is worth sacrificing that part of your privacy. I think he doesn’t entirely get that it’s a much, much bigger thing for you than it is for him, and it sometimes feels like he’s really pushing you much faster along that path than you either want or need to go, and without thinking through the consequences for you because he can get away with playing on your fears of not being a good enough boyfriend.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Maybe he’s just a lot subtler about it than Ziggy, but I don’t think J. plays on my fears at all. I think a lot of the time he doesn’t even realize they’re there. Which can be sort of good–sometimes I just need to get over the fears I’ve built up in my head.

    [Reply]

    Posted 06 Sep 2013 at 4:17 pm
  8. s wrote:

    Sanders for the win! +1 for every fucking word sanders said. Where did Daron go? Lose yourself in the music, not the relationship.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Music isn’t exactly my central source of joy right at the moment. Well except that it’s still better than this relationship that has never really fit right…

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    What I’m saying is you should give everything to a relationship without losing who you are. You’ve crossed that line. You are the definition of whipped and I don’t like it. You deserve better.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    *nods*

    [Reply]

    Posted 03 Apr 2015 at 2:28 am

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