My favorite 5 year old and his sidekick, my favorite three year old, let me play with them last Saturday morning. Basically, that meant I had to do what they told me to do, the way they wanted to do things. It started with me getting directed to stand on line near a fence to take turns swinging from the rings their father lovingly and I imagine, determinedly hung from a strong and sturdy tree in their yard. My turn was the quickest and I am pretty certain I got short-changed a few times. You have to stay on your toes with these two. Of course hanging from rings is not something I have had the opportunity to practice for quite some time, and they had the home-team advantage. I will say, in spite of the fact that I was hanging from rings made for a 5 year old and his hearty sidekick, the three year old (fairly low to the ground) I stretched parts of my torso that hadn’t ever been stretched just to attempt to “hang” and not nearly walk around while holding said rings. But that was eons ago, they had already run off to discover something else- smoke bombs created from throwing dirt, sticks to be poked and thrown, Ninja kicks and sudden attacks- back to shouts of “Hey, Gin-juh, watch this!” and “Look at me!”
Occasionally I am directed, NOT to look, the three year old’s clever, yet transparent, attempt at not being caught doing something unpermitted. Suddenly a shout and celebration of squishing a bug comes from another corner of the yard. “I got it!” He ninja kicks to establish victory. I attempt my charm and intellectual prowess to stop the three year old in his tracks- “Oh No! Now what is going to happen to his wife and children? That bug was supposed to get home to his family.” The 3 year old, stops and looks at me for a brief moment before he throws his head back and laughs heartily. (He would pound his fist and drink merrily if he were allowed but he makes due with his limited props.) “Ginnnn-juh- that’s a bug and that’s what they are for… Squishing!” He reminds. I say, “How can you be so sure? And then, Oh great,” I lament, “His wife is probably waiting for the keys to the truck and wondering why her husband is soooo late- she has no idea someone just squished the ever living daylight…The five year old smiles, like he gets the innuendo-he does, he’s quick that way and gets the humor. He then watches the three year old and feels a little older, wiser, in on the joke. The three year old takes me on. “Ginnnn-juh, bugs don’t drive trucks, they are bugs and you just squuuushhhhh them.” He is sure. Confident. No questions, no concerns. Unencumbered. He runs off to find something else to squish, or kick or throw.
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Moments later we are in his house and he has crawled up on his mother’s lap, curled, climbed, cozied as close as is possible. Again, more of his certainty, this is where he needs to be and so he climbs and pushes, and nudges himself where he fits and will get held, loved and attended to. It seems so easy. So natural and reliable. There is no negotiating and minimal requesting, “Mommy can I come up here” he says as he has completed his climb and nuzzled his way up. Fitting into her embrace created here, instantly for him only, in this moment, he rests. He has conquered wild bugs, and swung through the air, or jungle, kicked the other ninjas and shot at imaginary villains. I envy this freedom and certainty, mixed with abandon and assurance. He is safe. He can play wildly and be loved fully.
Being officially single again, I am enjoying, as well as fretting over, a new opportunity to date. Except, dating seems to be this idyllic, just out of my reach, scenario that involves two interested parties spending time getting to know each other, while Burt Bacharach music plays in the background, and dogs romp while flowers blossom in the foreground. Maybe there’s a beach to walk along, and of course a picnic basket, or bikes with baskets overflowing with bread and wine and no doubt roses. But I don’t know, because like I said, this dating scenario seems to be just out of my reach.
Instead I get to “play” with men briefly, in the moment. Innuendo, flirtation, more innuendo, a little blushing, a lot of blushing. Until I attempt to take this as an opportunity to totally figure out the best strategy to present my best self in some way-out there hope of getting it “right”. It stops being play. I fret, and attempt to make it “right”. It gets more “wrong” and quickly. The desire to crawl into a hole or join the…. (Nah, they wouldn’t have me) anyway, the insecurity and fear of hives comes quickly. I am a little afraid to “play”. I seem to need an endgame, or at least believe I do, or believe it is believed that I should…. That becomes the buzz-kill. The idea of the end-game, rules that last more than 8-10 minutes or a couple of hours, if stretching it, gets in the way. Ultimately the men have nothing else to do but take their balls and go home. Or is that toys? Innuendo, flirtation, buzzkill.
You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account....
I’m ready to try a new approach, but I don’t know where to find one. I’ve reached a point in my life that I have some of that security that my three year old friend needs to get elsewhere. A lap would be a lot cozier but being self-reliant has it’s pluses. That brings another potential pit-fall, self-reliance and my incompatibility with traditional roles and expectations. The ones I am hyper aware of, and perhaps encumbered by, as well as the ones, I believe others may have for me. Being, a wee bit overly self-reliant sometimes conveys strength. Being strong often comes into opposition with being feminine, which may result in an intense or somewhat masculine-seeming need for power and control. I don't need power so much as wanting to at least remain in control of myself (just for the record). I am finding myself struggling with attempting to say out loud, I can be a little rough around the edges, slightly like a lumberjack after a hearty stew and a few dark ales, but date me anyway! I might add, it’s a little off-putting. At the same time, my somewhat slender frame (been running again) and 5 foot 6 inch stance with the right lighting and well-fitted garb also tricks things up. I don’t LOOK like a lumber jack. It makes it rather hard to peg me.
Maybe my new approach should include lumberjacks. I imagine they are fairly good at getting pegs to fit. In the mean time, I need to learn to relax. To not worry about the end-game or the next game for that matter. I need to honor myself, and all of the quirky, complex, machinations of what that means in any given time and place. I am self-reliant. I enjoy building and making things with my hands one moment and finding rocks and rusted artifacts the next. Occasionally, I like to fix things or mend torn garments. I can hike great mountains, well at least up to 5000 ft anyway, and set-up a pretty rad wilderness camp experience. I am gaining speed in creative pursuits and becoming a bit more adventurous in my cooking. I can do some snazzy electrical wiring and my soldering skills are not too shabby. I can hum a sweet tune and whistle a tad. For the most part, I can get by pretty sweetly. Being self-reliant is somewhat at the core of who I am. I am getting closer to this acceptance and with much appreciation. I find it greatly attractive in others as well.
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Excerpts from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson