Nobody owes you love and explanations

I wrote this extremely personal post for Feministe this week – about what it’s like to deal with some of my husband’s more rabid fans.

It’s not some huge problem most of the time – but there were a couple of episodes recently  that really got under my skin. In dealing with them, I realized how easy it is to slip into the familiar vernacular of sexism. Because if someone’s calling you an “ugly slut” on the Internet, your first response is not to analyze the meaning and context of that statement within the framework of, you know, the patriarchy. Your first response is to want to call them an ugly slut right back.

Of course, someone showed up to defend the women that have stalked me online to punish me for being married to someone they really dig. And in a typical fashion, this knight in shining armor related her own story about a beautiful friendship with a musician – and how his jealous girlfriend got in the way. Well, she actually has no proof that the girlfriend got in the way, but that’s obviously what happened.

It made me think back to ten years ago – and how I was dropped like a hot potato by a male friend I had really cared about. We had been pretty close (though he meant more to me than I meant to him), and I had confided in him, sharing some of my Deepest, Darkest Seekrits (of the variety one has when you’re 18 years old and a college student). And he very much Did Not Approve (I seem to have a thing with male friends who Do Not Approve of my personal life, for reasons it is best not to dwell on). And he cut me off. Very suddenly and with no explanation.

Facebook got popular among college students some time later – and he totally wouldn’t friend me back, ya’ll.

We never spoke again. The only explanation I got was his ex-girlfriend vaguely saying that “X wanted to stop talking to a lot of people. I guess.”

I decided that although his Disapproval of my Wild Ways probably fueled his initial decision to cut me off, what happened then was that his new line of work possibly got in the way. As well as my background.

I didn’t love him like I’ve loved some guys, so there was none of that heartbreak stuff. But I still think about him when re-watching old Kevin Smith movies, or when someone quotes Eddie Izzard’s “Dressed to Kill” at a party.

When it happened, it would have been easier to move on had he told me why. Explanations always make it easier for the person who’s being cut out of someone’s life – but they don’t come easily to the one who is doing the cutting. I’ve done the cutting myself before, I know what I’m talking about.

Trouble is, if there is someone out there who wasn’t meant to be your friend in the first place – they don’t owe you a damn thing. Certainly they do not owe you affection or explanations. I’ve learned to assess people this way – if someone thinks they can disappear from your life, then they weren’t really a part of it to begin with. One of you, or both of you, were kidding themselves all along.

There are people out there whose approval and attention you want – and sometimes get. Doesn’t make them your friends, in the end.

One of the most frequent accusations I hear from my husband’s fangirls is that I have taken Alexey’s “freedom.” Even though he probably still goes out and travels much, much more than your typical young father would. Because it has nothing to do with his actual freedom, of course – and everything to do with their fantasies of him. It’s an issue of who gets to have him as property.

A lot of people think that the person who charms them – who makes that one movie, stars in that one show – owes them something. “You’ve introduced me to something beautiful – and now I want more.” And what that actually means, in the end, is that they don’t see the object of their affection as a person. Instead they’re a very attractive monkey who is supposed to dance for their eternal amusement.

That’s not what he is, though. That’s not who my Izzard-quoting friend was. No one owes you a thing, in the end. And nothing should be done out of a sense of duty – and everything should be done out of love.

An observation through the general haze

Director Anastasia Patlay took this picture of us at a party celebrating ten years since the creation of Moscow’s Teatr.doc (which is a whole separate story, when you think about it – the role that this theater has played in both of our lives is just weird to contemplate. Weird, but awesome as well. It’s a great place, and if you’re ever in Moscow, you have to go. It gets lambasted for being “too political,” because art in Russia must be “safe,” you see, and not make any bureaucrats nervous, but all of that is pretty silly.), and when I saw it, I noticed two things: we look happy, and we look like we’re about to die.

I like marriage and parenthood and work – and I just need a leeeeeetle bit of rest. OK? OK? Please? Well, FINE THEN. FINE.

(You’re probably going to say that exhausted new parents don’t go to parties. And I’ll tell you that you just haven’t been to Moscow. Maybe.)

"I love you." *yawn*

I’m a stereotypical yuppie parent

Despite being broke and living in the jungles of Novogireyevo.

Lev and I listen to the Marriage of Figaro on Saturday mornings.

At night, I can leave Lev with daddy and go trudging through the snow. The soldiers outside the barracks near the ponds still offer me their cigarettes. Nikolay Khomeriki still tells me all the same things when he’s drunk (and he still doesn’t know who I am).

Most of the time I’m just bloated with bags under my eyes, and with high blood pressure, and with distant plans to “get myself together” one of these days – but I also don’t hate myself. I wouldn’t have the energy to do so even if I tried.

I walk by the frozen ponds in the dark, and listen to the sound of the highway mingling with the sound of the winter woods. The birches and oaks are asleep and, at the same time, they are watching. I come hope and peel off layers of clothing, and Lev is asleep in his crib, and we drink discounted wine and make no plans for the future. We’re learning to live in the here and now.