A Journey towards Integration
Here’s what happened (part 2): (part 1)
It’s now the end of July 2013. For me the worst isn’t over, and I’m groping at anything that will cheer me up even briefly. A friend, Caliban (not his real name), whom I’ve known for ten years as a co-worker and friend (nothing more, ewww gross) has been coming over and having coffee once a week to support me through this difficult time. He’s also been texting me like a mother hen, making sure I’m alright. But then, everybody was checking in on me a lot during those first few weeks.
Caliban had always been an awful name-dropper, linking himself left and right with celebrities in film and martial arts. I had never thought much about his pretensions because they didn’t really affect me — he seemed to live in a world far removed from my own, but the stories were entertaining. To cheer me up, he invited me to the Gala Presentation of The Fifth Estate on September 5th, 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival. I would need a formal black dress, he said.
I hadn’t been to TIFF for years, and certainly not anything so glamorous as the opening film! I researched the films, particularly The Fifth Estate. (I had followed the whole story when it first aired, and the term “sex by surprise” became quite the running joke between my Prince and I as we gaily threatened to ravish one another.) I bought a black formal strapless evening gown, and then — as I exercised and got in good shape (strapless gowns can fall down, I discovered) — another one, white, in a smaller size. I arranged babysitting, bought and learned to apply makeup from Google, borrowed jewellery and undergarments from my mom and friends. I got a shawl, a purse, and glittery, silver spiked heels (well, spiked for me, so about 3-4 inches). I planned and dreamed, so thrilled and excited to have something to look forward to. I was Cinderella, transforming myself from an abused single mom on welfare to a princess for one night, going to a beautiful party in a beautiful dress.
Caliban fed those dreams and more, telling me tales of past TIFF parties, the celebrities he had met. (Last year, he said, he had introduced a friend to Ryan Gosling!) Like a star-struck schoolgirl, I hung on his stories and dreamed even more of finally having a wonderful, fun night out, a night to forget all the horror I had recently lived through. I modeled both dresses, black & white, for Caliban, to make sure they were right (high fashion is not my strong suit). “It will be the most amazing night of your life,” he promised, and told me George Clooney would love me.
I even got a little crush on Benedict Cumberbatch while poring over TIFF articles as the big day grew closer. (He seems a sweet, sensitive, funny, intelligent fellow.) Caliban promised we’d be in the same theatre, and I admit to secretly dreaming about shaking his hand and telling him how much I enjoy his work, which I quite did long before any of this happened.
(I’ve been entirely — physically and emotionally — faithful to my Prince since we met, so I imagine this ridiculous crush is some way of dealing with the enormous conflict of painfully hating my Prince for what he did to me. Mr. Cumberbatch and my Prince are the same age, same height, same astrological sign, have the same eye colour (generally), the same ferocity when protecting loved ones, and the same (it seems) penchant for passionately arguing profound philosophical issues indecisively and sometimes illogically. Sigh. It’s amazing the things you miss about a person, the things that can be irritating, but which you miss because they make up this imperfect, utterly beautiful person you love. I know, I know — my Prince is nobody and Benedict Cumberbatch is an enormous star whom I’ll never meet, that we are strangers to one another, but I know that, and that’s what makes it safe, for now, as an emotional outlet.
Still, like many Borderlines, my moral and ethical values, particularly in regard to my own feelings and desires, are somewhat more stringent than I believe is average, and I feel guilty about my crush. I may not be able to control who I fall in love with, but I know that using people is wrong, and even though Mr. Cumberbatch will probably never read this, I dislike that some part of me chose to use his effigy to cope with my own emotional turmoil — and if, by some chance, you’re reading this, Mr. Cumberbatch, I do apologize for myself and on behalf of my gender. Much as I am amused at the deeply ironic and paradoxical feminism of the “Cumberbitches,” I have compassion for the unwitting focus of all this female passion. Imagine what it must be like to have suitors throwing themselves at you day and night, yet you know that it is not YOU they love — you are an object for them to focus their dreams upon. (As a Beauty and as a Borderline, I have had many men — and some women — do the same to me, as I’m sure many Borderlines have experienced. Did it make you feel resentful, invalidated, and devalued, even if you felt just the littlest bit flattered, too? But I have long since passed the point at which I should have stopped digressing…)
The day before the film, Caliban called with bad news. “I have a meeting with George Clooney’s agent and Casey Affleck about the Stan Lee comic book movies,” he said. “It’s at the same time as the film, and if it were anything else, I would cancel, but I can’t, not for something this big.” I was disappointed — crushed, really — but he promised to take me to another premiere the following night. “Can’t let that dress go to waste,” he said.
So I rearranged babysitting, and devised a warmer shawl for the sudden cold weather. That morning, he called, sorry but he had mistaken the dates, he meant tomorrow night. Oh, I said. It conflicted with a family dinner party I planned to attend, but I so wanted to be a woman, and not just a single mother, not just a drudge, for one night, that I rearranged everything yet again.
The next afternoon, I was taking my son to his cousin’s house for a sleepover (so I could finally go out that evening) when I got a call. “It’s off, I’m so sorry,” I heard Caliban’s voice. “My partner is sick, and I couldn’t get the passes, but why don’t you and I dress up and go out anyway?”
I hung up the phone and sent my son off to his cousin’s. I went back up to my bedroom, hid under the covers, and sobbed for an hour. I have an Honours degree in English and I still fell for one of the most well-known fairy tales in the Western world. (And really, for what other purpose is an English degree than to learn the dangers of falling for unscrupulous scoundrels and rogues?) I mean, I didn’t think some celebrity would sweep me off my feet to Ibiza. But was one night too much to ask? Just one? Just to wear a beautiful dress and have fun, to wear lipstick and eyeliner, to maybe flirt a little?
I’ve been described as “childlike” (among other things) but I hated myself for being so trusting and gullible. I hated that I had gotten my hopes up about something so unrealistic, that I’d mistaken Caliban for my Fairy Godmother, that I’d allowed myself to get caught in his web of self-aggrandizing lies. “You’re one of my best friends,” he would repeatedly tell me. He wanted to take me out on a nice date, he had said. I remembered all the unlikely stories and even unlikelier friends he claimed to have. He always kissed me when he said goodbye, but I’d thought it was a cultural difference. A memory from years ago flashed in my skull: a seeming non sequiter, he’d told me that he had an 8-inch penis, and I had changed the subject.
My mind exploded as I lay under the covers. I was enraged! Why did he try to take advantage of me while I was so vulnerable? He wasn’t my friend, he was a liar! The doubts screamed inside my head, blown up to monstrous proportions — and much worse, it was my own fault for not seeing it before. As far as I was concerned, he would never ever sleep with me because I wasn’t attracted to him that way. I told him that, and he said he only wanted my friendship. But why, oh why didn’t I perceive his true intentions towards me? What was wrong with me? Was I stupid? A sucker? Why didn’t I have REAL friends, REAL relationships, a REAL life? I was pathetic, a loser, an immature girl who had no business pretending to be an adult. I spent the next three days in pain, dully going through the motions of physical life while I grieved the loss of my stupid, silly, Cinderella dream.
But I woke up after three days, determined to use my DBT skills and validate my feelings and experiences. So, I wrote Here’s What Happened: Part 1, The Joy of Cooking (Trigger Warning) and now Part 2. I encouraged myself. I Turned the Mind and practiced Radical Acceptance over and over again. I validated my own feelings, my own sense of self-worth, to leave Caliban behind. Is it offensive, malicious, and petty to give my “friend” the pseudonym “Caliban”? Yes. (Especially if anyone knows his real identity!) Does he deserve it? Richly. But that is the extent of my revenge, and nobody will know who he really is. (Who really knows who I am? My parents did not name me Beauty, after all.)
I look around my apartment and I can see the improvements in our life since my Prince vanished. I am in better shape than I have been since before my son was born. I am much better off without Caliban and his ilk distracting me from my goals…or, well, from figuring out my goals, at least. My loneliness is profound, but I will try to build more stable, enduring friendships. I am determined to build a life — MY life.
But….BUT the dream — for all its girlish, shallow, silly innocence — gave me such pleasure for a little while, and helped me survive some of the toughest, most painful weeks I have lived through, that I can’t let it go without some homage. And here it is:
Dear Mr. Cumberbatch,
I suppose it is a perversely futile sort of rebellion against fate – or just another expression of my personal stubbornness — to write a letter you will likely never read, but I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry I never met you, and that I hope to one day. Thank you for the pleasure I have had of your work. Congratulations on your success, and I look forward to your future endeavours.
Sincerely, Beauty Borderline
Maybe, one day, I will get to wear one of those dresses to a party. Until the real Prince Charming shows up at my door (or the map to his castle from which I must rescue him), I’ll put them in the closet and work on building something tangible. Maybe, like the difference between touching a star and posting a note to one written under a pseudonym on a very poorly read blog, the dream and the reality will be vastly different, but at least I DID something. (And don’t judge yourself, Beauty!)