I Never “Got It”, and I’m Happy I Didn’t

18 Aug

I didn’t have the traditional upbringing and for that I was always envious of those who did have the parents that married right out of high school, went to college together, had many children, the white lattice fence, stayed married longer than most adults live and were the slap on the butt that pushed their kids to not only succeed, but to grandly excel.

I grew up in a mixed up, crazy, open manner. I didn’t have the guiding minds that exemplified a religious preference and the reasons, or importance, behind the reasons.

It was as if I developed in a petri-dish that had been left in open air – my influences were so varied, so wide-reaching that at times it was intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually much like constant vertigo without having solid ground to fall back onto. My influences were dizzying. Also, I didn’t know that all of those experiences would make such a profound difference, nor did I realize that they would all have such an impact on how I led my life, or viewed the world or the inhabitants that I met within my own world. How would I know? I sucked on an anonymous Rhea Silvia teat, and with a hearty handshake and a plastic hefty bag of clothing, given a smiling nod good luck.

So, I learned, completely on my own, how to live and love.

I was remembering last night, during a ride home that was longer than it needed to be, someone from the past that I was attracted to at one time. Wet on the lips from drinking what I was learning about myself and the world outside at the time, she was a poster child of prime all-American; long blonde hair, in impossibly sculpted shape, raised strict Methodist, had a beautiful condo in Brookline Village that was just a whisper outside of the Boston limits, also owned a cabin near Moosehead Lake in Maine, owned a super fancy Mercedes that had one of the first stock, in-dash CD players I had ever seen (which delighted me to no end), she was an accomplished,  classically trained pianist and was a stellar achiever in her highly educated filed – she was a doctor, more precisely, an anesthesiologist, practicing at a nearby prestigious hospital.

It was a study in aligned contrasts her and I.  She grew up in bucolic Connecticut, while I grew up around subway-laden Boston. I’d never been to a refined, elegant opera and she’d never been to a sweaty, blues bar. I’d never been to the exclusive opening of a new chic restaurant and she’d never eaten a dripping, oversized rack of beef with Texan beer, elbow to elbow with other patrons.  She listened to Henry Kaiser and Tracy Chapman at the time, while in that moment I was listening to Nirvana and CBGB alumni Mink DeVille.  She told me she had never before experienced passion as she had with me and I told her that I never before felt the inner-cord attraction to someone as I did to her.

The relationship was satisfying and it meandered on. We migrated in travel and we progressed in love.

It was around that time that I changed my career path toward computers and was attending school at the time.  She gushed at how proud she was of me and she was actually very supportive. But, it was just at this particular juncture that I noticed something escaping from her, starting to seep out of her pores a drop at a time – something I hadn’t noticed before. I was beginning to notice her subtle prejudices, a proclivity to judge someone based on items that, by me, were never noticed, or important.

One item was education. She tended to speak of those who had not achieved a certain level of scholastic achievement as somewhat beneath her – let alone that I hadn’t even received my degree yet. It wasn’t in a hurtful way, but in a matter of fact, every day conversational way. As if they didn’t somehow measure up. She didn’t have the tolerance for what others hadn’t accomplished academically, despite the varied circumstances and paths that they had to slog through by no chosen fault of their own. Her family and upbringing also played a part, of course, in the way she thought and acted (though I adored her mother, I always had the feeling that to her, I was not quite good enough, I was just her daughter’s ‘phase’ that she would eventually pass through). Even her sister, as progressive as I thought she was, had voiced the very same opinions. I quickly learned that what an extended family thinks about your personal choices has an overpowering influence on your personal choices. And, if you don’t adhere to their way of thinking, the way you’re supposed to think, it could cause you embarrassment, ridicule, guilt ridden self-doubt and rounds of second-guessing.

And the religion, the Methodist upbringing in her, caused not so much a rift between us, as it raised concerns, red flags, that conflicted with her values and beliefs that she had been raised to hold as truth. As for me, she knew that I’ve always been very spiritual; religious even, and have always held closely the tenant that is expressed so eloquently by one of my literary heroes, Emily Dickenson. But, it continued to be an area of deep thought and concern for her because I wasn’t a Methodist.

As we continued to date exclusively, I could feel the breath of her subtle, gossamer discrimination circling my shoulders. But, she never felt her views were an issue. She was slightly intolerant of certain values and beliefs that were not similar to what she was raised to feel are important and insurmountable. And not having been raised at all, caused me, on my part, to not even know that there were differences I probably could have been aware of all along if only I looked for them.

I’d never before that time had to comprehend that a difference in education level and/or religious beliefs would ever be an issue that would halt the natural progression of sincere love. I was mortified at my realization! Not only mortified, but shaken to the core. It was one of the first times that I had questioned my upbringing, and it stung brutally and dug deeper into my soul than a stage IV ulcer.

Is that what I, too, would have learned if I had been raised ‘properly’? Would I have been taught subtle, gentle, prejudices, snobberies, personal preferences, being made to understand that it was the right thing to do for my own good? Certainly, she was never overtly educated that these views that you take into adulthood were the right thing to do, but as a grown adult, her own person, she most definitely felt that you shouldn’t ‘settle’ beneath you, or God forbid, fall in love outside of your caste, and that to do so, might tug at your conscience, make you uncomfortable at times and even cause enormous emotional conflict.

She would be erudite in her defense of what she believed. And, truth be told, I never had it in me to argue about it because, again, that was the way she was raised and developed, and who the hell was I, sans family influences, to present anything but mini-protestations based on what little I knew, what little I learned on my own? And, though not agreeing, I truthfully very much respected her right to personal opinions and her value systems, and tried to let it go.

I couldn’t. Shortly thereafter, I let her go also.

Those views were so radically unknown to me at the time that I felt as if I were a dummy and had missed out on secrets that the whole world had held back from me. No matter if those views were correct or incorrect, they never formally stepped in front of me to allow time to independently study, assess and appraise them.

I took it seriously hard, my lack of formal education and deficiency of insight into various religious beliefs. I felt a bit inadequate and insecure. But, I came to slowly realize that prejudice is prejudice no matter the persuasion we were taught when we were young and impressionable, or what we chose to continued to believe in, and hold onto, as adults.

True, it’s a given that while searching for love, you don’t have to be tolerant of either education attained or religious preference. In public areas of life we have to be politically correct, but privately, we have the right to not fall in love without the qualifications of education or religion and I wholeheartedly agree.

But, what if you already are falling in love? What if you are in love? Does it not matter – even then? Isn’t love a matter of the heart rather than the head? I continue to believe that very deeply right to this post!

That was a hard, caustic lesson that steeled my feelings and jaded me for years. In the aftermath, I missed her terribly and she missed me terribly. Years later she contacted me. She still had not married, didn’t have children and had eased considerably on her views. Because she changed don’t think I was feeling justified, I didn’t derive any pleasure from it whatsoever – love had lost a major war. I lost someone who had made me happier than I had ever been previously, and she later stated that we should have stayed together, and could have become even happier and more content, despite the differences in education and religion.

I developed a bitterness toward that type of subtle prejudice at any level. I swore that I would never allow myself to feel that way about differences that mean a lot personally, but for the sake of sacred love are worth … not ‘settling’ for, but are worth compromising for.

Since then, I have never thought wrongly, or tried with a gentle smile and carefully chosen words, to let someone down easily and leave them behind because of the life, the religion, the experiences, the level of education or the levels of achievement that they’ve attained.

I’ve dated doctors, a waitress, a Methodist, a corporate lawyer, white, a teacher, Jewish, a postal worker, Asian, nurses, Catholic, the unemployed, black, a nursing home administrator, a Buddhist, small business owners, Hispanic, an executive of industry, an atheist, a stunning runway model and many, many, many others, all the while looking for one thing and one thing only: a heart that beats in acceptance, in tolerance and in open-mindedness to the only thing that counts: love.

Because, in the end, isn’t that what years of education and years of religious services teach us, that love is all you need?

If they did not, then I would not have had a part in either.

Isn’t It A Pity: Harrison

Isn’t it a pity
Now, isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts
And cause each other pain


How we take each other’s love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn’t it a pity

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same


And because of all their tears
Their eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn’t it a pity

Addendum:
Funny how time alone during the long ride home last night brought back all of these memories and lessons as hard and as fresh as if they’d only happened moments ago. It’s troubling what distant remembrances can do to cause the pulse to quicken, place fragments of a vision on a windshield and rumble louder in your ears than the tires on the highway.

Any thoughts? Have I missed anything that I shouldn’t have? I don’t know, maybe I’m just full of stale wind right now remembering everything about it as if it just occurred. After all, it happened … maybe … 20 years ago last night?

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3 Responses to “I Never “Got It”, and I’m Happy I Didn’t”

  1. cathy 08/18/2010 at 10:00 PM #

    What an eloquent post. So full of emotion! I’m Jewish and highly educated and my husband is of a different faith and doesn’t have a Grad degree as I do. When we first met I did feel a bit of guilt about not loving someone of my faith. But he’s who I chose and I never let it stand in the way of us being together. I’m very happy btw.

    I like your line”Because, in the end, isn’t that what years of education and years of religious services teach us, that love is all you need?”

    How true. You were right to leave and she was prejudicial.

  2. WZJN 08/19/2010 at 2:05 AM #

    Cathy, thanks for stopping by and for the comment – I’m surprised that someone did leave a comment! I think I’m just spouting right now while it’s fresh in my mind. The post just turned into a memory dump – didn’t have to make it up from scratch.

    But, you know, I’ve been reading this evening and I’ve come across these lines from the book I’m racing through that has a lot to do with compromise:

    (Psychologist listening to a few women) … “I can’t help who I’m attracted to. I want to compromise, but I just can’t.” To these women, (the psychologist) says, “Fine, don’t compromise. Just don’t be too surprised if everyone else ‘compromises’ their way into a fulfilling relationship while you keep chasing a dream that never has (and never had before) a happy ending.”

    Wish I had thought of that reasoning 20-25 years ago.

    Hindsight, huh?

  3. whiteray 08/25/2010 at 2:54 AM #

    Hindsight is good, sort of. Reflection, which is what you’ve done here, is even better. Kind of like the difference between looking backward and looking forward and glimpsing the past in the mirror. Geez, did I just write that? Take it with as many grains of salt as required.

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