Late last night I went to bed and turned on the TV. It’s not often I watch the teev in bed, but as I took in the movie I’d downloaded days before the random thought came to me: that there are few things more simply intimate than watching TV in bed with a partner.
I don’t know where the thought came from, or why, but it struck me as true. You go out for drinks, dinner, movies, sometimes you have sex, but in all of that is a semblance of performance. You put on a show to impress and seduce. You emphasise those parts of your self you think show you in a good light, and keep from view the less savoury aspects. To watch TV in bed with a woman is the very antithesis of that. Can there be anything more mundane than that – sitting upright in bed besides each other watching the same program, with barely a comment? You may as well have your hair up in rollers.
That’s what I aspire to, I thought, that simplicity of being and sharing, and the bond of unconsidered intimacy it represents.
In recent times this is a general subject that enters my mind on a regular basis. That’s not really new, but what seems different is the sense that maybe I know now. For most of my dating life I’ve been variations of the one persona – confident, well spoken, witty, occasionally lewd, intelligent, worldly, a primo conversalionist, and generally in control. I’m comfortable with that, but at the same time have come to see the constraints inherent in it. I play that role, and in response most women fall into a complementary role, as if these have been written for us. In this theatre I am almost always the strong and capable male leading the way. I like being strong and capable, I like leading the way, but for fucks sake it becomes constrictive.
We grow our personas around us I think. There is a great deal of security in slipping into those personas because every angle has been long calculated, and from long use our personas fit like particularly fine gloves. They should really – they are us after all, even if sometimes writ larger than life, or exaggerated in some sense.
The problem with this is that the person within the persona rarely becomes clearly visible. Our personas are extensions of ourselves that over time and with practice harden and become like carapaces in which we breathe our own air. Inside that we are comfortable, the distance between us and the carapace in which we live the world we are familiar with know. Beyond that is the less familiar, and the unknown. Occasionally we might stumble into the less familiar. If we’re lucky someone special might draw us out of our shell and into the no-mans-land between us. The unknown, mostly, remains unknown.
It’s easy living inside my carapace. For me dinner, drinks. movies, sex become easy because I know the formula, know who to be and how to be, know what to say when, know when to tease, when to smile, when to comfort, and when to ask the leading question. At some point I’ll ask myself, is this what I want, or not? And the answer doesn’t really matter. We go home or we don’t, I see her another time or never again. Never do I end up watching TV in bed with her.
This is the thing I’ve come to realise: I want something different to what my personas asks for me. The person inside is more than the persona, and that part of me that never really gets seen – let’s say 80% – wants more.
I understand why women shape themselves to the person I present. I understand superficially why that persona may be attractive to them – strength and confidence play well generally. For too many years I’ve played that role thinking it was who I wanted to be too – and it is, I understand now, but only as a part of that self which is much broader, more sophisticated, and vulnerable.
I’ve always said I like women who challenge or surprise me. I enjoy having that persona given a shake. I love being teased out of my comfort zone. It happens so rarely unfortunately, that now the time has come that I crave something very different to what my persona projects.
It seems hard to admit, but I want to be smaller. Being an impressive conversationalist seems small beer to me. Being witty, worldly and well-read are nice to haves, but they’re just things I’ve acquired. For once, I think, I want to take the back seat. I want to show what I feel and be loved for it. I don’t want to need to be that urbane person to be loved – I want to be loved for other reasons. I’ve come to question my vanity – why must I remain young, why do I need to have nice clothes, why do I have to be handsome?
These things are the labels your persona attracts, but they’re outside and beyond the real person who lives within that carapace. Do I go outside of my carapace to find what I need? Or do I let someone in? I want to be vulnerable, authentic, open, and perfectly happy to watch TV in bed with the woman I love.