A one-time lover once told me that I have “a fetish for metaphors and symbolism”. Although his comment took me by surprise, I ultimately had to agree with him.
Getting ready to shower at my girlfriend’s house (where I’m currently staying and working) I giggled thinking about the previous night. After helping with bath time for her 4-year-old, he proudly informed me that sometimes he peed down the drain of the shower I was about to get into, then very matter-of-factly asked if I did too.
Since I prefer showers at a temperature that turns my skin pink, I just let the water run a little longer before getting in- thinking I’ve cleaned up worse in my stint as a mom-type even if it’s a title I don’t get to keep.
Breaking up with 4 people instead of one (which sounds like some kind of weird Mormon, polyamorous or cult relationship as I type it) didn’t feel like when my marriage split up- or any other relationship I’ve been in for that matter. It was better and worse for very different reasons and has not been easy.
Returning to single life means that all 5 of us have to start the process over of getting naked with new people- metaphorically for the kids and both metaphorically and literally for the adults.
It seems to me there are two distinct ways we ‘get naked’ with each other in our culture. There’s dozens of people on Craigslist saying they want to get naked (some have pics to demonstrating just how ready they are for naked time) and they specify exactly what kind of naked they’re looking for with all kinds of acronyms- some of which I’m afraid to ask what they mean… oh god there’s a picture nevermind!
The Craigslist/Friends-with-benefits type of physically getting naked has a bit of a crowbar-separation-ten-foot-wall between it and the “how was your day?” conversations that open the doors to a different kind of naked. Once one party starts doing asking those questions, you’ve moved past just getting physically naked in front of the other person and hoping for acceptance into a whole different kind of being naked while seeking the same acceptance.
For whatever reason, it seems to have become easier to get physically naked with other adults- I had a scratch to itch, it didn’t mean anything, I’ve even heard “sometimes you just want to get your dick wet” all used as justifications for a one nighter where the acceptance and the getting naked were not only very temporary but also probably encouraged by alcohol.
I’m not going to throw stones I would be very hypocritical if I did. But I think that acceptance that comes with getting naked with someone over a longer period of time is what changed in this break up- the kids and I dropped our defenses searching for acceptance too. I asked them about their day and snuggled in bed watching movies with them. I’ve seen them cry. They’ve seen me cry. We’ve seen each other be snot-filled-unbathed messes of human beings as well as laughed until one of them peed themselves.
Metaphor or no, in that relationship I saw not one other person but 4 of them in all those vulnerable states asking the unspoken question “will you accept me?” and I asked the same of them.
Often when we ask the question about acceptance, there are limitations on which that acceptance is granted by the other party that we may not like the answer to- the employer who turns you down for a promotion but says they want to keep you on in your current role or the lover who responds to the “how was your day?” questions by putting on their clothes and heading for the door. Even a best friend that calls you out on a line you crossed or something you shouldn’t have done establishes a limit of how naked you can get with them.
Those kinds of responses to nakedness usually lead to the realization of “OH GOD, I’M NAKED!” and a mad panic to try to make being naked (and rejected) okay again- which almost always fails. Most people falling somewhere on the bell curve that spans overcompensation and completely giving up- jumping into the next relationship trying to get someone else to accept you to replace the rejection, staring in the mirror (literally or figuratively) for hours tracing out every possible physical flaw flaw wallowing in the thought that no one in their right mind would accept you this naked respectively.
Despite not wanting to the limitations on our acceptance of each other (the kids and me) to hinge on the relationship I had with their dad, it did, does and kind of has to. I can’t fulfill the same space in their lives because the parameters have completely changed. When there is a new potential wicked step-mother they will all start the process over again with someone else and hopefully it will work out.
Although I know I will eventually have to start over again ‘getting naked’ in job interviews and future relationships, but for now I’m sticking with avoiding mirrors.