Chris was a very sweet guy, and although he wasn’t exactly my type, I was enjoying our conversation over lunch at a Mexican restaurant. When our plates were cleared, he surprised me by reaching over the table and taking my hand. Hmm…I’d never had this happen on a first date, but it wasn’t exactly unpleasant, so I went with it.
We made a second date, and when I got in Chris’ car, he immediately reached for my hand. Nevermind that he was driving. He proved to be extremely adept at negotiating a maze of side streets between Edgewater and Evanston with one hand.
I, however, was feeling less than adept at negotiating the situation. On one hand, I found the hand-holding a little strange. On the other hand, it was gentle and seemed harmless; besides, it was a short car ride to the movie theater, so I let it be.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t let me be. He held my hand as we walked from the car to the theater, letting go only on the escalator and to pay for tickets. He held my hand all through the movie, reclaiming it several times after I politely removed it. And when I stuffed my hands in my pockets on the way out, he took my elbow, as if afraid I might fall.
I felt shackled. There was a forced intimacy here that hadn’t been earned, but more than that, it felt possessive and fearful.
Now I could have stopped it with a few decisive words (I’m working on that!). I could have reminded him, like Rilke’s poem says, that even between the closest human beings infinite distances must continue to exist.
Instead, I found myself observing and relating to how most of us have a need to cling to something or someone. There is often the fear that “If I let go of you, you’ll walk away.” We fence our loved ones in with expectations and rigid ideas of who they need to be in order for us to feel safe.
The best wedding vow I’ve ever heard went like this: I commit myself to supporting your happiness, even if your pursuit of happiness takes you away from me.
Wow. I don’t know if I could say that. Could you?