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Rules of Engaging


Here in the Realm of Cross Purposes, I sat on D’s balcony in what he calls a cheap chair.  But it’s the anti-gravity adjustable recliner and it does everything but what should be consensual.  My hands worked the arms, forcing it forward, then back. I told him I couldn’t step onto his sailboat, because I have motion sickness.  Yet I’m always in motion.  He needs a mermaid.  I’m a land mammal.  With this thought that’s really a foreshadowing, I question motion sickness versus emotional sickness.

Negotiating a Friends with Benefits (FWB) contract is much more complicated than I imagined.

I said, “No strings. And here are the rules.”

D interrupted with:  “Look, knucklehead, if there are no strings, there are no rules.”

“No, the no-strings clause is a rule in itself. This is not the Peace Process; it’s a piece process.”

Thus, we began to hammer ………… out some boundaries.  Fidelity.  And beneath that explicitly stated trust arose another:  If either one of us met, stumbled on, or reunited with someone more suitable, we would call the other and state the end of our particular alliance instead of tapering, withering, waiting, wondering, and angst-ing.

At some point, D said there’s no such thing as a relationship without strings.

My intent was to prove him wrong.   I was ready to reach an agreement, like the president’s “grand bargain”.  You know, when Obama talked about trimming trillions off the federal deficit.

And, so, I embarked on–what else (?)—a Google search and found this and this and this and this.

But it was the getting-to-know-each-other period and an insistence on brutal honesty that topsy-turvy torpedoed the arrangement.

“Peace is hard,” said the war expert and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Obama in his U.N. speech about Palestinian statehood.

Peace of mind is, too.

Certain issues and passions can become circuit breakers.  And deal breakers.  And heart breakers.

D and I aren’t young.  And we say, “Hey, we’re not getting any younger.”  I guess the teenagers and twenty-something adults handle this kind of thingy with more alacrity.

So, with a little bit of research, some map questing of contours, and discussion after discussion of who, what, why, when, and where with D, I realize, now, that FWB could soon resemble war, or its declaration. Invading and occupying beds and bodies might inspire hostilities.

Upsize that observation.

Two people who articulate that they are coming together in an attempt to provide humanitarian relief may end up wreaking havoc.  Carnage.  Freedom isn’t free, you know.

Babe, I’m fighting you over here so I don’t have to fight you anywhere else.  There are just too many fighting words.  One is resentment.

The heart can be a weapon of mass destruction.  So can vocabulary and a certain tone of voice.  Or a misinterpreted text message.

In war, there are no winners.  And FWB can become losers with liabilities, quickly.

Isolationism may be the healthy choice.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  She answers most emails:   





Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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