Let it burn
by Teresa Finney
If I let you get too close, you’ll set your spell on me/So, darling I just wanna say/just in case I don’t come through/I was onto every play/I just wanted you. It’s so evil, my love/The way you’ve no reverence to my concern/So, I’ll be sure to stay wary of you, love/To save the pain of once my flame and twice my burn.
I was only vaguely familiar with the feelings that resonate with this Fiona Apple song when I first heard it in 1997. I was 13 years old and in the 7th grade. I had already lived through adolescent crushes that were only mildly life-shattering, as opposed to romantic relationships that burn or soothe and leave their mark, shaping the person I would eventually become. Those relationships would happen later.
It’s like when you first discover that fire burns: You are more careful the next time you are around an open flame.
I have masculine energy. I am not, in any way, a damsel in distress. Yet, all of the men I have attracted to me want a woman who needs to be rescued. They want someone submissive. This is a problem. I don’t need to be saved. I have saved my own self, countless times I now do it with my eyes shut.
I am so tired of men telling me to relax (a woman, save for my own mother, has never, ever told me to “calm down”) when I am actually being extremely reasonable and only a little confrontational. I am so tired of men attempting to excuse their shitty behavior with “what do you expect from me? I’m a man.”
I am just so tired of it all. I am tired of men who feel fine looking me in the eyes, telling me they care about me, then the next day act as if I do not exist. I’m tired of being lied to in the evening and completely ignored in the morning. I’m tired of the actors. The ones who put on a great show, a memorable performance but never let me see what goes on behind the curtain. Remember the time I had a great date with a seemingly intelligent, funny man only to later find out he was already in a relationship? I DO.
How do I reconcile that? How do I make that okay in my mind and heart? It’s come down to avoidance. I no longer have the mental or emotional willingness to be vulnerable with a man. I have compartmentalized that suffering in a part of my brain that is marked “Unfortunate Thing I Can Do Nothing About.” I’ve become excellent at pretending people have disappeared off the face of the earth…
I know a defense mechanism when I see one. I realize that this is not a long term solution. It’s a short term answer to a thing that has traveled with me for a long time. I won’t be like this forever. One day I’ll be strong enough to be vulnerable again. Ironic, how that works out.
Last night I met a 41 year old writer who has lived in New York for a short time. She sort of made a beeline for me upon entering the bar, and we talked for a good two hours. About men, and writing, and aging. I’m lonely, she told me. Give yourself more time to find your NYC family, I told her.
“I’m just unafraid to suffer,” I told her. “I’ve lived through so much shit that hasn’t killed me.” But, there is a line. A boundary. There is only so much the heart can take before it needs a break from the things that have the capacity to fuck it up.
If I let you get too close/You’ll set your spell on me.
I never know when or how badly I will get burned next time. I realize that risk is part of the game and is just a part of the way love can be. But, I’m tired. I’m unwilling to go there, and I only want to stay wary.