In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

The Painters of Love: Loving a Married Woman

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I adore Anna Pulley’s story ache of loving the married woman, which appeared in Salon yesterday. She not only captures the essence of the thin-tissue-beauty of love, the compulsion of the affair, the ever-turn of the heart toward love, but also the crafter’s gift of the memorable passage. Like this one, for instance:

Ours was a love that hinged on possibility—what we could offer each other was infinite potential. Reality never stood a chance against that kind of promise. I loved her in a way that felt both inexplicable and inevitable. She represented a singular perfection, she had to because she contained none of the trappings of a real relationship, the awkward, the beautiful, the sweet, the ordinary, the holding hands in public, the quiet walks, the bickering at Trader Joe’s. She was perfect in part because she was an escape, she seemed always to offer more.
 
After an enticing lead-in about long-distant love and steamy encounters, she delicately moves us along the strip tease of her narrative, the movement from reflection to memory slip-sliding her narrative along with the tensile desire of an abandoned lover simmering sleight over time. She does not call herself a lesbian until two thirds in to her lovely essay. She wants to soften us to love first, to focus her reader. A concerted effort to steer her  reader’s mind from irrelevant drift she anticipates–detours like same-sex relationships, polyamory and the like, she withholds. Her story is of love, despite the title–all love. And imagery.
 
Fantasy. The addiction (cynical), the lure (soft), or the attraction (clinical) to the love of a “taken” one lies in the fantasy and the primal urge to create more compelling than procreation (fewer responsibilities to the aftermath).
 
We love to idealize love, to be in love, to make it and create it even where it does not exist. I am not suggesting that the love of a married woman ignores the woman, the being, for the objectification of love itself. People mostly fall in love with people, their features, physical or otherwise. However, the framing of love inside the circumstances of the beloved–the out of reach object–often plays a larger role in the picture of love we paint.
 
The interdiction (legal), the forbidden (moral), and the circumscribed (situational) of the affair seduces the painter in us. We who urge the perfect love, inch closer to its never realization by placing love in an outline, form or box with walls of pristine ideals and requirements. I love my lovers because they are who they are–funny, sarcastic, sensible and sexy; because they love me the way they do–with abandon; because they engage in the most intimate acts with me, thrill my very being and inspire me to create, live and aspire to contribute to humanity–go to work, raise my kids, change people’s minds. They make me feel.
 
They never sour, fall from grace before my eyes in the daily practices that make us all abject beings: ever cleaning the rotting flesh we are in the pettiness of hourly living. We belch, shit, blame and deflect responsibility. We lie, cower and deny. The human.
 
Not for the mistress of our getaways. Whether the encounter is a sleazy hotel sex hour or a week at a resort in Cancun, we project our ideal loves in that other we cannot keep, probably do not want to keep except to indulge surrender to the painful satisfaction of longing. Weaned on love stories and poetry (okay, maybe that’s just me), we grow to yearn, throb and grieve. Pain, like love, reminds us what we are. Affairs bring all of that and more.
 
I once read that our memories change each time we recall them, that we are constantly editing what happened. In the end, we can’t hold onto anything, not love, not even our own truths, because everything moves. Nothing is ever written just once.
 
Yes, we are artists, all of us. Human nature, the essence of frailty, tells the fallible story of its tellers wrapped in the egos of an imagination. We want. That is our condition. Our art is our necessity. We love to be loved in the art of love. And it is an art.

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