Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Electronic Angel

For many people (particularly the chronically single) it's hard to imagine what life might be like after sharing more than half a decade with another person. In a little less than two months, electroman and I will be celebrating our sixth anniversary. I never imagined, when I got my Cornell welcome package, that I would be where I am today. For one thing, when they say "share my life", it's hard to believe that in many ways, people mean that literally. Six years together will breed certain similarities in interests. Through electroman, I developed an interest in comic books and identity politics. Through me, electroman ... well, I'm not sure what exactly I'm guilty of inducing in him, but I can say for sure that before me, you would never have caught him dead playing an RPG. Now, we're more than 3/4s through Final Fantasy X, playing it together (I've beaten it before). What I don't understand, and find a little offensive, is the idea that people can't distinguish between us. They project, perceive, and generally presuppose that they get our relationship when they don't. They assume that electroman, with the domineering personality, is the alpha male while I play the role of either the submissive, unassuming, unopinonated female or am the secret, manipulative bitch who always gets her way in the end (it all depends on who you ask). A friend of mine once suggested that you couldn't say a negative word to me without fear of electroman's reprisal -- as if to diss one would be to diss us both. For others, we're "too close". We lack space, or individuality, or something -- as if we're some sort of real-life version of that hybrid monster that was briefly created by a man and a woman kissing near Area 51 in that one X-Files episode. Somehow, we project this appearance of singular oneness, and we've heard the criticism that you can't speak to one of us without a "ganging up" effect. I disagree -- outsiders rarely see our quarrels, but it's not like they aren't there. Electroman and I fight fiercely on a variety of issues, usually involving current events or my parents. In terms of politics, I'm more idealistic, more progressive and more libertarian than electroman on most issues. In terms of friendships, we share secrets but we don't end up wanting to treat our friends the same way -- on some days, I might be more forgiving and on others, I might be more willing to write that person off as an asshole, but rarely do we decide on a diplomatic recourse together like some sort of two-citizened micro-country. It doesn't help that all my friends are his friends too, and many of them met us around the time that we became an item. Still, I dislike the idea that we can and should be seen as the same entity, because it suggests that what either of us have to say as individuals is unimportant or somehow being influenced by the other. We are close, but we don't share the same brain -- and we sure as hell can both handle our own business. I find myself insulted when people assume that speaking to one of us means they are speaking to both, especially when I become cast as electroman's "handler"; people approaching me to discuss issues about him as if I am the "safer" of the two. It smacks of racism, sexism, and a general fear of dealing with us as people. I am not the little woman, the lotus blossom or the manipulative Oriental whore. Electroman is not the big black sambo rendition of "Me, Tarzan, you, Jane". Recently, someone got upset with me for acting without knowledge of what that person had told electroman -- and I just had to blink and wonder why I was getting blamed because this brain of ours that we supposedly share blipped and missed sending the message from electroman's hemisphere to mine. Even on this blog, people assume that his blog and mine are two sides of the same coin when the reality is that he finds out about what's going on in my head about the same time as everyone else does -- when a post is published. (Incidentally and on a semi-unrelated note -- why is everyone taking blogging so seriously recently? My blog may come across as self-important, but I don't really care that much about it in that as much as people agree or disagree, it's not like I'm sitting around fuming about what so-and-so said on so-and-so post. E-beef or whatever, as far as I'm concerned, what people say here shouldn't really spill into the real world; why does it seem like it's actually creating real-life drama?) So many issues I've dealt with this year have stemmed out of people having a problem perceiving electroman and I not only as a couple but as a single telepathic entity with two faces. While I don't think it's right to have to base our actions on the perceptions of others, I don't think this one can be ignored. I'd love to know how to combat this one, if only to make our own lives easier. I don't think either electroman and I have a problem with our own individuality, but we certainly have a problem getting other people to recognize it. I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if this is our (i.e. electroman and me) issue or a problem of those around us? And if it's us, what do we do about it without falling into the trap of letting others live our relationship for us?


Anonymous tekanji said...

I can't give you any insight into your relationship, but I can say that when I was reading this post a lot of what you said sounded familiar.

In one of my classes I read some Yamada Eimi (her name in translated versions is often put as Amy Yamada), who sometimes writes on the theme of Japanese women in relationships with black men. In the context of the discussion, we looked at how the racial stereotypes of black men being seen as "primal", "sexual", and "bestial" were set against Asian women ("reserved", "passive", and "natural") and Asian men ("traditonal" and "unmanly").

It seems that some of this is at work, as well as the lovely stereotypes about male/female relationship dynamics. I can't think of any whitty closing message, so I'll just say good luck with everything.

7/05/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

As someone in a long-term relationship (hubby and I have now been together for *counts* 9 and a half years...*goggles* wow!) I can sort of relate, altho our relationship is very different from yours. We are very much two separate people with our own friend-base and our own interests (altho some DO coincide).

The thing that does get me about your post is the fact that people assume that one or the other of you has told the other (if that makes sense) about something, whether it pertains to you both or not. Sometimes it's just not necessary to tell the 'significant other' everything, y'know? No matter how close you are...

As someone who's more or less strictly a 'Jenn' fan *grins* (cuz I only know Jenn right now) I do see that you both have your own ideas on things (from reading both blogs) and that they don't necessarily converge on the same issues. That's pretty cool. The thing is, why is being so close a bad thing? I think it's great and it's something we both aspire to. I think more people should be close as a couple - maybe then we'd get less of a divorce rate. Wishful thinking, I'm sure but that's how I feel.

Well done Jenn and James, may you have many more happy years ahead of ya!

7/06/2005 07:03:00 AM  
Anonymous shelly said...

yeah.... i can vouch for it sucking when someone has something to say to me, but they say it to my sig other instead. sucks, right?

7/06/2005 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

shel, was that supposed to be a meaningful snarkiness or something? if you have something you'd like to confront me on, please feel free to do so... but, for the record, i haven't said anything to your significant other that i was meant to have relayed to you because i didn't feel comfortable confronting you with anything.

*thinks*... nope... i have no drama issues at the moment...

7/07/2005 12:07:00 AM  
Anonymous sheldiz said...

noooope. drama free on this end. :) i know there's some 'whatever' going on offline, but honestly i was just agreeing with you.

7/07/2005 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

okay, cool. cuz that came a bit outta left field for me. ^_^

7/07/2005 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Rtother said...

Well as long as you don't pull the much-seen couple gift-giving BS. E.g.

Y: It's your b-day Mr. X. Here's a gift.

Mr. X: Why thank you Y.


Y: Happy b-day Mrs. X. Here's your gift!

Mrs. X: I love it Y! Thanks!

Later again.

Mr. and Mrs. X: Here's your gift Y. It's from both of us.

Y: Oh, thanks. (Finds gift that would have normally been given by only one person)

7/13/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

oh god no! if we give joint gifts, they're usually much bigger than an individual gift!

7/28/2005 02:07:00 PM  

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