Tiny Dancer cont.

The night of the party, I met Lisa beforehand. Her simple sexy style was in full gear; she looked amazing. We were both in great spirits excited to spend the night out. In route to the party, I asked about Etienne. This was to be the night of their great couple unveiling. She had seen him that morning at the dance school and spent the night with him twice that week. He knew about the party and told Lisa that he would meet up with her as the night progressed. It did not sound like a date or their first outing as an official couple…it sounded more like a friend promising to meet a friend for a casual drink. I wondered if the tentative plans would even pan out.

At the bar, we met up with our other girlfriends. It was one of those rare night where everyone made it out. The weather was great and we were ready to dance the night away! There were a plethora of tequila shots and drunken girl photos. You know the ones, full of air kisses and tongue out rocker faces. Amid loud conversations and frequent group trips to the bathroom, Lisa wondered allowed when Etienne would arrive. Tipsy and overly curious, I urged her to call him. Acting demure Lisa shot down the idea, she didn’t want to seem desperate.

“If he wants to see me, he will come. He knows where we are,” she protested.

“Nah, you should call him! Give me the phone; I’ll call him!”

Begrudgingly, Lisa dialed Etienne. I leaned over her shoulder listening in. She asked where he was and if he was planning to come. I shouted in the background urging him to stop by the bar. I was eager to see them as a couple and discover what about Etienne in his private life made him so attractive to my friend.

“He said he is on his way,” Lisa announced.

Actually, I was quite satisfied, and looking forward to seeing Etienne in something other then a leotard. About a half hour later, Lisa spotted Etienne’s car pulling up along side the bar. Out the window, she pointed as Etienne and another man piled out and toward the bar’s entrance. He made his way over for greetings and introductions. The man with him said that they had been drinking at a bar down the street. Why hadn’t he come directly to the party? Why did he wait to be summoned? This was supposed to be a date.

Etienne bought the birthday girl and her companions, including Lisa and myself a round of shots. He stood by the bar and avoided eye contact or private conversation with Lisa. I was surprised when Etienne approached me to have a conversation. We spoke about the school and my progress so far. He gave me some helpful tips and I expressed my appreciation. He was more of Etienne the teacher and school owner rather then a guy at the bar. He wouldn’t break character. When the conversation lulled I said, “So, you and Lisa! That is unexpected but it makes sense. You guys make such a cute couple.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he replied.

“Oh, Lisa told me you knew that I knew. You two are dating.”

“No.”

“It’s ok, I won’t say anything. I think that it is great that you guys share the same passion and finally acted on the attraction.”

Etienne gave me a puzzled look, as if I had six heads. On his phone, he pulled up a picture of a busty blond Pamela Anderson type. This woman was the opposite of Lisa’s petite yet exotic beauty, she was plastic and typical. He explained that they met the weekend prior and that ‘this’ was his ‘type’. I was perplexed. How could a refined classical dancer be attracted to a peroxide blond Barbie? Surely, Lisa, with her svelte figure and dark bedroom eyes was more appealing. He must be trying to hide something. Perhaps he just did not want me to know the truth. Maybe he worried that dating a student would be bad for his school’s image. I apologized for commenting on his personal life and touched on how much Lisa looks up to him.

“I understand you don’t want to talk about your personal life, but Lisa is a great girl an she deserves to be happy. I only asked because I care about her, “I explained.

“No, you have it all wrong. She has a crush on me. I acted on it a few times but I am not into her at all. In fact, I put an end to the romantic aspect of our relationship weeks ago.” To Etienne this was matter of fact but on the way over Lisa mentioned that they were together earlier that week. Something did not add up. Shortly after that, Etienne gathered his friend and headed out the door, not so much as a goodbye wave to Lisa.

Now, by this time I had gotten to know Lisa quite well. She was certainly not the type to fabricate details or inflate the truth. There was simply no way that she lied about Etienne and his promises of their future together. Either Etienne felt that as a student of his school I should not know the details of their relationship…or he was truly serious about dating the other woman. Could Lisa be obsessed or delusional about their relationship? It just could not be…why did he lie?

The Etienne I knew through Lisa and the Etienne I spoke to in person were two completely different people.

Tiny Dancer Affairs cont.

Lisa and Etienne continued to see each other secretly. Etienne had Lisa teaching classes at the dance school so he could conveniently pull her into the back room for “one on one” time. He loved the thrill of the knowing that someone could discover them at any minute; the affair brought exhilaration to his daily life. The rush he felt during the private encounters left him feeling free of his problems. The failing economy and the expense of his divorce were threatening his livelihood. Acting on sexual impulse with Lisa was enough to mask the turmoil of his otherwise depressing situation. The more risky the encounters the longer his good feelings would last; Lisa was like a drug. As his days became more stressful, his sexual needs became more extreeme.

One night after class, Lisa invited me for a drink. Weeks prior, she confided in me about her relationship with Etienne. She swore me to secrecy and asked me for my honest opinion as it applied to her circumstances. She explained that during the day things with Etienne were normal, almost like a married couple. They would plan the studio’s teaching schedule; go shopping for supplies and share meals before evening classes. They spoke mostly of dance, their shared passion, and the future of the studio. Etienne dreamed that one day Lisa would run her own studio, bearing his name, on the other side of town. Lisa felt that these types of conversations proved that their relationship had a public and lasting future. Then Lisa began reflecting on the darker side of things.

Most nights, after class was finished, Etienne would follow Lisa home to her apartment. There he would drink and conversation would shift from dance to sex. Etienne knew that Lisa was deeply devoted to him. Not only as a student, but as a lover and potential boyfriend. He preyed on her vulnerability by promising that sharing in his fantasies would seal their union. He wanted to bring other people into the mix and experiment on levels that made Lisa uncomfortable. She was embarrassed by the proposition, but considered participating in the hopes of keeping Etienne engaged. From my perspective, it seemed like Etienne’s thrills were rooted in his power to manipulate. If he could turn a good girl bad, he would experience unparallel ecstasy. The delight was not derived from the acts as much as the power over another person.

Lisa was not naive to Etienne’s manipulation tactics. She explained that he would use his influence to control students at the dance school. He studied great leaders and self help gurus to master the art of suggestion. For example, Etienne would compliment certain students and have them believe that they had special talent. He would pull them aside and tell them that they had the potential to teach their own classes at the school. To develop their extraordinary skills they would need to take extra class and a certification course, which, naturally cost hundreds of dollars. In few instances, the students would successfully complete the training and actually become a certified instructors. In this case, Etienne would put them to work but without pay, since they were still in an “apprentice” phase. So you see, the exceptional talent, was only part of a greater money marketing scheme, the result being free labor for Etienne and his dance school. Thus, Etienne’s manipulation tactics carried over into his personal life.

Lisa understood she was being used on some levels and she expressed anger and frustration over the state of affairs. She wanted to swear Etienne off and cut the physical ties but she still loved the man he was during the day deeply. Lisa wanted to bargain; find a way to keep him in her life. She considered an ultimatum…he dates her publicly or not at all. In fact, she had the perfect opportunity to present her terms. The next weekend was her best friend’s birthday party. She planned to invite Etienne as her date. I would be the only other dance student at the party and I already knew of the relationship, so there was no concern over the business and pleasure boundaries. It would be an opportunity to start fresh, taking the dark relationship into the light where the manipulation and erotic dares would cease. He would be the same man he was during the day at night. Makes perfect sense, don’t you think?

Tiny Dancer Affairs – Part II

Etienne was in his early thirties once his divorce was final. He felt that because he was in a committed relationship for the majority of his young adult life, he had earned the right to let loose and experience things he felt that he missed. During his marriage he focused on the success of his dance company, now that the company was thriving he could tune into pleasing himself. His former wife left the school, which created the perfect environment for Etienne’s new adventures in singlehood.

Now that his situation had changed, Etienne began to admit to himself that he was deeply attracted to Lisa. She was beautiful in an edgy dark way, unlike his blond haired blue-eyed former wife. Lisa brought mystery to the table and Etienne could not help but fantasize that her talents on the dance floor translated to her dexterity in the bedroom. He watched as she pirouetted across the floor; believing that Lisa held the key to his own sexual reincarnation. Lisa, tuned into Etienne from day one, noticed the recent peak of interest. She admired him from a distance for so long and was breathless at the thought of her student teacher fantasy becoming a reality.

After class one day, Lisa stayed after to ask Etienne for extra help. Knowing Lisa was by far his most competent student, Etienne realized this was Lisa’s way of creating private time. Etienne capitalized on this opportunity and suggested that they retreat to her apartment and watch a movie…about dance, of course, for instructional purposes. As we know, watching a movie closely translated to other things sparking between the pair.

Etienne followed Lisa to her apartment where she opened a bottle of wine. They both quickly drank their first glass in the hopes of easing the tension between them. When the movie began, Etienne sat on the couch while Lisa squatted near him on the floor. Neither was ready to assume the other’s intentions that night…it was too soon to tell what would actually play out. About an hour into the movie and two bottles of wine consumed, Etienne reached for Lisa. His embrace alone was enough to send her over the edge. The years of coy glances and subtle touches had finally amounted to a real romantic encounter. The man of her dreams who was out of her reach for years was finally obtainable. The encounter was mutually mind-blowing.

The next morning Etienne left Lisa’s apartment with little to say. He gathered his things explaining that he needed to get to the studio and warm up for his afternoon class. Lisa was slightly disappointed that the loving vibe from the night prior had shifted back to a more platonic, almost friendly exchange. As she walked him to the door she was hopefully that he was just nervous and that the relationship would continue to progress. In her mind, she wondered if her raciest leotard was clean, for she would wear it to class that evening in order to keep Etienne’s fire burning. To Lisa, this was the beginning of something beautiful: the union of two people who shared a passion for dance and a passion for one another.

Out in his car, Etienne was experiencing a range of different emotions. He liked Lisa, respected her talent and found her physically irresistible but he was concerned that mixing business with pleasure could result in trouble. He also worried about his image. He built his school on the foundation of family and now his own family dissolved. People would not understand his involvement with Lisa so soon after his divorce. To protect his integrity, he would need to keep his involvement with her a secret. After all, image was everything to Etienne. From the car, he sent her a text, “I had a great time last night but we have to keep what happened between us, ok?”

Lisa immerged from the shower to find her phone blinking with the message. When she saw it was from Etienne her heart fluttered. She read the text and although deflated that she would have to keep her excitement quiet, she understood the sensitivity of the situation. Her strong feelings for Etienne would keep her tied to their secret affair for months to come. In this moment, foreshadowing had not yet shown Lisa that her secret involvement with Etienne would become dark and twisted. It was too soon to tell who Etienne really was behind closed doors.

What kind of couple are we?

Have you seen this new show called Perfect Couples? I believe it is part of NBC’s Thursday night line up along with the Office and 30 Rock. The show is about different couple stereotypes: the self help couple, the make up to break up couple and the couple that suspects they might have settled for one another only to rediscover how perfect they are for each other. The show goes to extreme examples for the purpose of entertainment and it got me thinking…what kind of couple are we?

If you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you know the story of Mr. Right and me. It was a romantic beginning resulting in, what I felt was, a perfect marriage. We frolicked about in the honeymoon stage until one day we woke up and realized…oh shit: this is for real. The same theme prevails in the show and the one couple has the exact same argument that Mr. Right and I have all the time. It goes a little something like this:

MB: “Honey, can you help me move the couch in the office?”

waits in silence

MB: “Honey? HoNEEEE?

Mr. Right: with distain “What do you want?”

MB: with newfound bitchiness “Can you tear yourself away from whatever critically important thing you are doing and come help me move this couch?”

Mr. Right enters room appearing grossly inconvenienced and beholds an angry MB

Mr. Right: “What’s wrong?”

MB: “Nothing.”

Mr. Right: “No, I can tell something is upsetting you.”

MB: “Nothing.” Shoots Mr. Right looks of death

Mr. Right: whilst moving couch “Honey, tell me what’s wrong.”

MB: “I didn’t appreciate the attitude when I asked for your help.”

Mr. Right: “What attitude?”

MB: impersonating Mr. Right “I asked for your help and you said ‘WHAAAAT!?”

*explosive accusatory verbal warfare ensues

Perhaps this is a lame example, but what I am trying to demonstrate and what the show is also attempting to prove is that our perception of our partner’s actions can drive us to react in a combative or exaggerated nature. In this example, I wanted help. I was probably tired from a long day at work and irritated by the idea of moving furniture. Maybe I could hear the TV in the background and became further agitated by the fact that Mr. Right was relaxing while I was stuck with housework. Mr. Right on the other hand, had also come home from a full day of work. He cracked open a beer, put his feet up and tuned into his DVR, only to be interrupted by the shrill of his wife’s voice. Why did she want to move furniture this very minute? His show was just getting started and housework was low on his list of priorities. Mr. Right and I are both entering the situation with frustration and preconceived annoyance. With duel bad attitudes, an argument is unavoidable.

Mr. Right and I are admittedly extra sensitive people; our feelings get hurt easily. In addition to that common trait, we also are both very independent fostered by years of living and supporting ourselves as single people. This combination of heightened sensitivity and fierce independence makes the teamwork efforts of a perfect couple hard to master. Constructive criticism (i.e.: my impersonation of him offending me) makes us defensive of one another and the concept of work together for a greater good is lost. Our defensive walls go up and the communication breaks down. It happens so often I gave it a name, maybe it even describes what kind of couple we are…emotionally territorial.

Am I saying Mr. Right is Mr. Wrong? Are we headed for inevitable doom and disaster? No, no, no, not at all, we are just novice communicators who have not fully abandoned our independent lifestyle behaviors. We are breaking out of our old habits and learning what sinks and what swims in terms of our marriage. We embody certain stereotypical “couple” labels and they are not all positive. However, I have faith that we can be the emotionally territorial couple and still weather the storm. The real key to survival is being honest about your joint shortcomings and acknowledging the part you play in the failure of communication. Mr. Right and I have agreed to sit down on a weekly basis and talk more about why we act and react the way we do. We can already see the progress because our preconceived notions of one another’s attitudes are changing. We can look in the mirror and wave confidently to the imperfect couple that is our reflection because we know those two people are committed to each other happiness and ultimately to becoming a better team.

More on this soon…hope you are well ~ MB

An Affair to Forget

So back to my friend Hank: When we last left off Hank’s Mom, Julie, found out that his father, Frank, was having an affair. It appeared that Julie had given up attempting to control Hank and his other siblings thereby creating a less the welcoming home for her husband. Though she did sense some stress in her marriage she did not know that Frank was having a yearlong affair with his coworker, Jan.

Frank and Jan worked together at a general contracting business. It was Jan’s job to book home improvements and make appointments for Frank’s clients. Compared to his wife, Jan was a rather simple looking woman. Jan had a hard appearance that suggested life had not been kind to her. Her tan skinned bordered on leathered and her mousy hair was in need of serious conditioning. She was not at all like the fair-skinned Julie whose cherub face was home to her sparkling blue eyes. Their personalities were almost polar opposites. Though they were both mothers, Julie was sweet and compassionate where Jan was more reserved and came off stoic. To an outsider, Julie was clearly the more attractive of the two and seemed to be a better overall companion. It did not make sense that Frank would start a secret life with Jan without trying to work through his problems with Julie. Nevertheless, start a secret life he did.

Years ago, when Jan and Frank started a working relationship, Jan was married to a firefighter. They were married at a young age and as they grew older, the relationship started to deteriorate. Her husband was the controlling type and Jan was not one to be controlled. Through her divorce, she leaned on Frank for advice and he helped her achieve independence. Frank met Jan’s young children and began to enjoy spending time with them. Slowly, Frank found himself visiting Jan’s home after work instead of going home to his own. Jan’s quiet tone and subdue lifestyle only highlighted the craziness that awaited Frank when he came home to Julie at night. He started to resent his marriage and own children and yearned more for Jan’s less complicated existence.

Julie never had the benefit of knowing any of this. Frank never explained that the kids and their friends were stressing him out. Julie was not given the chance to understand Frank’s problems and try to fix things for her husband. Frank never had a conversation with Julie to express hat he needed their environment to be more relaxed. Frank never even approached his own children about the parties; instead, he just retreated to Jan’s house for his solace. He found a way to get what he needed and did not see the point in fixing what he already had. It seemed easier for Frank to move onto “plan b”, a double life with Jan and her family. Frank gave up on his marriage to Julie assuming that thing had been a certain way for so long and therefore they would be impossible to change. He didn’t give the woman that he married the slightest benefit of a doubt.

Instead, Frank split his time between the life that he wanted and the life that he had let spiral out of control. He enjoyed his time with Jan, the woman that he now loved and resented his time with Julie, the woman he reasoned could not understand him. Frank assumed that Julie would perpetually allow her children to run wild, putting their need for fun above the needs of her husband. He ASSUMED that his marriage was not fixable and that Julie and his children would not change. So, when the evening came that Julie found out about Jan, Frank left Julie. There was limited conversation or explanation just a packed duffel bag and a promise to divide the assets in a fair manner. Julie was blindsided and powerless over the sudden failure of her thirty-year marriage.