Skip to content

On desire and being single again

by Scott Ruhs

If you’ve read all of my blog (which of course, all good blog visitors should ha!  Especially one as a-prolific as this one!!) you’ll know that just over a year ago I shuffled off this marital coil! (I feel I must attribute to Mr Shakespeare here, but you’ll  note it is not a verbatim quote!!)  Thus it should not be surprising to learn that I’ve recently been making tentative forays into the ‘dating’ scene,  one year seeming a respectable mourning period; sadly my first foray has ended in disaster.  OK, that’s probably overstating it a little (particularly in a world where the term ‘disaster’ has a far weightier meaning, aroha mai!), but lets just say that the early euphoria of discovering great-kissing post marriage, and remembering how exciting new beginnings are, was quickly replaced by the other side of that always two-sided coin – the heartbreak and confusion of things gone awry!!  Indeed that exhilarating roller coaster ride does have a downward slope and a fairly steep one!!  Except that rather than being allowed to wallow in my rediscovered heartbreak, I’m subject to the wisdom of the masses.  A hideous prospect, particularly at a time when the new-age-platitude reigns supreme. Apparently “it was a learning experience”, “there’s plenty more fish in the sea”, and then the real clanger – always spoken in the wake of things-not-working-out-the-way-you-wanted; “it just wasn’t meant to be“. (Please tell me that someone other than me feels the urge to mime the fingers down the throat gesture at that one, which says far more in response than mere words ever could!).   Of course its not that such sentiments are wrong per se – its just that they’re really not helpful, communicating as they do the ‘big picture’ perspective when all one wishes to do is YES sweat the little stuff (or picture!) and bemoan the goddamn unfairness of it all!  Yes indeed I did learn a great deal – rediscovered aspects of myself that had long been dormant yadda yadda; and there are two potential fish swimming round my pond as I write (as for the not meant to be schtick, I’m not quite ready yet to take on that one)!  The problem is, keen and lovely as those fishies are, I’m still left hankering after the one-that-got-away! Pathetic really, given the sudden and final ending things came too, I wonder have I really progressed in the ‘dating’ sense from the teenage years at which I left that scene?!

In the wake of this recent turmoil I’ve had cause to mull over the question of desire.  I remember being struck several years ago by a scene in the movie The Life of David Gale that pondered this very issue and, word-freak that I am, have dutifully tracked the lines down:

“Fantasies have to be unrealistic because the moment, the second that you get what you seek, you don’t, you can’t want it anymore. In order to continue to exist, desire must have its objects perpetually absent. Its not the It that you want, it’s the fantasy of It. So desire supports crazy fantasies. This is what Pascal means when he says that we are only truly happy, when daydreaming about future happiness. Or why we say the hunt is sweeter than the kill. Or be careful what you wish for. Not because you’ll get it … because you’re doomed not to want it once you do”

As I’ve said I was struck by those words at the time, but nothing lends credence to such philosophizing than the lived experience of the thing, and from a personal perspective I can confirm that for this wahine at least – there is some truth in it!  The ‘object’ of my desire, gone as he now is, was not someone I had the opportunity to get to know well – at least not in the baring-your-soul sense, and hence I entertain no fantasy that he was/is the love of my life (and no, I’m not even sure I believe in such things).  Nor was he some super-catch that engendered ticks for every item on the list of ‘everything you would want in a man’ (or, not to be hetero-centric – partner; I don’t actually have a list like that, but perhaps I should work on one!).  But following a fast and heady romance, the point is, he’s gone, and that fact alone seems to make him all the more desirable!!  Whereas any and all other potentials, particularly those that show desire of their own, are less appealing for their eagerness.  And I’m relieved to know I’m not alone in this conundrum, it seems that when I can push past peoples’ need to espouse the aforementioned ‘wisdom’ and actually have them talk about their experiences, the ‘I want you if you don’t want me; and don’t want you if you do’ routine is not an uncommon one.  And may even be more potent for second-time-rounders like me.  Its certainly not a rational position to have which is great, cos hey you gotta love anything that undermines the whole englightenment-rational-selfcontained-individual nonsense; but seems to come from a far more emotional (and therefore irrational as emotions and supposedly women are wont to be😉 ) realm.  I can only hope, that like all things, this too shall pass, and take heart in the ending of the above lecture espoused by David Gale (actor Kevin Spacey), even if – like the words of the big-picture holders, it takes a little longer to sink in …

“So the lesson of Lacan is living by your wants will never make you happy. What it means to be fully human is to strive to live by ideas and ideals. And not to measure your life by what you’ve attained in terms of your desires, but those small moments of integrity, compassion, rationality, even self-sacrifice. Because in the end, the only way that we can measure the significance of our own lives, is by valuing the lives of others”

Aroha mai – apologies; Wahine – woman
Please note, as with any translation, the English equivalent does not necessarily capture the meaning of the words in their entirety

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Spacey’s lines impacted me, too, and made me go hunt and gather the exact script online (praise everything’s accessibility!) since I’m also trying to come to terms with the one who got away: he’d seemed ultra keen to offer up timely badinage, and pursued undividedly for at least 4 months, consequently I’m still gobsmacked by his disappearance once the meet was set and the deed, bagged. Lacan and Pascal were right: desire most times outweighs the reality of flesh. My only consolation is the fact that not everyone is so shallowly wired, and yes, he’s lost a damned good catch! At least it might be writing fodder…

    Congrats for your blog, BTW. It’s lively and fun.

    December 12, 2008
  2. Every now and then I write about my fast life on the single lane (single life on the fast lane just doesn’t cut it for me) “over there” on the BMAG blog and I run into some of these very themes you explore here. More often that not what leaves me baffled is the role play between potential partners, the masks we have to wear (of course, a la Lacan these masks/appearances mediate the Real, so they are not so much covering up our true selves as much revealing us in small, bearable doses). I often find myself intrigued by those words, gestures, slippages that happen when you’re on a date or just hanging out with a “potential”. Those moments when someone says something that doesn’t sit well with you, something you can’t integrate into your symbolic universe, and the whole edifice of what could have been comes tumbling down. It is those moments I love analyzing to death.

    I am not so brave as to look at my dating life through Lacan’s eyes — as you do here. Lacan scares me sometimes!

    October 28, 2011
    • Bearer of discomfort #

      More a glance than a look, because every time I try and read Lacan my head hearts. Gave it up! When I first started this blog I discussed things more personal. In the last year I’ve been pondering the ‘culture of confession’, a ‘tell all’ imperative that seems to be pervading Western societies at least. Everywhere from the hideous reality tv shows, through to students requesting extensions and giving full and frank confessions in the process. It horrifies me and I want to tell them they are under no obligation to provide so much detail – after all they don’t know who I am or what I might do with it (these are generally distance students). Hence I’ve restricted public expression to political rage. Small bearable doses sounds wise to me!

      October 28, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: