When my partner and I first began dating, she sometimes referred to herself in the third person. She would come into the living room and see me sitting cross-legged on her couch and say, “Isabella does not like feet on the couch.” I would laugh and say, “Ha, ha. Nobody is that anal retentive. Hey, did you notice you just spoke in Third Person? What’s up with that?” It was the makings of our first little lover’s spat.
At first, it seemed she had a problem with my feet. I’m not delusional; I know my feet are thick and chunky. My toes look like desiccated cocktail weiners. I fully admit, if all the feet in the world disappeared and my feet were the last remaining on earth, they still would not make the cover of “Foot Fetish Quarterly.” They’re homely, perhaps, but they’re not Hobbit’s feet, for fuck sakes. My feet are mostly inoffensive, other than when I put one in my mouth.
I’ve since learned my partner’s disdain for my feet was an Italian thing. It wasn’t personal. My best friend’s wife is also a foot bigot – I mean, Italian – and she has a thing about feet too. Apparently, in the minds of Italian women, feet are suspect, dodgy things that invite contempt and scorn. Oddly enough, for two millennia nobody in Italy had an issue with feet when they were stomping on grapes to get the juice needed to make wine.
We’ve had far bigger spats since our first little quarrel about my grotesque feet. Isabella became much less judgmental about my feet after learning how well I can cook, particularly for her. She came to appreciate how I make her breakfast, dinner, and everything in between, despite my heinous feet sullying her kitchen floor. I am an early riser, which means Isabella gets to wake up to the smell of espresso every morning and does not need to set an alarm clock. I have a car and a job. I am funny, and Isabella’s mother thinks I am the cat’s pajamas.
Given all that, you might say we’ve reached a cultural détente about our conflicting views of feet and other things I did to annoy her in the early stages of our relationship. I am tapping out this blog on her couch – with my legs crossed. The sides of my disgusting feet are touching the couch fabric. Despite that, my partner and Isabella are sitting beside me smiling, oblivious to the fact I am making fun of them. If either of them gets mad, I’ll say Edmund made me do it. Also, their feet are on the couch. In the early days, it was not uncommon for me to point out the hypocrisy in some of Isabella’s hang ups. She did not like it at all. I blamed Edmund for that, too.
To be frank, if you put my partner’s feet and my feet side-by-side, most would agree hers are much uglier. She has a middle toe that is uncharacteristically, disproportionately longer than her big toe. She could use it to dangle from the apple tree in her back yard. That isn’t me talking, it’s Edmund, by the way. I have no problem with her feet, mostly because I avert my eyes when they are in view. Edmund is much more judgmental than I am, a trait he shares with Isabella. If you asked Edmund for the definition of ‘fugly’ he would point to my partner’s feet.
Thanks to Isabella I learned it can be useful to have a third person around in the early stages of a relationship. They are a useful patsy when we accidentally let down our guard, showing ourselves to be more human and imperfect than adults are willing to acknowledge is normal. They are like that ‘friend’ we had as teenagers; the one we swore to our parents twisted our arms into sneaking out at night, getting high, or drinking their booze and replacing the ill-gotten contents with water.
I may be laughing about it now, but back in the early days, Isabella was a real stickler. Edmund was not always so fond of her and suggested her side-kick was to blame for bringing her around. Edmund thought Isabella was way more uptight than he and I cared for in a partner. Upon reflection I understood Isabella was just sticking up for my partner and told Edmund to give the lady a chance. Isabella was working overtime for the ego of a woman who was a far less experienced surfer of the tumultuous emotional waves of a serious relationship than he and I.
Edmund and I had been previously married; we had been with my ex-spouse for eighteen years. We knew the ups and downs all too well. We had seen the best and worst aspects of a relationship and knew it was not all wine and roses. Hell, it was at the crumbling stages of my marriage when Edmund and I became intimately acquainted. He helped me get through it with a little less heaviness. With that in mind, Edmund and I let Isabella do her thing, nutty as it was, and hoped for the best.
All grown adults have a whole host of petty grievances they harbor about prospective partners that are, dare I say, slightly insane when viewed in terms of the scale of reaction they stir in us. These are the cesspool of neuroses we conflate to irrational heights; that are held up as “red flags” wielded in Kafkaesque fashion against a new, potential love interest to disqualify them from our hearts. They are the benchmark raised higher than Mount Everest by our self-serving, self-preserving egos. They spring from a garden seeded with a litany of past emotional hurts and thrive on small, inconsequential ‘offenses’ that make them grow like weeds until they choke out a relationship before it blossoms.
Let’s be honest. If we really believed the “red flags” we use to adjudge a new partner were reasonable, why would we go to great lengths to hide them? Why do we hide certain habits of our own until it’s safe to bring them out, until the other person is too emotionally invested to run away at the first sight of them? I can honestly say that, thanks to each of us having our own third person in the relationship there has always been someone else to blame for the crazy that inadvertently slips out of our adult ego from time to time, usually when it is caught off guard by the strength of feeling another elicits within us. It means we’re worried about falling off a cliff.
Edmund does not like cliff diving, at least when someone else is pushing me off the edge unexpectedly. He does not like being vulnerable; being so readily driven to hurt feelings by the actions – or non-actions – of another. He has a tendency to lash out at the one who triggers such strong emotions.
That’s what this blog site is all about – a place for Edmund to vent my spleen. He throws the weight of angst off my chest so I can breathe; so I am calm and easy-going in real life. The tone of discourse here is admittedly more caustic and combative, more polemical and bombastic than I am in real life. If you were to read any of the more scathing opinion pieces on this site and asked me, “Do you really believe that?” I would say, “Meh, maybe to a degree.” I sometimes don’t believe Edmund and I are of the same person. In that respect Walt Whitman and I share at least one attribute: We contradict ourselves; we are large and contain multitudes.
Edmund reflects the part of me who feels pain and outrage at the upsurge in economic inequality and injustice, racially-motivated cruelty, and wilful ignorance. It makes him weep for humanity so intensely it hurts. He is incapable of being emotionally-intelligent about why people flock like sheep to ball-grabbing, chest-thumping charlatans selling snake-oil. The sordid spectacle fuels the inferno of contempt for humanity that sets Edmund’s mind ablaze. The fire is lit by the spark of immense moral outrage.
Edmund does not suffer fools compassionately. I know, deep down, people are witlessly conditioned to be fearful and dissatisfied by a culture that is, in effect, a marketing campaign designed to sell the cure for ails that did not exist before the sales-pitches began. Edmund blames them for being such easy marks; for being so readily duped. He represents the reptile inside aching to punch in the face the bigoted, lying, emotionally-toxic demagogues; the greedy Corporate hucksters who profit from exploitation and use the proceeds to buy the acquiescence of politicians to their misappropriation of our nations’ capital; the Christian fundamentalist frauds who wield Jesus like a set of brass knuckles and toss insidious renderings of biblical scripture like a goddamned brick at their fellow citizens of other creeds.
Edmund is disenchanted by the fact misanthropes dominate the ranks of those who monopolize the spoils of North America’s wealth; who exclusively enjoy the security and well-being it affords. Edmund has observed how it is too often true that, “Good guys finish last,” despite the cultural bromides extolling the opposite. Edmund suspects such a lie gains the acquiescence of the masses who are beholden to the privations wrought by the theft, graft, and corruption unleashed by the infinitesimally small network of benefactors from such a system. Needless to say, I spend countless hours a week talking Edmund off the ledge.
Isabella’s neurotic idiosyncrasies are fairly mild by comparison. Hers are more passive-aggressively controlling than caustic, angry, or disillusioned. Isabella was always able to find something to get nit-picky about, especially when she felt things were getting a little too close for comfort. Instead of saying, “I am struggling with apprehensions about getting close,” she would say, “Isabella does not like it when people leave clothes on the floor.”
Isabella went nuts about the feet more than once. She said I should not swear when I got pissed off. Many mornings Isabella got mad at me for snoring and ruining her sleep, as if, in the middle of the night I said, ‘Heh heh heh, I’m going to snore now’. Isabella did not believe snoring was entirely unintentional. Maybe I fell asleep saying to myself ‘I will snore tonight, I will snore tonight …’
Because I ruined her sleep many nights, Isabelle gave me grief for licking my fingers while eating toast with peanut butter in the morning. It became another in a laundry list of Isabella’s pet peeves upon which the fate of our relationship hinged. Isabelle was the cause of several awkward conversations. “You know I’m unconscious when I’m snoring right? By the way, Isabelle farted in her sleep, so I’m going to lick my fingers now. Look away, if you must.”
But these are just instances of Isabella and Edmund doing what they do best; projecting their emotional angst into the world to protect their charges. Old habits die hard. All the same, Isabella helped my partner ease into this relationship at a pace she was comfortable with. Edmund prevents me from going catatonic at all the inconceivable hatred and vitriol being spewed into the world in recent years. Isabella kept me on my toes – as she tried in vain to keep those toes off her couch. Edmund’s indignant rage makes me laugh, which keeps me from building a shack in the deep woods and staying off the grid forever to spare me another second having to endure the hell of other people.
All along, I sensed the person who hated my feet so much she was willing to fight about it wasn’t really my partner. It was Isabella. She’s a little batty, true enough, but Isabella is not the sum total of my partner. None of our Third Persons truly are. The Third Person is like the troll within, who believes they are defending our honour when throwing punches at a world that always seems to be kicking us in the face.
It recently occurred to me Isabella has not made an appearance in a couple years. It seems like forever ago I heard Isabella say, “Isabella does not understand why you have to sniffle all day when there’s a box of tissue three feet away.” Nowadays, my partner just says things like, ‘Hey, can you blow your nose?’. Sure thing, dear. Edmund used to tell me it shouldn’t matter, but he can be an ass sometimes, I know. He isn’t always my cup of tea either, truth be told.
The Third Persons in this relationship have mostly been given new assignments. They are now tasked with protective duty at our workplaces, the grocery store, and other public places where entanglements with other humans and their Third People are unavoidable. In this relationship, it’s just my partner and I.
“I like it just fine,” she says. So do I.