POST-SOCRATIC DIALOGUES – LOVE: 3
by Greg Scorzo –
Post-Socratic Dialogues are moving thought experiments. They portray elaborate, unfolding situations which, at every turn, force the reader to examine his or her philosophical intuitions about a range of topics. These dialogues are called “Post-Socratic” because there is no Socrates figure, telling the reader which arguments (if any) are the best ones. The reader decides that on their own.
Love: Part 3: Honesty
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, It is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, It is not easily angered, It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil But rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, Always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4
Joe becomes a very good English teacher for adults with special needs. He not only teaches effectively but also inspires many of his students to become better people. He is proud of his work, which he finds much more fulfilling than his personal relationships. After the initial weight gain and eye patch, Joe finds it much more difficult to find romantic partners. He is no longer confident about how he looks. None the less, he still dates, hoping his good conversation and charming smile will compensate for his new appearance he jokingly refers to as “Fat Pirate Dude.”
Over the next ten years, Joe has two relationships. The first relationship is with a university lecturer named Pamela who is extremely intelligent. Joe thinks Pamela is very plain looking. He is only slightly attracted to her. However, because of his weight and eye patch, he thinks he should force himself to be attracted to Pamela much more than he actually is. Both Joe and Pamela have much in common but Pamela spends most of the time arguing with Joe. Within a few weeks of their relationship, it dawns on Joe that Pamela enjoys this. She likes constant debate for it’s own sake. She even says things she doesn’t believe because she finds debating so much fun. She’d much rather argue with Joe than give him a hug. Joe finds this incredibly frustrating. It makes forcing himself to be attracted to Pamela much harder. However, Joe stays with Pamela for four years.
On the evening of their fourth anniversary, Pamela confesses to Joe that she has had three affairs throughout their relationship. The reason she gives for having these affairs is that she wasn’t physically attracted to Joe and needed to have sex with men who could satisfy her. When Joe hears this, he feels shocked, confused, angry, hurt, and then humiliated.
During that same evening, Pamela tells Joe she is leaving him for a french businessman called Roland. When Joe asks why she is choosing Roland over him, Pamela responds that Roland is more self-confident, industrious, intelligent, and handsome. She also mentions that Roland has a much bigger penis. Joe is grateful Pamela doesn’t say anything about Joe’s weight.
In the three years after Joe’s relationship with Pamela, he gains an additional 3 stone (42 pounds). These 42 pounds make Joe feel even more unattractive and undesirable. He stops dating altogether. He battles another more severe depression. He has persistent thoughts of suicide. What eventually allows Joe’s depression to lift is a chance encounter with a dance instructor named Loraine.
Joe quickly develops an intense infatuation with Loraine. To his amazement, Loraine confesses to Joe that she is falling in love with him. After only knowing each other for four days, Joe and Loraine begin a relationship. However, Joe doesn’t tell Loraine about his struggles with depression. He’s afraid that if he tells her about his mental health problems, he will lose her. Joe will do anything not to ruin this new relationship. In its first 12 weeks, Joe is happier than he has been in years. However, by the beginning of the fourth month, Joe’s happiness begins to fade considerably. Joe becomes acutely aware that Loraine is very different to him and can be very demanding.
However, Loraine is gorgeous. She is the most physically attractive woman Joe has ever been in a relationship with. In fact, Loraine is one of the most physically attractive women Joe has ever seen. She has stunning features and a near perfect body. Joe finds Loraine far more beautiful than even Janet. He feels tremendously lucky to be loved by Loraine, given the way he now looks. Joe also loves the fact that Loraine is a very honest and straight forward person. Joe can always depend on Loraine to do whatever she says she is going to do. He never feels like he has to guess how Loraine is feeling. With Loraine, what you see is what you get. This makes Joe feel safe.
Feeling so safe enables Joe not to be terribly bothered by the fact that Joe and Loraine are so different. Loraine likes to spend most of her time with Joe doing house work or running errands. She is intelligent but mostly talks about things that need doing. Joe finds most of their day to day activities together very boring. He finds the lack of intellectual conversation tedious. The nightly sex sessions with Loraine soon feel like a chore. Within a year of the relationship, Joe is enjoying the company of his friends more than he enjoys Loraine’s company. Yet the relationship continues.
Meanwhile, Janet’s career skyrockets. She becomes a well regarded and best selling graphic novelist, painter, and political activist. She regularly makes appearances on political debate forums on television and online. She also does eloquent and heavily viewed VLOGS and makes quite mesmerising speeches at street rallies and university campus halls. She becomes a fantastically persuasive debater who manages to make even her opponents laugh and feel warm towards her. She champions causes like the guaranteed minimum income for all citizens, the plight of the Palestinian people against Israeli Aggression, Atheism, and Green Energy. She also does Ted Talks on subjects like the nature of creativity, techniques for managing depression, and the role of social media in a globalised economy.
Ten years after their last conversation, Joe still avoids Janet and is frightened by the prospect of coming in contact with her. No human being throughout his entire life made him more frightened than Janet did on the day she poked his eye out.
One night, Joe sees Janet on the panel of one of his favourite political discussion programs, BBC’s Question Time. Joe is initially surprised because his first thought upon seeing her image is just how little she has changed in the intervening ten years. Throughout the episode, Janet passionately defends the poor, exposes the ways immigrants are unfairly demonised, and makes an impressive impromptu speech at the end of the program about the importance of treating people as individuals. Joe agrees with everything she says and is amazed at how she uses rhetoric to make the other members of the panel look ridiculous when they try to argue against her. She does this without coming off as condescending or belittling. She jokes with her opponents and compliments them about the few things they do say that she agrees with. The audience is enraptured by her.
By the end of the discussion, at least two of her panel opponents are (to the amazement of the host) starting to agree with her. As the closing credits roll, everyone on the panel is either smiling or has a look of astonishment on their faces. Joe can tell at least three panel members are crushing on Janet. There’s a subtle (but noticeable) air of flirtaciousness throughout the entire discussion. Janet’s social charisma is like a lightening rod. This is the Janet that Joe remembers falling in love with. However, she is now even more articulate, witty, and persuasive. If Joe didn’t know Janet, she would be his dream woman. This scares the shit out of him.
This is the woman who, throughout their relationship, was able to hide a cruel and sadistic streak that shocked him when he finally saw it. This is the woman who stopped him in mid conversation to disfigure him by casually blinding him in one eye. His last memory of her is of her walking towards him with a fork in her hand, looking like she had a very deliberate desire to kill him. Joe thinks murder was her true intention and the fact that he merely lost an eye was a fortunate accident of circumstance. Now Janet is on his television; a terrifying and violent person who appears likeable… ridiculously likeable!
Joe hasn’t been this frightened by something on his television since he was a child watching The Exorcist. Yet he can’t help but watch the show to completion. After witnessing her appearance on Question Time, Joe still tries to ignore Janet, even though he sees her graphic novels and essay collections popping up in his favourite book stores. He notices she is on several of his favourite television programmes. Whenever he sees her in something he is watching, he switches to another channel or turns off the television.
Another year and a half goes by.
Joe’s relationship with Loraine is getting harder and harder for him. Yet he stays in it because he loves Loraine and wants to honour the commitment he has made to her. Despite its difficulties, he can see himself benefiting from the relationship. Loraine makes Joe a more punctual, disciplined person. Because of her, he lives in a big house that is always clean, his finances are always in order, he has become an excellent cook, and he is getting regular sex for the first time in years.
When Joe thinks about Loraine, he feels relief. He feels like he knows who she is. He never has to worry about what she is thinking because she tells him straight away when she is unhappy. Her bluntness can be annoying but Joe never feels manipulated. More importantly, Joe loves thinking about how many men would be envious of him every night when he buries himself between her legs. This aspect of sex with Loraine is the aspect he enjoys most.
One day, Loraine sits him on their settee for a conversation about their relationship that Joe isn’t expecting.
Loraine: Look Joe, I love you. You’re a good man and a total sweetheart. I appreciate everything you do for us in this relationship. Do you understand that?
Joe: I understand.
Loraine: But something feels wrong to me. It’s hard to explain it.
Joe: What feels wrong? Now I don’t understand.
Loraine: It feels like something is missing.
Joe: What’s missing? We’re with each other all the time. We support each other. We have sex every night. We’ve created a beautiful home together. We accept each other’s differences. We love each other unconditionally. We’re going to have a baby next year. Isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be?
Loraine: I don’t know. I’m not complaining about you. I’m not saying anything you’ve done is bad. I appreciate you and love you to bits.
Joe: Then what’s the problem?
Loraine: I worry that maybe you love me too much.
Loraine: I feel like maybe you aren’t getting your needs met in this relationship.
Joe: Of course I’m getting my needs met in this relationship or else I wouldn’t still be with you.
Loraine: It doesn’t feel like that Joe. You’re always more excited to spend time with your friends.
Joe: Well, Loraine I see you every day. I don’t see them every day. Everyone in my life brings me different qualities that I value in different ways. But you should know that you’re the person I love most. That’s why I see you every day while I only see them two or three times a week.
Loraine: I don’t know, Joe. I’m confused.
Joe: Are you saying you don’t feel loved by me in this relationship?
Loraine: No, not at all. I feel very loved.
Joe: Then what’s the problem?
Loraine: It’s hard to pin down. Something just doesn’t feel right.
Joe: (getting frustrated) What is it? What doesn’t feel right?
Loraine: I feel like everything we do together isn’t something you actually enjoy doing. It never feels like you’re having fun. It feels like you’re only doing what I want because you love me.
Joe: In a healthy relationship, you’re not always excited to be around your partner. But the love is what carries you through. In life, no one excites you every day. But when you love someone, that doesn’t matter. You make an effort to push on. You accept the limitations in the other person. You accept the limitations in yourself.
Loraine: I don’t know. In theory, I agree.
Joe: What do you mean, “in theory”?
Loraine: Joe, I like feeling like my boyfriend wants to be with me. I like feeling like my boyfriend is excited by me. It’s not fun feeling like someone is just tolerating me because they love me.
Joe: But I’m not just tolerating you because I love you! I enjoy you like mad.
Loraine: What do you enjoy, Joe?
Joe: Everything about you.
Loraine: I have a hard time believing that.
Joe: I accept everything about you because I love you. I enjoy being with you, with all of your flaws and all the ways that you’re different to me. I wouldn’t want you to change a single thing about you! That’s how much I love you.
Loraine: But why do you love me that much?
Joe: Because I chose to love you that much.
Loraine: But why did you choose to love me that much?
Joe: It’s hard to describe what makes you fall in love with someone. I was attracted to you. I felt good being around you. I loved how you stood up for yourself and didn’t take any shit from anyone. I noticed how giving you are. I was impressed by what a hard worker you are. There’s a million reasons why I fell in love with you.
Loraine: I know all of that. I’m not saying you’re in the wrong or that I’m angry with you for any of that.
Joe: Then what feels wrong?
Loraine: It feels like you decided to love me when we got in this relationship.
Joe: That’s what happens in any relationship.
Loraine: It doesn’t feel like I’ve done much since then to make you want to love me.
Joe: I love you unconditionally Loraine. That’s the only way any relationship can last.
Loraine: Joe, are you getting your needs met in this relationship?
Joe: Of course, I am. I’m loving the person I chose to love. I love you for you. I love you in all of your imperfections. I love you because of all the ways we are alike and different.
Loraine: Joe, I get bored by the long winded conversations you like to have. I can’t stand most of the movies you like. I’d rather listen to cats die than hear most of your free jazz records. I don’t understand your weird poetry. I’m not interested in the galleries you like to visit. I don’t eat meat. I don’t smoke. I’m not a Manchester United Fan.
Joe: But I don’t make you do any of that stuff, Loraine! I don’t eat meat when you’re in the house, I smoke outside. I read my poetry aloud at the readings I do or with my friends. I don’t expect you to watch me read my poems at coffee shops and be bored. I don’t need you to. I don’t need us to be alike in every respect.
Loraine: Even in bed, I don’t like any of that kinky BDSM shit you go for. I like straight up missionary sex every night before I go to bed. I like to be penetrated and then I like to have a cliteral orgasm where you use your hands or your mouth. I don’t like role play games. I don’t need to wear a costume to get off. I don’t need to talk during sex. A massage and a bath before we start will do me fine.
Joe: I know all of that and I’m fine with it! You know I think you’re an amazing lover. You’re only focusing on the negatives. You’re forgetting all the things we have in common.
Loraine: I know all the things we have in common. We love each other. We both want to have kids. We like to cook Indian food together. We don’t like loud parties or gambling. We like rainy days. We hate roller coasters. We like to stay up late and wake up after 11am on weekends. I like your big heart. You like it when I wear skimpy shorts and other men stare at my legs. We both eat big cinnamon rolls on Saturdays.
Joe: You’re describing all of that in a way where you’re making it sound like trivial bullshit.
Loraine: Well, the way you act makes it seem trivial.
Joe: What do you mean?
Loraine: You make me feel like I’m your daughter.
Joe: (frustrated) What are you talking about?
Loraine: On most days, regardless of what we’re doing, I feel like you’re doing it because its good for us. I feel like you’re doing it because you love me.
Joe: How does that translate into me treating you like a father?
Loraine: When I was a kid, my dad used to watch cartoons with me every day when I came home from school for an hour. I could tell he hated the cartoons and he would much rather be doing something fun with my mother. I’d say to him, “Why aren’t you with Mum? Wouldn’t you enjoy that more?” He’d say, “I’m spending time with my daughter, Loraine. I love you.”
Joe: Why do you hold a grudge against him for that? He loved you.
Loraine: He loved my mother too but there was a difference.
Joe: Of course, there was a difference. You were his daughter and your mother was his wife.
Loraine: No, you don’t get it.
Joe: Explain it to me then.
Loraine: He loved my mother because he enjoyed her. Every time he was around her he seemed like he was having fun. He never seemed bored. He never seemed like he was doing something every day to make her happy. He always seemed like he was making himself happy just by being with her.
Joe: Well, if he never put himself out to make her happy, maybe he wasn’t the best husband for her.
Loraine: No, he was a great husband for her. When he died, my mother was miserable because she lost the love of her life.
Joe: Well, then he must have put himself out for her at some point.
Loraine: Whether or not he did isn’t the point! The point is, with me, he was bored. I was a kid. Children bored him. I couldn’t talk to him the way my mother could. I didn’t like any of the things he enjoyed. But he loved me anyway. He sat patiently in the bleachers during my dance recitals I knew he couldn’t give a toss about. He was proud of me because I was his daughter.
Joe: That’s what a good father does.
Loraine: I hated it.
Loraine: I didn’t want to be tolerated out of love. I wanted to him to like me. I wanted to be his friend.
Joe: But he was your father. He wasn’t supposed to be your friend.
Loraine: He spent so much effort trying to pretend he was interested in me and enjoying my company. The fakeness of it made me feel physically sick. I tried to get away from him most of the time. I couldn’t bear his pretending.
Joe: Loraine, most adults aren’t interested in the stuff that excites their children. That’s why parents take an interest in their children and love them unconditionally. You don’t watch cartoons with your daughter because you like the cartoons.
Loraine: My dad’s love for me didn’t feel nice. It felt fucking horrible.
Joe: Your dad was there for you even when he could have done the easy thing and ignored you! That’s a good parent, Loraine.
Loraine: I wish my dad would have said to me, “Loraine, I love you because I am obligated to even though you bore the fuck out of me.” Instead he would say things like, “I love you but I can’t compare you with your mother. I love you both equally and differently.”
Joe: Of course it was an equal but different kind of love. You were his daughter!
Loraine: Yes, one love was about duty. The other was about happiness.
Joe: I think you’re being very hard on your dad. He seems like he isn’t so different from most parents. Look at how you turned out. I think it’s pretty obvious he did a good job with his daughter.
Loraine: I don’t care how much he loved me or how good of a job he did with me. I don’t want to be loved like that by my own fucking boyfriend. I want to be liked. I want my boyfriend to be crazy about me the way my father was crazy about my mum. I want to be loved because I make my boyfriend happy. I want to feel like I’m with someone whose excited to see me every day. I don’t want to feel I’m being fucking tolerated.
Joe: Don’t you think you have some unrealistic expectations about what a relationship is supposed to be like every day?
Loraine: I don’t know. All I know is I don’t like how this feels.
Joe: Loraine, no relationship can thrill both partners every day until death do you part. That’s a romcom fantasy of what a relationship is like. All romance is a work in progress, and it’s a struggle. All couples have days where they bore and frustrate each other. All relationships have periods where one partner isn’t fun to be around.
Loraine: I know that Joe.
Joe: The only way a relationship can succeed is if you’re not just looking after number one. You have to fight for the relationship. Otherwise, you act selfishly, you piss your partner off, you become inconsiderate. Forget monogamy. Forget mutual support. When a relationship becomes about “Me Me Me” that’s all the relationship will consist of. One person. Self-centered people can’t have relationships that last.
Loraine: I know all of that and I agree in theory.
Joe: If love is conditional, it can’t work. When love is conditional, your partner loves you until you bore or annoy them and then they leave. If you want any kind of relationship at all, you have to learn to love your partner for all their strengths and weaknesses. You have to love them no matter how much they change over the years. You have to grow with them, wherever it is that they grow to. That takes work.
Loraine: I know all of that, Joe. I know love is hard work.
Joe: Loraine, if you had a stroke and we couldn’t have sex or talk and I had to spend all day feeding you while you shook like an infant, I’d do it. I’d spend the next forty years of my life doing that because I love you.
Loraine: But what kind of relationship would that be?
Joe: A loving relationship that lasts.
Loraine: Well, I’m not sure I’d be happy about that.
Joe: (giggling) Yes, I wouldn’t be happy being debilitated by a stroke in my thirties either.
Loraine: No, that’s not what I meant. If you spent all day looking after a grown infant, that doesn’t seem like a relationship that’s fair on you.
Loraine: You’d be missing out on all the good bits of a relationship. I’d be getting all your devotion and care. You’d get nothing from me. The whole relationship would be totally one-sided.
Joe: But I’d be happy knowing I’m looking after the person I love.
Loraine: Are you sure that would really make you happy?
Joe: Loraine, relationships aren’t like bank loans. It’s not a tit for tat. You can’t expect to get things from your partner that are always in proportion to what you can give. Sometimes your partner can give way less than what you can give and you still love them anyway. Those things can always switch. You might one day be the one getting more from them than what you can give.
Loraine: I know, I know. You’re right. Maybe the problem is I feel like I haven’t been asserting myself enough in this relationship. Maybe I’m not standing up for my needs and I’m assuming it’s because you aren’t getting your needs met.
Joe: If that’s the case, just tell me what you need! I’m your boyfriend. I’m here to make sure you get your needs met.
Loraine: I know and I appreciate you so much for that. No one’s ever loved me as much as you.
Joe: That’s because you’re my life partner. Now tell me what I can do to make you happier in this relationship.
Loraine: Ok, well for starters, I’m really tired of you pressuring me to hang out with your poetry friends. I don’t understand what you guys talk about half of the time and I’m sitting there bored out of my skull. I’d like it if you’d go have coffee with them somewhere else rather than have them over the house on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. There’s a lot of things we could be doing together on those nights. There’s a fireworks display at Abbey Park that we’ll be missing out on if we have your friends over this Tuesday.
Joe: I understand. But what about your friends that we see in Derby?
Loraine: You like my friends.
Joe: Well, I think they’re ok.
Loraine: The point is it doesn’t irritate you to spend time with them.
Joe: Jill and Claire irritate you that much?
Loraine: Joe, all they do is speculate about pointless shit, bitch, and read aloud pretentious rubbish they scribble on those little note pads.
Joe: I like their poems.
Loraine: You are so much better than them, Joe. I don’t understand what you write but I can still tell it’s much more well written and imaginitive than their pretentious bullshit. Every time Jill reads one of her menstruation sonnets, I want to fucking burn it.
Joe: Ok, I’ll meet with them at Starbucks.
Loraine: The other thing I need from you is tea. I get home at 8 and you’re home by 7. When I get home from work, I’m stressed and need satiation to get a sense of calm. I can’t cook after work. It’s too stressful.
Joe: Ok, I’ll make sure to have something on the hob by the time you come home.
Loraine: The third thing that irritates me is on weekends when we have the day to spend together, you’re often in your room with your headphones on.
Joe: That’s really the only time I have to listen to music. I don’t put that on in the living room because I know you hate it.
Loraine: Joe, the only time I get to spend the entire day with you is on the weekend. What’s more important, a day with your girlfriend or Eric Dolphy?
Joe: Of course you’re more important to me! I’m really sorry if I’ve made you feel like you aren’t the most important thing in my life. That wasn’t intentional on my part.
Loraine: And the last thing I want to talk to you about is something I need to be completely honest with you about.
Loraine: I’m not saying this at all because I’m trying to hurt you.
Joe: I know, I know. What is it?
Loraine: Joe, I wouldn’t be with you if I didn’t think you were a handsome guy.
Joe: I know. And you know how beautiful I think you are.
Loraine: But at the moment, you’re a handsome guy who is buried under way too much fat.
Joe: I know. I’ll go online tonight and research a diet plan I can get on. Maybe I can..
Loraine: (interrupting) Take off your shirt.
Loraine: Take off your shirt. I want to show you something.
Joe: What, right now?
Loraine: Just take off your shirt.
Joe takes off his shirt. Loraine then pulls down Joe’s trousers and underpants. Loraine is staring up at Joe’s flacid penis and protruding belly.
Loraine: Now, honey, I know you know you haven’t got the biggest cock in the world. That’s not a problem. But look at this.
Loraine puts her hand against Joe’s belly flab.
Loraine: This right here….this is nasty.
Joe: (embarrassed) I know, but I can’t really do anything about that right this minute.
Loraine: Your gut hangs out further than your erection Joe. I can handle the eye patch. I can handle man boobs. But this is disgusting.
Joe: (uncomfortable) I know, but this isn’t the nicest way to talk to me about this, Loraine.
Loraine: I’m being honest with you because I want you to be more self-confident. I don’t want to hear you complaining about how you feel unattractive anymore.
Joe: I appreciate that but there are more tactful ways of doing that than telling me which parts of me you think are disgusting.
Loraine: I’m not interested in manipulating you by being dishonest. I want you to become more self-confident and I want you to get a body your beautiful girlfriend is happy with. You’ll feel better if you know that I’m happy with your body.
Joe: I know that but..
Loraine: (interrupting) You know as well as I do that If I sugar coat what I’m trying to say, you won’t take it on board.
Joe: (loudly) Of course I can take it on board!
Loraine: (yelling) Then be a man and fucking do something about it! You’ve had enough time to do something about it already and you keep eating the same nasty shit! I’m sick of it Joe! It doesn’t look good when we’re walking down the street together and people are staring at me wondering what I’m doing with you. That’s not good for either of us.
Joe: I know.
Loraine: (loudly) I’m going to be getting pregnant in a few months! You need to model good habits for our kids. You need to be there for our kids without having a fucking heart attack at 40!
Joe: I know, I know.
Loraine: Now tonight you’re going to get a diet plan and we’ll arrange it for the house tomorrow. I want you to start working out on the wii again doing press ups. You’ll feel much better once those boobs start going down. I’ll start to feel like I’m having sex with a man.
Joe: You don’t have to put it in such a crude..
Loraine: (interrupting) You’re the one person I can say whatever I’m thinking to Joe. Whatever I’m feeling about you I can say to your face. I can’t do that with anyone else.
Joe: I know but sometimes you can be rather blunt.
Loraine: My honesty with you is how I show you my love. Don’t talk about that like it’s a bad thing.
Joe: I’m sorry.
Loraine: Now I’m hungry. If you start cooking now, it’ll be too long before tea is ready and I’ll have a headache. Go across the street and get me a small pizza with a green salad. You’re having just a green salad. Don’t buy any sodas.
Joe: Ok, I should be back in about 15 minutes.
Joe proceeds to walk out the door.
Loraine: Thank you for being so sweet to me today. I knew everything would be ok if we talked this out.
Joe: I love you Loraine.
Loraine: I love you too Joe. I’ve never had a boyfriend as giving as you.
Joe: That’s the kind of boyfriend I try to be.
Joe and Loraine smile at each other as Joe leaves. But Joe is not happy. He is disturbed because he has just seen a side of Loraine he has never seen before. Loraine has been demanding and insensitive in the past. However, she has never been cruel to Joe about his body. This cruelty makes Joe feel very hurt.
Joe thinks about how hard he tried to calm Loraine’s fears about his needs not being met in the relationship. This is how she repays him?
There is no way, after what she said to him, that he is going to feel like having sex with her tonight. Walking home with dinner, he can’t bear to look at any windows or mirrors. The reflection of his own body is making him feel physically repulsed.
When Joe brings the dinner home, he and Loraine sit together eating. Loraine enjoys her pizza and salad while Joe eats his salad without much enthusiasm. He’s not terribly hungry. Loraine can sense something isn’t right.
Loraine: Joe, I’m sorry if I was a little harsh about your eating habits earlier. I just want you to be happy.
Joe: I know you just want me to be happy.
Loraine: I worry about you. I worry about your health. I worry about how you feel about yourself because of your weight and your eye. I know what you used to look like. You can look like that again, Joe. We can get you hot again over the next year. It’s not impossible.
Joe: Like I said, I’ll get a diet plan tonight and we’ll plan it out into our shopping list tomorrow.
Loraine: I just want you to feel self-confident and happy. I want you to feel like you belong in this relationship.
Joe: Well, I thought I already did belong in this relationship.
Loraine: You know what I mean.
Joe: You mean only hot people belong in this relationship.
Loraine: Joe, how many times have you talked to me about how much you don’t like how you look anymore?
Joe: I thought how I looked didn’t matter to you.
Loraine: It obviously matters to me. I’m your girlfriend and it’s my job to have sex with you. You’re not going to be happy having sex with me if I’m not happy with how you look. And I want you to have a good time in bed with me. I don’t want you to feel like you’re ugly.
Joe:I thought you’d be able to love me enough to enjoy sex with me regardless of what I look like.
Loraine: Would you enjoy sex with me if I gained 98 pounds?
Joe: Of course I would.
Loraine: You’re lying, Joe.
Joe: How can you say that?
Loraine: You wouldn’t be so excited about how beautiful I am if you didn’t also like my weight. My weight is a part of why you find me attractive. I’m slim and toned.
Joe: Your beauty isn’t just about how you look.
Loraine: Oh, please. Come on Joe.
Joe: There’s more to you than just how you look!
Loraine: I know that! But how I look is a big fucking part of why I’m beautiful and it’s a big part of why we’re together. You LOVE how I look.
Joe: I know I love how you look. But I’m going to be with you when you’re old and wrinkly and I’ll still be having sex with you.
Loraine: You’ll have to work a lot harder then to have sex with me. It would be nice if we could have a few decades before we’re old and wrinkly where neither of us has to work that hard to find the other attractive.
Joe: If you love someone, you want to have sex with them regardless of what they look like.
Loraine: Do you want to have sex with Jill and Claire?
Joe: Of course not.
Joe: That’s different! We’re mates.
Loraine: I’m not threatened by those mates of yours because I know that even if I wasn’t in your life, they would always be just mates.
Joe: Why do you say that?
Loraine: Because Jill’s a right minger and Claire’s twice as big as you.
Joe: Well, I don’t agree with you about that. Claire’s cute. Being a big woman doesn’t mean you can’t be attractive.
Loraine: Joe, Claire looks like a big white rubbish bin. When she wears her black sandals, her feet look like fucking loaves of bread. I look at her face because I can’t even look at her feet and looking at her face isn’t that pleasant.
Joe: I don’t understand why you hate Claire so much.
Loraine: I don’t hate her. I just think she needs to sort herself out.
Joe: You know, she asked me yesterday to tell you how much she appreciated you fixing her shower last week. You saved her 800 quid.
Loraine: Well, I’m glad but she still needs to fix herself. She looks fucking awful.
Joe: Loraine, if she feels happy with how she looks, it’s none of your business. You have no right to judge her.
Loraine: I’m not judging her. I know she can get her kit off. I know she’s had boyfriends before. I’m not saying she should be banned from sex.
Joe: Then what are you saying?
Loraine: I just think she’s a saddo. The next time she’s fucking some unlucky sod, she’ll have to be on the bottom so she doesn’t crush the poor bloke.
Joe: That doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy it. There’s still the missionary position.
Loraine: Yeah, and it’ll be like trying to find the wet hole in a giant blob. It’ll be a miracle if he doesn’t have to think about somebody else in order to get a fucking hard on. I do not envy that poor bastard.
Joe: Loraine, that’s really mean.
Loraine: Claire doesn’t respect herself. If she doesn’t respect herself, why should I? Why should anyone respect her?
Joe: Because she’s a great person. I know you don’t see that, but I do. And whoever winds up being her next boyfriend will see that.
Loraine: (loudly) Why should a man respect a girlfriend who treats her body that way? Why should he have to put up with that? Why should he have to lie and pretend that she’s beautiful? That’s like slavery!
Joe: If a guy can see the things in Claire that I can, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t want to be with her. If and when a guy sees those things, Claire will be beautiful to him.
Loraine: So if you were single, you’d consider sticking your dick in her?
Joe: No, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Claire. That has to do with me. I’m not attracted to women her size. But there are plenty of other guys who are.
Loraine: You mean there are plenty of guys who think they couldn’t do better. Guys most women wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Guys who are scraping the bottom.
Joe: I know it’s a small pool of blokes. But there’s someone for everyone, Loraine. Claire’s too lovely a person to have to be alone. I know it won’t be easy to find her next boyfriend, but I’m positive someone out there somewhere will see how kind and interesting and funny Claire is. If he gives her a chance and really gets to know her, he’ll start to see those things. He’ll start to want her. Some guy somewhere will want her.
Loraine: He might in the beginning because he enjoys spending time with her and the romance is new, but that’ll wear off. He’ll start to notice what she looks like and then he won’t want her anymore. She’ll either lose him or she’ll have to stop eating herself to death.
Joe: Or maybe he’ll love her because he can see how beautiful she is on the inside.
Loraine: She’s not beautiful on the inside. She’s fucking selfish.
Joe: She’s not selfish at all, Loraine. She’s one of the most giving people I know.
Loraine: She wrecks her body with food and then expects men to fancy her. That’s like expecting people to fancy you even though you don’t brush your teeth and you stink. If you love someone, you take a shower and brush your fucking teeth before you expect them to get naked and cum with you. It’s called consideration.
Joe: That’s not fair! Weight loss is way harder than taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
Loraine: Anything that’s worth having you have to work hard for. Not making an effort to look nice means you’re not working to make yourself attractive. Not making an effort and expecting to get fucked anyway is cunty. Especially if the person you expect to fuck actually makes an effort to be sexy.
Joe: So is this a round about way of saying you think I’m cunty?
Loraine: It’s not a round about way of saying it. You need to fucking lose weight.
Joe: (rolls eyes) Thank you Captain Obvious!
Loraine: You need a Captain Obvious in your life. You’re useless without a Captain. All your friends bullshit you.
Joe: Well, so do you apparently. All this time, I was under the impression my girlfriend actually thought I was handsome.
Loraine: There is a handsome guy in there. I’m just tired of him hiding in blubber. You should be too.
Joe: I am, but losing weight is going to take a lot of time. It’s not an easy thing.
Loraine: Neither is being in a loving relationship. You said so yourself.
Joe: So are you going to break up with me and check in after about a year to see how different I look? You can tell your friends we’re on hiatus until I drop a few stone. I’m sure they’ll tell you to stop wasting your time and leave me. There’s so many other thinner male fish in the sea just waiting for a crack at the beautiful Loraine Klein. I’m sure that’s what Sasha will tell you before he tries to have a crack at you himself.
Loraine: If he says that, he can fuck off. You’re mine. We’re having a family together. That’s why I want you to know my feelings about your body. That’s why I want us to do something about those feelings.
Joe: What’s the point if we’re going to be old and wrinkly anyway?
Loraine: You won’t be happy knowing your girlfriend isn’t happy with your body in the prime of your life. These are the years when you can do something about it if you don’t feel attractive. You lose that in your old age. But if we’re old together and you know you haven’t done something about your weight when you were young, you will hate yourself. I know you. You hate being selfish.
Joe: When I said I didn’t like how I looked, I was talking about my self-confidence in public. I wasn’t talking about feeling like I disgusted you.
Loraine: You don’t completely disgust me. It’s just that belly of yours.
Joe: How could you have sex with me every night for all this time if my belly disgusted you?
Loraine: Well I could focus on other things. Things like your face or the sensations. Things I was thinking.
Joe: Why couldn’t you just keep doing that without making a big speech about how my belly disgusts you?
Loraine: Because you knew our sex life wasn’t working for me. That’s why you kept asking me all those questions every time we had sex. “Was it good for you when I did this? Should I move a little to the right when I do this?” I knew why you were asking me those questions, Joe.
Joe: I just wanted to make sure you had a good time, Loraine! I didn’t think you were working hard to ignore your disgust at my body.
Loraine: Well, then I misread you. I’m sorry for that but you have to be honest with me or I will misread you.
Joe: I thought you just knew why I was asking you those questions.
Loraine: I’m not a mind reader Joe. You have to tell me how you’re feeling.
Joe: I know.
Loraine: I love our relationship because we can tell each other anything. But sometimes I feel you aren’t comfortable with that. Like when I was expressing my feelings to you earlier, you kept telling me to be more tactful. That’s not good Joe.
Joe: Can’t you understand why what you said may have hurt my feelings?
Loraine: No, I can’t. You love the honesty in our relationship. But if you want honesty, you need to have a thicker skin. If you want me to open up to you about my feelings, I need to trust that you can take it. Being in a relationship with a beautiful woman isn’t easy. You need to be strong. Most men aren’t strong enough and that’s why they don’t get what you have. They settle for women they aren’t attracted to.
Joe: Why do you keep making this about me being a man?
Loraine: I’m not in a relationship with a guy because I’m attracted to any person who happens to have a penis. I want a relationship with a real man.
Joe: What’s a “real man”?
Loraine: Someone who isn’t intimidated or hurt by me when I’m honest about my feelings. You’re the first person I’ve ever met who I thought could be that man.
Joe: I highly doubt that, Loraine.
Loraine: Joe, I’ve never broken up with any boyfriend before. I’ve always been the one who they break up with.
Joe: That’s because the particular men you chose to be with couldn’t handle strong women. Lots of men are threatened by strong women.
Loraine: Yes, and that’s why I love you so much. You can handle me. My mouth never gets me in trouble with you. Or at least that’s how I thought things were until you started getting stroppy.
Joe: I haven’t been stroppy!
Loraine: You have been lately. You came back with the food with this look on your face. It’s driving me crazy.
Joe: What look on my face?
Loraine: This “You hurt me but I’m not going to tell you why” look. That bitchy look you do when you’re upset about something but you want to sulk.
Joe: Well, maybe my feelings were a little hurt. I am human.
Loraine: You’ve never told me I hurt your feelings before! We’ve been together for nearly three years.
Joe: You’ve hurt my feelings plenty of times.
Loraine: See, that’s you not being honest with me. Honesty is two-way Joe.
Joe: I’m sorry. A lot of the time, my hurt feelings aren’t particularly fair because they’re just a product of me not accepting your limitations. So if you do say something that hurts my feelings, I usually do something to process my emotions in a way where I don’t have to burden you with them.
Loraine: I really appreciate that Joe. It’s very humble of you to admit when you’re in the wrong. That’s another thing I love about you.
Joe: I try very hard to always admit when I’m in the wrong! I’ve had too many bad experiences when I was younger because I couldn’t admit when I was wrong. I don’t want to repeat that. Don’t you know that about me?
Loraine: Yes but lately you’ve been slipping. Especially today. There’s anger and hurt in your face and it’s directed towards me. I don’t like it. I’ve had enough men in my life look at me that way. I don’t need you to start looking at me that way.
Joe: I’m sorry, Loraine. I don’t want you to feel like I can’t handle you. You know I love everything about you. I’m just human. I sometimes get hurt even when it isn’t fair. But you’re right. Sometimes I slip.
Loraine: That’s why you need me in your life. You’re not good on your own. You need a kick up the ass (laughing).
Joe: (smiling) It’s sad but true.
Loraine: And I need you because I have never met anyone in my life who is as kind or intelligent or as giving as you. I’m going to keep you and we’re going to work through our problems, whatever they are.
Joe: I know and I appreciate that so much. I don’t want to lose you either.
Loraine: Then you have to trust me.
Joe: I do trust you.
Loraine: Then don’t pull a fucking face when I’m trying to help you feel better about yourself.
Joe: Loraine, I’m not always aware of my facial expressions. They just happen sometimes. Sometimes I look sad and it has nothing to do with anything that’s happening in the external world. Sometimes it’s just a memory that reminds me of an emotion that creates a mood that’s related to sadness but sadness itself comes out in the expression and …
Loraine smiles condescendingly and puts her hand over Joe’s mouth, mid-sentence.
Loraine: (interrupting) Joe, do your girlfriend a favour and please shut the fuck up. You’re dragging us into another conversation about nothing. It’s maddening. We don’t need to analyze your fucking facial expressions.
Joe: I was just trying to make that point that I don’t want to be blamed for facial expressions that don’t necessarily showcase my feelings. I can’t help having certain facial expressions when I’m in certain emotional states because…
Loraine: (interrupting loudly) Finish this deep conversation about your face with one of your friends!
Joe: I was just trying to explain myself.
Loraine: You don’t need to explain yourself. Go upstairs, find and plan out a diet for yourself. At 11, come to our bedroom and we’ll have sex.
Joe: You still want to have sex with me?
Loraine: Of course I do. I love you.
Joe: But what about how I look?
Loraine: I’ll do my best to ignore it if you make an effort this time to change your food.
Joe: But I thought you said my belly disgusts you?
Loraine: Joe, I need sex every night to fall asleep. I can tolerate a flabby body in the meantime if I know I’m going to get what I want later on. It’s not a problem. I’d rather sleep than let myself have insomnia because I’m bothered by your gut. I just don’t want it to be like that permanently. Do you understand?
Joe: I think so.
Loraine: Alright, get your ass upstairs, get the diet ready and then and come to our room at 11.
Joe: Ok. Before I go up, I’m sorry I forgot to ask you this earlier… but how was your day at work? Are things becoming less stressful?
Loraine: (loudly) Just shut up and go upstairs! You’re giving me a fucking headache!
Joe quickly goes upstairs while Loraine turns on the television, watching reality TV programs in the living room. Loraine always prefers to watch her favourite television programs alone. Meanwhile, in his office, Joe goes online and finds a diet plan he is happy with. He then plans the house shopping for the next week. He also decides to surprise Loraine and order her an expensive hand bag he knows she will absolutely love. It will arrive in three days. Joe expects that the purchasing of this gift will make him feel better. It doesn’t. He is still upset.
Joe is annoyed with himself because he doesn’t want yet another argument with Loraine. All the issues between him and Loraine should have been resolved during their last conversation.
Something still doesn’t feel right.
Joe tells himself, “Ok, maybe Loraine is a bit shallow but what’s the point of being upset about that? Everyone is flawed. Her flaws are no worse than mine. Remember Joe: You have a beautiful woman who loves you. She’s always honest with you. She tolerates your weak points and still wants to be with you. She’s committed to working through all the issues you both have in your relationship. She never makes you feel like you’re being manipulated. You’ve created a beautiful home together. She’s going to help you lose weight and become more self-confident. And she’s nice enough to have sex with you anyway until you have a body the two of you are both happy with. Not only that, but she wants to have sex with you every night! You’re going to have beautiful children together! Think of how many men would be jealous of you! Think of how many men would love to fuck that pussy!”
None the less, the negative feelings won’t go away. Joe is dreading 11pm.
He is dreading the thought of having sex with Loraine.
COTO is a platform for expressing and exploring fresh, maybe controversial, but definitely thought provoking ideas that allow people to understand contemporary culture in new ways.