RANGER AGAINST WAR: Farewell My Concubine <

Friday, April 11, 2008

Farewell My Concubine

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You don't bring me flowers

You don't sing me love songs

You hardly talk to me anymore

--You Don't Bring Me Flowers
, Neil Diamond

Life is too short to have sorrow
You may be here today and gone tomorrow

You might as well get what you want

So go on and live, baby, go on and live
--Tell It Like It Is
, Aaron Neville

While cleaning out an old pocketbook today I came across a pocketknife, a gift from a man yours truly once dated. A military man we will call
Scout, to protect the name of the guilty.

It is a nice pocketknife, mind you--looks a little like a mini dive knife. I once felt very cool slitting open a box of detergent with it at a laundromat in front of a woman who faintly resembled Little Richard. Looking up to see if she approved, I was met with a steely stare that said "O.k., but you might need a bigger one when the chips are down."

But back to the man. A birthday gift was a .22 pistol. With it, we would target shoot, as was his pleasure. In addition, there were occasionally nighttime drills with an unloaded gun on the bedside table. Mini lessons like, "lining one's sights," done in 10-minute bites, that sort of thing. On reflection, I think it was foreplay of a sort.

However, when I requested the things women tend to like, like sweet and kind words, he would say, "That is too much like work. I take care of you, don't I." I am not complaining, you see. He did take care of some material needs. But the human aspect went missing. We palled around, doing things that usually revolved around his areas of expertise, but stepping into areas where he had met with failure (relationships) was taboo. There was physical intimacy, but there could be no dialog.

Like I say, I am not complaining. It is reassuring to know one can protect oneself in the mean streets. I take the good from everything. We are not turning this into a Miss Lonely Hearts, because that is not the gig at all. But I am curious about something, and Ranger has respectfully bowed out of the dialog.

Among our rarefied reading audience, does anyone have views on this sort of individual, and is the mindset exclusive to military sorts? I've not met it elsewhere. Someone who pulls in his perimeter, but likes to keep friendlies on a tether, nonetheless. Like guard dogs of sorts. It felt like belonging to an imperial palace, but being an employee on the grounds. Like being a concubine, which eventually drifted into friendly but chaste relations. Maybe that is it; he preferred concubines.

I have never had a relationship like that one. Most develop to the uttermost point, whatever that may be, and then for whatever reasons, drift apart. In this one, the mission to intimacy was aborted shy of contact. Physical consummation, yes, but intimacy, no. Clearly my mission, not his.

Regarding the song title, it is not that he ever did. And it might have continued at that level forever and ever.



Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

sometimes it comes down to the task of finding someone who is OK with parts of you being unknowable. i, while still enjoying time out in the boonies alone, dropped the "always on guard" part. a lot of it had to do with absorbing my own lessons. always out looking for a fight, guess what gets found?

with the intimacy, the kids blasted all resistance out of me. they wouldn't stand for it. outnumbered, and outgunned, i surrendered. meekly.

Friday, April 11, 2008 at 3:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous b. said...

link doesn't work

Friday, April 11, 2008 at 3:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Rick98C said...

I knew a fair number of people like that in the Army, and I know I have elements of that in me, but I've also dated women who have never worn a uniform that fit into the same mold.

Not the combat drills and such, but the avoidance of intimacy and keeping people at arms length.

Friday, April 11, 2008 at 5:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I recently read something to the effect: However you think the world is, you are right. If your guard's up and you're itching for a fight, a fight you shall get.


Certainly you're right--avoidants come in all shapes and sizes.

I realized pretty soon into the piece that the situation was what it was all along. But as women tend to do, they imagine things will progress. Those of us who aren't avoidants, that is (!) So it's a pretty unremarkable tale. My only curiosity was to find out if other men felt the same impulses resulting from their time in the military.

As you point out, poor behavior is an EOE.

Friday, April 11, 2008 at 7:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

Old saying in sales: "Care, but not too much," meaning, don't get too close to the product or the customer, because failure is built into the business and is omnipresent.

Soldiers may tend to get like that, especially in wartime. Fact is, it really hurts to lose someone to whom you've become really close. But even in peacetime, it may be that frequent transfers and the saying goodbye to friends too many times may lead to a personality set that avoids getting too close because the relationship will ultimately end.

But who really knows? As Rick points out, there are lots of people who fall short on this intimacy score. Granted, it is indeed mostly men, but as a veteran of the whole Mars-Venus scene, it's my considered opinion that it's mostly women who need and/or want intimacy instantly. I think men tend to be more cautious and more inclined to see how things unfold. In my case, my wife learned more about me with each year. Now she knows just about everything. But she'll never get some things, most of them involving military service.

And, as Minstrel Boy very wisely points out, the whole male resistance to intimacy thing just melts away when one sees one's own newborn child. It'd better. If it doesn't, that man won't cut it as a father and will be ultimately be a failure in life, no matter how many material goods he may acquire or how many medals he earns.

Our relationships with our fellow human beings are all that matter. Which is not to say we should love everybody. I actually believe we should "love" very few people, and we should therefore avoid becoming too close to those whom we don't "love." Which is what you may have encountered, Lisa. It may be as simple as that.

But then there is the fact that our personalities are essentially formed by the time we're five years old. What is unknowable is whether we can somehow predict whether a given five-year-old may be attracted to military service as a result of that early childhood development and then, some 25 years later, disappoint someone because he/she shies from intimacy.

Don't blame it on the military, Lisa. Blame his parents.

Friday, April 11, 2008 at 10:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for a thoughtful consideration of the topic.

I agree--many women expect intimacy too quickly, the "I love you" thing. I am not one of them; I am suspect of the too-quick profession of love. I go in slowly, but inexorably.

I hope that it does not take seeing a newborn to make a man human, as I do not have children, so that will never be a possibility. I would like to think a man can achieve his full humanity w/o that, ditto a woman.

I do believe our relationships are the only important thing in life, and that one cannot "love" everybody. Love should not be fetishised for itself, nor should it be barricaded. It is a natural progression in a healthy relationship, I think.

I tend to agree with your final statement: we are who we are by five, and unlike in the stock market, prior performance is a good indicator of future returns.

It is what I was hoping to hear, which is that the military need not break a man into unfeelingness. My heart would break even moreso over this fiasco if it were so that it was crippling emotions, too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 11:44:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Methinks it's time to give one of the other military branches a try.

To the ramparts!

Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 7:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


What I found was that the younger you got in, the more whack you could get. The whole "treat the relationship like a drill-sergeant-and-trainee-but-with-benefits" thing screams somebody who was probably - as Publius points out - was probably pretty whack to begin with and needed something to fill the empty spots in his soul. If he went in young and unformed...

I also knew a few guys (and they were 99% guys) who had no real essence outside their Army personalities. The Army didn't make them that way - they chose the Army because their idea of themselves as a sort of weapon was a force that gave them meaning.

OTOH, I also never really "saw the elephant" or was close friends with anyone who did. Combat and the stress of fear and death (and boredom and anger and stupidity) that comes with it can do some truly strange things to people's heads.

And...aside from the whole issue of the Army and its effects:

Guys are generally a) stupid and b) too stupid to know we're stupid. We hit puberty and we're mostly a life support system for a penis. We have little or no emotional subtlety and usually don't want any. Most of us, if we're under 40 - and a LOT of us if we're under 90 - will be lying to you if we saw we want "emotional intimacy". Mostly what we want is to get laid, and after that have some sort of meal involving meat.

Whenever one of those scandals comes up, a Clinton or a Gary Hart or something like that, my wife just can't get it. "How could he be so freaking stupid about some booty!?" she snarls.

I explain it to her this way: in a lot of respects, a man's mind can be very complex and powerful, like the electronics suite of a multibillion dollar Aegis missile cruiser. But every once in a while something shapely flies past and a $1.98 heat-seeking warhead on a moisture-activate muffin missile comes active and fires itself, slaving the entire vessal, hardware and software, to that utterly moronic cheap little warhead. The result is usually bad for all involved.

It's not that we CAN'T do better, it's that it would take character, resolve and maturity to resist the hardwiring of that stupid little gadget and many of us don't want to be that grown-up.

So - it sounds to me like this guy was a) emotionally and sexually immature and b) using his "hard-ass GI" thing as both crutch (probably to escape the fact that he didn't HAVE a life or a personality outside the Army) and a guardrail to keep you from seeing the hollow little man inside.

Not that I'm some kind of headshrinker or somethin'...

Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 10:53:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

I've seen it both ways, Lisa. I am pretty slow to warm up myself---tho' I never made anyone drill with a gun at bedside, lol. I still get knives as gifts and drool over them in store windows, and more than my husband. As another poster said, it is parents more than military that does this to a person, male or female; the military simply creates a nice "uniform" for mental wear. Thirty years into marriage and emotional intimacy is only now beginning some tentative tendrils here....and likely because BOTH of us are prickly pears who liked camouflage! The trouble with living inside these emotionally safe walls? Like every siege, you start starving inside if you can't open the gate at some point!

Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 10:27:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


An absolutely hysterical, spot-on deconstruction of the foibles of maledom and its devices. It has made me giggle--thanks! (One doesn't get to giggle too often dealing with the often heavy matters on our site.)

Per military service, I have read that if the man is young when entering the service (17-23), he can become arrested at that stage of development. Since accolades devolve to him as a result of his early derring-do, it is difficult to refashion a persona which might be less, shall we say, splendiferous. And so he never does leave that place of being the hero.

It does not bode well for the possibility of connection later on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 3:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"The trouble with living inside these emotionally safe walls? Like every siege, you start starving inside if you can't open the gate at some point!"

Very well said. And there is a certain pride to some, but it is not Masada. If there are not enemies surrounding, why not come out?

We have all suffered heartbreak in this life. Once broken open, the heart can be more capacious, as a friend said to me. It need not die to be left 1000 shards. Only an egotist imagines his hurt so much more superior than that of others that he will not deign to reenter the fray.

I thank you also for your private dialog on the matter.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 3:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Rick98C said...

These things go many ways. Even now when I'm in the best relationship of my life, my love always needs more intimacy than I do. I don't feel that means I am necessarily lacking something, either. I might be, but it also may be that she is a hair too dependent. Tricky things, relationships.

Monday, April 14, 2008 at 10:04:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Tricky things, indeed.

I am glad you are in a happy relationship. Dependency can be a big issue. For me, as long as my partner voices that he enjoys spending time with me and shows that via fairly consistent actions (i.e., not disappearing, enjoying giving and receiving touch, etc.), I can be pretty comfortable.

Perhaps it is almost an unspoken thing conveyed in a look or a touch, the knowledge that you are happy and vice versa. Occasional kind words are parts of that mix.

Unkind words and deeds poison the well of trust, and once that has occurred, much more effort and intent must be expended to win it back. This is where resentment and clumsiness enters, and this project is rarely successful without tremendous commitment. It is unfortunate when trust is lost, as that is a most precious commodity.

Monday, April 14, 2008 at 11:11:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM GMT-5  

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