Even as a child I had a sense of being both top and bottom. Of course, back then it was more a matter of “I’m the boss of Clifford, and Joey’s the boss of me.” I could discern the laddered status we assume within a group. At the time I thought of it as a developing awareness of adult concepts, and how those concepts structure the building blocks of our lives, though at the time I probably wouldn’t have worded it like that.
Years later, a heightened gender awareness… ahem… reconstructed and rearranged those assumptions. Life got more complicated. Now any girl was usually the boss of me, as long as I had goo-goo eyes for her. My attraction to girls who had a crush on me, however, seemed to operate in a state of flux. Maybe we weren’t on the same intellectual level. Would she or wouldn’t she let me touch her in private places? Private places like the dead-end road where we ‘parked’. The private places of her body.
There was one girl who had the biggest crush on me. Let’s call her Wendy. Chased me from 7th grade through 11th . She’d invite me to the class dance months in advance, not leaving an opportunity for me to ask someone else. I could have called the shots, but never could say no to Wendy.
I knew how bad it felt just having a girl refuse to slow dance at a Saturday night record hop. I’d feel so rejected I might not ask another girl all night. How could I refuse to go to an event with Wendy? She really liked me, and I appreciated that. And though I adopted the attitude of a tough guy, I never achieved the accepted idea of an alpha, at least not enough to make her feel bad.
Of course, I still don’t think a man should knowingly make a girl feel bad. (God knows we do it enough by accident.) Again, even at such tender age, I realized the irony of those dynamics. Why couldn’t a crush of mine coincide with a girl who felt the same about me?
And, Wendy wouldn’t put out.
The nature of relationships can shift when our assumptions take on challenges we hadn’t considered beforehand. What if someone gets sick? Or loses a job? Which partner will call the shots in the sex department? What if, after the honeymoon fuckfest has worn off, one has a larger, broader libido then the other? Who will have to go wanting? Who will have it up to here?
Ideally a pragmatic (and loving) couple can suss out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, finding a place on the ladder most comfortable for each. Trick is to take on or relinquish control within a given area:
Momma X, having worked in book production, is eminently qualified to structure our social life and to keep detailed track of bills and finances. I, on the other hand, take control in the kitchen, the car, and generating cash flow through “farming” and art and antiques. She’s much neater than I, and keeps the house presentable. We offer supporting roles, no matter if I’m pointing the way or she is.
Our respective duties tend to balance each other out. Sometimes I’m the boss of her. More often, she’s the boss of me.