Ask not what your girlfriend can do for you
I had an epiphany this morning when I woke up. More like a therapeutic breakthrough, really...although since I've never been the beneficiary of professional therapy, I wouldn't know an actual breakthrough if it came up and introduced itself.* But I assume this is akin to what a breakthrough feels like.
* West Wing reference: I also wouldn't know a spotted owl if it came up and introduced itself.
A couple months ago I said my conception of love was based on the example set by my mother. Here's another way she's influenced it. My mother's a Giver. She loves to Give. If the Bartlet administration was never happier than when it was educating the public, my mother is never happier than when she's Giving. This morning I got an email from her informing me of the imminent arrival of a package she sent "full of wonderful surprises," which is just one example of her ceaseless and incorrigible Giving. And it's not just me. She's constantly Giving to tons of people. She Gave our dry cleaner a new purse. She Gave some coffee shop girl my LSAT study books. And so forth.
Because my mother has been a Giver my entire life, I have obviously become what can only be referred to as a Taker. I Take. It's not my fault; it's just what I do. You can't blame a dog for hunting, or a vampire for feeding on the blood of young maidens. In order for the Giver-Taker relationship to work, one of us must be the Taker. And if one party is constantly Giving, the other must be equally constant in Taking, over and over and over again. It's the only way the relationship can survive.
Unfortunately, I've become so conditioned to Take that I extend it beyond the mother-son relationship to any relationship generally. It's reached a point where I just don't feel comfortable Giving. I feel like I'm being phony--like I'm trying to be somebody I'm not, acting outside my nature. If I Give you something I don't want you to be vocal in your appreciation; I just want to Take it, so we can both move beyond this uncomfortable moment.
This part wasn't the epiphany. I've known I was a Taker for a while now. The epiphany came when I realized why I'm so focused on sacrifice when it comes to my romantic relationships. It's because I want there to be at least one relationship in my life in which I get to be the unequivocal Giver. I want to experience what that's like. To Give and Give and Give, without the awkwardness. It must be nice. At the least, there must be a corresponding sense of smug moral superiority, rather than the constant feelings of guilt and self-centeredness that accompany chronic Taking.
One of my female friends said something similar about me. She's one of the several parties in my life that seem sort of obsessed that I date someone right now. Doesn't seem to really matter who, just so long as I'm doing it. And her rationale was that she thought I make a very selfless boyfriend (although she said all this when she was drunk, so I'm not sure if I should take it more, or less, seriously). I don't know if it's true. But I'd at least like to be.