PAIN AND PLEASURE (A response to “Pleasure and Pain” by The Divinyls)
Zero: My imperfect normality. Standing in the back of your life; observing; existing; not feeling.
One: Most of the time I never think about you, while I hover just above the ice. There is just the odd, fleeting, almost imperceptible, sense of the other.
Two: Why do you push? That pinches my skin. Stop it. I do not like it.
Three: You’ve punched me in the nose. Thanks a bunch. Now I’d better fix my face.
Four: Your initial, piercing presence dulls over time. And yet I cannot completely find my place.
Five: You’re interfering with many of my activities. Why do you want to mess it up?
You’ve give me a temporary personality disorder.
Six: Alright. Ok. You now partially dominate my senses. I won’t try to explain.
Seven: Your domination of my senses is complete. I cannot live alone. It doesn’t make sense from where I stand.
Eight: I can no longer think clearly. My personality has changed severely. Please don’t ask me how I’ve been getting off.
Nine: I cannot tolerate you. I find no more joy in life, whatsoever. You’ve broken my body.
Ten: I will go unconscious shortly. Most people have never experienced this. I’ve experienced it just once.
Lover, oh lover. Please do it again.
The poem above was written for a spoken-word gig I recently took part in: “Pleasure and Pain: What a Life”. Gig organizer, Kerryn Tredrea, of Paroxysm Press, got together eleven spoken-word artists, gave them a song each from the Divinyls album, and set them to working on poetic responses. I was lucky (…or not…) to be pulled out of the hat to do “Pleasure and Pain”, possibly their best known song. And as you can see from my piece, I decided to concentrate on the pain: I took the 0-10 pain scale, and its concomitant descriptors, and used to them to trace the development of an emotional attachment to another human being.
When I was younger (well…let’s be accurate: up until a few years ago), I was very much of the mind-set that true passion involved pain. That suffering was an indicator of genuine love. Many was the time I could, as the old blues standard declares, “drown in my own tears”. And honestly? I loved it. In the depths of despair, I found some connection to the life-force. I thrived on the drama and the martyrdom. I could spend 24 hours just sitting around pining for some man, and think it a day well spent.
And to some extent, deep love and deep pain DO go hand-in-hand. I discovered that when I had children. You never know true fear until you become a parent. No one can hurt you like your children. The tears you cry for them come from a deeper and more passionate part of yourself than any lover will ever see. The nights of drinking a whole bottle of gin, smoking a packet of cigarettes and sobbing your heart out to Van Morrison, look like a fun day at the fair-ground compared to the fifteen minutes of gut-wrenching agony you feel when a child is late home, or a baby doesn’t appear to move.
Of course, the parenting perspective doesn’t completely remove any romantic or erotic passion: to some extent it can make it more piquant. But I think it does help remove some of the desire for suffering. And it certainly taints any hint of nobility about it. It also just renders you too emotionally tired for bullshit.
These days, when I hear people declare that relationships are hard-work, I quake. I have enough hard-work relationships. I have two teenagers. Let alone the fact that I have two ageing parents, one of whom is floating off with the pixies, a sibling who has been very ill, and friendships which I value, but which require, sometimes difficult, sustenance. If I’m going to cozy-up with someone, I don’t want them to be hard work. I don’t want pain. Roll me in coconut and call me Pollyanna, but if I let a man into my life and my heart, I want it to be fun; pleasant; enjoyable; amusing.
I accept that the early stages of a relationship are full of insecurities and mild anxieties and adjustments. So are the early stages of a new job. Or a new house. Or even a new car. But all of that is a year’s worth of valium away from the excruciating pain and misery that romantic entanglements used to trigger in me. Does a lover have to make me feel alive by hurting me? Can’t he do that by making me laugh? Or by challenging some of my ideas about life? Or by taking me away on a nice holiday?
Maybe I’m just getting old and staid. But I’ve got better things to do with my time than curl up on the living floor, in a foetal position, and sob my heart out about a man I’ve just met. Sadly, I did once actually do that.
I’m just no longer interested in the pain. I want the pleasure. There is a fine line between the two, but it’s an impenetrable membrane. There is no osmosis. If it’s pain, it’s not pleasure. It’s just emotional self-flagellation.
Now as for assisted flagellation…well….that’s for another day…!!