Void of Tenderness
August 28, 2012 § 159 Comments
From yesterday’s Times:-
A friend has been telling me about her elderly father-in-law who was screwing his young mistress as his wife of fifty years, who loved him, lay dying. He was elsewhere, in his what Amy Winehouse called “final throes”, when the wife was experiencing certain final throes of her own, but of rather a different order. One can only wonder at the callousness of which some folk are capable. Or maybe it is not active callousness. Maybe it is less interesting than that, more banal and ordinary and chilling: a complete absence not of sentimentality – bugger sentimentality, that’s not what I am asking for – but tenderness. Tenderness brought about by shared history, memory, jokes, proximity, companionship, parenthood, you name it, even, dammit, nostalgia for a love that may have waned but was, once. But no. In stories like this, not even that.
Sometimes, when I hear such stories – my antennae are permanently twitching for consolation of sorts, so I pick up a lot of this kind of stuff; there’s a lot of it about – I can sink to thinking that maybe I am better off on my own. Alone, a void of tenderness prevails but perhaps that is preferable to the void of tenderness which exists when one is with someone and burdened with the expectation of a tenderness that is perennially unforthcoming. I try to convince myself that living without it on a romantic level (I am blessed enough to have children and family and friends who brim with it), is nothing if not peaceful. There is a safety in the lack of expectation, a ballast against the disappointment in the individual that you love. It is easier to manage the disappointments in those who you hope maybe to love, the various twinkles who dim and, invariably, evaporate. Those investments are brief and superficial; the knocks they deal less bruising and long-lasting.
Everywhere is the brutal void of tenderness – the date who stands you up or doesn’t ever get back in touch; the blithe and inadequate appraisal of one’s being that is swiftly found to be wanting and not worth the text let alone the candle; the Game Over email or facial expression. It’s the daily bread of the plankton; the sum of our expectations. No wonder we come to a point when we think, despite our more youthful selves that were once so full of hope, that we are better off without. At least no one can deep-down shaft us. At least there isn’t someone significant to us, for whom we, like the wife in this story, are about as significant as a midge.
At least, in our vacuum of romantic tenderness, we are spared that.