Talk to me #2: Jowita Bydlowska

Dec 18, 2015 by

Talk to me #2: Jowita Bydlowska



Where you learned to love. Naturally, as a baby, responding to all the humans who took care of me. In terms of romantic love, there were crushes and then when I was 17, I experienced a very intense mutual infatuation that gave me the taste of what love could be. I remember having this thought: “If something horrible were to happen to this person—a car accident, wheelchair, some kind of disfiguration—I would still love him just as deeply.” Overdramatic but I was sure of my devotion. The second time I learned to love was as a parent—that was the first love that—after a period of initial struggle (see my memoir Drunk Mom)—taught me about selflessness and putting my child’s needs before my own. To be honest, I’m still working on it but recently seeing and listening to my son talk about his first big sadness—over some serious family issues—hurt more than any adversity I’ve had before. I understood then that I would sacrifice anything to make him happy. I would literally cut my arm off (though cutting it off would mean I wouldn’t be able to hug my sad son properly).

Your first cut – was it the deepest? I was 13 and got dumped because I didn’t show up for our second date (a misunderstanding). I was devastated for about a day and I listened to Depeche Mode in the darkness that night. My mom took me out for pizza the next day and I was fine after that. I never spoke to him again.

Your love who got away. I was 22. He was probably the most physically beautiful man I’ve ever met and I had an affair with him after I had just moved in with somebody else. I was determined to keep that going so I let him get away. In retrospect, I wish I had taken that risk though I’m sure it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. We were tragic together and although we had a lot in common—and he loved me like crazy—one of those things was a pessimistic approach to life, which, when doubled, is not the best thing for a lasting relationship.

Your “type” – and why. Tall, dark and handsome. But I’ll fall in love with short, blonde and ugly if the chemistry is there. In other words, no type, really.

Your favourite literary romance. Platform by Michel Houellebecq

Your thoughts on friends being lovers. Possible and although difficult to navigate it can be a lot of fun. I found it happens in waves: romance is on, romance is off. With my FWB (friend with benefits) I could always tell when we were on/off because his nicknames for me would change: the “off” was a rude nickname, the “on” was something along the lines of “gorgeous.”

Your thoughts on the net amounts of pleasure and pain. Balance is important. Pleasure is intensified by the pain that precedes it but that pain can also destroy. I’m not talking about sex.

Your story about unrequited love. There was a guy, back when I was a teenager that I had a crush on. He was much older and didn’t treat me well—for example, he would cancel dates last minute—so I was really into him. Classic. He sent me a friend request on FB a few years ago, I checked out his profile and I have no idea what the hell I was thinking back then.

Your favourite author/artist on love. There are too many to name but a few examples would be: (painters) Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent VanGogh, Egon Schiele, (musician) Frederic Chopin, (authors) Michel Houllebecq, Elana Ferrante. All the tragic ones.

Your reconciliation of the domestic and the erotic. To me, domestic means having kids around so erotic is possible if you have babysitters. Before children, domestic meant cooking elaborate dinners for each other, going to see art shows, dancing in clubs, going to bed past midnight. Easy.

Your thoughts on marriage. I think that people sometimes get married out of fear, because they want to have that guarantee that it will last forever. I have been in a few serious relationships where I’ve decided against making it official—saying you love each other every day is better anyway. But I might be wrong about all of that. I know many couples who got married simply because they wanted to tell the whole world about their love; marriage meant a joyful declaration.

Love changes when you have children. Once you decide to have children, you have to love being a family unit as much as you love being a couple. Children can “destroy” romantic love if you only concentrate on being parents and don’t pay attention to each other: one day you wake up, look at each other and, oops, you’re strangers. And romantic love suffers from calling each other “mommy” or “daddy” (and not “daddy” in a filthy way). The balance is hard but it’s possible if you don’t treat family as an experiment. A family is not a costume you get to try on. From my own experience, children suffer the most when a family breaks up. You need to negotiate having time for yourself so, for example, riding around Paris on a fancy scooter and looking at boobs is totally cool if you have permission from each other to do that once in a while. Everybody needs a break and occasional solitude, parents especially.

Your thoughts on resisting temptation. I think men have a harder time with it but maybe we all have a hard time with it when we don’t get what we want or need at home. It’s probably hardest to resist it when things at home get boring, unpleasant—affairs and flings are an escape; they give the illusion of something better being out there.

Your advice on breaking up. Be gentle when you break up with someone, especially if you’ve lots of history. That’s a whole universe you’ve built together. Self-preservation is sometimes just selfishness. Coldness only works if it was a short-term relationship and you’ll never see this person again. Kindness and respect will benefit you in the future, particularly if you have to see each other because of working in a similar field, etc. I know someone who broke up with her boyfriend and she repeatedly said to him that she loved him (even though she could no longer be with him)—seems crazy but there is power in saying that to someone you used to share your life with; it’s better than telling that person you hate them. Telling someone you hate them (even if you do) is reserved for emo teenagers; in grownups it seems bizarre.

Your lessons from love. Love and relationships are hard and nothing like what you see in the movies. Having an expectation that a relationship should be the only source of your happiness is delusional. It’s easy to fall in love and spend the first few months, even years, counting on the happiness that it’ll bring into your life but it’s the parts that happen after the first fire of love burns out that are the most important. Those are parts that you should work at. I don’t believe that relationships or love shouldn’t be “work.” Without “work,” you’ll neglect the future that can overcome the hardships and that can be beautiful. But for all of that you need to be whole; broken people break relationships and their brokenness will destroy love.

Your greatest regret in love. Not working at it. Neglecting it. Looking for it elsewhere when it gets too hard, when it requires more effort than just fucking and hoping that will bring you closer. Not taking risks.

Your thoughts on infidelity – one night stand, fling, or affair. All are betrayals and a sign of lack of communication. Now, if you have an agreement—such as an open relationship or something like allowing a fling while on vacation—that might work out quite well and it might bring you closer together. The betrayals are illusions of love; they’re lazy and stupid. “Don’t shit where you eat”—lies are shit and they make a fool out of your significant other, out of you as well, and in the end no one is happy: you, the fling or the person you’re with. Just grief all around.

Your feelings about the existence of a soulmate. A soulmate doesn’t necessarily have to be your romantic partner (although that’s ideal). A soulmate can be your relative, a close friend, a mentor. Your soul is your essence and a person who jives perfectly with it is essential to your wholeness.

Your ideal love: madness or redemption? Some madness is necessary for passion but too much is painful. Redemption (as in reconciliation) is a nice concept but it can only be done well after a period of reflection. Redeeming love lost just because you don’t want to be alone will backfire.

Your advice on making love last.

Go on dates. Respect your significant other as much as you respect yourself. Don’t be selfish—the world doesn’t owe you anything. Be gentle and love your lover’s faults as much as you love your lover’s virtues. Take as much as you give. If you fight, make up and understand that fights between lovers are not a competition over who gets to win—and mistaking a fight for a breakdown in a relationship means you don’t understand human nature. Truce is better than tears. Earn trust: words are meaningless without actions. Don’t look for a unicorn—they don’t exist.

Jowita Bydlowska’s next book, a novel, GUY: Why women love me, comes out in fall 2016.

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