I Mistook "Love Bombing" For Love
*Right now, I am at the home of my Memoir As Medicine online course co-teacher Nancy Aronie at her sweet little cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. My partner Jeff Rediger is with me, and all three of us woke up this morning and spent the first sunrise hours writing true stories about vulnerable times in our lives. Then we read out loud to each other and gushed to each other about what we loved about each other’s writings, the way we do in our writing workshops with our students. I thought I’d share with those of you who are paid subscribers this very private bit of memoir writing from my one very private and painful (but illuminating) experiment with polyamory, how I came to tell the difference between love and love bombing, and the catastrophic heartbreak of being both the victim (and unwitting perpetrator) of narcissistic abuse.
It’s December 2014, so it’s dripping jungle hot summertime in Byron Bay, Australia, where it feels strange to see Christmas trees decorating the surf town dotted with green juice bars and crystal shops. I’m with a group of foreigners getting shown the sights by a few generous locals who lured us into climbing down a steep cliff so we could get locals-only access to a travel magazine worthy beach. We aren’t prepared to swim, so we skinny dip our steaming bodies into the cold waves. I’m drip drying after our swim next to a man I’d only just met a few days earlier.
I had sensed there was something “off” about him the moment I met him. I was with my gay bestie when we met and I told my bestie this guy reminded me of Pigpen. the character from the Peanuts, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy cartoon who always had a dirty cyclone swarming around him.
Pigpen approaches me a bit too close, given that both of us are standing there in our birthday suits. He looks me squarely in the eye and, without blinking, says “I wonder how you feel about the lines on your face.”
I was 44 years old at the time and had sworn to grow old gracefully and never to try Botox or undergo any kind of plastic surgery. But I don’t tell him that. I say, “I’ll answer your question if you tell me why your shadow walks in the door before you do.”
That’s it. It’s on.