When I arrived home from work last night, this was in the driveway –
It’s a long story, but I think it illustrates my toxic relationship pretty well, so bear with me.
A few years ago M and I were launching or hauling out a boat at the local boatyard in preparation (or departure from) the local wooden boat show – I don’t remember exactly. Sitting “on the hard,” balanced on a couple of sawhorses was this cute little skiff. It was weathered and worn and needed a few minor repairs, but dang, she was cute!*
I pointed her out to M and said that he should ask the boatyard owner what the skiff was doing sitting out in the weather. He asked and was told the story, which is too long to bore you with here and documented elsewhere.
At the time, M was really pushing me to get more into boats, but all of his boats are too big to feel comfortable handling by myself and I thought this little boat would kill two birds with one stone – I could work on it and get it back into shape, pleasing M, and it seemed small enough that I could feel comfortable handling it. I had the idea that if I had a boat of my own, maybe he and I would not have so many problems doing boat stuff together. I was wrong, of course.
I paid half the asking price, M paid the other half, the bill of sale was made out in my name and we brought her home two weeks before a big boating get-together up North. Yes, he had other boats that could have gone, boats that were ready to hitch up and go, boats that did not need any repairs and would have been perfectly suited to the trip and the event, but he decided that he had to have a new boat and a good story to impress the Guys Up North.
M decided that we simply HAD to get this boat ready to go to that event. I was working at the time, so he took it upon himself to bust his ass to make repairs and sand and paint to get her seaworthy before the event. He made his goal, but now the little skiff belonged to him because of his “sweat equity.” Because I was busy earning money for us to live on, I lost out on “my” boat, and he made sure to let me know how the situation stood (in his mind) at every opportunity.
It only went downhill from there. Every minute I wasn’t outside stroking that boat was another minute I was ignoring M’s gift. Yes, it had become a gift. There were many snide comments and harsh words about how little I cared for the boat that I called mine but was really his. It didn’t matter that he scheduled repairs and maintenance on days that I was working or had other plans (of course he never told me he wanted to work on it – that would be too easy!) Every little thing that he felt HAD to be done, had to be done Right.This.Minute. no matter what I was doing at the time and if I couldn’t just drop everything to do it, well, I didn’t care enough, did I?
We took her out a couple of times and M declared that he hated to row her – she doesn’t have enough waterline, she rolls more than he likes, she is too slow, etc. She’s actually perfect for the job she was designed for, but M feels that every boat should be a race boat and does not give any thought to other good qualities a boat might have.
Since he didn’t like to take her out and use her, we did things with the boats he preferred and she sat at home. I kept up the paint and kept her covered from the weather, but we did not take her out – I just couldn’t handle the criticism that was heaped on the boat on top of the criticism heaped upon me whenever we do boating things. It was too much.
At this point I was feeling a lot of resentment about the little skiff – it had become yet another thing for him to beat me over the head with.
Since M does not work, two summers ago he decided to put a boat up for sale.** He advertised his favorite row boat as it was always a hit at boat shows and with people who like wood boats and he knew it would sell quickly. I suggested he sell the little skiff as he hated it and I was too busy to take her out and then he could keep his favorite boat, but he wouldn’t hear of it – I had to have “my” boat, even if it was taking up valuable room in the yard and I never took care of it and it had become his responsibility, and blah, blah, blah making me feel like shit because I couldn’t just pull enough cash out of my ass to fund his latest adventure.
His favorite boat sold to a guy we both knew would never use it. Word got around with the Boat Guys (BG from here on out) that M had sold this well-known and well-loved boat because he needed cash. M soaked up the attention – he had no idea that these guys would be so kind and caring towards him if it looked like he was making sacrifices in the name of finances.
One of the BGs has been a friend of both of us for many years. He has a bit of a crush on me, as do several of the older guys, but it’s all about an able-bodied woman out on the water, supporting her man with his Hobby and not bitching and moaning and making him jump through all kinds of hoops to get her to go along on their outings. I am out in the rain, the wind, the choppy water, all smiles, trying my best to hide how miserable I am, so these guys have no idea what’s really going on. But that’s beside the point.
Jim is in his early 70’s and maybe the kindest gentleman I have ever met. He took a liking to both M and I early on and has done many kind things for us over the years. Of course, I can’t reciprocate because that would put M’s nose out of joint – I’m not sure why Jim continues to do things that he thinks will make me happy.
So. Jim heard about the sale of M’s favorite boat. He tracked down the guy who bought it sometime last Spring, saw that this other guy was not treating it properly and had no intentions of ever using it and he bought it from him. So now Jim has M’s favorite boat in his boat shed and informs M that he bought it with the intention of returning it to M as he feels this particular boat belongs to M forever more and he wants to do a good deed.
On the surface, it sounds like a very noble and kind thing to do – Jim knows how M loved that boat and was forced to sell it and he has the means to correct what he sees as in injustice in the world. Jim is thrilled to be able to make this gesture and expects nothing in return but to see M out enjoying his favorite boat during the Summer.
Because M keeps score (every little thing he does for someone else has a value that he determines and intends to collect at a future date) he thinks that everyone else also keeps score and he desires to always be on top in any exchange of goods or services so he can be indignant later when he feels that someone has not fulfilled their end of the bargain, even though other people don’t have a clue as to what the bargain is, nor do they know what their end might be. It’s a game he plays in his mind, by his own rules, and he is angry and hurt when others just don’t get it.
Jim sets a date to deliver the boat. M was scheduled to be out of town, and was very agitated about the whole thing – if Jim brought him a boat, he would be indebted to Jim forever! Woe is he! How to re-balance the scales?
I offered a solution – trade Jim the little skiff for M’s favorite boat. It would be a great exchange – Jim was very fond of the little skiff and would take good care of her and use her (he likes smaller boats) and M could have his boat back and they would be even.
There was a bit of back-and-forth between Jim and M as Jim wanted to be sure I was really in favor of this trade and not being forced into it. Truth is, I was ecstatic – finally the skiff would be out of the yard and M wouldn’t be able to whinge about how unsuitable it is for two people, how I don’t take care of her, how I really, really wanted this boat and now it has become a millstone around his neck, etc. etc. etc.
The day of the exchange came, I was there, but M was not. Jim unloaded M’s boat, hitched up the little skiff and off he went. I almost cried, not because the little skiff was going away, but because for the last hour I had had a lovely conversation with a kind man who cared about my feelings – something I hadn’t experienced in a very long time.
Fast forward to yesterday. I pulled into the driveway and what did I see but the little skiff parked there. My stomach hit the floor. This is not going to go well for me. Did M spend his wad of cash to get this boat back for me? Is this my “real” Christmas gift? Am I going to have to pay for this with sex? I did not burst into tears, but it was a near thing.
M said that he and Jim have been e-mailing back and forth for a month, trying to keep it a secret from me. Jim wanted it to be a surprise. Merry Christmas!
Oh, fuck. Did Jim give me a boat for Christmas, and if so, what on earth was he thinking? Is this a Kind Deed from a kind man who thought I was making a big sacrifice for my man, or is it M making a Grand Gesture to win me back?
M won’t say and I did not get a chance to see if there’s still a wad of cash in his wallet. I asked point blank if he paid Jim for the boat, but he refuses to tell me.
“Oh, I paid for this boat, alright, and I’ll keep paying for this boat! You call it yours, but it’s really mine!” and on and on.
Great. It’s yet another thing to beat me with. Yet another obligation that he never wanted that has been heaped upon him by me.
There is no win for me here. I won’t be able to get the whole story from M, but will try to get it from Jim if I can do it without M finding out.
The real question is this – do I take the boat when I leave? I could hide it in a storage locker until I finally blow this town and sell it or use it far, far away from where people know it…
UPDATE: It looks like Jim really did give the boat back. He spent the Summer sanding and painting and working on the trailer and he decided the time was right to give her back. He says that he won’t use her and that there was a bit of back-and-forth about getting her over here. It was all his idea. There was no mention of money, so I have to believe that it really was a gift and M is being a dick when he refuses to tell me outright if he paid any cash to Jim. I thanked him and will leave it at that.
* Remind me to come back to this once I’ve moved out – the story about the design of the boat and why it especially suits me is interesting and documented on one of my other blogs. Just thinking about it, I really, really love this little boat!
** Duh! If you don’t work but need money, you sell your shit, right?!?