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Exchanges: When women over-give.

"Exchanges" is a new creative project by Sarah Poet. It's a compilation of vignettes about various dynamics of energy exchange, collected through experience, for the reader to contemplate. 1) What was the exchange? 2) What resources - monetary & non-monetary- were involved? 3) What was spoken and what was unspoken about the exchange agreement? I am fascinated by the topic of human exchanges. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

When I’d moved in with D, his bed was horrendous and was immediately sent to the dumpster. I can’t believe I moved in with a man who slept on a sagging old mattress with hard, stained pillows. That, in and of itself, says something about me and I'm not proud of it.

Was he neglecting himself by sleeping on that bed? Was he being thrifty? I’m not sure. 

We used my bed. Moved it into his bedroom, in his house, that now we were apparently all going to share and “make a life together.” That was what he’d asked me to do. In his house. 

I wouldn’t sleep in a bed with those pillows, and we used mine. He loved them. Organic shredded latex - my favorite kind of pillow. He had never heard of such a pillow but he was happy to have a more comfortable bed.

He loved the pillows, the comfortable bed, and the woman inside of that bed. I am not sure if he actually loved me, exactly, but he seemed to love loving the woman in his bed. 

He had built a room for my son in his house so that we could move in. He took the whole long studio room of an upstairs and built a wall with his buddies over a weekend and said that it was okay, because it would increase the property value to have two bedrooms anyway, instead of one.  

I truly couldn’t believe that a man would invite my son and I to live with him and “make a life together.” I’d already been through so much, and so much loss, that D seemed to be a really safe bet. He had a good heart, I thought. He was pretty wholesome, he loved my kid, and I never thought he’d hurt us. 

Yes, I hear myself. Yes, I see that my reasons were never sound. 

We agreed that he’d take care of the outside space and I’d take care of the inside space. I decorated, filling the empty walls with my things. I filled the fridge and cooked all the time. It was during the pandemic and we were all home all the time, and the kitchen was a central space in the house. I filled his fridge and his belly and tried to keep him a happy man.

In part, it is my pleasure to do so. 

He had this favorite kind of hemp milk and I spoiled him by always having it in the fridge. 

Honestly, I spent more on the financial monthly expenses of the home than he did. Or nearly so. We were living with him but I was contributing a good deal. I also felt okay to do so because my business, when we moved in, had blossomed. I think it was because I could relax about having a man in my life and a certain covering of masculine energy that allowed for me to feel more bold and secure in my own entrepreneurial work. So I was making more money as I felt more secure.

I also kept him satisfied and happy in other ways. It was a mix between a feeling of authentic feminine interest in being partnered with a masculine man, dancing with polarity for the first time in my life since I’d come to identify that I wanted that, and also a less-obvious feeling of obligation. Or something even more sly than that. Hard to name. But something in me felt to “keep the man happy.” He was giving us a house. So I kept him satisfied. 

Isn’t that an interesting calculation I was making in my woman-mind? 

Women keeping men happy in exchange for resources is not uncommon at all, actually.

He was allowing us to enter here, so I allowed him to enter…. Me. Not that I didn’t want it. But sometimes I didn’t. And also, I was doing this silent exchange. No one had mentioned it. I was doing it. 

And then, I couldn’t keep him happy. I was too much. Me and my insights, my feminine absurdities, my esoteric worldview. He said, “You weren’t like this when we were dating.”

The entire thing was a full-blown awakening connected to the land he lived on, and I didn’t know to expect that this would happen when I moved there. But it did. And of course, it was an invitation for his soul as much as it was for mine, but as we know, anyone can say a “yes” or a “no” to an invitation from the divine. 

So he finally told us we had to leave again. Even though I was trying to keep him happy. Even though I was wrestling with whether or not to keep myself and esoteric insights under wraps as I saw him moving farther and farther away. Each of us with our silent calculations of what to invest, what not to invest.

And after he told us we had to leave, there was never again another word or conversation. The plan to make a life together was a shit plan and my son and I were going to have to “figure it out.” So much for my experiment in masculine provision.  

And by now we were approaching Christmas. I told him he could wait a damn minute and I put up a tree, and I got out my beloved family decorations and my son and I decorated that tree. My son would have a Christmas in a stable environment, I decided. 

D hadn’t spoken to us in a month. He got my son a lego. He gave me nothing and didn't speak to me while we were opening gifts.

But what had I done? For this man who was kicking us out instead of trying to talk or work it out? For this man who said, “I don’t know what you’re going to do but you’re going to have to figure it out.” 

I got him an organic latex pillow with a soft, organic case and a whole case of his favorite hemp milk.

I know. It's the most blatant example of a woman over-giving maybe in all the world. It's also a clear example of the ways my abusive upbringing taught me to over-give even to the one who is directly hurting you.

You're kicking us out? Here, have a gift. For your generosity.

When he opened it, his eyes went wide. He probably couldn’t believe I’d gotten it for him. 

Looking back, I can’t either. 

He left for Christmas and stayed in Ohio until we had moved out in January. 

I found the pillow in a heap in the barn loft where we kept storage. Everything in the house, after all, was mine, and when I moved it out, he'd have to move some things back in. 

I should have taken the pillow with me, to be honest. When we left, I left the twin bed that I would no longer need for my son. I had a full mattress for him in storage and his new room would be big enough for the larger bed. 

When we packed up the moving truck, the twin bed and mattress was the only furniture left in the house, in the child's room. I imagine that after we left, this grown man slept with that nice pillow on the child’s twin bed, for quite some time.

Maybe even still. 

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