iterary conflict is defined as a struggle between two characters or forces. The internal struggle of “man vs. self” is quite the broad definition. Our inner impulses are a complex result of biology and society. Even the simplest dilemma — do I eat another Girl Scout cookie? — is hunger pitted against health. There’s also the desire for Thin Mints versus desire for society’s idea of a perfectly slim figure.
Our heads spin constantly. Add other organs to the mix and one of humanity’s greatest conflicts bursts into light: Pride versus Libido.
It’s all around us. A great many relationship foibles can be boiled down to this basic quandary. In most cases libido triumphs, but the path to victory is rarely short, and always (thankfully) quite rough.
Three recent instances:
Tara & Andy
Like so many love stories, Tara and Andy’s never really ended.
It blossomed in springtime, mostly in parks, and fizzled at the beginning of summer when everything and everyone was just starting to heat up.
The usual suspects were at the heart of it: distraction, timing, and two pairs of eyes looking in different directions.
And yet, it never flickered out.
It was Andy who fanned the first flames later that fall. He emailed Tara a few short lines. She read masterfully between them and responded in an equally cryptic fashion.
In peeling away the layers of why and how, she had to admit that while she’d been miffed by his waning interest, her own interest in him, admittedly, had been rather unidirectional.
All the same, a part of her desired a more fervent courtship.
Another part of her wanted something hot, hard and uncomplicatedly glorious.
They sparred for a month or so, and having graduated from email to text message to instant messenger, they finally agreed to meet on a Friday afternoon.
He warned her that he wouldn’t have time for much more than –
She said it would be fine, as long as he said “Thank you, ma’am.”
Daniel & Kate
Kate knew exactly what she was getting into when Daniel told her he was in an open relationship.
Their first date was undeniably perfect. They enjoyed the classic New York trifecta: culture, designer cocktails, and carefree sex.
She woke up in his bed the next morning. Sun streamed in the tiny window illuminating a million dust particles, and bathing her discarded purple thong in light where it sat, crumpled on the edge of his desk. He pressed up against her and pulled her into him with a sturdy grip.
That’s when she remembered. He was already in a relationship. She was not. She would go home to an empty house. He might very well have dinner plans with his longstanding, “primary partner.”
During her cab ride home she contemplated deleting his number. Until she realized her bra was nowhere to be seen.
She told herself she would see him again, if only to reclaim her lingerie. She was nobody’s secondary, or tertiary partner.
They agreed on another meeting, lunch together, at her place. She planned to have an intelligent conversation, lure him in with food and a semi-sheer dress, only to send him away, unfulfilled and questioning his commitment to polyamory.
It was a chilly afternoon and he appeared on her doorstep with hot chocolate — a tender gesture that only fueled her inner conflict.
The two of them and their words danced awkwardly around the kitchen and only made it as far as the couch before he put his hand at the base of her back, and brushed curls from her face as she tried to explain why she couldn’t see him anymore.
“No” had never meant a more resounding “yes.” Her body moved independently of her mind and surrendered to his embraces as their hot cocoa turned cold.
After he left she discarded the cups and (almost) deleted his number. Perturbed from the neck up, still shuddering everywhere else.
Nathan and Lily
Nathan and Lily met online. He had a real way with words and an even better way with the camera. Even his voice had charmed her when they rattled away on the phone like eager adolescents.
When it came time to meet in person, Lily approached the bar with her stomach in knots and that titillating tingle. He’d been texting her all day with witty insinuations regarding he’d like the evening to end. It had been a while. She didn’t even need a drink to “loosen up.”
What awaited her was a schlubbish bundle of insecurity. An utter nightmare of a man.
Lily sat down across from him and ordered a seltzer. She squinted in the low light and tried to find the face she’d nearly fallen for.
Nathan got lucky that night. Real lucky.
Lily cringed her whole cab ride home. She blamed biology or animal instincts.
Anything, anyone but herself.