Strangely, I never set out to be particularly cynical when writing The Other Man. I believe in love and relationships, although I’ll admit I also believe that the real-world version is often more work and very different than what we read or see in movies. I’m the type of person who’s more inclined to not get involved in something if I’m not feeling it a hundred percent, so if that makes me cynical, eh, so be it. I’ve definitely had the experience of people I’ve dated (though moreso our mutual friends) assuming they know all of me because I happen to like certain music or genre styles or movies or whatever. It’s a frustrating way of life and one I don’t have a lot of patience for. If it’s not your thing, fine, it doesn’t have to be…but I don’t need anyone to patronize things that are meaningful to me, either.
While I haven’t dealt with anyone nearly like Andrew in the story, I have gone through a period of time with a person where every inch of my life was under a microscope. Music is dear to me in a big way – it’s a lifeline. David Bowie will always be my favorite of favorites. I have all his studio albums and a lot of the compilations (some multiple copies because I’ve played them so much). Be that as it may, I don’t feel I was ever obsessed to the point where that tinted my view of others (until they started criticizing my tastes). Still, I scaled back to be accommodating because I get I can be a little much at times. The problem was, the criticism moved to all music that wasn’t this person’s taste, then the fantasy movies I liked, then my job, the hobbies I had, and everything else. It became very evident that if I couldn’t remake myself the way my significant other’s friends thought I should be, I was less than a person. By that point I’d stopped playing the tunes that kept me sane, tried to scale back on the types of fiction that I read so I wouldn’t be too much of an escapist, contemplated taking down the posters in my apartment (that were part fandom and part they were the cheapest way to decorate)
And that is utterly, completely stupid.
I’d hope that someone would love me because of those things, because of who I am. I’d love to say I learned that lesson right away, but it was one that I had to learn over a period of time, little by little. You can’t and shouldn’t have to remold yourself to be loved – that’s a right you have as a person and with however many billion people there are in the world, your odds of finding someone who can
put up with love you are pretty good.
Now that I’m older, I understand that because I’m pretty zealous with the things I admire (I was more enthusiastic and over the top back then, for sure), and I get that that could have been seen as a threat. It’s hard to be in a relationship if you feel like a thousand other people are breathing down your neck. And yet…I dunno, I get it but I don’t get it now. This wasn’t anyone that could outright threaten that person or his friends. These were people that I’d probably never even meet (in a bizarre twist of irony there have been some exceptions there once we broke up), people that just happened to frequent my life because I liked their work, just like so many other people like their work. There were other points of tension, but that was a major deal breaker. There was enough stress in my life at the time that I didn’t need that, as well.
I’ve definitely also had the experience of thinking the future was going to be just so, thinking my life was going to go in a straight line and follow a certain pattern. Yeah, I know, go ahead and laugh…and if you’re young and not laughing, let me just tell you now: nothing works out that way. Nothing. Nada. A plan is good, I’m not saying don’t have a plan, but nothing will ever go exactly like the little movie playing in your skull. And that’s okay. Part of life is the adventure of it, the moments that take you by surprise. They’re not always good, but they end up shaping who you are just as much as those plans you slave over.
At its heart, The Other Man is about people and relationships: the bonds between parent and child, the clash of the person you are to your family vs. who you are to the outside world, the bond between partners, the bond between people and their chosen (or not chosen) roles, and the relationship between people and the things they like. I suppose there’s also the link between what a person thinks they are and what they truly are. That’s interesting to me, too, how people can go out of their way to deceive themselves when deep down they’re well aware of who they really are. I get it’s not easy to be yourself, but I’m also of the firm belief that we owe it to ourselves and the world we live in to be who we are. At some point you have to live honestly or else you’re just going to be miserable.
Years later I was commiserating with a friend of mine about the weirdness of dating and dealing with people, and we found that we both had similar experiences. When I started looking, I realized that this sort of thing haunts more people than I’d assumed, and I started to play with it, writing about a little family who was trying to make it, whose dinner conversations were filled up by not just the people gathered around the table.
All these issues I mentioned affect Andrew, the lead character in The Other Man. His wife adores a musician he sees as a threat. His dreams haven’t materialized on his timeline. His children freak him out a little. And he’s got secrets of his own, secrets he’s reluctant to admit even to himself.
Curious how this all plays together? You’ll have to read it to find out how…
All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a loving family. Instead, he has a dead-end job, a cramped apartment, and children who remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. He’s also well aware that he’s not the only man who inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. How can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful evening meal when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life will never be the same.