Posts tagged ‘Relationships’

The Work Widow

Eleanor Roosevelt Frank Sinatra 1947

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I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage don’t shit where you eat. I learned this the hard way. And by that I don’t mean that I came down with hepatitis after eating a muffaletta on the toilet. I mean that it took me three mildly embarrassing incidents, as well as observing the heartache and sometimes even the firing of multiple friends, to learn that dating coworkers is just not a very wise idea. Some people pull it off seamlessly, and some of the women I worked with when I lived in Dallas had very happy courtships and subsequent marriages. But that is not how things worked out for me.

I’ve told the story of the WORST DATE EVER, and I’ve also relayed the anecdote of Vern. Here comes Strike Three. I’m a slow learner, but I do learn. Strike Three happened when I was working for the trailer company in Dallas. I did retirement plan administration in the human resources department of the trailer company’s corporate headquarters. This is how I met Damian Carson. No, that’s not his real name. And no, he doesn’t bear the mark of the devil. But I like that alias. It’s pretty close.

Damian was the personnel coordinator at a plant in Buda. Buda is a kind of suburb of Austin, but bear in mind that I was living and working in Dallas at this time. Damian had some kind of business at the corporate headquarters, and he and one or two of the other personnel coordinators were there for some kind of meeting. It wasn’t related to me, but we were usually curious when personnel coordinators came to town because we spoke with them on the phone constantly, and because they were located all over America, we rarely got to see them in person.

I was buddy buddy with all the women I worked with in the office. We hung out together outside of work and genuinely liked each other. There were even a couple bachelorette weekend getaways when two of the women got married. I was the only single woman in our little department. The rest of them all had husbands or significant others or boyfriends. I hung out with my friends and dated occasionally. So, when we had a cute, single guy in the office, naturally, the buzz reached me.

“Hey! C’mere.”

“What?”

“You heard that [the personnel coordinators] are in the office, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So, Damian Carson is pretty cute. And he’s single.”

Now, secretly…okay, not secretly, because Amanda faithfully reads this blog. Dammit! Okay. Not secretly or privately, I was kinda excited about this news. Damian and I got along on the phone okay, but we didn’t have any kind of special rapport until just a few minutes later. I will give myself credit for not skipping across the office like some boy crazy sycophant. I sat at my desk, and I made him come to me.

It was apparent that he thought I was attractive. I mean, you know, I knew he wouldn’t kick me out of bed for eating crackers. And in no time we’re both grinning like loons. It’s amazing how looks will change your opinion of someone because before that moment I’m pretty sure he thought I was the 401(k) Nazi, and I just thought of him as that idiot I was always sending the forms back to because there was some i that wasn’t dotted or t that wasn’t crossed.

How to describe Damian Carson back then? Well, he was just a little younger but probably a whole lot more worldly than I was. He was sort of baby faced with very thick dark hair and a slim build. He was just a tad long waisted and short legged, with broad shoulders. He had a Tom Cruise smile. I wouldn’t have kicked him out of bed for eating crackers, either.

He travelled back to Austin. I stayed in Dallas, and we flirted like mad by office telephone until the next time there was some personnel coordinator’s meeting…yes, on the company dime. I remember very few conversations we had outside the office. Also, his 401(k) forms got flawless overnight. When Damian knew he was flying to Dallas for this seminar thing, he immediately asked me out. I immediately said yes. There was no coaxing necessary that I remember. It was a two-day thing, and they flew him and all the other personnel coordinators out and paid for one night at a hotel.

It was my city, and Damian didn’t have a rental car, which meant I had to pick him up at the hotel lobby, in front of all the other personnel coordinators and some of the people who worked in my office. It also meant I got to pick where we went since he didn’t know my city. And I really was never much of a party animal kind of girl, so I’m almost amazed that we managed to have a good time. But we had a hell of a time. At one moment he carried me across Lovers Lane on his back. Cheese factor very high. I got a little tipsy, but not so bad that I couldn’t drive later. We went to a jazz club, and I sang along with Frank Sinatra’s rendition of, “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” and then promptly started making out with my date in public.

I would say that we were sitting in a dark corner booth, and we were. However, I should still be ashamed of myself because I remember that when Damian scooted out to use the men’s room some guy told him that he got a hard on from watching us. This was really the only bad part of the evening, waiting for Damian to get back from the restroom with Creepy Hard On Guy still standing there. I’m such a hussy.

We left pretty soon after that, and it was late, but I don’t think it would have been after midnight since we both still had to work the next day. We must have spent at least 45 minutes necking in my car in the hotel parking lot. The windows literally got a little steamy. He was a really amazing kisser.

The conversation in the car went like this.

Damian: Why don’t you come up?

Gooseberry Bush: Um, I don’t think that would be a very good idea.

Damian: All I want to do is just kiss you in that big king sized bed.

Gooseberry Bush: We have to work tomorrow.

Damian: You know you want to.

Gooseberry Bush: I don’t think all you want to do is kiss me.

Damian: I promise.

Gooseberry Bush: What if someone sees?

Damian: We’ll sneak you out.

Gooseberry Bush: I don’t think it’s a good idea.

By then I think the buzz was killed, and I wasn’t born yesterday. So, I went home and he went up to his room…alone.

That weekend he called right after he got home. We talked about maybe seeing each other again. I said I’d think about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a great time. It was two things. One was the distance. I knew that it was going to be impossible for us to have any kind of serious relationship with that much mileage between us.

The other reason was that there was just something too, well, slick about him. He was a little too perfect, too good looking, too charming. And I guess you could sum this up to the fact that Damian Carson struck me as a player. I thought he’d probably see me and some other girl or girls in Austin, too. And I wasn’t sure just how long he’d be interested in me if he ever actually got into my pants.

We didn’t have much in common. He would never have understood me, and worse yet, he would have wondered what I meant by “understood.” You see how we haven’t even gone on a second date yet, and we’ve already broken up…tragically? I actually am pretty good at reading people, but that kind of thinking is a little messed up.

By the time I called him from work the next week he made up my mind for me. The hold music for his plant was all Rat Pack all the time kind of stuff.  He placed me on  hold. The song was Bobby Darrin’s “Mack the Knife.” When Damian came back on the line I complimented him on the hold music, and he said, “Yeah, I love Sinatra.” And I decided right then and there that there would be no second date. It was like an episode of fucking Seinfeld.

All this doesn’t sound very traumatic, and even the end isn’t very traumatic. I did go out with him and the Austin personnel coordinator the next year to play pool. It wasn’t a date. We went as friends. But I did make sure to wear my shortest shorts. I’m such a hussy.

And a little after that outing, word spread through our little department. Damian Carson was no longer employed by our little trailer company. Damian Carson’s roommate got caught selling pot out of the trunk of Damian’s car…in the parking lot of the Buda plant of our little trailer company. And Damian Carson did not show up for a required drug test by the next day.

All over the next week I was barraged with phone calls of condolence from all over the nation from personnel coordinators who knew that Damian and I were “close.” I’m surprised that they didn’t send flowers. I can only imagine how this would have gone down if I had actually gotten caught sneaking out of his hotel room at some ungodly hour of the morning. As it was, I became Damian Carson’s work widow. It was embarrassing then, and I used to bitch about it. But now…I just think it’s funny. Here’s to Damian Carson…wherever you are.

May 25, 2011 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

The Code of Conduct

Cover of "The Godfather (Widescreen Editi...

Cover of The Godfather (Widescreen Edition)

At work we have to complete a code of conduct, a test that basically goes over ethics violations at the workplace. Most any American who works for a mid-size to large company has to nowadays. It goes over things like intellectual property ownership and access to sensitive information and the propriety of accepting gifts from vendors.

We all have a personal code of conduct. Some people’s is more laissez faire while others are more regimented in their beliefs. It’s frequently been noted that members of organized crime families and gangs have their own code of conduct. Mafia movies like The Godfather series are so popular, not solely because of their propensity for sex and violence but also because the mafia leaders have their own set of ethics, which, skewed as they may seem to the rest of us, they do adhere to.

Ethics seems like a pretty black and white proposition, and yet the older one gets the more one finds grey areas until much of the subject of ethics just seems like varying shades of gray with a little black and white thrown in, like the color on the picture of a black and white television screen.

When I was younger the world was very black and white to me. Every violation of what I saw to be the good and right thing to do seemed like a stab in the heart that made my view of the world darken with the black stain of my own dark heart. I was quick to be wounded and sometimes quick to believe the worst about people. How is self-righteousness any more attractive than any other sin?

I was looking at The Post In Which I Eat Crow and the two posts that led to that epiphany as a metaphor for my whole life in more ways than one. First off, it’s only one in a series of “relationships” I had with men that were categorized by my first picking out someone that I had a strong attraction for who was fundamentally unsuitable on some level.

I then obsessed over the guy when he was smart enough not to ask me out or eventually rejected me, for whatever reason. In the end, I would feel hurt because I’d been rejected by someone who was sending me mixed messages. I used to call it partial reinforcement, like it was a behavioral psychology term coined by B.F. Skinner, and for all I know, it could be. It reminds me of that management book, Who Moved My Cheese? It never once occurred to me that maybe, just maybe they were sending mixed messages because they were actually returning my own ambivalent feelings.

You know, one thing I always wondered back in the day is why Vern broke up with his girlfriend and then never asked me out, even though he’d shown every sign of being interested. I only found out about the chasing tail thing later.

Vern and Ernest are like the dueling banjos of character assassins. First, Ernest tells me that Vern spent the months when he was broken up with his girlfriend pursuing a series of shallow sexual couplings, and, of course, there’s that stuff about The Bet. Eighteen years later, Vern tells me Ernest was living with him as a roommate back then because his girlfriend got tired of him beating the shit out of her and kicked him out.

Well, since I dodged both those bullets, I kind of find the dueling character assassins analogy funny. Eighteen years between stanzas.

Anyway, it occurred to me that there were two very good reasons why Vern might not have wanted to ask me out, besides my own ambivalence. The breakup lasted precisely five months. That’s not very long. Jumping right into another relationship, because I was a relationship type of girl, would have been sort of like me going and immediately getting another puppy after the death of my beloved pet two months ago.  It’s too soon for me to make that kind of investment, and it would feel like a kind of betrayal. But I still like dogs, and I like to pet other people’s pets when I get the chance.

So, for a certain kind of man, a lot of men, that’s part of their code of conduct. They have their own sense of honor, and some girls are seen as relationship material while others are not. Why he decided to violate his own standard of ethics at the last minute is a mystery for which I’ll never know the answer.

But one thing that I do know is that if Vern had ever actually asked me out, the whole thing would have played itself out with me eventually moving on, bored with him or convinced that he was unsuitable in some other way, and that would have been the end of it. I wouldn’t have been happy living in a small town in Oklahoma with a guy who studied business, spent his spare time watching football, worked at the Wal-Mart, and made constant racial epithets. Of course, he wouldn’t have been any happier living in the city with a self-righteous, politically liberal, poetry writing feminist who liked to spend her spare time with her nose buried in a book. The reason why I remembered it so clearly after so many years is because it seemed like he wasn’t interested, and ultimately, I wondered why he wasn’t falling all over himself to be with me.

Perhaps I’d do well to take a magnifying glass to my own code of conduct as well.

January 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm 3 comments

The Post In Which I Eat Crow

A bottle of Hannaford store brand Dijon mustard.

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Mmmm. Yummy crow. I will not eat the whole crow, but I will serve myself up a nice big gnarly piece of breast meat and chow down, carefully, with lots of honey mustard or barbecue sauce to help with the taste.

Remember my post on The Man Box, and then the one about The Bet? Remember dear old Vern? Well, after Kay’s comment on The Bet I rushed to old Vern’s defense pretty quickly, and I realized that something about the cynicism of the situation really bothered me.

I realized that I liked thinking that on some level Vern had been my friend and that he had genuinely wanted to look out for me. I realized that something about me really cherished that memory. And that, despite my nasty but truthful comments about his fatal flaws of vanity, narcissism, bigotry, and small town small mindedness, I really thought this guy and I had a friendship at one point. I liked thinking that someone was watching over me. Just like the old song. Some feminist I am.

So, I thought about it some more, and then I thought, well, I could “settle” this once and for all (not really; I mean, you never really know if someone is telling you the truth or not) by contacting Vern and allowing him to respond with his side of the story. Naturally, I did not tell him that I had written an uncomplimentary essay about something he did nearly twenty years ago and published it on the internet. Let’s keep that secret just between us guys and gals.

How did I go about performing this feat of achievement? Why, with Facebook, of course. It’s easy to find Vern on Facebook. You just type Vern and then Smalltown, Oklahoma, and he pops up. Amazing. And then you can email some guy who tried to get into your pants nearly twenty years ago. Gotta love the internet.

So, of course, I sent off my pissy email. And basically, it went something like how’s your kid and the wife, and by the way, did you really think your friends wouldn’t tell on you? That’s a really great way to contact someone you haven’t seen or heard from in years. I recommend that everyone show such discretion and judgment.

He responds with two emails. The first one is one where he says, basically, I’m not sure if I know you, but didn’t we work together at the physical plant at State Mental Hospital University? The second response, about four minutes later includes an apology in advance. It reads basically that he did a lot of stupid stuff in college, not all of which he could possibly remember but that if he ever at any time hurt my feelings that would really upset him. Also, he tells me he has a seventeen year old son and that he and his wife have been divorced for thirteen years now.

A sane woman receiving this response would probably just think, yay, I got my apology, but no! I have never claimed to be sane. I email him back, mostly smarting because he pretended not to remember me. Bullshit; I knew he remembered me! And that basically made me go all passive aggressive on his ass, by telling him that I would hardly say that he hurt me since that’s really making a bigger deal out of the situation than it was but that I think he’s a jerk because he tried to get in my pants when he had a fiancée and a baby on the way, and what’s more he made a bet about it with his friends.

I don’t ask him what happened. I just go right ahead and accuse him. I also recommend this tactic. Be pissy and make accusations and then fly off the handle with resentment because someone who hasn’t seen you in nearly twenty years might want to ask where they remember you from. I should teach a class in conflict management.

If I haven’t made enough of an ass of myself yet, did I mention that I also told him that he was full of himself and then added that I’ve met bigger jerks than him since then? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a proud moment. Jesus is smiling down on me from heaven. I didn’t come across as bitter, not at all.

Vern responds with a book. I mean the email practically had diagrams and everything. The friend (let’s call him Ernest (an Oklahoma joke for those in the know)) that I got my wild accusation from about the bet, because come to think of it, it was just the one guy, turns out that he and Vern aren’t buddies anymore.  And according to Vern this guy used to make up stories about him because he was jealous. Okay. That’s plausible.

Then he gives me a timeline of he and his ex-wife’s courtship. This includes the date of the original breakup, after which he would’ve been free to screw around, so to speak. He admits to being promiscuous but says he’s not proud of it. He then tells me when he and the girlfriend started dating again, and it was, lo and behold, the same month he graduated, the one when I turned 21, and it is not just plausible but in fact likely that he might not have even been together with her on my 21st birthday. They didn’t conceive their son until October of that year. The wedding was in January of the next year, and the kid was born in July. So, hmm, the timing for my version of events is all wrong.

He then goes on to say that he admits to using poor judgment in waiting until the last minute to make a move and that he thought about it often over the years and regretted how it probably made me feel. He swears on his Father’s grave (I’m not making this up, just reporting the facts) that there was never any bet.

Then he goes on to talk about how he’s been raising his son alone as a single parent and that he doesn’t date or “chase tail” and that his kid is an honor student who’s graduating in the spring with a full ride scholarship for vocal music and drama. Huh? A son in musical comedy? Vern? Didn’t you make him play football? He tops that off with saying that he’s raised his son “not to be like me.” What was that I said about small town small mindedness? Pass the honey mustard.

He apologizes again, even though, at this point I think we all know who the ass is in this scenario. He tells me he had a crush on me and  liked me because I was sweet and attractive and yes, he wanted to have sex with me because he genuinely liked me. I admit. It’s a novel concept, but sometimes people want to have sex with someone because they find the other person attractive and they like the other person.

So, now I have a dilemma. I can either choose to believe the story I originally believed, or given that his explanation is plausible and his explained motivation the simpler of the two possibilities, I can choose to believe Vern, or, well, at least give him the benefit of the doubt. So, I apologize. I tell him that I’ve been unforgivably rude, and that the truth about a bet or no bet is ultimately between him and God, and he shouldn’t really give a damn what I believe.

And then the emails fly back and forth, and we have a nice flirty time on memory lane where I fish for compliments about how hot I was back in the day, and I think I’ve been somewhat unfair to this guy over the years. Maybe very unfair. I don’t trust him entirely, but I do know which version of the story I prefer. Not enough to want to pursue something with him, although he left the door wide open for that and told me he’d love to buy me dinner to make it up to me. I got the last email at noon today. I won’t respond this time, but it started off with this sentence, “I did like to look after you and make sure you were safe.” Is it a line? Yeah, but I liked it just the same.

December 31, 2010 at 1:08 am 7 comments

The Divorce Myth

"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

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Wow. Statistics. I took a course on it when I decided to go to graduate school. No, I did not graduate. But I did pass statistics! I even got a B. Thank God for Eastern European geeks in the math lab and for partial credit. One thing I did learn about statistics, I mean besides that the Greek letter Sigma is not just the “funky E,” is that statistics can be and frequently are manipulated to come up with an answer that’s sometimes less than truthful.

Some stories about studies have come out this month about the marriage success rate in the United States of America. And, if you’re college educated, you make decent money, and you don’t marry too young, your odds are actually pretty damn good. Congratulations! You won the marriage lottery.

If you’re not college educated, if you’re middle class or working poor or, worse yet, impoverished, or if you marry young, you’re screwed. Well, not really. But your odds of success are way lower. It doesn’t take too much in the way of brains to figure out why this is. Since money is one of the big stressors in marriage, those people who have it are far less likely to be stressed over it.

As for religion and how it affects the divorce rate, agnostics and atheists have the lowest divorce rate. Born again Christians have the highest divorce rate.

You know how the media has been reporting for years that the divorce rate in this country was 50% or better, no matter what. Turns out the media is wrong. Check out these links.

http://www.tressugar.com/Divorce-Rate-Lower-Among-College-Educated-12437830

http://www.drheller.com/divorcemyths.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce

http://www.suite101.com/content/divorce-rates-are-falling-as-couples-marry-later-a129099

The saddest trend I find is that marriage is becoming irrelevant for many young couples with only a high school education. They are becoming parents and cohabitating first, then perhaps marrying later when they can “afford” to do so. With the tax advantages for being married, particularly when it comes to having a family, I don’t see how you can afford not to be married.

This seems to me to be indicative of the greater trend in American society to think of marriage not as a serious lifelong commitment but rather a pit stop on Serial Monogamy Lane. A marriage is a ceremony, a great big expensive party that you host for all your friends, which is why you can’t afford it. Better to breed now and save up for that big party later.

If you’re married, please, please remember what a privilege it is to be married, to have someone who loves you to walk through life with, because not everyone does. Treasure it. If you’re not married, there’s plenty of rich, rewarding life ahead of you whether you get married or not. Happiness, like marriage, is ultimately a choice that you get to make. You can choose to be happy. Choose wisely.

December 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm 14 comments

Signs That the Guy You’re Seeing Just Might Be Married

Jewish wedding ring. Chased and enameled gold ...

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  1. He wears a wedding ring. I never used to look for a wedding ring. I just assumed that if some guy was flirting with me or pursuing a relationship, that he wasn’t married. And you know what they say about assuming.
  2. There’s a tan line where his wedding ring would normally be.
  3. He tells you that he’s married. This is a big clue. Pay attention to this one. Life is not a Rock HudsonDoris Day movie, and if a guy tells you that he’s married he’s not just a cute playboy who’s looking to escape commitment; he’s married.
  4. He tells you that he’s separated. A guy who’s separated is married. A guy is either married or single. Being separated is kind of like being a little pregnant. You’re either pregnant or you’re not. You’re either married or you’re not.
  5. You spend all your time at your place. You don’t go to his place or you go there very infrequently. You only go there during the day in the middle of the week when his wife is at work or on those rare weekends when she takes the kids to visit her mother.
  6. His bathroom includes feminine hygiene products or implements of female toiletry such as makeup and eyelash curlers. Guys don’t use that stuff, and they wouldn’t just leave it lying around. They’d haul it off to the trash.There are homey touches at his place, like curtains and tea towels and placemats and plug in air fresheners. If you see signs that a woman is living at his place – there’s a woman living at his place.
  7. You haven’t met any of his friends, or you’ve met a limited amount of his friends. You know his old high school buddy Bob. That’s it. That’s because Bob is the only friend who’s morally bankrupt enough to be okay with his two timing on his wife.
  8. You haven’t met his family. There is always some excuse why you are never together for holidays, and he doesn’t want to introduce you to his kids and then have them become attached and then have you break up with him. His parents still love the “ex.”
  9. He’s an enlisted man in the military. I’m going to get flak for this one, I know. I’m not saying that all military guys cheat, and I value the sacrifices they make for our country, but my high school boyfriend married a college buddy of mine, and then he enlisted in the Army. They both said they were shocked that the minute some spouse deployed, his or her partner had a replacement waiting in the wings to move in the next day. This happened about half the time. I always thought they were exaggerating, but years later I worked with a couple who had been in the military. She accepted a job in Costa Rica and took the three youngest children with her for several months. While she was gone he moved in a girlfriend and then quickly moved her out when the wife came back. I can’t make this stuff up.
  10. He has a wife. If your boyfriend has a wife, then he just might be married.

A married man is not a good bet for a relationship. If you don’t believe me, then just ask Mrs. Michael Landon #2. She hooked up with a married Michael Landon and then was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that he dumped her nearly twenty years later for a newer, younger model. But he loved her. And I’m sure that at one point in time, he did, just like he loved his first wife. And then wife #3 came along: Cindy. He loved her, too.

Some might call that poetic justice. I say it’s just life. But if you’re dating a married man and he does end up dumping his wife for you, then don’t have the unmitigated gall to expect him to be faithful to you. He isn’t engaging in false advertising. He’s telling you exactly what you can expect through his actions. And you aren’t that special.

 

December 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm 1 comment

The Third Time I Fell in Love

Guy #1

The first time I fell in love, well, I almost don’t count it. I was a freshman in college, and the young man didn’t feel the same way. We didn’t even date. He was my best friend. We were both English majors. We worked together. We socialized with each other and had all the same friends. He was funny and kind and smart. He and his brothers used to throw Egg Balancing Parties during the Fall and Spring Equinox. I used to write him letters that were more like personal essays, like this blog, and he kept them in a notebook that he still has, and he treasured them.

We spent nearly every day together. Sometimes it was every day. When I first met him I asked him if he was gay, and he told me he wasn’t. I don’t know what it was about him that made me ask. He wasn’t stereotypically effeminate. Maybe it was a sixth sense and years of socializing with high school thespians.

By the time that I got around to pressing the issue my friend and I had been as close as two people can be without having sex and being close. I was too young to know that if I had to press the issue with a confession of any sort that I could know in advance what the answer was going to be. If you have to tell a guy how you feel about him in order to find out how he feels about you…here’s a hint…he doesn’t.

But he let me down gently. And he was honest about it. He didn’t give me any agonizing details. He didn’t lie. He just said he wasn’t interested in me in that way and that he wouldn’t ever be interested in me in that way. I took a friendship sabbatical and came back, and after maybe a few verbal jabs that he endured with patience and humility, I returned refreshed and renewed and envigored about the friendship. He told me he was gay a year or two later. I should always trust my first instincts with my gaydar.

Now I guess I could technically get upset that he wasn’t completely honest about the gay thing, but I figure that a young man in his early 20s in Oklahoma in the early 1990s can be cut some slack in the honesty department when it comes to coming out of the closet. He didn’t lie about his feelings towards me; he just wasn’t feeling it, and maybe if he were straight he would have not felt the same way.

Guy #2

The second time I fell in love was a little over a decade later. I had just turned 30. I met a guy at a bar who was nine years older than me and was obviously a bad relationship risk on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. It was a friendship and a casual sexual thing (which I’m not proud of and not terribly ashamed of, either). It wasn’t meant to evolve into anything else other than what it was. And then one day when we were in bed, he told me that he loved me. He clarified so I would know it wasn’t anything platonic, “I mean, I’m in love with you.”

I think that in my thirties, with nearly all my girlfriends having been married, and me having nothing to show for my life and very little in the way of dating prospects, that I was just desperate to be loved. I had worked it out in my head that love was a commitment, and I would commit to this guy.

Surely, he could see that he was getting better than he deserved in me and would treat me accordingly. I really thought that was what would happen; I thought that if I encouraged him and held high expectations for the relationship, that he would rise to the occasion and everything would be moonlight and roses and picket fences and 2.3 children in the suburbs.

Unfortunately, the second time I fell in love, I fell in love with a sociopath. He wasn’t capable of loving anyone, not even himself. He was incapable of fidelity. He was entirely self-absorbed. He was a pathological liar. He couldn’t hold down a job for any length of time. He had no discernible moral code. He’d been divorced twice and had abandoned two children, and I thought he could change because he told me he wanted to be a better person. I could oversimplify the relationship by saying that The Rat Bastard eventually dumped me because he told me he was gay, but the truth was that I had outlived my usefulness to him. The glass workboot didn’t fit.

Guy #3

I actually met Guy #3 before I met Guy #2. I worked with him, and then I didn’t. For a long time. We met up once during this time, and I stopped by the apartment he shared with his brother for a visit. I don’t even recall how this came about, since we had socialized with each other a few times, but we weren’t close.

About two and a half years ago, about eight years after we first met, I ran into this guy at the cafeteria at my work. I didn’t say hello. For one thing, I didn’t recognize him for sure. I thought maybe it was him, but I wasn’t sure. And then there was my crippling discomfort with the fact that I was now eight years older and several pounds heavier. I knew that I would be measured against the yardstick of my cute and skinny self and found lacking.

I looked up his name on the employee directory, and then I sent him an email. And then I waited. I think it took him a week or longer to respond. Obviously, I hadn’t made a very big or favorable initial impression. But eventually he did respond, and he asked me if I had plans for New Years Eve, and I told him I didn’t. So, we made plans for this pseudo New Years date, sight unseen. Well, I had seen him, but he hadn’t seen me.

It was a double undate, and I could get into the details of that night, but it’s unnecessary. He recognized me right away, and he didn’t register any shock or even any acknowledgement of my altered appearance. He kissed me on the lips on New Years, and then I drove him back to his car. That night I had worn some shoes that killed my feet, and I took them off, and he gave me his shoes to wear instead. That glass slipper motif again.

He seemed interested in pursuing a relationship, but what the hell do I know? Maybe he was just trying to encourage me to get out of the house more and get a life. I put him off with the excuse that we worked together and for that reason it would be unwise to date. Later, I added that I couldn’t pursue a relationship with someone who didn’t believe in God, and I stick by that decision. If someone refuses to acknowledge what’s most important in your life and denies its very existence, they can never fully know you.

Over time he became my best friend, and I think I became his. Again, the details aren’t important. In writing this I am breaking a promise that I made to not write about him anymore, but I think that he’s long since quit reading this blog. Also, I don’t want to write about how it all unraveled or my disappointment or what I perceived as his dishonesty. I don’t want to trash him for his failures or his frailties.

The most hurtful things he did or said I’ve kept to myself. Despite what seems to be my complete candor, there are still some secret scars that I don’t share with the world or with him. It’s like the gift that you do not give. I do not give it because I love him. I want to write about what made me love him in the first place…how he snuck up on me and caught me unaware and made me love him.

He was sweet. He was generous. He was kind. He had a great smile. I never went anywhere with him or did anything with him where he didn’t make me feel profoundly safe and provided for. He thought I was smart and funny and even pretty. He took pictures of me with no makeup on and saved them to his iPhone over my protests (I hate having my photo taken).

We could talk for hours. We went out into the world together and snuggled on the couch and watched television. He was a very talented musician. He had these great hands. And he had a quality about him that was fundamentally decent and boyish and vulnerable. It was like he’d grown up with the soft spot on his skull still intact.

You know how there were some experiments years ago about how family members could recognize each other’s unique odor by making these family members wear t-shirts for a day with no lotion and no deodorant? Then afterwards they passed the t-shirts around and each family member could recognize each other by smell alone. I could recognize him by smell alone.

And so I loved him, and one day I decided to tell him, but just like with Guy #1, if you have to be the one to break the news, then you should already know the answer. And his answer was perfect silence, which was, of course, humiliating.

There was an “incident.” There always is. But none of it matters. I was sick, and I couldn’t be in a relationship and still be in my sickness. You know that song, the one that says you only get what you give? He was sick as well. We couldn’t heal each other. We would both have to recognize a problem and then seek help to get well. And for that reason I can forgive any of the other bullshit and just remember that once I was in love.

December 2, 2010 at 8:32 pm 2 comments

The Mercy Date

Cover of "Knute Rockne All American"

Cover of Knute Rockne All American

Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I were having a phone conversation the other day where he brought up again, as he does every few months or so, the question of whether or not I should date. The answer to this question is always no. Sometimes I think the answer should be yes, but then I am wrong. The answer is no.

The last time someone talked me into accepting a date, the outcome was predictably tragic. I met this guy in a bar called Canary Hut or Canary Roost. I don’t know. Canary Something. I was out with Katina. This is obviously when I was still drinking, but I wasn’t drunk at the time. It was December of 2008, and I hadn’t been on a date in five years, if you count my relationship with The Rat Bastard as dating.

Wisely, after The Rat Bastard, I had made the conscious decision not to ever accept another date again. I am simply not meant to date. It works out for other humans, but it never works out for me. What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome.

The outcome of me dating is always disappointment. Sometimes it’s mild disappointment, and at other times it’s profound disappointment but what all these experiences have in common is disappointment. I was an English major, and I began to sense a theme. At some point, I decided that I didn’t want to be insane anymore.

So, this guy at the Canary Something was supposedly instantly attracted to me. Why I couldn’t say. I had not taken any special care with my appearance, and I was at least one hundred pounds overweight at the time. Now the way he approaches me is original, because he doesn’t.

He sends his sister and her husband over to ask for him, like he’s in junior high and wants to ask me to go with him. The sister and her husband launch an all out campaign to convince me that I want to go out with her brother. They point him out at the bar. He waves.

He’s nothing special, but he’s also not repulsive. Supposedly, he is painfully shy. This isn’t surprising to me. Shy guys love me. I swear to God if there is a shy guy within a twenty-mile radius of me, he will eventually gravitate towards me even if he isn’t actually interested in me in that way. I attract them like magnets. The kind of guys who major in obscure and cerebral things that require them to interact with things or numbers and not humans – IT guys and math majors and engineers and architects – they love me for some inexplicable reason.

Now I finally meet this guy after his entire family has talked him up to me. And that’s no exaggeration. This is the family that parties together. Mom, stepdad, brother, sister, brother-in-law. He’s awkward, and, yep, shy. He also strikes me as not particularly bright. As in, he has the IQ of a root vegetable. Actually, that might be an insult to some of the more intelligent root vegetables, like the rutabaga and the jicama, for instance.

His whole family made a big point out of telling me how brilliant he is. Oh, he’s so smart! It doesn’t seem like it at first, but just wait until you get to know him. Hmmph. I am not so convinced. Mr. Brilliant is several years younger than me, in his late twenties, hasn’t started let alone finished college, and is currently working two or three delivery jobs.

But he’s nice enough. He seems to like me. My girlfriend is encouraging me to do this. I should go out. It’s healthy. I should make an effort. What could it hurt? Free dinner, yada, yada. And I recognize the logic in this argument. How am I going to find someone if I don’t go out? Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone? If nothing else, then it will be good practice.

I cave in to peer pressure. So, we exchange phone numbers, and I agree to give it the old college try. Win one for the Gipper, or whatever that saying is from that old Ronald Reagan movie.

Monday morning I describe the entire scenario to Work Boyfriend 1.0.

“So, you’re saying that you’re going out with this guy on a mercy date?”

“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, um, yeah, I guess.”

“Oh, my God. Don’t do us any favors.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you said that I should date.”

“You should. Someone you really like.”

“But no one I really like has asked me out. They aren’t exactly lining up outside my door. These are my choices: stay home or go out on the mercy date.”

A couple nights go by. Mr. Brilliant calls me. He hasn’t gotten any smarter. It’s late, and I’m already in for the night, and he wants me to meet him somewhere right now. Now I’m not a strict adherent to The Rules, but I’m not running like a puppy dog because this guy has called. I don’t play games. I tell him that I’d like to make plans in advance. I don’t tell him why this is, but the reason has to do with the fact that I’d like to think that a guy actually went to the effort and trouble of planning something in advance. I’d like to think that he cared enough to do that for me.

He says he’d like to meet me somewhere for dinner the next night. Tomorrow night. No place yet. No plans. But I figure this is a compromise because I at least have advance warning. I can make an effort and try to look nice, maybe wear some of that Chanel perfume that I never have a reason to wear. Tomorrow night. He’ll call. Cool.

So, tomorrow night comes. I make an effort and shower and dress nice and get ready to fly out the door to wherever it is that he’s decided that we’re going to meet. But the phone doesn’t ring. Strangely, the phone doesn’t ring all evening.

The phone does ring the next day, after he’s stood me up. It rings several times while I’m at work, and once I actually hang up on him without saying a word. Work Boyfriend 1.0 is appalled.

“You aren’t even going to give this guy a chance?”

“You didn’t even want me to go out with him in the first place, and he stood me up.”

“You should at least listen to what he has to say.”

“Unless he’s in a hospital, I really don’t want to hear anything he has to say. And nope, not even then. They have phones in hospitals. You want to know why I don’t date? This. This right here is why I don’t date. It’s a perfect example.”

First, I’m wrong for having a no dating policy. It’s so isolated and closed off, and I’ll never meet someone that way. Then someone asks me out, and I agree to give him a shot, and I’m a horrible person for agreeing to go on the mercy date. Then he stands me up, and I’m a horrible person for not giving him a second chance. At what point is he the horrible person in this scenario? After he takes me out to an old deserted road and rapes me and leaves me for dead? Or will I still be the horrible person even then?

Mr. Brilliant calls again that night. His excuse is that he had to work. He works three jobs, after all, and one of the jobs asked him to work some overtime.

I tell him that I can appreciate that he has to work three jobs, and that if you have to work you have to work. I still would have appreciated a courtesy call.

His phone was dead or something. He’s sorry. Do I want to go out right now and meet him and his friends for a drink? No, I do not. I tell him he had his chance, and he blew it, and I don’t want to talk to him again. For someone who was supposedly so enamored of me, he doesn’t seem very broken hearted about it.

And THAT is why I don’t date. I suppose my standards are too high. Once, just once I’d like for the guy that I like to ask me out and not have to settle for letting the guy I’m not so crazy about try to convince me otherwise. But I give in on that. Every time. Because if I don’t, then I’ll be alone. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be courted. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be treated with common courtesy and decency. And before I know it, I’m in another relationship with another Rat Bastard all because I’m scared of (Gulp!) being alone.

I won’t do it. I’m tired of doing it. And I’d rather be alone, thank you. If that makes me bitter or “judgemental”, then I guess I’m okay with that.

September 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm 2 comments

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