So maybe I will write about dating after all. I'm kind of sick of politics and world events and it's the middle of the winter, so why not? But if I start on a daily dose of mouthing off about the one area of my life in which I'm a complete basket case, I might provide some history.
Word of warning: Some of you will find this post down-right puke worthy. Too personal. One pre-screener said I manage to totally demystify myself. Whatever. My keen powers of insight allow me to see right through all of you and I think most of you can see right through me, so mystery shmystery. Mystery is overrated and it smacks of "rules of the game"--which I've never been able to play by anyway.
I received a few interesting responses (aside from those in the comments) to yesterday's non-dating column--mostly of the jumping to conclusion type, but interesting all the same.
A couple of folks thought I was being maudlin or getting ready for a good wallow. That wasn't my intention at all. You'll know damn well when I start up a self-pity session. I can wallow with the best of them. I wallow so well, in fact, that I'd get it all over everyone else. I'd bet that within fifteen minutes of a pathetic post, our entire little corner of the blogosphere would be covered by a dark cloud of self-doubt and hopelessness.
But I'll save that for a sunny day.
One emailer, though, told me that what I needed was obvious. It was apparent to any and all, she said, that I needed a date.
NEEDED a date.
No one needs a date. This is something a married person would say. And, yes, she's married. I was toying with the idea of giving up dating precisely to avoid the humiliations, the nausea-inducing stress, the rejections, the obsessions, the need to reject, the messiness and, statistics being what they are, syphilis (or at least a fever blister).
So, no, I don't need a date.
What I want is a girlfriend.
How's that for blunt?
I'll take the honesty a bit further. The statement "I want a girlfriend" has to be followed by so many qualifications (let's call it the Groucho qualification: "I don't want to be the boyfriend of any girl who'd have me.") as to render it almost meaningless.
But those qualifications are a post for another day. What's at issue here is I'm the type who wants a girlfriend. It's something I've always wanted ever since being a wee lad. I wanted a girlfriend before I wanted a Red Ryder BB gun.
And I got a girlfriend before I got that Red Ryder BB gun. It was first or second grade. Evette. We'd kiss behind the oak tree on the playground, but in full view of the kindergarten kids. Exhibitionists at age six. What happened? Well, if my brother's version of events is to be believed, I broke up with Evette because she ate an acorn.
Standards, people. You must have standards. (This from someone who eats squirrel.)
Of course, wanting a girlfriend at such an early age and getting one only sets a fellow up for a lifetime of disappointment and hurt.
Because Evette was about the end of my success in that regard. I didn't even make out with a girl until I was fifteen (and that particular "relationship" lasted all of two weeks.)
Elementary, junior high and high school turned out to be one long dry spell of misery, of young Kenny pining away for various girls. I can't rightly call it "crushing" because it was much worse than that. It was usually an obsession, something so keen that it physically hurt. (And for those you believe in astrology, yes, I am a Scorpio.)
Where did this behavior come from? It wasn't from Lloyd Dobler or Harry and Sally. This behavior started young and at that point the only movies I'd seen were Star Wars, Shaggy Dog, and a bit of King Kong (I spent most of the movie hiding behind the front seat). Maybe it was from an early exposure to soap operas, but while my romantic daydreams were ludicrous, they never involved evil twins or ageless people with big hair and bad makeup.
Did I say delusional? Well, one of my boyhood daydream involved somehow acquiring a Harrier jet and flying to the school in order to give the object of my affection a ride home (because nothing impresses a chick like a British-made attack aircraft with VTOL capabilities). Another common one involved a falling tree or an attacking dog-and me sacrificing life and limb (sometimes even dying) to save the young lass.
Maybe I can blame Jesus and early, heavy doses of Christianity for that one. (And, oddly enough, it was years later, under different circumstances that a friend of mine--Jewish no less--told me I had a martyr complex.)
Then, one day after years and years of hoping, wishing, praying, trying voodoo, young Kenny landed himself a girlfriend.
And it may have ruined him for life. Another fellow in my situation--average looking, on the short side, smartish, abrasive--may have at some point in college given up chasing the girls three stations above his, may have met a nice girl, pretty enough but obviously human and not necessarily someone all the other guys lusted after. But young Kenny, somehow, some way, ended up with (in the objective opinion of many at the time) one of the most beautiful, most talented, most intelligent girls on campus. Young Kenny would come to expect, nay demand that sort of fortune for the rest of his life. (Old Kenny will die alone and be found three days later with half of his corpse eaten by his cats.)
However it happened, I aimed for the stars and caught one. And guess what. The star turned out to be constantly in motion, something that changed over time. And if there's one thing a romantic hates is when the object of his affections refuses to remain an object, to stay on her damn pedestal where she belongs and not fuck it all up.
We were together four years. The first nine months were total bliss for me, then after that it turned into a more typical relationship...with spats, breakups, parents who hated me, etc. I was 19, she was 21 when it started. Four years and another state later, we'd both changed to such a degree that things had to end.
Of course, people thought I was out of my fucking mind. Family. Friends. Almost everyone. Many, many people would have gotten married on the basis of that relationship. But not us. Well, not me. I'd never do better, they all said. I was damning myself, they warned. Hold on to her, they shouted.
I'll take my chances, I decided. And while the very end of the ending was messy and ugly, while I probably could have gone about things a little bit more ... what's the word, compassionately ... we both survived. And she's set to be married to the man that destiny, fate, the gods or whatever, meant her to be married to. And, further confounding my friends and family, she and I (and he) are still chums. (Of course, I attribute this largely to another one of my rules, dictums or what have you: The only way you can be friends again, if it's possible at all, is with a necessary period of bile, hatred and, more important, 1,500 miles between you to prevent falling back into the cycle of on again/off again.)
By the way, I'm fully aware that this whole discussion of prior relationships violates all sorts of rules.
The second girlfriend came when I moved back to New York and somehow got involved with a former student of mine… back in Louisiana. So here we had Ken, with a girl much too young for him living in another state. Everyone knew it was the height of foolishness. But echoing my friend Jason, I can say this about it: At a time when I had barely a job and nary a penny to my name, it kept me out of trouble, kept me from blowing all my money on booze and chasing women.
Then, many years later came the third. The big M. The one that regular blog readers will know about because she's the only one I've mentioned here. (For a quick recap, you can read this
But, dear reader. Yes, there's always a but. Between Girl 2 and M., there was what I call the dating time--and what less charitable friends would call the whoring around time. I, shall we say, took advantage of the city. I had my adventures, my dalliances, my bar hookups, my friends with benefits, my coworkers. Among some people, I acquired a reputation. And, to be honest, I encouraged the reputation. You spend the bulk of your life being an overly romantic punching bag, it's nice to break out and set yourself up as a badass, as a bastard-coated bastard with a bastard center.
And quite a bit of that happened during my blogging time. But I didn't write about it. It just seems like asking for trouble. That is my own name up there after all. And I am the sort of whore for attention that lets everyone know that I have a blog. And, to quote myself from yesterday: isn't dating stressful, horrifying and undignified enough without having to worry that the next day, you have, thanks to a blogger, a newly acquired snarky code name and your every move has been graded for all the world to see? (I'm a big fan of Hillel in that regard: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.")
Also, I'm superstitious, afraid of jinxes and all that noise. The only reason I broke down and wrote about M. was because I began to think of her as a fixture. (Let's just say the superstition is now back twice as strong.) And because I was, yes, happy to have a girlfriend or something resembling a girlfriend (she wasn't a fan of the label).
Because, at the end of the day I ain't exactly built for dating or the friends with benefits or being a player. I've done it. I have my moments, sure. And there are times when I get so sick of the results of being stupidly romantic and obsessive (I have a problem with obsessive) that I do turn into a facsimile of a badass. Like most guys, I find it hard to turn down a supposedly guilt- and commitment-free roll in the sack, especially when the booze has been flowing. (Imagine being a child and being offered a free bag of candy. You'd be crazy NOT to take it. Despite all those stupid public service announcements to the contrary). But if guilt doesn't catch up to me, my ego will: "Well, if she wants to sleep with me, how could she NOT be in love with me. My god, I'm going to break this woman's heart. She'll be stalking me for the rest of my life. I can't live with that on my head." (Another topic I can ramble on about for pages.)
Anyway, this has gone on way too long for a blog post, but that provides a glimpse at what you're dealing with. Yes, I'm the typical "I want a girlfriend, but not that one" type of guy. Yes, I'll fall in love with you on the first date, but if you come climbing off the pedestal by the third or if I change my mind, I'll make like an old general and fade away. (That said, in a dating situation, I'm NOT trying to get into your pants. I'm trying to get you to become obsessed with me.) Yes, I might be sensitive today, but I'm totally self-absorbed and self-destructive tomorrow. Yes, I can be needy, cloying, cheesy, obsessive (there's that word again) and a right royal pain in the ass. And, yes, I think that guys who say "I'm not the jealous type" are completely and totally full of shit.
Yes, I'm a total hypocrite.
In other words, I'm just like the rest of you (well, except for the real badasses): neurotic, overly hopeful, and unwilling to learn the lessons that reality and every prior relationship has tried to teach you.
But I'm great at giving really good dating advice which I'd never in a million years heed myself. (I'd make a good shrink, no?)
Hopefully, future posts on this subject will be a) a lot shorter and b) a hell of a lot funnier.
And while there have been amazing advances in military aircraft technology, I'd still settle for a Harrier.
(Next post in series