There have been times in my life when I’ve blamed myself for not taking enough initiative. That was particularly true back when I was dating in my teens and early 20s. My foibles with women were as comic as any Rom-Com romance flick.
It didn’t exactly help that I was virtually a human scarecrow at the time. I stood 6′ 1.5″ and weighed 140 lbs. Not exactly the physique to which many women are attracted. At least not women in bars. That’s where much of the so-called “dating” scene took place once one got into college.
Teen years, lean years
Those teen years were not all lean years for me when it came to dating. But not growing up with sisters did hamper my ability to understand women from the perspective that they had insecurities and problems just like me. I saw them all as near-perfect creatures who knew so much more about the world than did I.
Then at reunions and such I’d find out that ‘this girl’ or ‘that girl’ actually liked me for some period during high school. They were often girls that I dearly would have liked to date. But when you miss those signals through the fog of your own delusions, girls don’t wait around. They look for someone more astute and receptive.
I also learned that a particularly quiet girl purposely worked at the long jump pit during track meets because she liked the view of men’s legs and could see up their shorts. And in college I was standing at the jukebox one night when some plain yet mysterious woman slipped her hand along the machine to graze my crotch. What guy would not know those direct shows of interest?
Initiative, dude. Show some.
Ultimately I woke up a little. Which is how I came to follow a sleek female form running up the lakefront in Chicago. When I caught up, I asked her for a date and she said “Sure.” So we met for drinks and went dancing on Rush Street. It turned out she knew every bouncer on the strip. She was, as they say, “Out of my league.” But she was a dancer with a nice butt who wore a shirt that showed off her amazing abs, which she flexed for me. She was ahead of her time in that regard, for sure.
But that urgent date didn’t lead to anything. At least I’d worked up the courage to try. Then I noticed another fine female form at a track practice held each week at the downtown Northwestern campus. She was an excellent runner, turning out 400 meter intervals at 6:00 mile pace. I was 24 years old and fit as heck at the peak of my running career. So I trailed her around practice and plotted ways to cross paths with her when it the track session over. I was on the prowl.
We talked a little about her running, and then I asked her to give me a ride home. Never mind that my own car was parked about three vehicles back from hers. I was on the prowl. My white lie ploy worked.
She drove me home in her Subaru. From that point on we were dating. Now grant you, I had a girlfriend living out in the suburbs at the time. In fact, she was the woman I would one day marry. So this is a confession that I was not entirely ethical in my pursuits. I was living in the City of Chicago with a best friend and we were rousting about having fun like twenty-somethings do, and probably should.
Break a leg girl
The relationship with that runner girl lasted several months. As we trained together I noticed one day that she was limping. Upon asking her why, I learned she had pain below her knee. I set her up with a doctor I knew and the sore lower knee turned out to be a stress fracture. I advised that she should quit running and let it heal. But she was a determined young woman who loved to run, and one day at the track she was completing an interval when we all heard an audible “crack!” It was the bone in her leg breaking. For sure. Ouch.
So she was an intense character, that runner girl, with one brown eye and one blue. I always thought she was a bit binary in some respects. And I’m not sure she was entirely faithful to me, as she had quite a bit of drive in appetites and the means to indulge them. She made $90K a year back then.
So it was one of those urban balancing acts in which two people swirl around each other like satellites sending signals that aren’t entirely clear. But I’ll raise one to her. She abided me for a while.
Then one Saturday morning, my girlfriend from the suburbs was heading into the city to meet up with me for a weekend. Admittedly, I’d been out dancing with the downtown woman late that Friday night. So I was still feeling a bit hazy when I pulled up to the train station. To cover my tracks the night before, I’d told my suburban girlfriend that I was going out that evening with a guy named Larry. I don’t know why I chose him. I just did.
When my suburban girlfriend climbed into the car she immediately asked, “How was your night out with Larry?”
I started to tell her some tale about going out to the bars with Larry, and such and she said, “That’s funny. I rode the train in with Larry this morning.”
From that point forward I broke off the downtown relationship and turned full attention to the woman that I’d marry a year later. But when I told the downtown sweetheart (and she was at that) we were breaking it off, she literally punched me in the arm as I confessed that I had another girlfriend. “I knew it,” she hissed.
It actually broke my heart to lose the relationship with her. Back then I abided in the belief that it was entirely possible to be in love with two people at once. It’s especially true when living in separate worlds. Perhaps there’s a time and a place for that.
And then there are situations when the purity of the moment is made from the absence of time (Ambiguous Adventure).
I was once visited by a former co-worker with whom I’d been quite close. We never dated because she had a full-time boyfriend. But when I was living alone in the Philadelphia area she arrived on business and we consummated our friendship after a night consuming Rolling Rocks. Because that’s what real friends do? Not exactly. But I loved her, and I know that she loved me. And that was that.
Life goes on
AS life goes on, the foundations of relationship evolve. And I do abide in the fact that once the real commitment is made to the person you love, those “on the prowl” instincts should be directed solely at person you love. That’s how I live my life and always will.
Yet I’ve encountered so many people over the years that have not abided that, and the costs are typically dear. There are also people I have known, or read about, who absolutely choose to flaunt their “on the prowl” instincts as a sign of their worldly prowess.
Those of us that learned the difference, through experience, between casual and real commitment find it hard to respect those whose extra-marital dalliances dominate their worldview, and who thumb their nose at the social contracts the rest of us do abide. Unfortunately the people with the most “drive” in life often can’t seem to stay (or play) between the lines.
The lists are long, and filled with characters both admirable and sordid. They include the likes of JFK..and Franklin Roosevelt. But also… Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bill Clinton. Then there are the New Age cheaters and misogynists, the brutes and harassers ranging from Harvey Weinstein to Bill O’Reilly. From Anthony Weiner to Donald Trump. And of course there is a whole host of others in between. All cheaters and flaunters. Mostly men.
Does it kill the quality of their contributions to the world if they screwed around, and did not abide in fidelity? Well, that depends. The real question there is simple: Who have they harmed along the way? And are they still harming people to this day, and willingly? In that we should not abide.
We’ll always have powerful politicians and religious leaders and others who screw around and think they’ll never get caught. It’s the ones who do, and don’t even care, or those who do, and refuse to admit it that are a danger to society. It’s even worse when institutions or political parties turn their cheeks in the name of maintaining power.
In those people, even Jesus did not abide.
The bulk of us aren’t naive to the fact that people make romantic, sexual and emotional choices that don’t always fit between the white lines on the road map of love. Affairs are the tarsnakes of the heart, and darkness sometimes rules those souls.
It’s the people who claim to be better than the rest of us, or who espouse high character only to be exposed as frauds that are the real shams in this world. In those people I will never choose to abide. In fact, I’ll gladly resist them on all fronts, because they have refused to acknowledge the realities of their deceptions. We all face crossroads in life. Some take the low road yet claim it as a sign of virtuous character and bold nature.
But many of us know better, and have abided the differences as sound choices in life, and are better for it.