Thursday, December 23, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Theory and Reality

In my last section, I was reviewing the "post relationship recovery period" and noted that there should have been some sort of mathematical equation that we could apply that would help us figure out how long it would take for we or other humans to recover from a failed relationship.

A gentleman reader, who is off at college and studying quantum physics, cjufnf (CJ, if you read this post, I've been dying to know what those initials stand for since I know your real name. Email me would you?) took my suggestion literally and, with his excellent mathematical skills, came up with a possible equation:

'y' is the recovery time in months.
'x' is the length of relationship in months.
'i' is a positive coefficient standing for the intensity of the relationship.
'p' is would be a scale representing the recoverees personality (I put the last one on based on his other comment; hope that works right)


He goes on to explain how the equation would work in theory:

If the relationship wasn't very intense at all, then 'i' is a fractional number (therefore reducing the recovery time.) If the relationship was very intense, then 'i' will increase the recovery time. Now we just need a scale for 'i'. Of course, maybe 'i' can't be a fraction at all, and the least it could be is 1? That I can't help you with seeing that I've never been in a relationship.

'p' stands for personality. Maybe normal (does that really exist?) should be 1 so that it doesn't affect the previous equation at all. That way, a normal person would recover in (i*x) months like a person should. Yay for theory! Everything works in theory! Don't know the scale for 'p' either, but once people figure out the scale for 'i' and 'p', it'll prove a most useful equation.

Okay, the challenge is up there. Let's see if anyone can come up with a scale for 'i' and a scale for 'p'. I think CJ's right and it should be in whole numbers. It's tricky enough an equation without trying to apply fractions.

For me, recovery time was about the same length of the relationship: 1.5 years. Not to say that I didn't go out and enjoy myself during that period, it's just that I had a very hard time contemplating another relationship. I had a very hard time believing anyone that told me how wonderful they thought I was and how they wanted to be with me when I had just had somebody telling me those things and more who summarily dumped me like last years fashion statement.

Ego is such a delicate thing.

As previously noted, we were hitting the new club, The American Cowboy, quite frequently and we met up with some other young women about our age. The two most outgoing were Dawn (II, there were three in my short span up there; it was a very popular name) and Mary. There were three others that hung out with them and they became our default group of women at the club.

Dawn II was short and sassy with short and sassy blonde hair, slightly rounded cheeks and a little brassy sometimes (actually, all the Dawns I met were a little brassy, I wonder if that means anything?), but an all around decent person. Mary was the more, shall we say, outgoing, of the two. Our group had defined a space in front of the DJ's booth, which was tall and enclosed with wood, and claimed it as our own. Let us say that no man was safe if he came into our area. Obliviously, some men came into our area just for that reason, but many of them were one time trespassers. Largely because we gave back to them what we'd been experiencing for sometime: leering, lewd comments, ogling (is that the same as "leering"?), wolf whistles, occasional ass slapping, requests for dances, phone numbers, etc. You name it, we were on the prowl and no halfway decent looking guy was safe (of course, there were some not so decent looking guys that came our way and we were kind enough to boost their egos as well; never can tell who's going to be who in the scheme of things).

Mary was the front runner of the group and the one most likely to slap asses and, believe it or not, get phone numbers and dates. Maybe it's easy to believe after all? We are talking about men and their perception of women. We were "the Wild Bunch". Of course, since we had staked out territory in front of the DJ's booth, it was pretty common that SOME guy was going to approach him for a song, so we never failed to have some which we could I suppose it would appropriate for me to tell you that most everyone in our group had been recently out of a relationship that did not end as we had planned.

We were crazy and wanted to prove ourselves amongst the living. Not that it meant we were ready for relationships by any means. Largely, it was about having a "good time" and going home at the end of the evening, having drank coffee and laughed at the number of men we had corraled that evening and their responses. Yes, I know that sounds a bit cruel, but it's true and probably can be said for any number of bands of girls/women, that is exactly what we talk about: men. So, gentlemen, if you see a band of girls drinking and having a good time, while you may be drawn to their witty and joyful banter, know that you will be the butt of a discussion (possibly, literally) later in the evening or the next day when the re-hashing occurs. Obviously, this past time is not the sole domain of men.

It was during this time that I met a very nice gentleman named Joe. He was a local volunteer fireman who also worked in construction. He wanted to become one of the few full time, paid firemen in his district. He was about 5'11" and maybe 190, a little more. He had played as a defensive tackle in highschool, but was only mediocre and had not been chosen for any scholarships to college for football. Thus we find him going to college part time, volunteering for fireman duty and working during the day as construction. I remember that he was cute in a teddy bear sort of way. He had round cheeks and blue eyes and light brown hair which he kept cut very short.

I met him about the six month anniversary of my recovery period. Thus, I had realized by then that my previous relationship was never coming back, but had yet to feel together enough to seek out or encourage a relationship. But, Joe was persistant. The first night he came over to ask me to dance, he said he'd been staring at me all night, but was afraid to ask because I seemed so popular and he wasn't sure if any of the men were attached to me (as several had taken to hanging out near our group; not because of me, but because we were the "in" crowd and hanging with us gave a little prestige to anyone that associated with us. We were "in" because we knew the manager, the bouncers and the DJ; how much more "in" could you get?) Of course, some of them were probably hanging out because they thought they might just have a chance to get lucky. Do you feel lucky, punk? Nope. No luck to be had there.

Of course, I assured him I had no boyfriend because, of course, I didn't. He was a mediocre dancer, but willing to learn. Being born and bred in New Jersey, two steps and triple stips were a bit out of his experience. He did know how to waltz and polka as his family was German and attended the German community festivals which always had an "oompa" band and an area for dancing. He also dressed poorly compared to our actual "cowboy" friends, but he was willing to learn. It would seem that he could be excellent new material for a relationship, but who can explain the vagaries of the heart and mind?

Cj's equation would be very helpful.

Every Saturday, when he was off duty, for almost six weeks, he'd be there and always ask me to dance. At first, adhering to the old rule of "more than two dances make you an item", I refused to dance more than twice in the evening with him. He seemed to be slightly disappointed, but did not give up. Eventually, he wore me down to accepting multiple dances in the evening and buying me cokes or an occasional Zima. I may note here that I was still playing the D&D (designated driver) on most nights out. It was actually quite fun to watch all the crazies and tell them what they did the next day.

I distinctly recall one evening, several of the girls were seven sheets to the wind and, having left the club on our way to the diner, two insisted they had to go to the bathroom and I should stop at the gas station on the corner. I did, keeping Lisa's little Escort running while we laughed and joked about the evening. I should say that it was right around Fourth of July and the station had a number of flags planted in the grassy area in front of the station. The first girl came back and got into the backseat and we waited for the second to come out of the bathroom. All of a sudden, a pair of legs came through the passenger side window and a banging on the roof, "go, go, go!" like Bo Duke trying to convince Luke to get the hell out of there before Roscoe P. Coltrain found them. Not knowing exactly what was going on and losing my general good sense, I put the car in gear and peeled out of the station while the young woman in question hooted and hollered and the follow on car with the rest of our contingent hollered back.

Eventually, I noticed something flapping beside the car and behind it over the hatchback rear window, "What the hell are you holding?" I yelled as I turned down our blasting radio.

Everyone was laughing except Lisa and I, "Kansas, oh my God, she stole one of the flags off the station lawn!"

"What? Jesus H..." I immediately began looking out for the sirens behind us or for possible bogies ahead of us, "Dammit! Are you crazy?!"

I then looked for a place to pull over. There were any number of strip malls and businesses along the road with parking lots directly beside the road. I waited until we got a sufficient distance away from the scene of the crime, quickly pulled into the lot and yelled, "Dammit! Get rid of that thing before we get stopped! Hurry up!"

"Bo Duke" slipped out of the car, ran over to the grassy area in front of the building, laughing the entire time while the car behind us hollered more encouragement, and planted the flag like an astronaut on the moon, proudly posing by it for a minute as more cars passed by and guys were yelling and whistling out the window.

"Get the hell in the car, for the love of...!" I yelled, feeling more and more paranoid as we idled there next to the evidence.

"Bo" finally made it back to the car, Lisa jumped out, she jumped in, I put the car in gear and peeled out of that parking lot, then slowed to normal speed before taking a quick turn down one of the side roads, taking the back way to the diner. Everyone was quiet for a few minutes, sensing my displeasure, but then, as we approached the diner, nervous laughter and, eventually, outright guffaws filled the car. Even me, because I couldn't believe that just happened and we didn't get arrested.

"I can't believe you just did that!" I said, laughing and trying to look stern in the rearview mirro, "Don't ever do that again!"

They laughed it up at the diner, but Kansas, ever cognizant of the possibility of jail time, admonished the group that it wasn't funny and that was waaaay too much excitement for our little group. I think it worked because nobody did it again. Of course, I insisted that everyone go to the bathroom BEFORE we left the club after that.

Joe and several of his friends began joining us at the diner. He started insisting on paying for my breakfast and I was pretty insistent that he didn't. I was still not ready to trust myself with anyone, even in the most casual of situations and I thought it was best if I didn't accept even that small indulgence from him. I didn't want to encourage him. I was just out to have a good time with my friends. He kept asking me, assuming of course, if I had a boyfriend and if that was why I was reluctant. Although I told him "no", I'm not sure he believed me, mainly because I did not feel compelled to tell him I was suffering from a broken heart and general swearing off of men right then. I didn't know him well and thought I could just keep everything on a nice, friendly "occasional dance and good laugh" level without having to divulge much personal information.

Lisa had also met somebody at the club. Jim. What can I say about Jim? I thought he was an asshole from the second I met him? Don't take offense gentlemen, my assumptions turned out to be oh so true. I recall that he was quite drunk the first time he came over and asked Lisa to dance. A slow dance so he took of his hat and jammed it on my head with a cursory, "Hold this," as he grabbed Lisa's hand and dragged her out on the floor, proceeding to stumble through the dance. I really thought he was going to be a one dance wonder. When they came back, I was holding the hat in my hand, he came over, grabbed it out of my hand, no "thank you's", just a curt, "you're bending my brim up." Then he walked back to his friend whom I had seen frequenting the club.

Well! Exccuuuuusseee me all to hell! "Lisa, who's that..guy?" I wanted to say "asshole", but I could see that Lisa had some sort of goofy look on her face already and that did not portend well.

"His name's Jim. He's a farrier." A farrier is the guy that puts the horse shoes on the horses. Recall that this club is almost right across the street from the race track. She was goofy already. Well, damn!

Jimbo, as I referred to him from there on and ever after, had a decent physic, but, as some men would want to say about some women, he would have been greatly improved if he had a bag over his head and his attitude was surgically removed. The bag over his head I surmised at our first meeting, but the attitude took two more before I had rightly determine that it would take extensive surgery to correct the problem.

"Lisa, he's got "snaggle tooth"," I put my fingers up in front of my face and wiggled them in our time honored tradition of indicating bad teeth. He did, too. One of his front teeth was broken in half, another tooth looked like it had been filed into a point and the rest of his teeth said, "bad brushing habits, too much dip or a drug habit". Possibly all three. Actually, all three I was later to discover.

"Kansas! He is not!" Riiiiight.

He had thinning reddish brown hair and a reddish brown, droopy mustache. He was tan and had deep lines grooved on either side of his cheeks and around his eyes, indicating that he spent plenty of time in the sun. If he'd been better looking, I might have likened him to the Marlboro man, but there was really no comparison. Marlboro man, even with half a lung and dying of cancer was much better looking than Jimbo.

I'm sure Lisa wouldn't agree with me, but that's the way I saw it.

He too began to join us at the diner. The only difference was that he was always broke. I do mean, always. Not just a little broke as in, "can only buy myself breakfast and not the chick I'm hitting on", but "I can't even buy my own coffee, would you mind paying?" about a million times. Okay, maybe not a million, but by time number four, I was starting to have a very bad impression. How the hell was he getting into the club and drinking with now money? Well, duh, his friend was paying his way. And Lisa was paying his way afterwards.

I couldn't help comparing him to my new found friend Joe. On one occasion, we all met before going to the club and ate at a near by restaurant. I was intending to pay for myself and had ordered steak and lobster. When the bill came, split according to the patron at the table (there were about eight of us), Joe grabbed the bill and would give it to me. I was half torn between being impressed and being annoyed. I mean, I liked Joe, but I was very concerned about "leading him on" and felt that letting him buy me an expensive dinner would have certain implications. I know he was trying to impress me, but I was still not ready for it.

On the other hand, as the bills came, I realized with the conversation between Lisa and Jim, that Jim had not come prepared to pay for his own meal, much less Lisa's and had not even had the courtesy to inform us, Lisa or order something a little less costly on the menu. I was pretty ticked off at that point. This guy was taking advantage of my friend's general good nature and generosity. Of course, she was letting him.

Joe over heard the conversation and offered to pay, taking more money out of his wallet. Lisa refused. I could see she was embarrassed. I told Lisa that I was going to the ladies' room and did she have to go? Yeah, we had a meeting in the ladies' room, be back real soon. In the bathroom, I insisted that she take the money that I had been intending to use for my meal. If she didn't, she wouldn't have enough. How else was it going to get paid?

I think, it was right at that moment that Jimbo had sealed his fate with me. I had been admonishing myself for being too judgemental on the first meeting, he was drunk after all and Lisa seemed to like him, how bad could he be? Not everyone could be making our salaries (which weren't fantastic by any means, but certainly good enough to support ourselves). Yeah, right. He was a loser with a capital "L". In my entire association with him, he was never able to change that opinion. Of course, trying to scarf on paying for dinner was not his worst offense by far. It just served as one of the first indicators of his future crap.

Hmmm...can you tell I didn't/don't like the guy? Ever?

Dinner was taken care of, but the table seemed to be a little subdued after that. Even Jason, whom I thought was the king of all losers, was outstripped by this guy. At least Jason paid for his and Tally's own meal.

Yes, Jason and Tally were there. We had gotten Tally a job at our office. She moved in with us at our apartment and Jason was able to apologize and wiggle his way back into her affections. Eventually, he and Tally got enough money to see Jason's divorce through, but every other mometn had seemed to reveal a new secret.

For instance, before the papers were finalized, Tally demanded to read them, whence she found that Jason's wife had a child which she claimed support for from Jason. As in, Jason's child. Jason insisted that the child was not his. While he was off over seas, she had gotten pregnant and surprised him when he came home being somewhere between five and six months pregnant. His deployment had been for six months with a few weeks before hand reporting to San Diego for preparation of departure. By this he presumed that it was not his child. You might know that DNA testing for offspring was not yet a regular process, but he had not even demanded a blood test. We didn't know what was true or not in that situation. We had been counciling Tally to proceed with caution, but she and Jason went and picked out an "engagement ring" anyway.

I put that word in quotes because it turns out that Tally had placed it on her credit card with assurances from Jason that he would make the payments. Uh-huh.

Who else should re-appear, but Cruz. He had found his way to the new club with a bunch of other Navy guys and was still persistant in dancing, buying drinks, whatever.

Recall my previous post about post break up popularity and pheromones. In truth, the whole thing was kind of embarrassing and had thrown me for quite a loop. While I could be as fun and outgoing as the next person in a group, man wise, I was still a novice (still am, I think, but becoming an "expert" probably isn't too good either). All of the attention was sort of scaring me. Not to mention the, "some bastard broke my heart" feelings I was still having about men and relationships in general.

It was a Friday evening and we, the wild bunch, were at our usual places by the DJ. Joe, I believed, was at a bachelor's party somewhere else. Not that we were anywhere close to being a "couple", just noting that he was not supposed to be at the club for a dancing partner that evening. Cruz asked me to dance and I was feeling my cheerios by then. Just there to have a good time. I'm with nobody. Dating nobody. I will dance and have fun with whomever I want, even the bad boy of the Navy.

After several dances, including two slow dances, he escorts me back to our designated area and offers to buy me a drink. Coke, I insisted, though he kept insisting he was not going to buy me a "coke", I should order a "real drink." "No, thank you. I'm the D&D, coke is fine." And he went off to buy it.

A few moments later, Joe walks up to the platform looking kind of morose. "Hi."

"Hi, yourself. How was the bachelor party?" I smiled at him.

He was not smiling back. At that point, Cruz walks up with my drink, "Here you go," and hands it to me without even acknowledging Joe's presence, then steps up to stand beside me, very close. Well, I'm not stupid. I know when a guy is trying to mark his territory and I was not really appreciative of it. Joe was staring at me with sort of "wounded dog" look in his eyes and then turning scowly looks towards Cruz. I was trying to put some space between me and Cruz. Not because I was necessarily afraid of giving Joe the wrong impression, but because I didn't want to give Cruz the wrong impression either. He was not the guy for me. He was way too much into changing girls every other month and I did not want to be part of that. Besides, he was in the navy, latin and, by information from Craig, part of the contingent that was about to be sent off to Norfolk, VA to ready the jets for re-instatement on the ship when it left in a few months. I was NOT doing that again.

I started feeling a little trapped between the two. I was fumbling around in my mind what I was supposed to say because both of them were acting like I was their girlfriend and the other guy was the interloper and I did not have that sort of relationship with either of them. I finally said the first thing that popped into my mind, "Joe, this is Cruz. Cruz this is Joe."

Don't know exacty what I was expecting, but both of them just sort of nodded their heads in acknowledgement and said nothing. I must have had a panicked look on my face right that moment, because Dawn II comes over and grabs Cruz by the hand, "Let's dance! Woohooo! C'mon!" and she pulled him away, all be it reluctantly.

"You wanna dance?" I said tentatively, because I really couldn't think of anything else to say.

He took my hand and led me on the floor. He had improved remarkably with a few lessons from me and we were slowly two stepping around the floor with him looking over my head for several moments, very quiet, then he said, "I thought you said you didn't have a boyfriend?"

Here we go again, "I don't." What was I supposed to say? This guy is the friend of my ex-boyfriend who is the good time charlie of the USS Constellation and just wants to have a "good time" with me? Yeah, I probably could have explained it better, but I was feeling rather put upon right that second by both guys. Neither of which, I will say again, I felt I had any understanding with.

Obviously, somebody felt differently. Maybe both "somebody's", "Then who is that guy?" He nodded towards where Cruz was circling with Dawn II and occasionally staring over our way.

"Nobody. Just a friend." I know. That sounded lame to even my ears and I was the one saying it, but dammit, it was true. At least, in my book it was.

"Like I'm your "friend"?" Now he was scowling at me.

I felt cornered right that second. I knew he was demanding something more, but I really did not consider him more than somebody I danced and had a good time and some laughter with. My heart had not been ready to offer more. We hadn't even been out on a date. Just casual meetings at the club and breakfast with at least eight to fifteen other people every time, barring that one dinner out where he insisted on paying for a meal that I was going to pay for. "Yes, I suppose. You are my friend."

We hadn't even kissed yet and I'd seen him at least ten times at the club and had breakfast with him on six occasions and one full blown dinner, previously mentioned. For some reason, I just couldn't. Not because he wasn't cute, but I just did not feel the urge to do so. As somebody once pointed out to me, if you haven't kissed by the third date, there is probably no attraction there and I think it's true. At least, not a romantic attraction.

Recently, a married couple I know, were having an argument about whether men and women could be friends without the "sex" thing getting in the way. Hubby was insisting that men felt sexual attraction first with all their women friends and then it turned into something else and the spouse was insisting that she had many male friends without that component involved. Hubby basically said, "Oh yeah? Male/Femal friendship can only occur when the guy is guaranteed not to be able to score" or something to that effect.

I had to side with the hubby on this because, my personal experience has always been that most of my male friends started out as pursuing me in one way or the other and had turned quickly into friendship once there was no chance of noogie. Spousal unit was a little indignant and asked if he meant that all of her male friends were only her friends because they wanted to sleep with her at some point and he said, "yup" and she said, "eeeww". A lot of women don't get that.

He escorted me back to my friends and then left without saying anything else. I was feeling a little bad at that moment because I wished that I could feel more for Joe. I really did. I just couldn't. I felt like I had hurt his feelings and, seriously, I might say some tough things once in awhile, but I really hated to hurt people's feelings like that.

Cruz and Dawn II walked off the floor and joined us. Cruz picked up his drink and was looking a little beligerant, "So, is that your boyfriend?"

Well, damn, "You, too? He's not my boyfriend. I don't have a boyfriend. I'm just here to dance and have a good time." Get the hint? I'm not with you either. Why can't I just have a good time?

I realized later that I could have claimed one of them as my boyfriend to the other and they would have both left me alone, but I was not particularly quick on my feet and, as I've previously noted, I'm not really that good at lying. Further, I did not want to be classified as a liar, just to get rid of two guys that I was sure I could convince to just remain friendly. Dance. Have a nice laugh or two.

What the hell did I know?

"Excuse me. I need to go to the ladies' room." Yes, the all time safe harbor of women. Run. Run away and hide before this gets really messy.

I stayed in the bathroom for at least ten, maybe fifteen minutes. The whole time, I was talking to myself. In my mind of course, I didn't want everyone to think I was crazy. But, I felt like I was going crazy. I kept going over and over in my mind, what exactly had precipitated this issue? Don't be stupid, I told myself, you knew all along that Joe had more interest in you than that. But I didn't have that for him and I was trying not to encourage it. Why can't I just be friends with these guys? What's wrong with that? I dance with them and maybe have a laugh over coffee with twenty other people around and I'm committing myself to somethin? What the hell, I guess next time I'll just say "no" and be done with it. No more guy friends. Can't have that, so "no" it is and it will save them from future disappointment and me from pacing around the bathroom talking to myself about being stupid and maybe being one of those girls that the some of the guys had indicated, a tease.

Well, shit. This socializing thing is hard. How the hell does anyone date more than one person at a time? Cheat on their significant other or spouse? I wasn't even dating either of them and I felt like shit, like I had done something wrong. Finally, I convinced myself that I was not responsible for either of these guys' feelings. I could not control them and, if they wanted to be more then friends, that was their problem. I was starting to feel righteous indignation at being put upon like that. It wasn't my fault, dammit.

I had worked myself up pretty good to go back out and start having a good time. To hell with this. I'm here to dance and that is what I'm going to do. I walked out of the bathroom and had made it about ten yards before one of Joe's friends stopped me on the other end of the dance floor from my friends, "Joe's really upset."

"I'm sorry." What the hell was I supposed to say? For about two seconds, I felt like the guy in this bizarre, twisted plot.

"Why didn't you tell him you had a boyfriend?" The guy was actually kind of cute standing there with his eyebrows drawn together. He was bout 23 to my 25 I'd say, but I felt about 90 years older.

At his question, though, all my righteous indignation at being cast as some sort of villain in this play came to the front, "For the last, damned time! I do not have a boyfriend. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. I am just here to have fun and dance. What is so hard for anyone to understand? I don't have one and don't plan to have one anytime soon. I didn't lie to Joe or anyone else. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my friends."

I stepped around him and went back to where the girls were standing. The evening had been ruined for me. To make matters worse, Lisa and Snaggle Tooth were being all gushy and kissing each other in the way that people who are mildly drunk might do in public. I knew he'd be coming home with us for the second weekend in a row and I was not looking forward to it at all. He was a slob, inconsiderate and never hesitated to try and push my buttons.

Several of the other girls were making noises about long days at work, so I started pushing snaggle tooth and Lisa towards the door. Snaggle tooth was insisting I was ruining their evening. It was a vigorous love/hate/hate thing. I convinced Lisa that it was time to go and we did.

Who knew that the dating world and the recovering world would collide and cause sparks to fly? Maybe I should have seen it coming? We don't live in a sterile world and we don't gown ourselves in veils from head to toe when we mourn lost relationships. There are no subtle signs to the opposite sex that will tell them to back off or come closer. The best bet is just to come clean over the situation. It will eventually work itself out.

When I got home that night, I lay down in my big, creeky iron bedstead and was still going over it in y mind. How do I know if I'm going to be in love again? Who, what when and where? It doesn't feel like "now". I still wanted no part of relationships, but I did want to go out and have a good time.

Was that so much to ask?

Oh, what's love got to do, got to do with it

What's love but a second hand emotion

What's love got to do, got to do with it

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken
-Tina Turner

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