Tag Archives: advice

Older guys

A post I wrote recently got me to thinking about older men, specifically older ones I encountered when I was still quite young. As a teen, I thought guys out of high school and beyond were intimidating. Why, they looked like grownups. Even factoring in that guys that age back then would likely have been more mature than their present-day counterparts (not a swipe at younger guys today but a reflection on the fact that 20’s then is like thirties now and so on, given increased life span, each stage taking longer, etc.), the idea that they were really so worldly or grownup is laughable.

One summer when I was 15ish, a guy 3 years older, who had a reputation as a flirt decided to bestow his attentions on me one afternoon at the public swimming pool. It amounted to holding me in is arms in the water, tossing me around, and so forth for a long time. Playful, not icky or pushy, if a bit too much considering we had no prior relationship. I was flattered as hell. An older boy focusing on me. I remember he walked me home and that was that (although 3 years later, after I’d graduated high school, the two of us did have a serious, memorable, if fairly brief relationship).

In high school, I rode a bus to and from school. One of our drivers was an attractive, mustachioed guy in his twenties. After school let out, a bunch of buses followed one another down the main drag leading away from the building. One day a girl I didn’t know, sitting at the back of the bus ahead of ours began flirting wildly with our driver, blowing kisses and more. She really went for it, to a degree that pretty much shocked me at the time, particularly because she was so brazen and in full view of everybody on our bus. With the distraction, it’s a wonder our driver didn’t careen his busload of high school kids off the road. In retrospect, maybe this girl felt brave because she was at a safe distance from our driver. I really don’t know. The incident made quite the impression on me, though, because I couldn’t imagine coming on like that with a guy clearly out of high school, clearly older.

I did meet an older guy at a dance but the circumstances were different. Through older siblings, I knew a member of a band that was going to perform at a dance at my high school. I may have even had a small part in the arrangements because beforehand I talked on the phone with another band member who I did not know. We seemed to have a friendly rapport. At any rate, we met in person, if briefly, at the dance. I remember having a good time and enjoying the band.

Apparently though, it was another girl who caught the band guy’s attention that night. One of those high school girls who seems older than high school if you know what I mean (I was not such a girl). She was very pretty, popular, and acted like she was 25 or so. I learned about this after the fact when talking on the phone with band guy. He seemed to want my advice and I liked the attention. I wasn’t used to that from an older guy, being treated as an equal. He hadn’t gotten the girl’s information, however, and needed me as a conduit. His thought was that I should approach the girl at school and get her phone number for him (since he couldn’t go waltzing into the high school looking for her). I wanted to help but no way was I going to walk up to a strange girl and request her phone number. Without telling him first, I found her in a group of friends and instead gave her HIS phone number, saying he wants you to have this. Guess it worked out, because I stopped hearing from band guy and later heard the two married.

I knew I turned a corner, when, after graduating from high school, I and two older sisters went to a party hosted by people one of them knew. My sister was forever scouting about for an eligible man to date and this time was no different. There was one particular guy that was attractive and charming with us all. He commented that I seemed especially young – and in that group, I was – but when there was a lull outside and we momentarily found ourselves alone, it was me he kissed. Maybe I should have kept my yap shut later when we girls rehashed the party and my man-hunting sister claimed this particular guy was interested in her. But I didn’t. I set her straight. I never saw the guy again, but the barrier was crossed; older guys were starting to look different to me now.

What’s size got to do with it?

The world of a little girl is a scary one, whether she knows it or not. Too often young girls are (the ones) preyed on inside their homes and out. I am glad that, no matter how un-delightful my childhood was, I was for the most part, left physically unscathed. Given the odds of a girl being physically or sexually abused, that is saying something.

I was raised to believe the world was a dangerous place, but it was all very vague; shadow monsters, not much I could hang my hat on. Even so, no one taught me how to defend myself, physically or with my wits. The minimal advice my parents gave me, when I spoke of being bullied or otherwise having problems with other kids, had little to do with my life. (Oh geez, I wish I could remember who said – Margaret Atwood? – that children look little and unthreatening to adults but to other children, they are life-size. Or words to that effect.)

There was one time when I was in grade school that my mother took us aside and rather seriously said if we ever saw anyone watching us playing in our large back yard, we should come tell her. Much later I learned that a man had exposed himself to a female classmate in the woods behind our house, hence the obscure warning. Imagining that incident bothered me for years. It still does. Had I been the child victim, I would not have known what to do or how to react.

Not too surprisingly, big men scared me. It was their sheer size, the booming voices, the brash manner. That’s all it took. A tiny thing before adolescence, I shrank easily. I’m told I was frightened of the captain on a ferry boat ride we took as a family when I was probably 3 or 4. I don’t remember this at all. The uniform – there must have been a uniform – probably was a factor. (I’m not saying I was afraid of uniforms, just that a uniform likely added to the intimidation factor. Like fire men, police men, soldiers.)

Although there were myriad unpleasant incidents, I never was beat up by other kids. I do remember a particular time at the local swimming pool, a girl and her friend said they were going to beat me up when I left the pool. I was so scared. I didn’t even know what it meant. Thankfully, they didn’t follow through. In separate incidents, a boy punched me in the stomach once and another snipped off a piece of my hair, both inexplicably and with no context. A pack of older girls once dragged me around the school yard. (Aren’t children swell?)

My sister (closest in age) and I tussled occasionally, but nothing all that serious. We would have caught holy hell if we bruised or bloodied each other. And neither one of us knew squat about how to fight. (My sister would tell you we fought each other with wooden ping pong paddles but I will tell you that once and only once, we aimlessly swatted the things at each other, not even making bodily contact.) It would never have even occurred to me to pull someone’s hair (which apparently is a quite popular pastime for females of all ages).

When I was older, I observed retrospectively that most of the men I’d dated or had relationships with were typically just a bit larger than I was in size, i.e., not big men. However, that turned. I think it had something to do with me and the surety I felt within myself. I’d become a (fairly) decent judge of character and size alone wasn’t going to be an intimidation factor (consciously or not). As a grown woman, I had a relationship with a man who was 6’6″ and pushing 300 pounds. He had dark hair and a beard and struck a very imposing figure. (Naturally he rode a motorcycle too.) However, I never felt physically threatened by this man. Whatever my issues were with him (why I stopped seeing him), they were utterly unrelated to his size.

What’s very interesting to me is that the men who have physically threatened me or tried to or intimated they might, were smaller men, again men a bit larger than me (and one smaller). I can think of three specific people, none of which cut an imposing figure. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it’s given me something to think about over the years. It does seem there is little correlation between size and threat, which is not to say there aren’t lots of men who use their superior size to intimidate the women in their lives. Rather, my larger point is that there isn’t a direct cause and effect between a man’s physical size and what goes on in his psyche in terms of women.

Short Thought 58 (growing up)

I was raised to live in somebody else’s generation. Whose, I’m not sure. My mother told my older sisters they should take secretarial courses to have “something to fall back on.” (Those too young to know what that means, it’s if a girl doesn’t find herself a man fixin’ to marry her, she’ll have a handy skill for income. That’s IF. Yeah, I know.) My own future was never mentioned. When I was older I told a man I was seeing how I missed hearing that particular tidbit of advice. He helpfully suggested that maybe I was outside playing that day. Ha. Funny man.

Giving good relationship advice (and taking it myself)

(Many years back, a woman friend of mine was having problems dealing with a guy. I wrote the following to her in a letter. I saved not the whole letter, but just this part.)

A further thought: It seems to me that once a person knows they’re being manipulated, or knows the other person does not accept the underlying nature of the relationship (or very significant points of it) or knows the other person is misrepresenting themselves, then that [original] person becomes responsible for anything that happens after that. I’d take it a step further by saying that total responsibility would include very thorough “screening” before getting too involved; i.e., really knowing yourself and stacking up the odds in such a way that you are very unlikely to even start involvements with people who will manipulate you, or not accept the nature of the relationship, or misrepresent themselves. This doesn’t mean all the scumbags are off hook — they’re still scumbags, but I just think it’s so important to take the focus off the other party; happiness demands it for one. (I speak not just of you, but from on-going experience; I really want to get this right in my own life.)

As I said, I wrote this quite a long time ago. There’s no date but probably a dozen years back. I know I was on to something, but it isn’t as if I took my own advice. Not for a long time. There are things I don’t learn in a week, or month, or even a year, but over chunks of time. My point to my friend was that she needed to take responsibility for at least some of the problems she was having with this other person. I think we women let ourselves off the hook, maybe prematurely, on occasion, because we figure once we’ve made our feelings clear on a matter with a man, our work is done. But it isn’t – not if the information we’re getting back tells us he is disregarding our words or feelings, or is being deceptive, manipulative, etcetera. It’s easier to blame them. But once you know something about somebody, you can’t unknow it.

I’m reminded of how often (really often) Judge Judy calls women out on this very point. She has no patience for women who return to the bed of a man who has hit them, or give more money to a man who never repaid them for past loans, for oft-cited examples. I’m not talking about either of those two particular situations, but the concept generally. If you know it, it’s yours now. There’s no one to truly blame other than yourself from that point forward. Many women resist this idea. They want to talk about the man who’s done them wrong. And done them wrong again. And done them wrong yet again.

I’m using women as my reference point because I am one, and the friend I wrote the above quote to was one, but the real underlying concept is not gender-specific. Man or woman, you’re an innocent party unless and until you are not. I think people hang on after they have all the information they need to cut loose because they’re getting something they’re reluctant to lose (me included). But if you’re “getting” something from someone who is manipulating you or misrepresenting themselves, or not truly accepting the relationship as it is, what are you really getting? It’s taken awhile, but I believe I now live the words I wrote to my friend. There’s a price for that, but I find that few sound, hard-won practices come without one. It’s worth it, to me.

Lifeguard to the “rescue”

When I was a teenager, my first real job was lifeguard. Becoming certified wasn’t an easy process. There was a lot of detailed information to learn and I took it all seriously and at face value. Which isn’t to say I was totally confident with it all.

One of the concerns in rescuing someone at risk in water is that in their panic, the person may fight with you and endanger both your lives. A thrashing, terrified person might attempt to climb up on top of your head, which really isn’t going to bode well for the rescue attempt. One of the “rescues” we were taught was to swim toward the person and dive underwater before reaching them so as to more or less “sneak” up from below and behind. The idea was to gain physical control first, giving the terrified individual less opportunity to attack or imperil you.

Can I tell you this particular rescue made me nervous? We practiced it on each other in class and it was quite difficult, especially when my “drowning” person (who was actually my best friend) decided to get into her role and give me a real challenge. Swimming underwater for a distance before trying to subdue and rescue a flailing, attacking person was exhausting.

I talked over my concerns with my then brother-in-law, who was very smart and straightforward, someone known for sound advice. He’d also lifeguarded when he was younger. A few of his ideas had definitely not been in the manuals I studied. To wit, he said his plan, should he have needed it in the scenario I’ve described, was to let the person in the water “tire themselves out” before he’d go in for the rescue. I, the girl who wanted to do everything right was a bit shocked! Still, I could see his point, however unorthodox.

Though in my three seasons of lifeguarding, I did pluck a few people out of swimming pools, I never needed that specific rescue. In retrospect, I imagine such an involved procedure was intended for different conditions, probably not recreational swimming at a pool.

Now, it is interesting to consider my former brother-in-law‘s words in relation to people on dry land. Over a lifetime, it isn’t unusual to come across people in need of “rescue”. I’ve had a long history of diving right in when I see someone in trouble. And what frequently happens? Just like the in-water scenario, the at-risk person fights me and in essence tries to climb up on top of my head, taking us both down. Not surprisingly, it too is exhausting. Maybe it IS better to wait off to side and let the person thrash around awhile and “tire themselves out” before putting yourself at risk. Until, if ever, they’re more receptive to help and your energies aren’t mostly consumed in fighting them.