Tag Archives: dating

Cringe-worthy

This was a long time ago. I was dating a guy who was several years younger than me. How many is up for debate; he was self-dramatizing and a chronic liar and I suspected he was younger than he said (I’d seen his i.d. and he had a convoluted explanation as to the discrepancy). Of course this makes him sound bad, as it should, but he was also smart, funny, and up for fun – which I enjoyed. Initially anyway, he seemed to be a kind, generous soul. Still, he was very young and had a lot of growing up to do. This was wildly demonstrated in one particular incident.

I had driven him back home to his apartment complex to drop him off. We were idling in the parking lot and having a mundane – i.e., about nothing all that important – dispute. He was acting badly and initially refused to get out of the car. I was ticked but held my temper while gripping the steering wheel. Eventually he did get out of the passenger seat. Wisely, I locked the doors because he began to throw a tantrum outside the car and attempted to open the door again. As I drove away this scene culminated, to my horror, with the sight of him in my rear view window throwing himself dramatically and bodily down onto the pavement in a fit.

It’s almost funny now. But I still cringe.

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Short Thought 153 (bells & whistles)

I dated a man who I concluded needed about half of what I was. Sort of like buying a phone or a computer or other major appliance with lots of bells and whistles you’ll never use. Better to get a more basic version.

Waiting for people to “change”

Going way back in my life, I remember waiting for people to change. Not usually arbitrary change. More typically it was change they told me they WANTED to make, were GOING to make, and so on. I was all ears. Great! They see the problem and they want to remedy it. They want to improve this issue. Make themselves better and — in either some or many instances — help our relationship in the doing.

It started, as many things do in childhood when my mother was always talking about “things changing.” The situation in our house wasn’t good, god knows, and there was plenty of room for improvement. She talked a good game. I believed her. I had a vision for a much better life myself. It was within reach, not the stuff of fluff and fantasy. We could do this as a family. Do I need to tell you nothing, ever, ever changed? Unless you count getting worse as change. No, I didn’t think so.

As I grew older and had relationships, I took this trait with me. Not to a one, but I came across my share of people who talked about change. Changing themselves. As I’d been with my mother, I was a gung ho cheerleader and sidekick. Things can be better! Won’t things be great WHEN…[insert “X”] happens. In my own way, much as it chagrins me, I was a True Believer. (I hesitate on that because I take a rather dim view of True Believers. When I say someone is one, I don’t typically mean “isn’t that a grand way to be.” No. It’s a way of explaining someone’s dogged pursuit. A single-minded vision that tends to overlook or block out anything that doesn’t really fit the picture. Cheerleading over iffy causes.)

Anyway, I know I was a key part of this dynamic. When people – some of them – became involved in relationships with me, started interacting with me, listening to my ideas and philosophies, they often started talking about “changing.” Again, I was all for it! This changing was invariably about eliminating a negative trait or behavior and improving themselves or their life in a meaningful way. Why, the solution was just around the bend! Things will sure be great when they – and by design, we – get there.

I must have been, consciously or not, directly or not, eliciting this response (to me). Which isn’t to necessarily say the people I’ve known weren’t ALSO talking to other people about changing, etcetera – I don’t know for certain – but I have to conclude I somehow prompted it in relating to me. It may have been a way to get or hold my attention. Sometimes people wanted my approval – telling me what they thought sounded good – which I saw or see only in retrospect.

Wanting people to improve themselves and/or to be happier, isn’t inherently a bad thing. So it’s not like a malicious intent. But misguided? Yes. It’s absolutely useless if the other person doesn’t genuinely want that – whatever “that” is in a particular instance – for themselves; if the idea doesn’t spring from something deep inside them. It’s not worth spit if you – i.e., *I* – am the only one really interested in the subject. If I’m the one propelling it, even indirectly.

It took me a long time to realize the above. That is, anything that’s going to have legs and last must be self-initiated. It’s all well and good (for me) to talk to other people, to introduce ideas, if only by example, but waiting for other people to change is a fool’s errand. Counting on it is a ticket to ride the Misery Moped – a comrade of the Bitter Bus – which you will ride alone.

My realization wasn’t sudden. It took years and evolved. I took all the maxims about the only changes that can be made are the ones you make for yourself, to heart. It wasn’t just about “them.” I took more of the energy I poured into other people and directed it my way. I became more conscious of how I affected people. My antennae went up whenever a person I knew or was getting to know started talking about “changing,” all the more so if it linked right back to me somehow.

Maybe a relatively benign story will help. I was seeing a man years back when I was becoming more conscious of this trait in myself (and wanting to CHANGE it). He was very smart, dry-humored, trustworthy. A basically good, if needy, man. However, decidedly into middle age, he wasn’t someone who took care of himself. He led a sedentary lifestyle, didn’t eat especially well, and was overweight. A big guy, not obese, but packing pounds. I, on the other hand, have for a long time, placed good health – exercise and eating right – at the front of my lifestyle.

His physical condition played a part in what we might do together – we certainly weren’t going for a run or rock climbing – but I never said a word to him about his weight or his eating habits. I didn’t talk about eating better or exercising more. It was a new day: I took him as I found him. I went on the idea that he was the way I saw him and anything I thought or decided in terms of our relationship would spring from that base.

Soon into our relationship though, he started talking about his weight. He volunteered that he’d lost a pound or two the previous week. (I don’t remember exactly what he attributed it to but it was an unreliable thing, not a lifestyle or philosophy change.) He made a point of announcing that if he kept up at this pace, he’d have lost 30 – or maybe it was 50 – pounds in such-and-so many weeks. Although I’d actively done nothing to incite it – other than to show up – I sensed that this talk was for my benefit.

That was confirmed in a follow-up conversation where he accused me of not being sufficiently encouraging of his weight loss plan. If I know me – and I think I do – I probably explained about the weight loss idea not really seeming like a goal of his and further, that I’d never said anything to him about his weight, so although it was presented as an offering of sorts, he wasn’t doing it for “me.” (I am reminded here of another man, who, soon after meeting me, announced he was going to “start working out.” I heard that proclamation from him a few more times until it dried up and was said no more.) And just to wrap up the story – so long as I knew him he never lost any weight or changed anything about his diet or lifestyle. And if he ever did after that, I surely don’t believe it would have anything to do with me.

I’d finally gotten it. The people I know and meet are usually in the vicinity of middle-age. I’ve stopped approaching people on the premise they will or may change. I assume they WON’T. This feels healthier and smarter. I don’t even want to hear talk about changing and I’m skeptical of it if I do. If someone changes, I’ll see it. In fact, the less talk – if it’s for my theoretical benefit – the better.

“Watch yourself”

He was a middle-aged man. We had not spent much time together. Now we were outside walking through an overgrown area where plants blocked the path. He walked in front of me and as he passed various shrubbery and branches, instead of holding them aside or saying, “Watch yourself” or some such, he let the branches and stems fling back and hit me. Once I realized it, I slowed my gait and fell behind slightly so that the branches stilled before I reached them and I could easily move them aside for myself.

This small action on his part spoke volumes to me. He was not doing it on purpose – trying to make foliage hit me the way someone might do if they were trying to be either playful or rude – as much as he was oblivious to what he was doing. He wasn’t thinking about me, the woman walking behind him at all. I instinctively knew he’d had no one teach him the little niceties of interacting – or he’d had no interest in learning – and I further knew I wasn’t going to be the one to do it now. There were already too many other things about which I had deep reservations.

Things Men Have Said To Me #17

We’d recently starting seeing each other but things had moved quickly in the relationship. Although young, he was an attorney as well as a volunteer firefighter.

HIM (informing): “My job comes first and the fire department comes second.”

(I had a pretty good idea his Mama was third in line; my number wasn’t looking promising.)

Short Thought 102 (drinking)

He drank whenever we went out. He offered, after the issue came up, that he would limit his drinks to three. I remember thinking that was a good and fair concession. I’d like to go back and have a talk with that woman.

Things Men Have Said To Me (#13)

We’d recently met. I was in my early thirties; he was a shade younger. He was a Captain in the Army; I worked part-time. I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for a sandwich shop near him so we met there for lunch. After we’d eaten and the bill came, I split the cost in half and told him his share.

HIM (seeming confused): “But mine should be the free sandwich.”

I looked to see if he was joking. I’d driven to meet him and brought a coupon that essentially gave us each a half-price sandwich and he now didn’t think he should pay anything. He wasn’t joking.

ME (explaining politely): “To be fair, we should each pay half of the price of one sandwich so we both get the discount.”

He reluctantly handed me the few bills. I could tell from his face he still thought he was somehow being cheated.