As I write these stories, I am amazed at how dumb I was in my 20s. And 30s. What causes someone to act so self destructively? Was my desperation for male attention because I had not been invited to one single dance in high school except the time that Miles from chemistry asked me to the ROTC dance? I tried to think of a nice way to say no, because as much as I wanted to go to a dance, I didn't want to go with Miles. He ranked lower on the social scale than I, so it would be better not to go at all than to go with him and have my status diminished. As I was thinking, my friend Jackie, who was standing next to me when Miles asked, which, in retrospect, showed great courage on his part, laughed at him, which added insult to injury.
Or was it just the general insecurity of someone who is uncertain about her place in the world and has had her position as the Smart One yanked away as soon as she got to college with some real competition (which wouldn't have been so bad if I had 1. gone to every single class, 2. worn my glasses in class because if you can't see the teacher taking the derivative or showing how hydrogen bonds to - other things, it doesn't matter if you can hear him, and 3. asked the professor for help like my dad kept telling me to do), and then had her ego double-dog-slammed by her sister, the Pretty One who knows how to accessorize and put on makeup but who also ended up being pretty darn smart, too? It did not help at all for the Pretty One to come to the Smart One's workplace one day and have the Smart One's male coworkers drooling at the sight of the Pretty One.
"Your sister oozes sensuality," one coworker said.
"You and your sister are so different!" the other coworker said.
Anyhow. Every time I think I am running out of Men and How I Was Stupid With Them stories (aka "My Life in Bad Decisions"), I think of another one.
This story takes place in Austin, where I lived for my mid-20s, back when it was a great place to live and the traffic hadn't gotten awful and you could drive around Highway 360 and all you saw were fields and hills. No buildings. No crowding. Chili's, Whole Foods, and the Black-Eyed Pea had not yet become national chains. They were just little Texas places just for us Texans.
My friends Nathan and Tina* worked for a guy named Stan. Stan was older. Mid 30s. So dangerous. You know me. I liked to live on the edge.
I had met Stan a couple of times at Friday happy hours with Nathan and Tina. I had always thought he was attractive, but he had a girlfriend. Then they broke up, which was probably the right thing to do. He told me that they were in couples counseling.
If you are just dating and have to see a counselor, that is a sign to break up. That much stress in a relationship means you are not meant to be. Move on. That's why you date and evaluate many options. To find someone who doesn't push all your crazy buttons.** You'll never find someone who is perfect, but you'll eventually find the right kind of imperfect.
A friend saw a counselor with his girlfriend. She was beautiful, as all his girlfriends were. But she was a leetle bit crazy: she was in law school and taught many aerobics classes a week. That exercise probably helped her keep her lovely figure, but even more figure preserving was her refusal to eat anything good. The friend took the girlfriend out to eat with his parents. GF ordered shrimp. She did not know they were fried. When the shrimp arrived, she pitched a little fit about how she couldn't eat anything fried!
As she was pitching her fit, my friend's dad, who is a super nice, mellow guy, just like my friend, carefully took a shrimp, scraped all the breading off it and handed it to her. "Is that OK?" he asked.
I think the relationship ended shortly after that.
Stan's breaking up with his girlfriend coincided with his quitting his job to attend graduate school. He had moved away. He was back in town for his spring break and I saw him when I joined Nathan and Tina at a bar.
Somehow, we ended up necking in his car in the parking garage.
Oh yes. Nothing but the classiest of behavior from me.
He left for Houston the next morning, but called me that evening. Could he come back to Austin to see me?
Well sure. I was flattered. But where, I asked him, will you stay?
With you, of course! he told me.
I was not happy with that idea. I want to go back to my 23 year old self and slap myself silly, saying, "No! Do not let him stay with you! It's all wrong. He's being too pushy. He should respect your 'no.' This cannot end well."
But I didn't resist. I tried, but he wore me down. And no, it's not like he couldn't have found somewhere else to sleep. He'd lived in Austin fo 18 years. He had friends.
But I was an eediot.
I told him he could stay.
"But you're sleepingon the couch," I told him sternly.
* Tina later married my college boyfriend, to whom I had been engaged. She was one of my college roommates. I will have to tell you that story sometime. They are both nice people and I hope they are happy.
** You have enough of that to look forward to with your in-laws.