Friday, July 9, 2010

In which I develop a crush on a guy who makes porn movies

After a year and a half of excruciating job search post Peace Corps, I finally got an offer from a large company in Miami that was really a corporate finance/mergers and acquisitions sweatshop but I didn't know that and even if I had known, I would have taken the job anyhow because I needed to be employed with dental and a pension. Beggars can't be choosers. I was tired of looking. I was tired of temp work and being told how to send a fax.

Head secretary: You need to wait for the FAX CONFIRMATION NOTICE.

Me the Temp: Yes, I know.

HS: And if the FAX CONFIRMATION NOTICE IS 'YES,' then you know it went through. Otherwise, you have to re-send.

[Repeat simple instructions like this at least twice more with me impatiently saying, "I know, I know."]

Me: You must be used to working with really stupid people. [Oh yes I said that.]

I don't know if recruiters thought I was going to come to work swinging on a vine, wearing dreadlocks and Birkenstocks and singing Kum Bay Yah, but that is not me. I took high heels and suits with me to Chile. Yes, I had to send them back to the US once I realized that I would be traipsing through the mud pretty frequently, but I was not the stereotypical Peace Corps volunteer and I have yet to meet someone who fits that stereotype, so really, it shouldn't even be a stereotype.*

Anyhow. I moved to Miami and made no friends at first. The other singletons at work were pretty much all Florida State and University of Florida grads who were still into being Florida State and U of Florida grads. Being a University of Texas grad, I had no interest in mere Florida alums. We did not have much in common.

One Friday night, I returned home after another long day working for The Man in the Sweatshop that had over 100% turnover in my year there, so it's not just me whining here. Nobody liked working from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The light on my answering was blinking. Yay! Someone had left a message for me to meet at happy hour! Finally, they wanted to be my friend!

It was a sales pitch from a septic tank company.

Fools. I rented. Why would I want to build a septic tank?

There was this guy. Mark. He had a wicked dry sense of humor and seemed fairly intelligent. And he was nice looking, in a rugged, broken nose way.

I liked him.

I tried to flirt with him.

He didn't flirt back, but he would have actual conversations with me. We would goof off for ten or 15 minutes a day, just chewing the fat.

I kept waiting for him to ask me out.

He didn't.

He did, bless his heart, express his condolences after my dad died (two months after I started the job). When I burst into tears after he told me he was sorry for my loss, he backed out of my office, apologizing that he hadn't meant to remind me of the sadness. But at least he had the guts to say something. Most people didn't, even though everyone in my group knew why I had been gone for two weeks. My VP said something in passing, asking, "Oh. Were you and your dad close?" when I got a bit emotional.

Yeah. We were close. That's why I was upset that he JUST DIED. Sheesh. Are there people who laugh off a father's death?

This was the same VP who didn't understand why I thought it was inappropriate for a manager in another group to take his team, which included two women, to Hooter's for a meeting.

"They have good wings," he shrugged.

I asked him how would like it if his seven year old daughter would someday work there.

The blood drained from his face. He got it.

Back to Mark.

We would talk. We would laugh. I silently willed him to ask me out. But no.

Then. He said, "I'm having a New Year's Eve party. Want to come?"

Omigosh. What to wear? I was so excited. Jeans and a shapeless gray sweater that flattered me in no way whatsoever! That's the ticket!

I arrived at his apartment, which was in a high rise overlooking the bay. Very nice. There was a woman - not the kind I am, but the kind with long painted fingernails and long tousled hair and long legs wearing high heels with her tight, dark blue jeans - standing next to him.

"This is Tanya. We date," he announced.

As my heart was falling to my knees, he introduced me to a man who looked like him. "This is my brother, Tom."

Oh. The brother who used to be a priest and had left the priesthood? (Mark had told me the story.) Well, that's just the kind of man I wanted to meet.

I left the party early. Mark was upset that I wasn't more interested in Tom. "I don't introduce every woman to him, you know. I wouldn't have introduced you two if I didn't think you were worthy of him."

Maybe those weren't his exact words, but that was the sense. He meant it to be a compliment, but I got the message: He was not interested in me That Way.

OK fine. I retreated. We continued our friendship in which he would say things like, "I've never been able to talk to a woman like this," to which I would silently respond, "Yeah, that's because you date empty-headed bimbos who look great on the outside but don't have any staying power. And they probably can't even cook."

One morning, my boss, Luke, who is still a friend and is one of the best bosses I have ever had, called me into his office. He knew I had a crush on someone at work because I would ask him for guy advice but I wouldn't divulge the name of the object (subject?) of my affections.

"Close the door," he said.

Uh oh. I was in trouble.

He paused, cleared his throat, then said, "I'm not sure how to tell you this and I wasn't sure I should, but I talked to my wife about it and she said I had to tell you."

Oh good grief. What was it?

"I know who your crush is on."

Well big deal.

"And I learned something about him that you need to know."

He took a deep breath. "He makes porn movies."


"I was scuba diving last weekend and ran into Bill (another co-worker who was a buddy to Mark). We were talking about taking photos underwater and he started to tell me about how he makes these movies and they do casting calls and how would he shoot scenes underwater? It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about and then I couldn't believe it."

Luke was a strong family man. Three boys whom he took camping and sailing and swimming. A wife he adored. A son they had lost shortly after birth after being warned mid-pregnancy that he would not live and whose name was (and still is) included in the signature to Luke's Christmas card. Sunday school teacher.

Not a porn-movie-making kind of guy.

Bill, apparently, was unaware that Luke would not be impressed by the idea of making underwater porn movies and continued to wax enthusiastically about his Art as Luke tried to figure out how to leave the conversation gracefully.

"Mark hangs out with these guys," Luke said. "I wouldn't be telling you this if I weren't sure. I'm looking out for you like a big brother would."

I believed him.

I stopped talking to Mark. My not-talking was conspicuous enough that Mark came by my office to ask me why we didn't talk any more. "You're the only woman friend I've ever had," he said. "Why don't you come by any more?"

"Oh, just busy," I lied.

Which I was. I was busy taking the staples from the autocollator out from the left-hand side of the presentation for the board of directors and re-stapling on the right because evidently, somebody, sometime, had mentioned in passing that that was how the board of directors liked their documents stapled so that was part of the job of financial analyst. That, and to calculate what the company profits would have been if they had sold the aircraft division ten years ago, the point of which was lost to me, but then I am not a captain of industry driving a business into the ground.

But I had never let my busyness get in the way of goofing off with Mark.

I had to harden my heart. I wanted to ask him if it was true and maybe should have, but how do you ask someone if he really does help make home porn movies and then expect to get a truthful answer? I trusted Luke more.

I didn't speak to him again and then quit the job a month later. Ta, ta porn guy.

* Except for my friend Henry's roommate in Chad who got high on nutmeg all the time. Yes, nutmeg. He must have smelled like banana bread. Or just nutmeg.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In which I let myself be talked into something I didn't want to do, Part Deux

So I was telling you about Stan, the older guy who was my friends' boss who had moved from Austin to attend grad school and who had necked with me in his car or maybe it was my car in the parking garage on Sixth Street after a happy hour and then called me from Houston the next day because he wanted to see me again that week and I told him OK but he wasn't staying with me but he pushed and pushed and pushed and I gave up, which was stupid of me.

He arrived at my place. He didn't even bring me kolaches from the Bon Ton Bakery on 290 between Houston and Austin. But I guess he didn't need to, did he?

I don't remember if he took me out to dinner. I certainly hope so. So many good places to eat in Austin: Threadgill's, Chuey's, Green Mesquite. I hope he didn't get free milk.

I gave him some sheets and a pillow and showed him the couch, not that it was hard to find because this was a tiny apartment. I had gotten the couch at an estate sale in Houston and had yet to get it re-upholstered, which it badly needed, but its condition made me mind less that someone would be sleeping on it, even though it was white. When I bought that sofa, my mother sighed and said, "I'm never going to be a grandmother, am I?"

10 For I = 1 to infinity

20 He asked why he couldn't sleep in the bed with me.

30 I told him that wasn't happening.

40 Next I

After 15 or 20 or 30 minutes of arguing, I was exhausted and surrendered.

So dumb.

I wish I hadn't.

Because it's like vampires: once you invite them in, that's it.

So yeah. I consented, but is it valid consent when you have been worn to a frazzle saying no? And if you're a man, is that how you really want to get someone into bed? By exhausting her with argument?

I hope that he has a daughter now, thinks about how he acted, regrets it, and prays that nobody ever treats her that way.

Once you've slept with someone, you might as well sleep with him again, especially if he is very persuasive. Even if you realize that he is kind of icky naked as the human body needs some exercise between zero and 36.

I was 23 at the time. Thirty six seemed old. Now I know it's not old. Not at all. I suspect when I am 70, I will look back on me now and think, "Baby! I knew nothing!" But I have not changed my position on exercise. He needed it. Seriously. He did not have a weight problem, but he needed to get some muscles.

I don't want to make more personal attacks on him because that doesn't seem fair, but I will just mention in passing that I find men with a little bit of tan or some sun exposure on their bodies in the past 36 or 45 years and with chest hair also to be more to my taste. Just saying.

He stayed a night or two, then visited me again a month or two later. He got sick while he was there and I went out in the middle of the night to get him drugs and ice cream. No wonder he didn't want to break up. Who doesn't want a woman who will go to Walgreen's for Hagen-Daz chocolate chocolate chip and Nyquil at 1:00 a.m. for him? Plus I am a good cook.

He wrote letters. He called. He told me he had burned his draft card, which disgusted me. If you are sincere about being against a war, then be a conscientious objector. Back up your words with deeds. But telling someone whose father fought in the very war you protested that you burned your draft card probably will not endear you to that person.

While he was gone, I met someone I liked better: someone who did not pressure me to do what I did not want to do, who was easygoing and cooked me supper. I told Stan that I did not want to see him any more. Fair enough, right? That's the beauty of dating as opposed to being married: you have a Get Out Of Jail Free card that you can whip out of your pocket AT ANY TIME.

Stan did not agree. He wrote me a long letter (I wish I had kept it because it was so bizarre) in which he told me I "shouldn't be afraid of my passion" (I don't have the letter, but I have never forgotten that line - I wasn't afraid of my "passion," I just didn't want it with him) and that he had thought I would move to California with him. Not an offer of marriage, mind you (not that I would have accepted it), but just that I should pick up and follow him without any commitment whatsoever.

I didn't answer the letter. He called. By now, I was screening his calls with the old answering machine my friend Terri had given me because I was still too poor to buy one for myself, what with repaying student loans and all, plus my philosophy then, as it is now, was that if it was really important, they would call back. When I didn't answer and didn't answer, he left me a message that he was driving to Austin to see me and would be there in X hours.

I left the apartment. I didn't want to be there when he arrived. I was a little bit scared, actually. This was moving into stalker territory. Yeah, I know I'm a good cook and men like that about me and then the whole Hagen-Daz thing, but honestly? I cannot be the only woman in the world who can provide these services.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what happened after that. Did I talk to him at all? Or did he knock on the door and ring the bell and wait and wait?

No matter. We were done.

Stan later dated a friend of mine (the sister of the wife of my friend Nathan who worked for Stan), which I did not find out about until my friend, C, asked me why I hadn't warned her that my former boyfriend was so weird. I thought she meant my college boyfriend, who was also a good friend of Nathan's, but my college boyfriend was not weird,* so I didn't understand what she was getting at.

"You're dating M?" I gasped. I really didn't think she was his type.

"What?" she asked. "No! I mean Stan! Why didn't you warn me?"

I would have warned her had I known she was interested, but she probably wouldn't have listened. [See: My Landlady/Fairy Godmother warned me about the guy who was so mean to me but I would not listen to her, even though she had known his family since he was a little boy so she was definitely in a better position to know than I, who got sucked in by the charm. I no longer trust charm.]

Nobody ever wants to hear that kind of advice. "Oh, you really shouldn't date him. He's a lunatic."

"Really?" they think. "No, it's just Golddigger. She brings out the crazy in a guy. He's great! I can tell!"

And then, two months later, it's crying in the beer or the diet Coke, which is the first step, after which comes the frantic consumption of Dove Bars and then the dying of the hair. "Why didn't you tell me? Why why why?" is the lament.

But I tried to, you think. I tried. But would you listen? Nope.

And then you can't even say, "I told you so," even though has it ever been so well deserved?

The good part was that I now had two data points, two equations. Stan was the X. C and I were the whatever the not-X part is of an equation. Solve for X and there you go.

X + girlfriend1 = stalkerish behavior

X + girlfriend2 = weird

And then a miracle happens and you get

X = weird stalker

Don't you love math? Anyone who says they will never use algebra in real life is wrong.

It wasn't me.

It was him.

The End

* Maybe a little weird, but in a good way, bless his heart. He is an incredibly organized person, like Primo but without the clutter. Well, Primo isn't exactly organized in the traditional sense of, "Things are in order," but he usually knows where everything is in the structured chaos that is his office. To the extent that you can be organized and be cluttered at the same time, that is Primo.

My boyfriend had all the pens and pencils with their points aligned in the upper drawer of his desk. Notepads were squared against the edges. Everything was perfect. So neat and tidy. He was such a nice guy and he did not deserve the way I broke up with him.