Years ago, when I lived in Big Southern City, I met this really nice guy at work. We're going to call him Gerard. Not his name, but it will do. Gerard was sweet and nice and interested in me. I had broken up with my college boyfriend/fiance' and hadn't dated since, although there was the Disaster in Cincinnati where I thought I would be clever and sophisticated and witty with the older [31 to my 24] man when he bit a loose thread off his scarf and I asked sultrily if that was the only thing he could do with his teeth and suddenly everyone around me fell into shocked silence, including Older Man, who had known me for a month or two and had never seen this side of me, a side whose effectiveness was cancelled immediately by my fast and furious blushing as the full implications of what I was asking hit the front part of my brain. I mumbled something and backed away, wondering to myself where that had come from.
Fortunately, I was in Cincy only for a few months on a temporary job assignment. The Disaster happened the night before I was moving back to Texas. Whew.
I can't remember if the guy my boss set me up with was before Gerard or after Gerard. What I do remember was realizing that it's not really a good idea to get your honey where you get your money. Nothing wrong with working with someone you date. It's working with someone you used to date that's the problem.
And thank goodness there was no drama with the boss' friend. Salvatore was still in love with his old girlfriend and had no interest in me. There were some lackluster double dates with my boss, her husband, Sal and me, but it was really more Sal hanging out with his friends - my boss and her husband, and me hanging out with my boss and her husband, and we all happened to overlap. That could have backfired in a really bad way. But Sal didn't really care about me and I didn't really care about him, although I did care that he didn't care about me because who wants to be rejected by anybody? It is better for the ego to be the rejector than the rejectee.
Although being the rejector is no piece of cake, mind you. When you reject someone nice, whom you like, you get all the trauma of a rejection with none of the sympathy.
As it was, dating Gerard and then not-dating Gerard was not the best thing for me. Fortunately, I moved from Big Southern City to Other Southern City when we broke up, but I still had to work with him.
But all that aside - the story I want to tell you is about the time he took me to meet his family in Denver. He asked if I wanted to go home with him for the Fourth of July and said he would pay for half of my plane ticket, which seemed like a really good deal to me at the time and was very generous of him, considering we were both very entry level in our jobs with the corresponding entry-level salaries. No man had ever been so generous to me. I was easy to please.
My standards are higher now. When I met Primo, he paid for all my plane tickets to visit him. Granted, I was unemployed when we were dating and he had a gajillion frequent flier miles, although he often paid for tickets rather than redeem miles because he said the miles were worth more.
This was back before alimony when Primo had extra money. Now, he is paying alimony and we own a house, which means things like roofs and driveways and wet basements become money pits in orders of magnitude one could never imagine as a renter and make me long for the days when my biggest housing problem was the Crazy Laundry People Upstairs. Those were the days: no shoveling, no grass cutting, no home repairs. Just watch Bridezilla and What Not To Wear all day long. Freedom.
Primo was shocked and disgusted when he learned that the Moroccan Millionaire had not paid for my ticket to Paris for the Moroccan Millionaire Rendezvous. I had staunchly maintained that I was an independent woman who could not be bought and hence would buy my own ticket, but it would have been easier to maintain that stance had Moroccan Millionaire actually offered to open his wallet. That's the thing with millionaires - at least millionaires who get that way because a rich relative dies, not because they have earned the money themselves - they have no idea how hard it is actually to earn money. They think it's just there and that everyone has it and they don't have a clue.
But enough of that. Gerard very graciously offered to pay for half of my ticket and that's pretty much what clinched the decision.
So apparently, I can be bought.
Except I really liked Gerard. He was a very very nice guy. And he kissed just fine.
We flew to Denver. His sister, Evangeline, who lived in San Francisco, picked us up and we stopped at Gerard's favorite Mexican restaurant on the way back to his mom's house. I had never met anyone like his sister before.
She was a hippie.
You know: lived in San Francisco with her bearded Birkenstocked professor husband. Didn't shave her legs or under her arms. And even though Evangeline was already forty, her little girl was only four! ONLY FOUR! That meant that Evangeline had had a baby when she was thirty six!
To complicate matters, Evangeline wanted another baby. She was concerned, though, about being the only mom in kindergarten who was over forty. I was shocked, shocked, that someone that old would even think about having a baby. It was so old! She was right to be concerned, I thought.
But I kept my thoughts to myself.
Gerard's dad was very ill. His mom wanted to get things settled with the will while Gerard and Evangeline were in town. She had laid out all the family silver and jewelry and anything else she thought Gerard and Evangeline might disagree about on the dining room table and about the living room. Her instructions to G & E were to figure out what they wanted now while she was there to referee, which is not a bad idea. Even when families don't have things that are worth money, they have things with sentimental value.
I could totally see my siblings and me arguing over who gets the yellow ceramic bowl that my mom used for making oatmeal chocolate chip (I never could figure out why my mom's cookies weren't like the other kids' chocolate chip cookies - I wanted the regular kind, without oatmeal, but oatmeal is a great extender) and for popcorn balls. It's just a regular ceramic bowl that you could get for under ten dollars today. But we all have good memories that go with it. We all also want the kitchen table. We may have to duke it out.
The rest of the time, Gerard and I got busy. We were in separate bedrooms of course because although Evangeline was a hippie, Gerard's mother was not and she knew what was appropriate and what was not. What's appropriate is separate bedrooms and then sneaking down the hallway at night.
Here's what happens when you get a little too busy - way more than you are used to because usually, you have a job and besides, you have a twin bed, which does not facilitate things: you get a little bit - um - bruised and then you can't pee.
I tried and tried and tried and I couldn't. Imagine having to go really bad and then you can't because it hurts. It is misery. I stopped drinking water. Still couldn't go. I sat and sat and sat in the bathroom, trying to distract myself, looking at the ceiling and whistling the "I'm not really here to pee!" song so my body would be tricked into peeing. Didn't work.
Finally, I said something to Gerard. Not that I expected him to be able to solve the problem. "Hello boyfriend!" you say. "Let me share something really intimate and embarrassing with you!"
That was back when I was 24, before anyone made a regular practice of farting in front of me. Some people take marriage as a license not to hold in the farts any more. That part was not covered in our pre-marital counseling.
But turned out that Gerard's dad was a urologist and Gerard, who was a biology major and pre-med in college, knew a thing or two himself after years of medical conversations with his dad.
"Sit in a tub of warm water," he suggested.
I didn't ask if I was supposed to pee in the bathwater, although that seemed to be the implication. You guys know where I stand on other people's tubs and showers. Sitting in a bathtub that had been used by other people and then polluting it myself? Oh gross.
Then there was the other issue of what the heck was I doing soaking in the tub in the middle of the day? How was I supposed to explain that?
Yet I was desperate. There is no pain like an unreleased full bladder.
So into the tub in the middle of the day I went. I took a magazine to distract myself, as the "I'm not really here to pee!" song had proven ineffective.
After 15 minutes or so (could be less, could be more - this happened 23 years ago), I felt a blessed relaxing. I scrambled out of the tub and did what Needed To Be Done. I did not pee in the tub. I have standards. Drained the tub. Got dressed. Rejoined G & E and the rest.
But I felt sure everyone knew what had transpired. What would the hippie think about what G and I had done? And my problem? I was so embarrassed.
The shame at what had transpired, coupled with my desire not to be reminded of that shame by seeing Evangeline or G's mother again, is probably not what inspired my breakup with Gerard. But it probably didn't help.