Monday, October 25, 2010

In which Ted takes me to meet his parents and then tells me we can't date

One night, when Ted was working late at the hospital near my apartment, a week or two after we had returned from the class reunion, he called me. Finally! He had to pick up something from home, he said. Would I like to ride with him?

That was a date, right? Sure, he was calling me ten minutes before the event rather than the Wednesday before, but as the prosecutor explained to us when I was on jury duty, premeditation for murder doesn't have to mean that you planned for weeks in advance. It simply means that the thought, "I'm going to kill that SOB" has to cross your mind before you pull the trigger, even if it's only seconds between the thought and the deed. Premeditation means that you thought about the act and then did it, as opposed to an accident or in self defense.

By that standard, I would guess that Mary Winkler did willfully and knowingly kill her sleeping husband by shooting him in the back, because it's not like a sleeping person causes an instinctive self-protective reaction, especially when one would think that an instinctive, not premeditated action would have led to the calling of 911 after one saw the bleeding body on the bed rather than the unplugging of the phone, the loading of the van with the children, and the fleeing to Alabama.

But I digress.

It was a date. He called and invited me to do something and then he picked me up. That is a date.

We drove to his house, aka his mom and dad's house, aka pathetic for a grown man to be living with his parents and why why why didn't I see that?

Oh but he had just divorced! Was finishing school! So much more practical to live with mom and dad!

Maybe. But sheesh. At that age, have some self respect and get your own place.

He showed me around the basement, his living quarters. He wanted me to know him. To see how he lived. Progress.

He introduced me to his mom and dad, who said, "So you're the one Ted has been talking about!"

He told his parents about me? Remember the grad school jerk, whom I had been dating for a few months when his parents came to visit and not only did I not get to meet them but I learned that they did not even know I existed? If someone told his parents about me, he must be serious. Oh deepening crush.

A few days later, he called me again. Could he take me to lunch?

Definitely a date! Definitely!

We went to a small Vietnamese place near my house. I was starving and ordered a big bowl of pho tai. Before I started to eat, Ted told me what he had been trying to tell me for a while.

He said, "I cannot start a relationship right now. I'm afraid that if I do, I will kill it. I am trying to sort a lot of stuff out from my divorce and I know I am not emotionally ready for a new relationship. But I like you a lot and see a lot of potential with you. I would like us to be just friends for now. Later, when I am through this, and if you are not seeing anyone, I would like to have a dating relationship with you."

I lost my appetite. "I've never had anyone break up with me even before he started dating me," I joked weakly.

He took my hands in his. "I'm not breaking up with you," he said earnestly. "But I can't do this right now. It wouldn't be fair to you. I've just got so much stuff. I'm going to a counselor to try to work these things out. But once I'm through it..."

I sniffed and a few tears rolled down my cheeks. He leaned over and wiped them away. "I'm sorry that I've been giving you mixed signals. It's not that I'm not attracted to you -- I am. But Big Southern City was a mistake. I let my emotions take over." I thought to myself that this is not such a terrible thing -- that if your emotions tell you to kiss someone, that that's what you should do (well, if you are both single, etc.).

We continued to talk, leaning in closer and closer until our knees were touching. I held his hands in mine as he told me about the divorce. At one point, I brushed my lips against his fingers. He closed his eyes and took a sharp breath. I kissed his finger. "That feels wonderful," he whispered.

On the way out to the car, he put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. In the car, he rested his hand on my thigh. When we got back to my house, he gave me a hug, then kissed me once. I leaned into him and he threw up his hands and stepped back. "No," he said. "No. I am not starting this." When he left, I am confused. His words and his deeds didn't match.

The next day he called me twice. I asked him more about this 'just friends' thing. "Define the difference between being 'just friends' and dating," I said.

"With friends, you don't have the emotional or the physical involvement," he told me.

"Does that mean we can't hug?" I asked.

He thought about it. "No, hugging is OK."

I thought this could work. You can't rule your heart. It's not such a bad idea to limit the physical stuff and if he spends time with me as 'friends' or dating, it's the same thing to the heart. If he was going to fall in love with me, it would happen whether he wants it or not.

I was so naive.

A few days later, he called four times, wondering where I was, leaving messages: "Out with some other guy, I suppose." The next night, he called twice. I was planning to meet Leigh and Megan at the Wednesday night wine tasting. Ted said that he might show up. When I got to the restaurant, they told me that the tasting had been canceled that week. While I was waiting for Leigh and Megan, another wine taster showed up. He had his own wine with him and asked if I would like to share. As he was asking, Megan walked in. We decided to sit with this guy and drink his wine while we waited for Leigh.

Ted didn't show up until late. His friend Richard had intercepted him in the parking lot and told him that the tasting was canceled. When I got home later, I found a series of messages from him telling me that the tasting had been canceled, that I could find him at the restaurant, that he had his cell phone with him (he usually left it in the car) and that I should call him.

So Leigh and Megan and I talked to this guy. Ted and Richard joined us for a while, then left together. I stayed -- we are just friends, after all, so I was not going to follow him to the parking lot. I left shortly after he did and the phone rang as soon as I got home. It was Ted. "I'm housesitting for my sister," he said. "She lives a few blocks from you. It's really cold over here. Why don't I come over and sleep with you instead?"

"I'll lend you some blankets," I told him.

"But it's late! Why don't I just stay there?"

"You may sleep in the spare room," I told him.

"But I'd rather sleep with you!" he answered.

"I don't sleep with 'just friends,'" I said.

"Well, if you don't sleep with friends, who do you sleep with?"

"Significant others," I answered.

"And I'm not significant to you?"

"Hey. This whole 'just friends' thing was your stupid idea, not mine. You live by the sword, you die by the sword."

He laughed and said goodnight.

Months later, after it was all over, when I was seeing the therapist, she told me that he had indeed been courting me hard. My head was spinning from all the mixed messages from Ted: I want to spend hours talking to you! I like kissing you! Meet my parents! But no - STOP! NO DATING! FRIENDS ONLY! I didn't know if I had read everything wrong or if he had been messing with my head.

The therapist assured me I was not mis-reading things but that I should not be involved with Ted now or in the future because he was toxic.

I should have told him to go to heck, or, more nicely, just stuck with my assertion that I did not want to be just friends and if that's all he wanted, he could stop calling me thankyouverymuch.

Instead, I agreed to his terms because half a Ted is better than none.

Yeah. Not so much.


  1. wow...i'm getting my head in a tailspin just reading about must've been a million times worse actually going through this roller coaster!