Friday, April 1, 2011

In which I have a one-night stand with a guy in grad school and then I meet his girlfriend

Yes. Sleazy, sleazy, sleazy. Don't hate me. I am ashamed of what I did and have reformed. I do not sleep with anyone else's boyfriend or husband these days. Just my own.

First semester of grad school, I met this guy. Let's call him Zach, which nobody my age is named, but is a handy name. There is a tranche of men now in their early 30s, to whom I taught swimming in the summers when I was in college, who are named the "J" names: Joshua, Jeremy, Jason. There are also a bunch of Blakes in that age group.

The women in that group are Alexis, Crystal and Brooke.

What TV show was popular five years before I started teaching? What movie star was popular?

I think the Madisons/Madisyns/Maddesens were a few years after that. Although I should talk: I'm named after a Mousketeer.

I had them all in my swim classes. I taught four and five year olds how to swim. Or, better said, I taught four and five year olds how to hold their breath underwater and how to open their eyes underwater and how to jump off the side of the pool into the water. I did not, unfortunately, teach them how to tie their shoes and neither did their mothers, which meant that I spent my meager five-minute break between classes tying shoes. I was very happy the year that velcro fastenings appeared. Suddenly, I had my time back.

Back to Zach. I don't remember how I met him, but we would encounter each other in the atrium at UT's grad school. He was getting his master's degree in accounting, so we probably didn't have any classes together, as I took only the two required MBA accounting classes, financial and cost.

Financial accounting is the income statement, cash flow, and balance sheet. Cost accounting is figuring out how much overhead to allocate to each widget and how much to stock of the chocolate ice cream vs the vanilla vs the butter pecan so that you make money on all of them when you charge the same price for each scoop. Chocolate ice cream with nuts is a lot more expensive to manufacture than plain vanilla. Where do the overhead allocations go? How much does it cost to make each widget? If you don't know what your production costs are, then you can't set your prices accurately and you don't know if you are making any money.

But. I do not have an accounting mindset, at least not a financial accounting mindset. You have to care that everything adds up perfectly if you are an accountant and I just don't care. It will all work itself out is my attitude. Sure, I call Sendik's if it looks like they undercharged me $45 on a case of wine that Primo ordered and I picked up, but if they over or undercharge me by a dollar, big deal. Who cares. It evens out in the long run.

I am a strategy person and prefer to work in a manufacturing environment. Put me in a place where they make something and ask me to make it work better? Oh baby. You almost wouldn't have to pay me to do that kind of job. I do it as a hobby now: any time I walk into a store or other place of business, I am re-arranging things in my mind, developing a better checkout, billing or patient flow process. I am a nosy, bossy know it all and there are some jobs where that is an advantage.

If anyone who might ever hire me is reading this, do know that when I assemble a team to do a project, I make sure to have at least one or two accounting people in my group. If I were say a county clerk who was responsible for reporting vote tallies, I would make sure to have someone on my team who was an absolute stickler for detail who would review the unofficial results before releasing them so she could say, "Hey did you realize that the data for Brookfield didn't import? And that you left 15,000 votes out of the total?"

That's how I would do it if I were a county clerk, but I'm not.

I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. I need someone to say, "But wait! Have you considered this and that?" My biggest strength is that I am not afraid to make decisions. It is also my biggest weakness.

I had met Zach. He wasn't that handsome at first glance, but he was very smart and had a dry, intelligent wit that appealed to me. I am so easy. Intelligence + humor gets me every time.

We spent a few months flirting. I think it was my prairie denim skirt coupled with the white blouse with blue and red flowers embroidered on it that did the trick. I looked so alluring. Honestly. Does anyone look good in that kind of outfit? Not even Chloe Sevigny on "Big Love" looks good in that stuff and she has a knockout figure. Maybe it was the too-long hair (my hair is very fine, which means it doesn't take length well) or the distinctly unfashionable glasses that a really good friend would have stopped me from buying but did I take a friend glasses shopping with me? No I did not and that was dumb. I looked tres geeky.

I knew Zach had a girlfriend because he had told me about her. She was an undergrad who was thinking about transferring to a school in Atlanta, where his post-graduation job was waiting. She was that serious.

I wondered why he flirted so heavily with me when he had this serious girlfriend. I thought maybe he wasn't as serious as he seemed. Or maybe he was just a jerk.

He went to Atlanta for more interviews or to talk about the job or something. He called me from his hotel. He paid attention to me.

One evening, he came over to my place to give me a cassette - an opera mix tape, I think, which is just nuts because I only like opera lite. Maybe I was just trying to impress him with my superior culturedness, which is silly because a round-heeled woman can have just about any man if s-e-x is all he wants and if he has low standards and morals. This was not an audition for a relationship. It was straight basic attraction.

We kissed and well you know.

Yes. Sleazy. I know. I know.

After he left, I found his watch on my dresser. I called him to let him know and he told me that he had done that on purpose so he would have a reason to return.

He did return. Only once. Ha. As if that "only" makes this not so sleazy.

There was a grad school happy hour at Scholz Garden, a bar near the school.

I went.

He went.

His girlfriend went.

Well this was awkward. Especially because she was so nice and so sweet and also so gorgeous - not just run of the mill gorgeous, but pale milky skin, green eyes, and long, thick, lustrous red hair, which really made me question Zach's judgment. And made me question my morals. What on earth was I doing?

That was it. It was over. Zach had a very nice girlfriend. I had met her, seen her in the flesh. She was no longer an abstraction. How do cheaters do it? How do married people who are fooling around with their friend's spouses take the tension? Aren't their consciences killing them?

Zach might have been a jerk, but I did not have to be party to his jerkness. Let him fool around with someone else. I was done. It is not a good feeling to meet a man's girlfriend after you have slept with him, especially if she is a nice person and if you have any morals at all. In the future, I decided, I would leave this kind of messing around to other women.

Which I did. No more partner to cheating for me. Not even kissing, which is what I had done before grad school. A kissing incident with a married man. Oh dear. I'll tell you about it later. For now, though, let me try to excuse myself by explaining that I ran with a fast crowd back then. I let myself be influenced by their bad behavior. No excuse. But I have reformed. No kissing, no s-e-x with married/involved men since 1991. Really.

In which I eat the Good Chocolate and then have to go all over San Diego to replace it

I'm running out of drama, or at least I am running out of drama inflicted on me by other people. What remains is the drama I have inflicted and that is not as much fun to write about because I want you to like me and it's easier to like someone who has not done crummy things to other people.

Today I am going to write about a small drama that ended up OK, but I will tell you about something mean and sleazy I did to another woman. As in, I had a one-night stand with her boyfriend even though I had met her and liked her.

Tres sleazy, I think you will all agree. Yes, I am ashamed and sorry and I never sought her forgiveness because I would have been easing my own conscience at the expense of her pain of being betrayed by her boyfriend, who had talked about marrying her.

Today I am going to tell you about the time I was staying with my Peace Corps friends Janet and Marty at their house in San Diego. They had very generously offered a spare bedroom and meals while I looked for a job in southern California. You may remember that I ended up working for the UT alum at his factory in Tijuana in the heroin district, a story that inspired an angry Tijuana commenter to claim that there was no heroin in Tijuana and I was a big, fat liar who was trying to discredit Mexico and Mexicans and whatever. I deleted him. I believe in free speech and if you don't like what I say, you are free to get your own blog and talk trash about me.

This was pre-internet days. Job hunting was done the old-fashioned way - by looking at ads in the newspaper or calling your alumni office for the names of alumni in the area who might be disposed to hire another alum.

All that work to find a job meant that I was not doing much work to find a job. Instead, I was spending a lot of time alone in Janet and Marty's house, riding my bike to the beach, cooking supper for all of us (at least I hope I did that - this was a while ago and I don't remember much) and looking in the fridge every five minutes to see if something new and interesting had appeared.

There was something interesting in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.

An entire unopened, cellophaned box of Belgian chocolates.

Fancy chocolates.


I watched that box for days, hoping that it would miraculously open and I would be free to sample a chocolate or two.

It did not open.

Did not open. Did not open.

Finally, one day, I did it.

Janet and Marty were at work. I was alone with the dogs and the chocolate. The dogs were smart, but they couldn't talk. My secret would be safe. Except for the opened part, of course.

Reader, I opened it.

I opened the box of chocolates.

Tore off the cellophane. Lifted the lid. And ate of the Forbidden Chocolates.

Oh they were so good. They were filled with hazelnut praline.

Delicious Forbidden Chocolates.

But now I have a problem.

There was no way to conceal my transgression.

No problem! I'll just replace the box!

Remember. Pre internet. In those days, to replace Forbidden Chocolate, you had to open the yellow pages and call various stores.

Which is what I did.

Only to find out that not only were these Forbidden Chocolates but they were also Very Expensive Imported Belgian Chocolates.


What to do? What to do?

I took the almost-empty box with me and set out to find Replacement Chocolate. I went to store after store. Most of them didn't even have Very Expensive Imported Belgian Chocolates.

I started to sweat. This was what I got for eating Forbidden Chocolates. My friends had opened their home to me and this was the thanks they got? A Forbidden Chocolate Eater in their midst? Could a guest be more ungracious than to consume the Very Expensive Imported Belgian Chocolates without invitation?

What was I going to say? Oh the shame, the shame! of violating a social norm.

I pulled into the parking lot of Trader Joe's. I'd heard about the store but had never shopped there. Might as well check it out. I like grocery stores. I like food, so what's not to like about a place that sells food? When I travel to a foreign country, I like to wander the aisle of the grocery stores and see what's what. In Bristol, we found a grocery store where vegemite and peanut butter were behind the counter, along with the cigarettes and booze. Who would think to shoplift peanut butter? Not me. But then, maybe I would, being the budding criminal that I was.

I wandered the aisles. Found frozen foods, a category where I usually do not shop as I prefer fresh and unprocessed. Why buy frozen pizza when it's so easy to make your own and homemade tastes so much better?

And there. Above the frozen french fries. There it was.

The Very Expensive Imported Belgian Chocolates.

The exact same box that I had opened at Janet and Marty's house.

Saved. Saved! I didn't care how much it cost, I wanted those chocolates.

I pulled the box toward me.

And discovered they cost about $5.

They were not Very Expensive Imported Belgian Chocolates, at least, not at Trader Joe's.

They were Rather Inexpensive Imported Belgian Chocolates.

Even now, they cost only $26 a pound on Well, $26 a pound is not an "only," but it also won't break the bank.

I bought the chocolates. Replaced the old, now-opened box with the new, pristine box. Kept my mouth shut. Haven't eaten Forbidden Chocolate since.