Men (Boys) I Have Known

19 Oct

Crane Island 1977

At the beginning of my romantic history, in junior high and high school, my love life was mostly imaginary, consisting of the Beatles and Paul Newman. I was very shy and didn’t date until I was in college in my late teens. Most of my relationships in college were shallow and it was obvious that they were not going to lead anywhere.

This brings me to my twenties and that part of my life where I started to have serious opportunities. After leaving the small Ohio school where I attended college, I came home to Ithaca, New York and took a job at the Hillside Inn, just below Cornell University. I had incompletes to work on from my college, and aside from checking the few customers in and doing laundry, my time was my own, whether to study or converse. There were many afternoons when a man, usually someone associated with Cornell, sat in one of the two chairs across from the front desk. The men were uniformly bright and a number of them were attractive, but they were all there to conduct their business with the university and go back home. They were not the best potential mates, because they were in a good position to flirt without consequences.

One man, a Canadian from Alberta, was A.B.D., short for what academics call All But Dissertation. This is the point in grad school where many falter because of time constraints, fights with their committee, and/or angry spouses. My Canadian crush was tall, with longish brown hair and eyes that formed dark, mysterious pools in his face. He was also uncertain about life, what he would do with it, and with whom he would share it, but at least he had enough gumption to come back to Cornell and finish his physics dissertation. That gave me hope. Alas, he only wrote me once when he returned to Alberta, enclosing a picture. He had told me that he identified with Jude in Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I read it after he left and immediately made the connection. My Canadian was indeed obscure, hard to hold on to, evanescent–in fact, just like Jude. But he did introduce me to Thomas Hardy, for which I have ever been grateful.

I received my only marriage proposal from a Saudi Arabian man who stayed at the motel. He gave me a green shirt with gold embroidery that I could barely fit over my head. He also passed on a piece of advice about my legs, which were often visible since I often wore skirts up to my butt. I had spider veins that I had inherited from my parents, and he commented on them. Not surprisingly, I didn’t take his offer.

In the summer of 1977, I took a trip to Ohio to see my uncle, after which he accompanied me in my grandfather’s black Buick Special (He had died in 1976) to Minnesota, where he and my aunt were just settling in to a new cottage (old but new to them). Having very little direction in my life at that point, I stayed in Minnesota, living in their cottage once they went back to Ohio and in various apartments in the Lake Minnetonka area. I had the attitude that is typical of many young women in their twenties who think mistakenly that they are pretty hot and better-looking than older women. Time was my friend, at least I thought so. Something that I would only appreciate later was that I still had pickings in my twenties, whereas I wouldn’t have as many as I grew older. I also had a high metabolism–the kind where you can lose ten pounds and keep it off for two years, and that wasn’t to last either.

What happened next was the I-love-him, he-doesn’t-love-me and vice-versa set of romantic experiences. My first male friend was the front office manager of the hotel where I worked. He was almost divorced with two children, and he became my first confidante in Minnesota. I gave his second daughter her middle name, Lynn, the only time I would ever help to name a child, unless you count the time I forbid my best high school friend to name her child Adam. Despite the fact that he was a good friend, I didn’t get that tingling all over sensation that I sometimes experienced with men. On the other hand, I met a carpenter who looked like a young Paul Newman. He had tan-colored curly hair, deep blue eyes and the kind of body men end up with when they work all day in construction. In other words, he was HOT! However, he definitely wasn’t as bright as my manager, he didn’t want a commitment, and worst of all, he had a picture of someone who was falling through the air, in the act of death by suicide, on his fridge. When I asked him why, he said that suicide fascinated him. Needless to say, neither of us wanted to continue that relationship.

Before I left my twenties, I ran into several more colorful men. One was a working class boy several years younger than me with a shaggy blond mane, who was perpetually high (I didn’t know if it was from drugs or just his ebullient nature). He craved disco and living life at a hectic pace. He was impetuous, which helped to spell the end of the relationship. One day we were riding in my car–for some crazy reason he was driving–and he decided to show me a favorite childhood haunt. All of the sudden, he took a sharp right and drove into a forest and a clearing with deep black mud. It was such soft mud that the car sank far down, causing the black earth to get into my carburetor, which caught on fire. I grabbed a beach towel and put out the fire, but the poor Buick, my grandfather’s treasure, was still stuck. A passerby with a pickup truck pulled us out with chains, but in the process damaged the front end of the truck.

On another occasion, we headed out to the Skyway Theater in downtown Minneapolis. I guess he forgot to go to the bathroom at home, because right after we parked in the downtown garage he took a leak right in front of a beautifully dressed couple. On the way down in the elevator with the couple I kept myself busy, looking first at the ceiling and then at the floor.

I met one more “good guy” in my twenties, an engineer for MTS Systems. He took me to Star Wars, but mainly we talked. I lived in the back of a house (my first apartment) and he lived in the middle, with the caretaker in the front. When he came over, we engaged in comfortable chit-chat. He was divorced with a child; however, despite the divorce he seemed settled. Once he told me that engineers often made their biggest contributions in their twenties, and he figured he’d already made his. I saw myself as just starting out in life, with much to accomplish, so he didn’t seem like the life companion I was looking for.

What he lacked was that special kind of crazy that makes one weak in the knees. It’s hard to define just what that is, but every woman recognizes it. Unfortunately, it occurs more often in guys like the one who managed to set my Buick on fire than in the calming, relaxed types.

7 Responses to “Men (Boys) I Have Known”

  1. Dh October 20, 2014 at 5:40 am #

    I think you need to change the title as the post leaves the question unanswered. Also, it’s never too late!

  2. vickeya October 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Like Dh, I was looking for the rest of the story. 🙂 It’s an attention-getting title, and I’d looked forward to your thoughts, feelings, or simply what you have to say on the subject. It seems that we only got the introduction to what could be a very interesting, longer read.

  3. Dh October 21, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    I agree with vikeya. There needs to be something more about this but I am not sure the “why” is the most interesting question. There could be infinite reasons why people never marry; it’s quite complicated. Or it could be as simple as one’s standards are too high or one just wasn’t in the right place at the right time. Here are the questions I think are more interesting: why was / is marriage important to you, why you feel it won’t happen, what misconceptions do you think people have about marriage and single hood, does marriage mean happily ever after, how does one’s family history affect one’s ideas about marriage and create expectations. 🙂

  4. DH December 28, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    I think you have done really well with this. It’s more reflective, less regretful, less guilty, more explorative and less blaming. The answer you come up with in the last paragraph is believable and actually more interesting than the answer you had earlier. It’s hard to meet the right person, very hard, and many of us never do, or marry the wrong one(s). We are like ships passing in the darkness, often not knowing who to choose or why we choose or why we make mistakes. I feel you’ve explored this very well. I think you need to link this to some larger issues such as the one I mentioned or another cultural situation. The story about the guy who pissed is very funny and should maybe be moved to the opening as he was an idiot but the only interesting one, and the one who moved you.

    • I left a few people out because the blog seemed to be getting too long. I’ve had many short relationships because so many times it was clear things were not going to work out. Maybe you’re right about the guy who pissed. That would definitely be a more dramatic opening.

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