Learning the Hard Way
When I was single, my outlook on dating was bleak. Every date I had ever gone on was a bust. I swore I'd never date again. As much as I hated dating, there was nothing I wanted more than to be in a relationship. I was haunted by my loneliness, knowing in the back of my mind that my happiness depended on my being in a relationship.
My lucky day came when I met Priscilla during a break at a professional conference. I was wandering around in my own world, in a quandary. As bad as the conference was I couldn’t leave because I had nothing else to do with myself. She must have somehow picked up on my downtrodden energy. When meeting someone was the last thing on my mind, all of a sudden she approached me with a big smile and sparkling eyes, asking me whether I found any worthwhile presentations I could recommend to her. We were both bemoaning how uninspiring the conference seemed to be. We ended up getting into a conversation that continued past the break. Certainly my interest was piqued.
I learned the following things about her. She lived in Los Angeles (I was living in San Francisco at the time). She was a dancer and was pursuing a career as a therapist. I thought she was attractive. She had a great body. Above all, I got the feeling she liked me. I decided to leave the conference, while she decided to stay in hopes of finding a more compelling presentation. I asked her for a number and she told me she'd be looking forward to my phone call.
From the time we parted, I couldn't stop thinking about her. "Wow, what a classy woman! A dancer! An artist. Someone I can look up to. She's got everything; she was hot, intelligent, a therapist – we spoke the same language, a real woman, the best one to come along in years."
When I called her a couple of days later, she was happy to hear from me. The first conversation we had lasted an hour. We continued to talk on the phone two and three times a week, one to two hours at a time. In comparing our respective relationship notes, I was better than any man she'd ever been with and she was better than any woman I'd ever been with. After several weeks on the phone, we couldn’t wait to make arrangements to meet in person. I was going to fly down to see her for a weekend.
She was there to greet me as I got off the plane. The moment I spotted her, I was struck by how different she looked than from how I remembered her. She was dressed up, with a ton of jewelry and make-up on. I didn't know why she got so dressed up. And, what was with all that jewelry and make-up? It was mystery to me why so many women try to look better by doing things that make them look worse. Maybe she wanted to look good for me. I'm not that appearance oriented anyway. It's the person underneath the make-up and jewelry I came to see.
But then, as we were getting into her car, I started feeling a bit out of place. She was driving a brand new T-bird. Another string of judgmental thoughts ran through my mind. I'm a working-class guy from Brooklyn. I never had a new car. My father never had one. Besides, why would anyone need one of those big, gas-eating American cars just to go to work? I was hoping she's not one of these rich, spoiled princesses I made sure to stay away from. Again, I calmed myself down. I kept telling myself not to condemn her because she drives a big new car. Maybe she goes on long trips and likes to be comfortable. What difference did it make whether I liked her car?
It got a lot better when we got to her house. It was a huge house in the Hollywood Hills with a swimming pool, a phenomenal view and lots of bedrooms. With all of that space, was already wondering what it would be like to live there and was quite contented with the idea.
For the next several hours, I sat with her in the living room, talking and enjoying the view, but not the conversation. To describe our chemistry, "flat" would be an understatement. Even though she was friendly, welcoming and definitely liked me, something was missing. I couldn't put my finger on it. We had a bottle of wine, which didn't help much.
Doubts started rising in my head. “How could anything be missing after all those hours of incredible phone conversation?" I was doing everything I could possibly do to talk myself out of my feelings. I kept telling myself, “You’ve got a lot of time and money and emotional investment here, to give it all up so fast. You better give it some time.” Besides, I still had going to bed with that beautiful dancer's body to look forward to.
By the time we were actually in bed, I was feeling really sick. I was numb. Even though I felt like a shrunken prune, I was hoping that once we got naked, I'd perk up. That never happened. I was not attracted or aroused. Much to my amazement, we had sex nonetheless. I don't know how we did, but we did. For the first time in my life, I got what "your body has a life of its own" really means.
Things continued in this vein for the rest of the weekend. Nothing worked. I found her to be superficial and boring, not my type. I like depth and vulnerability, not someone who is so nice, someone who acted as if everything was just how it was on the telephone without skipping a beat. “How could she not know that this wasn't working? And if she did know, how could she not say anything?”
Monday morning finally came. I had a two o clock flight. I couldn't wait to leave. She was acting like we were going to get married. There was no doubt in my mind that I did not want to see her again. What was I going to do? The moment of truth was upon me. I had to tell her how I felt.
This was the hardest part. She wasn't getting it. I told her that it didn't work for me, that I wasn’t feeling it, and I wasn’t planning on seeing her again. We had gone back and forth with her trying to convince me to give the relationship more of a chance. It got so bad I broke down in tears. "I didn't know it would be this way. I'm sorry. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you."
On the flight back, I was asking myself one question. How did this happen? No way did I ever want to go through anything like that again. Maybe there would be a silver lining in lessons learned.
I thought that it probably would have been different if I had been able to tell her sooner that I wasn't interested. But how could I have known then what I knew subsequently? I started feeling a bit better when understanding that I had jumped ahead, assumed there was a relationship before one actually materialized, one that we were both into. I mistook her ability to make me feel wanted and worthwhile for compatibility. I had presumed that initial sexual attraction means great physical chemistry, automatic rapport and basis for a healthy intimate relationship; mistakes I wasn’t going to repeat.