Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weird City...another excerpt from OPEN ROAD: A LIFE WORTH WAITING FOR

         Well, I'm three down, three to go in getting my books ready for print.  It's been a long marathon and I appreciate all the support from readers everywhere this month.  I love hearing from you as I post excerpts from chapters in my memoir that stir the pot in your own lives. 
         This one's for Maggie N. who is wise beyond her years...may she never have to endure the plethora of bad blind dates this gal has encountered over the years.

Weird City

I can't believe I’m here again…waiting for another blind date to show up.  At least I’m at the park and it’s a warm September day.  At least I don’t feel as if I have to impress this guy, even though we’ve only talked a couple of times on the phone.  Still, it annoys me that he’s late.  That he won’t tell me which yoga student gave him my phone number.  But I figure, “What the hell?”  I might as well try.  Even if all those other blind dates went nowhere, this one might be different.
I watch every man who walks by, wondering if he’s the one.  “Are you Greg?” I want to ask.  “Are you looking for a woman named Katie?” 
There are tall men. 
Short, stocky men. 
A really nice looking guy in running shorts with long brown hair and a two-day beard. 
None of them is Greg.  I check my watch and sigh.  He’s fifteen minutes late.  I figure I’m being stood up…again.
As I walk back towards my car, I decide to wait a few more minutes.  After all, he’s coming from work.  Maybe he got held up in traffic.  I can give him the benefit of the doubt.  It’s busy at the park and as several cars pass by, I lean against the trunk, my arms crossed, watching to see if any of the drivers are men. 
A small Mazda darts by driven by a creepy looking guy in a black track suit zipped up to his chin.  “It’s eighty-five degrees out,” I say under my breath.  “Why is he dressed like that?”  Then the thought hits me and I murmur, “Dear God, please don’t let it be him.  Please not him.”
Oh, is him.
Greg walks up to me and extends his hand, nearly covered by his dark nylon jacket.  He’s wearing long pants as well…and loafers.  His shaggy hair is greasy and plastered to his head.  His skin is doughy and ashen.  He looks like he hasn’t bathed in a few days although he’s wearing enough cologne to make me sneeze.
“I’m Greg,” he grins.  “Nice to meet you.”  His voice doesn’t match the one I heard on the telephone.          
He isn't familiar with the trails at Wildwood, but, having hiked here for years, I know them well.  I lead Greg on a connecting path, one that will take us maybe fifteen or twenty minutes to cross.  We make small talk and I tell him of my plans to leave Toledo as soon as possible.  I tell him that I’m getting tired of Midwestern life and long to go west.  Maybe that will give him the hint that I’m not interested in starting anything serious. 
He says he’s been to Portland and Vegas, but that’s about it.  “I like it here,” he says.  “And work is good…so what can I say?”  Greg is an instructor at one of the community colleges in town and says that Toledo suits him well.
"I could live here for the rest of my life," he says.
Strike one.
I’m practicing honesty, so I tell him upfront I don’t like the fact that the person who hoped to fix us up wants to remain anonymous.  “I know it’s not your doing, but I want you to know I’m a very private person.   I don’t like that she gave you my number, but doesn't want me to know it was her.”
Greg shrugs.  He doesn’t say, “I respect your feelings,” or “I can understand how you feel.”
Strike two.
We round a corner and I’m counting the minutes until this walk can end.  Five down.  Fifteen to go.
“Do you know where we are?” Greg asks.
“Yeah…I know this place like the back of my hand.”
“Well, then...,” he says, his voice dripping with what I imagine he thinks is seduction.  "Are you going to tie me up to one of those trees and whip me senseless?”
“Uh…no,” I stammer, willing myself to walk even faster. 
“Well if you were,” he snickers.  “I would have asked you to show up in a leather mini-skirt and chains.”
Strike three…and you're OUT!
Seething, I say nothing.  Greg suddenly realizes I don’t think his comment is funny and nervously chatters on.  I walk faster and soon we’re back in the parking lot. 
“Well, where would you like to go for lunch?” he asks.
“I think I’ll pass,” I tell him.
Greg looks dejected and genuinely surprised.  “Really?  It thought we said we could walk and then eat.”
“No…I don’t think so." 
I lift my eyebrows.  “Do I really have to tell you?”
The look on Greg’s face tells me I don’t.

As I drive away, I’m furious.  Furious with whoever gave Greg my phone number.  Furious that yet another man I’ve been fixed up with is a total jerk.  But most of all, I’m furious with myself.  I had promised myself that after going out with Mr. Bodybuilder Freak, after that terrible afternoon I had with Mr. Interview last winter, I would never go on a blind date again.  Why did I waste another afternoon in the hopes of finding someone here in Toledo? 
My life has once more reminded me that only weirdoes and creeps are left in the small pool of men in this city.  I cannot wait to escape and get out of here once and for all.
There must be normal men out there...somewhere.

For most of my life, it's been a challenge to find the balance in being selective, in having good boundaries and still be open to the humanity of men.  And yet, after all the stranger-than-fiction experiences I've had, I'm thankful I've learned to err on the side of restraint.
In struggling to move beyond my ill-fated relationship with Scott and several other unrequited attractions, I took some time to reflect.  And in so doing, I began to take responsibility for not speaking up when I needed to.  I also stopped lying by omission and began to practice being honest.  It wasn't easy.
Several of my girlfriends thought it would be a great idea to fix me up on blind dates with men they knew from high school, work, or through their husbands.  So in my mid-thirties I agreed to meet Pete, a local gym owner and bodybuilder who my friend Donna thought would be perfect for me.  A professional athlete and a yoga instructor.  What could be a more complementary couple?
In meeting Pete, I could certainly see why he complained about going on plenty of first dates and not many second ones.  A group of us were out to dinner and when he strutted into the restaurant, he immediately made a beeline for Donna’s husband, hoping to impress him with news about his thriving business. 
When Donna introduced me to Pete, she mentioned that I was her yoga teacher.
Pete quickly dismissed the idea of needing to practice yoga.  “Yoga is really for people who don’t want to get with the program,” he boasted contemptuously.  “Six weeks in my flexibility series, and you’ll never need to stretch out again.” 
I wanted to tell him that was tantamount to only showering for six weeks and then never needing to bathe again, but I said nothing.  Instead I patiently endured Pete's talking about himself, his career, his family, and his opinion on everything from what I should be eating to how I needed to lift weights. 
“You really need to eat meat,” he said, nodding at my plate of stir fry.  “I always bulk up before a competition.”
“I get enough protein with nuts and soy products,” I said politely.  “I’ll bet I eat peanut butter three or four times a week.”
Pete smirked.  “Peanuts are the worst kind of food on the planet….in my book, they should be banned."
O-kay, I thought.  How much longer do I have to sit here before this night is over?

A few months went by and another friend suggested that I come to her house for dinner to meet a colleague of her husband’s.  Shane was on his way through town and would be flying back to Colorado the next day, but still wanted to meet me.  So I arrived on a Sunday night, looking forward to meeting a man who had been billed as smart, charming, and outdoorsy.  I wasn't exactly hoping for a long distance relationship, but thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” 
Brenda met me at the door and led me into the family room where Shane was talking with her husband.  The minute he looked at me I knew Shane wasn't interested.  “Nope…not you,” his energy seemed to declare.  The blinders went up and I felt it instantly. 
He simply said, “Oh hi,” and turned back to Brenda’s husband.
At first, I was shaken, but I sat down anyway.  In the meantime, another couple came over and stood near the bar talking.  I asked Shane what he liked about living in Colorado and less than a minute into his answer, he looked toward the bar. 
Stopping mid-sentence, he said, “You know, I really want to get into that conversation.”   Then he got up and walked away.
I was stunned...then I got angry.  What I really wanted to do was go home, take a shower, and sack out on the couch to watch “Alias.”  Instead, out of respect for my friend, I slapped a smile on my face and endured a long dinner of trying to be courteous to a man who had all but dismissed me. 
By the time Brenda suggested we play Pictionary, I was ready to call it quits.  But to be polite, I acquiesced once again.  In the first round, the word I needed to draw was “Me,” and Shane was to try and guess what my word was.   It was hopeless.   No matter what I drew, he still didn't get it.  I realize now that all I had to do was sketch a pretentious jackass with wire-rimmed glasses and a blonde ponytail.  Shane surely would have blurted out, "Oh, that's me!"

Since my late twenties I've been stalked, publicly humiliated, and summarily dismissed.  Men have disregarded me as just another Sad Single Woman Who Lives Alone With Her Cats...and Knits!  They've pitied and pooh-poohed and patronized me as well.  It's a wonder that I even entertain the possibility of being in a potential relationship. 
It's not that I hate's just that up until a few years ago, most of the ones passing in and out of my life proved to be untrustworthy, unreliable, and ultimately unfavorable.  I've settled into a space where I have male friends of like mind...and that's enough for me.  At least right now.
But I'm entertaining the idea that since I've changed so much in the past five years, perhaps I'll attract Mr. Right For Me Right Now.  You never know.

When I lived in Big Sur, skunks often appeared when I was on my way from the gardens at Esalen to the farm on the north side of the property.  There was even a mother and her two kits living peacefully beneath my hut.  Everyone wanted to rid their living spaces of these intimidating animals, but I welcomed them.   Sitting on the deck, I would watch their little black and white shapes waddle back to the hut as the sun rose, tired from their nocturnal adventures.  After the sun went down and I went to bed, I could hear mama and her babies scurrying out in search of grubs and other goodies. 
One afternoon I was preparing a sweat lodge with my friend, Matteo.  We chatted about our animal totems that have revealed the many life lessons we needed to learn and embody.
"You have some pretty powerful skunk medicine," he quipped.
"Yeah, I know," I sighed.
Matteo lifted his brows.  "Lots of lessons about self-respect for you this time around."
Placing some lavender into the crevices between the rocks we had arranged, I said, "And boundaries and sensuality and walking alone."
He nodded.
Knowing most people's reactions to seeing them on campus, I said sadly, "But who would want to be with a skunk?"
Matteo brightened.  "Another skunk of course!  If you respect you, as a skunk does, then you'll eventually attract someone who mirrors that self-respect and clarity."
I stood up and dusted my hands on my jeans.  "I've lived by myself for a long time...I'm used to waiting."
All these years later, I still am.

To read the rest of "Weird City," download