The Fool-Proof Guide to Failing with Flair

Everything you need to know about getting it wrong.

Seafood, or Relationships Part II

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There’s this guy who runs past the patio of the local bar where I hang out. I noticed him last Spring because he’s rather beautiful and he would run past at almost exactly the same time every evening. He’s young and fit. I’m old and, well, not so fit. Pretty much everyone at the bar knows I like to watch this guy run past. He was gone for the summer. I live in a college town and he probably went home to flutter a few hearts there. About a week ago a friend of mine (I’ll call her The Meanest–I have a tee shirt that says she is) told me she had seen him again. College is back in session.

I don’t want to date this guy, or talk to him, or even meet him. Leering is quite enough for me, thank you. Even if he wasn’t at least 20 years younger than I am, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how not to be an idiot if I was face-to-face with him. I said as much to The Meanest as we were laughing about my totally inappropriate “crush”. Her response was that I wouldn’t know what to do with any guy who doesn’t wear a baseball hat, drink vodka, and have a beer belly. Touché. Of course, she’s wrong. I don’t have any idea what to do with them either.

I have to confess here that, at present, I hold no ideology regarding romantic or sexual relationships. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Those words also describe exactly how many romantic/sexual relationships I have at the moment. It’s not a coincidence.

Pretty much every man I’ve been involved with in my adult life has fallen into one or more of the following categories: cook, clown, musician, liar, commitment-phobe, extra needy, alcoholic, narcissist, and/ or tall. I think one even had reactive attachment disorder. Oh wait. That might be me. The list is not exhaustive and, of course, most of the guys had other qualities, occupations, shortcomings or flaws. I’m not exactly a walk in the park either and I’m sure they all have equally unflattering ways to describe me. We should all keep in mind that I chose each and every one of them. None of them are terrible human beings. After a certain age, life makes us all crazy. There’s nothing you can do about it.

My husband fit into several of those categories at one point or another during our relationship: cook, clown, tall, and a few of the less-savory categories as well. I don’t really have any desire to get into the not-so-nice, gory details of the death of our marriage. It wasn’t funny or fun and is at least part of the reason I’ve been extra nuts for the last 5 years. We are friends now and even though I could lodge legitimate complaints about his issues, my behavior, crazy reactions, and failures are my own fault. Also, when I say he was a clown, I mean that literally and not as some figurative slur. He was, and still occasionally is, a professional clown.

When my marriage finally broke all the way down I went diving, head first, back into the romantic tidal pool and grabbed the first emotional toddler I encountered. My own emotional state was sufficiently regressed such that I hardly noticed at first that I was drowning in 4 inches of romantic sludge, and that this man was holding my head under. It wasn’t malicious. He was only trying to find a way to keep from drowning himself. But even after I knew that to be the case, I just took my feet off the bottom and held myself down for him. Temporarily, newly or permanently broken women seem to be a specialty of his and monogamy is not one of his strong suits. As far as I can tell, it’s not even hanging in his closet any longer. I’m pretty sure I’m not the craziest notch on his belt but I have been insane enough to keep dipping back into his pool, on and off, for most of the last 5 years, and neither one of us has learned how to swim there yet. In all fairness, he told me, up front, that he was relationship-impaired. At first I thought that might change (doh!). Later on it was just something we had in common.

There have been a couple other guys in the mix over the last few years. I tried something completely different a little over a year ago, and dated a short, military guy. I was straightforward about not wanting to be “serious”. This was only going to be a short tour, but he signed on anyway. He was generous, heavy-handed with compliments, and well-intentioned but two weeks after we started dating, I woke up in the middle of the night to find him drunkenly crying about how much he loved me. It was awkward and unsettling and over.

I am now back on romantic dry land and I suspect it is the best place for me for a while. I have been considering moving to the desert permanently since I can’t seem to tell the difference between a clown-fish, jelly-fish and a shellfish (to which I am allergic) but then I would miss getting to see the occasional dolphin. Runner guy may well be a baby shark in porpoise clothing but I’m never going to swim close enough to find out, so I’m enjoying the illusion. From a safe distance.

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