“I was lonely,” a recently-divorced woman named Nancy Sendate said to explain why she decided to date me.
“I’m not to be excited,” I said. “Got it.” I did not ask her why she decided to date me, before we went on our first date, because who would? Nancy did not offer this information when I asked for her phone number, nor did she say it when I asked her out for a date. Nancy gave me a moment to wallow in my glory.
“Asking me for my phone number had to be difficult for you to do,” Nancy said. “Congratulations!” Our brief relationship was riddled with these constant pushes and pulls.
Once she determined that she allowed me enough time to wallow, she wanted to make it clear that whatever I planned to do with her was going be conditional, short-term, and almost solely based on fortunate timing on my part.
“I’m not dating you, because you’re gorgeous, or in any way attractive. I didn’t agree to be seen with you based on some sort of charm or charisma you’ve exhibited. I’m dating you, because I just happen to be fresh off a divorce, and I was lonely, so lucky you.”
If you’re reading condescension in her compliments, you’re not a genius. These compliments were intended to lay a foundation for our relationship and to frame the course of the events that would follow.
After congratulating me, she offered a moment of silence for all parties concerned to reflect on the humanity and generosity she was displaying to those of us of average appearance. Had I issued an ‘All hail, the power of the beautiful woman!’ sentiment, I don’t think she would’ve laughed. I was in no position to do so, however, for while there was some exaggeration on her part, regarding our stations in the dating world, there was some truth to it too.
“You didn’t see her,” I told friends and family who was looking out for me. “You didn’t see the smile on her face when I asked for her number. The way her eyes squinted and joined the mouth in a full, comprehensive and excited smile. You didn’t hear the excitement in her voice when she said yes. It was a moment. I’ve had my share of moments in life, but if the lords of the afterworld give me twenty moments of my life to relive, after I go, this might be one of them.”
“You didn’t see the effect her presence had on restaurant full of patrons either,” I said to defend my rationale for dating her more than once. “If you saw that, and you still refused to date her, because she was mean, I take my hat off to you. I never experienced anything like that before, and I never felt the palpable, ‘What is she doing with him?’ thoughts directed at me before. If you’re like me, and you haven’t experienced anything like that before, I say you cannot know what you’d do in similar circumstances.”
As an average fella, I always wanted to date an extremely attractive woman. My average-fella friends had. I never did. Prior to Nancy, I thought it said more about me to date women of substance. I thought it said a lot about me that I focused on dating what we could call marriage material. If that’s what I was trying to say, no one heard me. No one thought more of me for exclusively dating women everyone should hold in high regard. No one thought less of me either. No one was paying near as much attention as I thought.
When Nancy and I walked around the town, we were that couple from that romantic comedy we all know and love. In that romcom, We know there’s nothing special about the male star, and that’s the reason those in charge of casting considered him perfect for the role. They wanted the average fella demo to watch their movie with the idea that they have a chance at dating the impossibly beautiful woman they cast for the other role. We don’t believe it, and yet we do. Even though high school taught us everything we need to know about our station in the dating world, we haven’t given up hope yet. They make those movies for people like us, because we love to dream. That was this.
Nancy Sendate was the type of beauty other men date, the jocks in high school, that guy with the unbelievable chin, and the stout nature that is inconceivable for certain body types. She was the prom queen type that we all talked about in high school. “Who’s she dating now?” “Did you hear she dumped the tight end for the quarterback?” “I hear she’s dumb.” The latter abounds as we all try to undercut her enviable prestige. Nancy Sendate was also the vindication, however brief, for those who informed me that I should lower my expectations and date more often. Nancy Sendate was my Holy Grail.
When I write Holy Grail, I’m referring to her looks exclusively. Is that a superficial thing to add to my testimonial? It is the very definition of superficial. There was no other reason to date her. The old line ‘beauty is only skin deep’ certainly applied to Nancy Senadate. The very idea that a man would tell someone as beautiful as Nancy Sendate to go pound sand, however, after seeing that smile, and hearing that excitement in her voice when she says yes to a date, just doesn’t make figure in my knowledge of the world.
The long and short of this is that I wanted to date a beautiful woman. I wanted to do other things to her too, of course, but I would’ve been a fool to think that she would date me long-term, or whatever it was that we did would’ve eventuated into marriage, but how many rational human beings –who have any experience in the dating world– enter into a date with long-term plans? And how many of those people are currently on some form of anti-depressant as a result? I simply wanted to be seen with her as often as possible, and I was perfectly willing to take all the slings and arrows that came with it doing so.
Nancy did say she was looking forward to our date, because I appeared to be what she called “normal”. That description would prove to be the second-best compliment she would give me. I was not a passive participant in this conversation. I cracked jokes. I said things like, “Gee thanks!” to her condescending description, and I added, “I knew if I ate all my peas, and listened to my ma, that one day some girl would tell me that I appeared to be normal.”
Nancy didn’t laugh at that. She simply used it as a pivot point to add to the reason she decided to be seen with me. She said she thought she had the smell of the ‘D’ word all over her. The ‘D’ word being divorce.
“How else can you explain the fact that only the wackadoodles have the courage, (and she did say courage) to ask me out,” she said.
“I’m going to guess a couple of them.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Make that three. I forgot about Gary, Gary the maintenance guy. Make that three guys who have asked me out that I’m sure are now on some kind of federal watch list. And the women are just as bad,” she added. “Everyone at the clinic hates me, all of my fellow employees anyway. This girl, Liz, yeah, she said I’m probably barren, and this other woman, Holly, said that I was a bitch. They don’t even know me. Where do they get off thinking they know me so well that they can say such things? Happens all the time to me.” She said the latter to imply that people reserve such judgments for her, a representative of the beautiful.
“The overwhelming amount of things I say in a given day, are to my patients,” she said. “They’re my peeps.
“As for women I’ve worked with every day for about a decade,” she added. “They don’t talk to me either. There’s a lot of down time in these clinics, filling out paperwork and such, and they all shoot the stuff with one another. I hear them when I enter into the room. All of a sudden, ‘Nancy is here’ and boom! the room goes silent. People hush. You ever had that feeling that people are talking about you?” she asked. “Happens all the time to me. We sit there in silence and file, and fill out blanks, and my day is almost entirely silent.”
As if to prove the point, Nancy Sendate spoke as if she hadn’t said a word all day, on every date we had, for the month that we saw each other. She spoke as if her thoughts had been bottled up, and that certain events had shaken her, until they exploded all over me. I said some things, but they were in reaction to what she told me. She didn’t even know my last name, or where I worked for the first couple weeks.
“I must admit that I look forward to our little outings,” Nancy said, somewhere around our third date. “You’re a good listener. I enjoy the company, and I was so lonely.”
I never heard anyone talk about loneliness as much as Nancy, and it may have been specific to Nancy, but I wondered the ability to openly talk about loneliness is a luxury exclusive to the beautiful woman. If a guy says he’s lonely, no matter how good looking he is, there is little sympathy for him. The typical response is: ‘Well, get off your tailbone and go get some’. If an average-looking woman says that she’s lonely, the room silences. They know why, but it’s not proper to discuss the reasons why. A beautiful woman is afforded such luxury, because she does not have to fear the assessments people might make of her. She does not have to endure the condescending condolences that include a line like, ‘You have a lot to offer Shelley. Some guy will come along and see that.’ A beautiful woman comes equipped with all of the reasons that a guy might want to date a woman, and when she complains about no one asking her out, her audience is just as shocked and confused as she is.
As for the all-too-constant ‘I’m lonely, and that’s the only reason I’m with you tonight’ characterizations of our quasi-romantic trysts, I don’t think Nancy ever worried that she might be hurting my feelings, but at one point in her all too numerous characterizations, she realized that she was pouring it on a bit thick, and she added, “Hey, I’m not saying you’re ugly, because you’re not.”
Those on the receiving end of such an assessment might believe it would serve as a launching point for the woman to go into the complimentary details of my physical characteristics. For Nancy Sendate, it was the beginning and the end of her assessment, and it would prove to be the nicest compliment I received from her. I don’t think she said it to bolster my confidence. I think she said it because while she didn’t mind saying things that might hurt my feelings, she didn’t want anyone to perceive her as the type who would hurt another’s feelings. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would prove to be fundamental to my understanding of Nancy Sendate.
Another reason her subtle shots about my appearance didn’t mortally wound me was that entering into this game, I knew I was playing for the ‘not ugly’ team, and every time she rang up a comment that was the equivalent of a superior team scoring a 76-yard touchdown on me, I just took the field, huddled up, and ran the next play. Some teams know they don’t match up well after the first quarter, some know it after the first series of downs, and some know it before they even take the field.
Her comments were also so over the top that I often thought she was trying to be an insult comedian. It was unusual, for me at least, to hear such insults from a woman, but in my male-dominated cadre of friends, insults were the norm. As such, every time she insulted me, I laughed. I don’t know if that encouraged her to proceed forward with these insults, because she knew I was in on the joke, or if she was attempting to pound me into the dirt to break my laughter. Whatever the case was, repetition eventually drained it of its provocative value. I don’t know if Nancy sensed that, or if she got bored with it too, but whatever the case was she decided to take her game up a notch.
“If you can guess my last name, I’ll go to bed with you tonight,” she said at the tail end of a ‘guys don’t notice things’ rant. “Guys notice the superficial traits of women, but they don’t appreciate the little things. They don’t even notice them.” When I argued that she might find me an exception to that rule, she said, “Really? What color are my eyes?” She closed her eyes when she asked that. When I answered correctly, she asked me where she worked, and a couple other details about her life she discussed throughout the night. When I did well throughout her initial challenges, she pressed harder and harder to expose me as yet another man who doesn’t pay attention. “What’s my last name? Seriously? You don’t even know my last name?” I knew her last name, but I temporarily forgot it in the intimidating rapid-fire interrogation. That’s when she concluded with the ultimate challenge, “If you can guess my last name, I’ll go to bed with you tonight.”
Anyone who knows a storyteller knows that they have a penchant for embellishment. Most storytellers want to tell the best story available to them and fudging a few details here and there is acceptable to the storyteller if it ignites some interest in the audience. After a number of run-ins with skeptics who see through these embellishments, the storyteller begins to believe that they’re embellishing details in real time.
Thus, when Nancy and I began walking with the maître d to our table, I thought I was exaggerating the silence that occurred in our wake. I felt it when we walked past the first table, and I thought the second table might be a coincidence, but when I felt it walking past the subsequent tables, I thought I might be exaggerating her effect on the patrons of the restaurant. I was so convinced it was a delusion that I didn’t even bring it up to Nancy.
Looking back, I think Nancy was more aware of it than I was. I think she knew the effect she could have on a room of average, ‘not ugly’ people. I might be exaggerating, but I think she also knows that manipulating the attention of others ebbs and flows. Her entrance into the room, silenced it, as everyone watched her walk through it. Once she sits and establishes her place in a room, everyone goes back to their conversations, their food, or what have you. Nancy knew that issuing provocative challenges would help her reassert control of the attention of those in the restaurant. If that was not the case, I thought, she was attempting to reassert her dominance over me, in lieu of the fact that her psychological games weren’t working as well as she thought.
Prior to her provocative challenge, the table to the right of us, behind Nancy, had been discussing a matter. I did not know what the subject of that matter was, of course, as I was paying attention to Nancy. Other than the fact that I knew people were there, I didn’t pay attention to them in any way, until their conversation came to abrupt halt in the aftermath of Nancy’s challenge.
As a well-grounded man who only dabbles in conspiracy theory for entertainment purposes, I did not immediately suspect that this abrupt halt in conversation in front of me, and behind Nancy, occurred as a result of her challenge. I thought it was a coincidence. Even as the silence continued and gained strength, I stubbornly refused to believe they were listening for my answer. As hard as I tried to be objective about this moment, however, the fact that the entire restaurant did not go silent, just those within range, became difficult to deny. Then, as if to confirm my greatest fears, a woman at the neighboring table began to speak, and her initial sentence trailed off, as if the group had either overtly, or subtly, silenced her in a collective manner.
“Sendate,” I said, as if this was nothing more than a test of my memory, on par with her previous challenges to my memory of her eye color and place of employment.
She appeared insulted. Her head clicked into a ‘c’mon, think about it!’ angle that suggested I just insulted her intelligence.
“You think I’d make it that easy for you?” she asked. “That’s my married name. I kept it, after the divorce, because I like the way it sounds. I’m talking about my maiden name. I’ll give you a hint, it will remind you of one of the most popular horror movies of the 80’s.” I expressed some confusion, regarding how that narrowed the field down, when she cut me off, “Just guess,” she said. “There’s a lot on the line.”
I threw out some random guess I can’t even remember. I wasn’t even close. Nancy informed me she would give me three more chances.
“Three strikes and you’re out,” she said. She laughed.
That put me at the plate. I didn’t have to imagine it. I had three chances. I thought the men at the other table –those who presumably identified with my ‘not ugly’ average fella characteristics– were telepathically sending me messages of support. I imagined them thinking that this was an opportunity the ‘not ugly’ are never afforded, and they were putting a lot of vicarious support behind me to get this right. I swung.
This swing was symbolic. It was a swing that the untalented make just to show everyone that they’re trying to hit a ninety-mile-an-hour pitch that every man thinks he should be able to hit, but no one outside the Major Leagues can. The problem with a symbolic swing is that it reveals more about the batter’s level of talent than keeping the bat on the shoulder to gauge the speed of the pitch will. I looked around after the swing, and when I saw no one was looking at me, I swung again. The silence from the neighboring table was now so palpable that Nancy’s eyes swiveled back to them, while pumping her eyebrows at me. It would prove to be the only recognition Nancy would give the idea that the neighboring table was listening in, counting on me, and prodding me to find a needle in haystack.
“How many popular, horror movies of the eighties were there,” I wondered aloud. I couldn’t think of one that would remind one of a surname. I guessed a third time. If I were a batter at the plate, I would’ve been on my keister after this swing, in the manner Reggie Jackson would in the seventies when he would put everything he had into a swing and missed. There were no groans, or audible sounds, but the pressure in the room lightened, and what filled that vacuous hole was silent disappointment.
“Geist,” she said, as if that should’ve been one of the first thoughts in my head. “As in Poltergeist?”
The conversations that had occurred prior to Nancy’s challenge resumed. I still had some trouble believing that the tables surrounding us went silent in the manner I thought they had, even with all of the evidence I now had to back that up, coupled with Nancy’s recognition of it. I had never experienced anything like that before, so it seemed implausible, until two different guys, at different parts of the large party table before me sent me smiles of encouragement. Those smiles suggested that they recognized how futile that effort was, but that they had been pulling for me. Another man, tightened his lips in a smile and shook his head with disappointment. All of these smiles confirmed to me what had just happened, and it also confirmed the sentiment that the men had, at least, been sending me support in my effort. The final, tight lip smiler, confirmed to me how much disappointment they all felt for my failure to succeed. That smiler’s look and nod suggested that he didn’t think I would ever be ready for someone like her.
That smile and nod led me to believe that my inability to answer this question correctly had caused a diminishment of the morale among the troops around us. It felt like a moment that needed to be addressed, in a sanctimonious manner equivalent to an ‘80’s movie monologue. I flirted with the notion of standing up and mounting a defense along the lines of: ‘I’ll take your arrows. I didn’t get the answer right, but I have to ask you smug smilers would’ve done better? How many of you, when hit with a similar question, out of the blue, could have come up with the answer, without the assistance of a smartphone?’
As the old saying goes, when one window closes, another opens for the true opportunist. The true opportunist will wallow in the disappointment of failure for only so long, before he capitalizes on the nutrients a burned field provides a future harvest. My window of opportunity would not open on that date, but when it did, at a minor league hockey arena, I would capitalize. When I would capitalize, I would wish that I could go back to the patrons of that restaurant, and that tight-lipped smiler, to inform them what I did with that failure.
First, I would have to deal with the pedal to the metal pressure Nancy Sendate put forth. Before our meal arrived, Nancy told me a story about one of the previous dates she had. A story I now title the short and happy date of Francis Becker. By her account, Francis Becker was a wonderful gentleman who opened doors for her, addressed her properly, and he even asked if she was comfortable in his car, on the drive to a restaurant. “Francis Becker did everything my ideal date would do,” she said, “until he asked the waiter for a doggy bag.
“He asked for a doggie bag!” Nancy said with a look of incredulousness that I was invited to mirror. “Do you want to know what happened to Francis Becker? The answer is I don’t know either, because I never saw him again, and for all intents and purposes that date ended right there.”
When the server arrived with our meals, I was so sure what was about to happen next, that an overwhelming majority of my attention was diverted to watching Nancy Sendata eat, or should I say nibble at a high-priced meal for which I would end up costing me about two hour’s wage. The inevitable was so set in stone that I put our situation into an algebraic expression. If Nancy eats X number of bites before her meal assumes room temperature, how much of that food, symbolized by the letter Y in our algebraic expression, will she end up ordering the server to discard? If X is attributable to Y and Z represents the monetary value of each bite she takes how much of my money will she end up wasting? It was such a fait accompli that I considered asking her to talk less so that she could eat more before her meal could assume room temperature, because I knew she wouldn’t deign to eat anything that assumed a degree near room temperature. I determined, by the ratio of her cuts, and the pace with which she was eating, that she would finish one quarter of her meal. I didn’t realize how focused I was on this inevitability, until she said:
“Would you like to help me finish my meal?”
‘Yes’ was so far out on the tip of my tongue that it required a space of about three seconds for me to restrain it. I knew if I accepted her invitation, I would suffer the same shelf life of Francis Becker. I ignored my impulses. “No,” I said, and I used a ‘don’t be silly’ tone when I said it.
“Will you be needing a take home box?” the server asked after we concluded our meals.
“No,” Nancy said with force. She said that in the midst of a sentence that she had not concluded. She said it as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “No thank you,” she said after completing that prior sentence. The latter pleasantry was not extended for my sake. Nancy didn’t want to appear rude to the waiter.
After she said no, I assumed she would continue eating, but Nancy gave the plate a subtle scoot to the center of the table with her thumb. She finished about one-fourths of her very pricey meal.
This first date did not end there, but I don’t recall anything that occurred after it. I don’t remember what we said, and I don’t remember how we parted ways. The only thing I remember about the tail end of that date was that one-fourths finished plate. I would think about that plate throughout the night, the next morning at work, and for the rest of that week. I would think about how delicious each of those bites could’ve been for me, had I the courage to help her finish that plate. I didn’t think of how beautiful she was, how charming, or how much I looked forward to our next date. I thought only of the food, and the subsequent money she wasted.
When I managed to put that plate, and that date, behind me, I called her up to ask her out on another date. I don’t think she was shocked, but she continued to play power games, with some humor, to pound the point home.
“I had a lot of fun last week,” she said, “but do you really think you deserve another date?”
“Well, I don’t think Jesus of Nazareth suffered and died on the cross so I could have one more date with you,” I said, “but I think I could show you a pretty good time.”
My definition of a good time turned out to be a fateful one. I started the conversation, as I always do with women who agree to be seen in public with me, by asking her what she wanted to do. She said, “I don’t know. You’re the one who asked me out. It’s your job to pick the place.”
“How about we go to a minor league hockey match?” I asked. I like hockey, but I don’t love it. I have no loyalties to the game, but I’ve always found it a fun sport to watch in person. I wasn’t set on hockey though. I just thought it would be something different to do, and I said so. “Besides, how many dinner and movie dates have you been on? Let’s do something different,” I added. “Let’s do something memorable,”
My pitch didn’t bowl Nancy over in the manner I thought it would, I provided her a number of alternatives. Even though she said she didn’t think any of my alternatives were any better, she couldn’t come up with any of her own.
Nancy wasted no time informing me that I made an incorrect decision, and this rant continued past the phone call and into our one-hour drive to the arena. This non-consecutive rant concluded with the window of opportunity that closed that day at the restaurant opening just enough for a true opportunist to capitalize on.
“No matter how this goes,” Nancy informed me, once we were seated in the minor league hockey arena. “This little series of dates, relationship, or whatever you want to call it, you’ll always be the guy that took me to a hockey match for a date. Seriously, when I talk about this date, if I do in two-years, ten-years, what have you, I’ll probably forget your name, and what you look like, which I see as a distinct possibility, but I’ll always say, ‘and then there was the guy who took me to a hockey match.’”
She said that to try to interrupt my flow, and she had successfully interrupted my flow numerous times on our previous date, and in our phone calls. She couldn’t touch my flow on this night. I was just “on”. Athletes often talk about the good days and bad days of their athletic career, but they also talk about those nights when they were just “on”, nights when they could do no wrong. I was just on that night. I was not feeling it, because I was overly excited to date her. I was just “on”. I was telling great stories, and I had her laughing twice. Nancy Sendate, it should be noted, was not a laugher. So, when I made her laugh, I considered it a huge accomplishment. As a natural reaction to that, the obviously gifted downer, that was Nancy Sendate, felt compelled to pull me down.
Just about every time she put me down, I came back with something, anything to put it back up. I don’t remember any of my on-the-spot comebacks, save for the one when I turned my failure to open the window of opportunity, back at the restaurant, around.
“Do you know what that machine cleaning the ice is called?” I asked, after the first period concluded.
“Does it even have a name?” she asked.
“It does,” I said, “and it’s well known in the hockey community.”
At this point in our relationship, unbeknownst to me, my opportunities were dwindling. Nancy would later inform me, in our exit interview, (a post-breakup phone conversation) that the hockey night was the beginning of the end. She stated that the reality of attending an actual hockey match had begun to supersede the joke of her forced attendance. The hint she provided me of this eventuality occurred in the following rant:
“Seeing as how I’ll never be attending another hockey match for the rest of my life, a sport I’ve barely heard of, and seeing as how it’s cold and dirty in here, and Canadian. Isn’t this sport Canadian? Yeah. Ick. Seeing as how there are a total of about ten college graduates in this audience tonight, and this is what these people consider getting gussied up, I’m guessing that I’ll never be a part of the hockey community, if I can avoid it, and I will try. For the rest of my life, I will try. So, you can just go ahead and tell me the stupid answer to your stupid question, because I’m not going to be able to guess the answer if you give me a million guesses.”
“If you get it right,” I said. “I’ll go to bed with you tonight.”
The power of one great line was introduced to me right then and there. The powerful slam of my window of opportunity closing, that first night in the restaurant, such that it echoed throughout the establishment, was just as loud as the slam of the window of opportunity opening with the delivery of this line. No one else heard the line, unfortunately, and even if they had, they wouldn’t have understood the true import of it. Nancy heard it, of course, and her shocked expression was one I can still see. I can still see her face go through contortions of shock, mild amusement, confusion, soft laughter, surprise and laughter again. The cavalcade of expressions informed me that that one line challenged every assumption she made about me.
“You copied me,” she said in a feeble attempt to take back the reins. She couldn’t, and she knew it. She examined my face to see if I knew how clever that comment was. She looked at me in a manner of newfound respect that suggested that while she was not ready to place me on an evolutionary plane she had designed for suitable suitors, she had just discovered that I was not on the evolutionary plane of the chimpanzee.
After I delivered that line, in the narrow space of time we spent in that hockey arena, Nancy Sendate allowed me to complete my jokes without feeling the need to interrupt me and inform me that my conclusions were probably going to be stupid and juvenile. She even offered me a one-time opportunity to finish one of my stories. She predicted that it would be stupid and juvenile before I started, and she concluded that she was right when I was done, but she allowed me to complete it without interruption, and it wouldn’t have happened without that one, clever line.
The fact that she didn’t like what she heard in those jokes, or those stories, was not evident in the minutes of the transcript I scoured in the aftermath of our breakup. For in the aftermath of that one, clever line, the window of opportunity that had been closed that day at the restaurant was reopened at the end of the night.
On the next, and final date, Nancy decided to inform me that the reward for last week’s opportunities was a one off, and she decided to punctuate the point by insulting the scent tree I had dangling from my truck’s rear-view mirror.
“What man has a multi-colored scent tree in his car?” Nancy asked me.
“I didn’t realize that scent trees had gender orientation,” I said.
“I didn’t either,” she said. “Until I saw this one.”
No matter how many times Nancy insulted me, my body, or my belongings throughout the weeks that we dated, I did not take the bait. I didn’t think about the extent to which she was baiting me but I now see that she wanted me to grow frustrated, insulted, combative, or unnecessarily defensive of my multi-colored scent tree. I didn’t. I thought most of her insults were an attempt at humor. I thought she was, perhaps, trying too hard to be a fella. Every male I knew bonded through insults. It’s what we did on Saturdays, at the bar, surrounded by pitchers of beer. I didn’t know that she had been searching for a way to end it, and that just about anything I did could’ve lit the fuse, but the futility of her search ended when I made the ill-advised decision to snap at her cat, a physical snap, as opposed to a verbal, one.
We were on her couch, watching a movie. Her cat was sitting between the blinds, holding two of them open. Nancy hated that. She feared onlookers. She asked the cat to move. She pled with it to make a decision other than the one it had. Nancy did everything but offer the cat a suitable alternative in its sitting pleasure.
“Boopy,” she said calling the cat’s name. “Come here boopy!”
Boopy didn’t so much as turn.
Prior to this night, Nancy often warned me that her pets’ opinions of me would be a ‘deciding factor’.
“These are the people I live with,” she said on that prior night, and she did say people. She had two boxers and a cat. She may have had more pets, but I was never introduced to them. I’ve never had trouble with dogs. Cats and I, however, have had a strained, and estranged relationship that can never be repaired. I’m not sure if I violated a tenet of the cat constitution, and word spread throughout the cat community, but whatever happened can never be undone. “I spend more time with Boopy and the boxers,” she mentioned each boxers’ names. I forgot them soon after she said them on that prior night. “So, what they think of you will define what I think of you.”
“C’mon Boopy!” she continued to plead, on this night, to the point that it was became uncomfortable and embarrassing.
“Why don’t you just move it?” I asked. “Do you want me to?”
“No!” she said. “If I force Boopy to do something she doesn’t want to do, she will never learn how her mommy wants her to act. She’ll just think she’s bad. I want her to make a decision in line with mine, and you will not do anything to damage that nature of our relationship.”
She resumed her pleading with the cat, until I grew embarrassed for her. The continued pleas took this episode outside the parameters of the joke. To this point, I was just starting to understand that this was not some drawn out joke about a pet owner’s inability to get a pet to do what they wanted it to do, but Nancy was so good looking that I afforded her great latitude in judgment. The culture conditions us, via TV, movies, and other repetitive messaging to believe that the beautiful are more in control of their facilities than we are, and that they have a complicated agenda that the ‘not ugly’ are too simplistic to understand. If we see an average to ugly person in a pair of bellbottoms, we might think they look foolish. On a beautiful, young woman with a shapely figure, the same pants can take on a retro nu vogue look. If a beautiful person decides that a seventies Marc Bolan, stovetop hat is due to be back in style, we will drive to our local thrift shop to search for the rare commodity. If they decide that a terrible old sitcom now has some redeemable qualities, we might think they’re onto something we don’t understand. If the beautiful decide to become ambivalent about the culture, we might re-examine the idea of being too in tune with it. We give their opinion far more cachet than we would the average to ‘not ugly’, in other words, because our conditioning leads us to believe that their opinion matters more than ours. Thus, when Nancy continued to plead with her cat, I initially viewed it as quirky and endearing, but the episode eventually went beyond the considerable latitude I afforded her. I began to feel sorry for her, and my instinct to help a damsel in distress kicked in. My problem-solving reaction was impulsive, and it ignored all previous warnings.
I put my naughty finger to my thumb and made the fateful decision to show Nancy and Boopy how loud one man could snap. I have heard comments about my snap. “That’s the loudest snap I’ve ever heard,” one person said. “How does one get a loud snap?” another asked. The latter asked that question in a manner of one seeking coaching advice for life. There is no answer, of course. “Some have loud snaps, others don’t, I guess,” I said to that latter person.
Boopy jumped when she heard that snap. Fear fueled her jump in a manner that increased the animal’s natural abilities tenfold. I was in the midst of putting together a joke regarding what I thought Boopy could achieve if Nancy learned how to harness that ability. My planned punchline involved Boopy experiencing a short-term contract in the NBA, if Nancy could find a way to continually prompt the cat’s launch sequence in such a manner. There was not enough time to deliver that joke, however, for immediately after the snap, Nancy scrambled to her feet. She was attempting to be so quick to her feet that she tripped a little. It was embarrassing. I wasn’t certain if embarrassment reddened her face, or if it was the rage.
Whatever the case was, she managed to shout “Get out!” before Boopy was entirely out of the room. I laughed. I didn’t laugh at the cat, Nancy’s trip, or the order that I vacate the premises, but the culmination of events led me to believe that she was punctuating the series of events with obnoxious random humor.
Nancy Sendate enjoyed talking about about herself, as I’ve said. She gave me way too much information about her workplace, her dating life, her maturation, and her life spent with Boopy and the boxers in a compressed amount of time. At times, she managed to deftly cut her overall seriousness with a current of self-deprecation. She did it to suggest that Nancy Geist-Sendata didn’t take herself as seriously as such descriptions might entail. As a result of that, I thought the mean expression she had on her face while looming over me and pointing at the door, was laced with over-the-top, self-effacing humor. I thought I should’ve received some points for taking charge of the moment and ending her embarrassment. I thought that she had lost some respect in her animal kingdom by pleading with them in such a manner, and I believed I helped restore the humans in the room to dominance with one simple, loud snap. Even if I had read the situation wrong, I didn’t think I read it so wrong that she might be serious about her order that I leave, not without some sort of self-deprecating humor attached to it. My mistaken assessments of the situation were reinforced by her demand that I get out, coupled with the silent fury with which she continued to point at the door.
“You’re serious?” I asked measuring her glare, awaiting the break of a smile.
“I am serious.”
We went through three or four of these attempts at clarification, before I could determine that she was, in fact, serious.
“Serious as a heart attack,” she said.
The seemingly arbitrary nature, with which Nancy ended our relationship, put me back a step. When I write that it didn’t affect me, I must admit that I am now so far removed from that month long relationship that I view the incidents as a third party looking back at one of the most unusual dating experiences I’ve ever had. In the immediate aftermath of it, however, it wounded me. I asked her why she ended it, during our exit interview (a post-breakup phone conversation). She talked about the hockey match, and she attempted to list a number of other determining factors, including my fiery temper. She often talked about this fiery temper, which if I ever had one, she never saw it. I think I absently talked about it one night, as something I probably needed to work on, but no matter how hard she pressed me, I never got angry at her.
In the end, my guess is that her decision to kick me out, and thus end our brief relationship, after I snapped at her cat was the conclusion of her attempts to find a “good guy” exit that she could tell her friends, and her reflection in the mirror. My guess is that event created a plausible end that no one would perceive as an arbitrary ending of a relationship on her part.
Every experience we have can provide a lesson to those that look hard enough to find it, they say. If that’s true, Nancy taught me that beautiful people don’t need a reason to break the hearts of women and men who are attracted to them, but they do need an excuse. They’re not immune to the fears that others might consider them mean, heartless, or in any other way a ‘bad guy’ for breaking up with another person for a reason that’s difficult to justify. Their justification allows them to sleep at night, even if it’s often not a very good reason. The rest of us know that if the reason we break the heart of one that wants to date us is arbitrary, karma will find a way to bite us in the tailbone that could lead us to being lonely, and everyone around us will secretly know why. The beautiful know that they can arbitrarily break up with the rest of us for whatever reason they dream up, because they know that if they do happen to go through lonely spells, all they have to do is call out “Now serving number 19” to those patiently waiting in line for us to be arbitrarily dumped.