The Weird and the Strange III: Nancy Sendate

{Disclaimer: The name Nancy Sendate is arbitrary. I do not know a person named Nancy Sendate, and any similarities to anyone named Nancy Sendate are coincidental. This story is a work of creative nonfiction.}

“I’m lonely,” Nancy Sendate would say to nullify whatever sense of accomplishment I thought I achieved by asking for her phone number, and asking her out in the ensuing phone call. I’m not sure how long after agreeing to be seen with me that she first said that, but it informed me that whatever it was we would be doing in the coming days, and weeks, would be conditional, short-term, and almost solely based on good timing on my part. Once that characterization of our relationship was established, she congratulated me for mustering up the courage (and she did say courage) to ask for her phone number and then ask her out during that phone call.

“That had to have been difficult for you,” Nancy said. “Congratulations!”

“I’m not to get excited,” I said. “Got it!”

If you’re reading condescension in her comments, you’re not a genius. She intended for these comments to serve notice that she was not dating me, because she was attracted to me, or that I exhibited charm or charisma. The only reason she agreed to date me was that she just happened to be fresh off a divorce, and she was lonely, and I was the lucky beneficiary of good timing. She also wanted me to know that this structure should serve as the foundation for the course of whatever events that would follow.

After congratulating me, she offered us a moment of silence to reflect on the humanity and generosity she was displaying to those of us of average appearance. Had I filled that silence with an “All hail the power of the beautiful woman!” sentiment, I’m not sure she would’ve laughed. I was in no position to do so, for while there was some exaggeration on her part, regarding our stations in life, there was some truth to it too.

Prior to our date, I often immersed myself in the messy, complicated world of dating co-workers. Nancy Sendate was not a co-worker, and in our pre-date phone call, she displayed knowledge on a wide range of topics. Her pros outweighed her cons, in other words, but the idea that she was beautiful, and she wasn’t afraid to use it, dominated just about every conversation we had in that phone call.

As an average fella, I’d wanted to date an extremely attractive woman for a while. My average fella friends dated obnoxiously beautiful women before, but I never did. I thought it said a lot about a guy to date women of personality and substance. I thought it said a lot about me that I focused on trying to date marriage material. If that’s what I was trying to say, no one heard me. No one thought more of me for dating women that everyone held in high regard, and no one thought less of me either. No one paid near as much attention as I thought they were. No one thought any less of those that dated superficial, somewhat vacant individuals either. “That’s just Willie,” is something they would say. People like Willie chose to date beautiful women exclusively, and he was willing to put up with whatever eccentricities they displayed for the opportunity to walk with the beautiful, in public, for one night. I saw it. I wondered why he would date a person that drove him insane. “Not every woman you date has to be a potential bride,” he told me. “I don’t plan to marry the woman I’m with now. We’re just having fun. You have to get over this mindset and just have fun with a beautiful woman for however long it lasts.”

To those men that agree with that sentiment, but suggest that I should not have dated this particular girl, based on the insults and the level of condescension that she hurled at me, I have but one rebuttal: “You didn’t see her.” She was mean to you though, is something I’ve heard. She was, but I dare say that most men, with any degree of fortitude, would’ve been able to endure it, if they received the smile I did shortly after asking for her phone number. If they heard the excitement in her voice, over the phone, when she agreed to go out with me, they would’ve been able to overlook a lot more than they think. If these men witnessed the effect her presence could have on a restaurant full of patrons, and they were able to maintain the stance that they would not have gone out with her, all I can do is take my hat off to them and concede inferiority in this arena. I had no experience dating a woman that stopped people on the street, and I never expected one to display excitement over the prospect of dating me. I also never felt the ‘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 a similar circumstance.

I did not know any of this would occur in my initial pursuit of Nancy Sendate, of course, but I did know that on the scale of beauty, she was above anything I knew in my relatively sparse dating life. I viewed Nancy Sendate as the type of woman that the movie star pursues in those romantic comedies we all love and live through vicariously. We all know that there’s nothing special about the appearance of that male star of the movie, and that’s the reason those in charge of casting decided he would be perfect for that role. Movies love to have the average fella demographic believe they have a chance at dating the bombshell they cast for the female role. Those of us that fit the demo, know that the woman is otherwise unattainable to us, no matter how ‘feel good’ that movie is, but we all enjoy the fantasy.

Nancy Sendate was the type reserved for the jocks in high school. She was the type that dated that guy with that unbelievable chin, and the stout nature that is not conceivable for most body types. She was a prom queen type that left the rest of us with nothing but rumor and speculation, as ammunition, to try to undercut her otherwise enviable prestige. She was also my vindication, however brief, against those that told me that if I wanted to date more often I would have to lower my expectations. Nancy Sendate was my personal Holy Grail.

When I write Holy Grail, I’m referring to her looks exclusively. The advantage of hindsight allows me to say that I don’t regret dating her. In the immediate aftermath of our breakup, however, I did not react well. Some might even suggest, as Nancy did, that my reaction to our breakup was unhealthy. What she did, however, was react to my reaction, and what I failed to do was hold her to account for what she did to drive me to that “unhealthy” reaction. She was mean to me, she spoke down to me, and in her attempts to have me break up with her she was pretty awful to me. I think she saw how excited I was to date her, I think she that she believed I was viewing our relationship in a long-term vein, and I think that drove her to act the way she did.

While we were dating, I didn’t care that Nancy Sendate spoke down to me. Even in the aftermath of all that I’m about to detail in this piece, I maintain it was all worth it to date her a handful of times. Is that a superficial thing to say such a thing? It is the very definition of superficial. There was no other reason to date Nancy Sendate. The old line that beauty is only skin-deep certainly applied to her. I would not go so far as to say that the people that condemned me for dating her were jealous, or that they were lying if they say they wouldn’t have dated her. The very idea that a man would tell someone as beautiful as Nancy Sendate to go pound sand, however, after seeing that smile just doesn’t make sense in my understanding of the world.

As for any questions the reader might have regarding long-term plans, I have to ask how many rational human beings –that have any experience in the dating world– enter into a date with long-term plans? We may want that idyllic scenario to play out in such a fashion, but how many of us count on it, and how many of those people that do are now on a series of mind-numbing anti-depressants as a result? I wanted to have one date with one beautiful woman, and I was perfectly willing to take all the slings and arrows that came with doing so.

Nancy did admit she was looking forward to our first 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.

“Gee thanks!” is what I said to her condescending remark, and I added, “I knew if I ate all my peas, and listened to my ma, I knew that one day some woman would tell me that I appeared to be normal.” She didn’t laugh at that. She simply used it as a pivot point to add another point to the list of why she decided to date me. She said she thought she it had something to do with the smell of the ‘D’ word she had on her. The ‘D’ word being divorce.

“How else can one explain the fact that only the wackadoodles that have the courage, (and she did say courage) to ask me out,” she said.

“I’m going to guess that 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 that have asked me out, that I assume are on some kind of law enforcement watch list.”

She also told me that everybody at the institute she worked in hated her. She said one of them, a girl called Liz, actually suggested that Nancy might be barren. Another woman, a Holly, called Nancy the ‘B’ word.

“They don’t even know me,” Nancy Sendate, the nurse, said. “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, the representative of the beautiful.

“The overwhelming amount of things I say on a given day, are to my patients,” she said to detail the fact that most people she worked with didn’t discuss casual matters with her. “They’re my peeps.

“As for my fellow employees, there’s a lot of down time in the institute I work in,” she continued. “People sit around filling out paperwork, filing, what have you, and they shoot the shit. I come into a room, and 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.

“I truly don’t care why they won’t speak to me,” she said of her fellow employees. “They have nothing interesting to say anyway. Never have. You’d think that common decency would prevail at some point though. You’d think that when seated next to someone, for a couple hours, that some conversations about some stupid TV show someone watched last night would come up. You’d think some ‘my husband is such a jackass,’ ‘my kid did something so cute the other night,’ or a ‘my dog took a dump in my shoe again’ story would arrive. Never do with 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 that she felt alienated, Nancy Sendate spoke. If the difference between using the term talk and speak in a sentence implies the number of people involved in a conversation, where talk involves two or more people talking and speaking involves a more one-sided conversation, Nancy spoke. She spoke, as if she hadn’t said a word all day, on every date we had, for the three weeks we dated. She spoke as if she bottled up her thoughts throughout the day, until they exploded all over me. I said some things, but they were in reaction to what she said. As evidence of this, Nancy Sendate didn’t know any particulars about me for the first couple of weeks. She displayed no interest in where I worked, and she didn’t even know my last name until the midway point in date number two. She said she looked forward to our little outings, after the first couple of weeks though, because I was a good listener. She enjoyed the company, and she repeated the idea that she was lonely.

Most people won’t admit to being lonely as often as Nancy would. I suspect that this is a luxury exclusive to the beautiful woman. Regardless how good looking a man is if he says he’s lonely, there is often little sympathy for him. Regardless, how much money that man has, or how confident he is, he is apt to hear, ‘Well, get off your tailbone and get some’. If any other woman admits to being lonely, the room silences. They feel sorry for her. She can’t find a lover, and the room knows it’s not proper for the room to discuss the reasons why. A beautiful woman does not have to fear those assessments, and 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 says she’s lonely, and her audience is just as shocked as she is.

I don’t think she ever worried that she might be hurting my feelings, but at one point in her all too numerous ‘I’m lonely, and that’s the only reason I’m with you’ discussions, she realized that she might be pouring it on a bit thick. “Hey, I’m not saying you’re ugly, because you’re not,” she said to conclude her assessments of our situation.

Those on the receiving end of such an assessment might believe it would serve as a launching point to the woman going into the finer 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 best compliment she ever gave me. I don’t think she said that to bolster my confidence. I think she said that because she didn’t want me to perceive her as a type that would hurt another’s feelings. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would prove to be a key to understanding Nancy Sendate. She didn’t mind saying things that might hurt others’ feelings, but she didn’t want to have the perception of one that did.

That assessment of my physical appearance might have shattered another man. It might have led most men to begin the proceedings involved in a breakup, but to those that badgered me regarding the idea that this woman was not a nice person, I ask again if they’ve ever had an entire restaurant go silent upon their entrance? Have you ever had the tables near you go silent, as they attempt to hear what gorgeous women discuss? We’ve all heard about this phenomenon, but how many have witnessed it firsthand? How many have “been with” a product of such fascination before? Until you have, I tell those in my not ugly, average fella demographic, you can’t tell me what you’d do.

When Nancy attempted to lay me out with her self-serving assessments, based on her greater insecurities, I laughed most of them off. I’m still not sure if it was her attempt at humor. It wasn’t in the initial phone call, I can tell you that much, but in the course of that first date, I began to find it humorous. It was so over the top. As I laughed, she grew emboldened. I don’t know if she felt encouraged to pursue a joke she thought I got, or if she attempted to pound me, so deep into the dirt that she broke my laughter. Whatever the case was, the repetition drained the joke of the provocative, or humorous, value that it had, and she decided to take it up a notch.

“If you can guess my last name, I’ll go to bed with you tonight,” Nancy said.

She said that in the middle of a restaurant, before our meal arrived, and she said it loud enough that I feared others might hear her. The comment arrived at the tail of a “Guys don’t pay enough attention to a woman” discussion. In that discussion, she said, “Guys might notice the superficial aspects of women, but they don’t notice the essence of woman. They don’t notice the little things.” When I argued that I might be the exception, she challenged me, “What color are my eyes?” She closed her eyes when she asked that. When I answered that correctly, she said, “What’s my last name?” I hesitated slightly. I knew her last name, but I hesitated under her rapid-fire questions. “Seriously?” she asked. “You don’t even know my last name?” That’s when she dropped the challenge and subsequent reward for getting the answer right. I hesitated under the weight of it. I was overwhelmed.

It’s impossible for me to know if Nancy recognized the effect she could have on a room, and if I’m going to be objective, I have to admit that I might be exaggerating the effect. It’s possible that I dramatized our entrance, and the ‘What’s she doing with him?’ looks I thought I received. It’s also possible that I over-dramatized the effect her challenge had on our neighboring table, but the evidence that surrounded it convinced me that they heard her. If it was as real as it thought, however, I have to believe that she was more aware of it than I was. Nancy’s challenge, I assume, was either to reassert her dominance of me, or to assert some kind of dominance of the room, and if it was the latter, it had a profound influence on the former.

The neighboring table housed a large party that required three tables. They sat behind Nancy and before me, and they were having a conversation. I did not know the subject of that conversation, of course, as I was paying attention to Nancy. Other than the fact that I knew that a large party of 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 embarrassingly loud challenge.

As a well-grounded man that dabbles in conspiracy theory for entertainment purposes, I did not immediately suspect that this abrupt halt in conversation in front of me occurred because of her challenge. I thought it was a coincidence. Even as their silence continued, I stubbornly refused to believe they were trying to hear 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 ignore. Then, as if to confirm my greatest fears, a woman at that table began to speak. I think this woman was oblivious to the challenge Nancy issued, and she thought a lull occurred at her table, nothing more. After this woman’s initial sentence received no response, she spoke again. That second sentence trailed off, as if the group had overtly, or subtly, silenced her in a collective manner.

“Sendate,” I said, as if this was nothing more than a test of my memory, equivalent to the challenge Nancy offered me regarding her eye color.

She appeared insulted by that guess. 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. “Just guess then,” she said. “There’s a lot on the line.” 

I guessed. I wasn’t even close. Nancy said she wouldn’t count the ‘Sendate’ guess, and that she would give me three 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 with three chances. I also imagined that the men at the other table –those that identified with the ‘not ugly’ average fella characteristics– were telepathically sending me messages of support. I imagined them thinking that this was an opportunity that the ‘not ugly’ contingent are rarely afforded, and they were putting a lot of vicarious support behind me getting it right. I swung again.

This swing was symbolic. I can’t remember what movie I mentioned, but it was nothing more than a swing to show my audience that I was trying. The swing was equivalent to one an untalented baseball player makes to show their audience that they tried to hit an eighty mile an hour pitch that every man thinks they should be able to hit, but most know they can’t. The swing was of the futile variety that leads the untalented to wonder if everyone can see how truly untalented they are.

I looked around. 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 make to the idea that the neighboring table was listening in, counting on me, and prodding me to find that needle in haystack.

“How many popular, horror movies of the 80’s were there,” I wondered aloud. I couldn’t think of one that would remind one of a surname. I guessed again. If I had been a batter at the plate, I would’ve been on my keister after this swing, in the manner Reggie Jackson would be in the 70’s 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 group at the table next to us went silent in the manner I thought they had. Even with all of the evidence I now had to back that assessment up, coupled with Nancy’s recognition of it, I still couldn’t believe it. I never experienced anything like that before, so it seemed implausible, until two different guys in the party sent me smiles of encouragement. Those smiles suggested that they recognized how futile the 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 confirmed the sentiment that the men had been sending me for my effort. One final smiler sent me a tight lip smile that expressed some disappointment 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 Nancy Geist-Sendate.

That smile and nod led me to believe that my inability to answer this question correctly had caused diminished morale among the troops. It felt like a moment that called for me to stand up and address the situation in a manner similar to an ‘80’s movie sanctimonious monologue. ‘I’ll take your arrows. I didn’t get the answer correct, but I wonder how many of you, with smug smiles on your face, could have 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, though, when one window closes, another opens for the true opportunist. The true opportunist will wallow in the disappointment of failure for only so long. He knows what every farmer knows about the nutrients that can result from burning the fields for a future harvest. He knows to capitalize on those benefits. 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 capitalized, I thought about the patrons of this restaurant, and that tight-lipped smiler, and I thought about informing them what I did with that moment of failure they witnessed.

Before cashing in on that failure, I would have to deal with the pedal to the metal pressure that Nancy Sendate could put forth. We were still on that first date, and we were both awaiting our over-priced meal, when she told me about the short and happy date she had with a Francis Becker. Francis Becker, by her account, was a good guy that opened doors for her, addressed her properly, and he even took a moment to ask if she was comfortable in his car, on their drive to the restaurant. Francis Becker was, by her characterization, the ideal man for her, until he made the fateful decision of asking the waiter for a doggy bag.

“Do I even need to tell you what happened next?” Nancy asked with a look of incredulousness that she invited me to mirror. “Nothing. Nothing is what happened. I never saw the guy again, and for all intents and purposes that date ended right there.”

I empathized with the plight of Francis Becker. Francis Becker sounded like a regular fella that just happened to trip up on one of Nancy Sandate’s trip wires. Francis’ faux pas sounded like one I might have made if she failed to warn me. Perhaps that’s why she warned me, I thought. I thought Francis might have been tentative and indecisive. He might not have known that her rules were set in stone.

Nancy enjoyed bullying the indecisive, and it was obvious she considered me indecisive. She had no idea that I withheld opinions that differed from hers, in the hope of a second date. When I would later introduce her to some of those opinions, and the idea that the intellect that formed those opinions could achieve a grade above that of the average chimpanzees’, they did not move her. I could agree and disagree with her all I wanted, as long as I shut up long enough for her to get her point across.

Throughout the course of this meal, and the few dates that would follow, I learned everything there was to know about Nancy Sendate’s politics. Politics was both her favorite and least favorite topic of conversation. She loved to talk about politics, in other words, but she loathed political conversations that involved another’s opinion. Dismissal motivated much of Nancy Sendate’s politics. I’ve met all sorts of political people over the years, and I’ve encountered more than my share of people that believe we live in the best of times and the worst of times, but I don’t think I met a person before, or since, that could dismiss the breadth of human history before I met Nancy Sendate.

Nancy Sendate was about everything modern. She didn’t want to have involve herself in discussions of other eras. If I started a conversation about an historical figure from another era, she shut it down.

“They come from a time that I don’t want any part of,” is what she said. The implication being that any era prior to hers reeked of sexism, racism, and patriarchal hierarchy.

The mistake one could make, and one that I made initially, was that her refusal to partake in discussions of a bygone era that did not exclusively focus on that era’s faults was an informed opinion on her part. The more I spoke with her, the more I learned that her adamant dismissal of previous eras was a ‘get out of jail’ card for having to know the details of human history.

She didn’t have to know anything about Winston Churchill, for example, because she could dismiss him on the basis that he was probably a racist, sexist pig that contributed to the patriarchal norms of his era. I don’t know if this was the lone motivator for her dismissals, but my overarching philosophy dictated that if I was going to refute the philosophical tenets of one that disagrees with me, I should know their subject as well, if not better, than they did. Suggesting that we should not even discuss topics that made her uncomfortable seemed to me an excuse on Nancy Sendate’s part for not knowing much about history. If this wasn’t the case, I thought the onus was on Nancy Sendate to prove that we should dismiss every era that preceded ours with factual refutation.

For a woman that focused so much energy on politics, Nancy Sendate did not appear to pay much attention to the politics of food. One would think that one of her like-minded cohorts would’ve taken her aside to detail the political sins of waste. One would think that one of them would have informed her that that portion of the pig that she ordered the waiter to dispose of, gave its life for her nourishment, and one of the best ways one can pay homage to that pig, beyond not eating it, was to avoid wasting it. I didn’t want to say any of this, because I didn’t want to talk politics. Nancy Sendate did, and for her politics were a narcissistic means to achieving a self-serving end.

When the waiter provided us our meals, I thought of her no doggy bag dictum, and I was so sure what was about to happen that most of my focus was on watching Nancy Sendata eat, or should I say nibble around, the over-priced meal that would set me back about two hour’s wage. The inevitable was so set in stone that I began translating this word problem into an algebraic expression. If Nancy is willing and able to eat ‘X’ number of bites before her meal assumes room temperature, how much of that food ‘Y’ will she end up ordering the waiter to dispose? If ‘X’ is attributable to ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ represents the value of each bite she takes with an agreed upon value of the pork before her, then 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, as I knew she wouldn’t deign to eat anything that assumed a measure below room temperature. I determined, by the ratio of her cuts, and the pace with which she was eating, that she would only finish a quarter of her meal. I didn’t realize how distracted I was, until she said.

“Would you like to help me finish?”

That ‘Yes’ was so far out on the tip of my tongue that it required a space of about three seconds to restrain it. I knew that accepting this invitation would lead me to suffer a self-imposed shelf life similar to that of poor Francis Becker, so I successfully restrained my impulses. I said no.

“Will you need a take home box?” the waiter asked after he thought we had concluded our meals.

“No,” Nancy said with force. She said that in the midst of a sentence that she had not concluded. She concluded that sentence, as if there had been no interruption. “No thank you,” she said after completing that sentence. Nancy did not extend this pleasantry for my sake. She didn’t want the waiter to perceive her as rude.

I assumed, at that point, that she would continue eating, but Nancy gave the plate a subtle scoot to the center of the table. Her meal was one-fourths finished.

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 the food left on 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 meal. I didn’t think of how beautiful she was, or how much I looked forward to our next date. I thought only of the food, and the subsequent money, that she wasted.

When I managed to put that date behind me, I asked her out on another date. I don’t think she was shocked, but she continued to play her power games, with some humor, to pound the point home.

“I had a lot of fun last week,” she said, “but do you think you’re deserving of 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 decision. I asked her what she wanted to do. She said, “I don’t know.” I told her that I thought we should attend a minor league hockey match. I like hockey, but I don’t love hockey. I have no loyalties to the game, and the thought of attending a hockey match did not excite me in any way. I thought it would be something different to do, and I thought it might provide her a memorable experience on that basis.

Nancy Sendate wasted no time informing me that I made an incorrect decision, and this continued throughout our one-hour drive to the arena. This near-hour long rant concluded with what I describe as that window of opportunity opening once again.

“No matter how this goes,” Nancy informed me, after we found our seats in the minor league hockey arena. “You’ll always be the guy that took me to a hockey match for a date.”

“Do you know what that machine cleaning the ice is called?” I asked, as the Zamboni resurfaced the ice before the hockey match could begin.

“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 for future dates were dwindling. Nancy would later inform me, in our exit interview, (a post-breakup phone conversation) that hockey night was the beginning of the end. She would also say that the reality of attending an actual hockey match began to supersede the joke of her forced attendance. A hint of that 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, dirty in here, and Canadian. Isn’t this sport Canadian? Yeah. Ick. Seeing as how there are 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.”

I could’ve added, ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ to the joke, but the look on her face suggested that Shakespeare was right, ‘brevity is the soul of wit.’ The powerful slam of my window of opportunity closing on that first date 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 import of it. Nancy heard it, of course, and her shocked expression was one I still live with. I can still see her face go through contortions of laughter, confusion, laughter, surprise, and laughter again. The face she gave me informed me that that line challenged every assumption she made of me prior to that point.

“You copied me,” Nancy Sendate 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 the evolutionary plane she had designed for preferred suitors, she had just discovered that I was not a chimpanzee.

After I delivered that line, Nancy Sendata began allowing me to complete my jokes without feeling the need to interrupt me and inform me that my punchlines were probably going to be stupid and juvenile. She even offered me a one-time opportunity to finish one of my stories without interrupting me to inform me how many of my stories were stupid and disappointing. She considered the story that followed just as juvenile and disappointing, of course, but it was out, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish it without interruption were it not for the smooth delivery of that one, timely, clever line.

On the next, and final date, Nancy informed me that last week’s carnal reward for a clever joke was a one off, and she decided to punctuate the point by insulting the multi-colored scent tree I had dangling from my 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 creative insults I endured throughout the weeks that we dated, I was not going to take the bait. Hindsight informs me now that her comments were bait, and that she wanted me to be frustrated, insulted, combative, and unnecessarily defensive of my multi-colored scent tree. I wasn’t. I thought most of her insults were an attempt at humor. I thought that she might have been 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. With this error, I unknowingly deprived Nancy of what I now view as her attempts to make a ‘good guy’ exit out of the relationship. She made several attempts prior to that one, to find a ‘good guy’ exit by declaring that she couldn’t handle my ‘awful temper’, an assessment she made about me without seeing any evidence to support it. 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 sitting on her couch, watching a movie. Her cat was sitting between the blinds, holding them open. Nancy hated that. She feared onlookers. She asked the cat to move. It decided it would not move. She pled with the cat to make a decision other than the one it had. Nancy offered the cat what she considered a suitable alternative for its sitting pleasure. The cat didn’t even turn its head.

“Boopy,” she said calling the cat’s name. “Come here boopy!”

Boopy continued to look out the window.

To her credit, Nancy did warn me that her pets’ opinions of me would be what she called “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 might have had more pets, but I didn’t receive a formal introduction to them. I’ve never had trouble with dogs, or kids, but I have had a strained and estranged relationship that is beyond repair. I’m not sure if I violated some tenet of one cat’s constitution, and word spread throughout the cat community, or if I violated the patterns and routines of the normal human. I think that cats and dogs are like little kids in that they watch adult humans, and they study our patterns and routines. These patterns and routines help them co-exist with humans, in that they use that knowledge to develop a comfort level with the animal kingdom’s most complex creatures, and deviations from those understood norms spook them. I normally try to deviate from the norm with cats, because I know how susceptible they are to a good spooking. When I write ‘a good spooking’, I’m not talking about overt or obvious tactics. I’m talking about a quick itch of the chest, while the cat is involved in its study. I’m talking about flipping the thumb up erratically while watching TV. I’m talking about subtle variations that cause a cat to sprint from the room until the subject of their study leaves, but I didn’t do any of that in Nancy Sendate’s duplex, for she cautioned me against following any such impulses with the caveat:

“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 became uncomfortable to watch.

“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 relationship.”

She resumed her pleading with the cat, until I grew embarrassed for her. The resumed pleading took this episode outside the parameters of the joke. To this point, I was just beginning to understand that it was not a joke, but she was so good looking that I accorded 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. If we see an average to ugly person in a pair of bellbottoms, we 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 1970’s 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 show now has some redeemable qualities, we might give their opinion far more cachet than we would the average person. If they’re not, and some will humbly inform us they’re not, we’ll re-examine the idea of being too in tune with the culture. We go through all this, because our conditioning leads us to believe that their opinion matters more than our opinions do. When Nancy’s continued pleading with Boopy went beyond that considerable latitude I afforded her, however, she ran into my male need to help a damsel in distress, and my problem-solving instincts kicked in. My 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 received compliments for that snap in the past. “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 responded.

The snap did cause Boopy to jump about three feet off the ground. Fear fueled this jump in a manner that increased the animal’s natural abilities tenfold. I was in the midst of putting a joke together regarding what Boopy could do if she learned how to harness that ability, and my planned punchline involved Boopy experiencing a short stint in the NBA, if someone could continually initiate her launch sequence by startling her. 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.

I discovered that it was the latter, as she managed to shout, “Get out!” before Boopy could scamper from 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 randomness.

Prior to this moment, Nancy Sendate enjoyed speaking about herself, as I’ve said. She told me everything there was to know about her workplace, her dating life, her maturation, and the life she spent with Boopy and the boxers. In almost all of those stories, there was an element of seriousness. Intermingled within that seriousness, however, were self-deprecating jokes that suggested 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 this 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 Boopy, and I believed I had restored the humans in the room to dominance with one simple, loud snap. Even if I 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 said 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 arbitrary nature, with which Nancy ended our relationship, put me back a step. When I write that it didn’t affect me, I speak of those moments that occurred within the brief relationship and with the hindsight of years since removed. I now 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 (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. In the end, my guess is that it was all about her wanting to end whatever it was we had, and her inability to find a plausible “good guy” excuse to exit that she could tell her friends, and her reflection in the mirror.

Every experience we have can provide a lesson for those looking hard enough to find one. If that’s true, Nancy taught me that beautiful people don’t need a reason to break the hearts of the women and men attracted to them, but they do need an excuse. They’re not immune to the fear 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 one. 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. What still burns me up about the end of this particular relationship is that I gave her the justification she needed to break up with me. I fell for it. I’m sure she told people that I was mean to her cat, and she framed that incident in the same manner she did Francis Becker’s request for a doggy bag. I didn’t intend to be mean to her cat. I saw a problem, and I thought I had a solution. Yet, she used that incident to arbitrarily end our relationship in the manner the beautiful know they can, because they know karma doesn’t apply to them in this regard, for all they have to do is call out “Now serving number 19” to those patiently waiting in line for us to be arbitrarily dumped.

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