The Weird and the Strange IV: Jenny Wade

{Disclaimer: The name Jenny Wade is arbitrary. I do not know a person named Jenny Wade, and any similarities to anyone named Jenny Wade are coincidental. This story is about a person of another name.}

Jenny Wade was already seated at a table, at an Applebee’s, when I met her. My uncle set us up on this blind date. Jenny Wade had worked with him for years, and he thought she was dynamite. He wasn’t the type that played matchmaker often. He wanted his choices to be held in high regard, and he was particularly choosy when it came to selecting women he thought his favorite nephew might find attractive. He was always asking me questions about my ideal woman, and my answers probably varied more than they should have, based on the women I spent time around and the women I was dating at the time.

“Her name is Jenny Wade,” he said. “She has a great personality. She has a quick wit, she’s intelligent, and she’s worthy of my favorite nephew.” He told me two jokes she told, and they were quite humorous. On the looks front, he said she was cute. “She’s not gorgeous,” he said. “She’s cute, but her personality supplements whatever flaws in appearance she may have.” He knew he was describing what I considered my ideal woman at the time.

What my uncle did not know, because I did not tell him, was that I had just ended a brief relationship with a personality-deprived woman –that was excessively attractive– weeks prior to his proposition. I wasn’t ready to swear off gorgeous women at this point, but I had just had my fill of women controlling me with their beauty. I was going through a period of transition in which I thought it said a lot about a man, and it defined some elements of his character, to date women that were high on personality, intelligence, and wit, over the superficial qualities we all prefer in our dating experiences. I had no idea how this woman, this Jenny Wade, would challenge those beliefs.

That excessively gorgeous, personality-deprived woman I had just broken up with, had no problem informing me that she was thinking of other men, while we were on a date. She had no problem informing me that she was not thinking of a particular man, but a composite, of the perfect man she was seeking. She informed me that her current image of this ideal man was, at least partially, based on the complete asses that she dated prior to me. Yet, she described their boorish behavior with an unusual degree of fondness. She basically said that I couldn’t compete with those men, because I was nice. ‘You’re nice to a fault,’ was something she often said to complete her assessment of me.

The manner in which this gorgeous woman would sit across the table from me suggested that if I wanted our date to be enjoyable, I had better get off my tailbone and make it so. She wasn’t the type to entertain in other words. She was the type that was to be entertained. A woman, such as the one my uncle was describing –that could bring something else to the table– sounded like a nice change of pace to me after that, but she was already at that table.

The maître de welcomed me to the restaurant, and she asked me for my name. I was confused by the fact that the maître de appeared as though she had been expecting me. I was confused that she was asking me for my name, but I gave it, and she proceeded to escort me to a table.

She may have said that my other party was already seated, but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember anything beyond following that maître de to the table. I cannot describe how odd this experience was for me. I have witnessed similar moments, in the movies, and those moments are often portrayed as extremely classy. In those scenes, however, it’s often the female that is being escorted to the table. This is a generality, I know, and some readers may perceive it to be sexist. It may be, and it may be that those that are not amenable to accepting variances on the roles of genders in any situation are in dire need of a tuneup, but I have never been able to catch up to such social advances in this regard. I am a traditional male that follows traditional lines.

One of the reasons some of us have such a difficult time adjusting, is that no matter how often the idea of modern variances are pounded into our head, few of us actually act on them, and as a result they leave us feeling that such situations are unnatural.

Of all of the violations I committed in the dating world, one of the most egregious occurred when I showed up late for one. I accidentally left a girl waiting. People, in general, and women in particular, do not want to be left waiting. I learned that egregious faux pas deals the prospect of any future dates with the aggrieved a near-death blow. I learned this from a particularly gifted tongue lasher. The waiting is one thing, I learned in this tongue-lashing, but the idea that all of the others surrounding the woman that waits, know that the waiting person is left waiting, leaves a woman feeling more vulnerable to the opinions of others.  

“Most men know this,” I was informed, “and they have the common decency to show up early to prevent it. To avoid going through such a moment, most women show up late. Or, they have a man pick them up at home, or they arrange a prior meeting place.”

After that precedent, I had one woman arrange a meeting place where the two of us would acknowledge one another with a wave, from inside our cars, and then drive to the restaurant. I had discussed all of this with Jenny over the phone, prior to our meeting, and I said I was sympathetic to the idea and open to the numerous ways in which she wanted to meet. She said that that none of that would not be necessary with her, and she even went so far as to giggle about how sympathetic I had become to this situation.

She decided that we should meet inside the restaurant. I took this to mean that either she didn’t want me to know where she lived, or she didn’t want to meet a stranger outside of the restaurant. She wanted people around, I thought, in the event that something should happen. I had no problem with any of this, as we’ve all heard tales of women that didn’t follow such protocol, but I also knew that it was my responsibility to show up early to prevent her from any feelings of discomfort.

I could not imagine how vulnerable Jenny Wade must’ve felt seated at the table, strumming her fingers on that table, and watching the door to see if I had arrived. I was filled with apology for being late, even though I checked the time, and I saw I was a good five minutes early. I did feel bad, regardless, when I saw the relief on her face, as she saw me walking down the aisle, behind the maître de. Previous experience informed me that a woman relieved to see you, is a woman scorned, and she will be a fuming woman soon after that maître de departs. I offered a proactive apology to cover for the error I didn’t feel I had committed.

“You’re not late.” she said twisting her wrist to look at her watch. “In fact, you’re a little early.”

I was relieved by her acknowledgement, but I was still so uncomfortable with the idea that she was waiting for me that I couldn’t get past it, even though it was partially created in my mind, based on past experiences. This whole idea that I was the one with the problem, that I was the one too familiar with traditional roles in in dating, and that I was the one that needed an update in my hard drive, wasn’t helping me either. The brainstorming I went through, to try and find a way to ease my mind, ended with me considering the idea that the traditional norms are accepted for a reason.

That reason, for me at that moment, was that I was nervous, anxious and uncomfortable, and those of us that don’t date often are all of the above, and then some, on a blind date. To attempt to find some comfort on a blind date, we fall back on the comfort of established norms. There’s always a reason an individual breaks from the established norms, I thought while she spoke. I didn’t know what that reason was yet, but I had so many questions that I couldn’t narrow it down. I decided that I wouldn’t ask any of them, but I knew they would eat away at me until I arrived at some sort of resolution.

I did manage to put these questions aside enough to have a pretty good time, but they loomed over our conversations, and they were exacerbated during our lulls.

For her part, Jenny Wade did not appear to be the least bit uncomfortable. Her conversation appeared relaxed and confident, and her body language suggested that she was not a woman accustomed to confusion. It was both attractive and disarming, or it was so disarming that it was attractive. I was unaccustomed to seeing this much confidence from a person in the introductory phase. This was made all the more confusing by the fact that she wasn’t attractive enough to be this confident. She was cute, as my uncle said, and her personality did appear to supplement what she lacked on the surface. This level of confidence also enhanced whatever superficial attraction she did have.

Jenny Wade was funny too. I’m not talking about “it’s refreshing to finally date a woman that has a sense of humor that doesn’t need a platform” funny. I’m talking about genuine, knee-slapping funny, and her follow ups suggested that she was used to people finding her funny. She was everything my uncle told me she would be. She did wear a little too much makeup, which worried me, but I could see from her facial structure that she wasn’t covering up something that would have me running for the hills later.

At one point on this otherwise enjoyable date, Jenny Wade made a proclamation: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

The reader may wonder about my word choice here, and they might believe that I am choosing the word ‘proclamation’ to either lend more gravity to this story, or that I prefer this word because it has a lot of syllables, and it makes me sound smart. All I can say to clear up any confusion of my word choices here is that she did not say it as a casual aside, in the manner most people will. She announced that nature was calling out to her following one of our conversation topics, and she did it in a manner that Webster’s defines a proclamation as being either a public or official, announcement. It wasn’t a proclamation in the sense that anyone else in the public could hear it. She said it low enough so that I was the only one that could hear it, but the manner in which she said it a manner I associate with an official pronouncement, as if she were Mark Antony reading from a scroll. I had been informed that there are a number of ways in which one informs another they must use the facilities of the restaurant. I had been informed that one does not just slide out of a booth and leave for the restaurant. One does have to inform the others at the table why they are leaving momentarily, but that announcement can be made in a casual manner. This was a declaration that Jenny Wade was making, and it made all the more formal by the silence that followed.  

She didn’t do anything after saying it. She said it, and she looked around the room, taking in various patrons of the restaurant, while presumably pondering if she should actually go.

The natural inclination one might have in the silent spell that follows, is to say, ‘Well go then.’ I had committed that faux pas once, and the recipient of this directive informed me that a man never tells a woman to ‘just go’ to the bathroom. It’s verboten. I had been informed that there are a multitude of reasons why a woman has reservations regarding just going, and telling them to do so forces them to explain those reservations, and that is never a pleasant experience for them. I had also learned that some women will not provide an explanation for her reasons, and the man is something of a cad for asking her to explain that which is so personal. Even if a man considers going to the bathroom to be nothing more than a break in the action, or a natural consequence to the eating and drinking that occurs on a date, a man is required to exhibit some empathy in regards to the hang ups some women have about going to the bathroom.

“I don’t want to go,” Jenny added in a tone that suggested she was speaking more to herself than me. “But I have to.” 

A more egotistical person may have considered this furtherance to be a compliment directed at the interesting conversation we were having, that she did not want to interrupt. I did not. I also did not consider either of these proclamations unusual, as a result of all of the ‘hang up’ conversations I had had.

The one thing I learned from these numerous conversations is that I would never have a firm grasp on the subject of women and bathrooms. We all have our hang ups, of course, but I’ve heard women state that they prefer one restaurant over another based solely on how clean and fancy one’s restrooms are. I’ve heard some women complain about the acoustics of a bathroom that leads them to opting out of using those facilities when another is in there. I’ve even heard some women say that they will not go into a public restroom if Mother Nature is instructing them to do something other than number one. Therefore, when Jenny Wade informed me that she had to use the bathroom, and that she didn’t want to, it was not unprecedented for me. If nothing of note had followed these proclamations, in other words, I would not have considered her proclamations worthy of note.

Thus, when Jenny Wade politely interrupted a subject I started in on, to yet again inform me that she would not be able to participate in this conversation, because she had to go to bathroom too bad, I concluded that she had now entered into an ongoing joke that I had had with women, and that my humorous frustration with her indecision would provide me an out for treading in verboten territory.

“Women and bathrooms,” I said. “Just go, for the love of Saint Peter. I promise not to think anything less of you.”

This wasn’t accepted in humorous context I had intended, however, and Jenny Wade finally relented that she would go, but that concession left her hued in insecurity. This insecure expression informed me that her dilemma went beyond any joke, ongoing joke, or story that I had heard thus far. Her insecure expression informed me that the idea of going to the bathroom was a full-fledged dilemma, bordering on what I assumed might be a psychosis that I feared would unravel over the course of whatever relationship we might have had going forward. This dilemma, bordering on psychosis, created the first hint of vulnerability I would see on her face.

I wasn’t sure what prompted that insecurity, but a brief search led me to believe that she was not privy to the ongoing joke I had experienced in this situation. I believed that I may have made the mistake of believing she was privy to my ongoing jokes. We all make this mistake of believing that outsiders are privy to our understanding of the world from our vantage point. ‘Surely you know that …’ is something we might say to frame what we think everyone knows, but others often have no idea what we’re talking about, and I considered that at this moment. I considered that her inability to read my mind led to her inability to properly frame my conclusion of the joke, and the snarky tones I was using. I thought of furthering the joke by saying, ‘Hey, if you have found an alternative, I’m all ears.’ The weight of the moment suggested that that would be inappropriate, and the only appropriate action for me would be to inform her of the history I had with this subject and the ongoing joke, coupled with a sincere apology for any confusion my verboten comment may have caused her.

The idea that none of that would be necessary arrived soon after she finally mustered up the courage to finally go to the bathroom, and I spotted her walking under one of Applebee’s TVs. It had not been my intention to watch her. She just happened to walk under the TV that had the game of the night on it that I looked at to fill the time until she returned. I caught the score of the game of the night on that TV, and I noticed that the underdog was winning that game. The only reason I make note of that is that I did a double-take on that score.

In the midst of that double-take, I caught Jenny Wade, as she walked under that TV. The only reason that Jenny Wade drew my attention was that she was in motion. When something is in motion, it captures the attention when all objects surrounding that object are still, and the only reason I noticed her rear end was that it was achieving more motion, and drawing more of my attention than the rest of her did, while in motion.

I never considered myself a picky guy when it comes to physical appearance. I realize that this is not a characteristic that I should be making, as most people should not assign characteristics to themselves. On those occasions when I’ve been challenged on my preferences with physical appearances, I’ve provided my challengers pictures of the women I’ve dated. Those that challenged my assessment often don’t comment on the pictures I show them, but they’ve never made the ‘picky with appearances’ charge again. After shooting these charges down, over the years, I began to consider myself as far from picky about appearances as one man could get, but my head was being flooded with pearls of wisdom, from more experienced men, speaking about a woman’s rear end.

“A woman’s rear end is a window to the soul of her ideas on physical fitness,” one man informed me. “A woman’s rear end is like a puppy’s paws,” another informed me. “If the rear end is large on a younger woman, it’s an anatomical adjustment the body is making to support the weight that that young woman is going to eventually gather as she ages.” 

These men were connoisseurs of the rear end. I was not. I never understood the inordinate attention paid to the rear end of either gender. I’ve had friends and associates, male and female, provide details of their passion. I’ve heard all I cared to hear about contours, and how the gluteus maximus made the headlines, but it was the gluteus minimus that could provide the details of the story of another person’s dedication to physical fitness. I am not that person, and I never have been. I am a person that prefers to focus on how a woman’s knowledge, philosophy, and the comedic nuances can add to a relationship. I would never say that I’m above any art student that focuses their discipline on the female form, the study of the facial features, and the angles that Pablo Picasso studied in his artistic exploits, but I rarely extended my passionate pursuit of a woman to the contours of her backside.

I must also confess that I am more of a mammary gland man that enjoys a nice set, and when I say a nice, I am not referring to the Wow! factor. I dated the wow, holy crap, I can’t wait to see those unfurled! I saw them unfurled, and I discovered that what’s pleasing to the imagination is often not as pleasing to the naked eye. I wanted the women I dated to have something I could play with, in other words, but not so much that I would be required to be licensed by the game and parks commission. When faced with exaggerations of any characteristic, however, everything else becomes an abstraction, and an obstruction, until the mind’s eye can see nothing else, and the pearls of wisdom begin filling those vacancies.

The buns on Jenny Wade’s rear end were not only large, they bounced. They didn’t tick and twitch in the manner most buns will in the course of walking, they dropped low on the thigh, in stride, as if she had a pound of flour in each of her back pockets. I felt bad watching them bounce, and I felt some revulsion, but I couldn’t look away. This woman appeared as normal as any other woman I had ever met, from the waist up. She was cute, she had a dynamic mind, and she was, indeed, gifted with a quick, creative wit.

After the stretch of abnormal women I dated prior to Jenny Wade, I think an element of my laughter and enjoyment of the evening could be traced to the idea that I was finally on a date with a normal woman that may have had some somewhat normal hang ups that I could definitely work through in comparison to the ones I couldn’t.

I thought I had finally met a genuinely happy woman that happened to be single, a trait I found to be exceedingly rare among those that were our age and still single. Before I met Jenny Wade, I thought all the genuinely happy, fun, and funny women had already been scooped up, and I would be forced to date whatever was left over. These thoughts may sound extreme, but I had had some extremely bad dating experiences prior to Jenny Wade. So my enjoyment of the evening was spurred by the idea that it was one of the best, first dates I had ever been on, until I finally discovered the reason she had been seated at the table before I could enter the establishment.

When she returned from the restroom, that cloud of confusion that hung over every conversation we had had, was now replaced by a cloud of doom, on her part. That surprising level of confidence she displayed, as I had walked down the aisle toward her, behind the maître de, was gone. That confident smile she had displayed throughout our meal, and the quick-witted responses to everything I said, were gone. In their place was an insecure little girl that didn’t know what to say, and I can only assume that she placed reactions on my face that may not have been there. She appeared vulnerable to my perception of her, for only the second time, and she looked around at all of the patrons of the restaurant as if they now knew everything about her that I did. She appeared crushed by everything that had happened in the space of a couple minutes, and there was nothing I could do, or say, to help her.

I can’t remember anything that was said after that, or if we spoke at all. It was so uncomfortable that my memory of the events of that evening leapfrog to the:

 “It was nice meeting you,” parting she gave me in the parking lot, before getting in her car. “I’ll have to tell your uncle that you seem like one hell of a guy that will make a girl very happy one day.”

“You mean we’re not seeing each other again?” I asked. I attempted to portray the idea that I was hurt by her decision. It was a phony expression, and we both knew it.

“Oh, we can date again,” she said. “If you want to.”

I didn’t, and we both knew it. She asked for a hug, en parting, and I gave her one.

***

Afterword

“You were right by the way,” my uncle said one day, years later. When I asked about what, he said, “Here’s a picture of Jenny Wade at her wedding yesterday.”

We all enjoy having our superiors inform us that we were right about something, but I didn’t know what my uncle was talking about. There was a space of maybe a couple of minutes between my uncle informing me that I was right and finally locating that picture. I felt that glow one feels about being right, and I think I said, “About what?” while he searched. I think he said, “Hold on a second, I’ll find it.” When he finally found that picture and said, “Here’s a picture of Jenny Wade at her wedding yesterday,” I realized that I didn’t want to be right about this. I gulped away whatever initial joy I experienced in my uncle telling me I was right, when I held that picture in my hand. I realized that even though I framed my projections of Jenny Wade’s weight gain in the form of a joke, some part of me wanted Jenny Wade to lose whatever weight she had on her backside, on the night of our date, to prove me wrong. Would I have been upset that I was so superficial that I had missed out on a dynamite woman based on societal conditioning, of course, but I decided that I would’ve felt better about myself had I been wrong, as strange as that sounds. What I had in my hand was evidence of the fact that, as my uncle said, I was right that the puppy paws on Jenny Wade’s backside were preparing for the, at the very least, one hundred pounds that had been added to her frame since I saw her. She did appear happy in that photo, however, and I was happy for her, as her sparkling personality had landed her what seemed to be a good man, but I didn’t even recognize her.