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 at the table, in 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 me to hold his choices in high regard, and he was particularly choosy when it came to selecting women he thought I 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 was spending time around and the women I was dating at the time.

“She has a great personality,” he said. “She has a quick wit, she’s intelligent, and she’s worthy of my favorite nephew.” He told me two of the 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, however, was that I had just ended a brief relationship with a personality-deprived, gorgeous woman weeks prior to his proposition. I wasn’t ready to swear off dating gorgeous women, of course, but I had just had my fill of women controlling me with their beauty. I was going through a period where I thought it said a lot about a man, and it defined some elements of his character, by dating women that were high on personality, intelligence, and wit, over the superficial qualities we all prefer in our dating experiences. My thought was we all have such preferences, in regards to a prospect’s superficial qualities, but few of us speak of them. I had no idea how the woman my uncle was describing, this Jenny Wade, would challenge those beliefs.

The gorgeous women I dated up to this point had no problem informing me that they were thinking about other men, while we were on a date. One of them went so far as to build a composite of the perfect man. She said she wasn’t thinking of a particular man, but she had dated enough “total asses” to that point that knew what she wanted. She went onto describe what she considered their brutish behavior by saying, “It’s no longer happy ever after for me. It’s what I’m willing to put up with ever after. “You are a nice guy,” she said to conclude her rant.

I’ve heard many say that what women want is not as complex as all the women’s magazines want their readers to believe. When one sorts through all the bullet points women have for men, there is one universal truth. Women want to date a nice guy. I might have been dating the wrong women, but in my experience this line, this ‘You’re a nice guy,’ was the death nail to any ideas I had regarding a progression to a relationship. They would say the line with a smile, but the condescending tone suggested that they did not take me seriously as a possible suitor. Their tone suggested I might be perfectly suited for their less attractive, ‘nice’ girlfriend or a ‘polite’ little sister.    

In my brief experience with gorgeous women, they would sit across the table in a manner that suggested that if I wanted our date to be enjoyable, I had better get off their ass and make it so. They weren’t the type to entertain, in other words, they were to be entertained. A woman that could bring something else to the table sounded like a nice change of pace to me after all that, but she was already at that table.

The maître de welcomed me to the restaurant, and she asked me for my name. That greeting confused me, but I gave her my name, and she proceeded to escort me to a table. She may have said that she seated the other party already, 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 movies, and these movies portray this action as classy. In those scenes, however, the maître de escorted the female to the table. This is a generality, I know. I know that in the modern era, I should be able to accept variances on the roles of genders in any situation, but I have never been able to catch up to such modern 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 we have such variances forced upon us, few of us actually act on them, and as a result, they leave us feeling that such situations are unnatural and confusing.

Following the maître de led me to the unmistakable notion that I left Jenny Wade waiting for me. Most people do not enjoy waiting for anything, and they loathe the idea of being in a position where they feel others know that they’re waiting. Women, in particular, seem to feel more vulnerable to the opinions of others when they believe that others know they are waiting. Most men know this, and as a result, most men show up early to prevent it. Most women show up late to prevent it too, or they have you pick them up at their home. I even had one woman arrange a meeting place where the two of us would acknowledge one another, in our cars, and drive to the restaurant. I discussed this with Jenny on the phone, prior to our date, and we discussed the numerous ways in which we could meet. 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.

When the maître de splayed her arm out to the table Jenny Wade sat at, I felt bad. I could not imagine how vulnerable this woman must’ve felt seated at the table, strumming her fingers on the table, and watching the door to see if I had arrived. I was apologetic. I thought I was late, even though I checked the time and I was a good five minutes early. I also felt bad when I saw how relieved she to see me walking down the aisle, behind the maître de. Previous experience taught me that a woman that is relieved to see you, is a woman scorned, and she will be fuming soon after that maître de departs. I offered a proactive apology for the error I didn’t feel I had committed.

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

She offered no resolutions for my internal dilemma. She didn’t need to, was the first thought I had while sitting. ‘You’re the one that has problems adjusting to the new roles in dating,’ I thought. ‘You’re the one that needs an update in your hard drive.’

I did consider the idea that we have all agreed upon norms for a reason. We all feel uncomfortable on dates, especially blind dates, and to establish a comfort level 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, and I had so many questions that I couldn’t narrow them down. I decided that I wouldn’t ask any of them, but I knew they would eat away at me until we arrived at some sort of resolution.

I did manage to put these questions aside long enough to have a good time, but they loomed over my end of our conversations.

Jenny Wade did not appear to experience any confusion. Her body language was so confident that that I found it disarming. It was so disarming that it was alluring. I was not accustomed to seeing this much confidence from a person in the introductory phase. This was made even more confusing by the fact that she wasn’t attractive enough to be this confident. As my uncle said, she was cute, and her personality did appear to supplement what she lacked on the surface. This level of confidence also enhanced whatever forms of superficial attraction she did have.

Jenny Wade was funny too, and I’m not talking about “it’s refreshing to date a woman that has a sense of humor” funny. I’m talking about genuine, knee-slapping funny. Her follow-ups also 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 any fatal flaws that might have me running for the hills.

At one point in an 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 lend more gravity to the description. They might also think that my word choice has something to do with the idea that I enjoy using multi-syllabic words, because they make me sound smart. I do, but the word proclamation is the perfect description of the manner in which she relayed this information to me. A proclamation, as defined by dictionary.com, is a public and official announcement. While the statement she made was not loud enough for the public to hear. If anyone did hear her, they would have associated her tone with one that is official. Especially when considering the silence she used to surround it.

I did not say, ‘Well go then!’ for I knew better. I learned through trial and error, and through extensive consultation with the fairer sex, that an interested man should never tell a woman to go do anything. Especially, these women said, when it comes to the restroom. It’s one of the seven deadly sins to dating, they said. They informed that there are a multitude of reasons why a woman would have reservations regarding going to the bathroom. Telling them to do so might force them to explain these reservations, and that is never a pleasant experience. I also learned that some women will not provide an explanation, and the man that prods her into explaining her reservation is a cad for asking her to explain something 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 empathy in regards to the woman that has hang ups about going to the bathroom.

“Oh, ok,” I said. I left an empty space in our conversation for her to go. When she didn’t go, I simply started another conversation. She allowed me to proceed three-fourths into that story when she interrupted me.

“I don’t want to go, but I have to,” Jenny Wade said.

“Go? What?”

“To the bathroom,” she said. “I don’t want to go, but I have to.” It was a confession. It spoke of the inevitability of a dilemma that she faced. Even though I was well-schooled in the hang-ups women have with the bathroom, her tone and expression gave voice to the idea that it’s a horrible fact of life that some of the times we all have to do unpleasant things that have no place in polite conversation. Her tone was so grave that it detailed an intro into a dissection of modern rituals and rules we all face when our body informs us of a buildup that needs released. ‘No one wants to go to the bathroom,’ was the running theme of this apparent joke, ‘But we have to. It is a function of being an animal, and to complete this function, we adult, human beings have to walk into a room that “they” have deemed appropriate for waste removal. The alternative of just going wherever we please is no longer a freedom we enjoy, and going in our pants is not acceptable either, even though they’re our pants, for the smells it creates affect another’s perception of us.’ If the listener wasn’t there, looking her in the face, they might mistake this for the intro into some comedic routine on the minutiae of being human.

Even though I did not know this girl, I determined that her serious expression was not deadpan. She was not attempting to sell, or undersell, a joke. She was serious. With that in mind, I attempted to dismiss the idea that her dilemma sprang from not wanting to interrupt a conversation she found so interesting. ‘This is so interesting that I don’t want to step away for even a second,’ was a thought I had, but it was such an egotistical thought that I attempted to dismiss it. I couldn’t find a logical alternative though.    

“You’ll never understand,” one of my female friends, told me when I asked. The import of this was that as a man it was hopeless for me to try to understand. The import of that was that I should just stop asking the questions. I wanted to understand though, and I thought that should count for something. It didn’t. My curiosity has gained me some knowledge of course, but 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 restaurant’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 nature is calling 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 wasn’t unprecedented for me. If nothing of note had followed these proclamations, I would not have remembered them.

Thus, when Jenny Wade proceeded to inform me that she had to go to the bathroom a third and a fourth time, I concluded that she was entering into an ongoing joke that I had had with other, self-deprecating women that focused on this peculiarity in such a manner that it exposed it for what it was. I thought her third and fourth proclamations would allow me to joke in kind.  

“Women and bathrooms,” I said. “Just go, for the love of Saint Peter.”

I was wrong. Jenny was not playing into this ongoing, self-deprecating joke. She did not accept my reply in a humorous context. She did relent, however. She decided that she would go, but that concession left her hued in insecurity. It was the first hint of vulnerability I would see on her face. Even when she made those proclamations, I did not see vulnerability. I saw a strong woman making a proclamation, and in it, I saw a challenge to me that I would have to accept it. Thus, when turned vulnerable on me, I was even more confused.

I wasn’t sure what prompted that insecurity, but a brief search led me to believe that she was not privy to that ongoing joke about women and bathrooms. We all make the mistake, when it comes to ongoing jokes, of believing that outsiders are privy to our understanding of it 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 frame my conclusion of the joke properly, 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.

After providing that clarification, she appeared to have accepted my responses at face value. I didn’t give it any more thought as she finally departed.

The idea that my confounding search for the reasons why she would already be at the table at the restaurant, and why she experienced an almost unprecedented dilemma ended for me, when I spotted her walking to the bathroom. It was not my intention to watch her. She just happened to walk under the Applebee’s TV that had a game on. My goal had been to look at that TV until she returned. It would serve the purpose of filling that time. When I saw her walking under that TV, she was in motion, and something in motion catches one’s attention when all other objects surrounding that object are still, and her rear end was capable of achieving more motion and drawing more attention than the rest of her did, while in motion.

I don’t consider myself a picky guy. I may be picky about personality traits, unusual characteristics, and philosophy, but when it came to superficialities I considered myself less picky than most men I knew.  When I saw her in motion, however, I began thinking of all the pearls of wisdom I received from more experienced men speaking about women, in general, and a woman’s rear end in particular.

“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, it’s an anatomical adjustment the body is making to support the weight that this woman is going to eventually put on.”

A third man informed me that if I had any questions about a girl’s genetic predispositions regarding weight gain, including and beyond the rear end, “Take a look at the girl’s mom. If the mom is a larger specimen, you can bet the young girl will catch up soon.”

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. Friends and associates, male and female, had no problem detailing their passion for me. They would tell me about contours. They would tell me that the gluteus maximus makes the headlines, but the gluteus minimus tells the story of another person’s dedication to physical fitness. I am not that person, and I never have been. I would not say that the superficial guidelines of attraction do not apply to me, but I prefer to view them as a given. I don’t focus on them, in other words, and I found that when I did, the other characteristics of the woman were so overwhelmingly bad that I made a concerted effort to focus on the other intangibles that a woman could bring.

I would never say that I’m above the study of the art of the female body, the study of the facial features, in other words, 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, if the discussion revolves around the superficial characteristics of a woman, I am a mammary gland man that enjoys a nice set of those contours more. When I write the word nice, I am not referring to the Wow! factor. I dated the wow, holy crap, ‘I can’t wait to see those puppies unleashed!’ I saw them unleashed, and I discovered that what’s pleasing to the imagination is often not as pleasing to the naked eye. I wanted to have a girl that had something I could play with, but not so much that the game and parks commission would require a license. 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 one receives begins filling those vacancies.

The buns on Jenny Wade’s rear end were not only large they bounced. Most people have appendages that bounce when they walk. I am sure that I bounce in some areas that might cause me some embarrassment. These buns bounced down low on the thigh, in stride. They bounced too low. I am not the type that would take out a tape measure to determine what is low, and what is too low, but these buns bounced so low it was noteworthy. I felt bad watching them bounce. I felt some revulsion for my stereotypical male study of them, but I couldn’t look away. This girl, from the waist up, appeared as normal as any other woman I had ever met. She was so normal that I was excited. I considered her a definite prospect. She was also cute as my uncle promised. She had a cute, unassuming way about her. She had a dynamic mind, and she was, indeed, a quick, creative wit. I thought it was one of the best, first dates I had ever been on, until I discovered the reason she decided she needed to be at the table before I could enter the establishment.

A cloud of doom replaced that cloud of confusion that hung over every conversation we had had prior to exit to the bathroom. She placed that cloud of doom over our conversations. The surprising level of confidence she displayed, as I had walked down the aisle, behind the maître de, was gone. The smile she displayed throughout our meal, was gone, and in its place was an insecure little girl that didn’t know what to say, and she placed reactions on my face that may not have been there. She appeared vulnerable to my perception of her, for the second time, and she looked around at all of the patrons of the restaurant as if they now knew everything about her I did. She appeared crushed by everything that had happened in the space of a couple minutes, and I realized 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 leapfrogs to the departure.

“It was nice meeting you,” she said. She gave me a hug, 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 that decision wounded me. It was a phony expression, and we both knew it.

“If you want to,” she said.

I didn’t, and we both knew it. Jenny Wade entered her car without saying another word and drove off.

I could not help but feel a sense of failure, watching her drive off. I had her number on a yellow post-it note on my fridge, and I considered calling that number the moment I walked back into my apartment. I wanted to convince her, and thus myself that I wasn’t superficial, and I could see past whatever flaws she had to the nice, normal, and funny person that was inside. I imagined that this Jenny Wade might have been capable of putting an end to what I considered an over ripe bachelorhood. I thought she might have made me happy over the long haul, or she might have provided me with some enjoyable evenings at the very least. As I watched her brake lights click off, as she entered traffic, I considered that any dates that followed would be an attempt, on my part, to relieve myself of such guilt, and I knew that that would lead her into believing that I was more interested than I was.  

***

“You were right,” 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.”

I didn’t want to be right about this, but Jenny Wade had put on, at least, one hundred pounds. 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.

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