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Posts Tagged ‘afraid of commitment’

The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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I have a friend, we’ll call him Buster, who’s in a marriage most people might refer to as “shitty.”  He’s got the bitter wife, the resentful kid, the budding alcohol problem, whole nine yards.   Buster caters to his woman’s every wacky whim and exhausts himself trying to put himself in her dainty shoes to empathize and bridge the divide.  For Buster, saving his marriage has become a second job.

Those of us who are his friends have mostly been in the “dude, cut your losses” camp.  When a good pal finds more comfort in Jose Cuervo than his wife, not a lot of folks pitch their tent at Camp Hang in There.

The recurring sentiment amongst Buster’s pals when we sit around talking about him is that he’s staying in the marriage because he doesn’t want to be alone.  Apparently nothing is more offensive to the average American than someone else’s fear of being alone.  I know lots of unhappy couples whose inner circle whispers about how their pansy asses stay together just to avoid ending up solo.  As if remaining single is a courageous act on par with traversing the surface of the moon.

However, I think I’m abandoning Camp Cut Your Losses.

Ever been alone for longer than, say, two years?  I have and I can tell you.  It blows.  No one wants to be alone.  What person prefers sleeping in a cold bed to snuggling up against a warm body?  Isn’t talking to your best friend better than talking to yourself?  Doesn’t life feel more consequential when someone else is watching you live it?  Knowing your mere existence plops another human being onto cloud nine?  That’s pretty rad.  And who wants to be on his death bed with some nurse he’s never met holding his hand as he transitions to the sweet hereafter?  I can’t think of a better incentive to work your tail off in relationships than to avoid being alone.

What are ugly are those relationships where folks have stopped trying.  Dead romances where people who used to love each other go through the motions of loving like state employees nearing retirement.  Should those people bail or just start noticing each other again?

Certainly, some circumstances call for hightailing it out of a relationship.  Like if your partner comes to you one day saying, “Wowza!  Two free tickets to the next Tea Party rally!”  Walk away.  This can’t be salvaged.  Otherwise, maybe put in the time.

Buster has a family and a woman who has known him for ages.  These are the building blocks for the one thing everyone wants most in life: forever.  Buster wants to grow old with someone and have his kids at his bedside when he kicks it.  He wants a satisfying relationship and contented family, and so will do what he must to make it happen.  He may also love his wife even if the rest of us think she’s Cruella DeVille.

There may come a time when Buster’s marriage should officially be pronounced dead and both parties should save themselves from being buried with it.  Until then, ain’t no shame in working toward forever.

[Photo of this completely awesome panda from rootsgpk.blogspot.com]

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Women can fake orgasms.  Men can fake entire relationships.

This juicy tidbit marking the romantic distinction between males and females recently made its way onto my Twitter feed.  Enjoying a brief chuckle after reading it, I soon realized how closely this alleged truth hits home: my friend Jay is in a fake relationship and I’ve been wondering if I should tell the girl.

Jay is one of those good-looking, charismatic fellas who rarely have trouble finding a female companion.  A decade ago, he was madly in love with a special lady who dumped him after his ego decided to feed itself by convincing him to cheat.  Since then, Jay has steered clear of anything “too heavy,” opting instead for casual relationships with dippy bores or overly controlling kooks whose mania gives him the perfect excuse to jump ship.

But every so often, Jay wants someone to care enough to check in on him each day, someone for whom he can make elaborate dinners and buy gifts, someone to offer him regular sex and hold him in the middle of the night.  And so, Jay gets a “girlfriend.”

There was the pretty actress with whom he spent every weekend for nearly six months and the slightly neurotic realtor with whom he went on a Roman vacation.  Both of these women were mighty surprised at the end of their relationships to find out Jay was never really feelin’ it even though his actions suggested otherwise.

Then there was the Latin American gal who flew herself back and forth to the States whenever Jay reemerged begging for her company.  The night I met up with them, I watched him walk hand-in-hand with her down the street, introduce her to his friends and fill her imagination with daydreams about a shared future.  Jay’s behavior offered the kinds of clues every silly women’s magazine might say is evidence a dude is thinking long term.  Obviously, the Latin American believed herself involved in a long-distance romance.  But in fact, she was one of a handful of women satellite-ing within Jay’s orbit.

My friend may be an extreme but he’s far from an exception.  I’ve known many guys who’ve gone through the romantic motions with women in an effort to avoid loneliness.  I even know a guy who stayed with a woman for five friggin’ years, knowing every single day there was no way in hell he’d ever marry the chick.

My gut tells me no woman would ever do such a thing and not for any noble reason, like sparing someone else’s feelings.  I just think most women are too gung ho on finding Prince Charming to waste time on a peasant.  And I can’t imagine any woman being able to turn off her emotions or even worse, pretending to feel something she doesn’t feel.  If you’ve ever seen a Sharon Stone movie, you know how to fake an orgasm.  But love?

So, Jay has started up again with the Latin American and is even considering giving in to her demands to be more exclusive.  From the beginning of this relationship, he has said, “I don’t love her and know I never will.”  Meanwhile, his girl is fantasizing about lifelong love, marriage and family.  So is Jay…with some other woman he hopes to meet one day.

I only met the gal for the second time over a group dinner, when she indirectly expressed doubts about Jay’s intentions.  She dropped hints about being open to any insight those of us who are his female friends may be able to provide.  Whenever I considered cueing her in, I remembered how perilous it is to place oneself in the center of a couple’s battlefield.

However, I also wonder if sometimes all it takes for a man like Jay to finally make a commitment is to force himself into one.  If certain men tell themselves they’re not in love in order to make sticking around seem less confining.  In the end, can fake love ever become true?

What say you?

[Photo from the film Lars and the Real Girl, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment]

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Monica was this hot mama sex goddess I used to work with serving cocktails in college.  Slinky as a feline, she was nearly six feet tall with curves galore.  She had flawless skin, a magnificent, traffic-stopping face and a personality as colorful as the Bobbi Brown eye shadow she used to drop the cherry on the sundae of her magnetic appeal.  Monica was ravishing enough to date famous athletes, businessmen pulling down six figures and local actors on their way to becoming Hollywood B-listers.  If anyone would’ve ended up sipping daiquiris by the pool of some handsome millionaire’s mansion, it was Monica.

Recently, Monica popped up as a friend of a friend on Facebook, so I clicked on her page.  She was gorgeous as ever and though I wasn’t shocked to discover she hadn’t become some Tinseltown trophy wife, I was surprised to see photos of the man she married.  The guy was goofy looking, a squat little pudgeball.  And no Mr. Moneybags was he, as Monica’s other half apparently lived a quiet though comfortable life as the owner of a small electronics company.  But there was one huge difference about the look in her husband’s eye as he cast his gaze upon my old friend, as opposed to the more extraordinary men I’d once seen her with – this guy completely worshipped her.

Monica is one of a slew of foxy female friends who used to date bad boys, sexy studs and all around pricks until they finally settled down with a man who actually liked them.  Maybe these guys don’t look like movie stars or take their women on masochistic joy rides filled with broken promises and non-commitment.  But they do treat their gals with some semblance of respect.  Seems some good guys get the girl in the end.

This week, the University of Nottingham in the UK proved it by releasing a study on the qualities women value in potential mates.  The research suggests ladies used to dig grit and brawn because men needed to feed and defend the brood.  Nowadays, characteristics like “selflessness and empathy” are valued because women want men who will take an active and caring role in raising children.  I wouldn’t be surprised if our desire to have relationships rooted in mutual understanding and kindness had something to do with what lures us, as well.

The best news is these nice guys aren’t faking it.  The qualities are now part of their genetic makeup.  Score.

I’m starting to get it.  Man, it’s taken me a while, but finally something meaningful has clicked.  I’ve spent years pining for the “magic” of edgier dudes, the fantastic dramas their childish self-absorption wreaks in relationships, the post-rejection desperation I confused for love.

Then along came a man who was able to tear his gaze away from his own reflection long enough to notice me.  A man who cared about and even wanted to meet my needs.  A man who was just plain nice to me.  The sense of wellbeing I felt sharing his life, after years of being an afterthought to other dudes, was like touching solid ground after a ten-hour flight through a hailstorm.  And lucky me, he also happened to be one of the sexiest men I’d met in ages.

When a guy’s the center of his own universe, any lady friend may have trouble finding a cozy place in which to fit alongside him.  As I get older, I notice lots of the sexy flake dudes I’ve known are either hopelessly single or in tragically dysfunctional romances rife with infidelity and confidence-killing cruelty.  Nice guys, at least those with some depth, don’t offer relationships devoid of theatrics and challenges.  They just consider it part and parcel to relating and don’t rush out into the world feeding their own egos with bullshit.

And for that, they totally deserve to get the girl.

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At a party weeks back, my friend Angela fell for a handsome Brit named Al after he charmed her with tales of his off-the-beaten track existence traveling the world. The next evening, they talked life and politics over a steak dinner then agreed to meet again.

Al charmed Angela even more the next afternoon when he canceled plans with his buddies to join her on a trip to Verizon to get her phone fixed. After spending the afternoon and subsequent evening together, Angela thought she’d finally met a mature, baggage-less man with whom she could have a relationship. If only she knew.

During a dinner party the following Friday night, Angela reached for her phone to discover Al had called. Six times. Though a bit ruffled, she decided to make her way to the bar where he was drinking with friends. When she arrived, Al was completely hammered, saying things like, “I shouldn’t have called you, are you angry? It’s just I couldn’t get through and I thought maybe you were avoiding me. You don’t like me, do you? I know you don’t, why would you? You’re too pretty for me and I’m shit as a boyfriend, absolute shit. I don’t want to mess this up with you. I won’t get attached, I won’t get attached!”

Y’know, the kinds of things some guys think but neeeeeeever actually say.

After some reassurance from Angela, Al nixed the heart-on-sleeve talk and continued to enjoy the IV of pilsner stuck into his veins. End of the night at his place, Angela’s attempts at being intimate were interrupted when Al declared, “you’re too sexy. I’m shit in bed, absolute shit,” then passed out. Angela fell asleep beside him and was getting some good REM sleep when the bed started shaking. She woke up, looked across the mattress and…

Al was picking his nose…and eating it…in his sleep.

Unfortunately, Angela was stuck since it was 5 am and she was on the other side of town. The next morning, she made a lame excuse then bolted to my place to tell me the whole story and see if there was any reason to salvage things. Together, we broke it down to what worked and what didn’t. Pros: when he’s sober, he’s smart, funny and kind. Cons: he eats his own snot.

In the midst of our analysis, Al called and said, “I thought maybe you’d like to come over.”

“I’m with my friend,” Angela told him.

“But I thought it’d be nice if you came over.”

“My friend’s not feeling well,” Angela lied. “I should stay with her.”

“Look,” he said angrily. “Are we seeing each other or not?”

But before she could answer, the call dropped.

“Okay,” Angela told me. “This is sooo finished.”

But she didn’t even get the chance to end things. Angela was the dumpee. Sunday morning, Al left a message saying, “hi, um, yesterday’s conversation was discouraging relationship-wise, but you know, it’s hard to find good conversation, so maybe we could stay friends, go for coffee and talk about bollocks, and you know, that would be nice, and, well I’m shit on answering machines, so I’m just going to say goodbye now, so, okay, well, take care.”

The worst part for Angela was getting dumped by a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids. The best part was she no longer had to date a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids.

In the end, we hoped that Al, as friendly as he was, as funny and generous, wasn’t as much of a neurotic nosepicker as he seemed. In fact, we imagined it was all a game, a bet he made with friends to see who could self-sabotage himself out of a decent relationship in the shortest amount of time:

He’s an illustrator from London who enjoys hiking and badminton, his hobbies include using his inner demons to back himself out of relationships with pretty women and eating boogers. He’s got enough intimacy issues to sink a Russian sea liner, he’s Al, ladies and gentlemen, give him a hand.

Anyway, I’m fairly certain he won.

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Months back, my friend Corey got a peculiar email from a woman with whom he’d gone on one date.  The email included an invitation to a second meeting, a string of compliments…and a picture of the girl buck naked.

Corey spent the next several days titillated and curious, but mostly confused. What did the Naked Girl, as we named her, hope to achieve with such a move?  If she was offering herself up as a booty call, should he dial her digits?  If she was a damaged soul, how could he make a clean break?  Ultimately, Corey was convinced to put an end to the madness.

I checked in with Corey about the Naked Girl the other day.  He’s still seeing her.

And how ‘bout this?  My friend Tommy introduced me to his pretty, sweet, kinda quirky new girlfriend at a gritty downtown pub.  We were sharing a plate of nachos when a glob of sour cream plopped onto the table.  Tommy’s girl plunged her finger into the glob then sucked the cream off it.  She ate food off the table. Did Tommy blush or chide her under his breath?  Nope.  He lovingly rolled his eyes then kissed her on the forehead.

Then there’s Jay who just caught his girl lying about dating other dudes online.  A few months before, she’d come home with an STD.  Jay was a wreck last week when I spoke to him about these recent events.  This week?  They’re working it out.

One more.  A chick who works with a friend of mine had a whirlwind, week-long romance with a guy visiting from out of town.  After the week was over, she “surprised” him by showing up at his apartment half-way across the country.  Although the act freaked him out big time, the gal continued to call constantly, send obsessive emails and make surprise visits.  You’d think the guy would move to Mars to avoid such insanity.  But he didn’t.  A few weeks later, he asked her to move in with him.

Boggles the mind.

I feel sorry for all the kind, stable, lovely single gals I know still struggling to find a partner.  The kind of gals who offer humor rather than nudie pics, wit rather than venereal disease.  These are women who don’t have to follow some arbitrary set of rules to land a man, they’re decent people so know them already: be considerate, give a man space if he needs it and love when he’s ready, be yourself but don’t be afraid to be a little dazzling and feminine.

Certainly, everyone deserves love, including the aforementioned females.  But how come so many gals who break every rule in the book are walking hand-in-hand with the apples of their eyes, while ladies with their act together stay solo?  I believe when someone feels a connection, nothing his or her partner does is wrong, including eating nachos off a table.  But I also wonder how many odd situations come together simply because people don’t want to be alone.

Regardless, I’m changing my tune as far as doling out romantic advice goes.  Screw the rules, I say.  Be a slob!  Be a psycho!  Give ‘im the Clap!

Worse case scenario, you suffer some embarrassment.  Best case?  You fall in love.

Want to know how Corey and the Naked Girl first met?  Check out “The Naked Girl.”

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Jack and I had our first romantic interlude on the 4th of July.  Back in college, going out with someone usually meant deciding to end up in the same place, so I wouldn’t have called it a proper date.  We met at Boston’s Charles River Esplanade, watched a couple bands and some fireworks, then Jack leaned over and said, “I dig you.”  The rest was history.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe relationships are meant to teach us how to relate authentically yet continue to be our most genuine selves.  Some folks need to learn selflessness, others intimacy, and some just need to learn to put the toilet seat down.

Kicking off my relationship life on Independence Day with Jack was hardly an insignificant twist of fate.  This first real love set me off on an endless quest to learn the meaning of freedom.  See, Jack already had a girlfriend.  Thus, our year-long liaison was an education in giving someone the space to have his own life outside of our shared life together.  However, I was too naïve to realize “space” might include time with the boys and creative pursuits, but probably shouldn’t include other girlfriends.

After Jack came a mostly happy marriage, until I discovered I’d built my world around someone else.  The whole enchilada was sure to crumble unless I made life more my own.  But the more fulfilled I became as an individual the less this particular person seemed to fit me.  Much as I loved my guy, I had to break free to survive.

After marriage, I wanted nothing even remotely close to a relationship.  I formed flimsy emotional bonds then backed out once things got too close.  To this day, I feel sorry for the poor fella who tried to hold my hand across the table on a dinner date only to have me freak out about feeling trapped.

Of course, I soon started wanting connection again but only came across sexy commitment phobes and men with life agendas that didn’t include me.  The subsequent disappointment always forced me back to self, where I had the choice between blubbering about lost love or making my own world even more interesting.  Choosing the latter may have been lonely.  But it also created a more enticing life for someone else to slip into or one to inhabit solo.

Maybe true love really is unconditional, maybe wanting someone to be fulfilled with or without you is the key.  If your woman or man needs to follow a path you’re not on, why not love ‘em anyway?  If love is real, you couldn’t stop anyway if you tried.  Nothing wrong with hoping the path leads back to you.

I’m thinking it’s not only me who needs to learn this lesson.  Maybe the next step we modern gals need to take is learning to balance drive and self-discovery with connection.  And maybe dudes need to learn to dig women’s independence.  Most importantly, we all have to learn to appreciate how much a relationship benefits from sharing it with someone who’s got a frickin’ life.

Happy Independence Day!

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