You might remember, some time ago, I posted about a friend of mine who was having some problems with her marriage and wondering what to do about her situation. I was surprised to learn recently that she had decided to start dating again on the side.
I didn’t realize she had started doing this until she let me know that she was seeing a guy (we’ll call him Bachelor No. 1). I had heard a lot about this guy. My friend thought he was a real gentleman and a good catch. They were friendly but hadn’t yet gone on a date until just the other week.
At around 1 a.m. on the night of the big date, she called me. I asked her how things went.
“Horrible,” she said. “Just horrible. I don’t even know how to describe it… but I’ll try.”
She had been seeing Bachelor No. 1 for lunch for quite a while — just as a friend — and finally he asked her out to dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse.
“I know it’s silly, but I got all dressed up for this,” she told me over the phone. “I mean, I spent a lot of time and thought trying to put my best face forward. You know me — I’m not a fashion plate — but then I looked in the mirror and wondered if I could look better if I just tried, like everyone nags me to do. Like my husband always used to say.”
However, she went on, the day of the dinner date, she got a call from Bachelor No. 1, who informed her that the boss was going to be keeping him very busy at the office, and would she like to go out with his best friend, Bachelor No. 2, who was in town with nothing to do? “He says, ‘He’s really really cool, and you’ll like him,'” she said. “So I thought, well, okay, that
sounds good, because I need to make new friends if I ever hope to have the life I deserve, right?”
Bachelor No. 2 turned out to be a pretty good time. “Very cute. Nice clothes. Intelligent. And very hip,” my friend told me. “He had an iPhone, and I think he assumed I’d never seen one, because he sort of flashed it around a bit, but I played along. But wow, I thought he was just great. You know, not someone I would have chosen for myself, but we had a great time. He even brought orchids. Not just roses — orchids. It was so sweet.”
The date didn’t exactly sound all that horrible to me.
“No, that’s because you don’t know what happened next,” she said, getting agitated. “We’re there, we’re eating our pasta and getting to know each other, and Bachelor No. 1 comes through the door. He stormed in. He was acting so strangely, like he was on a mission. And he comes to the table, grabs my arm, yanks me up and says, ‘All right, that’s quite enough. We’re leaving.’
“And I’m like, what the hell? What is going on? What is making him act like this? And then,” she said, voice rising further, “Bachelor No. 2 stands up and grabs back the flowers he gave me and throws them down in front of No. 1 and stomps on them. And all the while he’s yelling in No. 1’s face — telling him to back off, ‘she’s mine,” and all that. I just couldn’t believe how they were acting in front of me! In front of everybody!
“I mean, at first I kind of thought it was exciting — you know, two guys fighting over me,” she confessed. “But then No. 2 gets on his iPhone and in no time at all, a whole bunch of his friends showed up, and barged into the restaurant and started screaming at Bachelor No. 1. Then the spaghetti started flying. And I was still kind of laughing in a way, especially when some meatballs splattered on the wall and it reminded me of an early Kandinsky. But then one of the wait staff got hit in the head with a plate, and nobody even seemed to care, and I started to get frightened. I mean, I looked down, and I was covered in marinara sauce!
“I don’t understand,” she sighed. “They both seemed so nice — like they respected me as a person — but they were so
possessive and territorial and I thought, my God, it’s like I’m… a conquest. A mark in their little black books!”
“Oh, I really don’t think so,” I said. “Are you maybe overreacting? I’m sure there’s more to this than just a fight over you.”
“I have spaghetti in my hair that I haven’t even washed out yet,” my friend said, her voice cracking a little. “I mean, I can’t believe the things I was hearing. I was standing there and I finally had enough and I said to No. 2, ‘I really should go home now,’ and do you know what he said to me? He said,” – and her voice trembled a little bit – “He said, ‘Be that way. No one will ever date you again with all that spaghetti in your hair. Now you look like a loser.’ And I looked at No. 1 to see what he would say, if he would explain, and he just said, ‘Get over here with me right now. This guy is an embarrassment and he’s not right for you.’
“Look,” she said to me, as if she were talking to the absent No. 1 and No. 2, “all I wanted was a good time, that’s all. Something to lift the spirits. Just…a date.”
I didn’t know what to say. After a few moments, I offered her the stock opinion, that men suck.
“No,” she said. “That’s not what I called to say.
“All I want is some honesty. For once. I don’t want sweet talk and promises. I don’t want to be the center of attention at a fancy restaurant. Or even not so fancy. I mean yeah, it’s nice, but not at this price. I love orchids. But I can’t just go with someone who just will say anything to me just to get in my pants, and not really believe it. That’s just as bad as living in a loveless marriage.” Over the phone, I heard her pound her fist on the night table. “Why? Why do I always end up with insensitive jerks who just don’t get it? Do I have a big “USE ME” sign on my back? Am I just living in a fantasy world?
“This can’t be my future. It just can’t be.”
“Maybe if you told Bachelor No. 1 how you really felt, maybe if you weren’t so in awe of him,” I suggested, “and maybe if he gives you an explanation, maybe you could patch things up with him and have yourselves a real date. And,” I said hopefully, “maybe Bachelor No. 2 is a good, fun guy. Things get said in the heat of the moment that people don’t think about. Gosh, maybe you could have both these guys.”
She sounded doubtful.
“I don’t know if either of them will be in Syracuse for too much longer,” she said wearily. “I mean, even before all this happened, I thought they wouldn’t be the sort to stay. I’m sure they really would prefer to be in New York or Washington or L.A., and you can be sure there will be a lot of jobs opening up there for guys like them, before long – next year’s an election year, you know. Nobody who’s anybody ever stays in Syracuse.”
I sighed because I’d heard her say this many times before. But what could I say? Was she wrong?
“Maybe you need to re-think your ideas of who’s a ‘somebody’ and who’s a ‘nobody,” I said. “What do you think?”
There wasn’t any answer. I repeated the question and listened. But all I heard was the sound of her husband snoring in the background.
I hung up the phone. She’d had a long night. There would always be tomorrow to talk it over.