July 28, 2011 § 11 Comments
Big birthday dinner in an Indian restaurant a while back. I sat next to a kidnap negotiator who may or may not also be a spy. Charming fellow. On my other side a person in a striped shirt; married. I didn’t know that for certain but I also kind of did. He had that air. I mean, more ironed than smug. While I do think, as my plankton friend said to me the other day after the party, “They [married people] just DO NOT GET IT,” I do not go along with the idea that all marrieds are necessarily smug.
Striped shirt and I began with the usual small-talk in which my divorce cropped up. I was very open, always am, always honest, as much with strangers as with friends. In the past few years I have been on something of a mission to be as honest as possible about my circumstances, to say it as it is. I believe it helps others as well as myself. He turned out to be amiable, intelligent and sympathetic. Perhaps because he was genuinely interested in what I had to say, I was particularly bold. I began telling him stories of the plankton life. For example, I told him about the cake man (cf. Slice of Disappointment) and I said that it didn’t really matter it hadn’t worked out between us because, much as I had liked him, he hadn’t made my stomach go flip. I told him other stories, too, that perhaps I wouldn’t have told an available man for fear of sounding desperate. But with him I was myself, I didn’t dissemble or hold back, and I made him laugh a lot.
Almost certainly in response to my honesty, he began to talk about his marriage, which, he said, was not good. He was very respectful about his wife (who wasn’t at the dinner) but said that it was no longer working for him. He was very torn, though, because of the children.
He was not disloyal in what he said about his wife, just talked about the struggle within himself. Our conversation gave way to marriage in general, to life and the advancing years and so forth. We were enjoying it; comparing notes, laughing.
To cut a long story short, after a while, he suddenly interrupted me, apologised, and told me that I made his stomach go flip! He said he had fallen in love with me (so, if not quite a fifth of a second, then the time it takes to eat a pappadum, an onion bhaji and some chicken korma). How he found me the most intelligent, funny, attractive woman he had met for a long time, and so on. He asked me, please, if he could take me out to lunch?
People are going to rail at me and say I was just blinded and befuddled by the flattery (I was certainly very happy to hear such lovely things said to me by someone other than my loyal girlfriends and my mother; it had been a while), but I really mean it when I say he wasn’t a sleazeball. He wasn’t greasy and puffy and porn-breathy and nor did he cover me with wandering hands. Quite the opposite, he seemed dignified and sad.
I told him how lovely it was to hear these things but, as for lunch, well… in other circumstances, I would have liked that very much, but he was married. Of course, he said, he totally understood. When dinner was over, he discreetly squeezed my hand, and quietly left.
He could have easily been undeterred, got my number from our hosts, or googled me and tracked me down. But he didn’t and I am glad.
I drove home alone that night and thought that the news is not always bad. Perhaps, as a married man, he should have held himself back and refrained from his declarations and invitation. Who knows, if I had been the less priggish type, where it might have gone? (I don’t want to make myself out as some sort of self-righteous creep, here). But the point is, he didn’t pursue it and that made me feel that not all men are total sleazeballs.
And the experience also made me think that whatever I did to him (what did I do?), surely I can do again, to someone who is available – even if the available one of the moment, the smidgen on the horizon (cf. Men’s Mixed Messages), who emailed me last week still hasn’t emailed since.
On good days, I think it must be because his internet connection is down. On bad, it’s because he’s just not that into me.
Today I am thinking about striped shirts and pappadums and flattering words, which makes it a good day.
Smidgen’s in the middle of nowhere. His internet must be down. Surely.