If You Meet More Than Three…
My dad has a joke he often tells, usually in reference to himself. It goes like this:
“If you meet more than three assholes in a day, you are probably one of them.”
As you can see, it’s not so much a joke as an aphorism, but he always laughs when he says it, and so does everyone listening, and I’ve therefore framed it like a snappy one-liner, a bit of self-deprecation that doesn’t sting too much despite being a slightly tough truth.
It’s a versatile phrase, the “asshole” part easily swapped with things like “sweethearts” and “friendly strangers” and “swingers” and “maniacs”. It seesaws between being derisive and complimentary, and for the most part, it is true. If you meet nothing but jerks all day long, perhaps it’s because you’re acting like one, too, and people are brushed the wrong way by your antics. If you are surrounded by people who are generous and understanding and who go out of their way to do little things for you, and offer up smart, interesting bits of conversation, probably you are behaving that way, too. If a large swathe of the people you meet out on the town are hoping to hook up for no-strings-attached nudity later on, probably you’re giving off the player vibe, too. And so on.
What to make, then, of the ceaseless parade of douchebags I’ve dated this year? The longterm thing that tanked, kicking off the dating-stravaganza in the first place? The dude from the neighbourhood who took me out three times before shouting at me by surprise as we held hands and walked down the street? The expressionless lizard with whom I endured an agonising one-hour date over a glass of wine? The borderline stalker whom I had to tell in hard-sounding words to never, ever contact me again, in any way, at any time, for any reason?
What to make, then, of the one who worked really hard to get us set up by a mutual friend, then told me months later, “Sorry, I was more excited when I didn’t know you yet. You are perfect, but something is missing, something about you I can’t even explain.”
What to make, then, of the dude who spent six weeks chatting me up, doing all the work to get things started, gives me his number, and then when I telephone, tells me, “Sorry, honey, I’m just not up for anything after all, maybe I’ll see you around.”
If you meet more than three, you’re probably one of them.
Ok, let’s test that suggestion:
1. the friend I really liked, but let down rather abruptly, because I was concerned to make him a rebound boyfriend, someone whose very sweet heart I might have accidentally trod upon, exorcising a leftover bit of “angry” from my messy break-up
2. the cute guy I met, with whom I knew I shared no chemistry, but thought hey, this might be fun, then after about three dates, realised no…I couldn’t lead him on…he didn’t seem too concerned about things working out or not either, but I didn’t take the time to ask
3. the one I didn’t realise liked me “that way”, misreading our situation as him being up for chatting and late nights and loads of red wine but nothing more, when in fact, he was excited that things were so awesome and thought we were quickly moving toward being an item
So, there are my three. And, whether I like to admit it or not, I was the one who worked hard to get something going then said I wasn’t up for it after all. The one who thought she could convince herself a thing was working out, but then admitted I liked the guy better when we first met. And, I’ve been the one who suggested we get together and then once the guy put himself out there, dismissed it as impossible right now, it’s just too soon.
For about a year, I’ve been wrestling with a love story. Three chapters in, the narrative gets derailed and by the halfway point, the manuscript is littered with interruptions, confessional rants injected into the text on days when the story wouldn’t come and instead of sitting frozen in front of the keyboard, I decided to “just write anything that was in my head”.
A month ago, a girlfriend emailed me to say she’d been thinking about me a lot, and that at risk of bringing up bad times, there was something she needed me to know. Having been close to me during my last relationship and its spectacular demolition (now, more than a year ago), she felt I’d lived through all that for a reason, and that I am meant to write from that place. There is a story to be pulled from the wreckage and shared, now that I am strong enough to pick up a shovel and start digging through it all. I don’t know. I don’t really want to, but I would be lying if I denied that I agree with my friend.
I don’t really believe that meeting more than three assholes means I am one, too, or that acting like a douchebag toward three men means I deserve to have shitty-acting men come along and act shitty toward me. I do, however, believe that there is a story in everything, including my seemingly dreadful string of love affairs. Foreground stories and background details, information playing off its various forks and angles. Reasons why those men didn’t always behave their finest; reasons why I am not always a perfect lady toward the men I meet.