After the first date, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror at work, and I wondered when the other shoe would drop? I had a feeling all along that the relationship I was in would end and end badly. Call it a gut reaction, sixth sense, or just a keen acknowledgement of destiny. It wasn’t just the fact that dating someone thirteen years older than me was weird on its own. No, it was the fact that the man I had been dating for nearly a month was waging a war and I was on course to be another casualty.
I’d been hoping to date this particular mistake for two years. We had known each other for years, had mutual friends, and had even attended the same school (although years apart). I’d broken up with a longtime boyfriend and from the moment we split, I had my eyes, and heart, set on the older man.
My former boyfriend was okay, but our relationship had gone awry in ways that I had no desire to fix. Some of his behavior had started to irritate and in some ways scare me. I had many voicemail messages that said variations of “I know you’re on campus, I can see your car. Where are you?” My Suburban-Detroit university has an infamous parking problem, and the fact that he found my car was something of a feat in and of itself. I left the promise ring he’d given me on the edge of a sink in one of the most popular buildings on campus and walked away from it forever. I hope that it became another woman’s pretty-shiny.
The older man treated me like a kid-sister for three years, and then by some “miracle”, he asked me on a date. We planned to go to favorite restaurant of ours.
The first date went well, and I couldn’t believe that this “perfect” older man and I were officially dating, as per our determination at dinner. I left that evening believing that a good thing had just begun. But in the back of my mind, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Intuition and I have always had a remarkable relationship. She and I have kept each other out of many stupid, dangerous, and uncomfortable situations for over thirty years. Intuition and I are like peas and carrots.
That night, I chose to ignore her.
Ignored point of intuition number one: I was desperately nervous. I paced the floor at home and changed my outfit multiple times. This is strange behavior for me. Although I am a selective extrovert, I am normally fairly confident in my wardrobe selection. I figured that if I was going to feel awkward, I had damn well better kill it with my ensemble. For me, being nervous to change that many times to feel okay was a problem.
Ignored point of intuition number two: On the way to the restaurant, he changed Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to another song, one that I didn’t know and didn’t like. This even after I jumped in the seat saying “oh! I love this song!” in response to Steve Perry’s stunning vocal styling.
Ignored point of intuition number three: It came as a surprise to our mutual friends that we were dating. They thought he was still seeing his “former” (as told to me) girlfriend, Amy. They knew nothing of our relationship.
It all came crashing down just over a month into the relationship. We sat in his living room, watching an episode of a pointless reality show. He had been quiet all evening, which I didn’t think too odd at the time. But when he finally looked at me and spoke, he used a mouse like, “un-manly” voice, and nearly whispered, “you’re a virgin aren’t you?”
My feet went cold. Where the actual hell had that come from? I didn’t know why, but I was instantly defensive. But I looked at him and replied confidently, “Yes. Why, is that a problem for you?” He muttered a reply that I can’t remember but it made the mood sour. He was pissed and pouting.
“I’m going home.” I stood up and announced about twenty minutes later. And without any protest from the older man, I left. We didn’t make plans to see each other again that week.
I spent the thirty-minute drive home thinking about his question. Where had that come from? I was pissed. Why was this even a question? Did I even want that serious a relationship with him? It seemed so in from left field. He hadn’t pressured me and it wasn’t a “heat of the moment” question. I was watching some show that I detested and remember counting the ways I found it’s “contestants” pathetic and drippy.
I had never been in a relationship with sex even “on the table”, so to speak. I was a twenty-first century woman with my own ideas about my body, my emotions, my choices, commitment, and what defined me. If he thought this was going to be a casual decision that I was going to make on the spot, he was wrong. That I knew. Regardless of how much, and how long, I had adored him. I had adored myself longer and I loved my self-worth more than I could have ever loved him.
The answer to all of my questions, was no.
Several days passed and we didn’t talk to each other. I was still under the illusion that we were in this “relationship” and it would be fine.
I looked in the bathroom mirror at work and knew. This is when the shoe would drop.
I climbed the stairs back to my desk and found a text on my phone. A text. On my phone. And it read, “I think we need to take a break.” I spun in my chair, unsure what to do or how to take this revelation. Ross and Rachel took a break and look what happened to them!
“What the…. F! Does that!Does that even mean?” I yelled, thankful my office was silent.
I text back, “what does that even mean?”
I didn’t receive an answer.
He never gave me an answer, but I knew he had unceremoniously “dumped” me because I had no intentions of entering into a casual sexual relationship with him.
That evening, when he asked me if I was a virgin, was the last time we had a private conversation.
I later learned after that evening, Connor,the older man, embarked in the kind of foolish behavior that one is accustomed to seeing in spoiled children.
I received a myriad of name calling and mud-slinging. To the mutual friends we had, I became “crazy”. I was nuts for always sending him birthday cards. I was “insane”. I was a “stalker”. I was a “slut”. To him, I was everything that I wasn’t in reality. His reality was one in which women’s characters could be colored to his liking. He wanted mine the color of burned charcoal.
I wondered why our mutual friends wouldn’t look me in the eye and walked away when I came near them. What is truly sickening? I didn’t find any of this out on my own. I heard it through the metaphorical grapevine only later to have it confirmed. Everything I heard Connor had done, he did.
Ninety-nine percent of our mutual friends believed him. They had known me since I was ten years old, and they believed this man that degraded me.
I didn’t find out until years after the fact that only one, Randy, managed to stand up to Connor and tell him, “you’re full of shit.”
This is how easy it is to believe falsehoods about women. If one man says it…it must be true. My truth, women’s truth, be damned.
In late 2011, I saw the older man.
I was deliriously happy, cruising through a local grocery store buying provisions for a meal I was hosting at my home. I was also engaged, my beautiful solitaire standing like a sentry on my left hand.
As I turned and headed into the pasta aisle, I heard the unmistakable scream of a gecko. I looked up from my list, and there was the older man. Staring at me and smiling like we’d seen each other the day before and were old friends.
“Hey, Melissa, how are you?”
I didn’t hate this man but I damn sure didn’t like him. “I’m great, thanks Connor.” I could feel bile in my mouth and had to fight the urge to throw up on his shoes.
“Yeah, it looks like you’re gettin’ married?”
“I am. In four months.” I replied. No more. No less.
“Yeah, see you later.” He said.
“You have a better chance of becoming a millionaire overnight.” I thought. And for the second time, I turned my back to him and left him alone in the pasta aisle without another word.
He had the nerve to look “wounded.”
He deserved nothing from me. I didn’t give him the information that he so desperately wanted. Insight into my life—my happiness.
There are many things that I could have said to him. Many of those words could have been powerful words and some could have an “f” and the “u” standing prominently at the front.
By the time I finally saw him face to face, it wasn’t worth the trouble. I didn’t need to bring up the actions of an imbecilic piece of rock that wasn’t worth a millisecond of a prisoner’s time, much less mine.
When I saw him, I was given the opportunity to speak my truth without words. I didn’t have to tell him that he was a liar. He knew.
And although being silent is hardly what I would tell another woman in my shoes, my silence that day in the pasta aisle, spoke more to him than words would have. Because for the second time, I wouldn’t change who I was to fit his wants.
I didn’t give him what he thought he deserved.
And if to him, I am a frigid bitch, that’s fine.
I will live to be called worse by a whole lot better.
(Below: Me–before the first date.)