I was middle-aged and, suddenly, I was divorced. I hadn’t been out on a date in 30 years, except for the mandatory pre-divorce counseling. That went well? Right? The therapist told us to converse in terms of “What you just said makes me feel like...”
I already knew what she said made me feel like, and I am sure she felt the same about me. That counseling session didn’t last long.
Some time thereafter, I was at Nicholas Roof in Atlanta, Georgia on a warm summer’s evening. It was a gathering for middle-aged singles that presumably were successful professionals. We were having cocktails before dinner. I saw a very attractive Asian woman and elbowed my way toward her. She was talking with two other women who noticed my intention and graciously turned away to let me have her attention. I smiled, introduced myself, and then asked her name. She said in a heavily accented voice, “My name is Jennifer.”
I replied, “No, no, no. That is one of the most popular girl’s names since WWII, but that is not your name. What is your name?”
“What would you like it to be?” she smiled coyly.
“I am sorry.” I replied. “I think I made a mistake. Excuse me. Have a nice evening.” I turned away.
I mingled with the crowd but felt lonely. So, I decided to leave when dinner was announced. I handed over my receipt at valet parking and jokingly said, “That’s a 600 Mercedes.” Actually I was driving a 3 series BMW.
I was shocked when a beautiful, navy 600 Mercedes with dark brown leather interior pulled to a stop in front of me. “Oh my god.” I said. “I was only kidding.”
Just then the beautiful Asian woman who called herself Jennifer pushed past me saying “It’s okay, honey. That’s my car.” She tipped the valet a $20, got in the car, and drove away.
Now, that wasn’t the first time I had made a fool of myself, nor was it to be the last. However, I did learn something and I want to share that with you.
If you read my previous blog, next to last, you know that my stepson recently bought a house. It is in a town about 30 miles away. For some time prior to that, he had lived in a guest log cabin on our property. He frequently came up in the evenings, had drinks and dinner with us, and then he and I played pool. I really enjoyed my time with him and looked forward to those evenings. Alas, they are no more.
My wife said, “Why so sad? You miss him, don’t you?” I mumbled something in reply and continued to sulk. She disappeared but soon was back holding a pool stick and wearing a pool shooter’s glove. “Want to play pool?” she asked. “Think you’re good enough, do you?”
I had to laugh. “Damn right I am. You’re on.”
As I racked the balls, I flashed on “What would you like it to be?” For the first time I realized why I had rejected Jennifer and why I so completely and unconditionally loved my wife. I had known that Jennifer would pretend to be whoever she thought I wanted in order to manipulate me. I would never have known her. All I would have known would have been a projection of my desires, as she perceived them.
On the other hand, my wife was not pretending to be someone she was not. She saw that I missed my stepson and missed playing pool. She offered herself as a companion and a pool competitor to fill that void because she saw the need in me, and her love for me compelled her to fill that need.
Isn’t that an important part of love, to recognize the needs of another, and then offer to fill those needs? Not by pretending to be someone you are not, but by being yourself and giving yourself.
When I started dating, my youngest daughter gave me this advice: “Dad don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Be yourself. Because if you pretend to be someone you are not and you win, then you lose. Only by being yourself can you ever win because that is the only time you are eligible to win. That is the only time you are in the game.”
P.S. My wife won two out of three games. RATS!