Well, here I was, all ready to write to this prompt, taking a break from taking a break. I started a story, too, then thought, “I wrote this already.” And sure enough, I did. (Copied Below) Still and all, it’s a good story for International Women’s Day though. When this day came around the year I was teaching in China, my Irish colleague and I skipped the festivities and taught our classes. After all, wasn’t it all about the right to work? Our Chinese colleagues came back with the gifts from the Provincial Governor — dish towels. And so it remains….
Divorced. “Pushing thirty.” (Uh, 25?) Pressure everywhere to “find someone before it’s too late.” Pretty typical? Yeah. Definitely, but it was the late 70s…
So what? Oh, kid, you have no idea how things WEREN’T back then, but it was pretty odd for a (reasonably) good-looking woman to still be on her own and employment options were far more limited than now. Feminists were IN ACTION but the action was too new to have born fruit.
“You wanna’ go to a fern bar and meet some men?” asked her friends one Friday evening. (Actually, no one ever called “fern bars” “fern bars” — but they were. Potted ferns hanging from macrame, uh, hangers; negative ion machines blasting good vibes secretly and silently into the crowd.)
“I’d rather die.”
“You’re never going to meet someone this way.”
“How is some joker asking me my sign meaningful at all?”
Fact was, she loved someone. (A sad little love story that might make money if she ever sits down and retypes it [it was printed out from her Amiga back in the 80s].)
At work, administrative assistant to the directors of Development and Alumni Relations, she was surrounded by young law students. Sandy, Dean’s secretary, said, “You have to try. Mr. Right isn’t going to come flying through your door.”
Men were icky and gruesome in their way. She’s already been beaten up by her first husband. Once he was gone, the horror didn’t stop. The guy downstairs had attempted to break down her front door. She retreated to her bathroom with the phone and called the cops. When they arrived, and questioned the guy, he said, “I just wanted to get into her pants. What’s wrong with that?” Of course, they cuffed him and took him away. Men — good or bad. You decide.
Meanwhile, Sandy, the Dean’s Secretary, gave Larry Poser the phone number he’d been asking for. She got a call. “You want to go out with me? Sandy said you might.”
Larry Poser. Ah. Skinny, short, big nose, black hair, but funny. Very funny. But ugly. Yeah, definitely fell into the category she found ugly. Hmmm.
They went out and had a pretty good time. Poser WAS funny and so was (is) she, so they had a lot of laughs. A week or so later he showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine. They sat on the floor and drank wine and talked. He said, “I always figured lively funny people like you would be slender. But you’re not. That’s too bad.”
She was far from fat, but God designed her to be compact and strong, and close to the ground. “Fuck you,” she thought. “Why are you here?” she said.
“I like you. I’m here because I like you. Listen. My friends PD and his wife, WIFE, have asked us to go out with them Saturday. We’re going to that new Italian restaurant and then for dessert. Do you want to come?”
PD was the chief public defender. He and his wife — both early thirties and beautiful — lived in a beautiful restored Victorian on Capital Hill. She was a grad student. Shit. And how could Poser be THEIR friend?
She borrowed an outfit from Bess who had nice clothes. Poser, PD and WIFE came to pick her up in their Mercedes. They went to the restaurant, which was beautiful. The food was delicious, the company was great. PD was VERY funny, but on top of that, she was very nervous. She realized she didn’t really like Poser at all and wondered why she was out with him. She felt she was on exhibition — something that always terrified her (she had a hard time speaking in public and had never made it through a piano recital as a kid). Dinner over, she and WIFE went to the Ladies to do whatever. WIFE said, “Poser really seems to like you.”
She felt a very insistent wave of nausea, a combination of fettuccine, laughing while eating and nerves. She held it down. “Really?”
“I think so. He talks about you a lot.”
The nausea returned.
They walked down the curved staircase to the front door. PD made a show of opening the back door of the Mercedes (brand new) to let her in. She sat down. PD closed the door. She puked all over the door, the floor and an edge of the seat.
“Take me home,” she said.
“No way. We’re going out for dessert.”
And they did.
A few days later, back at the law school where she worked, She was talking to Sandy. “How was it?”
“I puked in the guy’s new Mercedes.”
“Well, that’s memorable.”
“Do you like Poser?”
“Good. I overheard something the other day in the hall.”
“He was going out with you because the Dean likes you. He wants a recommendation letter.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think he liked me. It’s mutual. I don’t like him, either. He’s ugly.”
“Well, Tony Pulire has been asking about you. He’s not ugly.”
That’s another scary story for another day…
Nothing ever made her more nervous than dating. Sure, it appears to be a sweet experience, with candy, flowers, romance and so on, but it’s a Mean and Vicious Killer, the “man of her dreams” a holy grail, and she NEVER knew her favorite color. And no; the adrenaline was NEVER worth it. She has hiked alone in remote mountains (alone with dogs, that is), had encounters with rattlesnakes, coyotes and seen a mountain lion. She has traveled around Europe by herself, lived in China during the early 80s, and has done many things that others think require courage. For her, they’re just adventure and life is nothing without adventure. But dating? Gratuitous shame, angst and misery.