Monday, October 18, 2004

The Break-Up

We went to dinner with two other couples on Saturday.

This was unusual.

It took nearly a decade with Gloria to find one couple I liked to go out with. That there is a second compatible couple existing in our universe comes as a stunning shock. Much like a dog-faced boy who is shunned by both dogs and boys, I tend to be uncomfortable around people. Gloria has often said that I don't like people, but this is absolutely not true. I do like people. I just don't like them near me.

During dinner, someone's brother was being discussed. I'm not sure whose brother. One of my problems with being allowed in public with actual people is that my mind tends to drift if the conversation doesn't interest me. So once I established that said brother wasn't in the circus, prison, or conducting unsupervised laboratory experiments that could turn him into an anguished superhero, I just stopped caring.

Then I heard the words 'break-up.' It sounded disastrous.

And the playing field tilts in my direction.

I know disastrous. It's a hobby. I'm both an enthusiastic participant and an amateur researcher. I study disastrous the way other people study birds or stamps. It's not just dinner with two couples anymore. It's field research.

Here's the story. The brother had been dating a woman for about a year. This woman, described as "Victorian but raunchy," had been evaluated by all as being an excellent candidate for marriage. All, perhaps, except the brother. The woman had called the brother just the day before and begged out of attending this very dinner, and her style had left no doubt that she was actually breaking up--guy style.

Look, we invented that. You can't possibly do it right.

It turns out that even though this was seemingly a guy style break-up, what she actually wanted was a commitment.

Oh my. A very risky gambit.

Let me say this plainly: we don't need any encouragement to leave. We're all genetically inclined to have one foot out the door at all times during the dating period. That foot can be coaxed inside, if you possess great skill, but only in minute increments. And I emphasize, your skill must be great indeed.

Many of us are unable to be 'the bad guy.' No matter how desperately we might want to be dating the counter girl at Starbucks or the waitress at the Black-Eyed Pea, we will resolutely stay in our misery because we have been bludgeoned for years about how men can't commit. Be warned, though, that trying the break-up gambit with us is dangerous. I had this same technique used on me several times in my single days, and on each occasion I felt like pouring a cup of Gatorade on my head and running out of the apartment.

There's an urban legend about WWII that some men shipped jeeps to their homes in the States--one piece at a time. In a tenacious variation of this strategy, a woman once moved in with me the same way. After weeks of stealth deliveries, suddenly, all her crap was in my apartment, and so was she. She stayed for several months, growing progressively more domineering and less considerate, and then she picked a fight over a cheeseburger.

Her blitzkrieg tactics were impeccable. It was a little bit frightening, but she fought with expert timing.

Then she used the break-up. "My brothers and my father always treated me like a Queen," she said, her hands defiantly on her hips, "and if you won't treat me that way, then I don't want to be here."

"Well, I'll miss you," I said, and I started packing her crap. An hour later, both she and her jeep were gone, and I set to work cleaning up the Gatorade shower.

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