Thanks, M.

I used to get crushes very easily. While I have two sisters with whom I share a healthy relationship, it was not always so. I didn't grow up with my sisters as my friends. I was just weird that way. I consider it entirely my fault. It's not my intent to explore that part of my life, just to give the background for the following.

In my youth, LDS Stake dances were, to use a technical term, the shiznit. Like most testosterone driven young men who attempt to define themselves through various personalities and characteristic traits during the formative teenage years, I wanted girls to like me. But they didn't. They liked TJ instead. Everyone liked TJ. He was nice, intelligent, outgoing, good looking, charming, and most importantly, understood women-- to the extent a young man can.

I, on the other hand, had good qualities, I'm sure, but I was completely unrefined. I had no concept of a healthy relationship with a woman; I only had my parents' strong and long marriage as my example. I didn't know what it was like to be friends with a girl and this led to me missing the proverbial boat on how to flirt. It didn't help that I was an engineer in disguise; flirting had no immediate goal. Its primary use, a proving ground to see if there's interest, was completely lost on me. Why flirt? Do you like me, yes or no? (Please check one and send back to me.) So when girls were friendly, I immediately mistook their attempts at friendship as a direct signal of their strong interest in me. There were a few exceptions, of course, but by and large this was the rule.

This is best illustrated through a brief recollection of my encounter with a young woman I shall call 'M.' She had long blonde hair, beautiful blue eyes, and all the other attributes that go along with making a young man attracted to a young woman. Her friend was a reckless flirt, and was quite liberal in flirting with me. For about 2 months her friend had a real interest in me-- calling me on the phone, making sure she talked to me at Church, writing my name in fancy cursive and frilly framed borders on her notebook, and so forth. Like I said, though, it only took 2 months for her to find her new flavor and move on. I wasn't completely smitten over her, so I wasn't too broken up about it. This 'relationship,' however, had an interesting side effect. I was able to make friends with M. During the times her friend would call me, it was not uncommon for for M to chat with her on the phone. I got to know M a little, find out what she was like, and I had no illusions of her interest in me because her friend was the one who liked me.

So I was rather surprised that M continued her friendship with me after her friend decided she liked someone else. (To my deepest content, however, her attention did not turn to TJ. Everyone liked TJ...) She would still talk to me on the phone, although less frequently. She would still dance with me. She would still laugh at my lame jokes and be very pleasant and bright and all the wonderful innate qualities women have that make grey and rainy life bright and vibrant. After a few months the cogs began turning in my head-- lamentably, though, they turned the wrong way. "Surely M likes me. Surely she's interested in me. She talks to me all the time, she dances with me, she calls me. She remembers my name!" That last one might have been reason enough, but it was the extra length of rope with which I quickly hung myself.

At the next Stake dance, I tried to poetically declare my affection for M, convinced she shared it. I picked a slow song, asked her to dance, and during the dance revealed to her my feelings for her. It's strange, in retrospect, to think that I didn't ask her if she liked me. Perhaps I wasn't so convinced she liked me, but rather her interest in me gave me confidence to take a bold step. I suppose it doesn't really matter. I was quite surprised by her response. She took a step back, snapping away from our dance. In the middle of the song she said, with a look of... yes... horror... on her face: "What?! I... I just don't believe you!" and with that she stormed off. I had very little contact with her after that.

I did not understand. At all. I hurt, but you know how teens are... I forgot about her fairly quickly. I hadn't given it much thought until a few days ago.

You see, I think that due to my lack of experience when relating with women outside of a romantic nature, I have been quite unable to imagine why a man and a woman would have any kind of relationship outside of their family-- spouse or sibling. Professional relationships made sense; they were superficial and trite. You got along with women at work because you respected them as a co-worker. There was little camaraderie. If there ever was, I felt guilty. If I found a woman particularly attractive, it was exponentially more difficult to talk to them for fear I'd find them attractive and develop some kind of extra-marital relationship with them. Not that I think the unthinkable would happen, but I'll be honest: that's what I was convinced of.

As I've matured (yes, it happens slowly. Even the largest of glaciers move-- even if it's a few inches every year) I've come to make friends with women I was not married to. Most, if not all, of these women are very beautiful-- looks, personality, and the other aforementioned pleasantries with which women are gifted.

This has been a little threatening to me. Please-- don't think that I have ludicrous presuppositions of infidelity. But in bitter and embarrassing honesty, I convinced myself through the years that infidelity was the fruit of friendship beyond spouse and sibling. This result was even more imminent in my mind if I found the woman attractive. (I'll bet some of you are laughing by now. I suppose it sounds absurd.)

M taught me a lesson, even though it's taken almost 11 years to finally sink in. I can be friends with women. My paradigm is shifting just slightly. I still find it unwise to be alone with a woman who is not your spouse or sibling. I'm still uncomfortable with women I don't know. I will always find it unwise to seek to cultivate friendships beyond your spouse. The point of marriage is to grow together; she is my primary interest and my primary source of joy, love, and fulfillment. I will not undermine the hard work she has put into me.

But I'm finally realizing that there are Daughters of God that have platonic interest in my friendship inasmuch as our lives cross paths, without any ulterior motives. And it took 26 years...


Kermit~the~Frog said...

Twenty-six years...glacial movement, indeed.

I can't believe M didn't fall for the teeth!

It's nice to be your friend, and even nicer to not be neurotic about it. I think growing up in a neighborhood of boys helped.

One of the great parts about marriage is that you introduce all your friends to your spouse, and she helps you weed out the chaff. Heh.

just me said...

I think I know the girls who you are referring to! Those were the good old days. And no, I NEVER had a crush on TJ! And I always considered you a friend. Your personality never bothered me. :)