Reality and Sanity

May 28, 2007

Writing Prompts, Part I

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 5:39 am

I have a small book called The Pocket Muse–Ideas and Inspiration For Writing by Monica Wood. The goal of the book is to get past writer’s block by selecting a prompt and writing about it. Now a person doesn’t have to follow exactly what the author suggests; the point is to get writing.

I’ve decided to create blog posts based on some of these prompts. Hey, it’s all in good fun, and if somebody actually reads this stuff, you’ll get to know a bit more about me than most people do outside of cyberspace. So here goes…

Reconstruct your first date. Can you recall a particular sound that brings it all back?

First Date?


First Date? I couldn’t definitively tell you what my ‘first date’ was. I suppose it was with a gal I call “Sharon.” We did go to dinner; we did go to movies; but she always insisted we were ‘just friends’ while any of my friends she met would end up locking lips with her in the back seat. Well, she did save me from a perfect record of zero high school formals (then made out with yet another friend afterward).

You have to understand…to say I wasn’t popular in high school is an understatement. I put up with this kind of treatment because I met flat refusal from anyone else I asked. When it came to dating, I was the polar opposite of one guy I’ve called a friend for over 35 years. Girls just loved him; he married this stunning redhead that was a grade below us that has no understanding of the distraction she causes anywhere she goes. She became an MILF (not to me, if I ever had a sister, she was it. Ewww…) before she was 20, and still holds that status today, even with all three of their children now high school grads.

When I worked for Domino’s Pizza in the late 1980s, she would show up with her oldest son to use my employee discount since I never used it. Invariably, after she left, another driver that had never before seen her would ask me excitedly in a higher-pitched voice, wide eyed and tongue dragging, “Is that your girlfriend?” I would then sigh annoyedly, explain yet again that No, she wasn’t my girlfriend, she’s married to a longtime friend of mine. I would then get a detailed unprintable explanation of what he wanted to do to her. But I digress…

When you can’t get a date to save your life and you have this kind of stuff go on, it’s devastating to a guy’s confidence.

Looking back, the biggest problem I had was confidence. After meeting endless flat refusals, not even given an opportunity to at least get to know someone or someone to get to know me, I wondered if I would ever get a date. I was young and stupid…and so were the prospective dates I pursued. These girls craved Excitement! and Bad Boys! that they could mold into their charming man. To them, I was like a pendulum, reliable but boring.

To be afflicted with Boring Nice Guy Syndrome, to a high schooler, is a fate worse than death. My senior yearbook is filled with comments from girls that start, “Paul, you’re such a sweet guy…” If I’m so sweet, why did you turn me down when I asked you for a date? I learned later that being reliable, concerned, courteous, and kind isn’t very exciting to a young heart that craves romance such as what is provided in romance novels. No, I was the crying towel when their excitement-inducing bad boys broke their hearts. It took them years before they learned that the guy you consider a friend, the one that’s always there for you, the one that fits in your life like those favorite old comfortable, frayed jeans is the one you want. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t eventually that guy for any of them.

I don’t judge those girls harshly; they didn’t know any better, and neither did I. I later learned that I didn’t know how to ask them–more on this later.

So I cannot recall my first date, simply because I’m not sure any of them qualifies as a first date. I had a one-night stand with an acquaintance years before I had a real girlfriend.

That first real girlfriend nearly became my last, as she was very needy. She had no concept of the idea of personal boundaries; even if you are joined at the hip with someone, everyone needs some personal time, which she wouldn’t allow. She would also broadcast every detail I would tell her; no such things as information shared in confidence. I didn’t handle the situation well because I didn’t know how, I had never seen something like this, and neither did anyone I talked to about it.

I finally peeled her off me after several tumultuous months. After each of us grew up more, we became friends; unfortunately, she died of stomach cancer a few years ago in horrible torture. She was only 34.

I married the woman I had the next serious relationship with; but because we both tailored each other to our liking through the glasses of our desires, and both of us dragged in tons of personal unresolved baggage, it was doomed from the start. I do have some pleasant memories of that relationship; I still laugh about her playing with the claws of her crab legs anytime we went to Red Lobster. I still marvel how she lovingly earned my trust and allowed me to be vulnerable with her, never mocking me with any of my secrets.

The part that worked best was the sex. We weren’t into anything kinky, or into lots of positions or acrobatics, we simply thoroughly enjoyed each other several times a day because I constantly caressed her: lightly dragging my fingers over her back, tweaking her cheek, slowly rubbing my palm on her belly. I never knew I could be such a horndog and have a gorgeous wife that could match me drive for drive. I thought such escapades were reserved for Penthouse Forum.

Now, I am married to a woman that understands me, loves me, and gives me that space when I need it. She isn’t a closet nympho like my first wife, but there is plenty of loving to sustain both of us. I have a genuine good time with her, no matter what it is we choose to do, whether its attending a conference, working a job side by side, playing a game or watching a movie.

She is who I looked for when I aspired to be part of a couple in a cafe on a Tuesday late afternoon sitting across from each other because the table is so small that our noses are almost rubbing. We decide to skip the 9:30 movie we planned to attend because we are having so much fun simply talking about our respective days. Sharing of insights: a joke told by a coworker, a new labor-saving device purchased by the employer, a challenge met and addressed successfully. This is why we have been married for nearly ten years now, we are each other’s best friend as well as lover. Something we tell each other every day.

So when was my first date? With whom? Where did we go?

I never had anything near the stereotypical TV experience of asking the girl for the date, meeting the parents or what you see in the John Hughes teen movies. Maybe I would have if I knew then what I know now: how to ask.

It is astounding how many of us men don’t know how to ask for a date. Guys I know try to get the woman to ask him for the date, or worse, ask other women they know are friends with the woman they fancy to ask for the date.

Piece of advice, gentlemen. If you want the chance to take out that special lady that has your fancy, ask directly with these elements: Specific activity on a specific date at a specific time.

“Say Jennifer, I have two 5 pm tickets to the dinner theater this Saturday. Would you like to go?” Or: “Say Christine, the festival is holding Irish Day this Friday afternoon, and I’d like you to join me.”

I do this now with my wife. “Say Honey, I’d like to see (pick the movie) on Saturday evening. Would you?”

Now how hard is that? Think about all those young girls I knew years ago (that are an illusion to me now–thank you, Bob Dylan.) Maybe they would have responded differently if I had simply mentioned a specific activity on a specific date at a specific time. Maybe if I had asked properly and had a bit of success, I would have built up some confidence. Maybe if I suggested something that piqued their curiosity or sounded fun, I wouldn’t have been afflicted with Nice Guy Syndrome. “Paul, you’re so sweet!”

So to give a definite answer to the prompt: After all this reflection my first date was with my current wife, since she is the only one I asked properly (specific activity on a specific date at a specific time) before we were already involved. The particular sound that brings it all back was her jaw hitting the floor because she was incredulous that there was a man in existence that actually knew how to ask for a date.


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