Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, as it was Roger Chillingworth’s, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.
-The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Let me tell you about Nilda.
I won’t use her surname, that’s too revealing (as if the name “Nilda” isn’t quite rare enough in itself to be somewhat an anti-anonymizer).
When we met, I was 28 going on 16. I wasn’t the most worldly guy and quite prone to shameless and overwrought displays of romance. God it makes me shudder to think of myself then. I met her through a classified print dating want ad. I think I found it in the Recycler. Internet dating hadn’t quite possessed the souls of lonely and desperate hearts across the brutal dating scene yet. If I remember correctly, I think the Recycler offered a phone number you could call for a fee and you would dial a number (which appeared in the ad) which was a temporary voice mail for the person who had placed the ad. You then had the option to deepen your voice and try to sound as hot and interesting as possible within the context of a short voice message. Your prospective love hook-up would be able to check her box as often as she wanted. I must well imagine what these women were treated to as they went through all their messages, a parade of panting desperate guys standing in phone line, hoping for fate to smile on their womanless hearts. I was one of those men. I left a message on Nilda’s box. How I wish I kept her ad.
She called me back and we chatted. We arranged to meet on a Sunday evening for dinner. I remember distinctly that in those days I was weakly unsure of myself and I assumed, in my absolutely defeatist attitude, that my first dates automatically took a disliking to me. I figured the girls basically loathed the ground I walked on. Occasionally, that was probably not far off the mark. In fact, there is a photo from Mother’s Day, 1987, which shows me as a besotted slob, my face round and bloated beneath an overly thick mustache.
Nilda and I went out for an inconspicuous dinner. I didn’t feel it was special, there were no sparks or “fireworks,” but then again, it seemed there never were when I met women. Way back then I still bought into the Hollywood/romance matrix that led me to judge all my own interactions against the context of on-screen love affairs and all the excitement they entailed. The danger being that this Hollywood bullshit makes you passive. It fails to teach men that sparks don’t just happen and spring from the void. It doesn’t really teach that you must make them happen. Life is not a wet dream regurgitation of some deluded screenwriter.
After dropping her off, I drove home in a gloomy cloud of self-pity and pessimism. I was positive she didn’t give a flying fuck about me. If my self-esteem sunk any lower I might need a shovel to dig it up in order to find it again. So you can imagine the shock and joy I experienced when Nilda called me a couple of days later. We chatted for a while and agreed to another “date.”
Even in that pathetic state of low self-esteemed quasi-manliness, I was still a fast mover, for we had sex within 2 or 3 weeks, in the comfort of her bedroom which she rented from a married couple who owned the house. Nilda was Filipino as were her house mates. They were very nice and generous people and I had a wonderful year with Nilda.
Did we fall in love?
Fuck yeah, why not. Sure, it was love. We did a lot together. Actually, we did too much. As in every single weekend, at the expense of my friends and my life. As only a desperate and weak man can do. Give up everything for a…woman. She had three children in the Philippines (yes, I know, spare me) and her tubes were now officially tied (yes, I know, I know…). Which was great because built-in birth control was an awesome gift and blessing for a man such as I.
Nilda loved men. It was so fucking obvious.
She delighted in their attention and it seemed she found it constitutionally difficult to avoid glancing at them, especially if they glanced back. She thought she was a sly flirt but she couldn’t disguise those roaming eyes. She was a wicked little cutie with a contagious smile and catty eyes. She ate it up, man. She was a master ham. She would occasionally do these weird private stripper dances for me, which I obviously enjoyed, but… All Goddamned red flags, but what did I know? Or care? I was 28 and hormones were oozing out my pores. I needed it and I got it, for she was not the least bit inhibited despite her flagrant but emptily symbolic Catholicism (oxymoron, no?). Still, she was faithful to me (I think) for most of our year together. And to be quite honest, this fledgling little dog answered another ad in the same Goddamned Recycler about 6 or 7 months into our relationship and went out a couple of times with this girl from China or Thailand who I think really dug me. Because I was faithful to Nilda, I began flaking out on the other chick because I lacked the prerequisite balls to sleep with two women at once and/or to tell the new one that I was dating someone else. She called a few times and I could sense rising annoyance in her voice as I weaseled out of plans. I was such a pussy.
So was Nilda faithful to me?
Who the hell knows.
Nilda was not the faithful type.
Many women are just not built that way.
You can entertain and enthrall and even mesmerize but in the end, it doesn’t matter with such women because their sexual attention span is so stunted as to be invisible. No matter how smart you play it, you will lose them. One thing we seem to avoid comprehending and accepting as men is that there is always someone better looking and stronger than you. And for women, that same better looking and stronger type comes looking for them, sometimes forcefully and blazingly Alpha-like. With no qualms about nabbing your lady while you’re stewing in the shaky delusion that you somehow own her commitment. Some women resist the lure, but many also succumb to the attention. The conflict is less grueling for some.
See guys, this is your job at the outset of any relationship; you need to turn up the sensitivity level on those female bullshit receptors and listen to your instincts. You need to be able to gauge what kind of woman you are dealing with. Some girls are bad seeds. They aren’t difficult to snoop out early on. If you treat and approach them as a good time, nothing more and nothing less, there should be no problem. But there is a problem because many men, horny and desperate for a “girlfriend” with all the traditional trappings of what they bought into a girlfriend is and does, skew the sexual marketplace by purchasing faulty “products” over and over despite the obvious dysfunctional nature of said products. The manufacturer has no compelling interest to perfect, improve or innovate its product because subpar crap still sells. And sells in abundance. Men, the buyers, have proven to be a sorry, non-discriminating bunch. I know, I was one.
I was a sorry specimen.
Toward the end of our reign, Nilda and I drove to San Francisco for a weekend. I still have photos somewhere. I remember one I took of her sitting on a low wall with her leg folded up while her chin rested on her knee, cheerleader style, while the Bay sparkled in the background. The turbulent San Francisco wind kicked her hair up. Nilda was too easy to love and too easy to like. Nature paved a path for her buoyant procession everywhere she went.
We discovered a great Hunan restaurant and did some sightseeing of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf (where we had a bad argument which resulted in our sitting silently and apart for a few minutes). We left very late on Sunday and didn’t arrive in L.A. until 3:30 in the morning, late Sunday/early Monday. I dropped her off in front of the house and we stood by her car. I was feeling romantic, and on the heels of such a nice weekend, I felt it fitting to kiss her goodnight. We noticed there was a slip of paper tucked under one of her windshield wipers. She pulled it out and we looked at it together, the evidence in plain view. A handwritten note which said something like “where were you this weekend?”
I didn’t call her out, I didn’t drop her. I merely showed some displeasure but it was late and I was tired of driving and I needed to be at work in 6 hours. I drove home in the dark.
I continued the charade, and blind delusion intermixed with desperation and horniness fueled me on.
Admitting this is still embarrassing.
One Saturday in October, just about a year after our first dinner date, we began arguing about some trifling bullshit, I forget what. We were headed out to see a movie. In the midst of our argument she simply uttered “maybe we should just end this” and I agreed. We were both ready…her statement, vague enough to elicit confusion under better circumstance (end our movie plans…?), was simply something we were both thinking and ready to say. I suspect I was also anxious to end it but she had the balls to do what I didn’t. I made a quick right turn and headed back home. She slept over and in the morning we said goodbye. I was just a month shy of my 30th birthday and I felt like shit. To make matters worse, I came down with the worst case of food poisoning ever the weekend I turned 30, the day before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t eat shit. My stomach was in knots and I spent the day on the toilet.
Goddamn that Nilda. Even after we broke up, she asked me to help her with homework. I had just bought a new computer, some ancient relic with Windows 3.1 and a speedy 28.8 Kbps dial-up connection to this strange new thing called the internet. She wanted me for my printer. Without giving anything in return, if you get my drift. But I didn’t demand it.
Thus a new era was begun.