Women, Bad Boys, and Contingency in Life

images-2My Valentine’s Day post–

I’ve written before of my difficulties getting it on with women. Being such a rationalist, I thought the way to go about it was to treat them nicely. Silly clueless me. I didn’t grasp the attraction of bad boys. Excitement. Danger. Trouble. It can be like catnip to women. But I was constitutionally incapable of acting the bad boy. Except for one time . . . .

In April 1975, I had a dental appointment. The usual receptionist was away; the dentist’s young daughter was filling in. UnknownShe seemed pleasant. So after the novocain wore off, I phoned and asked her out. Her name was Pam.

Now, what I mean by “contingency” is how our lives hang by slender threads of probability – or, rather, improbability. Of course it was chance that the receptionist was out that day. And I was seeing that dentist only because, years before, I’d happened to date a girl named Noreen, and somehow the subject came up, and she’d recommended him.

Unknown-1More contingency: on the First of that April in ’75 (“hardly a man is now alive”), while out walking, I had seen a girl shlepping stuff. Maybe fifteen seconds, either way, and our paths wouldn’t have crossed. But they did, she looked hot, so I offered to help her, moving into a big apartment building on my block, that was full of single girls. Its official name was “The Willett.” I called it the Cockteaser Building.

So I pestered this chick, Donna, for a date, she was indifferent, but eventually let me take her to a party she wanted to go to. images-3Soon after our arrival, Donna was draped in the lap of another guy. Soon after that, I told her I’d called a cab. Our ride back was silent.

I am deeply ashamed to say I nevertheless continued to pursue Donna. (She was a looker.) I took her out to dinner. She brought a book along. I said, “You must be expecting a dull evening.” And indeed, at the restaurant, she opened the book. I told her to put it away, and she complied; but again silence descended. Back at the Cockteaser Building, I finally gave Donna my candid evaluation. She just shrugged and walked away.

Contingency: this whole Donna debacle was significant only because at that party, the host, seeing the situation, had taken me aside, and said, “This girl’s no good. I know someone better for you.”

Unknown-3Her name was Christina, and she was a whirlwind entering my life. Our relationship seemed to go off like fireworks.

Now, remember Pam, the dentist’s daughter? My date with her hadn’t yet happened. But so bedazzled by Christina was I, that I decided to just blow off Pam. I called her and cancelled – and gave the reason with insouciant, brutal candor. “You’ll survive,” I may even have said. Totally out of character.

Well, needless to say, the Christina thing, having gone off like a firecracker, quickly fizzled out like one. Unknown-6Leaving me, a month later, sitting glumly and very much alone in my room.

The phone rings. “Hi, it’s Pam,” the cheery voice says. Why on Earth would  she be calling me? But, after some meaningless chit-chat, she asks me out.

No girl had ever done that. And none had I ever treated so callously. Christina’s mind-warping effect had turned me, momentarily at least, into a bad boy – and that made me (in contrast to my normal milquetoast persona) intriguing and attractive to Pam. She’d apparently spent the ensuing month obsessing about me and psyching herself up for her wildly gutsy phone call.

So my relationship with Pam started on a completely different footing from any preceding one. And, unlike all those others, it lasted – twelve years.

Not all of those years were wonderful. Ten were not. Two were excruciating. But they got me to the place where, on May 2, 1988, I found the girl of my dreams and the love of my life, Therese.

imagesContingency: Noreen, Donna, Christina, Pam, Therese. Every link in the chain was necessary. No Noreen, no dentist; no Donna, no Christina; no Christina, no bad boy; no bad boy, no 12 years of Pam; no 12 years, no Therese.* Thank you, Donna!

Oh; and yes, Therese lived in the Cockteaser Building. And no, I didn’t act the bad boy with her.

* There was actually a further contingency: after Pam left, I came within a half inch of marrying someone else; only a fluke intervened. But that’s another story.


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