This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
h nice for the ope guy Tad Spencer .
my memory is a bit hazy. Plus. and they have continued to support me. yet it is also wonderfully funny. Thank you to Matt Campbell. Thank you to Louie and Penny for their never-ending inspiration of humor and projection. And please buy many. and none of the descriptions should be accepted as historical fact. Though it was hell to live through. First. Thank you for partaking of my story. Please enjoy the book and recommend it to friends. added to. Thank you and apologies to everyone I altered for this book. Katie. many copies. and locations are portrayed accurately. Names have been changed. thank you to my amazing wife. whose illustrations were a perfect match for this book. thank you readers. situations. Life is often frustrating. Thank you to the late Peggy and Burton Feldman. Though I repeat the sentiment many times throughout the book. They both had confidence in my writing ability. Printed by BookSurge Publishing ISBN-10: 1-4196-9733-1 ISBN-13: 978-1-4196-9733-3 Cover photography © 2008 by Matthew L. all rights reserved. Williams Author’s portrait—photo credit: Melissa Laverty All illustrations © 2007 by Matt Campbell. May it be enjoyable and leave you with a sense of hope. mythic quality. Art concepts and layout by Tad Spencer The events in this book are real. I am deeply flattered and humbled that people would enjoy reading about my dating follies. Illustrations have been reprinted with kind permission from the artist. Most of all. This would not have been nearly as interesting without you. Thank you to Matt Williams for being a great friend and for his photography. Thank you to my family for their humor and support throughout the years. I would like to acknowledge all the people that went into the making of my history and this book. even in death. though they have developed a strange. I have attempted to preserve my emotional reality in all the stories. this is a communal piece of art. Thankfully we found each other…because no one else could have put up with us. This does not mean that people.Hope for the Nice Guy © 2008 by Tad Spencer. I hope good has come from it all. Author’s Note Acknowledgements . A special thank you to Danielle Sexton for her superior editing skills. or deleted for dramatic and/or comedic effect. In many ways. You are everything I could have wanted. They have been re-envisioned. No portion of this book may be reproduced without permission of the author. All opinions are solely my own. I realize that my story is nothing without the people around me.
All my earthly and eternal love. Tad .For Katie. The entire reason this book can have a happy ending.
Stories Introduction Welcome to My World Girls Are Never Icky Where the Buffalo Roam Neighborhood Watch I Want My Hey Ladies Kiddie Krushes Junior Hell Brainy to the Core Just Be Yourself How to Win Friends and Influence People The Pervs Asshole Extraordinaire Hunting for a Savior If It Quacks Like a Duck The Pain of It All Dad’s Place Delivering the News Mr. Goodbar Sending Someone to Do Your Dirty Work vii 1 3 7 13 17 19 27 33 39 43 45 49 53 57 61 65 67 71 77 85 .
Isn’t She? Melodramatic Sugar-Free She’s Back Just the Two of Us Short Leash Trouble.” Just the Two of Us (and My Mom) on the Couch Drugs and Religion A Little Rebellion. Right Here in River City “Here’s Another One from Vince Gill. Eh Get in the Boat Double Tall.. a Little Late College Daze Deep in the Heart of Texas Paging Dr..Plan B The Space Between Us The Biggest Regret The Birthday Present Teen Sex Comedy Off to College What’s the British Term for “Pining”? The Gallant Return Fading into the Horizon Young. Freud Smoke Signals Voulez-Vous Coucher avec Moi? Peg ‘O’ My Heart How to Be a Swinger Murphy’s Law Thanksgiving. Nonfat 101 Reasons Surrogate City Fishing off the Company Pier Just Think About Baseball 89 93 99 103 109 115 119 125 129 131 137 141 145 149 151 155 159 165 169 173 177 181 189 195 199 205 207 211 215 219 221 225 233 235 239 .
The Manager of Fiscal Opera Tomatoes The Heart of a Poet The Growing Darkness Poly Want a Cracker? Love and Death Hello Again Losing It An Intuition Timing Is Everything Epilogue .The Engagement Appendix: 101 Reasons to Date Tad 243 245 249 255 257 263 267 271 277 279 291 299 .
She and I will be married on New Year’s Eve of this year. so far.Introduction July 2005 This. I thought I was doomed to a lonely life.” though? It is a generally accepted term in the daily vernacular of popular culture. Hopefully you will laugh and also nod your head in recognition of the humanity. a move that I had always pictured as being real and possible. The Lonely Guy. . I have met the most amazing. like any autobiographical piece. So much of this book seems purely historical at this point. What is a “nice guy. This is a testament to how quickly things can change. To all those nice guys out there—the ones who are at various phases of where I was: stay strong. it can eventually happen. but had doubted as something that would truly come to pass. took years to compile—my lifetime. I felt compelled to let nice guys know it really can occur. Upon further analysis. my life is completely different than it was even two years ago. But there is a happy ending. wonderful woman that I can imagine. à la Charles Grodin and Steve Martin in one of the latter’s lesser-respected comedies. sweet. My goals were to make it funny and make it real. This book marks a transition from singledom to marriage.
They are sensitive to emotional needs and genuinely attempt to connect with women. basically.viii HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY the term becomes more and more vague—eluding definition. Most of all. I described dating to my married friends. what is a nice guy after all? The nice guy persona also has shadow sides. Then. and learning to love truly who you have become. from the teens through the twenties. to humor. have someone steal $100 out of your wallet. keep looping it over and over. only gray. These are the ones who. Their reaction moved from horror. I would tell married people the tales of countless dead-end dates. This book is about those shadows. Again. In my dating days. this book is about knowing that there is no specific timetable for our lives. and enjoy. to sheer relief that they were no longer single. With that in mind. is what a modern date is like. try this: Play a tape with the most inane conversation you can possibly imagine.” This book is for all the men in that class of “nice guys. Thank you. there is not black and white. these are my stories—many from smaller-town America. This is a book about growing up. generally. It’s not enough to be a nice guy. figuring out one’s place in life. are passed over in favor of more aggressive males—the “assholes. So. Like most things. as well. have someone rip out your toenails with needle-nose pliers. -Tad Spencer .” But this book is also for those not in the dating scene anymore— those removed from the action. Then. And that. it is also fairly easy to accept that there is a class of heterosexual men who do their best to be kind and considerate to the opposite sex. rather than just use them for sex or immediate needs. Sadly. navigating the complexity of human relationships. If you want to find out what dating is like in modern times. You have to be a nice guy with patience. this is only about half the number of dating stories I have. learning to express love.
Welcome to My World I am a nice guy; perhaps you know me. I’m the one that everyone
roots for, but who can never get the girl. I’m the one with the counterintuitive dating life. I embody what women say they want yet they don’t want it in me. For twenty-eight years of my life, I was a single, available nice guy. I looked and longed, but I never finished first. I was “just like a girlfriend.” Ask any young person how nice guys tend to do in the dating scene. Once the kid has stopped laughing, ask again. I’ve attempted to date blondes, brunettes, redheads, Asians, Hispanics, farm girls, California girls, jocks, prissy girls, granola girls, French girls, dirty girls, nerdy girls, and everything in-between girls. Grandmothers adored me. Fathers thought I was ideal. “Go out with that boy,” they would encourage their daughters. The daughters would then, predictably, go find an asshole with a pierced septum. Females over 40 or under 15 thought I was amazing. The ones in between just wanted to be friends. I was a twenty-something virgin. I’ve had condoms expire. I wasn’t just lanky; I looked like Gumby on the rack. I could jump rope with my arms. When I put on shorts, it looked like I was riding a giant chicken. When I turned sideways, I disappeared. I was
HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY
so skinny, anorexics told me to put on weight. I learned to write poetry just to woo women. I started clubs in high school to try and bring them in. I took up music and started cooking and learned about wine, just to impress the ladies. I contemplated moving to another city and starting a life as an asshole, just to see if I could be convincing there. I endured the brain damage of dating and absorbed the underrated blows of “letting me down easy.” I have heard the line, “You’re like a brother to me,” approximately 362 times. Couldn’t I at least be a distant cousin instead? I’ve been a “bride’s man” at a friend’s wedding. (Always a bride’s man, never a bride?) I watched lots and lots of game film but never set foot on the field. Women could tell me anything, except that they felt “that way” about me. I gave up on dating hundreds of times, only to foolishly re-enter at the simple, playful batting of brown eyes. Nice guys are the pariahs of dating, the punching bags in the warm-up routine to marriage. Mama’s boys, gentlemen, oldfashioned, “sweet.” We are the Chicago Cubs of dating—beloved in pity, always unable to win the pennant. We are ever the pursuers, rarely the pursued. We are the butts of jokes when life’s reality overtakes the fairy tale belief of our desirability. We are the whiny, young Luke Skywalkers when most of the girls want Darth Vader. We are the gawky guys along the perimeter of the dance floor, jealously admiring the conquerors. We are often lonely, needy, or desperate. But sometimes, we also win. Sometimes, we get the girl.
Girls Are Never Icky
knew I was unusual by early elementary school. While the majority of the boys I knew were running in the opposite direction of girls for fear of cooties, I was rather fond of them. Some people may find that statement suspect, picturing me as an eight year-old with pink barrettes in my hair and a My Little Pony. I just knew that I wanted to be around the female of the species and eventually do some things with them. What those were, I had no clue. Girls were definitely intriguing. They were soft, better smelling, and literate. My straightness was never really in question because of one thing in particular: Return of the Jedi. I was young, but seeing Princess Leia in Jabba the Hut’s “slave gear” really got my temperature rising. I was in love with her. Prior to her, though, I had a thing for Loni Anderson in WKRP in Cincinnati, Sally Field in Smoky and the Bandit, and, of course, Christie Brinkley in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Yowza! “This is crazy; this is crazy; this is crazy.” I am convinced now that my teen struggles with women were life’s little payback for liking girls early on. Karma is a real bitch. The Lotharios of the world were probably, at eight years old, developing their sprinting skills by running away from girls. These boys were preoccupied with playing soccer and eating boogers and throwing
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fistfuls of schoolyard gravel at the girls. At our school, the girls learned to not stand downwind of the boys. It was quite possible to kill someone by a little throw of gravel and a lot of Wyoming’s greatest natural resource—the wind. These booger-eating, soccer-ball-kicking, girl-pelting boys would eventually turn into beer-swilling, hackey-sack-kicking, girl-seducing frat boys, able to get laid simply by uttering those timeless romantic words, “Dude, get me a Bud Light.” While I was trying everything from flowers and love notes to sex-spirit-conjuring, these guys had lines of women longer than the post office. It seemed strange to me, because much of their personal grooming habits had not changed since they were eight. In college, though, they didn’t have their mothers around to force them into the bathtub. I watched these sloths with their dusty, jaundiced skin practice sloppy, yet effective seduction in their marathon-wear corduroy pants and spit tobaccostained baseball caps. They went from their frat houses, out into the sexual feeding tank (sleazy bars), and back again. All these Pigpens were scoring at will. Their secret? They were normal growing up; they were kiddie misogynists. In my early teens, several years after my parents got divorced, my mom became obsessed with deconstructing her relationships. This usually involved clipping the “intimacy” column from the Saturday paper. Many of the letters to the columnist were from nice guys, flailing around against the cruelties of the dating world. The columnist, sort of like a cross between Dr. Phil and Stuart Smalley, would admonish the poor saps, emphasizing that they need to demonstrate cleanliness and exceptional hygiene. How did he leap to this conclusion? Nowhere in the letter was there a mention of being dirty. Besides, most of the nice guys I knew were preoccupied with cleaning—and ironing. I got the impression that the “doctor” in this article was obsessive compulsive. The string of articles came to mind again in college when I encountered that special breed of assholes—the frat guys. I witnessed a frat guy vomit in a shrub, then turn to make out with
GIRLS ARE NEVER ICKY
his date. I saw another use the dorm restroom (and I mean use the restroom) then not wash his hands. These were the desirable guys. I guess love just isn’t love without a little hepatitis.
I shared one distinct trait with Cheyenne—the tendency to self-sabotage. “We just got an Applebee’s. a Hobby Lobby. corporate-branded signs.twelve miles from Colorado. It was on the cusp of the chain store and restaurant explosion in town. Cows outnumber people. as if it moved them up the chic scale. a beater pickup. as I discovered later on in life. men’s. or as I preferred to call it. My days of youth mostly occurred prior to the invasion of homogeneous. The city courted dozens of businesses and industries to establish their operations in Cheyenne.” people would exclaim. Cheyenne is a town where cowboy boots come in kid’s. (We were one of the few cities to have a Kenny Rogers’ Roasters chicken eatery. civilization. Desperation is never good cologne. But. Bath and Beyond. State law requires each citizen to own a George Strait album. and tumbleweeds outnumber India. about . Most U. and a belt buckle the size of wildebeest. cities use chain stores to gauge their hipness and size. at least while I was growing up. manly men’s. If only they could get a Starbucks. but that went belly up Where the Buffalo Roam My hometown is in the southeast corner of Wyoming. and Rottweiler sizes.S. the city always found a way to lose out. easy-to-identify. women’s. and a Bed.
In order to break up the monotony. We already had a Target and a K-Mart. mainly because it didn’t have all the material things we wanted. It was a year later that they moved to the thriving metropolis of Cheyenne. I was still living in Cheyenne when the town opened a Wal-Mart.8 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY within two years. they decided to have my brother. he took a job in the tourism industry. My father had dragged my mother out to Wyoming in the late Sixties. Some of them lived there. we were more in the lower end of Western Hills. Dad took a teaching job in the dead center of the state (emphasis on dead). Sure. I was not there when they finally got an IHOP. kids. but it did have an annual rodeo dubbed. We were stuck in inferiority. this had a reputation as being the area where all the rich people lived. He was in broadcasting—or wanted to be. now I can look back and see the beauty of many parts of the state. as if trying to get Super Bowl tickets. The town was years from having a Chili’s. and in the disguised-yet-lower end of the income scale for the neighborhood. T. my brother and I were often down on Cheyenne. but . By the time the late Eighties and suburban sprawl came. but not in our house.) When we were younger. and we didn’t have anywhere to get those things. This had to be a challenging job—trying to convince people to come to Wyoming. But people flooded into the Wal-Mart when it first opened.V. called Western Hills. we even had two K-Marts for a while. thank God. Policemen came to direct traffic at the entrance off the main drag. Throughout my youth. On a trip out west from Illinois. “The Daddy of ‘em All. this was before the Internet.” My parents bought a new house in the still relatively undeveloped northwest side of Cheyenne. was pumping images of “the good life” into our home. my parents pulled over to make a pit stop and wound up staying…for years. Hell. People took off work and camped out. where I was born. I think it is probably the same for many cities across this land of consumerism. Yes. Since the teaching job didn’t quite pan out for my father.
a member of a sorority in college. the amount of A/V needed by the regional Shriners convention. Given the technological acceleration of the Eighties and Nineties. For this. years later. Eventually. at the same time. (At least. The upkeep of the place. Summers would pass—starting out with the best of intentions to get the yard in order. My parents bought a lot of equipment at the time—a lot. and an ambitious student— finishing her Bachelor’s degree in three years. This was quite an accomplishment for any era. It’s surprising. was more than we could handle. We lived in a handsome reddish-orange brick ranch house with a sizable yard. especially the exterior. but later flourished into a beauty queen. Mom grew up in rural Illinois. But. And let me tell you. They had enormous debt. This type of business did not do so well in such a small town of scarce resources.) Wyoming seemed to rank somewhere between Botswana and Outer Mongolia for tourism hotspots. the competition for marketing “ranchwear” is fierce. and my parents decided to set up their own audio-visual business. Brokeback Mountain used the splendor of Canada to sell people on visiting my fine home state. we had surrendered to the weeds. far away from so many of the material things that made one cool. the only daughter in a family of seven. the gadgets quickly became obsolete. considering her mother had attended school only through fifth or sixth grade . She grew up as a tomboy among her four brothers. They also rented out A/V equipment to local hotels and conferences.WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM 9 growing up. Dad left that job. Her parents were simple Middle America folk—hardworking and gnawed raw from life experience. mainly competing against the local television station. it was difficult to imagine the appeal. we were living a bit beyond our means. and our own apathy. and we were always strapped for money. I feel incredibly thankful. By the time school started. They would become one of the few audio and video production outfits in town. the dry climate. but especially back then. But at least we could make really complex home slide shows. I arrived on the planet during those tourism days.
” Maybe if I could have written. four and a half years older than me. So does much of America. as it does with so many people. trampled my father. They met at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. may I please have some Cheerios for breakfast?” I always seemed to like writing better than speaking. but when pressed for an ultimate reason. each with the skills they had available. the second of two children— both boys.A. Mom was plowing through her B. it’s not a unique story. Indiana—just across the border and the Wabash River from Mom’s hometown of Marshall.” Pressed for a reason as to why . I was born in December 1975.. Illinois. point to the box of Cheerios and mutter a few “unghs. it was much less intimidating and easier for self-expression. and Dad with his tremendous baritone voice primed for radio. Fear of reality eventually. Mom was always a big dreamer. Dad was from Terre Haute. I know both my parents really cared about my brother and me. My brother. she had much more cosmopolitan styles inside of her than the Midwest would allow. had lobbied my parents to name me “Noodles. They were young enough to have high aspirations and dreams that seemed reachable. Mom told me it was because Dad was too passive. Many of my early desires were communicated through grunting and pointing. my mother still seemed disgusted by my stubborn pre-verbal ways. I would sit at the table. I would have scribbled out a note that said. They were trying to traverse difficult times. Upon revealing this to me later in life. The marriage dissolved when I was in fifth grade. though things were chaotic for a number of years before that. The alcohol and debt were both factors. while Dad was getting his Master’s and waiting out the Vietnam War. I have never been the most loquacious person. Each of them had their outstanding physical features—Mom with her overall beauty. Mom described Dad as a “nice guy” who shied away from confrontation. “Mother. Dad chose to self-medicate with alcohol.10 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY before being pulled away to work and help with the family. Some things are hereditary.
My brother was also hoping for a sister. By now.” while I could be given a (somewhat) normal name. Jeff hung up on her. the entire episode has escaped him completely.WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM 11 he wanted to name me that. entering the world neither as a female nor as a mobster. Things were off to a good start. So there I was. a neighbor decided to name her new kitten “Noodles. . he could not give one. In a merciful stroke of appeasement. and proudly announced he had a little brother. Mom called him from the hospital after giving birth to me.
I realize this sounds like the “I walked to school uphill both ways” kind of speech. so that the flaps covered my neck to create a turtle-esque hole to nestle down into and cover my mouth. passed down through generations of Cheyenne pedestrians: Turn around and walk backwards. for me. backwards. I pulled on my blue ski jacket and zipped it up all the way. angled body. I hated walking home from school. I walked a block before the dust swirled up and thrashed my face. like a sail stiffened by a gale. the hyperbole. Most days required a certain bravery just to walk around outside for more than ten minutes. People try to exaggerate Wyoming’s wind. There were days where it felt like I was pushing a piano up the sidewalk with my back and thighs.Neighborhood Watch So many of my early struggles were against an unlikely foe: nature. creating a rigid. So there we were—several dozen elementary school kids walking home separately in the wind. To protect my face and gain leverage against the gusts. The rest of my body stayed slightly behind. With the slam of the steel school door behind me. but usually the reality always catches up with. was only about fifteen . but this is truer than you may realize. and overtakes. I resorted to the age-old secret. The entire walk. I puckered my face and stuck it out into the force.
skipping a few steps with each wind gust.S. but I was chosen to rescue the neighborhood from an army of invaders. I transformed into a noble crusader. Those mornings. Not even the Air Force.14 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY minutes. I could make record time. and I drew my bat back to prepare for what I hoped would be a shattering blow to the unwelcome visitor.” the root of the once live bush. Sometimes the alternation of blasting and jerking nearly took my legs out from underneath me. Air Force for horseback riding. skip. I felt the need to strike back against the wind—the invisible force that was making so many people miserable. I wonder if the wind and the school district were scheming together. They would torment us every fall. I stood with the stillness and precision of a samurai warrior. When walking to school. Skip. it was like a massive ghost was pushing me from behind. Soon. their numbers swelled larger than ever. with its Ancient Greece-era technology. Mornings were a different experience. It had to be done with human defense. I don’t know what the Air Force needs with horses. (No. waiting for the intruder. I squinted in the harsh midmorning light and started scanning the area. Kids sprinted to school and backed up all the way home. as the wind thrust me into a gallop. I was only 10. yet each second was full of prayers that the pummeling would subside.) The prairie served as a Mordor-like breeding ground for thousands of rolling foot soldiers. with our street opening up to an empty field owned by the U. I decided to take our skinny lemon yellow Wiffle bat out onto the street and start the counterattack. whoosh—whack! A direct hit on the “eye. skip. The first cluster of spiky veins climbed over the barbed wire fence. they appeared on the horizon en masse. but this year. After taking so many days of continuous abuse. Looking back and hoping for an end—these would become my hobbies. Our house was near the end of the housing development. my mortal enemy: the tumbleweeds. I felt as though I were attacking orcs with a . One dull October Saturday morning. could save us. Along came the tumbleweed.
The army was too great. you darling young man. many of the dried arms falling to the ground. I prepared for the next one. I decided that I needed better firepower. I returned to the garage and located my black aluminum Louisville Slugger—a shorter Little League bat. If only I could demonstrate the same bravery to the girls in my daily life. my bat slipped between the branches and got caught within the tumbleweed. though. hacking at the pile.NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH 15 broadsword. I acknowledged them with a timid wave and then returned to my task. The smaller pawns continued down the street. the tumbleweed was powerless against me. There were always next ones—an endless army of Russian thistle. Wrapping my hands around the warm rubber handle. The bulk of the tumbleweed was still in one piece. drawing back my bat. I needed to educate myself. I peered out into the street at the continuous flow of tumbleweeds. I swung again and again and again. Elderly ladies leaned out their front windows and waved their babushkas in gratitude. Limbs split and fell all over the asphalt. only fragments scattered by the wind in wavy patterns. I launched it about twenty feet backwards. I hoped for beautiful women to shower their praise upon me. “Oh thank you. Imagining this as one of the higherranking officers of their army.” they called to me. eventually lodging themselves in aspen trees or evergreen bushes. though. I called out to imaginary damsels-in-distress. Often. I flew to it and swung—more debris. I was victorious over this particular tumbleweed. a weapon stronger than just a Wiffle bat. Given that I had a running start and a hard metal weapon. Infuriated. I caught sight of an especially fat one stumbling down the road. to learn more about the female of the species. It did not move as a whole anymore. or at least realize how valiantly I had fought to show my worthiness. . I charged up the street at full speed. I collapsed from fighting wave after wave. “Fear not! I will save you from these foul creatures!” Then. thank you. I tried to shake it loose while other tumbleweeds scuttled by me.
whereas Q-98 was much The smell of cold cigarette smoke slowly filled our family room. With a press of the remote control. it began here. “Unnnhhh…okay.I Want My The cable man grunted as he leaned over the front of the television set to get a better look at the plug. You have to understand that growing up in Cheyenne provided very few inlets for getting popular music. There were two “rock” stations in town. You should be all hooked up. the red digital numbers illuminated. And just like that. lightly textured plastic box. all the time). I focused my eyes on the box he was installing. The crest of his dirty jeans slid closer and closer to the crack of his ass. remember particular friends or toys or playground encounters.” he announced. KKAZ leaned more toward the hard rock side (all Scorpions. now. The magical coaxial umbilical cord was attached to the tan. I remember MTV. we were connected to the nourishing mother of popular culture—New York City. I just stood five feet from him. Life did not actually begin at conception. Q-98 and KKAZ. Some people. . eyes glazed with anticipation. upon thinking back to their childhood.
we would get to work on the posters. We would draw the Saturn V rocket from the top-of-the-hour title sequence. as we jogged and panted far behind. It sounds kind of crude when I write about it now. and we stayed friends because of a few key things—Knight Rider. hardly-used ping-pong table. more in tune with the world than the Wyoming classification might imply. Miami Vice. We compiled dozens of these cheap posters and begged my dad to mail them to MTV.18 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY more of a pop station (Wham!. Both. We had the fantasy that Mark Goodman would show off our kick-ass posters on the air. yes…we were cool. we weren’t. Our family had a roll of newsprint and a full-size. We loved drawing the massive. and MTV. 1982 was a good year—the beginning of my life education through the eyes of record company-hired music video directors. The truth is. along with the spaceman who planted the MTV flag on the moon. we had no concept of mega-corporations cranking out generic. as well as being about ten years behind on any kind of fashion or trend. We had no reason to be so discriminating about radio station choices. . I think Dad probably delivered them to a dumpster somewhere in town. Ricky and I would watch Van Halen’s “Jump” defend its title week after week on Friday Night Fights—an hour-long show where two videos would compete against each other by gathering viewers’ called-in votes. were not cool enough for us. We used to stay up late on Friday nights at my house making MTV posters. anyone?). But this inflated musical pomposity made us feel as though we were more with-it. despite being all we had. of course. We could only sit in the bleachers and look longingly at the fashionable world running. We wouldn’t have cared. Yes. over-produced music. three-dimensional ‘M’ and decorating the blank spaces with favorite song titles and band names. completely unaware of our presence. Inspired. They could have spat on us. At that time. We were clueless. smoothly. It felt like a fat kid’s worst gym class nightmare—the rest of the planet running far ahead on the track. My friend Ricky and I met in first grade. indeed. This was a true Eighties friendship.
depending on the subject matter of the song. mind you. What I got was a pattern of “wicked women” who toyed with the hearts of men. These archetypes had varying levels of antagonism. I was starved for any wisdom or clues these videos could provide. As a kid. One peculiar life-shaping video was “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes. He looked more like a stray member of a barbershop I remember some of my first encounters with the opposite sex. I just thought they were cheap— one day’s filming had to cost less than fifty bucks. . The set in the video mimics an amusement park ride on a stark. live flesh-and-blood females. Since I knew absolutely nothing about females. charcoal backdrop. Some were simply too bizarre. I learned from MTV. The main attraction at this amusement park is something called “Ride the Beauty. In the early days of MTV. The tomboyish Martha Quinn was in the back of our young male minds somewhere.Hey Ladies Not real. Some stories we could follow. For years. everything I knew about love. short stories that had their own single-song custom soundtrack.” The lead singer for The Tubes is dressed in a candy cane striped suit with a shallow hat. but the really intriguing stuff was happening in the three-minute story videos. videos tried to be mini-movies. These were the ones on MTV.
the boy emerges as a wizened old man—sort of like Mr. At the very end of the ride. The preteen boy seated on her lap looks terrified. She is also wearing a black skullcap on her head. If this sexy woman could morph a boy into a shriveled old man. the woman holds what looks like a broom handle wrapped in electrical tape.) Okay. what chance did I have? . A dominatrix has just trapped an eleven year-old boy on her leather and fishnet lap at this minimalist (cheap) amusement park.” but has no idea what is in store for him. and invites him to hop on. the boy sees all kinds of bizarre things that he doesn’t understand. similar to any amusement park ride. She is dressed in a black leather bustier and a mask that makes her look like Catwoman…or Zorro’s half-sister. except for the fact that he has to sit on the lap of a sexy woman in a dominatrix outfit.20 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY quartet than a carnie. He first directs a naïve boy to the head of the ride. The boy climbs in a cart. and off they go into a tunnel. and they are now riding into a mysterious love/eroticism (these two are the same in so many early videos) house of horrors. He wants to “ride the beauty. Her long raven hair rises up out of the top of the cap and cascades down the back. let me recap for a minute. Does anyone wonder why I had issues for so long? While in the tunnel. (In the video the tunnel is played by a pair of bed sheets. but was also strangely exciting. Oh. The “bar” comes down to lock him in. namely. and there is a smoke machine. This image was a bit of a shock to my seven year-old eyes. For a safety bar. Magoo after riding a NASA G-force simulator. why The Tubes are wailing away as if they are monsters of rock.
” .HEY LADIES 21 Another one rides “the beauty.
Sound like any nice guys you know? One of my favorite examples of unrequited love is Toto’s “Rosanna. rather than smack him around. (I still make references to (keyboardist/vocalist) David Paich in my daily life. You’ll see Steve Lukather. But back in ‘82 (along with Eddie Van Halen). But mine is Toto: the smooth. “She’s a Beauty. there was also the pining (obsession) genre. pushing over the boy-men with ease. the Porcaro brothers. “David who?”) What many people don’t realize is that Toto was the backing band for about half the songs on Michael Jackson’s Thriller.22 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Besides the “dominating woman” genre of music videos. Every person is allowed one band that could be a guilty pleasure or just a silly favorite. the woman ignores the pursuer. Toto has become my nostalgia band. this video probably cost no more than $200 to make. with a look of. catchy pop-rock tunes take me back to my younger years. and she just taunts them from the other side of the fence. shoddy lighting. REO Speedwagon and Journey are popular choices for nostalgia bands.” In the video. and the rest of Toto appear as guest musicians on that particular album. Amazing…twenty some years later. Most people just look at me. this is another type of “wicked woman. Some gray backdrop. It wasn’t just the crappy set that they had in common. David Paich. Strangely enough. Michael has a kabuki face and a strange fondness for children. These songs were essentially three-and-a-half minute begging-for-love sequences. (Again. while Toto has settled into the “Whatever happened to?” bin of forgotten pop stars. they made one of the most legendary albums ever. Some other would-be lovers in an assortment of tank tops try to tempt her. Really. I weep just thinking about it. THRILLER! Check the liner notes for yourself. but she always wins. running her fingers teasingly along the metal links. Incidentally. The band is set up behind a chain link fence. and a removable fence from a nearby construction site—voila! A video!) The band pines away about Rosanna. “Rosanna” strolls along a recreated dark alley. .” by The Tubes was co-written by Steve Lukather.” though in this case.
.HEY LADIES 23 Walk this way...
and many. He is transfixed on the scene. she leads a revolt against Mr. Pat befriends a posse of neon scarves and gets involved with a pimp. many female dancers celebrate by bouncing around and hugging each other. Not even his white leisure suit can save him! The look on his face at this moment is one of the great cinematic achievements of our lifetime. Suddenly. Pat gathers the women together like a Norman army of fluorescent ripped t-shirts and stockings.24 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY The Tubes and Toto introduced me to a couple of versions of “wicked women. They line up and put together a multi-ethnic bit of choreography not duplicated until her next video. Once the barrage of breast shaking has ended. the pimp is transformed into an ogling. It even behaves cinematically with lowered music levels in parts so that dialogue is audible. in unison. After a little gritty singing. unshaven face retreats to the shadows. Pat has a fight with her controlling father and takes off to be her own woman. Sleaze. but by the extent of story being told in the video. mouth-breathing teen. A bit of light reflects off of his oily forehead and exposed teeth. The part of the video I focus on is the climactic dance-off with the mysterious.” but what did the female rock stars have to say about this? Were they indeed manipulative temptresses? A classic from the “rebel woman” genre is Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield. greasy pimp. (Who wouldn’t be?) For just a second. they shook their piggy banks. Hurray! Sweet liberation! They didn’t shake their moneymakers. His dark. She eventually winds up at a seedy nightclub. they start shaking their breasts from side to side in a rebellious manner—arms outstretched so that Pimpy can take in the full force of twenty-some pairs of boobs knocking about. the confused stereotype runs away. . In the video. They win the battle.” This is an epic video—not necessarily in the length.
.HEY LADIES 25 The Grand Battle for Liberation.Benatar style. ..
“This is horrible! I guess I will have to come up with ways to convince women that they want to be with me. something that had no meaning to me at the time.26 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY After these few lessons. I began to feel terrified of women’s sexuality. I was supposed to look forward to sex. Evening at the Improv. and I had to put my dating education to use. but also terrified of the rejection or old-age-inducing. and I only understood a tiny fraction of the reason why. when angry feminism had been popularized. I felt born into a strange time.” Mix this thinking with the music videos from above. Thanks a lot. What made things worse for me was that I was also watching a lot of comedians and comediennes at the time. It wasn’t long before MTV stopped showing music videos altogether. . “Oh no!” I thought. I suppose this might have saved me a little bit of torture. It makes me wonder what kids today use to learn about dating. or could at least manipulate. rockers carried it into the music industry and onto MTV. I was coming closer to the teen years. what I was supposed to be wanting. I identified much more with the “amusement park boy” than I did the greasy pimp. dominatrix abilities that women held. and men are just sex addicts constantly pleading for it. I would have found it very difficult to glean any dating lessons from Pimp My Ride or Jackass. In their acts. and maybe even romance. but did women want the sex part after all? Or were they just going to torture me with it? I was confused. and the rest of my story begins to make a lot of sense. I was intrigued by the method for scaring away sleazy guys. Women no longer wanted. a similar refrain: women don’t want sex.
She looked like the Michelin Man’s daughter. Strangely. I flashed her a grin. she reached her arm up and slung it around my shoulders. straight auburn hair and perfectly rounded.Kiddie Krushes Back in the second grade. I reciprocated. purple marshmallow coat with thick sleeves that swallowed her arms.” if we can call it that. That moment instantly became one of those photos you hang in the memory halls in your mind for clear display. fawn eyes. and we attempted to walk together and match pace. Violet still had a little bit of baby fat in the lower cheeks and chin. just like she would a little girlfriend. I always thought that this was the cause of her slight lisp—her cheeks were weighing down her mouth. there was one girl in particular—my “first love. shoulder to shoulder. Then. She had long. We were walking down one of the cracked sidewalks that circled the upper playground. and she was destined to be the cute girl that the boys adored and the girls hated. never giving her enough air and space to fully pronounce sounds. Her name was Violet. It was a billowy. I remember this distinctly because of one frigid winter day on the playground when she proudly put her arm around my shoulders. This was a new . the thing I remember most about her was her winter coat. She lined up next to me.
Ricky and I stood in the grass. even—yet so very. and the days of walking with our arms around each other were passed. I couldn’t believe the quick. I was crushed. But it was a perfect moment. you weenies! This bold demonstration of affection did not alter Violet’s perception of me. though. but this behavior would repeat itself throughout my dating days. I saw an opportunity. rarely acknowledging me. and invited us out back to play on the monkey bars. I needed to write something truly permanent with this amazing tool. I was a smart kid—a brain. What could be so permanent? In the spirit of one-upsmanship. Several other boys were professing their love for sweet Violet. They decided to roll with it. which he thought gave him the go-ahead to show up. It was just a thin weight buried in purple padding. Neither of us attempted to get on the . it was a very limited act of love. shocked that boys had come over. amazed at how easily the girls hung upside down. with no fear and no strain. I took the marker and wrote on my desk nametag: I LOVE VIOLET and drew a heart around it. We actually saw each other face to face very little. I couldn’t even feel her arm through the layers of down in both of our coats. but I was not about to concede to them. very dumb.28 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY world of human touch—affection from someone not in my family. I snickered. In the fourth grade. Top that. She flittered off to other girl concerns. my buddy Ricky decided it would be fun if we just showed up at Violet’s house after school. knowing that I had knocked them down a couple of rungs. We rode our bikes over and rang the doorbell. I should have stripped the bud from the branch then. I made the boldest statement in my class. Later on in second grade. Unfortunately. unpredictable change of heart. Little did I know that this over-thetop attempt at impressing a woman would become my trademark for years to come. Ricky’s neighborhood friend Allie was over at Violet’s house. When I discovered a classmate had a silver-ink permanent marker. It was only second grade. She no longer talked to me on the playground. The other boys gasped at my daringness. The two girls came to the door and stood there.
Ricky began scheming and proposing silly bets. but I also imagined that liking a girl was bad. Kids whispered back and forth. Oh well. several boys approached me. I was a bit perplexed as to why he wanted me to come with them. but I carried the belief that what we had done was bad. She refused. buzz started going around the class. “She wouldn’t kiss us. uncomfortable and stumped as to why we were truly there. since so many of my counterparts had either no or only secret interest in females. No. I stood there. Why wouldn’t she break down and give me a kiss? The girls quickly decided to force us out. By recess. and it made me incredibly nervous. “You went to Violet’s house yesterday?!” they asked with amazement and jealousy. A handshake. I got a boost to my young male ego in the fourth grade when the coolest kid in the class. and I wanted to live the high life for one weekend. The next day. along with a sturdy verbal good-bye. We both got handshakes from Violet. other than going to her house in the first place. Okay. what the hell is that?” We then took in a Nuggets basketball game .” trying to make it clear that there was nothing immoral about what we had done. thinking it might get back to the teacher. The whole thing was absurd. She was Rosanna. I was the collective Toto. saying Violet’s dad would be home soon. asked me to go down to Denver with his family for the weekend. Ricky asked for a good-bye kiss. I was being worshipped. Zach. and Ricky and I would be reprimanded for attempting to get a kiss from a pretty girl. I genuinely liked Violet. “Nothing happened. but the stakes were the same—a kiss from Violet.KIDDIE KRUSHES 29 bars. This is the type of stuff that would keep my future therapist in business. “Dijon mustard.” I told my new subjects. I tried to downplay the entire incident. I gladly accepted. especially since his adorable sixth-grade sister would be there. We ate a fancy dinner with all kinds of ingredients I wasn’t used to. Not only did I have all the MTV lessons to draw from. though. I don’t recall the tasks involved with many of them. so I assumed that I was a bad person. A hug? No. they were rich. This was our early version of Truth or Dare.
” This was a ridiculous term for fifth graders. The first night there. in a moment of boredom. she stripped down to her lilac teddy and began looking for “playthings. We could only sneak in about ten minutes of viewing. Ricky’s parents had divorced. I had to tackle things alone.” On the way back up to Cheyenne.30 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY (back when they were respectable. in fifth grade. I don’t. I found someone to deliver the message . I felt lost without him—my best friend for the previous four years. but I immediately stored the image in the same bin as “She’s A Beauty. “No. she settled on a metal file. was a tale of a lonely woman in her late twenties who was taking a pleasure cruise on a swanky yacht. the Violet saga continued. It meant nothing but the fact that a boy and a girl acknowledged (usually via a messenger) that they liked each other.” For some reason I still cannot figure out. I flashed back a James Dean kind of look. The three of us giggled the entire time. but it was certainly memorable.” Without missing a beat she said. Zach fired up the satellite system in order to introduce me to the Playboy Channel. “What would I need with a girlfriend?” Verbally. On the other hand. Zach’s sister. My eyes grew to the size of coasters. before the late-Nineties abyss).” Hmmm… here was a cute sixth grader suggesting that I was a good-looking guy. I finally had the courage to ask Violet to “go out with me. and I were hanging around the family’s second home. it also meant that I no longer had to compete with him for Violet’s affection. The following year. Maybe things weren’t totally hopeless. for what I could decipher. as I took in my first in-action porn. another boy. Over the summer. The story on screen. “I’m surprised. I simply replied. and his mom decided to move with the kids to Kansas in order to be closer to her family. implying. I wasn’t sure what she hoped to sharpen or round off down below. We came in on a scene where. Jess turned to me and asked if I had a girlfriend. Each year seemed to bring a completely different story. as we stopped at a McDonald’s drive-thru to get lunch. Most of the time Zach.
Summer approached.” I wasn’t surprised by the answer. and we quickly lost touch. my trusty messenger came to tell me that Violet and I were now broken up. I was elated that she liked me. “Yeah. but also terrified of what I had to lose. I asked the messenger to see if Violet wanted to try it again. lost in the racks of polyester clothes at Fashion Bar? The messenger relayed to me that Violet was not interested since we “didn’t talk much last time.” Meet up at the mall? Share an Orange Julius? Sneak a kiss from her. I was too scared to make it into an actual relationship. She later moved away. but I knew that it was all my fault. but told them. but I was a lousy boyfriend. I got the message back that she was open to the idea. . My heart sank. One day. we’re going out.” Not too many days after that. I avoided her. my shyness and terror froze me. I knew I had myself to blame. they called to me. I was 11. asking if it was true that Violet and I were an item. I hesitated. I’m not sure what I wanted to have happen once we started “going out again. but she remained a wonderful memory of innocence.KIDDIE KRUSHES 31 to Violet that I wanted to go out with her. The following year. as kids from her class came rushing down the hill for recess.
It is uneasy existence for those few years. The second part was justified. The student body is an organism—an ever-changing. only relative composites of young people that change from month-to-month. I was coming from the northwest side of town—the Western Hills section. Thinking back to those days brings the urge to vomit.Junior Hell The entry into junior high was at best a difficult transition. Everyone is building an image upon what they perceive as “the way to be. year-to-year. very white. Everything is relative. One’s daily interactions are influenced by a weighty halo of self-doubt. I clearly recall the distinct odor and heaviness that I lived with for three years. and fluctuating. I can only think of one black family . The area had a reputation for being upper class (as upper as you can realistically get in a cow town) and very. No one knows who s/he is at that point.” All the students are creeping into the unfamiliar world of being a teen-ager. it adds to the instability. Students pick up on everyone else’s doubt. but rather than feeling comfort. Thousands of pheromones from bursting adolescence competed for space in the air. I remember drab brown hallways and various assaults on my olfactory system. There is no absolute truth in junior high. day by day. oily organism.
only using the reptilian portion of their brains. not Joe Cocker. as well as the gym teachers. So here I was going into junior high. wimpy. -------Science shows us that brain growth drastically slows during the early teens. I will never forget the first morning of school that fall.34 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY that I had known in that area. lily-white kid. an audience is an audience. everyone gathered in the cafeteria— . I loved meeting at the backyard fence and talking with one of the daughters in the family. my friends and I were flying from the scene. Seventh and eighth grades are lived in fight or flight mode. ugly voices all around. What made things awkward was the fact that we had a little black “animal shelter special” lap dog—sort of a Cocker mix. Some of the boys I knew were fighting.” Luckily we were intelligent enough to drop that nickname once the neighbors moved in. Most of the boys I met in junior high were starting to express themselves via their bodies. perceived as a rich. We had to drop that. “Be macho or die. (Cocker Spaniel. Prior to the first bell. and they lived right next door to us. A couple of my close friends had conveniently moved prior to the injection into junior hell. The unofficial motto for my junior high was.) He picked up the nickname “Blackie. Squeaky. She was around 16 and found it hysterical that this puny white kid next door had every single line from the Eddie Murphy cassettes memorized. Little Black Sambo. The body begins to grow rapidly—making for out-of-proportion boys and ashamed girls. because of the possible link to the antiquated children’s book series called. The males fall back into survival mode. and those who aren’t are busy running from the punks.” for reasons still unknown. I was going into this pretty much alone. I also didn’t necessarily fit in with my fellow Jessup Elementary alumnae. Hey. My dad also would occasionally call me “Sambo.” The dimmer individuals I encountered. Attention turns to the physical side of things. too. reinforced this. Boys at this age are basically punks.
The cafeteria was designed to only fit about one third of the population at a given time. The cacophony of voices was like a cluster of idling jet engines. We were relatively quiet—each of us secretly terrified about the new venture. This was why we had a three-lunch system—each student assigned a lunch period based on his/her fourth period class. This was mainly because of basic physics. I have always been a swing-for-the-fences kind of sports . “I recognize that kid with the glasses. I played centerfield. riveted-on tangerine plastic seats. rotund girls. with different sections occasionally revving up with laughter. in fourth grade. and I think that’s Davis over there. which meant that I still had some respectability. trying to identify different tables by feeder school. The worst player on the team always played right field because the percentages favored a batter hitting the ball to center or left field. I eventually found a table with some familiar faces from my old school. The noise and collective body heat was stifling. stunned by the number of students— most of them I did not know. At least Little League has a spot for all levels of parental dreams and real-life child ability. I crept into the cafeteria. lots of acne and braces. I only played baseball for one year.” “Yeah. I pushed my way through the masses of kids at various stages of pubescent awkwardness. We were the Braves—complete with mock blue and white uniforms and the signature Atlanta “A” on the cap. We started looking around the room. I came in as a power hitter.” said one of my classmates.JUNIOR HELL 35 an octagonal shape with twenty-foot foldable tables and round. “I think that’s Pioneer Park over there. Rarely did the right fielder see much action.” I piped in. and the more athletic kids would play shortstop or third base. Gangly boys. There were windows in the roof only. allowing for natural light in an otherwise drab and confining space. I was taller than most of the boys and could swing the bat pretty well. “That guy was on their flag football team.” I recognized a few boys as former members of my Little League team. ninth graders with traces of moustaches. The slow fat kid would play catcher.
we were too ignorant to look beyond the school and see our larger grouping of “Cheyenne-dwellers. We were a forgotten group. There was nothing unique about us as a town. I’m not sure they recognized or even noticed me. or as a cafeteria on that late August morning. I can still feel that sensation sometimes. Feelings were usually expressed simply by slugging someone on the arm.” a very minor sub-class of people in the eyes of the rest of the world. But the feeling that this was all there was and all there would be for the next three years made me claustrophobic. But as a kid. nothing happened and no one cared. I recognized some of those kids. It feels like the ligaments are snapping and the bone is going numb.36 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY player. By the next week. we lost the first game of the playoffs to the Cardinals. a forgotten city that didn’t seem to matter all that much. They played a bland. Okay. either. you have no macro-level vision. So on my first day of junior high. Most of us cried in the dugout for about twenty minutes. in reality. then we all went to Pizza Hut for a season’s end party. I probably disappeared into the white noise. the talk radio hosts raged at the downfall of offensive-minded Little League teams. Boys learned to hit one another at the bony spot on the outside of the arm where the muscles don’t quite overlap. Everything is micro. As a whole. many of us had started to forget we had even played Little League that season. I was amazed at how much older they looked. or as a school. The fans were bored to tears. micro—all of your life is immediate and closed into a very small sphere with reactions and overreactions designed to fill that entire space. I never hit a homerun. strong defensive style—something I have resented ever since. I would like to admire the simplicity of self-expression . Sports had a stronger emphasis than in elementary school. and the boys started separating themselves out based on skill level and aptitude in any particular physical activity. but I was never ‘roided out. the columnists in the sports pages whined. It was truly feast or famine for me. That season.
Throughout the year. “haughty. then thrust the point into the other person’s butt crack. class.” he said with a smirk. therefore making me the example for everyone else. The gym teacher also seemed a little too enthusiastic about having us shower at the end of class. pity. but just as elementary schools don’t necessarily teach kids to read or write. (Thanks for the clarification. but I’m still too bitter about being the recipient of all those sluggings. I got . Granted. We were a couple cameras short of Abu-Ghraib. this doesn’t sound like much. not how low your sweater goes. I was the first student in my class to do so. I would admire it.k.” he would sing song while patrolling the locker room.E. I forgot to bring my gym clothes—an intolerable sin for P. The second week of classes. I got toward the end of the pushups and collapsed. but the teachers were also trying to corral us all together into the communal shower. One of the ninth grade “cadets.E.E. and the mocking wasn’t helping me. It’s bad enough for a bunch of sweaty. putrid-smelling adolescent boys to expose themselves at their various stages of manhood. It became clear that my fellow students and the P. boys.” a. I got my first taste of the machismo and seventh grade sadism in P. Chet. “It’s how low your chest goes. “Shower up. sadistic jocks with enormous egos and space in their class schedules. I hadn’t gained the needed arm and chest strength.” called me down off the bleachers and told me to do twenty-five pushups in front of everyone. disgust. I didn’t see this level of homoeroticism until fraternity initiations in college. To booty rock someone is to press one’s hands together into a sharp point.) I could hear the class giggling at me as the freshman power-tripper towered above. faculty at the school had bought into the necessity of being macho. I couldn’t fake arm strength any longer. joy—everything.a. this staged dominance and submission was interspersed with students “booty rocking” each other. I kept a positive attitude about it and fell to the ground to start my task. I did one pushup and was immediately chastised by the cadet.JUNIOR HELL 37 exhibited by these kids—the same violent gesture to express love.
It looked like I was trying to hide Dr. J under my arm. . Pit hair I had plenty of. Ah.38 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY to suffer through an hour each day of feeling like a total wimp. then had to show everyone that I was slow in developing hair downstairs. the armpit—the foul magic of adolescence. At least I was masculine somewhere.
but as dumb as a post in others. English. and social studies. I loved drumming. my social group was decided for me. This was their vision of what “gifted. two. Whoopty-doo.Brainy to the Core In seventh grade. I was one of the lucky brains to be placed in all four Core classes. or all four super advanced classes. the school started separating kids into advanced or regular classes. Students could be in one. Students who were in just one of the Core classes could pass it off as being a mistake or that they were still cool because they were smart in one subject. science. Coming in to junior high. having already played drums for two years. not wanting to catch the intelligence disease. As soon as you identified yourself as being “Core.” meant: put the higher test scores into advanced classes for the four key subject areas—math. Using students’ sixth grade achievement scores as a measure.” cool kids would back away. The school was test-driving a new “gifted and talented” program called Core. Social manslaughter was what this was. just harder homework and less chance of meeting attractive girls. I was in the band. plus three electives. There were no tangible rewards for being in the advanced classes. The social stratification had begun before I even set foot on campus. it gave me real pleasure that . three.
The entire system seemed to have bought into a pipeline idea. That concept escaped Cheyenne educators. the brochures for Harvard would come rolling in. or building things. or anything else for which one can have gifts. (Oh. that’s how it seemed. we did design a booster rocket for NASA to get extra credit. it can actually mean having talents in the arts. this would be one of the critical life-choice-moments in my history. I actually had my ninth grade math teacher tell three of us that we would most likely end up as garbage . The problem was that super advanced math also met at that time. If we did not excel in our Core classes. extraordinary mathematical ability. My level of band met during fourth period. it’s truly absurd how one could get such an inflated sense of self just by being two years ahead in math—taking Algebra 1 instead of seventh or eighth grade math. At the fervent urging of my brother and mom. Though. I thought this decision would immediately make college admissions officers all over the country notice this daring. Looking back. Rocket propulsion using liquid oxygen—it’s totally simple. I decided to take the super advanced math and cement my place in dorkdom at McCormick Junior High. much more than just being adept at testing on the basic subjects. Granted. then become exceptionally brilliant but horribly lonely engineers. neither path would lead me to popularity. Band geek or math nerd? Little did I know. I was dying to play on a full drum set—something that we reportedly got to do in junior high band. Apparently. but not before. The teachers and administrators wanted students to excel in math. but I wasn’t considering that early in seventh grade. I was sure that any day. we would be lucky to spend the nights sweeping up entrails and blood at a meat processing facility. I had a decision to make. but at the time. the substandard tensile strength of the human heart!) At least. It took me years to realize that “gifted and talented” means much. in some parts of the world. everything seemed very black and white. go to the University of Wyoming and study engineering. I’m sure they wanted us all to do well in whatever field we chose.40 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY few other things did at that time.
There really seemed to be no in-between. To be fair. nor talented. I laughed at the thought and responded. The irony of the whole thing? Now I play music. it was just fact. I probably shouldn’t have pointed out her gambling problem. “Oh. . “No. Cable just wasn’t cutting it anymore. If I chose music. you’re going to UW?” “No…I’m applying to Yale and some other schools back east.” I didn’t say any of this out of conceitedness. there was an in-between. to venture out and experience the world. If I chose math. but the only math I do is balancing my checkbook.” she continued. The bar was pre-set at mediocre for so many students in our schools. In actuality. wow. I was not gifted. It’s called the majority. it seems very odd and counterproductive that I had to choose between music—something at which I was very good and passionate about—and two-yearsadvanced math. I had to seek it.BRAINY TO THE CORE 41 men. I wanted to learn far more than I could by staying in Cheyenne or Laramie. it was amazing so many of them went on to be so successful. The world outside the rectangular boundaries of Wyoming offered an education of infinite subjects and possibilities. “So. “Oh.” Pause. and even that is computerized.” She became very still and quietly uttered. I remember one mousy female acquaintance of mine in high school asked if I was going to LCCC (Laramie County Community College). I would be curing cancer in the future. Still.
We also had a girl with thickly braided red hair and a million freckles behind oversized glasses. There was the smart. This group was the polar opposite of what my friends and I would later dub “The Rich . and they seemed to be shrouded from all the cute girls in school. any available social group. Having four of these classes. A later addition to the class was one kid we nicknamed “Jupiter” because he was big. These kids were painfully nerdy. yet bizarre New Wave kid who eventually turned out to be bisexual. I didn’t really like the clique options presented. Nope. so I had to try and fit in with new people. I started orbiting the super advanced math kids. or didn’t see myself as similar to. red and apparently had his own gravitational pull. None of my friends from elementary school were in the same position as I. I was a certified brain. So.Just Be Yourself Seventh grade had me shuffling from Core class to Core class with many of the same students in each. but I needed to coalesce with someone. I wasn’t like. one could not write it off as luck or coincidence or mistake on the part of the administration. I was not sure where I belonged. We had the albino asthmatic kid who seemed frail enough to break apart just by sneezing too hard. Mom suggested I just be myself. Geek City. That was the problem.
I tried joking with the new group. but it was essential to be part of some group—any group.44 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and Beautiful. throw the pasty white kid to them as a sacrifice. I was miserable. . class-election-dominating force. the preppy kids and jocks melded into a single. and I watched them alternate between eating their applesauce and taking hits on their asthma inhalers. but eventually. popular. I figured that I could. but none of them paid attention to me. upon being attacked by bullies. I sort of floated on the perimeter. so we all sat at the reject table. for there was definitely safety in numbers. This fashionable clique took a couple of years to fully form. Never underestimate self-preservation. The math class had lunch period together. They were too tightly jelled as an existing pack. hoping they would eventually let me in. I didn’t want to necessarily be one of them.” or “R&B” for short.
Nintendo started producing its own magazine about gaming called. facing the class so that everyone could bask in its grandeur. Prior to the start of the day. Everyone seemed to be playing Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. This launched a new era of video game obsession for the U. The cover story was an in-depth look at Castlevania—a vampire and all-things-evil action/adventure game. I received my first issue and proudly brought it to school to show off my coolness. The editors had photographed an armored and helmeted blonde warrior holding a Eventually. I ordered it. Around this time. I held it out. I . although I didn’t crack the math nerd inner circle. the Nintendo home video game system was in its heyday.How to Win Friends and Influence People discovered ways to make kids notice me in other classes. Since this was English class. we were instructed to bring something to read during that time. As soon as I heard about the new magazine. I considered myself a video game aficionado and thought this might be an inroad to friendship. I took the route that many teens use in desperate times: show off something material to make other kids envious. Nintendo Power. I used this chance to proudly display my new magazine. we had thirty-minute homeroom in our first period class.S.
He asked. mortified by a big school with high-IQ’d . He declined. I yielded. rather than a novel. Through the end of first period and into the transition to second period. But now that he had gotten what he wanted. more just scanning the pages and waiting to see what reactions the periodical caused. “Can I borrow your Nintendo Power?” I played it cool. After a few minutes of holding the magazine out for all to see. then returning to my skimming. baby. though. He seemed so polite and genuine in first period. He flipped through the magazine. I asked for the magazine back.” Oh. I detected a manipulative little sneak. As my discomfort grew. Travis. Glancing up briefly. It couldn’t have been a more perfect cover for luring teen boys into a friendship trap. He snatched it from me and tore through it like it was his own. My teacher was clearly upset that I had brought in a magazine. Finally. I let him have the magazine in our second period Core social studies class. one of my classmates. My male classmates. How did I. were whispering and pointing. I was finally getting some attention and not just for my braininess! Travis came up to me looking slightly nervous but still confident. figuring I had played out this hard-to-get routine long enough. I winced with each flip. no longer the cool assertive self I had displayed in first period. he was showing a devilish nature. That was sweet. one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder. “Maybe. I muttered.46 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY whip in front of a dark cavern. however. I was shrinking back. I was more the real Tad at this point—afraid of a world and rules that I didn’t understand. Travis asked to borrow the magazine about ten times. approached. He stopped to point out things in the magazine that I had already read. disappointed that he was coming back empty-handed. He was persistent. violently turning over the precious pages. which meant that I had to keep up the cool façade. He and a buddy were looking at pictures and articles— laughing about things that weren’t even funny. I wasn’t really reading the articles. This would take some effort on my part. manage that cool quip? Travis turned and walked back over to his seat.
In eighth grade. Travis surprised me with a true gesture of friendship. ending the hostage situation. The insults and spitballs. Nothing seemed to be working. yet almost predictably. playing pranks. he handed me a gift in the backseat. and my mom volunteered to drive us over. We decided to go hang out at the mall. It developed the way many junior high male friendships do—insulting one another. He protested. It was a Far Side cartoon book. Strangely. Travis and I forged a friendship. during the winter break. .HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE 47 mutants as my only hope for friendship. This signaled to me that the days of treating one another cruelly had transcended into something else—an honest-to-God friendship. After we picked up Travis. and I ignored him. and throwing spitballs at lesser kids and at each other. I was taken aback and a bit embarrassed. I had no idea we were at a point in the friendship where we would give each other gifts. And I still had two and a half years of this crap. remained. like they do. We would dump each other’s books in the busy hallways—forcing the dumpee to scramble to pick up his books while getting trampled in the herd of students. I turned around in my chair and ripped the magazine from Travis’s hands. I mourned the creased pages of my beloved magazine and the disastrous end of my brilliant friendship experiment. I burst.
I brought Travis together with a couple of the relatively cooler people from the super advanced math class. Our little group slowly became known as “the perverts. zero action. I introduced these boys to a whole realm of thoughts and slang terms that fed off their developing hormones. so naturally. I was finally reaping the benefits of my not-fitting-in-with-a-particulargroup. We really had no clue. I did it so well. I talked a big show—saying words I had only heard my brother use with his friends.” a chiding.The Pervs I ended up becoming a bridge among disparate groups of junior high schoolers. We were all talk. . I was the Venn diagram of junior high geeks. many things we did not understand. We had to simply talk about all the things we thought we wanted to do with our developing bodies. term. We developed a preoccupation with sex and many. With the help of my high school brother and his stunning array of adult terminology. Females wouldn’t come near us. though. I was the intersection of the math nerds and the video game junkies. though not accurate. even before the clique name got appended to us. I exploited it. I mentioned to the group that my old friend Ricky and I had made some tapes with songs about these adolescent themes.
complete with liner notes. My legend grew. and it was the final recording in the history of Green Maynard.” That is classic. an homage to The Young Ones British TV show. starved boys found them to be hysterical. and the music was just us drumming on a single snare drum. The next time Ricky was in town. and making guitar-ish sounds with our mouths. When Ricky returned later to Cheyenne. We had created our Sgt. a company called “Dymo” made the pencil sharpener in our classroom. The song titles and content ranged from the comically adolescent to the flat-out obscene. The . he and I made tapes under the moniker Dymo Rymo. so there was no need to continue.50 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Starting in 1987. I made some low-grade duplications and distributed the tapes around. when Ricky was still living in Cheyenne. One of my favorites was. and some tips of the hat to our older songs. The tape was called. My new friends at school were so intrigued by this creative venture that we sat around and dreamt up new song titles for a hoped-for new release. Apparently. some of our own pieces (including a hilarious bit called “Rambo 5000”). I brought in copies of Piss Off!. and we went to work. But there was a hint of wit underneath most of it—wit that couldn’t be appreciated until much later in my life. Pepper. Our songs were highly crude—in quality and theme. the floor. Doodles. Ricky discovered the name at school. My junior high peer group immediately wanted to hear them. I presented him with the list of titles. Wanting only to appease the group. with us adding our own disgusting lyrics. The tape had a good mix of the new group-made song titles. a heavy pillow. “Sex Kitten Litter Box. There is something about that “finished” product that I love to this day. We recorded this the summer before. The drooling. we changed the band name to Green Maynard and made a couple more tapes. This was quickly getting out of hand. and the name just seemed like a good one to borrow. All of the titles were potty humor (is there any other type at that age?). when he was in town to visit his dad. this time employing actual music from various CDs as the background tracks. We made three tapes. and one of the latest tapes that Ricky and I had made.
but it was a lot of fun. rest in peace.THE PERVS 51 next American Idol. we weren’t. And we even had fans! Green Maynard. .
Through the bank. he settled more into his common dress of a plaid flannel shirt. and shit-kickers. he was almost always dressed in a suit or business attire. he began to look pregnant—his Italianfood-obsessed gut sticking out and jiggling over his ratty Rustler jeans. to video salesman. As he got older. jeans. As the years progressed and he made his way from savings and loan. to rural superintendent. around 6’ 2” with a torso like a Chevrolet. including many small businesses. nor what he did. He could talk people into anything. Vince was a few years older than my mom and was a successful banker in Cheyenne with many connections. When I first met him.verything I needed to know about assholes I learned from my mom’s boyfriend. though we could neither discern his exact period of service. he had loaned money to hundreds of people in town. One of the biggest success stories was an immigrant couple that started the soon-to-be most popular Chinese restaurant in town. Vincent (circa 1988-2002). Vince had been in the Marines. to principal. We always received special attention when dining there with Vince. He seemed slightly E Asshole Extraordinaire . Vince was a huge man. This was one of the few perks of being around him.
the Marines turned Steve down because his hearing and vision were not up to snuff. but we were hardly the out-of-control kids that tend to show up on Maury Povich. Vince’s two emotions were anger and rage. He had recently insisted on planting some ivy around the house (an . he would brag about his time spent in the military.54 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY too old for Vietnam. “My unit was stationed out in the desert. to become a Navy SEAL like his father. hot August afternoon near the one-year mark of Mom and Vince’s relationship. “Lay the blade down horizontally. Vince and his 280 lbs got giddy. partially at the graphicness. though it may have simply been hyperbolic boasting. and I could never get much more specific information out of him. That trounced his other plan. Apparently. He wielded masculine power like a drill sergeant. so it goes between the ribs. killing sand nig---s. Fix bayonets!” This was followed with a quick demonstration of how one should spear an enemy in the chest with a bayonet. Occasionally. While planting a series of doomed evergreen trees in our yard. “Come on you little girl. One quiet. he flashed us with indignant.” he would say. he would yell at Steve. stabbing him in the heart. “If you have it vertical. It’s irresistible charm such as this that made him such a popular man in town. too. Vince ambushed Jeff and I at home. He was the other extreme from my father—the passive.” I cringed at the thought.” Vince believed that it was his duty to whip my brother and me into shape. which seemed a refreshing change. though. I’m not sure what my mom was telling him about us. In the end. you have to fight through all the bone and cartilage. his story meant he had seen some time in a Middle Eastern country. painfully non-assertive “nice guy. partially at the way Steve was entranced with the stories. Occasionally. I had been devoting a great deal of time attempting to talk Steve out of his decision to enlist. He always assumed control of awful DIY projects and began to shout orders to my mother and anyone around…mainly Mom. here was Sergeant Sadism destroying all my work.” he would say. When he heard my friend Steve wanted to become a Marine.
it’s 90 degrees right now—too hot to water. still in a full suit. “Here! Take this and water all these ivy plants. I can take you out of it” is a favorite. After hearing the violent exchange in the kitchen. Vince caught me out of the corner of his eye. so I decided to go out and try to subdue the beast. burst into the house.ASSHOLE EXTRAORDINAIRE 55 absurd thing to do in a desert climate like Cheyenne) in hopes that it would soon coat the wall in lush greenness. Plus. But when a hotheaded. Now. I felt as though I needed to keep moving. Unfortunately. I tried to accelerate to light speed before he could register me in his mind. watch your ass!” He shook the knife in front of Jeff to punctuate his barking. “Tad. . I did a horrible job of timing my move from my safe bedroom to somewhere else in the house. Jeff received the brunt of his anger in the kitchen. The main door was open. or I’ll fucking kill you! So. refusing to help your mother.” “I’ve been working on other things…besides. “I brought you into this world. get out here!” Vince was brooding in front of one of the flowerbeds in his beige suit. homicide seemed like an overreaction for ivy. and only the large glass door separated me from the front flowerbeds. spraying the plants with water. “What the hell are you kids doing? Don’t you see those plants need watering? You’re probably just lounging around here jerking off. “Don’t talk back to me!” Vince grabbed a knife from the block on the kitchen counter and started stabbing into the air. “You kids better shape up. mothers of teen boys threaten lives on a daily basis.” Jeff began to explain. Vince. I had to cross by the front door in order to get to the rest of the house. and on a break from the bank. It was too late. I knew I was stuck no matter what. Jeff panicked and ran downstairs. about a foot from my brother. He slammed the knife on the counter and turned to go back outside. you tend to take it a little more seriously. you piece of shit. barrel-shaped guy that you barely know starts shouting threats. He was breathing hard as he shoved the hose in my hand. I had heard him pull up and went to find a place to lay low.
We were rather powerless in the situation. he would leave for college. “Good. surely she wouldn’t stand for this. If the relationship between Mom and Vince continued.” We were speechless. and then began to control our lives. war-enamored monster started dating our mother. Jeff called Mom. and you don’t care. Your God-damned father never asked you to do anything.” she said. His vitriolic tendencies were supposed to compensate for any non-aggressive fathering we had received in the past. He recapped the story to her. quite firmly. What the hell was happening to our lives? This verbally abusive. she had only known him for about a year. I envied Jeff because in a year.56 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY You guys have no respect for your mother. I would have to fend for myself. frantic and almost in tears. He kicked it into gear and disappeared along the neighborhood vanishing point.” He stormed off and climbed into his prized 1975 pale blue Mercedes sedan. darling kids. After all. “You kids need a shake-up. . racist. We were her prized. I thought that Vince was on his way out. These plants are going to die out here. Do it! I don’t want to have to come back here.
The first night. so he brokered a deal with my mom to have us keep the dog at our house. the two of us often inseparable. From the moment that Mom brought Cleo home. always there to comfort me and lick my face. Cleo. This became the typical “boyand-his-dog” story. but he also viewed her as utility—a tool to help him accomplish more while duck or pheasant hunting. shooting toward ducks. I took her in and cared for her. It became clear that Vince wanted to take me hunting. waiting for ducks. petting her when she started to whimper. comforting her. I started to see myself the same way. . to teach me the ways of freezing to death.Hunting for a Savior The sole benefit of having Vince in the picture was keeping his black lab puppy. too. Vince was living in an apartment at the time and couldn’t have pets. at our house. and watching the ducks keep on flying away. I stayed outside with her as long as I could. Some of my favorite memories became the late evenings in summer when Cleo and I would take an hour-long walk around the expanses of our neighborhood. I passed through my formidable adolescent years with Cleo by my side. Vince loved Cleo. He needed a retriever to go hunting with him. He needed a hunting partner—a protégé to mold in his bloated image.
old. male. A pair of veteran hunters (at least I think they were veteran hunters) taught us how to load a rifle. and how to wear really bright orange. it was two hours of lecture and question and answer. I guessed. Mom had enrolled me in a hunter’s safety class taught at one of the local sporting goods stores. Never had I encountered this particular trivia question.) “A mile. . Most of the time. and here I was on Hillbilly Jeopardy. “What distance can a . It probably looked like we were forming a posse. the walls were wood. “Uhhhh…a mile?” “Yup. I noticed a theme. We carried around empty rifles in the parking lot out back. I couldn’t believe that he knew my name. Maybe all my Core classes were paying off in test-taking abilities. At around the same time I was taking the hunter’s safety course. I didn’t know anything about hunting.22 bullet travel and still be considered dangerous?” I froze. unable to think of an answer. The floor was wood. though. next to the Pizza Hut.” acknowledged Jethro (or whatever his name was. Mom just wanted me out of the house and away from Nintendo for a while. female. mile and a half. We met once a week in a knotty pine basement room of the store. the stairs were wood. I felt horribly out of place—just a geeky seventh grade twerp amongst wannabe Wyoming sportsmen (and a handful of women). I couldn’t believe it. It felt like a secret room in an Old West saloon—possibly the high stakes poker room for moneyed bureaucrats passing through town. One evening.58 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Before I even met Vince. surpassing everyone else—young. Everything was pine logs with a thick slathering of glossy protective varnish. how to cross barbed wire while carrying a weapon.” I aced the final exam. attempting to simulate various situations in the wild. This was the prerequisite to any type of hunting license in the state. the bearded instructor called on me to answer a question.
but we really need to duck hunt on the other side of the fence. We had to light candles at a few services after that as a “thank you” to the church for showing us The Way. We were part of the local Methodist church. though we were more of the “Christmas Eve and Easter” type of Christians. I kept trying to tell her that the school didn’t have any clubs for seventh and eighth graders (true). soul-searching affair. Hey. We were all far too young to be making strong spiritual commitments to the church. I had nothing to distract me from Job this and Luke that. I guess finding Jesus was as good as any other activity. Until then. there was little to do after school.” Mom wanted me to be doing more than just playing video games. The entire concept seemed a bit absurd to me. charging. only sports that I didn’t want to play. we only had to attend one night a week for a couple of months.HUNTING FOR A SAVIOR 59 Mom also enrolled me in the confirmation class at our church.” THE LORD’S PRAYER: “Forgive us our trespasses. I was also pissed because there were so few cute girls in the congregation. or sleeping with your wife. It goes like this: FIRST COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not kill. if the process was going to be . I would be loading shotguns with the Lord. At least the Lutherans had cute chicks going for them. After that. Then we visited the local synagogue—the reason for this is still unclear to me. We were there because our parents made us. Once ninth grade came around. So much for spiritual transformation being an intense. unless the species is delicious. we said some magic words and the reverend pronounced us Methodists at one Sunday service. in the meantime. I would join some clubs. So. we had little recourse. Unlike my Lutheran friends who had to devote three years or so to their confirmation. and since we were only junior high students. exotic. This potent combination allowed me to walk in bright orange and to memorize the NRA edit of The Bible.
James was the antithesis of Vince. I secretly wished that Mom was dating him and that Vince was just the occasional friend. he was back to ordering Mom around and giving her ridiculous suggestions for what she should do with her life. going to see a show every weekend. but he wasn’t demanding and full of anger like Vince. Like most abusive men. but she stuck with Vince. he liked to hang out with my mom and brother and me. For whatever reason. assertive person. One surprise person to attend my official confirmation was a friend of the family named James. but I was glad she did. He started to teach me karate at the Y. Mom acknowledged the pluses of a nice guy like James. and we benefited by using his YMCA passes and going to movies with him. James had come out ahead of them and tried to make a go of the job before bringing the family. but we only got a couple of lessons in before he left town. I would not only have to contend with the assholes at school. He was slightly doughy. I was amazed that he would take me. We were his substitute family for a while. He was kind and full of joie de vivre. Since he had two sons back home. James was a strong. with a thick brown moustache and big glasses. First my brother left town. Each time I hung out with James. James took a job at Unicover in Cheyenne—a company on the outskirts of town that sold collectible coins and such. so was I. His wife and two sons were still living back in Wisconsin. He had served in Vietnam. and he moved back to Wisconsin after being in Cheyenne for what seemed like only a few months.60 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY shallow. . but the asshole that hung around my house like vermin in the increasing cold of autumn. the job didn’t pan out. then James. Vince would calm down and show signs that he had changed and he was transformed into an angel. Within two weeks. He was a movie addict. but he didn’t have to piss all over someone to prove it. I recall seeing Lethal Weapon 2 with him. I’m not sure how Mom met James. since violent movies like that were discouraged in our house.
His faded cherry. still heavy from sleep. It certainly had that masculine feel to it.October Saturday. slowly rolled into a nod. “Hey guy. I got up early and met him in front of the house. “Ready to go?” My head. he got us two white bread ham sandwiches and some packs of spearmint gum. knife-wielding tendencies. At the Texaco. one-ton pickup. I thought “duck blind” was a medical condition. so I just thought I was going to go be a Boy Scout for a day. Up to this point. He had a “special place” where he was building a duck blind and planting a series of decoys in the stream. Knowing I had no choice but to go with him. We drove up to the nearest convenience store.” he said in an almost sympathetic tone. my eyes only kept open by the naked girl near the gearshift. idled in the driveway as he loaded my bag. I was amazed at the absence of beer. I pulled myself into the truck and buckled in. on an . This was before I knew he had any murder-implied. noticing a topless girl on the dashboard calendar. On all my fishing trips with If It Quacks Like a Duck My third ever encounter with Vince started at 4:00 a.m. with its rusted out fenders and scratched sides. He was taking me duck hunting in eastern Wyoming. The bench seat gave off a smell of worn leather and mud. When he opened his cooler.
one wasted day. Vince quickly drew his twelve-gauge and aimed into the group. but no ducks responded or came toward us. knowing that during the same span. Apparently. I thought the entire point of going hunting or fishing was to just sit out in the woods. away from that which troubled ye and drink in silence. We left the duck blind and headed back over a slight hill to a fence. It looked the same as any stretches of land between Cheyenne and wherever we were. And waited. I could have killed about a hundred vampires on my Nintendo.” day was breaking and we could start to hear the gurgling of the stream near the road. I had seen them in the back of the truck—molds of half-birds. Vince suggested that I take some shots with the shotgun. I sat down inside the bunker while Vince put on his camouflage rubber hip waders and wandered out into the stream to secure his row of three decoys. We piled those up along the backside and roof. I was amazed that anyone was able to remember how to get to this one particular spot. “Pop!” A small black cloud sent the ducks scattering. About three hours passed when finally a flock of ducks began to pass overhead.” I thought. “One shot. securing the loose pieces with thicker. With the decoys now riding the current. one miss. but staying in the same spot. I showed him my exasperated little kid glare. but the ducks were already out of range. He fired. It was about six feet tall and just as long with the front side exposed clearly to the stream. I knew I was in for a long day. We waited. weightier branches. He tried to aim again. just slightly. And waited. this was a staple in the cooler. He blew on the duck call. then went to collect some dried branches and stalks of tall plants. We set down our supplies just inside the shelter. Signaling defeat for the day. By the time we got up to the “special place. As we hiked down through the tall weeds. I caught sight of the structure. delicately painted to match the markings of regional ducks.62 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY my dad. Vince actually wanted to hunt for food. Vince waded back to shore and came to join me in the duck blind. He set up a Pepsi can on one of the posts and . I thought he was putting me on about building a duck blind in this spot.
I stumbled backwards and tripped over a hump in the ground. I pulled the trigger--Blam! The recoil from the gun thrust the butt end into the crevice of my shoulder. Whump! As I lay in the dust. so as to absorb more of the force. where one’s masculinity was judged by the number of dead. I was convinced that I would have to gut a deer in our garage in order to prove to her that I was manly. What a seventh grade—the year I discovered I was a failure. I winced at the pain. since you’ll usually be following a target across the sky.” I pulled the gun up again. I had flown through the hunter’s safety course. suddenly thinking what a disappointment I must be. I couldn’t be the manly man that Mom now wanted me to be. this time with less pain to my arm.IF IT QUACKS LIKE A DUCK 63 handed me the single-barreled twelve-gauge. She wanted Jeff and me to be masculine. I was concentrating so heavily on my arm and the gun that my stance softened. so she hooked up with Grizzly Adams. I was no hunting protégé. “Try it again. uncomfortable in my own skin. but couldn’t perform the real-life tasks. and this guy was a bully—controlling my mother and laughing at my ineptitude. .” I found the can through the blurriness on either side of the barrel. the key with a shotgun is to keep both eyes open. you missed. “Well. I fired. Vince chortled. This was Wyoming. I was a puny geek. and I felt humiliated. stuffed animals on the wall. above my armpit. but I started to lean back in the aftershock. You see that little b-b on the end? Keep that in the middle and aim for the can…then fire. “Now. trying to nestle it better into my arm and shoulder. but didn’t want to show it in my face.” Vince stated.
I never went to the doctor for it—possibly because of my defiance. The cloud sat there all day and into the night. A year later. I was not equipped with enough bravery to ease into the week. we decided to do something about it. I had unbearable headaches.The Pain of It All very Monday during my seventh grade year. During eighth grade. Often. causing the throbbing in my brain. indeed. and lightning. My standing theory has been that Mondays at that school were so unbearable that I tensed up instantly. (By then. The only thing that would cure the pain was to sleep it off. Colorado to see a chiropractor whom she had dated a couple of times. she was on-again. off-again with Vince.) This doctor seemed convinced. I couldn’t eat dinner from being so nauseous. hail. I was powerless against it. that he could cure E . The pain scoffed at my attempts to tame it with aspirin or Excedrin. my mom took me down to Fort Collins. Western Hills elite. each nerve wrapping tighter around itself. It was like a cumulonimbus cloud had entered my head and was pummeling the interior with rain. It felt like I had to show up for a jail sentence every Monday morning. but partially because we couldn’t really afford to go to the doctor. And each time yielded the same result: extreme pain and early bedtimes. like all chiropractors.
It was part brown leather table. .” he stated proudly. performing a figure-four backstretch. the following week I got a headache…and I haven’t been to a chiropractor since.” I thought. and we drove down around 9:00 a. No more headaches! And all I had to do was have my back cracked! If only I had known that before entering seventh grade! Predictably. I heard each vertebrae crack. listening like many physicians do—like they already know the story but simply want to hear you tell it.m. “You shouldn’t have any more headaches. He had black-rimmed glasses—another feature that didn’t seem like my mother’s type. part sculpture. There were still a few cracks. He supplied her with about a dozen different supplements that were supposed to help with her stressrelated. undiagnosed illnesses. but not like the first time. They looked like legions of bees hovering silently above the chairs in the wait room. and I immediately noticed his size. the doctor came out. He was about 6’ 3” and thick through the torso and waistline. for a mid-morning appointment. This guy had his niche and was convinced that the secret to eternal health and happiness lay in unusual herbs and organic mixtures. It was a Saturday morning. feeling uncomfortable with the mustard walls and columns of strange black and yellow bottles of food supplements. At least she was dating a doctor…sort of. He asked me about my headaches. They all had unusual names with things like “root” and “seeds” and “wort. I sat in the waiting room. “Whatever happened to vitamins?” After about twenty minutes. He then announced that we were done. He nodded at the familiarity and then asked me to raise my right leg up and cross it over my left. This was too good to be true. He then pushed down on the leg. “Really?” I added some punctuation to his previous statement. like ascending notes on a glockenspiel.66 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY my headaches. We repeated the exercise with the other leg. He led me back into the exam room and had me lay down on this bizarre padded contraption.
There were no sobbing good-byes or fierce words to one another. my mom ordered my dad to go find a place and move out. What can I say? I’m a huge fan of Norman Mailer essays. Rather than argue about it. The general guilt about a torn family and the anger towards women blend quite easily. Dad and I would make our way to the nearby Pizza Hut to get “the usual”—a pepperoni-laden gut bomb and breadsticks. We would then rent a movie or video game for me.Dad’s Place ight after the divorce became official. When morning came. The only thing left was to move furniture to a new location. I piled up various cushions and pillows to make a bed on his living room floor. and retire to his apartment. Once Dad had gone to bed. The entire event was strangely mechanical and straightforward. All the arguing had finished months before. I gained exposure to many cholesterol rich foods and girlie magazines. Each Friday night. we would usually get doughnuts R . I found my way to the Playboy magazines on the milk crate and particleboard bookshelf. The two just split. he went out—tail between his legs—and found an apartment not far from the junior high where I would be attending. The result is typically material gain for the children. Having a newly divorced dad is a goldmine to a young adolescent boy.
we pulled the gun from its case. but also with hormones raging. We tore through Dad’s closets looking for a pair of binoculars. there are some women who just like nice guys. discovered a hot young thing in his art class. please cite these junior high years. across the way. Ah. “Wow.22 rifle. once the Playboys had been. I just had the leftover pizza. but more fun for the kids. (HBO was another nice feature of a divorced dad. We hurried out to the deck and looked across the asphalt stream. (If I die prematurely of heart disease. after . the show Dream On debuted on HBO. He didn’t have any. beautiful woman. a typical nice guy. One side perk of Dad’s apartment location arose in early eighth grade. with a scope on top.” I thought.) Around this time.) The show followed the life of Martin Tupper. I was mostly impressed by Martin’s character. One day after school. It’s kind of like child support. read. I wanted to see this girl for myself. Ricky and I heard laughter and yelling from across the street. who had recently moved back to town to live with his dad. too!” I soon found out just how fictionalized the show was. but for a while I was able to write it off as simply being the difference between New York and Cheyenne. I can do that. just out of easy gazing distance. a newly divorced New York book editor. since there are more women. “Maybe in New York. We checked to make sure it was unloaded. The sight would have to do. Her name was Jenny—a darkly tanned beauty with shimmering black hair. Ricky also discovered that she lived across the street from my dad. My friend Ricky. Jenny and some friends were on their balcony. This gave me hope! I thought. different. What to do? We happened upon his . the naïveté of youth.68 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY from the grocery store behind the apartment complex. Martin. behind a row of garages in a stretch of townhouses. In every episode. scored with a new. The coincidence was notable: Martin had a son about my age. Sometimes. Realizing this was a strange idea. though. (I had been through hunter’s safety. and they were finding their way through the world of women together. We needed to get a better look. ahem. it’s not that hard.
emptily. “She just went in. muttering something unintelligible while Ricky looked on. she came up to me in the hallway at school. Quick. “This girl is gorgeous…but completely insane. “Can you see her?” I asked. I saw the door close. and looked through the sight. take a look before she goes inside. Once. hoping to run into Jenny. We went into the bedroom and pulled the drapes most of the way over the small window.” knowing that we couldn’t be out on the balcony waving a rifle around. excitedly. “We need to hide somewhere.” I jumped up and peered through the sight. She asked me if I had “been to Sammy’s place for enchiladas”—done with a completely straight face. “Damn!” I exclaimed. Here was my big encounter with this hottie. I thought. . stood up on the bed.DAD'S PLACE 69 all. It wouldn’t be the last time. but Ricky continued to come over after school. though. He propped the barrel up on the windowsill. and she turns out to be crazy.” This peeping tom mission ended quickly.) Ricky said. I stared back at her.” She walked away and Ricky started to laugh. “Yeah. We never did encounter her on the street. I see her.
Delivering the News For years. I never discovered why. “Okay. for some reason. especially if the route was in your own neighborhood. Matt.” Mocking me. had the route for my street. or both. this was a case of the city thinking it was more important than it truly was. The man didn’t like me. his mom and the kids were. I mostly remember one encounter in their kitchen when I was spending the night. His dad was distant.000-person town to have two papers. People could subscribe to one or the other. gruff and carried himself with resentfulness toward the world. Again. I said. “I didn’t think sixth graders could get stressed. The Eagle came in the morning and the Tribune came in the evening. Matt was an Air Force brat. Our family subscribed to the afternoon paper—always delivered by a real. but I’m kind of stressed. They were Mormons—well. but it was all the same. He had a wooly black beard and often smelled of cheap cigars. His dad was shipped to town before my fifth grade year. It was good money and pretty easy. his beard opened up enough to spit out. Cheyenne had two newspapers. live paperboy. It certainly didn’t make sense financially for a 50. His dad asked me how things were going. It seemed as though most boys in the neighborhood had taken their turn at being the paperboy. A close friend of mine at the time.” I simply .
I. I had substituted . then got drowned out with the clicks and rattles of our machine guns. I’m not sure whom we were fighting. Matt’s paper route was comprised of three streets in my neighborhood and their connecting perpendicular streets—about fifty subscribers in all. he asked if I would want the route. He was also allowed to have toy guns—something my mother would never let me have. When he decided to hang up the ol’ delivery bag. booby-trapped jungle. I mainly liked hanging out over there because Matt and I loved video games and G. There were only two boys in the family. toy guns held stoutly in front of us. I’m still not sure. I realized that the parents would probably have to want to sleep with each other more than twice. we had to really use our imaginations in order to create a steamy. Joe toys. The browning autumn grass crunched and rustled underneath us. I couldn’t figure out why the family was so small by comparison with most of the Mormon families I knew. Later on in life. but mostly mired in doubt about the future and how she would manage to take care of the two boys on her own in that future. pretending we were forward reconnaissance. His mom had a much softer personality. Why it was recommended I go play with real guns a few years later. She was stuck in a marriage that was failing. Matt and I would sneak around his back yard with the plastic weapons. but they were no match for two sixth grade kids and a little brother. Matt and his whiny little brother Tim. It never felt secure when I stayed over at their house. She was tough and would put up high-pitched walls of defiance when the boys would try to sweet talk her. With such an empty landscape in Wyoming. held there by thin strands of religious belief and convention.72 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY turned and went back to the video games Matt and I were working on defeating. I knew their home life was not the model situation. We developed hand signals for “cover me” and other directions. We would roll or crawl on the ground. He had the route for a little over a year—a typical tenure for most paperboys. but she was no pushover.
“I’ve worked for my money since I was in seventh grade. plus getting up at a horrible early morning hour on Sunday to deliver the combined edition. onyx colored “dually” pickup with matching shell.DELIVERING THE NEWS 73 on occasion and thought this would be a good way to make some money during the off-season for lawn mowing. Mondays and Tuesdays were like rolling cocktail napkins. woman with crow-colored hair who was always good for a laugh. It looked like a hearse that could only be used to carry the bodies of legendary Old West gunslingers. Throwing these dainty papers in the typical Wyoming wind usually resulted in a few curse words and fetching the paper out of the neighbor’s hedge. making me sound as though I’m eighty years old. but I wasn’t sure it would help. sweet. And what if the rock came loose and cracked a window? I would certainly get a complaint card handed to me from the head office downtown. I would have a snack and play with our black lab. yet rounded man . Three of those. The yellow crosshatch bundle strap waited to be opened. Cleo would often grab the papers off the pile and bring them back to me. She was a hip. snap rubber bands around them and place them in a pyramid. The paper route was a pretty good job. He attempted to fit in with the Wyoming folk by purchasing a menacing. Then I’d roll the papers. I’m sure he paid cash for their house. Weekdays. despite having to work seven days a week. I started mowing a few neighborhood lawns in seventh grade—something I proudly proclaim to this day. They were definitely the exception to our modest norm. I would get home from school to find the papers waiting on the sidewalk by the mailbox at the end of our driveway.” I’ll say. Our neighborhood had quite an assortment of people—there was never any one typical type of resident. We also had the old Serbs—a soured woman with a gigantic mole dragging her entire face down and a rough. but never all that deep. and you were canned. It was only a blip in their financial statement. Cleo. I considered putting a rock in the paper in order to weigh it down. We had the wealthy family across the street—he was a chain-smoking cardiac anesthesiologist from California with lots of money and a Ferrari fetish.
”) Tourists must be perplexed as to why there are so many “2-something” combination license plates. Eventually. so I was there in the summer once a week. The procedure could take hours—mowing a little patch. sweet smell of his pipe tobacco rising from the back porch. The backyard hardly got any sun. allowing the underside of the mower to clear out. perhaps abducted by tumbleweeds. I also had Mrs. without fail. He was about the size of a toaster oven and appeared to be made entirely of hair.74 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY with a few scraggly gray hairs stretching across his head. backing up. Their lawn grew quickly. but his wife’s dominance seemed to make everyone in the house Serbian. “2 COOL. Pepper disappeared during the night. It was one way we amused ourselves. When I was very young.” since apparently “2 EYES” was already taken. Laramie County. is “2.” “2 AWES” (as in. where Cheyenne resides. half chewed up grass. they had a dog. so I would often snarl the lawnmower on wet. named Pepper. A block away lived an optometrist and his wife—a couple with grown kids and fierce dogs. The doctor’s Blazer had the vanity plate “2 SEE. every week. My early memories of them involve the powdered sugar cookies she would make at Christmas time and the rich. I mowed her lawn for two summers. perhaps swept up into a dustpan. I guess.” so hundreds of license plates use the “2” for designing all kinds of mediocre jokes.” “2 BALD. She had oversized glasses. She was an eighty-some yearold woman who stood to be about half my size. making her look like an owl that would come waddling out of her tiny rust-colored house. gray and tan hair sprouted from an unidentifiable center. Wyoming is still on a numbered county identity system for license plates. technically. never to be seen again. Each county was assigned a number based on population. . There were also a few of my lawn-mowing clients on my paper route. The black. Weiss on my route. It was as if a pile at the barbershop sprouted eyes and moved in with my neighbors. then attacking another tiny patch…all this while doing a backyard ballet to avoid stepping in the massive piles of dog doo. he was of German heritage. “awesome.
I didn’t have an existing relationship with her. sans leash. gravelly Austrian accent. and not too many in back so as to choke myself. As part of the standard paperboy uniform. That was why I needed to find a girlfriend—someone to share my life with on those blustery winter nights. I liked visiting with her because she reminded me of my own grandmother. She loved darting into foreign bushes. scoping out and scaring birds and prairie rabbits. looping up the driveway and back out again. I was sure that Mrs. Sometimes a paper would . because I never knew what to talk about. I then rigged up the bag so it would hang from the handlebars on my bike. though. She would hand me an orange soda and a frozen treat and talk about the temperature or humidity in a weathered.) I would ride my bike from house to house. but I found that walking the route cut into too much of my video game time. Going by bike trimmed down on the time considerably. Weiss would agree. making “P’s” with my trail. She was an old. Our dog Cleo would run along with me. I wondered what she did in the wintertime—all those months when the grass was brown and dormant. I tried out different tosses and spins on my delivery. This kept my arms free to move about and fling the papers at awaiting doorsteps. the newspaper office issued each carrier a double-pouch canvas carrier bag that had a hole in the middle for sliding over one’s head. The arsenal of papers was kept in front and back. I had to balance it just right—not too many in front so as to hurt my back. old mother whose children didn’t visit anymore. I did it this way for a while.DELIVERING THE NEWS 75 Not only would she compensate me well. She anticipated my visit each week and found ways of bribing me to stay a little longer. I felt badly. but she invited me in for what would become a ritual of cold sweets after a hot hour or so of trimming her lawn. or in case some kids from school happened to be passing through (they never did. I thought how lonely it must be. and it was also cooler looking—just in case some old ladies in the neighborhood were keeping tabs on my coolness. I had just met her the first time I mowed the lawn. but also she would always have a freezer stocked with ice cream bars or drumsticks.
coming down quickly—heading straight at the delicate terra cotta flowerpot on the porch. and I hold my breath in anticipation of the impact. but then it hits on end and bounces back up to smack the aluminum screen door with a silence-splitting crack. whenever I hear “Suicide Blonde” or “The Stairs. This is a lost art. I have discovered. primarily for use on the paper route or for the occasional car trip where my dad would let me play my music. I can feel the biting cold on my cheeks. so I recorded some of my CDs onto cassettes. as most of my present-day papers wind up at the end of the driveway. These were still the days before portable CD players. arcing.” I have powerful flashbacks to the windy early evening paper deliveries.76 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY get away from me or have too much backspin on it and roll off the front step. I cringe and whisper an apology in the wind. The paper just misses the pot.) belts out. I would have to break my pace and pick up the paper for a gentler delivery.I. I also used this time to listen to tapes on my Walkman. I see the rolled-up newspaper slowly floating out of my hand. I prided myself on always getting the paper on the front step—as close to the door as possible. To this day. I don’t recall any other tape I listened to on the paper route. and I start to exhale. I made a tape of INXS’s X. Michael Hutchence (R. then quickly turn my bike around and slink off out of the driveway to the next house.P. “Disappear! Disappear! Disappear!” . which I played to death.
He alluded to wanting to ask . One night. besides me. Worse still. I was casting aside the girl-as-distant-curiosity phase and realizing that I actually wanted to talk to one.Mr. He dialed her up and stumbled through a conversation of junior high small talk. Greg. Guarding my arms. But whom? There were a lot of girls whom I found attractive. to be around one. the answer came to me in a very unexpected way. That last year before parole from McCormick softened me slightly and turned me on to a new phase of female relations. Finally. Goodbar I trace my “love renaissance” back to ninth grade—the last year of excruciating junior high school. to punch. was excited about a quiet. I wasn’t sure whom to pursue. I could tell Greg was pained by the new feelings he was having for this girl. though. She was sort of on the outer rim of the popular crowd—very much accepted by them. and to call one my girlfriend. but not one of the key names herself. We decided that he should call Maureen and ask her out. pale-skinned blonde named Maureen. I said I would help him with the process of courting fair Maureen. Greg was at my house. he didn’t have anyone convenient. My friend. and the same year as my paper route. mostly just because of their facial features and most often because of their brown hair.
here’s Greg back. Her mirage hung. Oh.” and I noted the minty Scope flavor. She said she didn’t think she wanted to. I was supposed to ask her out on his behalf. I got on the phone and said hello to this girl to whom I had never spoken in my life. She breathed a sultry “hello. He passed the phone to me. This was slightly more involved than the fifth grade definition. Maureen. What “out” meant. Thus began the snowball. I didn’t know. I proposed it in the most innocuous way I could—still wanting to sound like Greg was apathetic and I had distance from the whole matter. and fantasizing. and I felt rather proud of myself. But now that someone else had found her attractive. and this was Cheyenne. I felt like a stunt double. possibly going to a movie. Could I succeed where Greg had failed? Of course! After all. but something was missing. the wheels were turning in my head. better. and more romantic than he had! I just had to call upon all my wooing knowledge—80s music videos. He appreciated it. above my handlebars. We couldn’t drive.78 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY her something.) I didn’t even really think much of Maureen up to that point. It was on my daily delivery route that I conceived much of my plan to win over the chosen damsel. I was the one who did the asking on the phone. I could ask out Maureen for myself! And I would do it grander. but just barely. I began to find her fascinating.” Here we were dabbling in the adult world but still shackled by our gross immaturity. Suddenly. I attached a picture of her to my mental bulletin board and rode from house to house smiling. upon which I said. acting in the emotionally dangerous parts on his behalf. I smelled her imaginary fragrance—like juicy strawberries. “Okay. Surprisingly. Her hair was like fresh honey held up to light. dark. but he couldn’t do it himself. (I decided against any dominatrix outfits. I was very cogent in my ability to try and arrange Greg’s and her mall outing. Physically “going out” usually meant wandering around the mall. contemplating. I realized the possibility of me taking the lead role. infinite caverns of mystery. her skin glowing softly like my childhood nightlight. suspended. her eyes small. I scanned her blemish-less body and . for the time being.
trying to find the one place that would send shivers all along her arms. and seduce her using only words. I was neither brave nor stupid enough to verbally present myself to her. after dinner. She was a popular girl. . Since I had to overcome the fact that I was definitely not part of the popular crowd. I also realized I would have to introduce myself. What did I do well that I could utilize? I was getting good grades on my written assignments and papers. Most rational people would think. GOODBAR 79 ran my fingertips down her cheekbone. I wondered how soft her hair would be and what it would feel like falling into my face as we kissed. I would do a little homework. I would write poetry—good poe-. but I dreamt and tried to fill in all the blanks while I was on my paper route. but a lot more scribbling of short lines of verse. so at this point. though. I was on a mission. At night. outside of Shel Silverstein. None of it was that memorable—mostly the typical hackneyed blather that teen-age writers drizzle onto the page. I would be Cyrano. and how perfect since I was taking French at the time. effective poetry.MR. I needed to stay in the shadows while I launched my mission. “I can’t just write a love letter to some random girl. Perhaps that could be a way to get to Maureen’s heart? I had never attempted poetry before this time. in some way. and the poetry. I’m not sure I had even read any of it. I wanted to cast her in my own music video. What music did she listen to in the evening? How was she doing in civics class? What’s her favorite food to cook? Does she cook? What was her first pet? All these questions had no answers just yet. and whatever it took. I knew I needed to develop an overwhelmingly romantic strategy to win her over. I dreamt about kissing her neck. beneath the sweaters and team shirts and Guess jeans and warm-up pants. My English teacher thought I was one of the better writers she had seen. er. I would have to write her a letter. I wondered what she looked like naked. she was only a sedimentary form of name-brand clothes and wonder. She’ll think I’m a freak!” Fifteen-year old.
I drafted a brilliant letter. My hormones were on full alert. This didn’t concern me so much—I had to present my case sometime. I was also nervous about re-introducing myself. I liked the first letter so much. . or from my previous uprisings against her Rich and Beautiful clique. I chose to go under the alias. I also had to devise a way to get these notes to her. I decided to start out as a secret admirer. and I didn’t know anyone who could be a viable messenger. I should probably mention that she had a boyfriend at the time. I eventually decided on the old note-in-locker method. Sure. It had to fit—folded in one of many complex patterns—into the tiny opening. keeping the “action” part of my brain secure from any rationality that might come wandering by. but in my mind it was romantic: filling each morning that week with powerful. all in anonymity. This was another reason for not getting too wordy in any one particular letter. I broke the ice and started to describe how I found her intriguing and all the other watered-down ways of saying that my hormones were raging out of control. or sneak out to “go to the bathroom” and slip the note into the ventilation slit on the outside of the locker. too. “Mr. Some of the notes started to look like flattened origami. Of course. The testosterone did its job well. building up intrigue and excitement until a stunning climax—revealing myself through something rare and romantic for that age—something that my more popular contemporaries would not attempt. this was a cowardly way of doing things.80 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY hormone-intoxicated boys are not rational people. Cool J song. Goodbar.” a reference to an L. She wasn’t in any of my classes. I scoped out where her locker was.L. relieved because it was close to one of my classes. beautiful words. I started to write the second and third ones. I had only to wait for the hallway to empty out. And I kept hoping that I would write just the right line—the perfect words and cadence would convince her that I was the one. and she happened to be lucky contestant number one. just in case she had forgotten me from my asking her out on Greg’s behalf.
GOODBAR 81 and I certainly wasn’t going to fit it around their dating schedule. in that dreadful school. We had our own few seconds of surreality—a crucial moment when the soft-touched dreams met the sweat. I said that I didn’t want to stay a secret anymore. I decided that after a week of this. I cranked out five letters pretty easily—some with pop song lyrics or my own poetry. On the note. . according to my imagination. I offered to take her to a swanky dinner. I was horrified at the difference between the paper route visualization I had and the reality that was happening to me then. vapid companions. I scoffed at that and decided to go French. it would be better coming from me. but I landed on Chanel No. I only wanted to take her out on a date. then I signed my real name. I worked for my money. I contemplated a few kinds. She never got the perfume. Plus. pheromones. The moment was quickly extracted from everything around it.MR. We looked so business-like and thoroughly disconnected from one another. I had heard a rumor that some guy at school had bought her an American perfume for Valentine’s Day. I was delusional with my romantic visions—wholly convinced that she would drop everything when introduced to my tender words and descriptions of what she and I could be. I could just feel her hugging me with an overwhelmed gratitude— rescuing her from all her shallow. I stopped in the large Joslin’s department store and looked at perfume. it was time to reveal myself. 5. I was becoming impatient. I wanted to get her some of the best. I happened to be walking down the main hallway of our school when I saw her and a friend coming the other direction. some just rambling proclamations of love. from all of reality. I kept a straight face. together. I thought I might projectile vomit. On my way back from the flower shop. This was not how things were supposed to be. I was dancing inside with excitement. Through all that queasiness. just as she did. My stomach started doing cartwheels at triple speed. How long does it usually take a girl to fall madly in love with someone? I went to the mall and ordered a dozen red roses to be sent to her on that Saturday. On the following Monday during a lunch period. there.
mockingly. Each numbered reason was a cold reminder of the reality that kept us all in our cliquish places at McCormick Jr. I carefully opened the note. crushed that my valiant attempt at winning her over had failed. but it still hurt like hell. It felt like an accountant was rejecting me. making me think that the words were not permanent to her. she said she wanted to clear some things up. Then. I was insulted by how unromantic it was. I was not rational. There was nothing unusual about it.” she oozed. “Eight…eight is two cubed. Everything was in pencil. She started off very graciously and even complimentarily. only that she was the one who had written it. Maybe she was “penciling me in” on her life calendar. Her words could be taken away with a few strokes of her arm. Or maybe she just didn’t like writing in pen.82 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and inadequacies of the junior high school. High. I stopped and admired her handwriting—the way she had written my name. I knew that my fate was not a good one. I got a numbered list in my note—basically just five reasons she wouldn’t go out with me. Unfortunately for Maureen. It could mean that I was easily erasable. I slowly refolded the note. That could be significant in a good way or a bad way. She reached out her hand and passed me a note. Between that reaction and Maureen’s stone face. It could also mean that she was willing to erase any initial rejection of my offer and later make it an acceptance. My cleverness started an . I knew there had to still be a way to win her heart. Granted. three sets of two…uh…three couples—just read the note!” All this pulsed in my head as I flattened the creases in the note. Or maybe she had taken the essay-writing classes too much to heart. it was folded into eighths—again my mind raced with the symbolism. this was my first earnest attempt at love. I pocketed the note and waited until I was safely back in a corner of an empty classroom to unfold it. She thanked me for the beautiful roses and for all the nice things I said about her. This was clearly her counterpoint to all the things I described as reasons she should go out with me. The girl she was walking with laughed and made some crack about the situation. “Ooooo.
I was only demonstrating one of the most fundamental American values—persistence in the face of adversity. It sounded like everything was decided. I was acting out parts of The Graduate. Regardless of the outcome. his friend was just playing the Don King role. I wanted to confront Josh. and it got stronger by the day. The ninth grade counselor was an advisor for one of my after school clubs. I knew I could find a way to outwit this challenge.) It felt like we were seeking positive judgment from a non-existent group of Roman judges. he wanted to fight me after school. I heard about my scheduled bout from one of Josh’s friends in my fourth period class. I had to laugh. and since I didn’t really know how to fight. Of course. as if they were printing up promotional posters for our fight. Before I had ever seen the film. Shouldn’t I be heralded for that? The bad news about lifting the alias off of me was that her boyfriend and his cronies soon found out what I had been up to. Apparently. I knew I had to stop it before we got to that point. After I heard the rumors of a fight. I would lose. Josh. not only did I have to deal with the emotional pain of my unsuccessful attempt. I had hoped I would be competing for Maureen’s love. knew about the notes and the roses. but I also had to contend with a group of macho ninth grade boys. . Now. For every junior high combatant. but I was really just maintaining survival. I just had to convince Maureen that I was the one for her. trying to escalate the perceived conflict. I went to her office and asked for her advice and assistance. Since I had never been in a fight. up on the catwalk (the pedestrian bridge that crossed over the adjacent interstate. but I also needed some kind of adult shield in close proximity. all depending on how we fared in the battle. I refused to give up on the prize.MR. I would find a way to win her over. and I became aware of the fact that her boyfriend. there are about ten of these promoters in class with him or her. GOODBAR 83 exercise regimen. When people accused me of being some obsessed maniac. I was far too clever. Rumors circulated quickly. This seemed to be the standby solution to any dispute in junior high—fight after school.
I nervously waited by my locker—the proposed meet-up site—after school. he couldn’t face me. and he was understandably upset. he would have been branded a coward. mumbling something about the situation. Nah…as soon as they split. He stormed out. We all convened in the counseling office and ran through the scenario as I had heard it. When it became clear that he hadn’t done anything but talk about a possible fight. Josh explained that I had made passes at his girlfriend. no one thought anything of it. Not knowing what else to do with the situation. Had he not shown up for a fight. or a highly accurate punch. a potato cannon. I was a little suspicious. since we were in adult presence. Not taking this situation lightly. the counselor went to get Josh and one of the fight promoters out of class. Either way. and we had talked.84 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY in case he had a switchblade. and clearly he would say anything to get out of there. the counselor released him back into the wild. Josh suggested that we just meet after school and talk—not fight. I would have been back to my hormone-fueled games. but he didn’t want to fight me. I wouldn’t have continued my stupid infatuation with Maureen. either. Josh never came. I didn’t necessarily want to face him. But since he didn’t show up for a discussion. pouty. I was glad. But maybe if he had. . the counselor declared the intervention over and sent us all away. The other guy was outraged that he got called into the counselor’s office in the first place.
I rubbed the spot and looked over at Kyle. He was dancing around like a featherweight boxer. Kyle waited to ambush me as I came out the classroom door. acting as if he would hit me again. A couple of days later. Perhaps it was the air of defensiveness that reeked stronger than his cologne. I thought I was free from torment. just north of the “magical” spot that junior high-ers love to pound on. His punch ended up hitting some muscle. (How many frickin’ Tads could there be in Cheyenne?) One of the people-pleasers in the class confirmed that I was. It struck my arm. He was an Air Force brat with perfectly splattered freckles and gelled hair who loved knit sweaters and his single gold earring. he had to act tougher than he was. started asking around to see if I was the same Tad who had sent the notes to Maureen. I blurted . Naturally. I stepped into the hallway. Kyle. and Kyle began plotting. Something about him reminded me of Vanilla Ice. One day after German class. a fellow student in my German class.Sending Someone to Do Your Dirty Work When nothing came of the Josh incident. and a fist came flying from the right side. so it didn’t hurt very much. I was wrong. Kyle was a pretty boy who had just moved to town that year and had something to prove.
the people-pleaser who had tipped off Kyle began boasting about how I had “gotten my ass kicked. he did. Business happens as usual. seeing as how he was so pretty. Thankfully. as it would most bullies (even though I refuse to call him a bully. This was English class. most people found his squeals of delight over his role as catalyst to be more annoying than praiseworthy.86 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY out. During that period. rather than a legitimate threat to my safety. He slugged me on the back. treading into forbidden territory.” The people-pleaser giggled uncontrollably in his girlish laugh.” I scrunched up my face in bewilderment and looked over to him. That came in handy because it appeared that they believed me more than the giggler over on the other side of the room. it seemed that whenever I tried to elevate myself to a new level of emotion—one approaching happiness—I was met by a group of thugs who swatted me down. I don’t recall saying anything else to Kyle. Violence and . leaving me to fend for myself.” “No he didn’t. Junior high schools are like small communities run entirely by gangs. instead of giving any kind of satisfaction to such a low class parasite like me. I hardly consider that kicking my ass. In junior high. he punched me in the arm. In reality. I sat there and secretly worried.) But. back with the bottom-feeders. This frustrated him. “What the hell are you doing?” “You think you can write to Maureen? Huh? You whiny little bitch!” My “friends” scattered from the scene. and I already had the respect of my classmates here. near the shoulder blade. They did not want to cross over the clique lines with me. he claimed victory after having chased off the threat to their secure kingdom of pomposity and Umbro basketball shorts. unless someone tries a perceived power-grab from the ruling parties. I simply started walking away toward my next class. I only retreated to my seventh hour class. They shrugged it off and continued working. I toughened up my face and pretended like he was a tick. “What? He didn’t kick my ass…” “Oh yeah. They were really into selfpreservation.
but I wondered what she felt about this entire hubbub surrounding my note writing. No violence erupted again. just disrespectful looks and murmurs from the ruling class. About a month after I revealed myself as the mystery romantic. it didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. “Next!” . but to my disappointment. they didn’t murder me and bury me in a corner of the end zone on the football field. I liked to think that I had something to do with it. Thankfully. she did not come rushing to me. At the time. I did not have much contact with Maureen. Maureen and Josh broke up. She just moved around the circle of jocks in the typical musical-boyfriends format of adolescence. I could have been Jimmy Hoffa West.SENDING SOMEONE TO DO YOUR DIRTY WORK 87 intimidation ensues. though.
none of those were going to work. and world-class beauties were few and far between. I was attracted to Maureen because the infatuation was familiar and comfortable. I couldn’t really explain my attraction to her. “She’s as white as hotel linen. It certainly wasn’t logical.” they would say. Why stop it now? If anything. was trying to convince . But. I also normally preferred brunettes. but she had a long ways to go before reaching the “hot” category.Maureen that I wasn’t a loner geek after all. “Cute” in Cheyenne wouldn’t even register on the talent scale in metropolitan areas. I had cool qualities. she was rather fair with tiny blue eyes on a long face. Perhaps I could woo her with my tales of athleticism during my baseball career (in fourth grade). Or maybe my collection of panda stuffed animals. I already had this infatuation rolling. She was something that I could keep in my head and dream about to pass the time during my coma- Plan B One of the biggest challenges. like the fact that I was a paperboy. This was Cheyenne. A lot of my friends (particularly the female ones) were wondering why I was interested in Maureen in the first place. Okay. True. though. Or maybe the fact that I was really good at role-playing video games. Maureen was cute.” was another. “She’s as plain as Wonder Bread. I found.
It’s all very difficult to describe without sounding like a mental case. but I kept hoping. something potent. catching myself before I could finish the statement. I don’t recall making many advances on her during that year. The air was sharp. I had abandoned the notes and flowers project. either. as if it was created just for us. missing fragment. “Could be?!” she screeched. As soon the sentence left my mouth. staring up at the vast sky above us. something memorable. I knew how ridiculous it sounded. did you just miss a chance. . something beautiful. “Why did I even utter that out loud?” I thought. but it wasn’t reality. My companion turned and started laughing choppily while shaking her head. We will get to know a woman and default into a friendship when we just can’t request what we truly desire. My clinging was obvious. though—often too shy or intimidated by females to try and start something real. “This could be romantic…” I sighed. She still consumed me. I needed a safe container for the love I wished to give someone. Not seeing many other options for myself during sophomore year. With a nice guy. While we took in the stars—more than we had ever been able to see back home—I felt drawn to say something. This is one of the key pieces of a nice guy. and new. Discussing the possibility of romance is nearly impossible for a lot of nice guys. This is where assholes succeed—they can ask anyone anything and not take rejection personally. We often don’t have the assertiveness required for moving up to the next level of a relationship. Maureen became more like a section of my mind—a place that wasn’t quite me. as another girl and I stood outside. We had gone for a spring retreat to a mountain lodge. “…if I were here with Maureen” was the obvious.90 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY inducing classes. Nightfall came. I held on to the psychic-Maureen relationship.” I was in mid-recoil when she said this. chilled. “Man. there is too much laying bare the self in front of the world when asking these important questions. One of my more famous hoof-in-mouth lines of all time occurred while on a trip with a school club.
Fissures quickly appeared.PLAN B 91 I still wanted Maureen. I needed a different approach. It was a buddy system—an early AA group of sorts. and the group began to crumble. we pushed this group as a real club and during “club rush. The idea was to pair up kids who had been busted for drinking with other student volunteers who would show them that there were other ways to be social without boozing it up. but clearly. Imagine: the puny kid that the jocks used to taunt and booty rock in junior high had climbed to the top. thinking about her wasn’t going to bring her to the mountain. I went to work thinking up a plan. and when I did. I was lauded for the idea. As if I needed more motivation to play superhero. I was the president and founder of this club. The irony was that I was no closer to Maureen than I had been before this madness began. How could I assist her and help sober her up? I decided to write up a proposal for a new school club. I received word that Maureen had been caught drunk at volleyball practice. When junior year started. The group was started as a way to help . Suddenly. She had signed up to be a part of the club. as I later won the title of Senior Class President. here was a real opportunity to rescue the fair maiden. being elected their leader and reunion planner. I was finally getting the hang of it all. as twisted as the impetus may have been. and the group actually got off the ground. I became too nervous at meetings to be an effective leader.) This chance was perfect—it encapsulated my rage against drinking (my father and the divorce) and the woman I direly wanted to become involved with romantically.” I signed up about fifty people to be in the group. (Tad and the jocks forming an alliance? Had the world gone wacky?) This partnership with the Rich & Beautiful wound up being especially useful. I had gone from the shadows of junior high into the spotlight of high school. I was teaming up with athletes in the school. though I rarely saw her. (No tumbleweed slaughter necessary. and we were being seen together around campus. Around the same time. The idea was noble. but if people only knew my reasons behind it all.
One night. At the end of junior year. I realized how much of my high school experience was slipping away. . so I surrendered. As a way to keep the group afloat. When meeting with the aforementioned group. but nothing happened. The wasted psychological energy was piling up to ridiculous levels. not helping anyone. As the brilliant film The Tao of Steve reminds us. It did not matter. You can guess how that went. and under my leadership the group had floundered. and the grand idea was not producing any products or results. and I faded into the background. we decided that we would start sponsoring “alternative events” that would give kids something to do other than drink. He was stuck within twenty feet of this tree. I felt guilty and self-important. not attempting to break the twine. As for the pursuit of Maureen. he no longer resisted. Amen. while the elephant slept. he struggled and pulled. What I quickly realized was that high school students don’t want to sit around and philosophize or psychoanalyze. More than anything. though. his keeper replaced the heavy rope with twine—easy to snap for such a massive animal. I simply became bored with the chase. The elephant remained in the same radius of the tree. I gladly handed off the presidency to someone else. After about a month. I told the story of an elephant whose leg was tethered with heavy rope to a tree trunk. the only reason men invent stuff or build buildings or start corporations is to impress chicks. For weeks. I was taken by the spell of the ultimate male motivation. I had started this very positive group all for the sake of getting closer to a girl. they want activities and projects.92 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY one person in particular.
I studied each page carefully. NASA brought their traveling moon rock exhibit to town. without Back in third grade. (Hey.The Space Between Us anything having to do with space travel. I became fascinated with outer space and . Though. especially to a third grader. similar to thick jeweler’s display cases. One was purely about astronomy and all the planets in the solar system. I would recite the names of each planet’s moons without being asked. and my friend Ricky and I went through rolls of newsprint drawing the various members of our solar system. it was all quite unimpressive. MTV did have the whole moon man thing. Instead. the other focused on rockets and aircraft. soaking up each minute detail. During that year. we couldn’t just draw pictures for MTV. Two of my most beloved books—purchased at the roving book fair—were on the subject. I could see rocks on my own. I saw what looked to be clay excavated from a housing development. Little did they know I would be designing their rockets in seventh grade math class. They displayed the rocks at the local mall.) This was the first subject on which I felt to be an expert. Despite the security measures. I’m not sure what I expected to see there—perhaps some little green life form crawl out of one of the rocks. Each chunk was encased in heavy glass.
I tuned in a little closer when the subject of outer space came up. Exciting? Not in the slightest. Scientific? You bet. returning back to me in the form of a beautiful. The rest of the family was blonde or light reddish-brown hair. averaging about 5’ 4”. despite his gigantic frame. Steve was 6’ 5” with dark brown hair. Coincidentally. He was huge—like a redwood walking amongst acne. The only thing the entire family shared was poor eyesight. my love for space eventually completed an orbit. Educational? Sure. which was a thrill for us. He was impressed with my voice and presence. Steve was also a legendary lothario. We thought for sure we would discover something new out there. We could sometimes make out globs of red or orange or blue. Soon. and he could maneuver among all cliques. for the next couple of years. At the time. filling in a couple of seats for the halffull theater. I found him intriguing: a walking oddity. Steve and I became friends through sophomore English classes. I had pictures of space objects and spacecraft pinned to my wall. Still. unassuming female. Everyone knew that it was good to have a friend who was larger than the rest. though. especially at a volatile time like high school. My dad and I went. So much for my career as an astronomer. Everyone seemed to like him. For about two hours. The weeklong display culminated in a presentation at the Civic Center. Her older brother was adopted and definitely looked it. Ben Stein’s “…Bueller?” character flipped through slides and lectured on the wonders of moon exploration. He blended in wherever he went. He was the closest thing to a rock star our school had. I thought it might be cool to show off my geekdom. Jamie was the middle child among three kids. Ricky and I would attempt to locate planets through binoculars and a cheap telescope. I don’t think anyone I knew was there—at least not within laughing radius of me. . He wasn’t one of the pretty boys.94 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY some over-hyped show coming to town. the thirst for knowledge of the heavens soon yielded to the thirst for perfection of Super Mario Bros.
Jamie. I’ll never forget the moment I first met his sister. but this was a girl who could walk proudly through the school hallways.THE SPACE BETWEEN US 95 he wasn’t one of the tough guys. “My God. We went back to his house for a little while. She was like a virgin beach and seafront poured into the body of a fifteen year-old girl. “I am now in the vicinity of this gorgeous girl. It didn’t matter. Rays of light covered her sandy speckled skin. I don’t recall what she said. It was one of those moments in a person’s life where things begin to make sense. Naturally. driving around. and had attended Space Camp one summer. in search of a story for a class project. After a spin through the mall and down the main drag. Her metamorphosis into a beautiful young woman had just completed. this set up an intriguing situation for the Casanova cursed with two budding beauties for sisters. There was story after story about the back of some school bus on a band trip around the desolate state. Steve hit on a sort of sub-group of hotties—never the popular girls. and there she was. She had recently gotten contact lenses. yelling it with passion and unwavering intensity. and I can remain that way. It was just the sweet center of high school lore. she was still in honors math and science. She was rooting through a pile of newspapers.” What I began to discover was that she was a nouveau beauty. Sure. I’m still not sure how many of his conquests were factual. trying to create something to do in Cheyenne. Future Homemakers of America. we were out of ideas. shedding her Coke bottle glasses and frumpy.” I thought. for as long as I’m friends with Steve. Goth ceramics chicks—he found a way to seduce them all. the sweet talker. Golden hair spouted and fell over the back of a royal blue sundress. kneeling down with her back to us. We strolled in the house from the garage. Steve and I had been out on a Sunday. I only knew I wanted her to be shouting my name. receiving double takes from the boys and jealous . oversized junior high clothing. but always legitimately attractive. Her voice was bored and annoyed. Speech and debate girls. foreign exchange students. he was just Big Steve. where suddenly one has a purpose.
the light and scent of the cracked-open juvenile cocoon filled the room. We went on a full tour of the house and to greet his parents. There was distinct warmth radiating from her body. I only knew that I wanted to be a part of her life somehow—starting right then. and a pair of Arabian horses. Maybe it was the gold of her hair. My hello hung in the air for a few seconds. as we realized we were both more intelligent than most of our classmates and had experienced many of the same things throughout our “gifted” education. Jamie and I eventually became friends. I’m sure I was just another friend that Steve brought home. Though it wasn’t far beyond the city’s official limit. an occasional stable. prairie grass. I began to glow because I knew I had an opportunity to do so.” These were the people who for years had to have a gigantic satellite dish at the side of the house in order to get the beloved MTV. after all. all loosely connected to a dirt and gravel road. The more artsy kids were seen as dumber—attracted to the arts simply because they couldn’t do the “important” stuff. highlighting her adorable freckles that enwrapped me so tightly. Jamie was firmly on the math/science track—destined to be an engineer. “These poor backwards people! How do they survive?!” As cold as that initial meeting seemed to have been.96 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY looks from the girls. I was friends with her brother. Steve turned to me and shrugged. There was freshness about her that I wanted to wrap myself in. I just got the back of her head as she continued to search through the newspapers. I thought that gifted kids were the ones who could do higher math and physics. Steve. Mostly. Jamie greeted me with disinterest. this territory was grouped in with the rest of the families who lived “in the country. I thought. all while I took in a hearty glimpse of her. So we could do algebra in seventh grade—big deal. on . spaced out with an acre between each. The landscape included a few spruce trees. Their neighborhood was about a dozen houses. The family lived a couple of miles outside of town. For years. They relied on well water—a new concept to me.
It was down to Mom. It’s funny how priorities shape an entire school’s culture. There was the older. She was a late bloomer. my home situation was very different. but the number of people around the table made a large difference to me. therefore. I enjoyed the conversations and the dynamics that emerged. was relegated to the musician designation. I must have been at their house five days a week. More than anything. At the same time as I was becoming friends with their family. a trio of dogs. He was an incredibly gifted musician. the family birth-order resembled The Simpsons. playing bass and trombone. our school district implicitly gave him the “failure” designation. I began to hang out there quite often. which Steve appreciated. I loved my mom. He was followed by the brainy middle daughter. but we had settled into a kind of roommate relationship. I was completely sold. My mom tended to make better meals. I had never really been around a good-sized family like this. At the bottom of the sibling ladder was Megan—the somewhat quiet and forgotten one. The atmosphere at the Andersen house was much more intriguing to me. . He was not as sharp with numbers and other subjects. not really coming into her own until high school. Once the family bought a hot tub.THE SPACE BETWEEN US 97 the other hand. slightly bratty and rebellious brother. and myself.
I just wanted to soak her up—as a young woman. At this point. The annual Perseid meteor shower was hitting its height one Tuesday. I was still somewhat of a stranger to Jamie—still playing my role of friend to her brother and not much more. They invited me back in. as someone who genuinely wanted to be with me out on this rooftop in a painfully romantic setting.” But one evening. the summer prior to senior year. though. It was still pretty early—10:30 or so. and Jamie had plans to lie on their rooftop. Tonight. and watch the splendor unfold.The Biggest Regret stronomy was only a side note for much of the Jamie “relationship. as a beauty. I wasn’t worried about being her friend. I declined. It was early August. hanging out with Steve and another one of his friends. We all started out on the rooftop. Not many meteors were firing. out in the country with the wide-open skies. It just didn’t make sense yet. at that point in time. it became the stage for a terrific missed opportunity. I was “conveniently” over at their house. but realizing that I could have some quiet time with Jamie. ShortAttention Span Steve quickly got bored and went in with his friend to watch a movie. I think we both realized the potential for a friendship was present. It was A . The conversation started out stilted and slightly challenging.
It was still playful and childlike. The lights rushed through fields of black sky and white stars. The meteor shower intensified. I was just a shy. huh-huh-huh. I lay there in silence contemplating the blanket some more. and I almost hated myself for lying there on the other side.) She snickered. letting the smell filter into me. giggling female laying next to me in the dark. seemingly in wait. authentic experience. We did poor imitations of Beavis and Butt-head (who were at their height of popularity. together.100 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY romantic.huhhuh.” I thought. This brought forth images of some half man.. “It could be romantic. though. Uhh…uhh. in the darkness. “Wait a minute. Her warm forearm brushed against mine—I froze. She didn’t hesitate. half animal—an archetype from mythology waiting to kidnap her and carry her off into the adult realm. This was it! This was exactly how I wanted to feel with someone! I predictably faked being cold and suggested we move closer together—touching now—for warmth. I fell into that euphoric state where one prickles all over after feeling chilled and lightheaded from laughter. She was right on the cusp of womanhood. As the clock moved closer to midnight. The meteor-filled sky looked like streaks of rain in headlight beams out on the highway. I knew that I had entered into the perfect moment—one of the rare times in life when the opportunity to have what you want . In reality. All my nerves were alive. We laughed and gasped in awe at the sight above. “What the hell do I do now?” There was a live. and we began cracking jokes. and agitate my stomach. Perhaps it had an intoxicating effect for both of us. the tension eased.” In the evening air I could smell her sun weathered hair and the scent of a gentle girlish fabric softener soaked into the blanket underneath us. bumbling kid looking for a kiss from a beautiful girl and a new. but it wasn’t—we refused to acknowledge that plain fact to each other and open up the lingering question about us.. and I grew in confidence. The bedding surprised me—not yet strong and confident like a fully-grown woman. Huh-huh. It softened me. Her laughter was close enough to tickle my ear. Soon.
” she said. if only. If only. I prayed for the meteors to keep going. I had little to begin with. Catching each other’s gaze. We paused for a moment and stood squinty-eyed.THE BIGGEST REGRET 101 most is presented to you.” She grinned mildly. I fumbled through a joking “Unless you think we should camp out on the roof. “I think we should probably go inside…it’s getting cold. just to buy me some more time to conjure up all my courage.” The only thing getting colder than the air was my courage. She would not be that single again. On this most romantic of nights. if only. “Well. I gave a slight wave and wished her sweet dreams. good night. I knew an opportunity like that would never return again. was inside watching a terribly ordinary comedy movie. . The Universe could only cooperate so much. my friend. We both tried to peek out through our eyelids. she and I could begin a legendary love affair. becoming blinded by the overhead light. I chanted that in my mind until Jamie interrupted me with. to become an even greater light show. What made this an even more perfect opportunity was the fact that she was single—not seeing anyone for about a three-week span. if only. I could be out on the roof showing Jamie a most extraordinary love. As we lay there. I had to act. I winced. While her brother. partially from the light. We stepped back inside the house through her bedroom window. I knew I had to roll over and kiss her. but mostly from regret. we chuckled and sighed. If only I could just pucker my lips.
Steve-o had you covered.) One does . In Cheyenne. I knew I could walk around in the worst places with these two and feel absolutely safe. (Cats. His closely buzzed hair coated his full. Now this was Wyoming—as gun-friendly. I wasn’t expecting to see this person. but he also knew the right people. If you wanted protection. but I played along.The Birthday Present Steve was one of those kids who knew everyone and everyone knew him. Two tiny dark eyes peered out from underneath bulging eyebrows. Moose was good protection for another reason. cannot. As big as Steve was. however. and very diverse. collection of friends and acquaintances. I was level. Trucks come equipped with gun racks. Sorry kitty. Maybe that’s why we hung out so much in high school. round head. One winter evening I came over to his house and happened to meet The Moose. NRA-loving a place as there is in America. I seemed to be one of the more normal ones. one could truly play “One Degree of Steve”—there was no need to go out any further degrees of separation. Dogs can pack heat. This meant that he had an interesting. The Moose was even bigger—fatter than Steve and much more menacing. as I soon discovered: his dad was an illegal arms dealer. Not only did he have his own size.
“If you want anything. Dozens of pages of assault weapons—rifles. which gun would you recommend?” But. I thumbed through the thick catalogue. all within a twenty-second span. “If I needed to mow down a 200 pound man.” I uttered.104 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY not need to wander far to obtain a rifle. I settled for.” The Moose replied. Moose was only one of the many questionable characters in Steve’s menagerie of friends and weirdoes. Just think if.” I was impressed by the “sky’s the limit” attitude of this entrepreneur. This was Wyoming’s version of Goodfellas.” announced Moose as he plopped a Guns and Ammo catalog in my surprised hands. AK-47s. too. feeling my breath get thinner. I have a feeling he was only one expired license plate tag short of entering into a strange new world of sex he hadn’t considered. Though. foreign weapons— anything. But who wants “just a rifle”? Bring on the really fun guns! “We can get you whatever you want. instead. and a platypus. I looked over at Steve who lobbed back an impressed grin. he were able to get food into the most impoverished and oppressive places on the planet. It was like the Amway of assault weapons. The now all-too familiar . an airborne blimp. “Amazing. Papa must be proud—picking up the family business. Uzis.” he said as if talking about produce or dry goods. two South American warlords. I handed the catalog back to Steve and scrambled to think of polite conversation for this moment. there logically had to be sex in there somewhere. bazookas. Through all of his music summer camps and trips. That could be impressive. grenade launchers. Thankfully. handguns. We can get it here in a couple of weeks. just let Steve know. And this guy could get a hold of any of them! “This one’s a good submachine gun—mainly used by police and SWAT teams. If Moose was the violence.” “Wow. police guns. Steve got to know girls from all over the region. always a nice guy. I wanted to say something like. then I noticed the hollow stare in Moose’s eyes. things I’d only seen in movies. Yeah. “Military. Moose did not also represent the sex category. a gorilla. Not knowing what else to do.
He wanted to do what any sympathetic teenage guy would do for a buddy—get him laid. cordial. charming guys. even college girls. So. Steve had told me about one visit to a freaky pair at their college dorm fifty miles south of Cheyenne. As a surprise for my seventeenth birthday. Everyone was just drunk on each other and the experience of being nude together in a college dorm. I was in awe. It was just pure animalistic sex—no filters or consciousness altering. Steve seemed to be the ultimate in nice. devices. and possibly species to intensify the sexual experience. there were a few “freaky” ones. At least. mingling with illegal arms dealers—who says there is no drama in Cheyenne? . number combinations. his mental wheels started turning. where bare-breasted women walked down the halls. He went down there for a weekend and came back with enough collegiate tall tales to alter my sexual perceptions and landscape forever. where couples had sex wherever they could—even under piles of dirty laundry. He was playing pimp now. He told me of a sex-crazy dorm. returning home to tell tales of gold rivers and endless riches. where everyone had just one thing in mind. In this particular group of young women.THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT 105 American Pie line was truly an erotic expression when it came to Steve. Steve had built up a harem of adoring females—older girls.” Apparently. this was Steve’s story. all woven with tantalizing adventure. but what a hidden side! Pimping for his friends. It sounded like a wonderful place where hormones exploded simultaneously after being repressed for the majority of the teen years…a place where women would even like to have sex with a nice guy! Strangely absent from his descriptions were drugs or booze. innocent. he arranged to have us go down to the college where his freaky twins would relieve me of my virginity burden. Steve could tell I was ignited by this description. He was like an old 49er. He had had many “times at band camp. girls that would be eager to try a variety of positions. He also knew that I was a sexually frustrated soon-to-be seventeen year-old guy with absolutely no game whatsoever. “Is that college?” I thought.
overwhelmed. I stopped him and said. but you have to make sure you don’t shoot it too early. I was also relieved. I thought they would probably be laughing at me too much to do anything with me. I was flattered. feeling like I wasn’t “studly” enough for those freaky girls. when you get in there. Regardless. flabbergasted. Niceness can kill off the most raging libido of a late teens or early twenties woman. Steve tried to coach me in the days leading up to the trip. He talked to me like a seasoned veteran. let alone two women. Something else to worry about. but relief nonetheless. I shrank back inside myself a bit. At the time. I always pictured my first time being with someone I really wanted to be with—romantic. I chalked it up as cowardly relief.106 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I was becoming increasingly curious about what my birthday “mystery trip” entailed. “I don’t think I want to do this. I’m not sure he figured in the nice guy factor. (I developed this into “The Spencer Theorem.” I apologized to him. I couldn’t get a female to kiss me.” trademark pending. I don’t think I want it to be a group thing. How on Earth did he do it? Did he really do it. you’ll probably be really excited. It’s understandable in that situation. He finally broke down and told me. but just try to think about something else. “Now. I couldn’t believe what he was suggesting. I wasn’t sure what to say. or was he just putting me on? He seemed dead serious and quite confident. the niceness overpowering everyone in the room quickly and silently like mustard gas.” Great. let alone convince those two women to have sex with a friend of mine. like it happens all the time. let alone have sex with me. me lying in the dust from the shotgun kickback. I thought of the time hunting with Vince. I felt a little bad for Steve because . I just knew that I didn’t feel right about the arranged-virginity-losing.) I still think they would have met me and everything would have died instantly. For just a flash. But. Naked in a dorm with two women? What else was I going to think about? The stock market? Cuddly animals at the zoo? Janet Reno? When it came time to go on our little trip. I showed a kind of laughter-speckled euphoric excitement when we talked about it.
I envied that. But those came so naturally to Steve. he didn’t need to pay for it. completely unflinching. That’s the thing with charming. convincing people—they are always one step ahead in an illusion. I would start to talk. In later years. then crack and crumble apart in nervous laughter. Colorado.THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT 107 I knew that it at least took some work planning the trip and having some awkward conversations. I never did figure out if our trip was fully planned out or if we were just going to show up and hope for a spontaneous sex romp. . other buddies said jokingly. That would save me from having to hear any truth that might come from the other person. All he needed was a mystical dorm in Greeley. I’m going to take you to Vegas and get you a hooker. But Steve could walk right up to Halle Berry and ask her to sleep with him.” Steve didn’t need Vegas. saying I was just kidding. just out of reach. keeping the real story behind the dream they have sold. He had that cherished ability to look right into eyes and tell or ask the person anything he wanted. “If you haven’t gotten laid by this birthday. Most times I tried something like that.
I’m sure we had to pay some exorbitant price for cans of soda. seeing as how they lived in a landlocked state. which always seemed strange to me. We would go fishing back in Wyoming—mainly stream and lake fishing. though. it was just a chance for my brother and me to eat fists of beef jerky and drink copious sodas. Maybe I just wasn’t hip to the nautical terminology and lifestyle. would be there on the bank drinking his Coors Light and staring into space while holding the fishing rod. This doubled as a last-ditch effort to save my parents’ marriage. just the two of them. Back in fourth grade. I had been on a sea boat once—off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. hoping to catch a beautiful emerald speckled rainbow trout. his parents decided to go to Florida for a week-long vacation. there was no beef jerky. Not even Mickey could help that. Most often.Teen Sex Comedy During Steve’s already eventful junior year. For our sea voyage. Sure. as most men do on their fishing trips. my family went on a trip to Disney World. we would catch a few things. The boat had about two-dozen people on it—virtually all men. My dad. They were a big sailing family. but that was more of a bonus. . One of the days. and the pop was not as plentiful. my dad and brother and I went deep-sea fishing.
Once the bait hit the bottom.” We caught a few exotic (to us) silver bass. It seemed like I had a mile of line. “No good! No good!” The slight snarl in his voice made even me. The trick was to keep a thumb on the reel as it whipped round and round. One can only handle so many fat German guys or Middle America slobs getting sick and complaining about not catching much. he kept saying. just behind us. We asked why he wasn’t taking them. In broken English. Everyone got a bucket of bait—threequarter inch flat white and gray rubbery pieces of fish. The “bad” fish looked a lot like the keepers—trout—we were used to catching back in Wyoming. I asked. then all the tourists collected their catches and went home happy. The fish were stored on ice until the boat got back to shore. “Geez. Anything caught was to be laid on the deck. possibly from all the aging testosterone on the boat. but I knew that I wasn’t exactly sea worthy. I don’t recall actually throwing up. I turned green. maybe the less intense waters—eased me enough to stand up and start fishing. Something—maybe the pop. “This is great. We were then instructed to let the roll unwind until we felt it hit the bottom. From there. but hate the tourists more. along with a couple of duds. we were supposed to slowly start reeling in. This kept it from going too fast and unraveling into a mess of fishing line. The shirtless guy kept ignoring the suckers that we thought were good.110 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY After about forty minutes of rocking and bobbing.” I thought. Just let the line go and bring it back up. This was . I nursed the one can of Coke I had. Everyone grabbed a rod and reel from a pile in the corner by the cabin. oh my! He appeared to genuinely hate his job. “How much line do we have to throw out there?” As it turned out—all of it. Simple. minus the smile. The roll of line was bigger and thicker than I had ever seen. no looking for dark spots in the water or trying to get fish as they hide out underneath rocks in a stumbling stream. the little fourth-grader feel stupid. a young shirtless Cuban guy would pick up the fish. He looked like the boy from The Jungle Book. hoping it might calm my stomach. clean them and bag them. Fish and hicks and immigrant labor. I attached some to my line.
Things started off fine—like having an extended sleepover at my house. He had his . Steve turned to sex—his sure cure for the blues or any other emotion one can think of. They seemed to take it better than anticipated. his sensors got busy.” I stepped outside to look at the truck parked on the street. The police said they were both at fault. which wasn’t any consolation. Later on in the evening of the wreck. My face cooled over and stuck in shock position. tortured teen.TEEN SEX COMEDY 111 my first taste of being an ignorant tourist. booze. Steve. When life becomes stressful. in his usual charming manner. One of the oncoming cars decided to stomp on it and go through the changing light. We went inside and weighed the options of calling or not calling his parents’ hotel. This was life as the lone son of two shrinks. though there were some key omissions from any of his stories. and they arranged to have him stay at my house. Steve had a good relationship with his parents. Most had to do with his sexual escapades and associates. alcoholics turn to their trusted friend. Steve came back from doing some errands after school. Near dusk. He was borrowing his family’s Bronco—one of the bulky white pre-OJ-fame models. He said. Then one day. even though the parents don’t understand or appreciate their poor. he decided to call and tell them about Dad’s beloved Bronco. and his dad gave Steve some directions from afar. He had an anxious. I met him at the door. “Take a look at this. half-frightened look on his face. always complimented her cooking and offered his help in cleaning up. This was every teenager’s nightmare—having a suck-up come in and upstage the very deserving greatness that is the parent’s own child. He recapped the story for me. My mom seemed fine with it. The passenger side door was caved in and blackened. Soon after the crash. smokers light up to feel relief. “What happened?” I managed to squeeze out. like someone had plunged a battering ram into it. So Steve’s parents were going away for a week. Broadside collision. He was at a busy intersection and hurriedly turned left as the light turned yellow. It was fairly open.
I’m not sure what happened when Steve went to score some. here come the parents back unexpectedly! How will Steve talk his way out of this one? I told them that he was back at their house. Still nothing. While Steve was busy “feeding the dog. through an underground world to which most people remain oblivious.” The couple gave big smiles. The oversexed teen son is up to some secret shenanigans. and almost screamed.” our doorbell rang. Steve!” I hung up. at least in their eyes. I don’t know if he gave the other person a sexy glance or a hand signal or possibly a scientific breakdown as to why they should have sex.112 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY own version of the fire extinguisher “In case of emergency. I was now officially an accessory to sneaky. and this fact would be noted even years later. muttering. then tried again.” Sex addicts have a way of seeking each other out. This was essentially the “don’t wait up” line. The phone rang and rang and rang. so I was just waiting for him to come back over here…like he’s supposed to…because he’s staying here while you’re out of town. Late in the afternoon. c’mon. He was more daring than I. Steve was always switched on. my mom asked where he was. That was not my world. He didn’t have to go far. I played back in my mind a typical . I was pacing in my room. wondering if Steve was there. Steve mentioned to me that he was going to meet up with this girl and take advantage of his family hot tub and empty house. and I said he had to do some chores back at the house. It had all the makings of a bad Eighties teen movie. “He said he had some things to do over there. I said. I ran to the phone and hammered out the seven digits for Steve’s house. pick up the phone. I tried to untangle myself from it. and uh-oh. “C’mon. all to get his fix. and an “Okay!” Phew. polite waves. scoring. When I returned home alone. His parents were on the doorstep. the day after the crash. I had committed myself. I answered it. He was just like a junkie who can find a way to score some heroin quickly. break glass. locating one girl with a reputation for sleeping around. compulsive teen sex. especially in high school. well. so it was just a matter of finding a willing participant.
Part of it was the physical healing.” The re-telling went like this: His parents arrived home—Steve was deaf to the sounds of cars or the garage door. His mom yelled. I hoped that he and his fix for the evening had left the house. Perhaps her orgasms were too loud and piercing that they couldn’t hear the phone. The day after Steve’s incident. I discovered this for the first time when a boys/girls golf team trip went horribly wrong. “Attention students: Steve was caught in the act of cunnilingus last night. I didn’t even hear it from Steve first. The rest is still blurry. CNN doesn’t have shit on high schools. One of the “studs” on the trip hooked up with one of the other Rich & Beautiful. left for each person who hears it to fill in the blanks. Unfortunately. Then. I held the image for just a second. one way or another. Most of it was the humiliation of everyone in school knowing. He had the girl lying down spread eagle on the couch in the family room. He went in too soon and she started bleeding—a lot. I heard the entire story about what happened by the end of second period. They might as well have broadcast it during the school announcements. as a last-ditch attempt to warn him. Steve-o was in the middle of performing some tongue dancing when his mom walked in the door. But I realized that they were probably too engrossed in their activities—removing themselves temporarily from any drifting pain of reality. measuring the approximate amount of time it takes. he either didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t pack the lube. then shook it out of my mind. “Richard!” calling for her husband.TEEN SEX COMEDY 113 drive from my house to their house. She ended up spending several weeks out of school. I realized that it was his problem that he would have to deal with. I had to distance myself from the entire event. . How long did I have to try and make contact with him? I dialed again. A yelp of shock created a cacophony with the grunts of pleasure. I tried to forget about it and went back to doing my homework. News can travel faster in high school than it can on any of the news networks or the Internet. the noises settled into the walls and yielded to pure chaos. I gave up then.
” So like any other junkie. “Why didn’t you call me?!” “I did! Three times! But I guess you were too distracted by what you were doing. . “Well. I guess that’s right. so like any other binge. I didn’t even hear the phone.” He conceded.114 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY When I did see Steve on the day after. he asked me hurriedly. yeah.
this hid the note she had scribbled to me on the back. She looked stunningly surreal—enveloped in the soft. this would allow me to imagine more clearly what we would look like side by side. She was wearing a navy and white polka-dot sundress. but it was worth it. Her body was contorted into an artificial pose. The white spots in the dark reminded me of our night on the roof together. I began to forge a genuine friendship with Jamie. gently holding the picture in my palm. I was sad to leave her behind in the intellectual vacuum of Cheyenne. Her blonde hair was radiating light. I debated about what to do with the picture. Throughout the year. I was ecstatic. exciting Denver. but soon settled on taping it to the edge of my mirror. along with one of her senior pictures.Off to College The summer before my freshman year of college. If nothing else. airbrushed edges that most senior pictures have. forming a kind of halo around her head. Granted. but I knew I had to write the next chapter of my life at college—down the highway in big. Jamie and I would write letters back and . I received a letter from Jamie. I sat on my bed for at least fifteen minutes. My second week in the dorms. stuck there to finish out her last year of high school. instantly recalling every single time I had seen her in the past two years.
This is the mark of a fool. a partridge in a pear tree.” But she would occasionally sign off with a heart or some phrase that seemed to be approaching “Love. and I would give her advice. My mission was to crack the code to her heart and discover the perfect timing for my proposition.” I knew that she was quite smitten with her boyfriend at the time. “Love. She was careful to never sign the letters in that vague. wanting to show a woman that I could love her deeply. he was in closer proximity to her—only forty-five miles away at the University of Wyoming. I also wanted to be available in case the time came when Jamie would be single again. making her feel special. She would tell me about the antics of teachers I knew and about senior life. I would at least be there for the taking when the relationship did end. This didn’t deter me from trying to “outcollege” him at Jamie’s high school graduation party. so I didn’t own that distinction. How far out was their breakup—realistically? How much time would she need from the end of it until the time I could ask her out and get a positive response? Timing was the most important part. Plus. At the same time I was lonely. but I thought that maybe she would evolve feelings for me. my dilemma: I wanted to settle in and enjoy college life— to get laid. a soap caddy. But. this is the folly of the nice guy. She could learn about college life from him. A power strip. based on my experiences the year prior. like my asshole-ish peers. it seemed. Insanity. Thus. hers in relaxed. Her boyfriend was also in college at the time. I had to continually gauge how their relationship was going. but it all made perfect sense in my head. . I would share stories from the dorms and from my disappointingly average classes.116 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY forth—mine in the near indecipherable black pen of a frantic notetaker. I bought her a variety of gifts—all items that she would need in the dorms. and try to build a timeline for myself. because I had witnessed so many girls in junior high and high school move between boyfriends with only a small window of opportunity for suitors. beautifully rounded pencil script. and if she didn’t outright dump him. often misleading adolescent closing. a CD holder.
and it worked in a variety of ways. I felt defeated. One. and two. Plus. worldly people regularly. anywhere. too. Based on our philosophical conversations. My big solution.” I thought. By the time I hit eighteen. drowning intelligent. “Somewhere. with many of the same cast members. so I knew she would be prepared upon entry to her new life. I was sure that Jamie needed to leave. it genuinely got her prepared for dorm life. she found it comforting. I pushed strongly for an out-of-state program.OFF TO COLLEGE 117 She loved the presents. Instead of sharing my repulsion. WHYoming felt like a horrible pool of ignorance. it would be more of the same from high school. has to be better than there. she would think of me every time she used soap. was to get out of Dodge. . Socially. she decided to stay in state and go to UW (or U-dub. it showed off my out-of-state college stature and knowledge. and I could tell she truly believed that this was the best choice for her. and my brother’s before me. though. As it got closer to graduation. All through her senior year. I begged her to leave. as we call it). we conversed about her college options. like she would never escape. She defended her choice.
She volleyed the program fee back to my dad. though not formally with the school. I think I just liked the sound of it. it seemed very far away from the windy routine of Cheyenne. I packed my bags . But. he came up with the money. He may not have had a life insurance policy after that. coming up with the money. plus some extra for living expenses abroad. We paid standard tuition. even though I didn’t know anything about the city. I packed far too much for the trip. I knew I had to go. This would be the tricky part. The University had put together a package deal. I had no idea what programs were offered or what destinations were best. so Mom and I figured out a way to make it happen. I desperately wanted to go. When the opportunity came in college. I ended up with two full As Jamie moved into her dorm at the university. and some how.What’s the British Term for “Pining”? for a semester-long study abroad trip in London. and I snapped up a brochure. I had dreamt of going to London when I was younger. The study abroad director came into one of my classes to talk about the new program in London. but I was going to England. with all the credits easily transferable to my regular program. I had considered study abroad. plus.
I especially wanted to have Jamie there with me in London. Through all the travel madness. lined trench coat on the plane ride over. my black labs back home. Jamie. I wasn’t taking drugs at the time. I felt the need to wear a full suit and my brand-new black. I bombarded my friends with notes about the sights I was seeing and the nuances of British culture. I believed that she would compare that extravagant life with her mundane days in Laramie. They enjoyed it at first. Jamie and I could communicate more often. I had fallen in love with a city—each day rich with new experiences and history that a little Wyoming boy can only dream about. most of my cassette tapes (mostly dubs or compilations from CDs I owned). it just came across like I was showing off. for example. It makes things a lot simpler. I thought that this trip to London would be another opportunity to strut and entice Jamie. don’t say good-bye. so I took it all—any clothes I could imagine needing. kept directing my . through the recent college addition—email. I would rescue the damsel from the mind-numbing doldrums of life back home. but after a couple of weeks. so I was burning up.120 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY duffle bags. Don’t pack. and pictures of some friends. The pictures would be the first items out of my carry-on bag. By then. My advice for anyone going overseas for a long period of time is to just go. I could be her foreign traveler—journeying the world and sending postcards back on a regular basis to tell her my tales. This was early September. Our college group established a home base at City University in London—a great perk being that we each got an email account for the time we were there. don’t do anything. Luckily. and. Wyoming. naturally leaping to join the exotic Traveler Tad. For some reason. of course. I also had a stuffed carry-on bag. though. like my little league trophy from fourth grade. I attempted to stay present in the experiences. I couldn’t help my enthusiasm. I had no idea what to pack. with enough activities to keep me busy for three weeks. I thought I might need all kinds of random things. they looked more like packed body bags. so I was either delusional or just stupid. it got old. Something inside of me.
I wanted to bring my two greatest loves of the moment together. I daydreamed that she and I were on our honeymoon as our study abroad group traveled to the countryside and stayed in a Victorian bed and breakfast. She had pale skin. We all lived in the same building in a middle class residential neighborhood.W. I told Kelly hours and hours of stories about Jamie and shared my self-torture with her. We talked a lot while hanging around our flats in North London.M. and thoughts of Jamie. I wanted a divine union of romantic love and setting. old Marillion albums. in that fantastic place. Often. If only I had written as much for my classes. Turner or William Blake. It made me feel like an actual resident of the city. Why was she still with her boyfriend? Why couldn’t she be here with me? Would she ever be single again? Would she ever agree to be my girlfriend? Pages and pages were filled with these questions. and thin like me. We would laugh at the absurdity of the annual Turner Prize contestants (an honor that pits several contemporary. I later discovered that she was a bit of a hypochondriac with terrible luck for getting injured. for ways to sneak into . I could see her face with me at the Tate Gallery. I visualized her beside me. While distracting myself with original art pieces. Each day had a brief recap of the day.WHAT'S THE BRITISH TERM FOR "PINING"? 121 attention back to Jamie. She slowly began to look for openings in my martyr armor. holding my hand and filling both of our hearts with love and admiration. almost as tall. looking up to inspect a work by J. often “spite artists” against one another for a sizable cash award and instant fame). I wanted her in my world at that time. a full. I religiously wrote in my journal while I was on the trip. but mostly contained my thoughts and passing philosophies for the day. As I walked through parks with lush manicured gardens. fiery red hair and freckles. and a thin beak for a nose. one of the girls on the trip took an interest in me. Kelly was a year older. the pages were clouded with sad pining for Jamie. high apple cheeks. deeply white smile with an overbite.
V. would give me an idea of the seriousness of the relationship. I then took the forty-five minute commute in to school. After sleeping in and trying to do a bit of homework. for others. since I felt it was clear that my only goal was to win over Jamie. I knew I had to devise a way to ask without really asking. We started to form a chain—Jamie at the top. I caught what must have been the English equivalent of Montel. I sent it off and waited for the next day—the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Or. This. Surely Kelly would back off eventually. I could sense them. with me underneath. slightly rearranging or adding words. once she realized my heart couldn’t be gotten. and a better timeframe. As the fall got closer to Thanksgiving. I decided to openly ask her if she and her boyfriend had talked about marriage. as soon as possible. trying to maintain an inconspicuous playfulness to the prose. but I wrote them off. I read the email about fifteen times. thus eliminating my chances with her. He proclaimed that the way to landing any woman was to make her feel the emotion she most desires to feel. Great—here was a priest telling me how to get a woman. I was too blinded with my adoration of Jamie to pay close attention to Kelly’s advances. I thought about asking her directly. I switched off the T. this could be ecstasy.V.122 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY my heart. In some. I thought. I needed to know. it could be guilt. I was about to explode. if Jamie and boyfriend were serious enough. what my chances were like with her. One of the guests that day was a former priest who had written a book about seduction. asked if they had discussed marriage. I dreaded the same would be true in Jamie’s case. but realizing the sensitivity of the issue. and did some more homework until midafternoon. I watched a little British daytime T. if they were faltering. . It never happened. The worst part was that he had gotten more action than me. but always tried to remain optimistic. and Kelly at the bottom—each of us hoping the one above would collapse into our waiting arms. polishing the sentences. and wishing to keep her as a friend. I carefully composed an email and.
a jolt of rage sizzled through the longitude of my body. all the journal pages. I shivered and tried looking elsewhere. stumbled to a station and logged in. My eyes intensified and the corners of my mouth sank lower. I already knew what was awaiting me in my email inbox. She confirmed my worst fear. He reached around the back of her dress and held her just above the buttocks. Her email was overflowing with a gleeful lightheartedness—a giddiness about her deep love…for someone else. and they seemed headed toward that inevitability. black. Yes. she and her boyfriend had discussed marriage. I noticed a professionallooking couple. reds. feeling delirious from the rage and the diesel fumes of passing buses. all of . Faces were indecipherable—like smeared images from a jostled camera. I quickly logged out and headed back toward home. then deeper. They kissed lightly. All those hours spent daydreaming about her. She reached up with both hands and clasped his perfectly shaven face. inward. The room darkened around me until all I could see were green letters on a black screen. At first I was furious because I had made the long commute to school just to have my heart and hopes shattered. My intuition began to tingle. a softening of the potential disaster to my fragile self-esteem. the lightheartedness was a defense mechanism. I opened it and read. I marched down the curved street. They were about ten stairs ahead of me. and golds. I found my way to the computer lab. Colors blurred together in the twilight—browns. Then. they slowly filled and seeped a poisonous liquid. Suddenly. I felt cracks in my calm demeanor. and I had little choice but to stare up at them. One new message…from Jamie. It seemed as though a spotlight shone down on them while everyone else darkened and murmured in a sea of background noise. the fullness of the situation settled in. In my email. then deeper. all the discussions and plan formulations. both in their twenties. blues. He pulled her closer. Somehow.WHAT'S THE BRITISH TERM FOR "PINING"? 123 On my way up the lengthy escalator at the Angel tube station (the name is appropriate because the ride up feels as though one is very slowly ascending all the way to Heaven).
concentrated tug. protruding from the roof to keep watch over passengers.124 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY them were useless. I caught sight of one of the safety grips dangling down on the other side of the car. . Grinning. I tossed the limp object down into one of the empty seats and strode out of the station. almost supernatural. With a solid. strangely satisfied that my rage had produced a desired result. I felt massive. As we neared my final stop. I began to shake from an inward cackle—some much-needed comic relief. “I bet I can rip that thing out. So much of my life for the past several months had been wasted on this girl back home in WHYoming. It looked like an excess alien eye. The circular knob at one end was attached to the ceiling with a quarter-inch thick cable. The satisfying “pop” caused others to look up at the object in my hand. I pulled the handle cleanly out of its socket. shredding the cable. Between the souring emotions and the hot stuffiness of the subway car. I reached up and grabbed hold of the alien eye. The people around me widened their eyes and backed away a few inches from me. I stared at the ball on the end. my adrenaline began to surge. Shocked at the fulfillment of my mental wish.” The train braked and slowed to a stop at Swiss Cottage station. meditating on the fire I felt inside. waiting for the doors to open. I thought to myself.
) On the final full day. One Saturday night. panoramically. It was 10:30 at night. taking in the dense. but I got to have an intimate moment with the landmark. and I was all alone—just me and the massive limestone church. I looked. picturing life back home as monotonous routine with little fun. The shadows in the night were joyful and alive. I strolled along the Thames. many of us were dreading it. but the money had dried up. I stayed until the energy completely filled my soul.The Gallant Return When it came time to pack up our bags and return to the States. The City was busy in the distance. I had dinner at my favorite little shwarmah shop. Paul’s Cathedral and hugged one of the gigantic pillars. We had come to love London and our experience there. so I had to strategically say good-bye to particular landmarks throughout the last two weeks. freezing December air. and we couldn’t stay any longer. I went down to St. I wandered around the streets feeling glum. then closed the evening in Trafalgar Square with the National Christmas Tree. I knew that I wouldn’t make it back to some parts of the city before departure. (We only hugged. Children laughed and screamed as they took turns climbing up on one of the four stone lions at the bottom of Nelson’s Column. to the scenery . I promise.
silly souvenirs from tourist traps.126 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and made the promise that I would be back. not speaking to Jamie at the pace with which I had grown accustomed. The time had come to present her with it. after four months. Even the supposed end to the story from a month prior had not truly dampened my optimism. reading both The Brothers Karamazov and Ulysses for classes. “Good-bye. I held out hope that she might surprise me. I knew nothing else. I descended the stairs to the Jubilee Line and sat down. His eyes stared toward the rear of the train. staring at the necklace—knowing what it meant to say. How would she explain it to her boyfriend. The good news was that I was returning to see Jamie. unveiling the jewelry box. I had emotionally secluded myself from the rest of the world for so long. flowers in hand. I had found a gold Celtic necklace that I thought she would like. to still win her over? I quietly returned to school after the New Year. in person. On a brief trip to Ireland in October. the train hissed and flew down the tunnel. This didn’t happen. She had a cautious smile on her face as she undid the wrapping paper. Outside on the platform. into the darkness beneath my beloved city. She simply sat there with a polite line across her lips. then invite me toward her anticipating lips. I immediately purchased it and promised myself that I would give it to her at Christmas. I looked at him and whispered into the air. but didn’t remove it from the box. I was a bit absorbed at the time. much like I had envisioned. though I was able to see her on Christmas Eve. hug me tightly. except Jamie’s.” Immediately. She opened it timidly. I emailed Jamie at one point. I went over to her family’s house in the afternoon to bring gifts from my trip. awaiting my arrival. by me. describing how similar to . hopefully appreciated through a thank-you kiss. She gently thanked me for it. I was just a sad junkie. All of them were small. and how would she thwart the pending attempts. not knowing how she should respond. what else was I going to do? I had dreams wherein she appeared at the airport. I fixated on a monochromatic mural of Lord Nelson.
The third week of January. “I want to know how you see me. There was one section. and I’m not looking to be involved with anyone else now. it’s difficult to do anything but operate according to the self agenda. Prior to coming back to school. but I would deny the particular incident mentioned in her email.” This stumped her. I would begin to reveal my love for her. that she latched on to and later questioned me about.THE GALLANT RETURN 127 Stephen Daedalus I felt. buying me a little more time. I had reached the moment of truth with her. The reason I ask is because when I came to the section about Ireland (where you bought me that necklace). “I seem to be an inhabitant of my own head. I just wanted to ask because I didn’t want things to get really weird between us. But when one has spent so much time living in one’s own mind. Or was it time for ego defense? “I could always dodge the question. Part of this thinking was due to my stubbornness of not wanting to give up on her yet. “I read your journal. and I didn’t get a response until a week later. If that wasn’t what you meant in the poem.” I thought. or possibly ever. and I want to ask you something. The sun became brighter outside my window. It was time to be honest and admit the feelings I had been carrying around for two years. It was selfish of me. turning into me like an interrogation light. I received an email from her. After much discussion with two female friends. I just want to let you know that I am in love with my boyfriend. though. Part of it was the fact that I wanted to be the one to bring up the subject—on my own timetable. I made the assumption that it was about me. then help me understand the necklace. I started to draft a response.” Sitting at my computer in the suddenly lonely dorm room. I ended up telling her some bullshit . secretly demanding that we talk about it only when I was ready.” she started. I had given her a revised version of my London journal—revised in the sense that I had edited out most of the pining moments. I had settled on what I thought to be a good compromise. the Jamie references. there is a poem that struck me. I felt my heart accelerate.
This response placated her for a while.128 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY line about “I was in a pub in Ireland watching some couples talk and laugh and kiss. wasn’t completely a lie. I would certainly have jumped. . obviously with Jamie on my mind. just sort of a sum of the moments in that spot. I had been watching couples around me get cozy with one another. but those Irish lovers lit the flame.” of which I was bearing witness. The poem itself wasn’t about anyone in particular. and I even went out on a few dates. in actuality. I did start to meet other women in college. trying to capture the “folk mood. But I was also desperately trying to write good.” This. It was a mildly entertaining activity for me. authentic poetry. We would go through cycles of silent chase and retreat. but I always saved a spot at my dating table for Jamie. though she knew what was truly behind those words. Should she have become single again. Jamie was certainly kindling. I watched jealously.
The last time I saw her was at Steve’s wedding. even though he was not scheduled to go anywhere. Finally. He had found Jamie and I remained friends for the rest of college. I didn’t know what to do.Fading into the Horizon before my senior year. Within weeks. she started dating her eventual husband. He would say that he needed to start getting ready for some international trip. and cathexis to her and her boyfriend—hoping for their relationship’s demise. not knowing why he was there. only about two months after breaking it off with my longtime nemesis. I had devoted so much time. she didn’t remain single long. The defeat was not grand in any way. When it actually happened. The summer . He would show up at her apartment at odd hours. with each of us simply fading from the view of the other. it was truly anti-climactic. and I was never a realistic option to become that new boyfriend. she simply left. As was the case with her in the past. Either out of fear or bewilderment. She became afraid as he became more possessive of her. He was slowly detaching from reality. she broke up with her longtime boyfriend when he started acting very strangely. By the fall term. I did very little to push my case for the exalted position of Jamie’s boyfriend. emotion. she had taken up with some new beau.
“How are you doing?” I asked. firmly grasping her bare shoulder. The reunion with Jamie at Steve’s wedding reception was frosty. I walked over to her and put my left arm around her. grabbing their boyfriends by the arms and made their way to the buffet line. as I was not communicating with any of them regularly. staring into space. where Steve began to take on some of the family business. (One can major in those things in Wyoming. then continued scanning the room. Was it all going to end in this makeshift church—more warehouse than house of worship—on the outskirts of Cheyenne? It ended like so many nice guy love stories. of the times just sitting at their house. The two of them scurried off. I stood there. I would miss her. I released her. All those sleepily scrawled lines from my London journal dashed through my mind. in dejected silence. at best. They eventually moved to a small town in Iowa. Sure. .) She was sweet and innocent and attractive. and they promptly divorced. I knew everything was clearly over between us. The trick was to not fixate on someone else as an addictive alternative. “I haven’t seen you in months!” Her arms stayed at her side. I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to carry around the burden of Jamie any longer. I warmly smiled and greeted her. I will never know the exact truth. I thought of the dramatic night on the rooftop. There would be much to mourn. I don’t really know what happened. Of all the possible endings I had considered. knowing how much Steve loved the ladies. Maybe the two sides were reversed. She politely looked over to me. she gazed straight ahead. of the letters we sent back and forth. I could let go of that. nearly crashing into her younger sister. but so much of the relationship was purely mental. that was not one of them. Maybe the story was true—a parallel allusion to his teen escapades. I pulled her closer in a side half-hug. Or maybe it was a combination of stories. At the same time. The story goes that he caught her having an affair. though.130 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY a rancher girl who was in school at the community college to be a horse trainer. laughing and feeling part of the family. and she sprung to the side.
nearly to the point of incest. Improv became the perfect meld of these two important fields. tightly knit and devoted to presenting the shadow sides of many teenage issues—from alcohol use to inclusiveness of disabled students. I just wanted a pretty girl. Each member of Reality had to sign a statement to remain drug and alcohol free while in the group. I tended to look outside the group. Isn’t She? One of the best choices I ever made for myself in high school was . I still wanted to lash out at the hells of my childhood that stemmed from life in the alcoholic family. At first. We were a familial group. While other members of our improv family dated each other. I thought the idea sounded cheesy. Naturally.” The group performed social issues theatre—a descendent of psychodrama techniques. I moved from activist to actor. I was trading in my nerdiness for choir boy status. but I also wanted to be on stage. something that inevitably falls into the other two categories Young. but I got to know the people in the group and decided that I had found a new home and a new family.to join a group called “Reality Improv Theatre Troupe. I still wanted what I couldn’t have. the group had a reputation as being a bunch of goody two-shoes. performing. I didn’t require a popular girl or a party girl.
looking disappointed at my beloved Denver Broncos’ game. then split for the border. looking for any of my fellow improv actors. I soon discovered that the children would meet in their group while the parent(s) would sit at the bar and have a few beers. my interest in the team waning. like descending into a coal mineshaft.” I muttered. Steve and I drove down to the south side of town. so we’re down by twenty-one. They requested a skit about kids sneaking out of the house. as we were indoctrinated to be suspicious of all the Mexican kids who lived south of Lincolnway Avenue. I thought there was no way a cute girl would want to join our group of moral high ground parttime thespians. “How bad is it?” I asked. Early in my second year of improv theatre. Yes. As we went inside the faded mint green building.) We were normally performing during the week. . Cheyenne had its own “bad side of town on the other side of the tracks. so it felt like overtime to be going on a Sunday. Yellow and blue lights on an arcade game provided minimal illumination. The Moose Club is just off of the South Greeley Highway—an artery that connects Cheyenne with many of the smaller agricultural communities in Northern Colorado. a dense cloud of cigarette smoke and the low murmurs of beer swilling middle-aged men greeted us. Again. We maneuvered through randomly placed pinewood chairs and tables.” answered Ken. I found a couple of the other actors hanging out around a TV. “Kansas City just scored another touchdown. “Oh…ouch. as the lopsided losses became more common. we were asked to perform on a Sunday afternoon for the local Moose Club’s youth group. (Maybe this had something to do with the sneaking out at night.132 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY when considering high school students. I felt as though we were there to sell some methamphetamine.” Kids in my area of town learned to fear what was located on the south side. My discomfort tugged at me. The room was dark. across the railroad tracks. the racism seeped through.
let’s talk about this skit a little. The plot may not have been rich. but it seemed to be a realistic scenario for some of these kids.” I was leaping to her defense.YOUNG. I grinned. We enacted the scene and then went into the usual debrief with the audience. and I had only just met her. “This skit is going to be about sneaking out at night—especially girls sneaking out to hang out with boys. “But she was kinda young. Steve and I chatted about the skit and improv in general. don’t you think?” “She’s a freshman—only two years behind us. she came over to talk with the actors about how to get involved with our group. I also wanted to talk about Rebecca. On the drive home. guys. McCormick Junior High.” he said. ISN'T SHE? 133 Toward the far end of the room was a beige. I was to ask her and a friend to sneak out and join me for undisclosed activities. Our advisor told Rebecca that she could join up if she wanted. Most of the comments came from one mahoganyhaired girl in the front row. I played a sixth grade boy. The area was well lit. We were trying out a new policy in the group—letting a couple of freshman join the high school organization. I had to squint in the newfound light.” We worked out a brief scene that got to the heart of the issues and left enough room for discussion with the group of pre-teen kids. He was considering joining. Her name was Rebecca. berber carpeted platform about fifteen feet long that I took as being our stage. “Okay. and wished her well. I volunteered to be an . captivated by her chocolate eyes and cocoa dusted cheeks. and I wanted to sell him on it. She later introduced herself to our troupe as one of the leaders for the youth group. and she was a ninth grader at my alma mater.” our leader said. She seemed older than the others. trying to corral us. seeing this as a beginning. I found myself staring at her. with older track lighting providing a harsh contrast to the bar. After we wrapped up the session. climbing up to a girl’s window in the middle of the night. Since Rebecca was still undecided about improv. “That one girl was kinda cute. “Yeah.” I mentioned.
felt the fabric from my shirt meet her shirt. We had a late start to the year due to a bizarre illness with our group advisor. Within a few weeks. white cotton t-shirt two sizes too big. then collapse onto our respective chests. Rebecca had officially joined improv and was set to join us on our fall retreat to the mountains of Colorado. in slow motion. we put together a good-sized group of about a dozen. Our group had lost a lot of seniors the year before. She was ailing from various psychological disorders. we all piled onto a bus and headed up to the mountains on a Friday afternoon for a good twenty-four hours of teambuilding and improv practice. She was a wonderful. I also tried to ask her out. I handed Rebecca the pages of poetry and she reached out her arms. I . When we retired for the evening. The age difference gave me instant confidence. She was wearing a sheer. The girls had just finished getting ready for bed and filed into the boys’ room to say good-night. including the freshman push.134 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY ambassador/recruiter and talk to her about the group and the expectations. feeling as though she would trust me and want to learn from an older guy. loving woman—like a second mother to everyone in the group. This was the first time I really felt like I was taking initiative and asking a female to go out—verbally and in reality. Finally in October. I still had not felt this kind of sensuousness yet. On the dark autumn night. The bus ride took a little longer than anticipated. and after dinner we only had time to introduce one another in the large group. I mentioned that I wrote poetry and that I had brought some to show if anyone wanted to read it. I could feel the coolness of her breasts through the cotton. I went back to my bunk and pulled out the works. Rebecca blurted out. She baked cookies and German chocolate cakes for our meetings. so the group was tiny to start the year. gentle. “I do!” along with about five other females. At this point in my life. and also helped “grease the wheels” of the school administrative system to make sure we got into the classes we wanted. and we were always kept in the dark about the situation. Through various recruiting efforts. I hugged her and.
(Uh-oh! Nice guy alert!) The letter closed with a reference to the popular Dan Baird song. looking at the streetlights’ reflections on the lake. She felt safe with me. WHAT IS GOING ON BETWEEN US BECAUSE I AM VERY CONFUSED. The letter started out asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I knew at that moment there would be a much longer future between the two of us. but my chest memorized the feeling of Rebecca pressed up against me. she surprised me with a card. then let her drift off my chest. “I love you period! Do you love me?” This corny tune became our unofficial song. I gave hugs to a few of the other girls. we went driving around and exchanged Christmas gifts in the car by the lake at a nearby park. “TAD.YOUNG. someone that I was interested in was writing love letters to me! I hadn’t even invited it. The signature line alluded to her growing feelings for me and the potential she saw between us. ISN'T SHE? 135 held her tightly to me for a few beats. we went out twice—once just renting a movie and eating dinner at my house. On my birthday. The front had my name . Our phone conversations intensified. She had no access to WiteOut or corrective tape. it quickly got to the real point. That fall. she wrote me a letter—typed on her mother’s typewriter—pounded out with the “Caps Lock” key on. She did it all on her own and genuinely wanted to date me. we became closer and closer.” She proclaimed that she loved talking to me and wanted to be with me all the time.S. Finally. She did the typical dancing around the issue at hand by acting embarrassed and apologizing because she was probably boring me with the letter. Over the Christmas holiday. in December. ’83 Oldsmobile. often talking on the phone and always sharing hugs and adjacent chairs at improv practice. We sat in my S. My heart bounded around my ribcage. A second time. She handed me a small box. I tilted back the box lid and found a silver ID bracelet inside. It certainly didn’t look like the CD I had asked for. and within a week—shortly before we were about to leave for winter break. so many words were X’d out or marked with “sp?”. Then. I was drenched in excitement about this girl.
136 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY in blocky. I took her hand in a mitten grasp. Or maybe my loving her back scared the hell out of her. And kissed.” We got out and started the freezing walk around the mile-long path. then I acted. then she didn’t like me anymore. But then again. Maybe I was too available. “I love it…I’m flattered.” I found it a little strange that she didn’t have her name inscribed on it—just the initials. She readjusted our hands and interlaced her fingers with mine. “It’s nothing you did. After we returned to the car. and strangely. I didn’t see her again during break. Rebecca could stay with one of them and hang out a little later with her friends in town. her older sister and grandmother lived in town. I was thrilled and quite grateful. not much during the coming semester. Seems simple enough. I didn’t want the brain damage associated with getting some self-deceiving answer and the typical. That way. and while taking in air. .” I said slowly. Of course it was something I did. Her parents’ house was about fifteen miles outside of town.” We kissed. We were still in improv together. RC. We pried ourselves apart. I noticed the time and drove her to her sister’s house. which made getting together difficult. “Thank you. she suggested. I had four and a half years of super-advanced math. It had to have been something I did. I walked her to the door and hugged her goodnight while her sister looked on. I never thought to ask her directly. she had decided that she didn’t want to be with me as much as she thought she did. The windows coated in fog. serif. Luckily. “Let’s walk around the lake. “Love. I assumed I must be a horrible kisser or something. but for whatever reason. The back had the cursive inscription. And kissed.” cliché. She liked me. She was silently teaching me about love as we went. capital letters.
then got me fitted for a costume—basically just a tuxedo shirt.Melodramatic The following summer. both requested and not. and they alternate nights. Finally. sitting backstage . someone actually wanted me to do this! The summer was weighted down by my longing for Rebecca. I borrowed a black and white polka-dot vest from Steve to complete the outfit. The show is a longrunning tradition in Cheyenne. July through early August. There are two complete casts. We also had plenty of audience participation. with special double-shows during Frontier Days—an Old West celebration and rodeo during the final full week in July. and I remember many nights at the melodrama. My job was to fill in the gaps between acts and tell horrible. teal bowtie. on very short notice. I had a quick audition. It lasts about six weeks. I still wore the ID bracelet she bought me. and bleating heroine. and vaudevillian-style Styrofoam hat with a matching teal band around it. She and I had drifted apart and rarely saw each other once she started dating an older guy. with the usual stalwart hero. The melodramas are always great fun. the sneaky villain. A friend and former improv player recommended me for the gig. and they immediately signed me up. horrible jokes. I took a role as an emcee at the Old Fashioned Melodrama.
Nice Guy. I thought. but as Steve (and Mom’s man Vince) so eloquently told me.” I thought. go! One weekend. I had access to such a female. then wildly applauding when I came out with the cast to take our bow. This was my big chance.” remembering that pristine night by the lake. and I was dying to have someone with which to take evening walks. I visualized her running up to the stage after the crowd started to file out. the card girl. laughing and waiting to give me a kiss. I tried not to overanalyze it—always my downfall. I didn’t share the same feeling. It was quite clear that the card girl I worked with at the melodrama (she would hold up the “Act One. I asked Jolene. I kept hoping maybe Rebecca would come see me some night. “Um. I decided to go for it. I’m not sure she even knew I was in the melodrama that summer. Luckily. “She doesn’t have to look like Cindy Crawford to be good in the sack. Go. I don’t know…nothing.” . waiting for her.” etc. “Here we go. smiling the entire evening. what she was doing after the show. “Would you like to go hot tubbing?” I asked in a bold proposition. It was summer. Flesh and privacy! In the middle of Act Three. surprised.” Steve imparted to me. so I tried to think up ways to distract myself. I was house sitting at a place that had a hot tub. was to find a willing participant and get freaky.” she said. Knowing that this might be her only chance with me.” “True. cards as I introduced the parts of the play) wanted me in the worst way. Sex has nothing to do with the face…well. someone to come visit me after the show. I just kept repeating to myself. I could picture her hiding out at one of the back tables.” We made plans to meet up after she had a chance to run home and grab a swimsuit. She never came to a show. “What would Steve do?” I asked myself. His answer to everything. of course. I turned over the scenario in my head several times. I sat in a grocery store parking lot on the east side of town. Maybe all this time I was overemphasizing the general visage of a woman. “You aren’t fucking the face. she exhaled a “Sure.138 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY (backstage was actually the alley behind the theatre) looking at the moon reflecting off the inscribed “Love. at least not what I was looking for.
then I pulled the ID bracelet out of my pocket and wondered where Rebecca was on that night. Strangely. we got to the house and grabbed sodas from the fridge. for as much as she seemed attracted to me at the melodrama. And I was relieved for that. Maybe we were both too petrified. I also didn’t know what I was waiting for or what was waiting for me. After a fifteen-minute drive.” and off we went. We attempted to keep the awkwardness of the situation down by filling the air with small talk.” I didn’t have the nerve of Steve. aware of the time and of our respective curfews. I told her.MELODRAMATIC 139 She pulled up. She seemed content with a wethaired hug at the end of the night and a. she didn’t appear to be interested in me while half naked and under the stars. I changed into my normal clothes and put the cover back on the hot tub. . and we exchanged hellos. “See you at the next show. I didn’t know how to get it. “Follow me. I certainly wasn’t feeling aroused enough to move forward on my plan. then jumped in the hot tub.
she was living full-time with her grandparents. hanging out mostly with bikers and other transients who passed through town. I had to find some sugar-free of my own. With our closeness. fears. Tonya was a close friend and ally in the fight against teen drinking and stupidity. They end up dating the low calorie alternative. but they can’t have it. By senior year. I developed a theory that many people date those they consider “sugar-free. Luckily. Her mother was an unpredictable drunk. We were very close—sharing secrets. I was no exception. In the fall of senior year. with Rebecca now dating another guy. and the pain of our own family experience with alcohol. then we made the transition to the improv group together during our sophomore year. she presented herself without my having to go looking. She and I met in a youth group during ninth grade.Sugar-Free s I began to encounter more and more females who hung around me because I was Mr. Right Now.” They want real sugar. Her apathetic father would occasionally reappear in her life. people often thought Tonya and I were dating. it seemed. Tonya had moved around town every six months. but she was always A . Tonya held out hope that Dad would come back into her life as the hero—saving her from the unpredictability and fear of her daily existence.
she ushered them out of the house and closed the door.” “Don’t.” she said. The week before Thanksgiving of senior year.” partially acknowledging that it was slightly a favor to her. When it came time for me to drive the others home. I should have known better— that this was a clue she secretly liked me—but I was still far too naïve. For a few moments. but she knew the situation. Tonya and I were talking on the phone. I paused. the salty taste lingering as we separated. closer. closer. I said. As her lips got within two inches of mine. vague descriptions of how her heart jumped when she was around me. when she started to reveal how she felt about me. closer. The first night. But more rewarding was the escape from my own mind. I whispered. I had to shift from my usual role of impartial shrink to the subject of the conversation. I was present. I think we can. on my pursuit of love. the warmth of her breath pushing through to meet mine.” The transparency of this answer must have been unflattering. I called back to them . She approached me.142 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY quick to clear up the misconception. The others were outside calling to me. “I’m sorry…I just feel so self-conscious. for fear of either giving her the wrong impression or hurting her feelings. I released my vice grip on the relationship. she invited a few of us improv people over to watch a corny comedy. I was surprised and hesitated to react one way or the other. looking straight at my lips. as the frigidity of a Wyoming November was in full force. “You’ve made me very happy. “Yeah. on myself. She snuggled up to me on the couch and laughed a little extra hard at all my jokes. and with an obvious sigh. “Thank you. She only alluded to the typical. We kissed several times. I muttered something. Over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I saw Tonya twice—both times at her grandparents’ house.” she whispered back. thought of Rebecca with her new boyfriend. then reeled me in. “Do you think we could try it?” she asked. We tried to make the best of it. I reveled in the physical sensation—the moisture on my lips.
When she and I got called upon to do a special improv performance in Casper (two and a half hours north). She giggled and undid her ivory blouse by another button. exposing the tops of her breasts and chest bone. The girl I wanted so desperately would be along on the trip with me and my sugar-free. no one else came with me. hoping to get back to what we were doing without losing too much arousal. The following week. now that we were being sensed from the other room. Tonya closed the door behind me and did a small happy dance.” she said. Then. The improv performance was about students with disabilities .” This time. I began to kiss her there. The following day. The choice was easy for our advisor: Rebecca. we rarely had time to see each other. back at school. She egged me on to start doing funny voices and accents. settling into the space beside me. The peanuts are kind of picked over. but it’s ok. “Do you want something to eat? Drink?” I declined.SUGAR-FREE 143 that I was on my way. We both smiled widely that night. though mine was with slightly more trepidation. quickly getting more passionate. briefly. we kept the playtime to a minimum. thanks!” she called in the direction of the kitchen. and Tonya leapt on. We kissed. I stayed in character and pretended to be unfazed by the happenings. I went back over to her house. I was about a minute into doing a Britishstyle travelogue of Wyoming when she grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me into her.” Tonya clasped her shirt together with her left hand and rolled her eyes. she turned around and stretched out. Tonya? It’s here if you want it. The only problem was that we needed a third actor. again under the guise of “watching movies. “Sorry. The Universe has a sense of humor—sick. her grandmother’s voice called from the kitchen. “Do you two want some sodas or snack mix? I’ve got some leftover snack mix here from Thanksgiving. To keep the humor alive. “Okay. Lucky me. but a sense of humor nonetheless. I plopped down on the couch. Predictably. leaning back across my lap. we welcomed the time together. Unfortunately.
” pointing to me. across the barren plains and high-intensity wind. and I drove Tonya home. behind Tonya. wondering if I was anywhere in the consciousness of her mind. dramatic laugh. discussing the possible issues they could encounter with angry parents. One girl with Down Syndrome piped up and said. “One of these days I’m going to make you a very happy man. Patterns of light would pass through the windows.. I leaned forward and put my arms around her. “You’re cute. instead.144 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and how they were being integrated back into traditional classrooms. We later performed for the faculty at the high school.” It was easy to promise sex when she knew she would never have to make good on it. but managed to semi-conceal it with a small. over Rebecca’s cheeks. In the shadows. I funneled my lust for Rebecca into a kiss for Tonya. I didn’t know how much longer sugar-free would satisfy. and I pretended. We both knew this was temporary. She smiled back and coyly said. I also gave her a peck on the tip of her nose. We pulled up outside her house. She napped. I sat in the very back. For about an hour of the ride back. We got back to school after 9:00 p. I was already out the door.m. I followed the darkened contours of her face. looking as though she was oblivious to what had silently transpired in the van. quietly wishing that I was holding her. After some mediocre Mexican food and virgin strawberry daiquiris. our heads limply falling together. we piled into the van and headed back home. This celebrity status pumped up all of us. and she smiled. Our first stop was to a high school classroom for students with varying disabilities. The students cheered wildly and laughed as we talked with them after the skit. But why did it still hurt so badly? . I snuck peeks at Rebecca. I dropped a line.
I watched countless hours of the British Whose Line is it Anyway? on Comedy Central. I began outlining a January fundraising show. Our old friend Russ . This wound up being my crowning project for senior year. thinking how we could do a comedy improv event in our normally dramaonly troupe. I knew that it was something I wanted to do. While I thought I was some type of protégé in this area. and I had no trouble signing up volunteers to act in the show. and as an end-of-year celebration.” Our troupe loved the idea.She’s Back The first time I ever saw comedic improv on television. Our high school troupe had received some theatre training from a professional improv actor in Denver. we went down to see him in a comedy show. I borrowed games from the professional Denver group. My brain went to work immediately. we were all basically of equal experience level. The two came up to Cheyenne the day of the show and immediately went to work infusing our amateurish event with structure and tried-and-true games. For the big show in January—the first Comedy Chaos—we enlisted the help of our veteran improv friend and one of his theatre partners from Denver. The real chore was training them in good comedic acting. I even drew up a logo for “Comedy Chaos.
Rebecca asked if she could speak with me out in the hall. his girlfriend and Rebecca talked. He had spoken with his on-again. In a way that only adolescents can do. We received television coverage and a respectable crowd—a true victory for the first year project. I got a call from Travis saying that I should come over. That weekend was the Martin Luther King holiday. Travis and I talked. On Monday afternoon. off-again girlfriend. and I began to think that I was “winning” the battle of wills. she ran to greet me with a full hug and words of praise. An hour into this summit. Through exchanges between various combinations of the group we tried to piece together what each person was thinking.) The show also set in motion a reunion with Rebecca. Within about fifteen minutes of my arrival. I laughed a bit and drove over. Bewildered. we might as well be raising our cholesterol with our chosen comfort food. and Terrell acted in most of the scenes—not dominating. the two women showed up. I had her convinced that I didn’t have feelings for her anymore. Travis offered to order pizza. Rebecca and Travis talked. She was being kinder than normal.146 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY acted as referee for the evening.” I said. and she wanted to have a “summit. we skirted around talking about the real issues between the couples. appreciating the gesture. just as I had envisioned her doing at the Melodrama the previous summer. but not wanting to get sucked back in. (As of this writing. but helping us along when things started to get stale. there have been eleven Comedy Chaos shows—a yearly tradition for the troupe. his girlfriend and I talked. After the Comedy Chaos show. eventually. she finally had . If we were going to be in an uncomfortable situation. Even after the December trip to Casper.” along with Rebecca. The truth was quite different though. she and I were not speaking unless we had to—a stupid act of denial on my part. Then. Not knowing what else to do. “That was great! Really…it was hysterical!” “Thanks. Travis and I were stumped about the agenda for the day.
The following weekend. working things out without actually talking about them. knowing how she and I had been avoiding one another for months.” We immediately embraced. “What’s going on with you . we just hugged a lot. I had a feeling about what was coming. observed in confusion and slight jealousy. She was energetic in her request. sprouting the look of a puppy that has just peed on the carpet. I forgive you for hurting me. promising myself that I wouldn’t gush loneliness and desperation. “I’ll beg you for forgiveness.” she began. “Thank you…thank you. I instead suckled my anger.” I stared coldly back at her. “I…uh…I forgive you.” A small tear came out of the crease in her left eye. then two. She buried her face in my chest and I stared behind her. resting them on my sweater. my vulnerability was seeping through. I’m here to ask for forgiveness. “I didn’t realize that last year was so painful for you. Please. Rebecca and I spent more time together. My arrogant head toppled and landed in a glance down toward her. Tad. My resolve began to shake. while gazing stoically at family photos on the wall. She was on the verge of tears. she retreated a bit within herself. “So. When we finally returned home. we shared a seat. my friends confronted me about it. holding each other like two terrified toddlers clinging to each other for compassion. Mostly. Rebecca. we had our semi-annual improv retreat to the mountains of Colorado. pulling on my arm with urgency. I slowly looked into her eyes. I guess I didn’t know how much you felt for me. In the dark hallway.” She knelt down—one knee. “I have been talking with someone who told me how much I hurt you. I wanted to avoid looking at her directly. I want us to be okay again. and I tightened my lips. please. hoping that the hug would squeeze the months of bitterness and resentment from my soul. the relief apparent on her face. On the bus ride back to Cheyenne. She started to rise. She raised her interwoven hands up to my chest.” Silence.SHE'S BACK 147 the courage to talk to me directly. The others on the bus.
I just shrugged.” The ambiguity of the current relationship was comforting and perfectly sufficient. .148 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY guys?” they asked. “I guess we’re okay now.
the attendees. I suppose I need to come clean at this point and admit the most horrific fact from my past: I had a mullet. and the music were always the same. My alterations were deceptive enough to work. Since Steve and I had the exact same U2 t-shirt. I must clarify this with the additional fact that I never intentionally wore it like a mullet. I would wear the ponytail up higher. the school held a “dress like your date” dance. and our hair pulled back in ponytails. To save myself some embarrassment. I simply pulled what I could back into a ponytail and brushed everything else to the rear. We arrived at the dance in the U2x2 ensemble (U4?). Shortly after Rebecca and I unofficially got back together. Cute. We were sickeningly adorable. Or. I knew the “NASCAR sunscreen” was awful. we tended to throw a lot of dances in school. The DJ. à la Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. I borrowed his and let Rebecca wear mine. Those who did would get in at a reduced price. The costumes were the only things to change. but it didn’t catch on. and I tried to grow everything L . The gimmick was to have couples dress exactly alike. Rebecca and I went. slightly faded blue jeans. mostly as a favor to the committee that was planning the evening.Just the Two of Us acking creativity and the resources of a larger city.
Doesn’t this defy nature? This was Wyoming. It ended up being the best dance I had ever been to.150 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY evenly. Then. We pressed our lips together and realized we were officially dating again. My high school had multiple species of mullet. At the height of the night. though. suddenly feeling as though I had transcended those adolescent antics. they left me a bachelor good luck charm—a condom on the handle to my oil tanker of a car. I got in the car and caught Rebecca grinning at me. A few of my jaded guy friends came to see it all for themselves. being the young frolicking fools we had both always wanted to be. snorting with laughter and making fun of other couples. we were back together. I laughed. Just three weeks prior. From the extra-long Dungeons and Dragons mullet. it felt like only the two of us—slow dancing. to the cropped football player mullet. about a dozen people were scattered throughout the school cafeteria. I have the common disease where the sides of my hair will not grow past a certain point—sort of a timberline. Instead. so the mullet was always in style. I wasn’t speaking to Rebecca. . there was a place for everyone in the Hall of Horrible Hairdos. Garth Brooks was ringing through the halls. to the greased back Oakley sunglasses and mini-truck mullet. Unfortunately. Most of the time. and a colorful rotation of lights spun across the empty dance floor. But. back to the dance. My buddies didn’t get far since they weren’t paying.
I started my radio career…prematurely. she would put me on a short leash until college. though.Short Leash fter my mother found out about Steve’s shenanigans with his parents out of town. The week after Rebecca and I danced in the school cafeteria. They were looking for a Saturday morning guy to basically handle the soundboard back at the station while the weekday disc jockeys were on site at Jiffy Lube or an RV store. when she made the statement. it would also be a choke chain. Of course. I decided not to chance it. the morning drive time jock. Thrilled that I would be going on the air after only a couple weeks of training. the station was running off of a A . I was more likely to get hit by fluorescent orange lightning than get laid. I showed up at the deserted station and prepared the music. I knew that it wouldn’t be just a leash. A little over a year later. It sounded like he wanted me to start right up and jump into it. the odds changed in my favor. she wagged her finger in my face and told me—without humor or irony—that if she ever caught me doing something like that. My supervisor. called me on a Thursday and gave me directions for coming in that Saturday. My dad was the sales manager at the most popular country station in town. Most of the time. Knowing that she had followed up on similar threats.
the computer system fired off regular station identifications at the top of the hour. Thousands of people were listening to me in their cars. I thought I was supposed to be starting my DJ career that morning. asking them to tune in.” Tony said. Just after I hit play on the second CD. and pre-programmed commercials filled in three-minute spaces. I perched on the edge of my chair and smiled as I looked over the soundboard. using the limited knowledge I had from prior weeks’ lessons behind the mixing board. homes. I really do. With an electric trigger sent over the satellite. she forgot she was in the car with her two younger nephews. “But you’re just not ready yet. hit. you gave me a heart attack! I almost drove off the road!” I shrunk back a few inches. we’ll hear from Clay Walker. babysitting for the weekend. especially. heavy footsteps. garages. was excited about my sexy new job—playing the music she loved. “Cheyenne’s hot country. some twenty miles away.152 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY national satellite feed. “I want you to go on the air. my supervisor burst into the studio. Tony. Coming up this hour. I had been promoting my show heavily amongst my friends. Due to a miscommunication between the programming director and myself. I heard the front door slam shut and frantic. Rebecca. The day before. It turned out that I was three weeks pre-mature. and businesses. I felt like the pilot of an intergalactic space cruiser. “Tad.m. “What the fuck is this woman doing on the radio?!” Rebecca screamed in her car.” My listening audience had heard about thirty seconds of me. I found out about this episode later that evening. .” I was rolling. KMUS-102—good morning! This is Tad Spencer with you on Saturday morning. you bitch!” For a minute. when she invited me over to her aunt and uncle’s house. “I want to hear Tad. I kicked off the hour in a smooth. I dropped off the satellite feed and started broadcasting live. We only had five live DJs. Reba McEntire and Clint Black. it was back to the woman on the satellite. When 9:00 a. then. yet excited voice. It was quite a high-tech system for Cheyenne in 1994.
and I felt my head gravitate toward the warmth radiating off her chest. Rebecca was dying for some alone time with me. As I closed my eyes. We retreated to the master bedroom. overwhelmed with passion.m. I resisted. one at a time. figuring that sucking on her chest might help wake me. then pulled back to behold this beautiful scene. We had plenty of time. buried underneath her baby blue blouse and bra. as her aunt and uncle would not be home until the next day. Being new to the technique. Her nipples caught the cool air and started to stiffen. sat on the foot of the bed and kissed gently. “I’m kinda new to this. The kissing intensified. rubbing it more like an orange than flesh. I guess hearing her sexy DJ boyfriend in stereo got her hopping. I cradled her clothed breast in my hand. The cloth fell to either side of her. The four of us watched a little bit of TV.SHORT LEASH 153 “She was funny. “Thanks. I squeezed a hand underneath her back to take off her bra. She pulled me in for extended tongue kisses. Given both of our degrees of inexperience. She closed her eyes and smiled widely. I slowly ran my palm across her left breast. . I fumbled with it for a full minute before she rescued me with a nonchalant unhooking. I felt like I should take my time and not leap right toward the big prize. The kisses became sloppier as I began to taste our combined saliva. exposing the lightly mole-dotted breasts.” Rebecca piped in. it was close to 2 a.” I whispered. By now.” snickered the younger nephew. and my eyelids were starting to draw closer together. She gave an indication that things were moving too slowly for her tastes by haphazardly undoing the buttons on her shirt. I kissed her again.” I gingerly pulled her bra off of her arms and chest. and soon I was on top of her on the bed. “I’m sorry…I was just really looking forward to hearing you. slightly embarrassed. then I helped her get the boys ready for bed. Rebecca reached down between my legs and stroked me through my Levis. My nose and mouth fell just above her bra—in the middle of her cleavage—the wonderland for adolescent boys.. I licked her soft skin and continued to fondle her breasts.
ready for anything. I also realized that I didn’t have any condoms with me—another strike against us.” I said. Reluctantly. so I was sure there would be other times—ones that could be planned more strategically. I knew this was a perfect opportunity slipping away. trying to get the voice out of my mind. startled. “A leash! …a leash!” I knew that if I strolled into our house at 8:00 in the morning. and took one of her nipples in my mouth. Mom would beat me senseless. Rebecca walked me to the door. I resisted the exhaustion more.” I reassured her. Her voice was booming the phrase I heard her speak after Steve’s famous cunnilingus interruptus. We were still in the early days of the relationship.” She smiled back and repeated me.” “You can stay over…” she started.” “I know…I don’t want to go either. with one notable exception. eliminating many of these other concerns. looking coy. . I kissed her solidly on the lips and whispered. was on the verge of sleep. Mom repeated. “I love you. As I left. I will put you on a leash until you leave for college!” I literally shook my head. from a nightmare.154 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY My mind and my hormones were awake. an image of my mother shot into my head. this time more cutting. I immediately stopped what I was doing. I didn’t view this as the worst situation. causing Rebecca to ask what was wrong. I couldn’t help think about the night the summer before—out on the rooftop with Jamie. “I think I should probably get going. “I know…I want to…I want to make love to you so badly. In cruelest Freudian predictability. “I don’t want you to go. unfortunately.” she whispered.” “No!” she whined. Most of my body. “If I ever catch you doing that. “Oh…nothing. I ached having to make this decision. looking out to the sky. “You have the most gentle hands in the whole world. As if waking.
I proposed that Rebecca and I go see some of our friends in the school’s production of The Music Man. but the memorization of lines bored me. and no phone call. I was much more interested in the spontaneity. As a date. boring Cheyenne. and perhaps having premonitions of the evening. feeling frustrated by the situation. In some ways this was accurate. The clock crept closer to five. Right Here in River City Through the improv troupe. rather than pure theatre. and allowing us to cheer on our fellow actors. suggested we go run errands in order to clear my head. Mom. I bought tickets and asked Rebecca to call me Saturday afternoon so that we could figure out a place to meet. I had acted in two plays. giving us something to do in lowly. though we got a lot more acting practice than many of the thespians in school.Trouble. This seemed like a logical way to spend a Saturday evening. . The afternoon came. we gained a lot of friends who were involved with drama and the Thespians. I reluctantly agreed. freshness and challenge of nonscripted acting. and I started to get concerned. Our group was viewed more as a psychological-based social issues group. I kept telling myself that Rebecca would call at any minute.
She was subdued. At 6:15.” . it was working. My steaming silence was confirmation for her. I got a call from you-know-who. though. I waited. and I felt my stomach compress. I knew I had to defend myself and my blossoming relationship. (If you believe in the subconscious. “I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes. “You want to go to The Music Man with me?” “I thought you were going with Rebecca. I looked over and saw a brunette in the front yard of his house. “What happened?” “Long story.” she started. wondering why she had suddenly abandoned me for her ex. “Was that Rebecca?” she asked.” I slammed down the phone and finished getting ready. but I really did lose track of time. I chose a route along the main meridian between our house and the mall. The following day. there are no such things as “accidents”). waiting for things to get going between Rebecca and me before springing his trap? Whatever his plan.156 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Our lone mission was to purchase more kibble for the dogs at a feed store across from the mall. I spent the entire night consumed by his crimes against me. too.” he asked. Mom saw it. with only forty-five minutes to curtain. As I slowed for a dip in the road. I convinced myself that her being at the ex’s house didn’t mean anything. I realized it was she. We picked up the food and started back. perplexed. I’m sorry I didn’t call you in time. We returned home. I remained silent. The trip totaled only about eight miles. “I know this sounds stupid. What was she doing over there in the first place? Was this asshole conspiring against me. hoping that she would still call. helping the family move a defunct truck from one end of the property to the other.” I mumbled. about 10:30 in the morning. I called my friend Travis.” “Mm-hmm.” I grunted. “Sorry. This road happened to take us by Rebecca’s ex’s house. and I paced around my room. “I hope you still had a good time at the show. so I knew we wouldn’t be gone long. She could still finish up the truck project there and meet me for the show.
The local Air Force base had requested our talents to give a portrayal of some of the situations arising at the base between servicemen and their wives. He asked me to help. “Oh.” The phone clicked. but her history did not provide a favorable outlook for the overall success of the relationship. A few days later. and you shouldn’t pretend to be one either. This was not supposed to be a threat to our relationship. yeah. Rebecca admitted to me that Darren kissed her on that day when they were “moving trucks around. she proclaimed. I took Travis. “We drove by and you were in a truck. Rebecca. RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY 157 I broke into sarcastic laughter. Coincidentally. and I fumed. We would perform for the high-ranking officers at the base. and she recoiled to a verbal fetal position. I was trying to forgive her. I was cast to play a lieutenant who was verbally . that she had emphasized how she was with me now. We had just started. I’m not an idiot.” Rebecca and I were asked to be part of a cast for an improv skit about domestic verbal abuse.” She assured me that she didn’t let him linger. and already the foundation was collapsing. figuring the best way to not get hurt in this conversation was to disengage completely.” she reiterated. but he wasn’t nearly as much fun to make out with. I had a great time.” “You were the only one available? Is that on your résumé— truck mover? C’mon.TROUBLE. he didn’t call you over to help with a truck. “I’ll call you later.” Now she was the one in silence.” I announced to her. “I saw you over at Darren’s yesterday. What was that about?” Clearly shocked that I knew her secret. at the time this was all happening in my “real life. I desperately needed a new channel for my rage. and at a separate event for the officer’s wives: two shows and tough audiences for a very difficult subject. “He needed help moving a truck.” The anger and jealousy coursed through my blood. and that she truly loved me. “I’m sorry. she started slowly. I became more indignant. “How could it not be?” I thought.
but neither one was the person she wanted to be with. The primary difference between us was that I wanted to be in the relationship. out there running around with God-knows-who! You have no control over that girl!” I was channeling Vince.158 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY abusive to his wife and her daughter.” Lt. I watched Rebecca sit there in the scene. Tad bellowed. I knew the look in her eyes. But she also knew that what I was saying could apply to her. She was a sophomore girl—growing through all kinds of bizarre phases and exploring her options. cowering with her hands under her legs. but it was not nearly enough to salvage Rebecca’s and my relationship. I was a little older. and my patience for her flippancy was dwindling rapidly. The group exchanged hugs after the scene was over—a small relief. I had played both the nice guy and the asshole. the stepchild. while stoking the fire with my anger for Rebecca’s secret meeting with her ex. “If that bitch gets in trouble one more time. intellectually. that this was just a skit. . She didn’t know what she wanted. “She’s a little whore. I had seen it in theatre before. She knew. Rebecca was playing the daughter. that we were all in character. complaining about her laziness and her lack of discipline with her daughter. with only a couple of months left in high school. “What if he means all those horrible things he’s saying?” she must have thought. My character screamed at his wife. and I didn’t have to reach far to pick up the needed emotion to play my part well.
The trouble is.” The phenomenon occurs as an equaland-opposite reaction to the drug effects. the serotonin gets reabsorbed. Sleeping Pills and Vodka. and I got to share it with several thousand country music listeners. Gill is one of the most depressive songwriters on the planet. ecstasy.” I’m told that the real downfall of taking Ecstasy is the devastating depression one feels a couple of days later. desperate feeling overtakes the person. all happiness running off and away from you.“Here’s Another One from Vince Gill. there is a rush of good feeling—euphoria. I was working my Saturday morning on-air DJ gig. This is affectionately known as “Suicide Tuesday. I hope that no suicidal people were . In retrospect. Mr. I would be inclined to name an album.. Mine was a Suicide Saturday. Listening to his songs. you can feel your soul being wrung out like a sponge. I’m guessing this is the same feeling as when one first really has his/her heart broken. If I were Vince.. duh. or. Depression hits all at once—a horrible. leaving the person suddenly without pleasure. All of the serotonin (the feel good chemical) has dumped out of their storage centers in the brain. When it first happens. Vince Gill was my pilot on that dreary Saturday morning.
The halls are covered in fake mahogany wood . inexperienced in the dating world. She picked me up. and I. fumed with insecurity. bought tickets. along with the gravity of the night ahead. and joy all at the same time. We took obligatory pictures before leaving my house. She struggled with how to break up with me. paid for dinner.160 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY listening to my broadcast that day. savvy. My public depression certainly wasn’t professional. is horribly blurry. I felt the intuitive pain of someone you love destroying you from a distance—a kind of voodoo done with guilt. I’m not sure if she tuned into my radio show that Saturday. the hallways at most Cheyenne hotels are cave-like in their darkness. really. the whole thing. Rebecca wore a slippery pink dress with large poofed out shoulders. but completed the task with accuracy. but if she did. We arrived for the dance at one of the local “upscale” hotels. I’m sure the State could find a way to convict me of manslaughter. Fitting. and she wore the Valentine’s Day earrings I had gotten her a few weeks prior. We had Chinese food that night while we balanced the weight of the excited looks from the elderly couples around us. For some reason. To this day. I’m sure that I was successful in twisting her heart around into patterns of guilt and remorse she had not felt before. Though I was not in a position of a true cuckold. but it was very human—a display of my inner disintegration. the feeling was there. as a couple. the only picture I have of us. It was truly hideous—like a nightmare bridesmaid dress. Oh yeah. My only weapon was to use the airwaves to broadcast clearly to her how devastated I was. I was becoming overly sensitive about holding on to her—grasping. Things had not been sterling between us for a few weeks. The night of the breakup was the Turnabout Dance—a SadieHawkins style affair. though Mom couldn’t get the camera quite focused. She had been communicating with her ex quite regularly. The worst pain of it all was how casual Rebecca seemed to be about our breakup. I went simple with a French blue dress shirt and a splashed scarlet and indigo tie. more accurately.
Rebecca spotted her friend Tonya (my ol’ sugar-free). I started to realize what was happening. I slinked out of the hotel. like the blood-washed floors at the hotel in The Shining. The carpet is a sour red. I was ready for the end. but one that on this night felt like an hour."HERE'S ANOTHER ONE FROM VINCE GILL. This happened a half-dozen times throughout the painfully long evening. I think we stayed all the way until the end of the dance. then as they went to go dance to the slow song du jour.. At first. perhaps bulging with secrets from years of events—proms. I was trying to joke around and hope my last ditch levity would alter the inevitable. Plus. said hi to the friends I had located. And. and I viewed the evening as a way to kill some time and see a few friends. hoping that the DJ would play a metal song so that I could leap out onto the floor and headbang my rage for everyone in attendance. As we merged onto the highway. I turned away from the crowd. weddings. and conventions. Rebecca eventually came back. following her to the oily brown Eagle wagon. Midway through her second flight away from me. then disappeared once again. This makes one feel strangely physically warm. hoping I could make the nauseating song fragment into the background of my subconscious. She didn’t want to be anywhere with me. I wrote it off." 161 paneling. Kiwanis meetings. and they disappeared down a corridor. I wanted the priest to come read my last rites. I put my head down on the table and pretended to sleep. she wanted to delay the inevitable discussion we needed to have. but also slightly nervous about the hotel contents within. but even more ready for the drawn-out misery I could heap upon myself. . “Are you okay? You seemed kind of distracted tonight. We started off toward my house—not a long drive. brooding. maybe five minutes. I decided to ask the question. I was sick of the alternation between Boyz II Men and Garth Brooks. I sat.” an understatement for the ages. She didn’t want to be there with me.. I suppose she was having too much fun being elsewhere in the building. I was not much of a dancer. away from me. I made some small talk with a couple. There is a thickness to the building.
motionless. how she came into the date with the desire to end our relationship. Athletes call it playing hurt. My idea was to highlight particularly venomous passages and hand them over to her in an intimidating stack. I made copies of song lyrics from hard rock and metal bands that seemed to reflect my state of mind. I’m okay. I had to get up in the morning and go on the radio airwaves. I stared out the passenger side window. I felt the poison from her words trickle into my ears. I give her credit for wanting to spot me a sort of “last meal. I drew fluorescent yellow through lines like. The rest of the weekend was filled with moping. she assured me. She paused and realized the lie was not as clean as first thought. I almost gagged on the thought and on her sincere belief that such a thing could happen. since she never really liked Rebecca. I was awkward as a child Blueprint for my wretched life Confidence I’ve been denied (Lonely. but joyous. She began to describe what had happened during the night. lonely) Something in my head It won’t switch off when I’m alone1 . how she spent the night discussing the possibility with her friend. I gave her a half-hug before I got out of the car. That part didn’t have to change.” We sat in front of my house with the car idling. I still don’t understand.162 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY “Yeah. making my mother’s life miserable. I knew I had to go to sleep as soon as possible. I had to fake the saccharin DJ perkiness. She suggested that we could still go out to dinner and such whenever we wanted.” she chimed. How an evening was supposed to be perfect when the girl I loved was hiding from me. too. how she didn’t want to end it tonight because she wanted the evening to be perfect for me.
Neither of us could admit the romantic relationship we had was built on pure desire. “I love you with all my heart and soul. I delivered the venom to her on Monday. I was going to give her everything I had. I had only thrown napalm on the fire. and I found a nearby door to slam.. and I kept suspecting her. How did things get to this point? It almost seems absurd to go back and attempt to pinpoint one spot or one event that caused the disintegration of our relationship. My favorite part was defacing the closing of one note where she told me. I really wanted her physically. was that we adored hurting each other more than anything else. Time will not heal these wounds. We seemed subconsciously locked-in to destroying our relationship from its inception. She kept retreating to her previous boyfriend. all to point out her dishonesty and contradictions. I was an asshole—just at the wrong time. I attacked the pages with the voraciousness of a defense attorney. Plus.” I scrawled. It wasn’t even that long of a dating period. She adored my achievements and higher status in the school. This was my introduction to self-fulfilling prophecies . and I’m bleeding because of you Was everything we had just a joke?2 The lyrics ranged in their vulgar descriptions.” She stormed off. but all shared a high level of antagonism."HERE'S ANOTHER ONE FROM VINCE GILL. though we had been friends and admirers of each other for well over a year. I even copied love notes she had written. What we didn’t realize. thanks to you. “I hope you’re happy! You think this was easy for me? I’ve got a nice hole in my wall now. The following day. meticulously collecting evidence and rage about the infidelity that I always suspected she would perform." 163 Or. creating a case where she would see the extent of her lies and misleading statements. “Liar!” across the page and stuffed the copied materials into a large manila envelope to hand back to her.. she tracked me down and thrust at me with. I adored her cute girl-next-door look and genuine sweetness.
It took me years to find an escape from the trap. 1994. . “Too Late: Frozen” by Type O Negative. from the album Bloody Kisses. 1993.164 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY of young love. the occurrence builds the cynicism. 1 2 “Trigger Inside” by Therapy?. from the album Troublegum. This trap is a double bind for cynics—the cynicism yields an actual occurrence of the event.
Why was it so crucial to attend yet another one in a rented tux? The prom was only a month after the breakup with Rebecca. I also did not have a college. and I had no desire to spend the evening watching guys fiendishly grope their dates. Swarthmore and Williams. I went into therapy. Princeton. I would be sure to get into one of them. I was still feeling the sting. Lest we forget the advanced math classes! College admittance was the least of my worries. . so depression was a hot topic at the time. upon hearing this. Some people. I felt confident that with my grades and long list of extracurriculars. Kurt Cobain had just committed suicide. I had applied to four schools back east—Yale. and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was furious with women after feeling so betrayed in the last relationship.Just the Two of Us (and My Mom) on the Couch I didn’t go to my senior prom. I had a little over a month left until graduation. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. look at me as if I am missing a limb. wondering how I can carry on in my adult life having missed such a vital part of youth. The Monday after prom night. Also. I went to plenty of other dances while in school.
The senior class president. I tore into the Yale envelope and quickly scanned it. rejection. But here it was. because. this seemed like an outrage.” I opened the other two—rejection. I started scouring the college books in the senior counseling office. as a kid. Later on. I hoped there were a few that I liked. then going to a Denver Bears minor league baseball game. Also. I discovered that the University of Denver was a rolling admissions school. At first I felt bad. looking for schools that were on a rolling admissions system. Once my four college choices turned me down. so this just seemed like the logical place to go. and blah blah. I had lots of good memories there—going to eat downtown at some campy Italian restaurant.” We started to think of backup plans. I didn’t want to be seen as some lost puppy dog following him around. Denver had opportunities and better places to spend money. but still confident. My friend Travis had committed to attending DU. Luckily. There were letters from three of the four schools—all in simple envelopes. looking very thin. I started to panic. I had to redefine myself. “Well. The truth was that I didn’t have a clue about what to do with my life. Otherwise. I didn’t like the looks of it. This fit perfectly. we better hope that Williams admits me. I would start to realize how perfectly ordinary I was—indistinguishable from all the other academically achieving white boy class presidents in the country. I felt stuck—unprepared for a situation I didn’t imagine arising. to free myself from the previous .166 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY The first week of April—the week when acceptance letters were mailed out—I felt nervous. as though I were copying him. “We received over blah blah applications. I would be forced to wait a year to apply again to other schools…and I would have to explain to those schools why I was a year removed from high school. I loved Denver. With my limited view of the world. We are not able to offer you a place in the incoming freshman class. I called my mom immediately and said. I found one. heavily involved in school with one of the best GPAs was without a college for the coming year. I came home one day and anxiously opened the mailbox. The following day.
but she doesn’t slap as hard. Tron? It totally sucks. I started to become my own person—much more confident than in the past. We performed all the typical inquiries—looking at the relationship with my mother and my various other dating follies. ME: Why? Is my outer child too whiny for you? DOCTOR: Based on what you know now. We analyzed the smoldering pile of failed relationships with women. DOCTOR: Is that the way you usually talk to yourself ? ME: That’s how I talk to one of my selves. isn’t humor a pretty damn good one to have? Through it all.” No money. DOCTOR: Does this woman remind you of your mother? ME: Maybe. DOCTOR: Now. I learned to adapt without. but within six months. Things smoothed out a little. So. I also found the time useful for trying out new comedy material. what would you say to your inner child? ME: Dude. And it wasn’t like I could convince the pharmacist to just spot me my next hit. I would have to take myself off the drug. If one is to have a defense mechanism. no drugs. They also put me on Zoloft—the step-brother to Prozac. .JUST THE TWO OF US (AND MY MOM) ON THE COUCH 167 notions of whom this Tad was supposed to be. I worked with my shrink on figuring out what events led me to this place. let’s talk about your inner child. My dad’s insurance didn’t recognize mental health as being even distantly related to “health.
) Growing up. God bless them. for the senior class president to attend the event. like any politician. (Whether this pressure was real or implied. I didn’t realize there were any non-Protestants in Cheyenne. The school district had recently stopped holding baccalaureate as part of the formal graduation week. I went and tried to keep good humor about the whole thing. They felt the pressure of keeping religion and the public school separate. (I had been to the synagogue during confirmation class. I don’t think I met a Jewish person until high school. So. but the congregation was absent and their identities a mystery. Although. but the greatest therapy was the primal scream session that I performed the night after baccalaureate—the religious complement to our graduation ceremony.Drugs and Religion The talk therapy and drugs helped. the Fellowship of Christian Athletes swooped in and organized the event on our class’s behalf.R. . five Long Island Iced Teas can certainly give one a religious experience. My mother thought it good P. I didn’t knowingly encounter them until junior high. than with Christ. I’m not sure. since most of them spent more time on the weekends with Jim Beam & co. The group was questionable to me.) In order to keep us all from going to Hell.
She apparently had found Jesus and was correcting her past mistakes. so I still had an hour or so of daylight. but all done with an undercurrent of. The event was part revival. I wasn’t sure if she was indecisive or just weak. nor with the jackass that had caused such turmoil in our relationship. I grabbed my mom and grumbled. the pole was broken when I found it. It was late May. (If anyone from the Cheyenne phone company is reading this. The evening was like most attempts by Christian groups to be inclusive: acknowledging of the other faiths. where there are still dirt roads and acres of undeveloped prairie land. gaining strength and adrenaline as each hatredfilled word burst forth from my throat. I picked up stones and hurled them into the dry wild grasses. I picked up another rock. It was a new guy! She had moved from me.” I dropped her off at home and then continued driving. the size of my fist. Something in me snapped.) What I have . I began screaming. and on to this guy. got out and slammed the giant gray door to the ‘83 Oldsmobile. part graduation. One of the speakers was none other than Maureen. “Clink. a multiple offender for alcohol violations and a past obsession of mine. “We are the one true faith. I pulled off of the road. I also saw Rebecca… with her new boyfriend. They had a Star of David on the stage as an appeasement to the handful of Jewish students in the class. One of the ceramic pieces that held the line to the pole shattered. and launched it upward at a telephone pole. I alternated between “Rebecca” and “fuck” for most of the tirade. back to her old boyfriend.” Direct hit.” In addition to seeing Maureen on stage. all within six weeks. looking quite content in their Sunday best. Immediately. I’m not sure if there was a connection between the two. though I’m not sure any of them were in attendance. “Let’s go. half of it falling to the ground below. there would have been a continuous bleep. I was infuriated because she was not with me. I went out north of town. The two were holding hands. I yelled into the wind. like an hour-long test of the emergency broadcast system. Had this been broadcast.170 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY It turned out to be a parade of torture.
. I tittered at the hell he was getting himself into. I was suddenly peaceful—my soul quiet for the first time in months. It was only 9:30. The poor bastard. with barely any strength. I heaved breaths. feeling as though I had scorched an entire field with my anger and venom toward the fairer sex.DRUGS AND RELIGION 171 discovered since that time is that my rage produces pure violent anger and precise destruction. After an hour of screaming almost non-stop. I got up slowly and stumbled toward the car. “Feel better?” I did. I managed to drive myself back home. I paused to wonder if Rebecca was making out with her new beau. I finally dropped to my knees in exhaustion. but it didn’t infuriate me. staring at the ground—the dirt and gravel and weeds and ants all staring back at me with a look of. but I went to bed immediately. Somehow.
though. and I let it wrap me in thick robes of normalcy. cow-town shackles. I had spent years in school. By then. I realized I would soon be free of the Cheyenne. so I didn’t look out-of-place. I was separating out from that hellhole.A Little Rebellion. playing the part of the intelligent. A . but I wanted to shave down the sides for a kind of altered Mohawk. My timetable was a little different. It was too bizarre for Wyoming. My rebellion stage was coming later than most. I was moving to the big city—to college—and I could begin to act a little crazy. the grunge era had begun. so I felt cutting-edge. well-mannered student—a Cheyenne success story in the making. meek. At a time when kids were wearing t-shirts of Trans Ams and monster trucks. The style was actually popular with several major-label rockers at the time. and that was the entire point. Teachers heaped praise on me. of course. My post-high school rebellion began as many often do. and always had been. a Little Late fter the meaningless ceremony that is high school graduation. It wasn’t until late high school when I shifted my wardrobe to look like a drummer from some cover band. with a haircut. I had long hair in the back. I wore button-down shirts all through elementary school. Many kids act out in junior high or high school.
I thought of how hot she was for me that one night back in February. because I didn’t want to enter into the nonstop sex zone of college still being a naïve virgin. Maybe she still thought I was sexy and would help out an old friend. she got her new-old boyfriend to drive her over to my house. I cut off the long hair and shaved everything off. just by pulling out the electric shaver. saying. My roommate and neighbor were nervous. She had gone from sneaky passive aggressive to all-out belligerent. I had to find someone to deflower me. leaving only a military-esque buzz cut. with about a 1⁄4 inch of hair. I almost didn’t get hired at my work study job because of it. I wanted so much more than that.174 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Before heading out the door to college.” Or. I also felt the compulsion to lose my virginity. In one of my less intelligent moments. That’s why they give it to every male that enters the military. I told her that sex is a given in college. It became urgent. I also began to rehearse my typical rant against WHYoming. I made a last-ditch proposition to Rebecca. I needed my first time to be with someone I knew and cared about. She left a scathing note—words I had never imagined coming from her. My mom freaked. During that summer.” Wyoming had kept me within her borders wanting me to be a white bread. My . average intelligence. They thought a neo-Nazi skinhead had moved to town. “It’s like Confederate North. I thought maybe the new look would convince college girls that I was a bona-fide asshole. To be fair. the fourmonths-my-ex girl that I still had feelings for. “Why don’t you get a normal haircut?” I told her that this is the most normal haircut one can get. After about a week of dead silence. pretend cowboy. too—something absent from the faces of Army boys. though. the shaved head scared the crap out of many people. I wrote to her and explained my dire situation. “It’s just a bunch of mullets who listen to Warrant or country music while driving in their shitty old Camaros with primer covering half the car. and quickly. I could just picture them drooling. The idea went over like an environmentalist at Rush Limbaugh’s house. I had a goatee. In reality. I had become my polar opposite.
birthday cards. Knowing her history. with my hormones raging.A LITTLE REBELLION. Incidentally. I basically needed to break myself in a bit before “the real thing. I stopped on the side of the road and took the bag to the empty. and pictures.” But I still needed to get laid. I aimed square at Rebecca’s face and began to piss on her. They crinkled and tore as I twisted my foot. making the paper limp and discolored. just enough to hold them steady. I pulled out all the Rebecca memorabilia I had—notes. The pictures got special treatment. I yanked out the letters and cards. I put them all in a sack and drove out to the rural roads that had taken in my fury on that one night a week prior to graduation. just a quick sandwich at one of the popular . Who says you don’t learn anything worthwhile in high school? I called her up and asked if she wanted to go grab some dinner—nothing formal. I thought the chances were as close to a sure thing as I could find. I saved the pieces. grinding on the gravel. I pulled back in cocky repose and delivered my final line. mimicking so many of her notes to me. “I love you with all my heart and soul. “What would Steve do?” The answer that came to mind was to call up his co-conspirator in his infamous escapade and see if she would be willing to get freaky. I unzipped my pants and took a breath. smiling at the pictures’ fate. to break my own proverbial maidenhead. I pushed harder. before diving into the world of Jack Daniels and collegiate one night stands. A LITTLE LATE 175 first foray into being an insensitive jerk probably warranted such a harsh response. I retracted my weapon and realized I needed to finish off the destruction. pale field nearby. I coated the entirety of the photos with urine. I had to again ask myself. With the heel of my high top tennis shoe. for they would later be fed to our fireplace back at the house. I set them down on the ground.” At times like this. nestling them underneath the dry grass. I embraced my new punk-rock self and decided to deal with her in a most childish and vengeful way. “Riiiip” through each one. I heard rumors that this girl ended up going to Hollywood and working the casting couch. I smashed the pictures into the ground.
We made it through “The Principles of Lust” without much heat. though. I had my eyes closed. dropping the flaps of her shorts. just enough to peek at her underwear. I took her to my oversized bedroom and put on two Enigma CDs. please don’t. We had graduated from the same class. Or maybe nice guys were not allowed in her shorts. I stopped and slowly opened my eyes. I nuzzled my face in the top of her cleavage. It was clear that she wanted some action. The combination of Gregorian chants and trippy dance beats felt like the right blend. but I’m sure the memories of that night with Steve prevented her from letting me go any further. Breasts are always captivating to a straight adolescent male. She encouraged me to suck on her nipples some more.” She responded with a hasty unbuttoning of her blouse. . kissing. I shut off the light and exhaled.176 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY coffee shop hang outs. “There is no return to innocence. Shielding my eyes from the chest fur. and I was mesmerized by hers. ready for something wild. no. I discovered a healthy tuft of reddish brown hair in the vicinity of her chest bone. I got one undone. When “The Return to Innocence” came around.” she grunted.” I said. “Tad. feeling the soft warmth on my cheeks. I started to unbutton her jean cutoff shorts. I made sure I had a good box of condoms handy. I kissed and licked around her hardened nipples. I proposed we go back to my empty house (there was no chance of being surprised this time) to hang out some more. “She has more hair on her chest than I do!” I declared the chest exploration over and started to venture south of the border. We went to dinner and shared in forgettable conversation. “Okay. I decided to swing for the fence. When we got there. but I also realized that there were deeper dimensions to hooking up than I had considered in my naïve high school days. kissing… Something furry encountered my lips. I then moved back to the center of her chest. I settled for some breast-loving that evening. and we were at that bizarre between stage. “My God!” I thought. I thought this would be as good as anything to get us in the mood.
At least we could get our hands on some good magazines or catch a Friday night feature on . I was happy to go to a place with one of my best friends. It would save me from being completely alone. and it is battled more heavily than illicit drugs. Not only was he coming here sexually deprived. but our radars were on constantly. the porn is confiscated. Strangely. I could be sleeping in my dorm room and pick up hot chick signals from down the hall. Our first week on campus was spent in orientation.” Unfortunately. they actually put us in the same “home group. We were thrilled to be going to a place where there would be a) lots more females. Apparently.College Daze Travis and I went to Denver together for college. I was sure I would go to one of the four East Coast schools where I applied. we got to know Kangadaran—a hilarious international student who was constantly smiling. in his home country. Instead. but he was also just getting his hands on his first “au naturel” magazines. and hopefully b) more attractive females than the sparse selection in Cheyenne. But with none of them biting. they didn’t insert any hotties with us. We also discovered that Kanga was hornier than Travis and I combined. We were clueless as to where to start when we got on campus. and he and I could commiserate in our nice guy-ness.
that would be one thing. only now. make him into a nice guy. we were just trying to get a feel for our home base. It was slightly creepy. and if they do get used. but condoms don’t amount to squat. Since we weren’t seeing anything noteworthy in our small orientation group. the regulations lumped all students together in one horrible batch. I had about the same level of hormonal drive as my high school days. This is what makes me crazy about all the conservatives who rail against handing out condoms in school. What was wrong here? Wasn’t this college? Weren’t sexy co-eds supposed to be throwing themselves at us? …or at least be present on campus? Damn you. I had lots of condoms. poor man had a lot of lost years to make up for. Travis and I decided to scope out the dorm. just rejoice that your grandparenting days are still a little further off. sure. many women. those were the assholes that were making life miserable for everyone. They say. Mother Teresa. As happens with every youth crisis. whoa. “If you give them condoms. So here we were on the playing field of college—the place where sexual fantasies were supposed to come true on a daily. If you want to ensure your son won’t have sex in high school. whoa. New regulations emerged that attempted to curtail “date rapes” and . We sat in the floor lounge and pretended to read a newspaper while checking out the talent levels of our new surroundings. For me.178 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Skin-o-max once in a while. It’s called a partner. but more than anything.” Whoa. This poor. After all. or even hourly basis. I was absolutely in favor of measures that dealt with rapists. That’s a guaranteed female libido-killer. There is a vital part to sex that no amount of condoms can provide. Being a friend of many. If schools were handing out hookers at the door. what I didn’t have was a female who wanted to copulate with me. they will go have sex. MTV! Why did you lie to us? What made things more difficult was the sudden wave of sexual harassment and assault prevention measures. it felt like I could reasonably do something about it. We discovered that our dorm was not that promising either.
Seduction and lawyerisms don’t mix. she would have stormed off. I think her plan was to drown the syphilis. Her family was probably worth more than my entire hometown. The new protocols stated that each piece of physical contact must be explicitly requested and agreed upon by both parties. I had visions of two lawyers in the bedroom with myself and my date. Legend has it that she contracted syphilis and had to take medication for several weeks. If we were successful in getting a woman back to the bedroom.” Pause. furious that we weren’t taking the lead. She partied hard and wound up paying for it. getting more turned off by the second. I found a few women that I was interested in. She liked . By the time we asked permission to fondle a breast. The rapists among us (the assholes) would continue to slam shots and bang their dates as they always had. She had the kind of money that I had never encountered in Cheyenne. apparently. So.” This new legalese way of having sex terrified me. if it so pleases counsel. The most memorable of the group was gorgeous on the outside but putrid on the inside. The caveat was that she couldn’t drink alcohol while on the medicine. A few were untouchable—stunningly beautiful and completely out of my league. was unthinkable to do for a couple of weeks out of her precious college years. “My client would like to request permission to stroke your client’s left thigh. Your client may proceed with said stroking of the left thigh.COLLEGE DAZE 179 sexuality in general. Of course. the only people to heed the new rules were the nice guys. We were scared into non-action. “My client has agreed to said action but no further at this time. but it was suitable. we would stumble through the requests and the woman would roll her eyes. It wasn’t a bumper crop. I also met a cute redhead dripping with money. and she also was quite active in doing research on the human body. She was a pre-med student. This. she scrapped the medicine and kept on drinking.” “Counsel will hear the request and consult with my client.
when I heard rumblings about her other life.180 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY me because I seemed like an oddity—a small town boy who never had a maid growing up. I had begun to build up a callous to those replies. Of course. Nice guys go about it completely backwards— friendships first. I had survived Rebecca. I’m not sure why that is such a hard compulsion from which to break free. “Funny. completely lost as to how to approach women. I guess she was just out for some play. The excuse didn’t sting until about a year later.” We started to build a friendship—the typical disease that a nice guy encounters. so it didn’t hurt as much as it would have in the past. hanging out in his dorm room. then try for the relationship. It was sort of a backhanded compliment— the thought that she could fall for me.” I thought. I’m sure that the entire frat house was not Catholic. because I have to marry Catholic. “I really only want to date Catholic men. knowing that she didn’t want to date any of them. she had made the rounds at one frat house in particular. “there are millions of us. I may fall in love and want to get married.” This was a new one for me. and I’m afraid that if I start dating someone. that was too much to contemplate. so I wondered what the catch was. after all. I eventually asked if she wanted to start dating. According to the rumors. . and she realized she wanted more with the guy? Well. I was the one who had the time on his hands. She seemed mildly flattered but responded. But what if some afterglow inadvertently wandered into heartfelt conversation.
Since I wasn’t having much luck meeting women in real space.” dating lists and discussion groups were the most popular features. I got emails from a few women. Her name was Randi. but nothing seemed all that interesting. Aside from sex “newsgroups. and she was a senior in high school who loved writing poetry. I thought I would try to meet them through AOL’s cyberspace. I mainly got wrapped up in the idea of having a long-distance romance. She lived in a small town about thirty miles west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.” One email got my attention for its sincerity and openness. saying.Deep in the Heart of Texas When I started college. “I’m a nineteen year-old model who is majoring in biochemistry and who really likes nice guys. Reading words on a screen allows the mind to dream up all kinds of perfect scenarios. There were a few unbelievable ones. the Internet was just getting going. Internet dating .” Translation: “I’m a 42 year-old bored balding male who wants to fantasize about someone else fantasizing about a nineteen year-old nymphet. I posted some information about myself (this was still before picture postings) and waited to see if anyone would reply.
This should have triggered the alarm bells in my head. I was right about that part. She was cute—an all-American horseriding brunette with large inviting eyes.” she retorted. I just wrote it off as “girl talk. so I started to look into airfares to Dallas. her stepfather demanded to get some personal information from me. Randi asked about the possibilities of us meeting in person. the other person can remain in that safe space—the place where romance is endless and no one has bad habits or wild neuroses. Through only email and distance discussions. She began mentioning how much she wanted to start a family and become a mom. I timidly approached two women whom I took to be Randi and a friend.” As Spring Break approached. something I could tell stories about for years in the future. so that he could run a background check on me. I immediately noticed Randi holding a child. though one was bleach blonde with thick makeup and over-styled hair. “Yeah. I booked my ticket and looked forward to a few days away from the college campus. (I guess she didn’t do a female-network background check on me. so most of the passengers had passed my welcome wagon already. I had received a new Macintosh computer as a gift.) Once everything looked clear on their end. I was seated toward the rear of the plane. I figured that this would at least be an interesting adventure. discovering that I was a nice guy. Randi and I wrote back and forth for several months. so I knew what I was getting into—somewhat.182 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY plays to the same part of the mind that housed my Jamie fantasies. so the newness of the technology mingled nicely with my unbridled desire for a girlfriend. I had received a picture of Randi in the mail. but at nineteen. maybe two years old. shifting the child from one hip to the . they invited me to stay for five days at their home. “Randi?” I approached. In the meantime. Both were tall. including my driver’s license number. I felt a little daring. but I figured it was worth a shot. starting around Christmas. I wasn’t sure if I would find love.
“Pleasure to meet you. Jessica’s son. maybe even . Randi focused all her attention on the little boy. so there would be a bit of driving involved. we got a midday start. She mentioned that they had just seen the newest Highlander movie. who wants to date someone of whom the parents approve? The following day. She babysat for them and wanted to introduce me. “They didn’t have Queen songs in it!” she protested. “It’s not Highlander without Queen. Randi coddled the child with kid-speak. I gazed out the window and pondered the pet possibilities. “Nice to meet you. We collected my bag from the luggage carousel. Randi mentioned that we were going to drop by a family’s house to say hello. I struck up a conversation with Jessica. She certainly had the mothering instinct. thin nose. not a potential husband and father. While Jessica and I discussed movie soundtracks.” “Oh. But. Nice guys have a tendency to be heroes to the parents of dates.” I went to shake the blonde’s hand before acknowledging the child. Large square glasses clung to his pink. I looked like a scared college kid.” I said while firmly shaking his hand. Tad. but I just couldn’t get worked up about this perceived affront to moviegoers. They lived about ten miles out of town in a very rural section of the county.DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS 183 other. then wound our way down a dirt road to Randi’s house. hi. and seemed to be more interested in raising the boy than Jessica. Her stepfather was busy cooking dinner when we arrived. of course. He was sort of like Santa Claus after a couple tours of duty with the Army. sir. Welcome to our home. What were they thinking?” I wanted to sympathize with her. I think this lost me points with Jackie. He was barrel shaped with a thick gray and white beard coating almost his entire face. We dropped off Jessica and Colby at their house.” This was the part where I excelled. We got to talking about movies. Anyone seeing us would have assumed that Colby was Randi’s kid. She also mentioned that they had a few unique pets. I expected a ferret or possibly a chinchilla. Her mom was a hospice nurse and was out working with a client. “This is Colby.
taking the retired animal with them when he could no longer do circus tricks? Maybe the father was raised by wolves. because they turned and ran to a nearby tricycle. “NO-” I blurted out as a reflex. catching the kids in the forehead.” “Yeah!” the kids screeched. though there was a 1⁄4 inch thick chain tethering him to the nearby tree. aren’t we?” She seemed to egg them on. I stuck my arms out. Simultaneously. too. “That’s okay…I don’t need to be messy. too!” The kids giggled.” mentioned Randi. He seemed docile enough. noting the similarity to some sections of outer Cheyenne. “Oopsies!” Randi exclaimed. “Now I’ve got ketchup on me. rubbing some of the ketchup on her jeans. two young blonde kids came running up toward us.” I thought. I focused harder and noticed it was about twelve feet long from nose to tail. I scanned the area. though. I realized it was a full-sized wolf. Had the father bravely rescued the animal from a trap out in the nearby meadow? Were they formerly carnies. Back in a small cove of trees sat their trailer home. “We’re all messy. We wove our way down a set of parallel tire tracks that cut through wild grass. “That’s Zeus.184 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY a python. The boy and girl had various patterns of ketchup smeared on their faces. the children’s . I winced. “Cute. “But I think Tad here needs to be messy. and Zeus was. As we approached. As we walked up the path to the house. Bright plastic toys and tricycles littered the prairie grass in front of the house. My eyes caught something with gray fur by a tree in the front yard. At first I thought it was a gigantic German Shepherd. They latched onto Randi’s legs when she got out of the truck.” My stiff-arming must have broken their will. in actuality. I wondered how they had obtained him in the first place. Randi waved and flashed them an open-mouth smile. I politely grinned and offered a brief wave. I reached over to pet his head.
We like to have interesting pets around here. Zeus had his own private luau. and pooping continued through three more cycles. Boy. grinning. The father of the family was waddling toward me. He’ll eat anything. “Hi. Did he think Zeus had become a vegetarian? Was the wolf only eating Hormel products? Dad didn’t seem to recall the childhood story of the three pigs. “And what an effect I seem to have on him. undulation. “I see. Zeus stood up from his back legs and placed his front paws on my shoulders. “I see you’ve met Zeus. The animal bayed and shook up and down its body.” I searched his eyes for any irony.” I replied.DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS 185 uncle. “Yeah. hi. nice pet. probably split town. “Yeah. but he went missing about a month ago. This chain reaction of sound. hello? I was sure he had to realize the difficulty getting a wolf and a pig to coexist. “I’d hate to see the Milk Bones.” came the father.” I heard from in front of me. too. He was leaning on me at about a forty-five degree angle. Straw house. I recalled my breakfast to make sure I didn’t have any bacon.” said I. We don’t know what happened. .” “The kids just love that thing. The pig.” “Aww…he won’t do you no harm. if it was smart. The shaking seemed to set off its excretory functions.” As soon as Zeus dismounted from my shoulders. We never did find him. “That’s our goat. a black goat rubbed up against my left leg. I guess he ran away. He was completely serious. as a dozen black nuggets fell from the rear of the animal.” I offered to him as I nervously stroked his thick gray coat. when he got into the kids’ Legos…” “Ah…I bet you had Lincoln Logs after that. the kids used to have a pet pig. and the animal was topping out at about eight feet high. If it was unlucky. His massive head looked over the top of mine.” I chuckled. I continued stroking the wolf ’s head. None. while he sniffed me.
we should get going. Plates with half-eaten macaroni and cheese and streaks of applesauce lay on the .” Randi interjected.” I started to chortle to myself. “Oh. Stacks of soiled dishes covered the entirety of the counter space.” The humor died a quick death in front of blank stares. “Oh. “Yeah.” I spoke up. that’s me. landing on the orange and brown shag carpet.” said mom. The couple waved good-bye and left me there with their three kids. You might need to go further down the way to Pinedale or something. Randi held open the swinging screen door for the kids and myself. the fidgeting. well. “Well. then kicked a mound of dirt and goat nuggets onto the side of the trailer. on par with an Aspen or something similar. The goat baaa’ed a few times. Randi didn’t mention we were going to be babysitting. we would love to move up to Wyoming.186 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY “Oh.” I replied. you must be Tad. the pig-eating wolf.” The dad jumped in.” came a woman’s voice—the mother—who had just emerged from the trailer with a baby. I could detect a smell of recently boiled hot dogs. I thought it best that I try to downgrade his fantasy a little bit. “Well. “I’m from Wyoming. “Ee-ii-ee-ii-oo. just to make it more realistic. where are you from originally?” the mom pressed on. hi. and the thirsty uterus that I had come to visit on my Spring Break. I looked around at the fake wood paneling and the chaotic kitchen. that’s okay. shitting goat. “Yup. we heard you’re going to college in Denver. which actually looks pretty similar to this area. yeah. This was new. “Thanks for agreeing to help watch the kids. I took a step inside. but I don’t think there is a lot of available housing in that area. Jackson is a rather exclusive resort town. “So. I figure maybe we can get a place up there.” Pinedale being more amenable to white trash. it is. They won’t be gone too long.” She handed the baby to Randi. I hear Jackson is really pretty.
but I figured the movie would pacify the children and pass the time more quickly. I returned to Denver and tapered off all conversations with Randi. but whenever I think of Texas. wild turkeys in the front yard. This was not really the living room I was expecting. creating a hurdle to the living room. The speakers looked new. The VCR and TV looked new. and the doublewide with flashy stereo equipment. I think of Zeus. I had a vision of the two of us living in similar quarters with five kids. I sat through the entirety of the movie. It’s not that I didn’t like kids. I went back to the cyber-well to look for women. they obviously serve some type of function. I looked up and noticed that the family had a massive television and a very new. I was just furious about Randi’s spontaneous method of testing me for fatherly qualities. She was disappointed. realizing that I didn’t want to move to Texas and make babies. the stereo receiver and CD player looked new. At the time. “Now!” Also. that was my most real brush with Hell. At the end of the week. I know it’s unfair. The walls alternated with pictures of the father next to freshly killed game and Biblical quotes surrounded by pastel drawings of angels.DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS 187 floor. I wasn’t a huge fan of Disney. I was afraid I would have to help the kids feed their goat or demonstrate my diaper-changing acumen. “I want to have a husband and kids. The little boy grabbed a copy of The Lion King and asked Randi to put it in. Despite the horror of this particular Internet hook-up. and Wild Turkey in the liquor cabinet. “Put in a movie!” screamed the little girl. I would know to pay attention when the female said. . At least in future attempts. it covered a majority of the time that the parents were gone.” I learned that that statement meant. fullset of video and audio components. that quivering goat. Internally. I couldn’t stop screaming. and luckily. A baby changing station was set up just outside the kitchen area.
Then. they will leave. so the alliance was not only necessary. As a way to help take the edge off of me a little (but it actually had U . We were the only ones from the trip still living in the dorms. Katarina was an interesting woman in her own right. I started hanging out with one of the women that was on the trip with me. for over a decade. she didn’t exhibit an ultraconservative nature. it was also convenient. they don’t care. others want to hear about it for approximately one hour.Paging Dr. I sank into a mild depression. and if you keep talking about it. They moved there and promptly found their way to the far right side of the political line.S. When something as amazing as four months in London happens to a person. Freud pon returning to the States from my study abroad trip to London. Her parents had escaped the Communist government and found a willing sponsor in Texas. She liked hanging out with jazz musicians and talking about all kinds of kinky sexual positions she wanted to try. She was a Romanian immigrant who had been living in the U. so they could not relate to my stories or know what I was talking about. At this point in my friendship with Katarina. Realizing that I was lulling my friends into catatonia. None of my friends had been to London.
Liz was twenty years old. a girl I had heard a lot about while in London but had no clue who she was. Liz sat up and smiled. attempting to impress someone with the Sigmund Freud writing. it’s Totem and Taboo. she was citing references to Freud.” she proclaimed. I was certainly impressed…and intrigued. On the night I met her. I wanted to know more about this woman. not by someone discussing the more intimate elements of her psyche. From what I could tell. “So what are you reading right now. but from the stories. it did sound real. She wanted the boys to like her and think dirty thoughts about her. the youngest man she had dated was in his forties. herself. Nope. It turned out to be Liz. What really made her stand out from so many of the sorority girls I had met was her intimidating intellect. including a cute female I had not met. Her library was reaching into areas I had never pondered. She never made any other indications that she wanted me. mysterious eyes. she would flirt and kiss my neck and suck on my earlobes.190 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY the opposite effect). It turned out that Liz was a bit of a fantasy lover. I pieced together that she had supposedly been in some type of tryst with a 45 year-old man. At the time. I never decided for sure if it was real or in her mind. I soon discovered that the Freud reading was no accident. this didn’t sound like a Biblethumper to me. She was almost as tall as me without having to add her Doc Martens. Liz was a year older than me. I thought she was beautiful. She loved older men…much older. There was definitely a theme in the women I dated. When February rolled around. Her milky skin was a distinct contrast to her dark. a curly brunette with matching eyes. as a segue for the group conversation. She worshipped this man—he understood her. Katarina had a birthday dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. at least physically. “Right now. I had been seduced by a woman on her best behavior. A few friends gathered. He realized that she was a full-grown . she was just a huge tease. Liz?” inquired Katarina.
So. They cooed and leaned forward. Liz exemplified the romantic longing of so many college girls I encountered. (Since I was such a neophyte in the dating . “I love that song. squeezing their thighs together. I was aware that I wanted the emotionally unavailable women. FREUD 191 woman trapped in the body of a high school kid. pushing away from the magnetic fields. They were not normally seductresses. scary sex. they could catch the gay guy looking or talk the older man into an affair. all of her neurotic preoccupations were still very fuzzy. “It’s so hot. Oh yes. “Closer” was popular. I want to feel you from the inside. but they carried around the dream that one day. Trent Reznor takes on the personality of a serial rapist and murderer while singing the verse. “He’s talking about raping you before he butchers you!” While I was considering dating Liz. the Nine Inch Nails song. and the lyrics entranced many college girls I knew. “I want to fuck you like an animal. but Liz and others like her wanted the gay professor or the married man in his fifties. each darting to the sides. I had no details.PAGING DR. She and I were too similar to come together in a romantic manner. and her favorite book? Lolita. At the time. and she fell into a Bronte-esque depression when he was killed in a car crash. What makes this story even more “Goth” is that she later moved into a high-rise apartment that overlooked the intersection where he died.” I discussed the song with a few female friends. The one man who could truly appreciate her was gone. both incapable of advancing. We went on one date the summer after sophomore year in college—out to the basic dinner at Chili’s and a movie. We were both passive in terms of love and lust. whose “Want what you can’t have” was sicker—theirs or mine? Another strange phenomenon I encountered was a female obsession with dangerous. She loved him madly.” “Hot?” I shrieked. They wanted the unattainable. We must have looked like a personification of two magnets approaching face-to-face. just tiny anecdotes.” they purred.
coming into the summer. She needed a few dozen years in therapy. Liz had mused that she “felt that she could really fall for” me. It never happened. and I was becoming less eager to be that trusty counselor. I had played that role with my female friends for years. When we did connect. imagine what she must have felt like. I didn’t speak to her until after the Fourth of July.) The evening was uncomfortable. Ouch. I considered the fact that if I hated being with myself on a date. neither of us knowing what we should be doing but perpetually focusing on what we wished the other person was doing. . we left resentful and disappointed. The following summer. And. realizing that I might have to go on another date with myself. I didn’t have the heart to call her for weeks. she immediately spouted. When neither of us did. Liz disappeared. but I started to realize that her “cute neuroses” were actually kind of scary neuroses. That.” This became harder to support in my mind when I later heard from Katarina that. She had taken a cushy internship with a promotions company. I had to at least keep Liz on the radar screen. of course. a job that made her into a downtown socialite—very much out of my sphere. The one-sided conversation deserved an NC-17 rating. I found unbearable. her recent sexual escapades with a late-thirties (they were getting younger. While it was slightly erotic hearing her talk about sex in such explicit fashion. balding Canadian guy.192 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY scene. Now. In order to avoid the torture of carrying these thoughts in my head. in vivid detail. I had no fresh date ideas. in my overanalyzing nature. and we could have a torrid romance. it was just getting tiresome. We also exposed our own limitations to ourselves. We stayed pretty much the same. I tried to gloss over them with the possibility that maybe “we just weren’t right for each other. at least). We kept hoping the other person would magically jump out of the mutual shyness and do something romantic. just in case something suddenly changed in one or both of us.
but I didn’t want to be lying there in bed. If she did. though her biggest goals were materialistic in nature. I thought that maybe she was trying to anger me into action—a trick that my mother sometimes used with my father. half-cringed because we were thinking similarly. maybe he would show some kind of emotion or leap into action. We left her apartment and walked in the dimming daylight. Apparently. I was wearing my Carl Jung caricature t-shirt. hoping she wanted to continue her aerobics—only with me this time. Promptly after finishing her “late night confession. Liz was a self-proclaimed liberal. and she was wearing her Freud shirt. “Ask her to get busy” came my immediate retort. “What on Earth did this guy do that I couldn’t?” I thought. listening to her yammer on about some hot old guy from the office. I accepted. she wore pants no matter what. When I arrived at her apartment. It was sickening—normally these inside jokes are reserved for goofy newlyweds. she was showing off more and more of her ignorance. and she continued to talk about the past few days with this man. Normally. Sounds dreamy. This was the only night I ever saw her in a pair of shorts. She didn’t want to seduce me that night. she talked about how they both liked wrestling and exotic coffee and Mercedes. FREUD 193 it also made me angry. on her thirtieth birthday. Then. the more I realized she wasn’t hoping to continue anything with me. she was feeling a little better about her body after the extensive Olympic-esque sexual training with the Canuck.” Liz asked me to come over and take a walk with her that evening. If she could just piss him off enough.PAGING DR. we half-laughed. Sure. doesn’t she? The more minutes that ticked away as she talked about other men. It wasn’t only about sex.” She never wanted to be old. I still wanted to sleep with Liz. The . terrified to expose her legs. she would drive the car off a cliff. She once told me that she wanted to own a brand new Mercedes by the time she was thirty. killing herself at her self-appointed “end of life. but I was desperate. Those Jedi mind tricks weren’t fooling me. I was going to be a substitute.
. The only thing her games were doing were driving me away. I was too annoyed to indulge her. By then.194 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY night ended oddly. maybe that’s what she secretly wanted from the beginning. with her clearly wanting a kiss or something from me. Then again.
We joked back and forth a little. and the atmosphere was pretty laid back. and I tried to fit her into an appointment time when I would be working the front desk. I was making more money than I could playing host at Bennigans. This perk came to a head one late afternoon as a group of orientation leaders gathered outside our offices. Whatever it was. wiser. A little while later. . We settled it. I also got to meet a lot of women coming in and out of our offices. seeing as how I was older. Maybe I felt that I had an advantage over other guys. Kim was cute. I packed up my things for Smoke Signals My senior year in college. just like my senior year in high school. with less gravity. I took a job working the front desk at the student advising center. and experienced in the ways of the various levels of schooling. with a freshness that reminded me of my first encounters with Jamie. A tall. and she returned to her group outside. It wasn’t a bad job.saw me gaining small bits of self-confidence. Perhaps it was the fact that I was close to the end of something—making the majority of my actions seem meaningless. The summer prior to senior year. innocent looking girl with dirty blonde hair came in and asked to make an appointment. I seemed to have better luck with women during these years.
I was surprised to find a response from her. so it wasn’t unethical. “If this doesn’t work.” I then asked if she wanted to go get coffee sometime—the typical first date routine for the Nineties. and school started. She was. Not knowing how else to get a hold of her. Just as I had planned. We caught each other’s gaze and shyly grinned. We exchanged a few more messages and decided to meet up at the coffee shop in a happening independent bookstore.” she used to punctuate her . It didn’t reverse my perception of the situation. freakish beast.” Bulls-eye! “I’d love to go to coffee. I then decided to go for the sure-fire test to see if she was interested. sitting behind the desk at the advising center. tailing the depression from earlier in the day. We were both students. but the intrigue didn’t seem as intense. Mostly. That afternoon. maybe I’ll have to resort to smoke signals. she might have been looking for the ATM. I knew that it wouldn’t persuade her. “It’s good you didn’t send smoke signals. Maybe I can have hot chocolate while you have coffee. my cowardice was convincing me that I shouldn’t ask her out—purely for noble reasons.196 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY the day and headed out. I wanted desperately to ask her out. I whirled around to see if she was looking at me.” Holy crap! I had scored a date! I wasn’t a snarling. I felt encased in failure. per se. I hadn’t conceived a solid plan to ask her out. We exchanged a few friendly words.” I started. acknowledging my dilemma. Of course. I tried to think back to the glance we shared in the hallway. I sent her an email. Kim and I made eye contact again as I was passing. after all! Here came the manic phase. I was overwhelmed with self-doubt. “You can’t beat old books and good conversation. “I didn’t know how to contact you. I saw her again a few days later when she came in for her appointment. Suddenly. A few weeks passed. I sent it off and waited. but I felt strange about it. No matter how funny and cute I may have sounded in my email to her. They would probably just end up mixing with the smog. I raised a hand and did a small wave to her as I turned and walked out of the building. About ten feet away. though I’m not really much of a coffee person.
Instead. I had gone from a passive extreme to the other end. I was in the midst of a drought. I should have stopped. She hadn’t. because she seemed genuinely interested and wanting to read the Danish philosopher. and she punched the accelerator soon after I closed the passenger door.” I announced in my most suave. sitting on various benches. pulling out one of my favorite tomes. “Hello. we decided to call it a night. so it surprised her a bit when I said I was still a senior. She offered to give me a ride to my car. It’s wonderful to see you again.SMOKE SIGNALS 197 date suggestion. We wandered through the rows of books. I led her into the philosophy section. I approached her from the side—in her blind spot. I stuck out my lips and gave her a quick kiss. to complete the image of a dapper leading man. God damn it. She slowly turned to me with timidity still glossing her face. “Why. I sensed that this almost knocked me down a few pegs on the impressiveness scale. I smiled broadly and leaned over toward her. I accepted. and just a few drops of water would go a long way for me. We tired of the bookstore and left to wander around the retail neighborhood. up several flights of stairs. and a lot of slightly probing conversation. She thought that I was full-time staff. . I drove down to meet her. I knew it was time for me to act. We pulled up to my massive car. though. Inside the bookstore. How many of any of my fellow students had read Kierkegaard? She earned points. After about an hour of walking. we settled into a couch and started up some banter about the University and our experiences with the advising center. She retreated. though the odds weren’t in her favor. “Ever read Kierkegaard?” I asked.” After we grabbed our drinks. impressed by her gesture. clipping a peach rose from our garden before I left. I should have stopped. The smile had melted off of her face. It melted off with her first words to me. baritone voice. hello. and I immediately knew I had blown the whole date. and I cracked a joke about it as a way to subvert any possible attack on my transport or my ego.
and besides. After several weeks. Okay. I had fucked up on the kiss part.” Soon. She was “too busy. but the date never actually materialized. I tried to ask her out for another date. but I apologized for it later. But it was maddening only having a conversation with myself.” I got very drunk that night—alcohol being the new way I mourned lost opportunities. so go away. I was stumped. .198 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY In the coming days. she found time to concoct a reason as to why she didn’t want anything to do with me. was that enough to deep-six me entirely? I knew I should just write her off and not talk to her again. Eventually. She said that she simply didn’t feel any “spark” between us. Hence another difference between the nice guy and the frat guy: the frat guy used alcohol to create opportunities. in theory. she responded to me. I wanted to know what her side was. She agreed. she became “too busy” to even return my messages. Translation: “You’re boring as hell. I only pulled it out to mark the death of one.
Voulez-Vous Coucher avec Moi? I took French for a combined five years in junior high and high school. I had never seen these kids before on campus. Were they hiding in chewed-out rat holes in the chemistry building? I also discovered that Latin is hard. the IHOP in Cheyenne is run by a couple of Muslims. I had the best intentions to learn a new language. I .) When I got to college. I started taking Latin my junior year in college because I thought it would help me with all kinds of languages. and I had masochistic tendencies. each nerdier than the kids back in junior high math. rather than pay for a $2. They may have been steer-roped after that. There were only about six students in the class. or at least it was before 9-11. to broaden my knowledge base. (Ironically.’ I opted to go for a sure ‘A. Why did I want to lower my GPA just to try and feel more intellectual? So. Too bad I lived in a part of the country that I’m sure advocated for “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” at IHOP during buildup to the Iraq War.’ By the time I got around to taking the language requirement. I needed to try to test out of the foreign language requirement or go ahead and take a full year.000 ‘C. I decided to follow in my brother’s very large footsteps and learn the language of love.
Alexandra still sounded like a teen girl. and the only thing I could think about was how to bunch up my classes between 10 a. I started smoking for this girl. I saw this a lot with college girls of my generation. rather than a jerk who is just in it for his own pleasure.m. thus sucking it up into their nasal cavity. and 2 p. I was flattered to have such a socialite as a friend for a few months. in class. minus the darker. . but I still needed two more quarters. for four days a week. J’ai fumé pour cette fille. Alex was a sorority girl of the highest order. Some had stunted their vocal growth and still sounded like squeaky pre-teens. Over time. I had a little bit of leverage. She was sweet and intelligent. gaining the desired ‘A’ with little problem. I cruised through the second quarter. To avoid exertion. I hope Alex eventually grew out of it. but true. I’m sure the partying had something to do with it.200 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY was a lazy senior. they talked with little breath. I didn’t want to spend a minute more than necessary on campus. This girl was a spitting image of Julia Roberts. I signed up for French. they did have $2 pitchers. they had learned to be ashamed of their voices. since I was a senior and she was a sophomore. despite the roaches and vomit on the pool tables. This was a typical scenario: the stunning. A vocal beauty was hard to find. and get to know. Many of Alex’s nights began at the nearby bar—the kind of place that would serve alcohol to infants. Even though I wasn’t cool or in a frat. sexy voice. One would think that a woman would like a nice guy—someone who is sensitive to all her needs. too. I got out of one quarter of the foreign language requirement. intelligent girl gets trapped into only dating assholes. When they got a little older. but did she ever like to party. The real bonus of the class was getting to meet. It was the hangout.m. like they always had a cold. and she exclusively dated frat guys. I could at least sling a good story about the campus or some of the professors I had suffered through. It’s sad. She most likely had her own code to every frat house security door on campus. Alex. Well. uncomfortable with her voice.
(Every straight male reading this book will nod his head in understanding. The group shrugged off the pathetic attempt to appear mysterious. “You should take the advanced section. and my Converse All-Stars to class. This was the perfect amount of time for a smoke break. Half the class—the cool princes and princesses of campus—would go outside and stand in clear view from the classroom window to light up. firmly sticking to my “easy street” plan. eroded jeans.) Alex asked me to take the class with her. Firmly in my childhood regression. exactly. I would stay behind in class and doodle or do a few laps around the hall. “Yeah. Alex. I didn’t. stopping to get a sip of water at the drinking fountain.VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC MOI? 201 Our second quarter French teacher suggested that Alex and I take the advanced level class during our third quarter. Most of the t-shirts were black—rockers have to wear black. But then. this was freaky to some of my classmates. but there . butting into the group and pulling out a Marlboro. We were clearly above the rest of the class. But back to the smoking… In the advanced. there are a lot of things you don’t know about me. well. “You’re so good at French. At first.” came Alex. “Oooo. as if I were a Narc. Maybe now I could be creepy-cool. I realized I was wasting valuable socializing-withAlex time. look out for the pensive guy!” But I started to smoke in order to counteract that creepiness. and this would push us to deepen our understanding. At first. and the fact that I was pretty quiet. “I didn’t realize you smoked. So one day I showed up outside. Sucker. in that Trent Reznor kind of way. Apparently. lowering her eyes slightly. would always join them. That.” First stop after class? The registrar’s office.” I coyly retorted. I’m not sure what the difference was.” she said. being the party girl with a reputation to uphold. two-hour class. I wore concert t-shirts. But then something happened to me. I wasn’t going to take the class. we had a ten-minute break between sessions. I was more weird than mysterious as a classmateturned-friend many years later told me. They all looked at my suspiciously.
I discovered. She also told me about her . I caught a comedic wave. I ditched my plans of telling her so. This struck me as odd for a house full of white boyz whose individual daddies had annual incomes comparable to the GDP of many small Asian nations.” I didn’t understand how “acquaintance rapists” translated into “cool. Her freckled face looked tanned and windburnt.” and we got together the following week. We swapped cutesy “bonjours” and went downstairs to start studying. Instead. We met up on a Tuesday afternoon at the library. shirtless. right after she had finished with soccer practice. and we laughed about stupid experiences in the dorms. She sighed as she told me about how many guys have told her she looks like Julia Roberts. Her warm-up pants were hastily put on. She was raw. I decided to ask her to join me for some studying. We sat by the windows with a clear view of one of the frat houses across the street. and God was she sexy. I decided I needed to act and have some alone time with Alex. “Yes. She still had traces of sweat on her neck and on her arms. with only about one-third of her t-shirt tucked in.” I wanted to tell them. My dating life sure did. shooting us dirty looks on their way out. I hoped that she saw the irony as well and that she was laughing heartily at them. and I was sure going to ride it like my life depended on it. but the conversation quickly dissolved into hysterical laughter. she said. Halfway through the term.202 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY was one. seeing the entire scene as a fun time with a bunch of “cool guys. “Fuck The Man!” the speakers would blare.” but what do I know? The two of us went through the vocabulary words a couple of times. We roared so loudly that a few of the other library patrons in the area packed up and left. “Hey man. This was a side I hadn’t seen in class. she was laughing with them. I told her jokes. Without pausing. “That’s YOU!” Alex stared out the window and started to laugh. The guys were practicing their favorite sport—hanging out on the remnants of the front lawn. blasting gangsta rap.
This one was a keeper. I got invited to the geek fraternity’s year-end party at a bar downtown. Very little studying got done there. interesting woman that. No woman under the age of 45 had told me that. a complex. I received a lot of confused looks—mostly from kids who had never seen me at any fraternity events. Toward the end of the year. made bad choices when it came to boyfriends. feeling my guts try to crawl up into my throat. The highlight of the evening ended up being when she told me that she genuinely liked my gargantuan 1982 Oldsmobile. unfortunately. I weaved my way over to the bar to get a drink. I went mainly as a favor to my roommate who was a Theta Chi brother. “Oh no. Despite our distractions that day. Perhaps that was why my dating life flatlined. I caught a glimpse of Kim. across the room. They had the highest fraternity GPA in the country. but my buddy tipped me off when I came in the door. We met up again the following week for some studying—this time at a Starbucks/Barnes and Noble. I could feel the common twinge in my heart—a signal that I could really fall for her. we both ended up getting A+s on our tests.VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC MOI? 203 life as the daughter of a corporate executive and how she loves to race motorcycles during the summers. Some bourbon might . “Alex is here!” he shouted over the throbbing bass of the dance hall. as we realized that we were just fine on our own. “What?!” I shouted back. we didn’t study together after that. blending into the crowd while I scanned the area. and I was left to compete for her attention in class. This frat had to throw a bar party in order to survive in the social scene. We ended up wandering into the bookstore and laughing at the Merde! book of “vital” French phrases. beautiful tomboy. Unfortunately. my premature kissing incident.” I thought. I made a point in college to never associate with that crowd. Why would one of the most popular sorority girls be caught at a nerd party? I tried to lay low. after all. After about ten minutes of looking around. I didn’t expect to see any talent. “Why is she here?” I was perplexed. She was a brainy.
204 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY calm me. “Aw. indeed. At first. After my graduation. I did this as a favor to a friend. The good news is I was able to ditch the smokes. She rolled her eyes. The reality was that Alex was too firmly planted in partyland. I shook her hand cordially. “Tad. “I told her that you gave me a birthday card. Au revoir! . and they saw me as perfect for nice guy situations— dinner parties with the family. I pulled an old fake-heart-attack humor trick out of the trusty bag. Wait! I want you to meet my sister!” She reached over and grabbed the arm of a woman I had seen before on campus but who didn’t look anything like Alex.” I reached out my hand. introducing me to the relatives. “I’m an officer for our sorority. If somehow we could have recreated that scene at the bar five or six years later. this is Jenna. The problem was that I was a nice guy. acknowledging that she was at a lame party. and I moved away from college life completely. Confused. “Ohhhh…this is the guy!” said smiling Jenna. “What about you? What are you doing here?” I volleyed to her. it seemed like a dream scenario. She had several years to work through that psychological state. Timing is. though. “Tad!” she exclaimed. everything. I waited for Alex to turn her head toward me.” I looked back at her for a few moments. I turned to the right and saw precisely who I was looking for. “What are you doing here?” she asked. nearly bouncing.” I smiled. I don’t really want to hang out here. The timing wasn’t good. Alex jumped in to clear up the confusion. also extending her hand. Alex went to France for a year. Was Alex interested but unavailable? Was she just unsure of the match between us? Did she want her sister to get together with me? Or maybe I was just a fascinating relic of niceness. Jenna’s big smile answered my question. She went to grab her beer and saw me in the peripheral. wondering if they thought it was cute or strange. or volunteering at the orphanage. so I kinda had to be here. But I was still left unknowing what THE guy meant. maybe it could have been something.
No kidding.Peg ‘O’ My Heart would be remiss to not mention a very important woman in my life. He taught the Joyce’s Ulysses class at my college and I started to believe that he knew everything there was to know in life. an Elizabeth Taylor. most talented men she had ever met. Really. a Lauren Bacall. Her husband. and she took it personally when I wasn’t writing poetry or painting. I would also scrub the bathroom and wait for their twenty-three year old cat to move from her chair so I could wipe up the fur. I would come to the house to dust the many bookcases and clean the piles of German Shepherd hair off the collector’s rugs. Each week. She was an art teacher and raconteur who believed I was one of the most handsome. I was her housekeeper. I spent almost every weekday afternoon at her house. doing those unmentionable things. No. I spent time on all fours. She was an extravagant woman—elegant like a classic film star. was one of my all-time favorite persons. there was never anything forbidden about the relationship. She was a professor’s wife—one of my favorite professors. She was more like a second mother to me. She was a Gabor. Burton. For my junior year in college. If he I . that is. getting into all kinds of nooks and crannies.
He was a big kid with a phenomenal brain. sipping iced tea and hearing Burton make us laugh. The smallest things fascinated him. He knew literature. He was a true intellectual but always kept the playfulness of a child. I will feel their presence at my wedding. I helped him with research on his crowning achievement— a book about the history of the Nobel Prize.” “Stupid girls. Both Burton and Peggy passed away before they got to know me as an engaged man. “So many of them are still in party mode right now. This was the only man I had met who over-thought taping a furnace duct. They don’t want to hang out and talk music and poetry and philosophy. .206 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY didn’t know it. The only thing that he couldn’t seem to grasp was simple home maintenance. Everyone seemed to be in their own bubble. I think he came at it too scientifically. religions. so she was no stranger to the social life of a college student. Many of her employee-children had difficulty in meeting someone to date and hopefully fall in love with. even math and quantum physics. She was appalled that so many people walked across campus without saying hello to others. oblivious to the world and all the interesting people sharing a campus. “I don’t understand it. either. he could certainly learn it—and hold it all in his mind. but I still wish that all four of us could have sat together on a September afternoon. Peggy would wonder aloud. Each week. This was also the wittiest person I ever met. too full of reason.” I would say. Peggy.” she would say. “What is the problem with these girls? They don’t know what they’re missing.” She had house help from students for years. The two of them were sympathetic to my plight as a nice guy. philosophy.
How was that possible? I knew if I attempted something similar. Nick apparently knew all kinds of women. Nick seemed to think that every guy was capable of being this way—an aggressive. gregarious extrovert with the focus and determination to get laid by any woman he set his sights on. ask her to go out with him. without knowing I needed one. and he had absolutely no identifiable social anxiety. and he had the outgoing personality that I knew it took to land a gorgeous girl. He was ultimately a salesman. It’s not that I was meeting a ton of women while in school. so he had honed the gift of gab over the years. upside down and backwards into the deep end of the pool. without flinching. I would probably trip over one of the lounge chairs. I was in need of a mentor.How to Be a Swinger fter college. The man could talk to anyone about anything. had become friends with a well-off business venturist in his late thirties named Nick. He could walk right up to a sunbathing beauty at the pool and. That would be the end of my life. Willy. He A . I found it increasingly difficult to meet women. My roommate and best friend at the time. He was a natural. slip on the wet tiles and plunge. I was in absolute awe. but at least I saw them—ones my own age and with our university as a common thread.
because that could be my only chance. whereas Nick was more like Rick James. Nick said he wanted to settle down with a woman. I felt the need to take a nap. much more Barry White. This was a foreign concept to Nick. fulfilling his emotional needs through physical love.208 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY reminded me of Steve in some ways. I could meet an attractive woman. They could be your waitress or accountant or cashier or even your doctor. rapidly. If I were with Nick. I would have to carry the shame and disappointment that I let another one slip away. damn it! If I didn’t talk to her. I wanted to be that confident rooster strolling into the henhouse with poise and the ability to follow through with my advances on any woman. Being switched-on all the time would take a lot of work. I had to seize the moment. I lost energy. anywhere I went. I would have to talk to her. anywhere. I could be that alpha male—nay. I listened to him and did what I could to emulate him. This way. he wouldn’t badger me about not going up to talk to the anonymous woman. And if I met a woman I was attracted to. but the important thing was to increase ones odds in the numbers game. especially since I was not normally the extraordinary extrovert. Nick’s theory on meeting women was that you had to be ready anytime. at the park. He also recommended that I should have three to five women on my “list” at all times. at the gym. knowing that at any moment. although Steve was much more smooth. but he had to rely on the only techniques he . While he gained energy in situations like these. I would get tense before going out. I would be so depleted after meeting two attractive women at a party. I had to be that alpha male in order to find someone post-college! This really began to warp my mind. Carpe diem. or at a hockey game. They could show up at the grocery store. Pretty soon I learned to stay quiet about any women we saw that I was interested in. Since Nick clearly knew his stuff. He was very much stuck in the college frame of mind. I would also have to answer to him. The biggest problem with all of this was that Nick (and basically every other guy I knew) had no clue about what he wanted. The names would change.
I wanted a girlfriend-the whole package. I needed some confidence. “How is that possible?” I wondered. love.” Just as women’s magazines have been doing for decades. miles away from any healthy knowledge about companionship and. but the featured females in the pictorials were something that lonely guys everywhere could appreciate. Maybe the cultural pressures of what it means to be a heterosexual man kept pushing me toward the physical stuff. I was lonely. How to get it? . Was I pursuing love or just relief from my biological drive? I was hopelessly adrift. the outside teaser title amounted to two sentences of vaguely related information. after all. “Score at will!” the magazine would proclaim. I would return home and see the latest issue of Maxim magazine lying around. I really needed love in my life. That seemed like part of the formula that I desired. Well. It made me less confident.HOW TO BE A SWINGER 209 knew--finding a sex partner. The potent combination of gorgeous women in their underwear and half-baked tips on getting dates had completely the opposite effect than what was purported.ultimately. Even after I had escaped the pressures of Nick. “Scoring at will” was usually a collection of quotes from three random. it didn’t feel like that was my primary internal motivation. the tips never amounted to much. anonymous women who had particular opinions about how men ask them for a date. just like a fresh college grad needs work experience. As unmasculine as it sounded. Even though virginity was still weighing on me. “I’m a nice guy. yet I was conflicted.
A large concern for the nice guy is how to deal with those women who are attracted.” I had my share along the way—women who wanted me badly. In high school I had a mini-admirer. the Universe gets us back.Murphy’s Law I absolutely believe in karma. We lust for the emotionally unavailable women who want the gay professor. literally. She wound up becoming president of . With some. Who wants to be with someone that reminds you of your own shadow side—the part you’re trying so desperately not to see? Blegh. We spun around and I inhaled that unforgettable blend of Rave ultrahold hairspray and anxious sweat. This girl was about 4’ 5” in heels and had dreams of being a housewife for some moderately successful shill. I remember dancing with a couple of obese girls. Some mirrored my own creepy aggressiveness and began to smother me with progressively lessdisguised advances. the married guy. Nice guys can be rather appealing to a sub-class of women. my apathy was based on shallowness—they just didn’t get me hot. but not attractive. Then. generally known as “les neurotiques. the old fart. but I was never interested.” French for “clingy balls of dysfunction. wanting to provide them with a fun evening but secretly hoping they would not fall for me.
she gently cleaned the wound and bandaged it. I think I may have met her cousin down in Texas. She and I overlapped orbits in another extra-curricular group. None of us cared that much about baseball—a sport in which grown men in pajamas stand around a field waiting for a ball to get hit to them. and Florence Nightingale came to my rescue. Many years later.” Nick. I came down too close to the concrete outer barrier. led by my admirer. skinning my knee slightly. “I just don’t see it. and she let it be known that she was ready to settle down immediately. since she could never break through my longing for the girls over whom I obsessed. A few of the girls. I piped in with. Willy. I was oozing trace amounts of blood.” She wanted to kiss my boo-boo. A nearby trio of females kept looking over at our table. Rob. repeating. They were far enough away so that we could not decipher which one of us was getting the looks. “That girl looks like Drew Barrymore. I was laughing the entire time. myself and two other single guys met up for pizza buffet during game six of the World Series. Our most telling moment came at the group’s end-of-year picnic. moseyed over to the table and . Nick. We were into more aggressive sports. and the bone ached a bit from the impact. “Yeah. with his salesmanship.” came the chorus of the others. Comforting me as if I had lost a limb. I wiped the sand off the wound and declared myself fine. in one of the sand courts. I would still be encountering these women. decided otherwise.” he proclaimed. I’m okay. We were playing volleyball at the nearby park.212 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY the Future Homemaker’s Association at our school. “Really. One seemingly innocuous night out with the guys turned into a mildly nauseating encounter with one of the women for which I had no interest. a rotund former champion rugby player kept making eyes at one of the girls—the more plump of the three. she kinda does. They dragged me over by both arms to the tailgate of a truck. On one dive to save the ball. though. ones with active defense and heavy hitting. One of them found a first aid kit. This didn’t help her cause.
but struck up a conversation with him. “What are you smiling about?” she asked. She half-closed her eyes and did her best to look sexy. More than anything. Having been tall and lanky for so long. but I opted not to.) There was something about her that was turning me off. Plus. “Well. adding that she thought I was really cute. If a woman has chosen to stay in Wyoming. Like one of the old sixth grade messengers. Funny.” she replied. I can’t see the stove.” I thought about telling her how I guessed she was from WHYoming. and I was obsessing over Maxim centerfolds at the time. It’s Murphy’s Law. I leaned back with a smile. The phenomenon of “Wyoming Ass” happens right around 19 or 20.” I said. “Oh. (That. They hesitated. physics-wise. I knew she was from my home state. just by looking at her backside. “I’m from this small town in Wyoming.MURPHY'S LAW 213 asked the three of them to join us. she was wearing a perfume that smelled like robust clover soaked in sweat. “I’m the only one that doesn’t find her attractive. I’m from Cheyenne. and guess who she goes after. Nick returned to our table to deliver the news. As crass as it sounds. amazed that I had nailed it. I sank back into my chair with an expectant. sure that it . Tad. not be chosen. she reminded me of whom she was not—one of the women in my mind that I so desperately wanted to be dating. “I can see you standing over a hot stove. “It figures. and the heavy eye makeup. you stud!” the others egged on.” The trio of women soon strutted over to our table. yet disbelieving grin. Suddenly.” Mostly. “Sproooiiiiing!” out she grows! As Groucho Marx once said. I thought I might do better. where you from?” I asked. but bigger than I was into. and Willy moved to make room for “Drew” to sit down next to me. the floppy butt. I realized it: she reeked of Wyoming. It was in the overteased dirty-blonde hair. “So. I think my mental cruelty stemmed from my neurotic need to choose the object of my affection. She wasn’t horribly overweight. The newly-anointed Drew Barrymore asked Nick who I was. yeah! Go. with a thin girl.
Of course. I ordered a Guinness from the bar. but she was under 21.” I turtled. I filled with dread as the day approached. a range I hadn’t dated in several years. plus. while she got a Diet Coke.” she would say. She also began to represent my failures with other women that I had wanted. Not only was she reminding me of all the women I tried to escape back home. but it did keep me from thinking about it too much. I knew it would make her night. We ended up exchanging numbers. to quit the whole obsessing game. Retreating. we talked on the phone once—about art. “Oh. coming back to it each time I started to bitch about my love life. My apathy for this particular girl drowned out any excitement that may have built up. It was immature of me. so I should go out with women I’m not attracted to? If I’m slightly attracted—fffshht—off the list?” I shot back. The week following. I figured that I could use some practice. Going out with her would be giving in to the forces that wanted me to settle for ones not on my “A” or even “B” or “C” lists. . At her suggestion. she would just fizzle out with. My mother had been emphasizing this philosophy for several years. to date women I would not have considered earlier. I could hang on to my neurotic ways a little longer. those sins are always revisited later.214 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY would fuel some kind of “we’ve got this connection” thinking. not going out with her at all and not calling her again. But it wasn’t like I was restricting myself to only asking out Victoria’s Secret models. With “Drew.” Nothing flared my temper more than the possibility of having to admit I was going to need to lessen my standards. the two of us went and shot pool for a couple of games. I believe—then set a time to go out. “Maybe you should give these other women a chance. no…that’s not what I’m saying. “No.
she was actually Canadian. “This is my roommate Heather. I can guarantee that you will eat well. Willy and I squeezed into the backseat and he announced.friend’s Canadian Thanksgiving party. We all glanced a little longer than we should Thanksgiving. Cul de sacs and courts and ways sprouted off each street in order to discourage shortcut seekers zipping through the neighborhood.” Cindy said.” He had a point there. We all took a step inside and got introduced. Nick and a friend pulled up in his Saab. I didn’t really know what to expect. Willy and I unfolded our long legs and headed to the door. at least get some good grub. Nick invited the guys to go with him to a female . She smiled and swept over the four of us with a quick surveying glance. Relieved to be getting out of the backseat. Eh One fall. Cindy is an amazing cook. Thankfully. We drove down south of town and into a painfully traditional suburb—brick ranch houses lined up along a curved street. but it was a reason to get out of the house. If sex was out of the question (with me it was always out of the question). A petite twentysomething with light brown shoulder-length hair opened the door and greeted Nick with an ecstatic hello and a hug. From behind our host approached a slylooking woman with long curly red hair. “Even if there aren’t any cute girls at this party.
plans were dreamt up and abandoned just as quickly. with some other guy in tow. So far. we made repeated trips to the buffet— slowly piecing together the equivalent of about three meals. This is where I needed Willy’s help. Each time the front door would open.216 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY have. Willy played for a rival of the other guy’s team. I began strategizing. I went for another beer. Eyes followed Heather around. athletic trainer kind of way. Heather began hanging out almost exclusively with a 32 year-old college hockey glory-days-clinger. Head gears were grinding. to contemplate this familiar space—not getting the girl. the plan backfired. Each suitor stood around the living room grasping his beer bottle like it was the most obvious parts of him. I thought he was . Willy eventually came to find me. Throughout the night. Out of the four of us. The more this guy talked about his hockey days. I also thought I sensed something from her at the front door. and loved talking about it. The competition for Heather was heating up as more men arrived and more beer was consumed. the more she was intrigued. Well. It often gets mistaken for intuition. distracted enough for me to strike up a conversation with Heather. Mine wasn’t great at the time. I stood around on the back porch for a while. she was definitely not the “hot friend” in this pair. I could tell that the competition would be steep that night. these were the only two women at the party. and Willy was going through a phase of low self-confidence. Of course. Nick was too old for her. At the two-hour mark of the party. He had played college hockey. then gently extended our hands out to greet her—four hands in unison. Willy introduced him as Johnny. I thought maybe they could get talking. Though Cindy was kind of cute in a short. seductresses have a way of planting that false sense of hope in a man. I felt pretty good about my chances. I would glance up and see the male guests take the extra long look at Heather. Johnny was overly tan with Clorox hair. We found our way over to the ample buffet and started snacking on artichoke dip and various cheeses. but I thought that my looks could get me by. Not only that.
Having been a Rush fan for many years. I didn’t know how to be chatty. though I couldn’t get past the fact that he was a spitting image of Tommy Shaw. trying to not sound too mocking in my voice. sun-bleached hair. or to how to close the deal. EH 217 the missing Nelson triplet.THANKSGIVING. Nick looked ready to go. “Yeah. the equally fading blue jeans. It felt like there was so much I didn’t know. cool” thing and found a way to excuse ourselves. how would I ever meet women? . Hopefully Johnny got in some kick-ass air guitar time while on the back porch. the long thinning. Willy and I did the head nodding. My new friend mentioned his band was playing at some dive out east of town the next weekend.) All this guy was missing was the Styx t-shirt. It seemed to work for some guys. (Yeah. getting drunk and chatting up co-eds. Now. the ripped shirt. going to buy new music instead of going to parties. This was par for the course with our little group. That isn’t geeky at all. He had killed the buffet. a progressive rock fan. I also wondered if my college days were wasted. to recognize if a woman had interest. and the lone hot girl was making out with an aging jock. I was cordial. Heather had settled in with her choice for the night. several years removed from college. Everything else was there. I was familiar with the aging rocker archetype.
the only car I could afford to drive was one my dad purchased while I was in college. Nick probably thought I was either gay or hopeless. two-door. Willy was still a neophyte in this strange dating world. The truth was that I just didn’t have any self-confidence at all. I had an ugly car. I got . My ride was a white 1982 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. it seemed. That man was approaching Wilt Chamberlain proportions. I couldn’t get laid in Vegas with a hundred dollar bill hanging out of my fly. He had the extrovert personality and lots of interesting stories—he had traveled and met a wide array of people. although not as forcibly as Nick. I docked. Willy would push me along. This thing rivaled a Hummer in square acreage. and I only dated sporadically in college. I hadn’t had a serious girlfriend since high school.Get in the Boat In the search for a woman. It was not unlike the one I drove during my senior year in high school. I didn’t park. Since I came from modest beginnings in Wyoming. Plus. I believed that the self-important Texas woman archetype ruled the dating world—beauty queens with an inch of makeup who only care about what kind of car a man drives. But Willy didn’t have anything close to the dating repertoire of Nick. They could decide your dating fate easily and mercilessly.
Women not wanting to go out with you gives you more self-doubt. We knew that Interstate 70 up into the mountains would be a difficult. I would have been carjacked. very straight-laced pimp. The trip out was terrifying. slow climb. To our surprise. I secretly loved it. I was ashamed by it. most college-age women did not want to be seen in such a monster. On the way back to Denver. during a typical Denver March snowstorm. I never got the opportunity to take him up on the offer. minus the small trip we took to Hoover Dam. I could have rolled in the ghetto with this thing. though. In 1999. the car made it out to Nevada and back beautifully. . I left her parked at the hotel the entire time. And so the cycle goes. I’m sure it was easier to do a U-turn in a semi than in this car. this was not a car for picking up mild-mannered. Self-doubt prevents women from wanting to go out with you. We buried the needle (at 85 mph) and made it back home in good time. I did not feel very confident asking out women. complimented. While in Vegas. despite all the people in their fifties who adored. my chances got stalled somewhere between.220 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY three gallons to the mile. I was out there trying. They loved it. But we were determined to go on this vacation. But. “Hi. So. only to later see my car with gold rims and hydraulics on it. each failed attempt gave me more self-doubt. We left the house around 6:30 a. but my potential dates did not. we even blazed past a few sports cars out in the Nevada desert. still. between the car and my introverted personality (and the gagging stench of my nice guy-ness). though. Usually. This was a true achievement in human automobile engineering…back in 1981. however. Women I asked out thought maybe I was a very.m. of course. and offered to buy my car.” and “Would you like to go out with me sometime?” And. Willy tried to help me out by offering the use of his Saab if I went on a date. my name is Tad. My friend Tom and I drove the car out to Las Vegas for Spring Break of our senior year in college. early twenties white chicks.
the Starbucks ten-minute break was perfect for sitting down. All the employees in our store smoked. we knew what they would order. This was clearly not my dream job. Just like in French class. no foam lattes for trophy wives on their way to pick up the kids from one activity and shuttle them to the next. I even partook of the barista-Camel alliance. The other baristas and I became adept at predicting people’s drinks as they walked in the door. I only smoked on . Prissy twenties women would undoubtedly order carmel macchiatos. but it was more accurate than not. and many of my business major friends would tease me about “living the liberal arts major life. It was stereotyping. Nonfat supervisor at a nearby Starbucks. balding men would get a large drip coffee. I worked as a barista and shift Double Tall. soy. having a smoke and drinking a free coffee beverage. We had never met most of the people. The grotesquely obese women would usually get the venti carmel frappuchino (the most sugar per cubic centimeter of anything on the menu).” It was humiliating—possessing a bachelor’s degree and carrying around thousands of dollars in student loan debt—all while making decaf grande. Mustachioed.The first year out of college. at least on breaks. but just by looking at them.
there was also a Dress Barn nearby.222 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY breaks. at least not in a romantic way. It was stylishly unkempt. Ms. since almost every college student had a Dali print on his/her wall. When I finally met Anna. She found him to be too clichéd nowadays. Occasionally. My fortune changed as we approached Christmas. We didn’t necessarily see her with any women. but there was something about the taste when combined with an iced mocha. Rumors spread that she was a lesbian. That got refined to bisexual. Mine was a very middle-aged store. Word was spreading rapidly through the males at the store that we had recently hired a young woman who looked like Aimee Mann (she of “Voices Carry” fame). but they did not work at my store. never really inhaling fully. but she was definitely cute. sweet as they were. and she mocked me for being such a big Dali fan. catering to families and older people that lived in the neighborhood. I didn’t find attractive. about two inches long and jutting out in all different directions. I had seen cute baristas before. There was an artsy movie theatre nearby that usually scared away most of the hotter women. The truth was it highly depended on the store at which one worked. quick-witted. Why don’t they just come out and call their clients “cows”? “If Bessie needs to get purdied up. and sharply funny. (Although. I discovered that she was even better than I had envisioned. we would have a really cute girl come in—often a clerk at one of the other shops in the plaza. Mann was never at the top of my sex symbol list. She had short dirty blonde hair. and she appeared to be an “alternative” type of girl. Anna was deeply intelligent. The chances of meeting women would seem to be rather great at a Starbucks store. She had worked at the art museum. The time off also gave us a chance to bitch about pushy customers who were far too tightly wound about a coffee drink. She also had a hard-to-peg sexuality. No one knew for sure. I kept talking . We also noticed that the only male she seemed to hang out with was her brother—and the guys at the coffee shop. bring ‘er down to Dress Barn!”) Most of my coworkers. What a horrible name for a store.
She was really buying into the whole corporate coffee management mentality. I realized that I was pretty high on the geek scale. so she was brimming with stories. “What?!” I exclaimed in my head. He was introduced as her fiancé. trying to dust off small clues that might reveal the side of the plate from which she was batting. and we both left a lot happier .) She was cute. She and I ran into each other only a couple more times. I served on the closing shift with her. I was looking forward to a normal. The last evening we saw each other was at a mutual friend’s party. we got a new manager (the fourth I had known in that single year. She came in to the apartment with a rounded. “She was a lesbian but now she settles down with a man…with him?” Anna had traveled to Alaska and Washington D. Eventually. for work. I got back contradictory statements and murky descriptions of past love interests. intelligent woman. straight. NONFAT 223 to her. or an odd new breed of female that sees no sexual identity in others. which didn’t fit well with the clump of apathetic “between jobs” employees we had working the store.DOUBLE TALL. The unexpected third person made me tense. I got to know a side I didn’t expect—a funny. or…whatever. almost portly guy with straight brown hair and tiny eyes. About a month before I stopped working at the store. and I’m sure he was a good guy. as all Starbucks employees do. but kept doing my best to win her over. I couldn’t stop staring at the geeky guy she was calling her own. I made her laugh all night. She had recently dated a “Chris” and a “Pat. On my next-to-last night. easy Saturday night shift with my best closing partner. caring.C. but seemed to have a crowbar up her ass. Was my timing completely off.” Maybe she was omnisexual. Anna moved on to a more permanent job. but balanced assessments go out the window while in pursuit of women. whether they were gay. At first I was dreading it. or was she just into flabby nerds? I realized that evening that I knew pretty much nothing about women. I was confused. He sat at a nearby table and played chess with Anna’s brother.
The entire proposition made me cringe and laugh hysterically at the same time. “Everyone in the store will shake their heads at me. no date. and I told her that she was beautiful. and I didn’t ask for anything in return—no phone call. but I don’t think I was the right guy for the job. I wanted all those things. Or was I? I became hyperaware of my motives. Once I was free of my coffee-making duties. She never responded.” as she became known. was to actually help my former co-workers. Naturally. though it never materialized. I decided to ask her out. could go on alone for longer. telling her that she had shown me a side I didn’t expect. it might soften her up. This was one of the more insanesounding things I had done—asking out “the coffee bitch. Noble. I thought. I had broken down her tough exterior. She wanted to go out with me (or so she told me). A little psychology is a dangerous thing. and I finally settled on a hope that she appreciated the compliments and that she went about her life with a brighter luster. so what was a little more? But when would I stop expecting different results? .” The other employees hated her strict. The note was nothing but complimentary. My niceness quickly took over.224 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY than normal. I thought that maybe she just needed some reassurance about her beauty and womanly qualities. but I didn’t come out and ask for them. no nothing. My goal. for one. I was sure that if I could take her out and show her a good time. just like the ones before her. I had been doing it for years. I just never learned. I decided to write her a brief note. She had come out of the manager shell. We traded a couple of messages and spoke on the phone once. though. I considered all possible angles of why she disappeared. I wasn’t doing this for the returned favor. and I tried to advance. humorless management style. I.
This phenomenon does not happen with the asshole. I was lucky to have numerous friends. both male and female. coming up with the full amount in just a few hours. Odds were that one of us would have luck. helping me search for a girlfriend. so a victory for one nice guy is a victory for all. We’re all in this together.look out for you. The two of us went to work on our lists. Another nice-guy-in-arms was my friend Jim. After a dab of editing. I posted my list on my website. That’s it!” I exclaimed. A one-night stand for an asshole is only a victory for him— another “notch on the bedpost” or however they keep track. (The list is included in this book as Appendix A. One night.) Now it was just a matter of getting women to the site.” The idea was fueled with spite. I laughed a bit while shrugging and taking another sip of my lager. “We’ll create a list of 101 reasons to date us and post it on the web. my buddy Willy and I were commiserating. but it was also strangely hilarious. a working dad 101 Reasons One positive of being a nice guy is that other nice guys will usually . wondering what female would ever want to be with us. “I bet we could come up with a list of a hundred reasons why they should date us and they still wouldn’t!” he proclaimed. “Wait.
Let’s face it—the first date and a job interview are very similar. The list. he had sent her to my website to check out the 101 Reasons to Date Tad. cool person. She had seen pictures of me on my website. is it?” Jen and I were to go to dinner one rainy Thursday evening. sweetie. Apparently. In both. She thought I sounded like fun and asked if I would write her back. but I was going into this blindly. Knowing that Jim would never try to set me up with a total dog. I discovered two emails from an unfamiliar woman’s name. Upon returning from a summer trip to visit my grandmothers in the Midwest. just friendly banter. was working. Jen was proof that ordinary women could be swayed by a silly bit of cyber-boasting. Maybe it was the cockiness that turned her on. In this case. He ensured me that she was a looker and a very relaxed. the other to my personal account. someone who worked with my friend Jim. She introduced herself as Jen. She replied to me and mentioned that she was an All-American soccer player in college and wanted to look into some pro leagues. I realized how much dating was like a job search. so all I had to do was prepare my canned. “But really. I wrote her back. and offered to help in my search. so she was trying to adjust to life as a regular working shmoe. He knew my dating frustration. why did you leave that last job / break up with that previous girlfriend? It’s not because you attacked the manager with a letter opener / revealed that you like putting on a wig and singing along to Cher. One was sent to my work email. I actually had a kind of resumé. we at least attempt to shine it up. At the same time. slightly smarmy answers to banal questions. It had gotten me an interview. but she blew out her Achilles doing something completely unrelated to the sport.226 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY who had a white-collar day job and a night job at the same Starbucks where I worked. Her prognosis was hazy. I asked her some questions about her current and past life—nothing too encroaching. I drove down to her . only relying on Jim’s guiding wisdom. however humorous in its original intent. and if there is any shit out in the open. one tries to present the most glowing façade available. Welcome to our world.
almost hitting my car. Soon.101 REASONS 227 apartment complex on the far south end of town. I could envision her as a rancher’s daughter. and the thick rain infuriated my searching eyes. I had most of a face. making her look as if she had been crying. She was tall—about the same height as me. creating more and more shadow. I wanted people to pass by this fishbowl and see me—Tad.” I volleyed. I could see how she might intimidate a lot of guys. slowly allowing the crevice between eye and nose to appear. her father worked for the banking industry. built big and strong after years of helping with the cattle and horses. as well. While we waited for our dinner. Her wet flaxen hair drooped over her head.” she mentioned. I looked over to her drawing. referencing the photos of my paintings. the former freaky eighth grade wimp—out with this jock beauty. We both went to work on our small drawings. I got lost circling around the identical gray buildings and garages. which was a trait I wasn’t used to in my dates. handing her a couple of the crayons. “Oh no problem. “I loved the art on your website. We drove through the thick rain to a glass-walled Italian restaurant. “What’s next?” I felt as though I had better pull out my very best moves for this date. we sipped wine and she asked me to draw something with the crayons and butcher paper. But you have to. There were still raindrops on her peach cheeks. just as Jim had promised. Subconsciously. She pursed her lips in a way that suggested. “Okay. running around the back to greet her and open the passenger door for her. It’s lucky I recognized the car from the website. relieved to be back on familiar road.” she replied. I lightly sketched over the same areas repeatedly. I started with curves and shadows. She was quite attractive. when suddenly. I jumped out of the car. She . just brushing against the tops of her shoulders.” I apologized. I hit the brakes and pulled up the parking lever. “Sorry about that…I got a little lost in there. Jen leapt. In reality. When our salads arrived. I’ll draw something. I started to head back toward the exit to try everything again. I got back in and steered out of the complex.
I realized that I should be trying to meet the fathers of the women I . Dinner conversation flowed. since I felt a little strange about coming to a family party for our second date. so she would most likely trust their opinion.” I told her in an email. and we ate gelato outdoors on a nearby sidewalk patio. and I savored my chicken parm. Jen. therefore. Physical contact was no guarantee. romantically. I figured at the very least I should have a good meal on a date. Through reading and observation. “For Tad. I could tell there would be no philosophy or literature discussions with her that night.228 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY had drawn a soccer ball with a shadow underneath and to the left. “I’d love to come to your sister’s party. I also figured that I could do one of the things that nice guys do so well—woo the parents.” “I like it.” I said. were drawn to men who held similar traits as their models for masculinity—their fathers. I drove her home and gave her a hug. I stuffed myself. we could both sense that enough had been done and said for a first date. I was too lonely to be picky about the activity behind my dates. After about half an hour of browsing the books. She invited me to come to her sister’s birthday party two days later. We then strolled around the neighborhood a little and into the largest bookstore in town. Women. though she did the girly thing and ate a tiny bit before declaring herself “full. She looked lost from the second we set foot in the place.” Since I was buying. but a damn fine Italian meal was. We left the restaurant and caught the hour of sunlight wedged between heavy rains and twilight. Having studied basic psychology in college. Arced over the top was written. The parent relations actually gave birth to a new dating philosophy for me. I told her I would think about it and let her know the next day. to people who mirrored the traits of the opposite sex parent. I took her down to the ritzy area of town. I thought I should test out the theories of attraction. unlike a lot of other girls I had dated. I didn’t even need to sleep on it. I didn’t answer immediately. smiling. had a healthy relationship with her family. I knew that people subconsciously attached themselves.
I picked up a moderately priced bottle of cabernet sauvignon as a gift and headed down to the party. “The women will want to be with me. and introduced me. It’s brilliant!” I thought.101 REASONS 229 wanted. I want you to meet my parents. They had both been to my website. “Ohh! You’re the guy with the website!” exclaimed her mother.” cooed her mother. I knew absolutely no one at the party. I’m glad you liked it. Oh crap…the woman had been to my website. though in this case it was mainly a result of four glasses of wine.” Perfect. If I could just meet them and study their character. I choked on my nervous laugh and simply responded. “Uh. my introvertedness eventually took over. but they won’t necessarily know why. some of those were good reasons. “Hey. and I occasionally looked over to see what her parents were up to. “Yeah. I started to sweat a little. getting down mannerisms and vocal intonations. that Tad was batting a thousand.” added dad. So. so they had enjoyed the website. “Hello. “I really enjoyed the 101 reasons to date you. “We enjoyed the site very much.” Double crap.” piped in her father. thinking about the reasons on my 101 list that mentioned the Kama Sutra. but what did that mean in terms of me going out with their daughter? She was several years removed from college. But she did seem to want their input about how I presented myself in the virtual world. Tad. so she could certainly make her own decisions about guys. As she approached I was reminded of her height. Jen saw me coming to the door and sprung from the table to greet and hug me. She led me over to their table. Her mom had a doting smile. thanks. come in. Jen and I chatted back and forth a little. We had a small cheering section on the other . and though I tried to strike up meaningful conversation with a few people. testing ground number one was this birthday party for Jen’s sister. I would have a better chance with their daughters. Apparently.” Okay.
I tried her line again. but maybe we can go get coffee while I’m on a break. Nothing. All I could think about was what must have been said to her the previous night.” Jen walked me a few yards to my car. When it got closer to two. For some reason. The party wound down. I had visions of The Gong Show.” I announced in a solid Shakespearean delivery. I walked out front to join Jen and her clan of friends who had known each other for about a decade. All I got was voicemail. The minutes of her working day dropped off. With two-dozen eyes on us. including a thanks for the night before and a suggestion for three o’clock coffee. goodnight. I went on about my day. “I bid you farewell. rating me on some maleness scale. so her friends were ultra-protective of her. I opted for a hug rather than a kiss. It’s the considerate compulsion. We stopped under an overhead light and looked fully into each other’s face. A few people gave a polite. Sensing my cue to leave. I wanted to cheer for us. “Or. The following day around noon. in other words. “I have to work. I could feel them all looking me over. but I was doubting how strong of an impression I was making on this second date. Jen was a sweet girl who had had serious dating troubles in the past (bad choices).” I was relieved that she still wanted to see me. Silence outside. Still no answer. and soon it was into the early evening. I was disappointed that I didn’t reach her. “’night. but I was still in the game. I still had not heard from her. “Why don’t you call me tomorrow?” she proposed. I was just waiting for Jamie Farr to wind up and smash the gong on me. . I called her office line to see if she wanted to grab mid-afternoon coffee. as a whole. but thought she might just be at lunch or away from the desk. I left her a quick message.” I sputtered in desperation to break the silence. I stood up and addressed the group. “Gong! Gong! Gong!” inside. too.230 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY side of the room. waiting for a return call. and I did the nice guy thing by helping her dad and the others clean up. The night felt awkward.
or the dating guardians slandered me and changed her mind about continuing things. I emailed her the next day. The missing reason to date me was the endorsement of her friends. but it wasn’t enough to prove the theories of attraction. I realized that 101 reasons were one too short. She gave me a very nonchalant response that she was working from another desk and didn’t check her voicemail.101 REASONS 231 once I had driven off. requesting an explanation. I formulated all kinds of horrible comments her friends could have made. Daddy’s ok helped. Either her cowardice pushed her into arranging a third date with me. . She made no attempt to reschedule the date or suggest a new one.
I developed a large network of female friends. See the difference? I had set up shop in The Friend Zone—a terrible parallel universe to the dating world where the nice guy begins to feel .Surrogate City From ninth grade on. though. It actually reinforced my nice-guy-ness by making me more aware and sensitive to female needs and wants. “Maybe he’s gay. here’s a quick lesson: Gay men want to have sex with other men. it didn’t necessarily increase my chances of dating them. Let the psychoanalysts explain why this quality kills off the romantic desire of a woman. People started whispering. After college. people. I didn’t go on a legitimate date for about a year and half. I slid into a horrible drought. it’s the law of the land.” Okay. I just couldn’t get a date. really sucked. Mainly. All I know is that in high school it really. This meant that I got to be around them. Not many males rush to join the groups that discourage drinking and drug use. with few females on the radar screen. this arose from the extracurriculars I was doing— the “helping” areas. Who would want to be associated with that? Bad boys drink and smoke and all that fun stuff. The plus and minus of being in these activities was the fact that I was greatly outnumbered by women.
trying to live the life of a rock star. I subconsciously found ways to get some of my needs met without all the messiness of a real relationship. yet have no sexual desire or romantic interest in him. a completion of my long.” These friends became surrogates to me—filling many more needs than a “sugar-free” girl could do. Since I wasn’t actually dating any of these female friends. The man is powerless. Not so. Picture if you will: a young man who is attractive in a Classical. “If you’re shopping at K-Mart and expecting to find Gucci. . I developed patience. not me. Nee-nu-nee-nu…neenu-nee-nu. especially as I waited out women’s final few years of party mode. arduous journey. Something needed to catch fire. I would take them out to dinner and pay for them. The missing parts required an exceptional imagination. Some of us became movie buddies. It felt good to at least be hanging out with attractive. go to plays and concerts. I counseled them after another asshole broke their hearts. I kept telling them. Roman senator kind of way. you’re gonna be disappointed. He has entered The Friend Zone. interesting women. I still returned home alone. And all the guys at the restaurants and bars and theatres could think that I was really with the women. maybe a lot of the guys I saw over the years were really just out with a hot friend.234 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY asexual and undesirable. watch hockey and eat pizza. He meets woman after woman who seem genuinely interested in him. The only problem was. but was it going to be worth it in the end? I had no sign that there would be a happy ending. even though he composes poetry and thoughtful sentiment for the women. Surrogate relationships got me by for several years. Who knows. My female friends did such a convincing job while out with me that a lot of my other friends thought the desired damsels were genuinely interested in me. That’s the most important part—making the other guys burn with the envy that had scalded me so many times in public places. They hung out with me but lusted after other guys.
round. almost sloppy. I became more intrigued as the weeks went by. If they were too attractive. She was a little older than me. I slowly started to piece together her job and relationship to other employees. with full. not gorgeous. It took about two months for me to actually hear her voice. She was actually quite athletic and in shape. back on a college campus. Olivia was definitely pretty. scurrying into our suite of offices like a dark-haired mouse seeking out food. girlish voice. I normally saw her in colorful.Fishing off the Company Pier I met Olivia at my first real job. She played softball and lacrosse when she was able to escape from work. At first. giving off the impression that she was chubbier than the reality. I would hear cute little giggles in the hallway. yet billowy clothing. but she spoke with a soft. She was an accounting-type that worked down the hall in a group of offices that the school kept tucked away from the rest of humanity. Prior to that. Her voice made her seem even younger than her smooth face and small stature implied. I wasn’t that interested—just curious about who she was and what she was doing in our area. tanned cheeks and slightly down-turned eyes. I noticed that she was quite cute—about 5’ 7”. but cute—the way I tended to like women. She would occasionally emerge. .
I took note of them from the corner of my eye. we existed as strangers to each other—never speaking and hardly ever running into one another in the hallway. Through lunch and into the afternoon. I needed to find someone a few notches below—back in the real world. A colleague from across campus called around 10 a. Mine was the “slow drive through the country” approach to dating. quite unexpectedly. I must be pug ugly. I got my opportunity to break the ice. discussing monthly budget numbers. it usually took a lot longer to accomplish the result I wanted. I noticed that Olivia and a co-worker were sitting at a table nearby. I became an engineer of complex schemes. coming out of the blue since we had never really spoken. but at least I had a chance. It’s not that I didn’t think of myself as attractive. The problem was. I occasionally glanced at the waiting tickets. and it usually prevented (or at least delayed) me from having to come right out and ask the woman for a date. The tickets sat on my desk. It gave me something to do. especially early on. starting with Maureen. One day.236 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I was sure my passes would flop. I eventually figured out that I would need to change this empty coexistence.” and went to pick them up.m. My passes might still flop. saying. But nothing got more involved than that. I wanted so badly to ask Olivia to go with me. and I would silently check my mailbox behind her. I could be a little more sneaky and a little more creative in my approach. Never realizing that I might actually be considered attractive to the opposite sex made me consistently fall back on strategy. I said. I decided to ask her for a date. and asked if I wanted her two tickets to the night’s Colorado Rockies baseball game. but didn’t stop. I . For months. Instead. Sometimes she would be making copies. I just had the notion that since women weren’t coming up to me and blatantly hitting on me. “Chicken! You wimp! Why can’t you ask her out? You’re 24. not 15!” On a trip to the bathroom. “Sure. They seemed to mock me. but I thought it might be too sudden and weird.
“I’ll probably take my nephew.” I pushed. I love baseball. as if to remind me of how rude my interruption was. and in front of the co-worker.” “Oh…thank you. “Would either of you like tickets to the Rockies game tonight?” I loudly inquired. in that way. I would have to act. “So. I’ll stop by when I’m done here.” “Okay. The expected knock on my door soon came. by simply offering to give her both tickets. how much do you want for them?” she asked. I received an email from a friend of mine asking if I would like to go to the game with him. though I knew I would be torturing myself through the night wondering what it would be like to be at the game with Olivia instead. dramatically turned in my chair.” I said. I could probably use them. I laughed at the coincidence.” She emphasized the last part. yeah. She blushed and half-laughed.” I handed the envelope to her. “Nothing…they’re yours. Satisfied that I had at least broken the glacier-sized ice block with the enigmatic Olivia. “Now you can take a hot date out to the game. I said. He’s about the only man in my life. “He’s always drawing pictures for me. “Oh yeah. there. I knew I was taking a coward’s way out. “Uh. “Yeah. Somewhat surprised. Olivia spoke up and said.” I probed a little bit. how old is your nephew?” “He just turned five.” she said proudly. but it didn’t seem right to ask her then. You should come by my office and see them sometime. and suddenly felt a rush of verbal confidence. While there. I returned to my office and waited. clearly breaking apart their discussion. He’ll love it. and agreed to join him. “They’re in my office.” “Great. and that she was so selfdeprecating in her response.” .FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER 237 knew that Olivia had been placed in my path for clear reasons. After a stop at the restroom. I came back by the table and interrupted the two. and I slowly.” I was stunned by the fact that she did not have a boyfriend. I’d have to pay someone to go with me.
loves kids. about her family. It was a future date—an abstract. that’s nice of you both. I had a date. .” she said. This was going perfectly. I approached the conversation.” I replied. The exchange was not a failure.” I said.” I delivered the line comfortably.” And just like that. But here it was: opportunity presenting itself. The day after the game. I was alone in the hallway with Olivia. and the other person said good-bye and left. “I have a thank you card for you—my nephew even signed it. we had a great time. but a date nonetheless. have a great time at the game.” pointing to me. since I did not plan on seeing her in the hallway. warmly. She was discussing the baseball game and how she had finally seen the Cubs play. Well.” “Oh. despite my resistance to ask her to go to the game with me. My comedic reflex kicked in.” she said. People think he’s dyslexic or something. It also gave me opportunities for follow-up conversations—about baseball. “That would be fun. She didn’t hesitate with her response. maybe sometime we could go catch a game. it was time to strut. starting to close down the brief encounter. like I hadn’t planned it at all.238 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY “Perfect…I’ll have to do that. She looked over and proudly announced. “I got the tickets from him. She gave a short laugh. I caught her in the hallway as she was talking to someone else. and I turned to look behind me. very vague. I learned vital information: no boyfriend. As if taking my cue from a script. though he writes his name backwards. “I’m just glad you had a good time. “Yeah. has tremendous self-doubt. about the adored nephew. I basically hadn’t. Hey. spontaneously. Like John Travolta and Bart Simpson before me. no-specific-time-set date. “Thank you for the tickets.
I stuck with the sports theme and suggested. I was slowing down with the end of the school year. and pictures of her nephew. I scanned the four walls. She said that she played a little bit in a recreation league. and I hardly even saw Olivia. We had some casual conversation about the workday and stress levels. I asked her about the lacrosse stick. a globe stress ball. I could have just walked down to her office. “We still need to go to a baseball game. pretending to have a purpose other than hitting on her.” . I strolled down the hall. but I didn’t want to develop this image of being the lonely guy down the hall who hung around other offices and chatted desperately with the annoyed people inside. a desktop fountain. a small.Just Think About Baseball Several weeks went by. a Colorado Avalanche insignia hockey puck. On the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend. Her office was ideal because it had all kinds of odd items to comment on and ask questions about. yet brightly colored traditional Honduran tapestry. and almost as flimsy. I finally decided to see what she was up to. but wasn’t very good. and she was gearing up for the end of the budget year. spotting a lacrosse stick. I’m sure I was as transparent as Saran Wrap.
“Alright…when do you want to go?” I hadn’t gotten that far in my plan. but I knew from past dating experiences that a nice guy should never celebrate until he is actually on the date. frivolous statements about how fun it would be. I returned to my office feeling as though I was legitimately back in the dating game. She was backpedaling a bit. but here I was again. Willy. the tickets were pretty much useless. suddenly giving me doubt if this might actually happen. saying that she could indeed go to the game. like she had genuinely forgotten our conversation from a few weeks prior—the one that had me feeling so alive and confident. I had spent about $50 that I didn’t really have to spend. About an hour before I needed to leave for the game. I began to get nervous.” she said. I immediately jumped online and looked for tickets to Sunday’s ballgame. and I had to do some damage control. We are so easy to cancel on—too many women had done this to me at the last minute. and I paced around the house. Sunday came. Otherwise. “C’mon. though. hoping Olivia would call. I handed her my number along with a silent hope that she would not back out. I pretended to ponder some possibilities for times to go. None of that mattered. I tried to ease her fears with additional. it’ll be fun. the phone . “What’s your number so I can call and let you know for sure if I can go?” she added. I still needed directions on where to pick her up or meet her.” she nodded. He assured me that he would.240 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY “That’s right.” “Umm…what about Sunday?” I suggested. I just wanted a “yes. but it didn’t matter because she was going to call and that she would go. or if she didn’t call. I appreciated his confidence. She started to look up and said. With a few clicks. “Okay. I told her I would get tickets. so I asked my roommate.” I pushed further. I had been absent for a few years. if he would want to go to the game if Olivia couldn’t. “How about this weekend sometime?” She rolled herself back from her desk a couple of inches and glanced down at her feet as she let a grin move across her face.
” I sank. “I knew she wouldn’t go. and Olivia spoke. I’m at a housewarming party. “I’m sorry to hear that…yeah. I recognized the name on the caller ID as being one of the people from the office. then.” I proclaimed. trying not to show any disappointment in my voice.” “Okay. This added to my growing list of reasons not to stay at the game. attempting to navigate through the fog of narrative in order to hopefully find where this conversation was leading. We spent the game in the left field stands. I’ll see you on Tuesday. “I’m not going to be able to go to the game…I’m sorry. sorry it took me so long to call you.” I muttered. . well. we’ll have to go to a game sometime. Not really wanting a memory from the day. I promptly put the cap out for the Goodwill truck.JUST THINK ABOUT BASEBALL 241 finally rang. By the seventh inning stretch. realizing that my worst fear all weekend had now come to pass. we grabbed our free souvenir baseball caps and headed to the exit. but we’ll definitely have to go some other time. “Tad.” I announced. I hung up the phone and turned to Willy. feeling our skin catch fire in the sweltering near-hundred-degree heat. and I didn’t have your number with me.” she offered as consolation. “We’re going to the baseball game. I did the guy thing and replaced disappointment with tones of my prophetic predictions. hi. I got my roommate to scrounge around the house and find your number. secretly wincing.” “Oh. I answered.
much to the surprise of some of my buddies. I also figured that she now owed me a date. Knowing that she was an English major as well. She thanked me for the creative “exercise” and suggested we go to . I couldn’t let that discovery go to waste. but craving it anyway. Much to my surprise. I emailed it to her. It all began when I found her title in the on-line directory. even if the something was her turning me down at the last minute. I thought I could possibly catch her fancy by penning a poem that invited a response. In the middle of June—polar opposites on our charts for busy-ness—I decided to fill some time by composing a playful limerick about her. listed as “manager of fiscal opera.” cutting off the “tions.” This was too tempting. not necessarily expecting a response. hopefully making it easier to land a real outing for the two of us. My invitation to play was joyfully accepted. I pulled together a comedic. We felt like we had been through something together. inviting limerick for her to enjoy during her busiest time.The Manager of Fiscal Opera The weeks after the near-date were casual between Olivia and myself. It was G-rated. the next day opened to a limerick of her own in my inbox.
I started to doubt her interest in me. my interest in her. We lobbed several dates back and forth. and conversely.244 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY coffee. but couldn’t find a good time. .
I still attempted to help things along. One day in mid-June. I didn’t know from where they had come. the plants were wilted. The following day. I was going to plant them. but I thought I had created a way to alter their poison organically. so I was open to the idea of growing these gift tomatoes. Something stopped me. only to discover six tomato plants on my front step.Tomatoes Days passed. This time. Many of the letters ended in rejection. I was only withdrawing because I had visions of her insincerity about wanting to date me. I had forgotten about them and didn’t water them. resting in a cardboard soda can tray. unconventional ways. though in clandestine. By the middle of the week. I began turning the soil in a shady patch of . I stepped out my front door to check the mail. She was never gone from my mind. looking more like seaweed than tomato plants. I set them in the back of our carport and told myself I would plant them later. My brother and I used to help mom garden during the summers. I poured some water on them and set them in a place where they were protected. and the communication frosted over. I went back inside and rounded up a stack of old letters I had from various past love interests. I picked up the tray and went to throw them out. I had an idea—a crazy idea.
The flames rose quickly and died just as fast. I dug small holes and placed the individual tomato plants in the ground. My fertilizer appeared to be working…and working well. one-inch square pieces. piling them in the center of the bowl. When the harvest came. They were approaching six and a half feet tall with stout stems and robust leaves. but it was often after dark. some only charred around the edges. I was ecstatic. “It was the best tomato I have ever eaten. and generally preparing the earth.” she stated. saying how she had eaten one of the tomatoes the night before. I decided to go check on them. It was not enough to simply plant tomatoes—that was never the goal. it needed to spawn a new love—one grown (quite literally) from the ashes of the old. I did a masterful job pulling out weeds and grasses. I scattered the ashes and letter remnants around and tilled it into the soil with my fully outstretched fingers. I got an email from her. I irrigated the plants regularly. my mouth dropped open in amazement. I then lit a match and touched the pyramid of paper in several spots. I watered them and waited. I let them do their own thing. breaking up clods of dirt. The garden was thicker than the surrounding bushes.” she told me. Several weeks after planting. I picked several exceptional tomatoes and presented them to Olivia—the woman I wished to be my new love. and at least two-dozen green tomatoes hung in place. In a week. As I approached the garden. The cool.246 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY my backyard. I waited for the bowl to cool. The smile on her . moist soil felt as thought it was ready for this experiment. “Oh my God…Holy crap!” The plants were massive—larger than any tomato plants I had ever seen. She thanked me again and asked when we could go to coffee. For this project to be completely organic. “I love tomatoes. I returned to a metal bowl and the stack of love letters. Some pieces burned completely. then carried it over to the soil. waiting to mature. I tore the letters into rough. graciously accepting them. I caught her in the break room later and talked to her more about the tomato. and I didn’t necessarily check the plants with any great detail.
the love letters. I went ahead and told her the story of the planting.TOMATOES 247 face was warming and highly sensual. and the fertilizer. Knowing her poet tendencies. She just smiled. I knew I was slowly winning her over. . She didn’t flinch or blink at all.
She asked if I wanted to go to . I walked in as she was starting to order a cup of tea.” she said. This was my one chance to impress her. She looked up and laughed slightly. Finally. that sounds fun. “Bring your favorite poem with you. She refreshed her smile.” I slipped to her when I happened to catch her at the copy machine. I had difficulty concentrating at work all day. so I had to make it count. there are so many. I ordered my usual Americano The Heart of a Poet One day. “My favorite poem. eh? I guess I’ll have to pick one. “Hey. I asked that we incorporate that into the evening. See you tonight.coffee the following night—a Tuesday—at a nearby trendy place. Tad. I immediately said yes. feeling giddy about the coming date.” I tacked on. I started to dream up ways to make our date unique— something memorable for her that would distinguish me from all the other guys. more businesslike than welcoming. Knowing that she liked poetry.” “Or bring a couple. my opportunity had come. Olivia surprised me. “Okay.” She arrived at the coffee shop a few minutes before me.
too. but I declined to press on the issue any further for fear of sounding opportunistic or predatory.250 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and added a little half-and-half. family. my right side has been neglected for some time. That’s why it was so fun to trade poems with you. I couldn’t pick just one. “He’s kind of like you.” She giggled. but unfamiliarity. but I still knew I was on the right track. “She wrote The Color Purple. “Sure. “Will this work?” I asked. I asked her what her ideal vacation would be. of course. I guess—working in business.” Pause.” She paused and looked over to me. her friendships.” I was thrilled at the way this was going. dating life. A few minutes into the date. I hadn’t exercised that part of me for a while. “I don’t know…I like a lot of her poems. he was an insurance salesman. this is fine. Who would have guessed?” I noted an easy analogy. I pressed on to find out more about her current life.” she announced after answering the few mundane questions. and we were assisted by a series of outdoor heaters. “What did you bring?” I reached to test my coffee for drinking temperature. but also tend to the right side of your mind?” “To be honest. and already I had her testifying about secret longings. It was October. “Alice Walker. and. though rather mild. The inside of the shop was packed full with students and aging hippies with their eyes intently in books. “I don’t know…I would probably just fly to some exotic location to see a really great . “What’s that all about?” I asked her. I perked up my ears. so I brought the anthology. “How do you do it? How do you keep that business mind. so I’m adjusting again to being single.” I nodded in slight recognition. “It’s Wallace Stevens…American poet. Apparently. “What did you bring?” I inquired. I asked about her work life. We opted to sit outside with the banished smokers. but the heart of a poet. It was a little more dramatic in my mind. “I just got out of something not too long ago.” I watched her set down a book with about a half-dozen pale yellow sticky notes attached to various pages.
Not many people I run into know of them. heavenly Vincentine.” she proclaimed. “Maybe if Fish got back together with Marillion to play a show. hoping this could be another key to the seduction. I knew I could excel in this request. and she stared back at me with pursed lips in an impressed smile.” she said. I paused and performed an actual double-take. the last song I heard on the radio in the cab was Marillion’s ‘Kayleigh.” I read it more clearly than I had read aloud before in my life.’” “That’s pretty cool. “Your dress was green.” I said with sincerity. With years of theatre under my belt. “This is a piece called. took a sip of my drink and flipped to the bookmarked page. “Wait…you… you know Marillion?” “Yeah. prog rock isn’t exactly a passion of hot women. ‘The Apostrophe to Vincentine. I grinned. I was expecting the typical reaction I received to Marillion references—stumped. Something rare and memorable.” she urged.” This statement should have passed right over her. yeah! That would be awesome!” she squealed. was whited green.) “Oh.” she breathed as we settled into a new level of connectedness previously unimagined. so lean. I drew it to a dramatic close. “Wow…that’s amazing. “That sounds like a great idea. my baritone voice rising and dipping in key lines. when I was leaving London on my study abroad trip. turned Vincentine. “Wow.” I stopped and tried to hold at bay the feelings that this woman was my destiny. Green Vincentine… and that white animal. I really can’t believe it. “Why don’t you read your poem.’ I inhaled the crisp October air and began to read the poem.” I noticed her mentally transporting herself to some imaginary location. turned heavenly. I used to sing that song ‘Lavender’ to my nephew.THE HEART OF A POET 251 concert. “How do you do that? You have such an amazing voice.” . I love them. “Ya know. (Again.
with all the dangerous qualities and psychological traps.” I interrupted. I had already begun the alchemical process. but also fatherly advice. “Why?” I asked. “Whoa. golden image we have in our minds. “You’re just way better than me. Richard knew the tomato story. hanging onto her defiant claim. I thought the coincidence was too funny. scampering away from the main event of the evening. “Alchemy” was his description for fooling oneself into believing it is possible to change a person. I know you can read poetry. wait. thank you.” she said.” she muttered. too…How about you now?” “I don’t want to read now. My poetic mind tossed out the possibility that Richard had come to claim the shirt as his own…and to bless my rendezvous with Olivia. “Don’t do alchemy. I slid Olivia’s book over toward her. I glanced over her shoulder and saw my sagacious theatre friend Richard going up the small flight of stairs. right?” I looked back over to her. “Please?” “Maybe later.” she proclaimed. She counteracted. the other proposed coffee dates. “I just saw a friend of mine go into the shop. Olivia looked at me. and especially the limerick exchange. there’s no way I can read like that. “Well. We’re not comparing reading styles here. slowly drifting back in my black aluminum seat. I could see her . into the coffee shop. As we sat there in the newfound silence. I suddenly realized that I was wearing a shirt that he claimed to like so much. Still no sign of her coming back. “You should still read. It’s just one of those gifts. “What?” she probed. I’m sure you’re great at it. prompting her to read.” What she didn’t know was that I had been telling him hundreds of details about the situation with Olivia. moving it back over to the center of the table. My dad had the voice.” he admonished.252 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I relaxed my posture. you were an English major. I gave out a quick laugh. but was devoting equal amounts of time to convincing myself (and Richard) otherwise. into the glorious. He was moral support. and I ended up with it. We played our silent chess game for a minute or so.
Look over there or something. so I pushed a little more. She grabbed my arm and pulled me down into my seat. reading poetry to each other as the sun blazed through the window shade. She read about sunflowers. then quietly started in. “It’s no problem. I closed my eyes to imagine her reading in my ear.” she countered. thanks. It meant that there was a future after all. “That was excellent.” I announced.THE HEART OF A POET 253 contemplating. Really. this was our authenticity. no. just read it. “But don’t look at me when I’m reading. longing. “Okay.” she said. in private.” She directed my attention to the street. the night. I’ll be okay. and I opened my eyes. I had attained a solid emotional form. “Ohhh no. “Okay. She closed her book. No longer was I an inauthentic human.” I tried to reassure her. It’ll be fun. one that could be loved. us. I started to focus on the blue hump of a mailbox. “C’mon. This was a perfect moment.” she said. thinking. I could visualize us lying in bed on a Sunday morning. It turned out that Olivia lived only two blocks away. Finally I had connected with her. This evening represented possibility. wandering. I stood up and applauded her. I began to feel my own reality. That’s okay. It’s just around the corner. “No.” . We talked precious little for the remaining twenty minutes. Go whenever you’re ready. and I pictured a Van Gogh. “I’ll walk you home. and I was able to hear and see her as a real person—a person out with me. and my new sense of potential self. I’ll look over here.” I declared.” She gave out one last pout. as well as loving. Without thinking. I just want to make sure you get home okay. the experience.” She hesitated for thirty seconds or so. only reacting. “Stop it. but we savored each second. holding hands in a European art museum. I could exist beyond that day. then conceded. I filtered out the laughter and the political discussions around us to hear her more closely. We strolled that way and paused at my sedan. also in the direction of my car.
All I could see were the tan walls of my office. But it was gone. reading poetry to each other. though very confused about what the next step was. okay. and it also ruined the story for me. and perhaps the discomfort of having to explain me to her siblings (her roommates).254 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I recognized her resistance to my romantic advances. I tried to recall the sunflower from her poem. so she dove into me and wrapped her black leather coat arms tightly around my torso. I strode into work with a big smile. with my arms outstretched. Each time I told the story. good-night. accented by realizations of my alchemical tendencies. My few requests were drowned by excuses. My excitement drove me to tell everyone I could think of. Olivia and I did not go on another date. I could hardly feel the ecstasy of the night before. The next day. This led to my return to the land of mental relationships. inviting a hug. the vision of us together. I was happy. This was acceptable. it lost a little sheen. The power of the evening began to fade. . “Well.” I said. alone. I had to report on the big night to all my friends who had heard the build up. By the time lunch came. then. Needless to say.
but it didn’t matter. or as a way to keep themselves distracted from something internal. My disgust was growing. They leapt from boyfriend to boyfriend. A . These were the sick thoughts that scared me. Intellectually. This sounds clichéd and obvious. I came increasingly closer to crossing over into misogyny—the souring of best intentions. either as a symptom of a short attention span.The Growing Darkness s I wandered the full landscape of attempted love. I wanted to hurt her for all the things that she and past women had never given me or dared to give me. I would never do anything truly sadistic or brutal to act them out. But I started to realize a human being’s full potential for evil is a dark experience that many people purposely try to avoid. if only because my ego felt that I deserved to make someone hurt emotionally in the same way that I had been hurt. I knew they were all lonely and pained. The twist? I wanted this only so I could break her heart—pure emotional warfare. With Olivia. I desperately wanted her to feel about me the way I felt about her (and about women like her). How does one cross over to “the dark side”? The frightening answer is: surprisingly easily. Their pain did not come from me. So many of the beautiful women I knew and lusted after never seemed to know loneliness.
to write love poems. But just as I made love to myself for lack of the real partner. I needed to distribute it—to say tender endearments. curdling with embarrassment. I only had to imagine her smiling. or in private imaginary conversations. I seemed to be reaching critical mass.256 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Olivia’s and my “relationship” was okay for a while. We could make love whenever and do all kinds of adventuresome acts. I liked keeping it in an imaginary state. though. . My reactions to emotional impulses for this woman may have been exaggerated to begin with. Emotional pain. In a way. Some would say I was needy. the impulses once called “love” became vengeful. so would I turn the anger and punishment inward. giggling. I always said I had little tolerance for physical pain. I like to describe it as if I always had a capacity. to buy flowers. a “storage bin” of love to give someone. Whenever I felt my deep hunger rumble. happy to participate in the fantasy. When they lay exposed before both of us. perhaps. but I always wanted to give my love and have it be accepted. On paper. I could tell her all that I could think to say about love and my deep-rooted feelings. Nothing was more frustrating than meeting a cold slab of disinterest or pure disdain. was a hobby.
“A poly—you know. brown eyes. I take that back.” “A what?” I asked. Her prerequisite was mostly just that the woman had to be breathing. she likes to write.” I said. She is boisterous and . Alicia and I were out having coffee one night when she realized she should try and set us up. a polyamorous person. Several years ago. unfamiliar with the terminology. really outdoorsy. Alicia began to think of women with whom to connect me. Alicia explained. after realizing that I was not interested in dating her. You should know that she’s a poly. One of the more notable experiences came when she introduced me to a young woman working in a partner organization to Alicia’s environmental non-profit. “What’s the catch?” “There is no catch…well. You’ll like her—brown hair. There was no rigorous screening test.” “Sounds good so far. “I should introduce you to Sarah.” Poly Want a Cracker? My friend Alicia is an amazing person.beautiful. Most of the ones she came up with seemed quite random. with equal passion for racial issues and for setting up lonely souls. The only thing that came to mind was Pollyanna. but I don’t think that’s what she meant.
I thought. and a black North Face fleece vest. then went on to college in Washington. too. but I was also very desperate at the time. both Sarah and I were attracted to each other. I was a little forgiving in my initial psychological analysis of Sarah. had been to England on study . She still had visible freckles around her nose and cheeks. Her teeth were sort of rough and slightly darkened. She had on hiking boots. Alicia was our set of training wheels— keeping us upright so we could get the hang of things. She was still very attractive. not shiny and polished like a beauty queen. She finished up her teen years in Oklahoma. we can at least meet up and see what happens. She had straight medium-brown hair. She. It turned out that she was also from Wyoming. jeans. “Well. We had to keep it a triage for now until Sarah and I felt comfortable enough to be on our own. just long enough to cover her neck and ears. Her solution? Sample from the smorgasbord. but in more of a raw. It seemed strange that a self-described polyamorous person would still feel uneasy about meeting new people.” I exhaled. but plain and very little-to-no makeup. This was pretty common wear for a twenty-something in Denver. and she would be calming down into a nice. The coffee date went well. She was very Colorado in her look—pretty. The Dr. “She has multiple boyfriends at once—she’s in very open relationships. She looked like she probably had taken a few dives off of her mountain bike and/or skis. thinking that maybe Alicia had just caught her in the heart of party mode. Phil in me screamed that she had intimacy issues and would never be able to get close to a man for fear of being exposed as the insecure little girl she was. Maybe she’ll be hideous and this will be an easy decision. mountaineer kind of way.258 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Blank stare.” Alicia arranged for the three of us to get together one evening. We met at one of Sarah’s favorite coffee shops downtown in an historic neighborhood near the Capitol Building. slutty. though she had moved away much earlier than I had escaped. stable relationship any day now. This sounded fishy to me.” “Ohhhhh.
and we discussed the possibility of a New Year’s Eve party—at my house. They would take care of all the invitations and food and decorations and other arrangements while I was gone. . Before I left. I was rather forgiving in my early assessment. The following day. Picture the most uncomfortable school social possible. Notes of popular songs dangled in the air. I was leaving for a two-week Christmastime trip with my mother. as a girl I was there to see ended up dumping a bowl of M&Ms over my head. though she only seemed to remember the alcohol she drank. just drifting around enough to fill the aural vacancies. I wasn’t cutting it as a fifth grade Romeo. That event ended poorly. I had flashbacks to a silly boy-girl party that a classmate held in fifth grade. Alicia thought it a good idea to set something up with Sarah for when I got back—right around New Year’s. but everyone too bashful and inept to follow through on it. the planned evening was focused on that one moment. each attendee secretly hoping to play Spin the Bottle. This was a very elaborate set-up just to get Sarah and me together for one evening. The first two hours of our party were fine. but all to act as witnesses to my planting a big one on Sarah. Apparently. we would all reconvene at my house when I returned and put on the big bash. The crowning event for many people on New Year’s is to kiss at midnight. Alicia patched Sarah and I through on a conference call.POLY WANT A CRACKER? 259 abroad. Then. with girls and boys adhered to opposite sides of the room. I felt increasing pressure. Could Alicia get the poly and the nice guy to kiss? This seemed like the time to try. She and I were going to meet up with my brother (then living in London) and go to Venice and Paris. Unbeknownst to me. Again. as Sarah’s friends (far outnumbering mine) continued to ask her throughout the night what she thought her chances were with me. as people drank wine and ate fondue with Sarah’s donated forks. all with little chance of hooking up with anyone else. The two women had pulled together a random group of people. But that was what Alicia was all about.
Lord only knew when this problem would be remedied. Sarah’s best friend picked it up and started reading. Almost a full minute passed until I finally kicked myself hard enough to act. The group inquired as to what she found. The fear to perform overcame me. but dealing only with dating issues. as long as I got my own satisfaction…possibly any of these roads would have kept me from where I ended up: torturing myself over my stale. “Who’s the worst kisser you guys have ever made out with?” I began to shrink. I choked. looked quickly into her cinnamon eyes and kissed . By mistake. If only I had been more assertive from early on…maybe if I had learned from Vince and gained tips from Steve…maybe if I had befriended alcohol and become one of the beer-swilling.” “Ahhh. subconscious or not. “The section on kissing…tips and techniques and things to avoid. She lightly covered her face as she continued to giggle.260 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY Fifteen years later. She exploded with laughter. where I didn’t care whose feelings I hurt or bridges I destroyed. A clear disappointment wove its way through the crowd. Worst of all. non-showering frat boyz…if only I had experienced a completely different past—a life as an asshole. which immediately drew everyone’s attention to her. I was still a virgin. I was starting down the backside of the twenties and had been alone for several years. Midnight struck. gangsta rap blaring. I had left out a copy of The Worst Case Scenario Guide to Dating and Sex. One person threw out a question to the group. I felt a part of me crawling up in the fetal position. This random grouping of people had come into my home as a chorus of my past—acting like boastful teen-agers—to collectively point and laugh and punish me for my niceness. I grabbed Sarah. this evening was becoming more surreal by the second. unwanted chastity. I had no greater embarrassment than that of my inexperience with all things in physical love. and seeing as how I was a nice guy. terrified of the conversation and how it would inevitably come back to me. The book is a special branch of the tepidly popular Worst Case Scenario survival guides.” came the collective voice.
I chuckled to myself. 12:01…close enough.” She clearly wanted to have a reason to see me again. splitting a chocolate torte. and suddenly. but then settled into a full. The following week we arranged to go out on an official date. then gave a quick follow-up kiss. We pulled apart a few inches. we caught the attention of everyone in the room. kissed again. She paused initially. As I cleaned up at my house. we went to a twenty-four hour coffee shop where I showed her some of the pictures from my recent Europe trip. remembering what I thought was lost forever. I felt enormous. let us stay a little while after officially closing the restaurant. unexpectedly powerful kiss. we found each other in the kitchen. I thought it would be fun since she loved Europe. We shared a bottle of wine. buried in the middle of a subdued neighborhood. Sarah and I looked around at the others and smiled our best little kid smiles. yet we lingered. I noticed that Sarah had left behind her fondue forks in plain view. and through the delirious haze of too much champagne. Most importantly. finally just the two of us. I was smart enough to recognize a “leave behind. and many laughs. sympathetic to the romantic cause. Still eager to continue the date (quite good for a Tuesday night). Soon.POLY WANT A CRACKER? 261 her. The owner. Though I was inexperienced in the dating world. thus she decided to leave something behind that would require her to retrieve them. A little later in the evening. Sarah announced that she needed to get going—to be ready for her snowshoeing adventure on New Year’s Day. and . I was back on the proverbial bicycle. While this was probably an amateurish move on my part. the melodrama from a few minutes before pulled up and started to leave town. political rants. My chest swelled. mostly just in amazement that I had recognized the trick. This time. I took her to one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Everyone else retired. We grinned at each other. We kissed again on the front porch—several times—while her friend stood freezing by her car. there would be another date. When the silence hit bottom. back into the darker recesses of my mind.
I recalled the Kim incident when I dove in for a kiss prematurely. mostly because I was still in shock from the reception I had gotten to my line. The night crept closer to midnight. even before I left on my trip. What would a polyamorous girl want with a guy like me? She probably felt like she was out with a twelve year-old. she had said she wanted to see the pictures.” I said in my best Barry White tone. She got out of the car and gave me a small wave through the foggy windows. Being a nice guy. .262 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY it gave us something to talk about. I didn’t offer to walk her to the door. Plus. This is one of our downfalls: thinking people say what they mean. then I pulled back and foolishly opened my mouth. I thought this meant that she actually wanted to see my pictures. I must have reeked of rookieness. so I knew it was time to take her home. I took a mental step back and simply wished her good night. I pulled up outside her apartment building and leaned over for a kiss. We made out for a minute or so. “You keep getting more beautiful every time I see you. She shot back a look of slight disgust. letting the niceness take over.
my dear friend and former English professor. She gave me the kind of phone sympathy that one hears upon announcing that a dog has been run over by a car. Such a wonderful man was terrified. His lung cancer had assumed control of his body. He had machines breathing for him. Burton. I had never been in that close of proximity to death. crushed from the existential questions and mourning of impending death the next day. All he had to do was blink his eyes.Love and Death The following day. I thought.” It’s not like I . I called her cell phone and told her about Burton and my likely unavailability in the coming days. do you want to give me a call when you feel better?” she asked. so I wanted to give Sarah a heads-up about the situation. I went to see him in the hospital—knowing it would be the last time. He was connected to so many tubes and wires. it looked like science fiction. slipped closer to death. and he was down to the final few days. It felt like life was imposing its bipolar will upon me—ecstatic from new love one day. That was an odd way to phrase it. This seemed like the courteous thing to do. This wasn’t a matter of just “feeling better. I realized that I would probably be caught up in funeral preparations and such over the coming week. “Well.
I don’t want to hurt you. I think we should see other people. Peggy. At least a few women were strong enough to paste together a hackneyed “good riddance” line. Burton passed away that Friday after being removed from life support. waiting for the final phone call from their doctor. Burton did not have a formal memorial service. Pick any of the following. I declared the whole thing over. silently and cowardly. I’m not gay. She was done. there was less funeral preparation for me to do than I had thought. The nice guy becomes familiar with the dead air on the other end of follow-up calls. I dialed her number but didn’t get her. etc. Take a long walk off of a short pier. Nothing.264 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY had a case of food poisoning. It was wishful thinking. I sat all morning with his bedridden wife at their house. had retreated. I would rather make out with a frat guy (too honest?). and he was cremated. as if her actions were justified. and there were also practical matters—taking care of his wife. could not attend any memorial that would be outside of the house. ladies: I like you as a friend. Sarah. As it turned out. It was such an inconsequential end for a brilliant man who illumined so many lives. Nice guy limbo had returned. I waited to hear back from her. as she was usually traveling through the mountains from one extreme outdoor adventure to another. a fairly common occurrence. what with the inexact science of cell phones and all. Go hug a landmine. like several others. She would offer no apology. back into her polyamorous life with dozens of random sexual partners. but I will. I told her I would call when everything was sorted out and I had time to go out again. helping deal with any kind of final arrangements. After a full twenty-four hours from the second call. I called her again two days after the first call. since it was possible she didn’t get the first voicemail. no explanation for the disappearance. I left a message and asked about seeing her again. limited to a tiny radius of movement. I was ready to call Sarah again. I left another message. I was grieving the loss of a friend. By Sunday (four days after speaking on the phone). but .
Thankfully. She didn’t even call to reclaim her fondue forks. . etc.LOVE AND DEATH 265 I’ll learn (props to Homer Simpson).” I never got an apology or an explanation from Sarah. they all thought I was a better catch and deserved at least a respectful “so long. none of her friends thought she should have treated me that way.
A loudmouthed. in the event that Sarah might show up.Hello Again few months later. The lingering guilt flushed her face. She came over and wedged herself between us. His eyes settled on Sarah and started spouting things that sounded straight from a rap song. along with her social friends. not unlike the one I received after our dinner and coffee date. I didn’t notice her on one of the couches. I returned it with a sarcastic raise of the eyebrows. A . He had no subtlety. smallish blonde guy sat down beside me and started sizing up the women across the way. accompanied by a quick swig of my drink. I saw her sitting there. but as we made the rounds of introductions. yeah. I wanna get some a dat.” She feigned a shocked reaction. I made it through the small talk and tired jokes. I was feeling a little anxious about the evening. Alicia changed jobs and decided to hold a party incorporating her work chums from the recent job. and talked loudly about the various women’s assets and flaws. “Oh. She gave me a playful look. When I first walked in. With the help of several Seven and Sevens. sinking into the back cushion. She gave a quick wave. then yielded to his wishes. Why donchu c’mon over here next to me. girl. We gathered at a trendy martini bar downtown.
oh why did she ever introduce me to Sarah in the first place?). This was supposed to be high-class living. The night. I was glad that I had an out. We never talked much. I saw Sarah a few other times in social settings. Thankfully. I never got to expose myself to her epidemiologic stewpot. With minimal disrobing. My sleepiness combined with my spiteful. nonchalantly. While I would have loved to hang out more with the drug dealer and my dear friend Alicia (why. He pointed out places in downtown where the heroin trade is hot and who controls certain territories. not the band). After a couple glasses of wine. He discussed his own selling tendencies.268 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY The evening quickly wore down. Tacky. the drug dealer Casanova grabbed a half-full bottle and led Sarah up some stairs to the open aired bedroom above. The degree of venereal disease between the two of them could wipe out Asia (the continent. I felt a bit jealous. I hitched a ride with them to a light rail stop and got some unexpected insight to this young man’s mind. I had to get going. since I was sure I didn’t want to witness Sarah in full party mode. but also curious as to how . I came upon a site for a broadcasting company. The blonde guy next to me said he would join her and Alicia for the party. a full seven months after the drug dealer incident. I had a legitimate excuse and declined to go. I decided to Google a few people I knew. the swanky loft party became white trash quickly. sick humor. Based on Alicia’s report the next day. She invited anyone who wanted to go to join the party. as if talking about the way he prefers to mow his lawn. got much more interesting without me. though. I guess he needed a variety of ways to make a living. something I had wanted to get into for years. She was listed as a copywriter. This guy looked rather innocuous—nothing like the National Drug Council’s stereotypical dealer image. they each got what they needed—just a quickie on the host’s bed. I checked out Sarah’s name. What would there to be to talk about? “How’s that syphilis?” Around Thanksgiving. to keep his options open. just for shits and giggles. and Sarah announced that she was going to some wealthy hotshot’s loft for a party. to be generous.
She had taken Sarah as a last-minute “date.” “Vaguely…” I replied. I remember talking to this one guy who said he was an executive producer for some local film group. “Well. Sarah started talking to him.” “You’re kidding. Sarah has her way. almost in tears. “What’s so funny?” “Oh no! I don’t believe it!” she squealed.HELLO AGAIN 269 she landed that. “Tad. and eventually went home with him. I talked to Alicia and told her to check out the website. looks like the casting couch is alive and well. I knew exactly where this was going. then suddenly exploded into laughter.” I paused. The next day. “Yup. that’s him on the site! It’s Greg—the guy from the party!” “Oh.” “Mmm-hmm. I recalled a discussion about some party with a bunch of artsy types. even here in Denver. “Well.” . She scrolled down the pictures and bios.” I started. geez…I can’t believe it. do you remember me telling you about this one party a few weeks ago?” I searched my memory for the story.
Alicia insisted on setting me up with someone else. The event was memorable.) Two crazy Caucasians driving the same black car. but kept a watchful eye over her choices. But she was definitely cute. (Thankfully I had downsized from my ‘82 Oldsmobile Oil Tanker. especially with the imagination of a horny teen? If a nice guy’s virginity falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it… Even after the debacle that was the Sarah dating experience. This brought Alicia to hysterics. Monica was just over five feet in heels. She gave me a very brief description of the woman. One evening after a movie. Since she knew a hell of a lot more females than I did. it had basically become a footnote. She was thin. she asked if I wanted to meet someone. I agreed. What could possibly live up to that. the way her oversized brown eyes matched the dark . with a thinner nose. She was pale and shy about her body. Alicia thought of matching us up because we were supposedly very similar—and drove the same car (color and everything). She also had to swear to not introduce me to any more polys.Losing It By the time I finally reached that perceived holy land of lost virginity. and I said I would at least meet her—no big deal. but not the grand event that so many years of build up and anticipation had predicted.
no big deal. One Monday. While Alicia took care of a few things. Monica and I hit it off. Alicia’s phone rang and Monica was inquiring about my availability. Alicia then helped us connect on the phone and coordinate a first date—a Sunday afternoon picnic in the park with smoked Gouda and a gentle red wine. We hoped that the spontaneity would work in my favor. Apparently. “Wyoming. Monica and I made small talk. and we both sighed as the ice was successfully broken. Alicia took me along with her to drop some things off at Monica’s office.272 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY roots of her bobbed blonde hair. and she responded. as I was horribly inexperienced in the ways of dating and relationships. Alicia’s former part-time workplace. Alicia and Monica chatted a little more before we left. It was great practice for me.” I then picked up a small rectangular box nearby and pointed to the bottom-right corner. like we were moving through an instruction manual. We alternated staying over weekend nights between her place and mine. We would fool around.” She then lifted up her hand and showed me on the back where the city was located. My stereotype of sturdy feminist women gave way to the reality that they could still get giddy over things like cute guys. Within twentyfour hours. She laughed. I was knee-deep in grad school. but it all seemed mechanical. Michigan. If I wasn’t interested. but no sex-sex. This was more of an ambush than an arranged meeting. (Though. but there was nothing forced about it. It allowed Monica and me to meet. this is a Michigan thing. “Grand Rapids. I asked where she was from. I felt good about the initial meeting and gave Alicia the “ok” to follow up on it. I was enjoying myself. I was in. Monica had just finished her master’s degree in counseling and specialized in women’s issues. This was the first time in a long while I had made it past the ever-crucial third date. I returned the favor by saying. and we were both starting new jobs. kissing on that first date. Things started to accelerate and we saw each other several times a week—quite impressive considering she lived forty miles away. Since the state looks like a mitten. she later . people use their hand to show others where their hometown is.
so I had to utilize what was there with me in the basement. She decided it was time to fulfill my wish. Great—my first time was starting to look like a blooper reel. she darted back to the bedroom and under the covers. I even did the foolish thing of promising her that the same would not happen to us. This was completely reasonable to me. (I’m not making this up. It was around 10:00 a. In the process I knocked over a votive candle that I had lit earlier. Hey. I reached up to the shelf above me and grabbed for the box. though she knew that the goal of this time was to finally enter me into the world of intercourse. After freshening up a bit. I wanted to find some good music to go along with the scene. he had evolved into a human. By now. . at least I was getting some human contact! Monica resisted my urgings.) We went through the common foreplay. enough to warm her up. “Okay!” I spit up. the time came. but as more of an urgency.” came sliding off her tongue. I felt that I couldn’t wait another day to shed myself of the burden of virginity. I pushed for sex—not in the heavy-handed assholish manner. I could hear every single woman I was ever attracted to laughing in the background like a nightmare laugh track to some doomed sitcom. I settled on Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Toward Ecstasy. so I stepped back a bit.) As we moved further along the physical love continuum. “I’m okay…I’m okay. “Why don’t you put on a condom.” I repeated to myself. I didn’t have access to my full collection. on a lazy Sunday. The flame snuffed out as the glass holder tumbled to the floor. “Shit!” I exclaimed. The morning after the Cubs officially qualified for the playoffs. We had woken up only about an hour prior. The proverbial monkey had been on my back so long. spilling hot wax on the wall and carpet.m. as she had rushed into sex with prior boyfriends and subsequently had her heart broken.LOSING IT 273 revealed that she almost broke it off then. my little trooper had started to fall into “at ease” mode. I went yard. feeling slight singes on my forearm. Finally.
. Cubs win! Cubs win! The irony of the event was I did the complete opposite of what so many virgins before me had done and what Steve had warned me about before our proposed virginity relief journey many years before. The good news was there was no premature anything. I went with a friend of mine (one of my surrogates) to a mutual friend’s wedding. which was enough of an answer for me. but mostly through the blah-ness of the relationship. anything. still nothing happened. nothing came of the other relationship. I got everything back on track. Monica was crushed at our breakup. I could hardly stand it any longer. It was a role I did not embrace. but at the wedding. pretending one was the other. I didn’t feel the need to humiliate myself by stumbling through yet another “Don’t you think we can be more than just friends?” speech. But I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to Monica if we continued on with the charade. and I hit the home run. She sort of laughed. well. though I desperately wished it to be. I played back the past two months with Monica in my mind. The bad news was there was no. I realized partially through the unsatisfying sex. so it wasn’t like I was going to leave one for another. realizing that while I was with her. I feared that I would have to break up with Monica. I couldn’t keep going with my newfound knowledge. This was something I never had to do before. Though I tried to pin it on physical difficulties. a part of me knew it was based in emotional ones. and she beat herself up over trusting another guy who obviously just wanted her for sex. I was secretly wishing Monica was my other friend—the one I had fallen for. The night before our breakup. I had been mentally cutting and pasting.274 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY and I had to simultaneously undo the condom wrapper while trying to excite myself again. In subsequent tries. For the record. My surrogate was just my friend. I had plateaued. It was not a date. I asked about the possibility of “us” without directly asking the question. I had been hiding my love for this woman for months. [laughter and small applause] Eventually.
LOSING IT 275 This was partially true. . Things progressed rapidly. Another lesson learned. and I did look forward to shedding myself of virginity. and I gained a brief glimpse of life as an asshole. but I never knew it. but it was not the reason I started dating Monica. Where. I was never consciously out to just get laid. I was a little more aware of crossed wires. in the long strands of human neurons. This was where I was like almost everyone else--confused. My hormones did that cute trick that they tend to do. They convinced me that I had deeper feelings for her. do these things get mixed? Hopefully afterward.
I would wake up with the feeling that the coming year was it—I was finally going to meet The One and get engaged. One defiantly turned down my backhanded attempts to get a date with her. I wasn’t dating anyone.An Intuition In the waning days of 2003. Another—a young foreign cashier at the neighborhood supermarket—I realized was just a stupid fantasy of mine. my remaining list of interesting women got shorter. Each day. I began to think my only hope was to wait for half of them to get divorced and try them on the rebound. I decided that I should make one final mental list of any and all women I had ever been interested in. I slowly checked off the last couple. Why was I having this premonition of my own marriage? In January. I had reached the final few years of my twenties.” I thought. and if they didn’t accept. leaving me frustrated and ready to concede defeat. I would ask them out. One by one. It seemed absurd at the time. “There is always life as a monk. and I only had a couple of sad prospects on my list. and the last of the eligible women were quickly being snatched up and getting married. And the Internet was just a recurring death march to the same dismal ends. I would cross her off the list. I was quickly running out of options. . I felt my intuition bubbling.
. Katie worked for the benefits portion of Human Resources. Prevention is only acceptable when institutions can afford it. We had spoken maybe three sentences directly to each other. and only one needed as it turned out. Or maybe she just wasn’t sure about her place within her job and department. If none of them wanted to go out. our department would put on a program for employees. and I would run across Katie. like she was dying for some type of release. I could only come up with three names. She seemed quiet and slightly tense. I worked in the Wellness Department—a well-meaning but purely luxury department that seemed to be endemic of the booming economic environment of the late Nineties. the University of Denver. but I thought I needed to try it out. but I filed away her picture in my mental Rolodex. I never pursued anything with her while I was working for the University. I would destroy the list and go shoot myself.278 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY then move on to the next one. was a woman I had met while employed at my alma mater. but I thought she was very cute and a little mysterious. As soon as the money seizes up. Occasionally. The first. away go the prevention activities.
“Maybe I can just casually email her and ask her out for coffee—nothing big. In my new job. I was taking registrations for an upcoming event. better late than never. but decided that I would at least sleep on it over the weekend. I took the little bit of coincidence to mean that I should contact her. Gun shy after thinking about all my past attempts.Timing Is Everything Fortuitous forces seemed to combine in late February 2004. One day. was making plans to escape. For a second. I started to ax the idea. I was as available as ever. . but hey. hoping that one could ignite into something. my mind flipped through the Rolodex. I wondered what she was up to. Katie. (I was a slow learner. realizing that her relationship at the time was beyond repair. scrambling to look up Katie again. I had started on my “last list” of women. quiet woman from Human Resources.” This had both worked and failed before. I received a registration from a Kathi Wolf. But wouldn’t it seem strange for me to suddenly contact her after about nine months from any interaction with her? I had learned something from all my previous dating disasters: don’t be creepy. Suddenly. (Who wouldn’t?) But then I thought back to the other “kwolf ” I knew: the cute. I flashed back to Zeus the Wolf.) I thought.
I went through the whole day without a response. surely I could be jocular with that topic and ease her into the true meaning of this message. I visited the restroom. “Well. I had basically written her off. I came into work the next day. I asked her to go out to coffee. that was cool.” I said. I re-read it a couple of times. I could hear the blood in my ears.” So. By the end of the day. “Women can smell an agenda like shit on a shoe. The third was the money paragraph. I decided that I would email her.280 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I contemplated all the pros and cons. I went into . admitting that I had wanted to ask her in the past. The email sat on my computer screen for about twenty minutes. I adopted a semi-serious tone.” So. I got up and paced down the hall.” I thought to myself. I was shaking. attempting to disperse the anxiety that had swelled up inside me. then came back. “Cross her off the list. I quickly clicked “Send. The second paragraph I devoted to a quick update on what I had been up to in the interim. and this particular one wouldn’t make or break me. checking for any hint of desperation. I finally had a few free moments to compose a message to her. acting as casual and non-desperate as possible. Nothing from Katie. I had to at least pretend like I had lots of options.” and exhaled. My heart was pumping so loudly. I also acknowledged that I didn’t know if she was currently involved with someone. as well as inquiring about her life and life at the University as a whole. Without looking directly at the words again.” But in my eternal nice guy optimism. finally settling on the traditional advice. “This can’t be good. I chose a typical three-paragraph format. “Maybe she was gone from work and hasn’t checked her email. On Monday afternoon. Since the University had dissolved my former department. though still softened enough around the edges to make it easily digestible. excitedly turning on my computer to check for new email. The opening would be a light. joking re-introduction. I thought. “You don’t know if you don’t ask.” as The Tao of Steve would succinctly say. now to wait. and if she didn’t want to go out.
then looked up to see Katie crossing in . I glanced up to see Katie’s name. I suggested a lesser-known. I sheepishly checked my email routinely throughout the day of our date. I snickered because she had used the same three-paragraph format as I had in my original message. After about ten minutes. The shop was a storefront beneath new condos in a rebuilt section of the upper east side of downtown. I showed up a few minutes early so I could scope out the best seating. I took a deep breath and double clicked on the message. so things were already looking promising. “Yessssssssssss!” I was in business. In order to ease into it. We swapped a couple more emails and decided on the following Wednesday evening to have coffee.TIMING IS EVERYTHING 281 Wednesday feeling a tiny bit of hope. I held off on ordering a drink and settled into a puffy mocha couch that faced the front window. I knew that after this long. My stomach started to churn. But Thursday held a surprise for me.” while sounding like she instead wanted to start a meaningful friendship. from my experience. non-chain in completely neutral territory. I hesitated before opening the email. Given my past luck with last minute cancellations. I cleared my eyes and started to read it closely. I decided to do a few other things first. the female had to take a few days to craft a rejection letter that hinted at “Go suck on a box of D-Con. the response couldn’t be positive. unopened. I saw a new email pop up in my box. now.” My quick glance didn’t uncover any words like that. such as “restraining order. leaving the message sitting. I prepared myself for the coming damage. A little after nine in the morning. I decided to fuzz my eyes over and develop a soft focus. The final paragraph concluded with her saying how she would love to get coffee sometime. praying that she wouldn’t bail on me. It actually seemed very positive. In situations such as these. She didn’t contact me. I was taking a permanent marker to the list. I took a quick glance at a newspaper on a side table. Still nothing. scanning the lines for any key words.
She was wrapped in a midnight blue denim jacket. Things were going more smoothly than any other previous first date I could remember. The brightness of her outfit shocked me. She leaned back and fell into the billowed arms and back of the lounge chair. I could feel her warming to me as the conversation progressed. .282 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY front of the window. I had always been a sucker for brown hair. My anxiety came from not knowing much about her.” We shuffled over to the seats I had picked out and settled in. We also talked London—she dreamt of going there. so the process was familiar and comfortable. A gold ‘K’ necklace fell gently against her bare clavicle. to which I wryly smiled. do you live near DU?” I started in to the conversation. After twenty-or-so minutes. I actually live out in Arvada. and opened up an area for which we both felt passionate—music. as it seemed the complete opposite of her earlier darker look. She confessed that she was hoping to find someone to go to concerts with. She looked up with a mix of nervousness and franticness from being a little lost in the unfamiliar neighborhood. brown eyes. a pure hunch. She was a little bit rigid as she nursed her chai latte.” and I noticed a reflection of light off her pink lip-gloss. I had been through the coffee routine lots of times. This date was booked on a lark. it was the rock concert. I stretched my arms across the back of the couch. taking off her jean jacket. I met her near the cash register. I had a flash of a beautifully unassuming librarian tearing off her glasses and cutting loose. and her hair and eyes seemed darker than I remembered. She was wearing a thin lemon meringue v-neck sweater. I received a winded “hello. I suggested we get drinks. Her head tilted back slightly. If there was one area where I had plenty of experience. opening myself fully to her and the surroundings. We talked about some people we had in common at DU. “No. “So. and I noted the squishy nervousness in my stomach. and I had lived there. She wore rectangular dark-rimmed glasses— something I had not seen on her before. about one third of the distance from the couch to the door. This was a little bit of a drive for me. she relaxed a bit.
“I keep forgetting my cell number. I narrowed my gaze to her mouth. “So. especially after Burton’s death. Normally. Katie had a connection to the Feldmans. I knew that this was a woman I wanted to be with. The backdrop was dark. She was without Burton and relied on a patchwork of friends and employed help. “Call me. She acted as though it was assumed. but a gentle. I was feeling lightheaded from the ease of conversation and the potential. I simply stood there with a wide smile. We exited the coffee shop and stood on the corner of the intersection. since she had spoken to Peggy several times on the phone. She handed me the card. Recalling my earlier lessons about not going in for anything physical too fast. I had an intuition that she could be a candidate for a serious girlfriend. I wanted to feel the soft lips through mine. impassioned kiss. but the streets were illuminated.” she said directly.” she said as she scrolled through her phone to confirm her own number. I took care of the dog. but my mind was already somewhere else. and I took care of an ailing Peggy. Tad. and we realized we had been talking for about two straight hours. Katie was dealing with retiree benefits. I recognized my cue and asked if I could call her. It was so genuine and almost childlike. The clock approached nine. Tad. her indigo jacket was swallowed in the darkness. Then. Her sweetness and newfound comfort allowed me to fully relax. I had to go walk the poodle. Not a hard.TIMING IS EVERYTHING 283 and at that moment I desperately wanted to kiss her. so all elderly DU employees or spouses eventually had to pass by her. and I grinned a little satisfaction. It was endearing. The discussion of pets led to my telling her that each night I walked Peggy’s chocolate standard poodle. and she needed to drive back across town to get ready for work the next day. She started to turn and glanced back over her shoulder. . and through a delicate smile. she asked. unwavering. do you have any pets?” It wasn’t the question I was expecting. She reached in her purse and located a business card. and we parted. I would have walked her to her car. Louie. exploring one.
As it turned out. We set the date for Thursday evening. “You can call me again if you want. I didn’t need a jacket. but I also felt her genuineness. On my way to the restaurant on Thursday. She wanted to see me again. I may have been out of the game for a while. only to get her voicemail. I also knew that she had been traveling back to Omaha to see her family.” I tried calling the next night. “Maybe she’s a lesbian…or maybe she has a couple of kids I don’t know about…or maybe her ex is a vicious. “Please.” After so many bad experiences. and expressing my hope for another date. she had come down with a flu virus and was flat on her back at her parent’s house. only a longsleeved shirt. I got a call from Omaha. I had to prepare myself for the worst. She commented that she loved trying out new restaurants. So. hyper-jealous nutball with a meat cleaver. We . and we tapered off the conversation. It was a gorgeous March day.284 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY The following evening. Katie and I ended up talking for a full hour. This was precisely what I was seeking. I galloped to the front door and noticed her waiting inside. she said. I didn’t talk to her until a few days later. but only got her voicemail. I was about to write her off like the others. Her straight back was to me.” I coyly mentioned. We were seated right away. and I made a couple of recommendations as I tore off bits of bread and swirled them in the oil and balsamic vinegar pool in the center of the table. I ran through all the things that could possibly be wrong with this budding relationship that felt so wonderful. Before hanging up. So that Friday evening. “I know this great little Italian joint. I tried calling her cell phone. but even I knew that this statement translated into. if you would like to go there next week.” Now. Perfect! This woman wanted a concert buddy and to go eat at interesting restaurants. I left her a message thanking her for the night before. she looked a bit nervous and uncomfortable. call me again. This was the cause for the delay. I waited out a long twenty-four hours before she called me back. not anything I had done.
It’s like Alice in Wonderland or something. Not knowing what else to do. The discomfort simply had no logical explanation. We shuffled around the other customers and found our way out the crowded exit.” She gave a quick laugh and then took me up on the offer. Nothing seemed to be working.” “Shall we go?” I asked.” she exclaimed. “Maybe she’s just waiting for the right moment to tell me she doesn’t want to see me anymore.TIMING IS EVERYTHING 285 joked a little back and forth. A few minutes later. I paid for dinner and finished off my glass of vino. and each sentence she spoke would fade out with a tittering. and the hall gets shorter and shorter until you reach the restrooms. “It’s wild. but I could tell she was distracted. “Wow.” I said.” I returned to the table and told her that she had to experience the corridor that leads to the restrooms. Normally I have to infer that through nonresponsiveness. While she was gone. I was attempting to stay loose and play with the conversation. Her movements seemed mechanical. and the nervousness seeped over to me. you were right. “That was crazy. I excused myself to go use the restroom and to exhale my frustration. but feeling relieved to be out of the stuffy restaurant. she returned. “What was going on?” I pondered. I was not enjoying myself. I suggested we walk across the street to a small park. Why was she nervous now? Dinner progressed and the situation stayed much the same. By the time I finished my meal. Was there a storyline to which I was oblivious? It wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps there was a full moon. I felt that maybe the day’s energy was out of whack. She was so at ease when I left her the other night at the coffee shop. and the spring chill . Partially. Unless there was something else. I was mad because I knew we had some level of connection and I had a gut instinct that this could be something. hoping to make her feel more comfortable in the date. The sun had recently set. “You go down this hallway that has all kinds of kids drawings on it.
Now I was in new territory. sure…tell me. and I certainly don’t have any kids. I felt the freezing metal under my legs. I’m not married.” Damn. Don’t worry. I .” This wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. “I’m sorry. you are cleared for take-off.” I sat staring at the ground in a soft focus. The one possibility I hadn’t considered. “I would like to have you come if you want. I really wanted to just hit the “reset” button on the evening. but trust me. through my jeans. She was feeling distant. It’s just going to take a little time for me to work it all out. but hesitated. We sat down on a dark green metal bench and looked back over toward the restaurant.” she blurted out.” She paused. If not. straightforward voice. there was no one else. I opted for the rational approach. “Okay. and if all my drains are running clean and free. but you need to know that I am in this situation. “Thank you for telling me…that took a lot of courage. “Sure…if there’s nothing on the Home Shopping Channel. I had simply assumed that when she agreed to meet me. I wanted to tell you earlier. she had to go pick up her six kids on her way to posting bail for her rabid ex-husband. and I still want to hang out. “We still live together. “Oh.286 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY was settling in for the night. I’ll have to check and see.” “I need to tell you something. I then decided to be bold.” She was intrigued. that’s okay. “I was thinking about taking a mountain drive this weekend. I offered up a little small talk in an attempt to reconnect with her. too. I really wanted to meet you for coffee.” “I’m still kind of seeing someone. but I couldn’t find a good time. okay. the relationship has been over for a while. “Zero-four-niner. I tried to assess her statements and what she was truly saying.” I laid out in a clear. I was already preparing my mental bags for departure. With my luck. It sounded more like.” I could sense yet another split coming. I knew we couldn’t stay out there long. but then again.
” Her cell phone rang again. I traded voicemails with Katie several times. although. there was really no relationship of which to speak. “Dude! She’s in a relationship still! She lives with a guy!” I blared into the phone. It wasn’t going to happen on my agenda. “See there are no kids car seats or anything in my car. was privy to the date and the happenings so far. of course. so it all makes sense. I guess this new one—playing out fate—would have me sitting back. if it’s okay.) Through our back-and-forth calls. We strolled to her car. (Now I understood why she couldn’t take my calls at certain times. standing up. As I talked it through with Willy. “Sure…I would like you to come with me. Neither of us expected the evening to end the way it did. I was impressed with her bravery.” “Yeah. and we headed up the hill. I discovered that her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend was out of town for the weekend. The following day. We both realized who was calling. and I marched back to my car. This was a curveball. When I got out of sight. I grinned slightly and said. I promise you I don’t have kids. She quickly answered it and told him that dinner ran long and that she was now coming home. I picked her up at a neutral location around noon. I just needed to slow it down a little. I thought you seemed pretty distracted tonight. and upon reaching it.” “I would still like to go to the mountains. I understand.TIMING IS EVERYTHING 287 appreciate knowing. so we . He.” I muttered. The thing about all my “imaginary” relationships was that they could always conform to my schedule.” We said good night. we set plans to meet up and take a Saturday afternoon mountain drive. Overall. I had tremendous respect for her telling me about the relationship. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my buddy Willy. letting it ride. I slowly came to the realization that things were okay. “I’m sorry…I’ve gotta go.” she tacked on. she jokingly said.
We passed the trailhead. “Katie. As we wound through the mountain roads. we wound up in Fairplay. but goes by Katie. A good portion of . except in her graduate classes. I think it’s worth waiting for. But. a name which seemed far too fitting for the day. The Insufferable Existence of the Nice Guy.” “Well. I could write a different book. I desperately wanted to take her hiking up a mile-long trail to a scenic overlook. Or. Over our sandwiches and kettle chips. I also realized that I was enamored of this woman. I know that I really want to date you. I found out the basic. After about an hour and a half.” I thought as we snuck around behind her ex-boyfriend’s back. if you can. We found a small bakery / sandwich shop that was still open for lunch. what are the chances.288 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY were free to come and go as we so desired. but I think we both could sense that this could turn into something special. Her birthday is February 26th. but I was also trying to weigh her interest level. too. It was springtime. definitely. the same as two of the most important people in my life already—Willy and Peggy. encouraged us. She suggested we hike up it. I need to know. Her real name is Kathryn. so it may take a little while. She loves indie rock but needed someone to go to concerts with her. and what is the timetable?” “I really like you. yet interesting things I needed to know. hoping to take hold and grow into something incredible. We had no idea what was in store. Just be patient. That’s about all I can tell you right now. It was the first time that I actually became physically aroused through conversation about common biographical information. we talked about the reality of us being together. buffeted by chilled zephyrs. We were two seeds. and the warm sun. I found a spot on the narrow mountain road to flip a U-turn and head back.” I assured her. if not. “All’s fair in love and war. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed back down the hill. and I made a comment that it was a really beautiful trail. There is a lot of stuff to sort out with Josh. but I don’t know yet. to be around you. so I’ll stick around.
tick. I walked around to the front of her and grasped the other arm. we reached the top. tick. I kissed her again. The sun dropped closer to the hilltop across from us. let’s go for it. It was our first kiss—romantic. I didn’t take it personally. We trudged through the snow patches and up the damp dirt path. She seemed to enjoy the gesture.” she agreed with a smile. but there were still patches of spring snow. so I wasn’t sure this would work. and she softened her lips a bit. right?” She giggled softly. tick. Katie had worn sandals that day. a vibrant green meadow spread out before us like a grandmother’s handmade blanket. She froze. trying to find the courage and perfect moment to proceed. “Yeah. I kissed her one more time. I knew I had to kiss her. Eventually. As we emerged from a dark hollow of towering spruce trees. “I see you’re in sandals…do you still want to hike up there?” I inquired. We sat down. but I could tell her mind was asking thousands of questions. The sun poured into the openness. I just knew I had to ease her into it. so we needed to leave. There would be no better place. Everything was perfect. I then leaned in and gave a quick kiss on her lips. and I lightly grabbed onto her arm. Overlooking the clearing was a log bench. I didn’t want to have to relive the self-torture of the missed opportunity with Jamie. the magical clearing that I had discovered about eight months prior. She opened up a little more. The moments became tense.TIMING IS EVERYTHING 289 the hiking trail had melted. the tranquility. Tick. We stood up. . and I bravely put my arm around the back of her shoulders. no better time. lips tightened. “You know I would be crazy if I didn’t do this. we stopped and soaked up the sun that streamed into a brief treeless area. We then continued to climb up the hill. She continued to smile and follow closely behind. Midway. I kept turning around to see if she was okay and to assure her that the payoff was grand. placed there in memory of someone’s beloved hiker. tick. I was frozen. We talked a little—primarily just comments about the beauty and stillness of everything around us.
knowing that I wanted her to accelerate the split from her boyfriend. Had I written her any earlier. and we were stumbling through a new experience for both of us. Any later. The delay was torturous for me. The temperature had dropped about ten degrees within thirty minutes. email was actually the best way to ask her out. We trotted back down the trail. and she would have most likely been gone—left town to move back home to Omaha. though. but the smile never wavered on her face. I really don’t know if there is a divine presence in our daily lives. . holding back her hair so that it fell emphatically over her ears and shoulders. I knew she was freezing. she would have felt pressed to answer right away. Had I called. and I kept checking on her as she had to endure the snow and the closing darkness. for the first time in my dating history. I wanted to be Katie Wolf ’s boyfriend. learning his lessons in love one by one. my timing with this relationship was better than I could have imagined. but I didn’t mind. without fully considering the request. she would have turned me down. I felt twinges of pain and urgency. saying that she was still in a relationship. The warm brown eyes pierced my soul.290 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY yet slightly awkward. The email allowed her a few days to think it through. Also. I felt like I was that gawky junior high kid again. but this seemed too perfect of a situation. helping direct us along. But why not? We were both slightly awkward. simply reacting to her situation. As it turned out. but ultimately for the best. I’m sure she probably would have turned me down on the phone. Such is life in the Rocky Mountains. Her sunglasses were mounted on top of her head. We were both a little delirious.
The night before we were to fly back.Epilogue The Engagement I didn’t know right away that Katie would be the woman I would marry—it wasn’t immediate. But many other movie-like plotlines were there: the fact that we had admired each other from afar while both employed at DU. and witty—the speed of which I cannot match. I had thought I would propose to her in one of my favorite spots—St. I couldn’t find any. and I knew it would be an opportune time. intelligent. She is genuinely sweet and loving through and through. I watched for something that was truly non-negotiable as a dangerous or ugly trait. the perfect timing of my initial email invitation to go to coffee. I kept looking for some dark shadow side—a bloody ax under her bed.K. I took her to . James Park in London. We took an overseas trip to the U. I did know early on that there was tremendous potential. I got a very different feeling with Katie than I had gotten with too many bad dating experiences in the past. She is beautiful. I knew this was someone who I could start a life with and be happy. the way we quickly fell for each other. like in so many romantic films. Originally. in December of 2004. feeling completely at ease with the other. for example.
I would hide written clues in key places that would lead to subsequent clues. They would have to wait a little while longer. I settled on March 20th—the day when we had our first kiss up in the mountains.292 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY a “secret location”—the park. I originally wanted to propose on March 11th. We have debated back and forth about the “real day” we began dating. and the charcoal walkways were still bustling with businessmen and tourists. but no girlfriend. and between visits I came up with the idea of proposing to the woman who would be my wife.” As March got closer. a day after our first reuniting coffee “date. I had every intention of proposing to Katie in the way I had planned. I decided to have a scavenger hunttype adventure. As it turned out. I fell in love with the location while studying abroad in England. I had a plan. it didn’t feel right. I decided to wait. The short pedestrian bridge over the duck pond was too crowded for a proposal. I went to work on a plan and on purchasing a ring. It was near 6:00 p. I stood in the misty cold. After the first of the year. Many of our friends and family were expecting a major announcement when we returned to the States. The timing was a bit premature. as the city settled into darkness. so I incorporated that into my plan. and we were both a bit tense from traveling. I needed to pick a different day. the ducks floated underneath the bridge as nine leaden circles dissolved in the air. Back then. I had always wanted to get several people involved in my marriage proposal. I checked everything to make sure the plan would work flawlessly in the late evening. I thought that. though I knew I shouldn’t rush it if it didn’t feel absolutely right.m. It was perfect. When I visited in December of 2002. I didn’t even have a ring. with the help of a couple friends. finishing at the place where I would propose—the same spot . I decided that it should probably be around the oneyear anniversary of our relationship. I began to plan how I would perform the proposal. just a poem I had written for her. it was announced that her father would have his retirement party on March 11th.
sitting on a couch incognito. I didn’t know exactly where or how I would get it to her first thing in the morning on Sunday. When we arrived. I left and banked on the hope that she would see the clue. March 19th. I wrote up the clues and recruited a couple of friends to help me hide clues on March 20th. as we were ahead of schedule. Soon. looking for the right opportunity. After I took care of Louie.m. so I just operated spontaneously.EPILOGUE . all there was left to do was to set things in motion.” she announced. She didn’t. While I waited for the clue to arrive. March 20th (the first day of Spring). I was able to set the enveloped-clue on the handles of her étagère. and made sure I had clue #1 with me. I returned to her apartment where she greeted me with a rainbow sweater and a big smile. she almost missed it. otherwise this wouldn’t happen at all. We needed to take our time eating. . clue handoff at the coffee shop where Katie and I first rendezvoused.THE ENGAGEMENT 293 where we had our initial kiss. around 6:30. We got our coffee and sat down. She had a baseball cap pulled down low over her eyes. We were able to keep a slower pace while drinking our coffee—long enough for the woman to finally bring the clue over. I then had to slow things down a bit. The woman at the counter had agreed to play along and bring the clue over to us. “I found the first clue. in hopes that Katie wouldn’t notice her. and went to use the restroom. Well. above the toilet. I wanted and needed her to find the first one. “I believe this is for you.” she slyly said to Katie. I had to get up soon enough and go home to let out my (formerly Peggy’s) dog. Mackenzie was already there. (How romantic sounding!) I then returned to bed for a little while. Still blurry from sleep. business picked up. I awoke early. I stayed over at Katie’s the night of Saturday. I thought this would be a good time to hide the clue. I outlined the time frame for placing the clues and worked out any potential bugs in my mind. “hide” is the wrong word. and the two baristas were stuck behind the counter. buying some time for my friend Mackenzie who was to organize a 10:00 a.
there were many more cars parked at the trailhead than there were the previous year. had taken the next clue to the Barnes and Noble bookstore nearest my house. It turned out that he wasn’t so big on the mountain drive and altitude shift.294 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY I had arranged for my friend Samm to hide the third clue at our favorite CD store in town. on the literature racks. we experienced a different type of weather. Though the trail was covered in packed down snow. Our work in the city was finished. Mackenzie had left the coffee shop and driven over to The Bug Theatre to hide the clue just outside the main door. We were on our way. It was there that Katie and I had purchased our London travel books for our December trip. With each curve in the road. We soon followed and gathered in the fourth clue. Since Omaha (Katie’s hometown) has a burgeoning music scene. it made the most sense to hide the clue among those CDs. where we shared our first kiss on March 20. I noticed Mackenzie parked in the lot across the way. rain. leading up to this trip. I gave her a quick look and a sign of acknowledgement. but I thought that the other people might dissipate and not show up at the same location where we were heading. and I was having doubts about the trip. and our next stop would be up in the mountains. 2004. after leaving the CD store. We paused at my house for a few minutes and picked up my dog. Samm. hoping to dodge the snow. I spent many hours looking over maps of the state to make sure I knew exactly where this spot was—not just going from . We ran into all of the above. as she went right to the Bright Eyes section and found clue three. we thought he might like to come with us. By the way. We headed up into the mountains. and dark clouds draped over the peaks. It was too easy for Katie. Since he loves riding in the car. I didn’t necessarily want company for this very private event. I had to keep crossing my fingers that the weather would cooperate long enough to let me propose. The hiding place would be rather easy.
We wandered past the hillbillies about forty yards and sat down on a log beside the trail. and hiked up to our special place. it was almost brutal. (Katie remembered to wear hiking boots this time. finishing lunch. We only had about thirty minutes. Eventually. I reached in my coat and pulled the final clue from my pocket. leaving Louie in the car. the others left. Crystals of snow lightly fell down on us. The snowstorm was waiting on a mountain across the valley.” I opened the flap and gently. We approached the clearing— the overlook where we shared that all-important kiss a year prior. then going back under. “The end of one journey. We passed a few people and a couple of dogs along the way. to hold our ceremony. where our magical spot awaited. We emerged from the dark grove of trees to find a family of five sitting on and around our bench. Seizing the opportunity. We hiked through the hard snow on the trail. I did my best to just enjoy the view and the moment. catching the sun as they drifted toward us. and we felt the . Katie asked.” I conceded with slight resignation. I was disgusted and horribly disappointed. at most. The spot finally had a name: Kenosha Pass. up the hill. They appeared to have rolled out of the trailer park. On it was written. but I was too distracted by the whooping up on the hill and my own utterances of disgust and annoyance. Sparkles surrounded us.THE ENGAGEMENT 295 memory.EPILOGUE . yes they are. but then my voice started to quiver. I knew that our spot was not as private as we had remembered. I handed it to Katie and let her read it. Five voices in varying octaves and ages mixed together. back down the trail and out of our lives. “Are they interfering with your plans?” “Yes. then coming out. The golden waves poured over the side of the hill—the brightest it would be all day. hitched up snowshoes. the beginning of another. We just had to get to the top. I then reached in my pocket again and pulled out an envelope. I had been so calm up to this point. The sun increased the urgency of the dilemma. The sun was toying with us—hiding behind some gray strands of cloud. this time. nervously pulled out the card inside.) The hike is normally a good workout.
It had finally become our moment—the perfect moment. but didn’t expect the laughter. I pulled out the ring box. That reassurance was something I had never felt before. The highest compliment of all to her. THE END . Good fortune finally smiled on me.296 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY unique mixture of warmth and chilled air. all at once. and there’s no need to buy us fondue forks for our wedding present. A full teardrop ran down her cheek and she said. Katie and I fell in love the same year the Boston Red Sox broke the curse and won the World Series. but it is sort of true. I already have a set. is that she embodies the best qualities I have ever sought in a female. I had envisioned the tears. May that never cease. I believe. most precise and perfect expression of love we had yet shared with each other. We were joining together. Suddenly. floundering nice guy. opened it. We held hands the entire way back down the trail. forever. I got down on one knee and began to read. And the most beautiful part of this whole experience is that I love her more and more each day. “Yes…yes…yes. We laughed and smiled at one another. Katie started to laugh and tear up. indeed. and slipped the ring on her finger. What a find. the lonely. Oh. How fitting is that? I hate to say that Katie is “the sum of all parts” from previous desired relationships.” She pulled me in and we kissed—the fullest. our life course was solidified. like an enormous weight had released its pressure from us.
com/WolfSpencer Be a friend: myspace.com Get some merch: cafepress.com --> Tad Spencer .blogspot.More Hope for the Nice Guy Read the blog: HopeForNiceGuy.com/TadSpencer Be another friend: facebook.
12. 14. 9. rapid-fire wit a la James Joyce and Oscar Wilde well-read deeply introspective philosophical strong spiritual (non-denomination specific) side fascinated by the universe and all in it constantly strives to learn/discover more . 10. 4. 17. 3. 13. 5.Appendix: 101 Reasons to Date Tad 1. 8. 6. 7. 2. 11. 16. CO dog lover wicked sense of humor sharp. gorgeous deep-set hazel eyes professionally employed financially stable NO KIDS! passionate about music published poet constantly expanding (creatively) artist lives in a rebuilt house in fabulous Denver. 15.
44. 20. 32. sweet “boyish” crooked smile sexy baritone voice former radio DJ excellent writer has a pristine expression of emotions mission is “to empower others” NO BAGGAGE from last relationship sympathizes during life’s seriousness but can laugh about it as well is reading the Kama Sutra (need practice) avid football fan studies the game of hockey (thinks of it like a science) not a horrible dresser has all his limbs looks good in tight jeans not overweight works out excellent listener considerate recognizes those that help him CAN SHOW GRATITUDE = ABLE TO LOVE “makes everyone around him a better person” art history knowledge traveled/lived abroad humble beginnings in blue collar life (NOT uppity) is the anti-yuppie embraces and expects diversity among all people has a lot of love to give improvisational theatre trainer/actor just listen to him recite his poetry! . 33. 29. 36. 43. 28. 42. 19. 45. 27. 31. 35. 40. 46. 24. 26. 23. 37. 22. 21. 39. 41. 34. 25. 30.300 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY 18. 38.
72. for God’s sake! he looks like Matt Lauer. for God’s sake! thinks things over thoroughly before giving a response is a distant cousin of Princess Di (well. 55. 63. bath oils. 56. 54. and incense die-hard chivalrous romantic can shake his booty/cut the rug/etc. 66. 60. 57. baby doesn’t smoke is good for what ails you has INCREDIBLE hands that have a tendency to give massages terrific hugger (a lost practice) keeps his dreams in focus has lots of drive to keep on heading toward those dreams sends unexpected flowers has that Sagittarian spontanaeity . 53. 49. 50. BUT is not out for a one-night stand can actually carry on a conversation intelligently excellent chef makes a killer tiramisu cheesecake (are you drooling yet?) yes. for God’s sake! with the goatee. he looks like Nicholas Cage. 59. 64.APPENDIX: 101 REASONS TO DATE TAD 301 47. he looks like Joseph Fiennes. 68. 58. 65. 67. 74. 71. 75. 61. 52. excellent interpersonal communication skills drug free. 48. he will cook for you knows his way around candles. 51. 62. he reminds you of your father will call you in the morning. maybe) self-taught drummer and amateur composer loves seeing live music and theatre will surprise you with flattering notes loves going to hockey games! for all you Freudians. 73. 70. 69.
is gonna look sweet in those new Underoos for adults 93. will accept nothing less than success strong moral character incredibly deep. has his credit card paid off 89. 80. 82.is just a swell guy. 83. wants to travel the world again 87. is NOT a conceited prick 95.” (from Swingers) 88. has a wealth of 80s music knowledge (maybe that’s a liability rather than an asset) 85. he doesn’t play those stupid mind games. could beat the living crap out of Leonardo Di Caprio 94. rich personality has a healthy dose of mystery speaks French. he tells you. If he likes you. is NOT like that last guy you dated 96. he won’t go bald 98. 79. great friend 86. if you’ve read this far. 101. always gives great Christmas gifts 90. as a matter of fact. 78. you must be somewhat intrigued. highly intelligent 91. tell him you’re interested! 100.you have NOTHING to lose . did I mention creative? 92. 99.302 HOPE FOR THE NICE GUY 76. if genetics are correct. C’mon. he’s unlike ANY guy you’ve ever dated 97. 81. mademoiselle good knowledge of coffee (is that reaching?) took the time to make this list to impress YOU thinks you would look sexy borrowing his Avalanche hockey jersey 84. is “so fuckin’ money and you don’t even know it. no. 77.
Were you offended by any of the sexual references? If yes: Pour a stiff drink.303 Hope for the Nice Guy Discussion Questions 1. See if it is even remotely funny afterward. seriously…we mean it. dim the lighting. Remember that part…with the thing…when he did stuff ? That was awesome. 2. what would you say is the most imperative to resolve? • The indoctrinating of males into a culture of machismo. What part did you find the most humorous? Discuss this section with your group for the next two hours. After considering all of the critical sociological issues raised by Hope for the Nice Guy. play moderately slow music by your favorite R&B artist. . Would you consider moving to Wyoming? No. 5. They really need more people. and see what happens. 4. discuss with your significant other or blow-up doll. 3. • How to get Cheeto smudges off the pages. • The emotional confusion among American youth regarding love and lust.
Nice guys finish first… eventually. Hope for the Nice Guy never skirts the realness of growing up geeky. everything comes together—love is found. knee-slapping book. really.. All that and the answers to many of life’s greatest mysteries. and disastrous trial-and-error.. some nice guys get there in the end. From the modest beginnings in windy Wyoming. yet hilarious luck continues through college and into the terrifying landscape of employment. Though the road to the right woman is often long and painful. Colorado since moving there for college in 1994. though. ISBN 978-1-4196-9733-3 Published by Tad Spencer Printed by BookSurge Publishing US $15. several short plays. He and his wife (believe it!) have two dogs. Tad has written reams of poetry.95 HUMOR . including: • Where in God’s name is Cheyenne. Hope for the Nice Guy chronicles such a story.sometimes. Wyoming? • How lanky is too lanky? • Can we make it through a book about geeks without an allusion to Lord of the Rings? • Why does that carnival ride look like a dominatrix? • What is the furthest distance that a round from a . this nice guy learns his lessons in love from music videos. as well as various articles on student leadership and health issues. Wyoming. Should I tell her how I feel? • Is Freud a good name to drop when hitting on someone? • What were the Dress Barn people thinking? • What’s the best way to prevent teen pregnancy? • Are 101 reasons enough? • But most of all: is there hope for the nice guy? Tad Spencer grew up on the blustery plains of Cheyenne.22 rifle is considered dangerous? • What the hell is a goat doing here? • Should I tell her how I feel? • Is it possible to escape the gravitational pull of The Friend Zone? • How hard is it to destroy subway property in London? • No. Eventually. He has lived in Denver. or the inherent humor of awkward people dating awkwardly. sketchy friends. which amount to plenty of children at this point. Will he ever crack the perfect formula for meeting and wooing women? His streak of horrible. the shadow sides of human nature.Relationships 9 781419 697333 . This is his first full-length.
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