I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
We had agreed to meet downtown on her lunch hour for coffee. She showed up in a blazer and sensible heels and I apologized for being so sweaty from my long bike ride. I wiped my forehead and offered to buy her a drink. She asked of an ice-t and I ordered my usual latte. We sat down and she seemed fidgety. I couldn’t tell if it was just nerves or if she was uncomfortably disinterested. Even as we began to talk, the minutes passed and her stern demeanor and body language gave me slight indications that she was not feeling this coffee date. Hey, it happens. I have been there before on both sides so I figured the hour mark was a good time to leave the party. I have always lived by the code of never overstay your welcome. I looked at the time and mentioned that it had been an hour and I didn’t want to keep her so we should probably leave. She agreed and we walked out into the warm downtown air.
“You know,” She said with a blank expression. “I am pleasantly surprised.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, shocked.
“You are more attractive in real life and I was glad that I didn’t have to carry the conversation.”
“Well, I do tend to over-talk and commandeer the conversation but I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”
We hugged and I walked south and she walked north.
Later that evening, she sent a text saying how nice of a time she had. That she felt comfortable talking about past relationships and sexuality. She said that it was refreshing to finally meet someone who didn’t come with a lot of expectations. I said thank you.
As the night progressed, the texts began to get more and more flirtatious. This stood in stark contrast to the stoic business woman I had met for coffee. We texted back and forth for an hour or so and she invited me to the bar where she was hanging out with friends. Bars aren’t really my scene, especially when I’m trying to get to know someone and music is playing and I’m catching the judgmental side eyes from protective friends. I told her maybe some other time and she suggested meeting at her place. That I could do.
I showed up, we exchanged pleasantries, and we began making out. It was odd and strange. She kept talking, and not in a sensual manner but like, “Oh, uh, am I hurting you? No? Okay. Oh, okay. I’ll shut up. I talk too much, don’t I? Should I stop talking? Okay, I’ll stop talking.” It would have been cute, her fumbling around all nervous like, but she was a grown woman in her 40s and her high school awkwardness began to take me out of the mood. Now, I understand that not everyone is always sexually compatible and that’s fine. I am not someone’s ideal and nor are they always mine. I have had to stop some sexual encounters because I was so turned off by how someone was behaving that I simply couldn’t continue and feel good about myself. Unfortunately, so many of us have all been there. Somehow she didn’t cross the line and we fooled around for a bit but didn’t have sex.
Afterward, she jumped up and grabbed a towel and held it in front of her as a defense mechanism. It wasn’t that she was uncomfortable with her body, but she used it as a physical barrier between us. She stood a few feet from me and didn’t say anything. I tried talking to her and making sure she was doing okay, as aftercare is important and she walked into the other room. She returned and told me that we moved too fast. I apologized and she said that she wanted to do it but she felt… sad. I reminded her of our previous conversations where I mentioned the importance of communication and how if something didn’t feel right, to please voice her concern. She said she didn’t regret it and I asked her to sit down next to me and tell me what was troubling her.
She sat on the couch and asked if she could put her head in my lap. I agreed and I ran my fingers through her hair. She told me about how she never once saw her parents show affection toward each other and that sexuality was… “difficult” for her. I told her that was okay. That we all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies. That sometimes we don’t know why we like what we do. There is no predictor of what we will find sexy and what will one day turn us off. Sometimes the wires get crossed and for whatever reason, we have to live with it and do our best to understand it. She agreed but began quietly weeping in my lap. She said she can’t control her urges and she always feels sad afterward. I told her to not feel bad and she snapped, “I don’t feel BAD! I said I feel SAD!”
I told her those two are pretty damn close and she snipped back that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I breathed in deep and attempted to get her talking once again and she just turned defensive, snapping at every comment I made until I said, “Well, since there are two people involved here, let me just tell you how I am feeling. I truly apologize if you feel we went too far. I never want to leave anyone feeling like they didn’t make a good choice. I pride myself on that, actually. But with how you are responding, I feel like I have done something wrong and I would like to make things right.”
She interrupted, “No! You did nothing wrong!”
“But that is the way you are making me feel.” I said, “In the same way that I may have unintentionally caused you to be sad, the way you are responding is unintentionally making me feel guilty, as if I took advantage of you in some way.”
“No, it’s not you. It’s totally me.” She said.
“Well, I wish there was something I could do or say that would make this easier for you. I truly do. But I think it would probably be best if I left. I mean, you have to wake up in six hours anyway.”
“I don’t want you to leave feeling upset.” She pleaded.
“I’m not upset with you at all.” I said, “I just think that we communicate on two different levels. No one better than the other.”
I walked toward the door and said, “I just think it’s best I leave now and we talk tomorrow after all the dust has settled.”
She agreed and walked me to the door. We attempted some awkward back and forth for a few more days but we simply couldn’t find our groove.
We never saw each other again.
She was sexy, intelligent, and accomplished. She was beautiful and had a comfortable life. But there was a sadness about her that I would never be able to fix. Something so deeply rooted for over 40 years and how would I ever have a chance? Sometimes you have to know when to stay and fight, and sometimes you have to know when to walk away from a fight you can’t win. And there is nothing wrong with that. Because while some of us are lucky enough to recognize our demons and do our best to fight them, none of us can fight all the demons and few of us are strong enough to fight the demons for multiple people. And while I will be there as your coach, your shoulder, and your support – I have learned from decades of practice that no one will ever know how to battle your demons better than you.