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Quasi-Stoics Lounge

The Agony and Ecstasy of Relationships

February 25, 2012 by Somebody Else

You know, life is tough. Well, tell you something you don't already know. As the old song goes, we all need somebody to lean on. Why go it alone in this world, when you maybe can have a partner in love to share the journey with you? Then, of course, we've got the whole birds and bees thing. And don't forget the gay birds and bees as well. Come on, people -- let's be all-inclusive here, alright? So, in summary, practically everybody needs somebody to love at sometime or another. It's an essential part of our human nature.

Of course, I'll admit that it's possible to stay out of intimate relationships for extended periods of time, even for your entire life if you so choose. We can't forget those kinds of people as well.

Some individuals have never been in a relationship and have no interest in seeing what it's like. You have to respect that, I suppose. Also, some people have a relationship, or two, or several more, and the whole experience leaves a bad taste in their mouths, and they think to themselves, never again, and that's it.

Such folks get comfortable and secure with their relative solitude, and they're not willing to put at risk that peace of mind by getting romantically entangled with another person. They enjoy the general simplicity of their lives and would prefer not to complicate it. Admittedly, there is something to be said for all that.

Actually, I'll confess that, as far as relationships go, the grass has always seemed greener to me on the other side of the fence. That is, when I've not been in a relationship, I've always been looking at people who were in relationships, and thinking, "Man, they look like they're having fun and I'm missing out." And when I've been in a relationship, I've thought the same thing about people who weren't in one.

From one of my previous posts, you'll recall that I told you about my girlfriend, Kathy. Well, after dating her for awhile, I'm starting to feel kind of envious of my friends who aren't in a relationship. They seem to be enjoying life more than I am. I imagine them running wild and free through lush landscapes, while I'm locked in the dingy dungeon of a depressing relationship. I'm kind of wondering if I made a mistake by getting involved with Kathy in the first place. And no, I don't worry about her reading this. I guess I’m past the point of being all that concerned about what she thinks.

I'm kind of in the doghouse with her right now, since we got into a very big argument recently, and we're sort of not on speaking terms at this time. We've been having some problems for the last several months, and we've been off again and on again for quite a while. Actually, I suspect that the relationship might finally be about to end, but we'll see which one of us has the guts and the nerve to really and truly put it out of its misery. Still, I'm not particularly hopeful that either of us will gather up the will to do so any time soon. We both seem to be trapped in this thing somehow.

I guess that I should give you some background on my relationship with Kathy, how we met, how we got involved with each other and all of that.

I was working at the ball-bearing manufacturing plant, a job I held for several years. I was in the polishing division at that time. It was a particularly noisy section of the plant, and also one of the more dangerous areas because of all the metallic dust that got thrown up into the air, so I had to wear earplugs and a filtered mask in addition to a heavy rubber body suit and thick heat-resistant gloves. I kind of looked like an astronaut going to Mars or maybe a deep-sea diver.

Because of the extreme heat in the polishing division, I sweated buckets, and had to drink a lot of water. When I took breaks, I would go to the break area used by the administrative office personnel. Now, I wasn't supposed to go there, since ball polishers like me had our own grubby clean-up station, but I had discovered that the swanky break area I've just mentioned had a nice water cooler filled with purified water as opposed to the stained and smelly tap water I could get in the other place. There was some risk involved in going to the nicer place, especially with my spaceman suit on, but I kept going back regardless, and for some lucky reason or another, nobody ever reported me, and my detested manager never caught me, probably because he had his own kitchenette next to his office, so he had no reason to hang out with the secretaries.

Well, it so happened that when I went to that comfortable break area, I would often run into an attractive secretary who would also be there, usually preparing herself a coffee with cream and sugar. I would leave my face mask and earplugs back at my locker, so I could hear her well and she could see my dirty face.

When I first met her, she uncomfortably pointed out to me that the lounge was only for office personnel, so I told her about the nasty water at my clean-up station. That caused her to raise an eyebrow and remark, "Huh, well I'm not surprised. They don't really care much about their workers around here, do they?"

That expression of sympathy meant a lot to me, so she kind of had me from the beginning, in a manner of speaking. She sat down on the lounge sofa while I stood there in my filthy rubber suit, and we talked about this and that. I found out that her name was Kathy.

Well, those break room meetings went on for two or three years, off and on. I found out early on that she had a boyfriend named Logan who was a football coach at a local high school and was a real macho-man type. During that whole time, she and I never exchanged phone numbers or anything like that. But we got to know each other pretty well and had a couple of good laughs. It was a good way to blow off some steam and to relieve the oppressive atmosphere of that place.

So, one day I walked into the break room as usual, and there she was, and she said, I've got some big news, I'm quitting because I've got a job lined up at an aluminum siding company. It turned out that she had a cousin who had married some guy who had gotten a managerial position at a small, family-owned and locally-based company, and they needed another secretary. The pay was about the same, but the stress level was a lot lower, and the management a lot more laid back and friendly.

So, I congratulated her, and asked her for the name of the company where she would be working, and then told her that I might need some aluminum siding one of these days, maybe after I leave my apartment and buy a house, so I might ask her company for a cost estimate, and who knows, maybe she'll be the one to answer the phone when I call.

She gave me a funny look when I said that, pulled out a sheet of paper, wrote her phone number on it, handed it to me, and said, call me one of these days and we'll go out to dinner or a movie or something. So, I asked her, what about Logan, won't he mind? And she said that she wasn't dating him anymore. Later on, I learned that she had broken up with him several months earlier, but she had never told me about it.

Now, during the time I was chatting with Kathy at work, I went out with a bunch of other women.

There was that woman I dated very briefly named Margaret. She wanted to get married at the end of our third date, kind of an ultimatum, and when I balked, she walked. That was an emotional jolt for me, because I sort of liked her. She still works with her mother running a dry cleaning business, and I still go there to get my button-up shirts and dress pants done, even though Margaret still refuses to look at me or speak to me when I drop by. But Mrs. Wang is always nice to me and smiles.

After Margaret came Lindsey, the pampered and blissfully unemployed daughter of a real estate mogul in the area, with her shiny, burgundy-colored Mercedes-Benz. We met at a bar, and that's mostly where our relationship took place. One night she invited me home to eat dinner with her parents, and that definitely ranks up there as one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. Once they found out what I do for a living, and learned that I never completed my associate's degree, an uncomfortable silence reigned at the table. Lindsey and I met up at the bar a few times after that, but that got seriously old after awhile, so I just stopped going to that place and I never heard from her again.

Then there was Regina, who loves to smoke the same kind of fat, pungent cigarettes as Bob Marley, the ones you roll up yourself, if you know what I'm saying. She had her own apartment, which was filled with psychedelic florescent posters and black lights. I don't particularly like the smoking thing, since I had my share of it back in the day, but Regina was kind of appealing to me in a way, so I got back on the crazy train a little while, just so she wouldn't feel left out, you know. She talked a lot about free love and all that stuff, but I figured it was just a hypothetical thing for her.

However, I soon enough discovered that Regina takes her philosophical positions quite seriously, when I woke up in her bed late one evening to find that Stewart had also been invited in to share it with us. I got up, put on my clothes, and left the two of them to continue to explore their ideological beliefs.

Regina called me on the phone the next day and was really judgmental, saying that if I was really open-minded and all, I wouldn't have had a problem with her wanting to share herself with Stewart, and according to her, it just shows what a possessive, traditional, jealous, chauvinistic, pig-headed, uptight, bourgeois, Victorian-era attitude I have. I responded that Stewart looked like the kind of guy that might have crabs or some other type of venereal disease, so as far as I was concerned, he could have her to himself, and that was that. Later on, I found out that he got arrested for indecent exposure next to a retirement home, and learned that she left town after being evicted from her apartment.

Well, right after the debacle with Regina, I looked at the phone number that Kathy had given me, and decided to give her a call. She had left the ball-bearing manufacturing plant some weeks ago, and I had started to really miss our friendly conversations. I was nervous about the idea of taking her out on a date, because we seemed to have had such cordial interactions with each other up to that point, and I didn't want to ruin the good vibes. But I figured to myself that there was no reason that a friendly date necessarily had to turn into anything more. With that in mind, I called her up, determined to keep things platonic and to keep the communication between us going despite her change of jobs.

So, after I called her, we met up for lunch at a chain restaurant, had a few laughs, and remembered times together on the job. She wasn't able to stay very long, because it was just her break from work. She asked me for my phone number, and I gave it to her. After that, I didn't hear from her for a few weeks, so I guessed, oh well, I guess that's where it ends.

Finally, one night I got a phone call, it was Kathy, and she sounded kind of depressed and angry. She asked me why I hadn’t called after she had very clearly asked me to “give her a call sometime” when we last met. I replied that people say that kind of stuff to each other all the time, so I had no idea how much she really meant it.

“Well,” she clarified, “I really meant it, because I miss you.”

Her directness kind of stunned me, but I came back with, “I miss you, too.”

Things went pretty quick from that moment on. The floodgates of sincere dialogue were flung wide open, so to speak, and it was a wild ride there for a while. In a very short time, I got to know her a whole lot better than I had during the two or three years we had worked together at the plant. Sure, there was plenty of romantic stuff involved, but I was glad to see that, for the most part, we continued to maintain the friendly relationship we had enjoyed before. Things eventually cooled down after a few weeks, and it seemed to me that I had finally gotten involved in a stable relationship. I was a pretty happy guy.

I suppose that trouble between Kathy and me started when she started talking about my “potential.” At first she seemed mostly unthreatening about it, such as when she complimented me on my online articles, and would then throw in seemingly offhand comments like, "You know, you have so much potential as a writer, there's no telling what you could do if you finished your studies."

Well, as you might imagine, I didn't particularly appreciate those uncalled-for remarks. Eventually, as similarly irritating observations kept coming from her, I found myself responding in turn with stuff like, "You know, I feel the same way about your figure, it has so much potential -- if only you just lost a couple of pounds here and there and did some aerobics."

I just wanted to give her a taste of her own medicine, but she didn't get the point, and after she finished lecturing me endlessly about how inappropriate my comebacks were, she went right back to trying to get me motivated to do something about my so-called flipping potential. She actually enrolled me in an online course one time without even asking me -- I couldn't believe it. She paid for it and everything. I got so mad my face turned purple, but I bit my tongue. She said, come on, sit down, get started with the course, you'll love it.

So, I got in front of my computer and made a show of working with the online course, and she got sleepy and took a nap on my bed, and while she was doing that, I went ahead and electronically withdrew from the course and made sure that they would refund the tuition to her credit card. When she found out the next day that I had done that, she refused to speak to me for a week afterward.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against higher education, I think that it's great, and if you want to take classes, more power to you, but quite frankly I'd rather learn on my own -- I don't need to enroll in a course. Anyway, the greatest minds in the world never needed to darken the halls of any university. Just look at Jesus Christ, and ask yourself, did he go to college? You know the answer. Look, I already did the higher education thing for awhile back in the day, and I had my fill of it. Been there, done that, and I've moved on. But Kathy just can't seem to get that through her head. Plus, as we all very well know, tuition costs these days are outrageous, and I'm not exactly a millionaire, alright?

Here's the thing with Kathy. She wants to get married and have kids. She wants me to make more money so that she can, well, whatever. You fill in the blank. She's got an agenda. Look, here's the deal. What you see is what you get. She needs to make up her mind. She either likes what she's got, or she needs to move on, because she's not going to make me into what she wants me to be. As Popeye famously remarked, I am what I am and that's all that I am. I don't know what her deal is. I like her just the way she is. Why can't she feel the same way about me? I didn't think that she was materialistic, but it looks like she's proven me wrong. Let me tell you, women are impossible.

Anyway, a lot of good Kathy's bachelor's degree in history has done her. She didn't want to teach school, so since she's graduated she's been working as a secretary. She could be doing the exact same thing with just a high school diploma. I'm just saying, you know.

After Kathy and I had one of our blow-ups some time ago, I figured, the heck with this, I'm going out clubbing on my own. I was ready for some good old frivolous fun, and hoping to push Kathy out of my mind for awhile. So, I put on my best dancing clothes, loaded up my hair with mousse, got on my bicycle, and headed on out. And let me tell you, I was smoking hot on the dance floor that night. I had a couple of great looking babes join me out there, and when the music stopped a moment for a break, they followed me to the bar, where I found out that each one was a prostitute. All I had to do was to remark, darn, all I've got on me right now are five dollars, and they vanished as if into thin air.

I drank some rum mixed with Coke, and thought to myself, "Who are you fooling? You're too old for this." Girls twenty years younger than me were out on the floor, dancing with each other, looking over at the young men at the bar. Good grief, I was old enough to be their father. I got back on my bike, went back to my apartment and crashed.

But a few days later I was back at the club again, and I've been making regular visits ever since. I haven't managed to pick up anyone -- and truth be told, I haven't exactly been trying -- but I enjoy the exercise and the music, and when it's dark enough on the dance floor, it's kind of hard for anyone to tell how old I am. I can imagine that I'm still in my twenties. I kind of enjoy that.

When Kathy found out that I wasn't going to budge on the whole "potential" issue, she changed her tactics, and then asked me when I was going to buy her a ring. I asked, what for, and she burst into tears. Not one of my more perceptive moments, I suppose. I tried to dodge the issue for as long as I could, until I finally just flat out told her that hey, I've never been married and I'm a confirmed lifelong bachelor, thank you very much. She asked if maybe I could change my views for someone special, someone like her maybe, and I said, hey, don't take it personally, that's just how I am, you know.

Well, she got all uptight and indignant, and said, well now, I guess I'm just your plaything, your toy, your little bit of amusement, your temporary diversion, or whatever, and a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember anymore. I just got up without a word, walked out the door, and left her apartment. That's the last time we've spoken, and for all I know, it may be the last time ever, who knows. But I sort of doubt it.

So, there you have it, the agony and ecstasy of relationships. Although to tell you the truth, as I see it, relationships as a whole tend to bring out the former a lot more than the latter. But you know how most of us humans are -- we never seem to learn from our mistakes. I figure that as long as there are birds and bees, we'll all continue to get crapped on and stung.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...