Shawna was a very prominent friend of mine in the mid nineties. So prominent that I actually have a whole chapter dedicated to my relationship with her. There are seven entries in this chapter, aptly named The Shawna Years. I think those with autism will be able to relate to how I handled the various situations that came up in this story. My honesty and instincts to be forthright should ring as familiar. My unassuming nature and naivete should resonate with those on the spectrum. It is fun to look back at this entry and see how I responded to things and just wonder, what if someone else were in my shoes? Things would have unfolded so differently. But alas, I know that in the end things worked out exactly as they were meant to be.
In the year 1995 I was 23 years old and had absolutely no career perspectives in front of me and I made the decision to go to Job Corps. I signed up in October of 1994 and I had a girlfriend but since most of my prior relationships fizzled out shortly I figured by the time I was due to leave in January that relationship would be over. I was dead wrong. Although I lived in the bay area in Northern California they sent me to Imperial beach, California because it was there that they had an Accounting program I could get into. So I went to Job Corps although Jaime and I were still very much attached to one another but I thought it was best to go so I could do something about my future. Not only did I leave her behind but I made the foolish decision that we should see other people. This decision would turn out to be very painful. It was at Job Corps, San Diego Job Corps as it was called because of its proximity to that city, that I met Shawna, who would turn out to be the great love of my twenties.
But alas, love is often complicated and this most certainly was. In early May my good friend Chester introduced me to Shawna. At Job corps you live on campus so in effect it becomes a college like atmosphere although people are learning trades or getting their GED. The campus atmosphere and social life that I never experienced through college I would experience at Job Corps. The three of us had breakfast together at the cafeteria and instantly Shawna and I hit it off. There was no tension, it was an easy friendship and soon we were just inseparable. We always ate together and hung out after classes and what I liked about her was that I always felt appreciated around her, I always felt important to her. There was no gamesmanship, no hard to get, no guessing as to where I stood and I appreciated that. At the time I was not dating anybody on campus but I still kept in touch with Jaime. Although she and I were not exclusive there was still a very deep connection to her. I was by no means over her. Occasionally we would still see each other with me flying to see her or her doing the same.
Before Shawna got to Job Corps I had dated a girl named Lisa and that lasted about 5 weeks. One of the issues was that I was really pining over Jaime and I couldn’t really give Lisa the sole focus she deserved because my heart was elsewhere. And, as I have a tendency to be honest, she knew completely about Jaime, so this was not going to work. About 3 weeks into my friendship with Shawna the possibility of us dating came to the forefront. I remember talking about girls on campus and I said that it was hard for me to find somebody to date because all of the girls that liked me were ugly. Lisa was not ugly but at the time I had no legitimate prospects as I was nowhere near being attracted to any of the girls who had taken a liking to me. Shawna was very offended and said “Excuse me.” Apparently I struck a nerve. I had to clarify, “What I mean, is that the girls who like me romantically are ugly.”
Later on Chester who was there for this conversation talked about it. I mentioned that Shawna had gotten really offended and explained to him that I had assumed Shawna was not romantically interested in me. It is 100% natural for me to assume a girl is not interested in me. It is my default setting if you were. Chester said in a voice that indicated he knew something said “You assumed.” I then turned the subject to Jaime and explained to him that I was going to see her on the weekend which was a few days away at this point. He then asked me “What about Shawna? Do you like her?” This was complicated. Yes would be the short answer. I told him that I did like her but I didn’t want to start anything with her when I knew I was going to see Jaime on the weekend especially knowing that I would sleep with her. I had learned my lesson from dating Lisa and I didn’t want to put myself or Jaime or Shawna through such complications.
When I look back at that conversation I wonder how other guys would have handled it. For me, I had no instinct to be anything but honest about the situation. My fallback position is to come from a place of honesty. Nobody is 100% honest, I am not claiming that. However, I don’t choose dishonesty in every single instance where being honest is uncomfortable or inconvenient. Being dishonest is not something I take lightly or abuse, although it seems to make life easier for some people. Sometimes doing the right thing gets the wrong results and I can live with that. I wasn’t going to hide what was going on with Jaime and the thought of starting something with Shawna, not telling Jaime, sleeping with her and then coming back to Job Corps and making up some bullshit about nothing happened, well, that is just not in my reality. The fact that some guys would have done that didn’t even enter my brain until much, much later. So, as I said I would I went to see Jaime and I slept with her that weekend.
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