Double Dribble

I must have been 7 years old when the kids from across the street invited me over to their house across the street to play basketball.  There were about 6 kids playing and during the game as young kids will do they started running with the ball and dribbling with both hands. I protested “You can’t do that. Double dribble.” Nobody listened and they proceeded to play the same way. Then when they would run and take 6 steps before shooting I would call traveling and yet still nobody cared. I got really upset. This is not how you play the game. I had watched basketball on TV and there are rules. You just can’t do that. I got all upset, first that they weren’t playing by the rules and second, no one would listen to me. I went across the street and complained to my dad. I told him what was going on and explained that they weren’t playing by the rules. When I explained to him they weren’t playing by NBA rules he told me they were playing by driveway rules. “What’s driveway rules?” I asked. “It’s their driveway. They make up the rules.”

This episode is symptomatic of what would plague me for the next several decades of my life. I always expected people to play by the rules. I was always playing by my own set of rules while other people often play by their own. I could never understand that and this would be the source of many a frustration for me throughout my life.  Whenever people don’t follow the rules whether they be actual written rules or my own set of ethical rules I get judgmental, frustrated and obnoxious. I just don’t get it.

Some 35 years later I heard a vital sentence that would help me deal with people who play by their own rules. It is better to be in right relation than to be right. I got caught up in justifiable anger time and time again in my life. Until I started to realize that the anger did not serve me. What good is it to be right if you are angry and your relationships with people suffer? Trying to teach people a lesson, or just keeping my frustration to myself leaves me angry, unsettled and often dominates my mind.  It’s like I give people free rent in my head.

The lesson I have learned in life is that I need to change myself. Trying to change the world around me is an exhausting and futile effort. It is much easier to change yourself than it is to change the world. There are almost 8 billion people in the world, changing them all is not going to happen but I can change one person, myself, and that would be enough.

Friend Zone Rule-Act Like She/he may Like You

This one is about one of many “driveway rules” that I have. A driveway rule is an unspoken rule of etiquette that you bring into a social situation. We expect people to behave a certain way and we conduct ourselves in a certain manner based on this rule of etiquette. Many of our life’s frustrations arise because of these ‘driveway rules”. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment.

As we’ve established I have a whole code of conduct which I have lived by my whole life and often I get frustrated because what I think should be common courtesies extended to other people are in fact, not that common. It brings up a whole level of frustration because in short, without delving into a whole sermon of its own I feel that often doing the right thing gets the wrong results. As you can imagine these have surfaced way too many times when it comes to dating relationships or just opposite sex relations where it has not been established either way where the friendship is going. There is too often that quiet place in a friendship where neither of you has had the discussion about your intentions for the relationship. In other words you are in that awkward place known as the friend zone. 

I am not talking about when either or both of you are in established relationships and you just happen to be friends. I am talking about when you and the other person are both single and open to the possibility of a relationship. What happens when you decide to spend time together, but you are not dating and someone of the opposite sex interacts with you? How does one handle this? Well, my rule of thumb was always “act like she may like you” when in her presence. Show her enough respect for her feelings, given that you don’t know where she is coming from you should be sensitive to her and treat her as if she may have an interest in you. I think we need to put others first sometimes and this would be one of those times. This should go both ways in my opinion.

Back in the early to mid 90’s my old high school friend Jean and I decided to hang out with two girls we had known awhile. One was Natalie and the other was Renee. At this time Natalie and I were not flirting with each and our relationship had no sexual tension to it. Jean was also her friend and my intuition told me that Jean had an interest in her. Renee was a friend of Jean’s and Natalies so the four of us went out roller skating one night. At one point Natalie and Renee were in the rink skating while Jean and I were talking to each other on the sidelines. I saw Natalie and Renee go over to two guys in the rink and flirt with them. Natalie was a tremendous flirt and she got their phone numbers. Knowing the two personalities, this was all on Natalie and Renee just went along with it.

Since I had no interest in Natalie at this time I was upset for Jean. I thought it was messed up to flirt with other guys in front of him. She should be respectful of his feelings. Maybe this was her way of sending a message. Perhaps she had already told Jean she was not interested in him in that way. I really don’t know but I read it as disrespectful to his feelings. Yes, she can date other guys, yes, she can tell him about it and yes, she can get phone numbers, but I always thought while she was physically in his presence she should respect his attraction for him. Don’t pick up on other guys when you go out with him. If she gets a boyfriend or whatever then yes of course they can all hang out together. I believe this moment is when I decided I would not do this kind of thing to a girl. It was insensitive. Sometimes I just can’t fathom how self-centered and insensitive people can be at times.

To complicate matters Renee and I started to become friends on our own. We would talk on the phone and eventually start doing things together, just the two of us. One night we decided to go to one of my favorite bars.  Renee and I are hanging out at the bar and it is a pretty crowded night. There was a man there about 15 years older than her and he approached our table. He is courteous and everything and starts asking if we are together. We let him know we are not dating and he eventually talks to her privately and gets her phone number. I had no romantic interest in Renee, so I didn’t really give a shit but I was minorly bothered because she didn’t know that. We had never discussed it. And I knew that if I were put in the same situation I would not take another woman’s phone # while in her presence, because I really didn’t know going into that night what her intentions were. Renee and the man, Wayne, ended up dating each other for a little while. But in my mind Renee had now established that it was okay for me to pursue other women in her presence because she pursued another guy in my presence. I believe in a single standard, I will treat you the way you treat me. I was now free to flirt at my own discretion around her. I know that two wrongs don’t make a right but she never said it was wrong so if I do the same to her then in her mind it isn’t wrong.

Let’s fast forward a few months now. Renee and I go out again to the bar. Her and Wayne are now over because as it turns out Wayne was a player and she had the wrong idea about the nature of their relationship. She thought they were exclusive and he was just dating her and would see other women. They had slept together and she was heartbroken over him. So Renee and I are sitting at the bar and I notice a really attractive lady dancing. I make eye contact with her and we start talking a little bit. Well, this friend has a friend and the two ladies are now talking to me while Renee is there. The lady who also happened to be much older than me asks me if Renee and I are together and I say no she is not my girlfriend and she asks me if Renee knows this because apparently Renee is giving some seriously jealous looks over our way. I had no idea Renee had any kind of feelings for me.

To complicate matters the friend of the woman who was flirting with me now starts flirting with me. Out of the blue she asks me for a kiss. Well, she was thinking like a small kiss on the lips and I was thinking I would just go for it so I planted her with a big ole frenchy. She said the kiss was very wet and it felt like I kind of messed it all up. Oh well, but, wait, there’s more. So after getting the impression that the friend was not into the kiss the two of them start saying we could go to this other bar and have a lot of fun together and I am thinking the other friend is trying to have at me. Well, I was down with kissing another woman in front of Renee because her actions established it was okay to flirt and pick up but I wouldn’t just leave her there without me and let her fend for herself. We took a cab there and I wasn’t going to abandon her. I still had some ethics. So who knows what those two ladies had in mind but I let the opportunity slip and I left the bar with Renee because that was the gentlemanly thing to do. I never saw the other two ladies again.

So shortly after this happens I am on the phone with the aforementioned Natalie. At this point in time we have become good friends and Natalie asks me if I have something to tell her. I said no, I had not mentioned the night at the bar because it was just a fun one off. It was pretty insignificant and I didn’t have a tendency to kiss and tell with my female friends. She told me Renee was grossed out by the kiss. And we talked shortly about it. Anyhow a week later Renee is telling me how she would be okay with us dating. I didn’t want to date Renee but I am thinking wait a minute, now after you saw me kiss another woman you have an interest in me? What the hell? Is that what it takes for a woman to show an interest? And after that Natalie starts talking about us dating. So what I got out of this was that I can go along act like a complete gentleman, show both ladies respect while in their presence, do the right thing as it were and as soon as they see that I can get another woman all of a sudden I become attractive to them. This just doesn’t go well with me because doing the right thing was not getting me the right results but macking on another woman that was going to get me the girl. Man, life was frustrating. Another instance of driveway rules, I act one way and people act another. And as soon as I played by their rules, I got their attention.

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A Pair of Boobs in the Window

Okay, this is a lighter entry from my book, much lighter. All guys remember the first pair of boobs they ever saw. I will leave it at that. Enjoy!

I think it’s a man thing but I often forget my keys when I leave the house. It’s gotten a lot better over the years since I have learned to try and put them in the same place when I go to bed but when I was younger, it occurred frequently. I hadn’t yet learned the trick of giving them a specific place to rest at night. On many occasions when I was in grade school I would end up getting stuck outside of my house waiting for somebody to come home and let me in.

This story takes place with me in the 7th grade. At this time in my life boobs were kind of like Santa Claus to me. I had heard of them, there was evidence that they existed but I had yet to see them in real life. In the 80’s young boys saw boobs one of 3 ways, either on cable tv, through the Africa edition of National Geographic or if you were lucky enough to be a younger brother, through your eldest siblings stash of porno magazines. My friend Allen had cable tv so he scouted out all of the movies that had nudity in them, my dad liked National geographic and my oldest brother Dave had nudie mags so I was covered on all 3 bases, but the elusive real life boobs had still evaded me.

 One day I had again forgotten my keys. I went to the doorstep and knocked on the door, hoping somebody was home. Well, unfortunately nobody was home so I was out of luck. Rather than just sit on the front porch I decided I would kill some time in the backyard.  Luckily it doesn’t take much to keep my occupied so I could handle just hanging out in the backyard for awhile. I went around and hopped the fence that led to the backyard. I took the 25 foot walk and went towards the back, to be honest I have no idea what I was going to do. I turn the corner and I look into the small bedroom and there it is. Lo, and behold my brother Dave has a girl over and she is naked. She is standing there in her panties getting dressed and I see my first pair of boobs. Unlike Santa Claus I have evidence that they do exist. I don’t know if my memory is glorifying this pair but I remember them as being pretty majestic. I can imagine a chorus of angels singing as I visualize them. They were huge and I remember the nipples themselves being as big as basketballs and those boobs drooped like a basset hound. It was amazing. My brother made eye contact with me and I skeedaddled to the front of the house so he could let me in.

I go to the front of the house and knock on the door again, knowing I will be let in. My brother lets me in. A few minutes later both he and Dorothy walk out of the house and Dave says “Hey, my brother saw your tits.” She didn’t say a word. Her brother and I would become friends. We went to the same school and he lived about 3 minutes away from the junior high we attended. One day I went over to his house and she got pissed and smashed his face into a bowl of strawberry ice cream. I never went back to that place. I can imagine her brother Liam didn’t like his sister too much. But as for me, well, you can say I saw a different side of her.

Marc’s Rule-You Can’t be Mad at Somebody for Treating You the Same Way you Treat Them

Reasons, reasons, reasons, you ever notice how people always think their reason for behaving a certain way is better than your reason? We always think we are justified for doing something but the other person isn’t even though we are doing the same thing. Personally, I think it’s all bullshit.

When I was 15 years old I had traveled all the way to Garden Grove for a relative’s wedding. This was a 6 hour drive from my house which consisted of listening to Neil Diamond do a duet with Barbara Streissand over and over, some rambling on about how he doesn’t send flowers anymore. My mom was a huge Neil Diamond fan so that’s what I got when I went on road trips to southern California. I know way too much Neil Diamond for a 47 year-old man. After the wedding there was a reception at someone’s house and as usual being socially inept I spent most of my time snacking on party favors sitting by myself on the couch.

There happened to be a few kids approximately my age there and I did notice them talking across the room but I never joined them. I was not very familiar with any of them which made it more difficult for me to approach them. I just didn’t know how to get in there and start a conversation so I stayed put with my salted pretzels and rice chex and acted like I was really enjoying the fine cuisine. I just wasn’t good at making friends. That was my go to, hover around the food and stick to those I was comfortable with or just hang out by myself. I actually didn’t mind it too much. I can self-entertain rather easily.

After the reception while in my mom’s car she told me about how some of the kids had gone out for ice cream. She said that they were going to invite me but that I seemed stuck up to them. This really baffled me. My thoughts were, If I am sitting on the couch and not talking to them and they are not talking to me either then what are they bothered by? We are both doing the exact same thing to each other. I had no ill feelings towards them. I had no idea why they didn’t talk to me so I didn’t make up a reason in my head. I knew that I didn’t know and that was fine with me. In my head it was a non-issue. Why is it I am the stuck up one but you are not? People are so hypocritical.

My mom explained to me that since it was their house they expected that I would talk to them first, so that’s why I was stuck up according to them. I must admit that this is really frustrating. How come nobody told me of this social rule? How am I supposed to know this shit? I had never heard of that. Why is your reason better than my reason? I am a firm believer in following rules but if I don’t know the rule you can’t hold me accountable can you? Laws are a different thing, I know, we are responsible to know the laws of the land, I am talking about social rules. I don’t accept this rule, these kids made this stuff up. I don’t give them authority to make up their own rules and expect me to follow them.

What I learned from this is that people always want to justify their actions. It’s okay for me to do one thing because my reason is better than yours, so there, or something like that. I would never be upset at those kids for not talking to me because I didn’t talk to them either. If I wanted to I could have said that they should talk to me first because it is their house and they should be gracious hosts. The bottom line is everybody always thinks that they have a good reason. Have you ever seen a kid run up to his mom and say “Mommy, Johnny hit me for no reason.”? Bullshit, that kid had a reason to hit you. But we always see things from just our own perspective. The kid who got hit thinks there was no reason for that behavior and the violent kid thinks he was justified. And the kid who got hit for no reason always leaves out the part about how he called Johnny a name seconds before he got hit for no reason. He has a reason, I guarantee you, just ask him. I wish those kids at the party would have reserved judgement on me. They could have just asked somebody what my reason was if they were offended by my actions. And just to be clear I am not saying violent Johnny had a good reason to whack that kid but in his mind he probably did. Before you judge Johnny ask him so you get the full story.

One Day at a Time

We are done with The Shawna years. I hope you enjoyed reading them, as I have enjoyed sharing these posts. This one is about sobriety and a philosophy that helped me get sober and stay sober.

I used to just really hate clichés. Like one day at a time, I used to think, like opposed to what? A year at a time? I just hate it when we say stuff that sounds cool but doesn’t really mean anything. It just seems so trite.  I don’t like disingenuous statements. I realize this may mean one hundred different things to a hundred people but as long as it means something to you then that’s fine. Without knowing it I was applying this philosophy nearly two decades ago, early in my sobriety.

In my early twenties I really struggled to get sober. I had no concept of living the rest of my life sober. I just couldn’t fathom it. The thing I struggled with was coming to the conclusion that I was an alcoholic. I hadn’t experienced many of the things you associate with being an alcoholic. I wasn’t a gutter bum, I hadn’t been arrested, no DUI’s, then again I don’t drive. I didn’t repeatedly embarrass myself at family functions. I had a few puking on the toilet, dry heaving and oh god moments but maybe not as many as the other guys in the rooms. And I was young. A lot of the people in programs are much older. Another thing was all of the sayings, I had no idea what the hell people were talking about. As usual I needed an outlet for my frustrations and this seemed like a good one for me at the time.

After I got sober for the last time, at this point at least, I decided that being sober the rest of my life was just too big of a commitment. And I said to hell with being guilty. I can drink any damn time I want to drink, I decided. The key was not to want to drink. So when I was 24 my sober philosophy was this. Everyday I wake up I would make a decision to drink or not drink. I figured the problem with alcoholics is that we go to extremes, so I needed to get away from extreme thinking. I needed to readjust. Think small. And that philosophy has worked for me. I am now 47 and am just under 3 months shy of celebrating 23 years sober.

Personally, I just had to figure out for myself what one day at a time means, I have come up with my interpretation of many of the clichés that I have come across. Some may prefer this way and others may want to ask somebody, hey, what does this mean to you? But these cliches really do work for people so we shouldn’t just dismiss them. There is a meaning to them other than just sounding good. I had to be open-minded and realize that just because I may not understand something does not mean it lacks value. It simply means that I haven’t figured it out yet. We have to walk through life with some humility and put responsibility on ourselves. My advice is don’t try to take on too much all at once. Work on yourself, know what you are capable of, get strong spiritually and you will feel confident that whatever happens down the road you will have the strength and wisdom to handle it. The more days you make the decision to not drink the more likely it is that you will make the same decision the following day. As a friend of mine likes to tell me you will do today what you did yesterday.

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Sleeping with a Crackhead

Hi everyone. I hope your weekend is off to a great start. Ok, we are at the end of the romantic saga. Find out how it ends. And please if you read it all let me know what you think.

After Shawna got out of San Diego Job Corps, she went to San Jose Job Corps to finish up her studies there in an advanced program. I used to send her care packages while she was there. I would Fed-Ex her a big old box with some of the things she liked best like Twizzlers and Saltine crackers and other assorted goodies. Sometimes I would send her money as well. She didn’t ask for these things, I just wanted to be nice. I appreciated her friendship to me. She had listened to me go on and on about Jaime, and then talk about whatever would be romantic interest would pop up in my life, whether it be Rachel, Lisa, Tammy or even the art teacher Liz. She was there for me when I needed a friend. When I needed to love and be safe. She made me feel important, she made me feel appreciated and needed. Yes, I was in love with her, but I also genuinely loved her. When Shawna got out of San Jose Job Corps, she moved into the same building that I lived in. So, we each had our own not so deluxe apartment in the sky. She had moved on from Tim at this point. And to be honest, she is the one who messed that up. I will always have Tim’s side because although Shawna was my dear friend, she was a messed-up girlfriend. After Tim she made some real bad choices when it came to men. I always knew Tim was great, he was a special dude, but his greatness came even more to light compared to the assholes she would later date.

This isn’t the first guy but let’s start with Robert, the crackhead. Robert the crackhead lived down the hall from me. I never knew who he was until Shawna moved in and she met him. She slept with Robert and of course gave me the gossip. Well, although he wasn’t a boyfriend to her, they did hook up from time to time. I wasn’t too happy about the last guy she was with who definitely showed some red flags because he was a lady’s man and I didn’t like that he was asking her to do his laundry for him especially when they weren’t even serious. This guy Robert though was something else. As it turns out Robert the crackhead had a live-in girlfriend, but Shawna didn’t really care. She had no interest in him as a boyfriend, he was more like a friend with benefits. Shawna had a history of using speed and liked to drink. I would not say she was alcoholic at all, but she did get toasty once in a while. Shawna told me that one night she and Robert and his girlfriend smoked crack together all night. There was also some business about having a threesome with the girlfriend. So yes, the term Robert the crackhead is not derisive it is a fact. I did not like hearing about her doing crack all night. This had me scared to be honest. I did not want to see her life go downhill but with all these poor choices in men and the crack thing I was downright afraid her life would spiral. It seemed to already be on the decline. She told me about a time when her and Robert hung out and he bought her a 5$ pizza and a $1.29 40 ouncer. You have to take into consideration that just about a month earlier I had taken her out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and just to give you perspective this was late 1996 now and the dinner before tip cost $94 between the two of us. He said to her “I bet, you’re not used to being wined and dined like this are you?” Oh, I about shit myself when I heard this. “Was he serious when he said this?” I asked, hoping he was being ironic or something. No, he wasn’t.

He was dead serious. He really thought he was rolling out the red carpet with the $5 pizza and the 40 ouncer. You can’t imagine how much of a dumbass I felt like after hearing about this. I was taking her out to 100$ dinners, sending her care packages, sleeping with one girl at a time when I could, treating her like an absolute gentleman and this guy, this guy, is the one who is having sex with her? I just couldn’t fathom that this is how the Universe works. I am an incredible idiot I thought to myself. This guy is doing none of the right things, he’s smoking crack, having threesomes, being a cheap ass, and he is getting rewarded, meanwhile here I am suffering on the daily because I simultaneously am being repressed and loving a woman.

This would rock my world. Sometimes you get a revelation in your life that just makes you completely jaded, and this was one of those times. You can do all the right things, you can be classy, giving, loving, considerate and honest and some other guy is the one that is going to get the girl. Yet again, that feeling of, it should be me, I deserve that, and he doesn’t, penetrated my mind. Life did not seem fair at this point. What the fuck was I doing with my life? Things with Shawna and I would soon get strained. The truth is that I was just in too much pain. How much can one take? How can you be so close to someone you love and just be repressed and watch on the sidelines? I couldn’t take it anymore. I should be the one she wants; I should be sexy to her. But I wasn’t. She loved her bad boys. We started fighting more and more. She continued to make bad choices with her life. I remember having a talk with her and telling her that she deserved happiness. She deserved to have a boyfriend and not be one of many women that a guy sleeps with. She deserved love. You know what she told me? She said, “Do I?” That was it. There was the answer to all my questions. Why did she put herself through bad boyfriends? Why did she smoke crack? Why was she content being a side dish? Because shefelt like she deserved it. You won’t accept good things in your life until you feel like you deserve them. This was the epiphany I needed. She would always choose a bad boy because she felt bad about herself. I felt powerless. Her life would take her wherever it would take her, and I dreaded it was going to be down an awful road. I was powerless over her life and I knew it. I was not equipped to change anybody. The writing was on the wall. It was time to give up.

Some months later in 1997 I moved to another part of San Diego. I got a better job. Shawna and I had worked together for about six months and I decided it was time for me to move on. This new job paid more. It was 40 hours a week at 6$ an hour and the extra five hours a week would go far with me. It wasn’t really about moving up financially, I needed to move on. I am not going to watch a woman I love ruin her life with crackheads and threesomes and guys that slept with many women. I was not going to love a woman who didn’t want to be loved. She didn’t want a healthy relationship because she felt like she didn’t deserve one. That is not what I wanted. It was very painful to watch her life take these turns, so I had to go. Quickly the amount of contact we had with each other dissipated. And when I was ready to cut the cord and try to heal, I moved again and did not tell her. I just walked away from the situation. For my own well-being I needed to. So, there it is. Shawna and I were over. There was no movie moment where we realize we were meant to be with each other and give each other a big kiss. There was no great proclamation of love on my behalf. All my deepest moments of love and pain were kept to myself. Now they are on paper. How she really felt about me I will never know. I always wished that she had known, not to change anything about what happened but just to give her that peace of mind.

Requited Love

In part 6 of The Shawna years I discover what I was truly seeking from Shawna. In this one I recall one of the truly fulfilling moments of our friendship. I realize what had triggered me from part 3 The I Love You Conundrum. When it comes to true love who comes first? Read on and find out what happens next.

It is now the middle of 1996 and I am out of Job corps living in downtown San Diego on my own. For the first time in my life I am living independently. Making ends meet by working 35 hours a week and 6 dollars an hour. I couldn’t afford much so I was living in a residential hotel in a room so small it would make a prisoner complain. But it was all mine. Even though I had to go down the hall to take a shower, in a private room of course, I was proud to be on my own.

Shawna and Tim were still together and both at Job Corps. We still kept in touch and one day she decided to come over with Tim to visit me. Tim and I got along great so there was no tension between us. I think that when Shawna told Tim that I was the reason they got back together it smoothed our relationship. She let him know in no uncertain terms that he would have been done for if I hadn’t talked her back into getting back with him. Tim was great to her. I liked him for her so being that I loved her and wanted the best for her it was only right that I think of her and not myself and let her know she was making a mistake. Once Tim knew I was not some asshole male friend waiting for his opportunity to swoop on in like a vulture he knew he could trust me. He was old enough to know that a lot of guys who are just friends will take the first chance they get to denigrate the current boyfriend so that they can have a shot at a girl. But that is not me. I believe that love does the right thing and love is not supposed to be selfish. Sometimes Shawna and I would go out to a movie on our own and Tim was like “Did you enjoy the movie?” And he was totally cool, he never gave me any kind of crap nor did I give him any. Having Tim as her boyfriend allowed me to be happy for Shawna which in and of itself had a lot of value to me so I will always like Tim for that.

Tim and Shawna come over to my not so deluxe apartment in the sky and Shawna had been drinking a little bit. She wasn’t drunk by any means but she was feeling it a little bit. So here we are some 13 months after we had met, some 7 months after I first told her I loved her and with Tim right there she tells me”I love you,Marc.” Nice timing, Shawna, real nice. I said nothing. This was really awkward for me. Tim is right there, what will he think? So of course having said nothing Shawna repeats herself “Did you hear that Marc? I love you.” Sometimes I just think the Universe is out to fuck me, and this was one of those times. I sheepishly told her ” I love you too.” 

That moment meant a lot to me. I had secretly been stewing for 7 months about her not telling me she loved me after I told her. All of those feelings I had about not being valued the same as others had come to the surface. I wondered why Rachel got an I love you and I didn’t. I had thought about an old fried Natalie who knew me for years and had never hugged me and then met my friend and within 20 minutes when they said goodbye she hugged him. These kind of things make me feel like I am some sort of an asshole. These things make me feel undervalued. Instances like these make me feel like women. although the like me, they enjoy being my friend don’t have a real connection to me. Natalie is the reason I was triggered by Shawna’s missing I love you from months ago. These things anger me. But anger is just hurt covered up with several blankets. Her I love you although awkward and poorly timed was what I needed. I needed to know I meant something to her. 

The Robins of My Soul

You ever get so head over heels in love that you just have to write a poem about it? One with trees and birds in it? Yeah, you have. But mine had the whole fucking forest. Welcome to part 5 of The Shawna Years. Enjoy.

While at Job Corps Shawna and I took a class together called Office Skills. I took it because it was a way for me to go into Accounting. You had to learn things like 10key, typing and filing and some computer skills before you could go on to the Accounting class. Shawna did not have an interest in accounting but did take the Office skills class with me. Every hour there was a break so she and I would spend a lot of our breaks together. Her boyfriend Tim was taking a carpentry class which was not very far off from our office skills building. Occasionally they would see each other on breaks but typically they would see each other at meals and when the day was over for a few hours between 7 and 9:30 when we were outside.

At this time in my life I fashioned myself to be a poet. I would write poems about love, about sobriety, poems of hope, poems of triumph but mostly about heartache and pain. That was something I knew a shitload about. One day I decided to write a poem. It was a love poem called The Robins of My Soul. I almost cringe at that title because typically I don’t use flowery language. I don’t talk about nature and cute rabbits and birds and things like that. I tend to communicate more directly. But one night while Tim was hanging out with Shawna, it just poured out of me. I wrote a grandiose flowery emotional love poem complete with singing birds and swaying trees and cute little rabbits. It was of course about my true and deepest feeling about Shawna. I decided to let her hear it. I read it to her on the pretense of this is just a poem I wrote.

When I read it to her she said “Don’t tell Tim.” Aww, shit. She’s on to me. Just like when I told her I loved her that one day, I didn’t want her to know it was a romantic love I wanted her to read it as a friend type love but she reacted differently. I wanted her to just think this was just a romantic poem, not one about how I feel for her. She had me dead to rights. I thought quickly. How do I get myself out of this? “Why not?” I said, playing stupid. Being that I am often naive when I try to play things off by acting naïve it usually works. It’s a great diversionary tactic. She said” He’ll get jealous.” “Of what” I said. Like I have said before I don’t like to resort to dishonesty, I knew what the hell she meant but I had to protect myself, I couldn’t confess it was about her. Well, that threw her off and she said something like he would be jealous that he didn’t write it and he would want it for himself. I guess there was no way in hell that at that point in time she was going to say she thought it was about her. And there was no way I was going to let her know it was. It was too complicated. There was no way I was ever going to get down to the jist of it which was, I love you, and I am in love with you but I can’t trust you as a girlfriend, you cheat on your boyfriends. And to be completely honest, she had the power to just crush me. I refused to be vulnerable with her.

Had we dated I would have bought her gifts, gone anywhere she wanted to go, absolutely given her anything she wanted. All that stuff about not spending money on my girlfriends, that would have been out the window with her. I was just bluffing, I was just trying to keep her close and keep her distant at the same time. I was trying to love and trying to not get hurt. I had love with a safety net and you can’t have an everlasting love like that, to reach the highest level you have to be vulnerable.

I Don’t Love Lucy

Hi Everybody. Welcome back for part 4 of my great romantic debacle. In this story we come across a situation we are all familiar with, when your best friend asks you if you like one of your female friends. I talk about how I treat this situation. There are many things to ponder such as do I want to tell them? Do I want the female friend to be gossiped about? Is it right to embarrass somebody whom you are not attracted to by letting the whole world know you are just not that into them? When you talk about whether you like somebody do you think about what effect your words can have on them?Do you think it’s better to have that conversation with the individual first rather than your friend? Grab your popcorn, and I hope you’re ready. Here is part 4.

In Job Corps I had a lot of female friends, with of course Shawna being the most prominent one. However, one of our really good friends was a girl named Lucy. The three of us did a lot together and got along easily. Lucy was like one of the guys. She was very different than Shawna. Shawna was very outgoing and flirty and Lucy was more reserved with men. While Shawna was very boy crazy and talked openly about how guys looked Lucy did not. Lucy even nicknamed Shawna Esther as in estrogen because she was so boy crazy. While Shawna was not funny per se, she was fun and Lucy was downright funny. I enjoyed her a lot. She got my sense of humor. When I would say something dry and witty, she would catch it. She liked my quote of “Tense. It’s a stage above ninths.” She could match me in the wits department and I liked that. One time when we went to karaoke she said she wanted to sing the theme to I love Lucy. I didn’t get it. I thought it was because her name was Lucy but it was because it’s a wordless theme. Lucy did not sing when we went to karaoke. Tim however was a good singer.

In my twenties I really struggled with the dynamics of male-female communication. Especially when it comes to having the discussion about the direction of the friendship. At 24 I started to figure out that there was a system if you will amongst women and men. It was at this time I realized that women would have their friends ask a guy how they felt about them rather than just asking the guy directly. I had devised a method to combat this scheme. I hated it. I thought it was the shortcut. I figured if you didn’t have the guts to broach the subject one-on-one then you didn’t deserve the answer. I myself had kept many an attraction to myself  and I suffered. So when people took the shortcut it just made me bitter.  In retrospect I realize I should have just been accepting of this and been okay with people finding a way around the communication issues. I was not there at 24. I had a lot to work out.

One day Shawna and I were walking and she starts to ask me about Lucy. “Do you like Lucy?” she asked me. Now, with anybody else I would have been difficult. I would have said “I think I should tell her myself.” As my way of protesting the system. But with Shawna and Lucy, it was different. I told Shawna how I felt about Lucy. “No, I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with her. She’s not ugly or anything. She’s too funny. I am not attracted to funny women. I like wounded birds.” I trusted Shawna with this information. I would not want anyone else to get this information. I liked Lucy and I would not want her to be embarrassed that I was not attracted to her. I could only tell this to Shawna because she would not tell everybody about this. She would not embarrass her and use this information as fodder for gossip. Lucy didn’t deserve to be the subject of gossip. Especially something along the lines of “Did you hear? Marc doesn’t like Lucy. she really likes him but he isn’t into her.” Who knows where that conversation could have gone. I felt very protective of Lucy and wanted to handle the situation delicately. 

I never found out why Shawna asked me that. Did Lucy get the wrong idea about my intentions with her? Did Lucy have feelings for me? I don’t know, really. But since I did not have those feelings for her then it really wasn’t my business how she felt about me. I didn’t really need to know. What good would it do me to know Lucy liked me romantically? None, so why bother finding out?

I liked that Shawna and I could talk openly about girls. She talked openly about boys with me. In a sense, we were like girlfriends. We talked openly about the opposite sex. I really began to like the openness we had. I started to realize that there was a level of friendship we had that could not be reached if we were dating. There are rules to dating. And one rule is that you always treat your significant other with respect. You don’t whistle at other girls or go, oh my that woman is gorgeous. There is a cautious state we take with our partners, a respect that comes with it. But, there are so many things that we keep to ourselves. You don’t talk shop about the opposite sex. You tread carefully with certain subjects. You don’t flirt or tell your partner about people flirting with you but when you are friends there is an openness that comes with it. There are a different set of driveway rules. At this point the barrier had been crossed, we had dated other people. We were established as friends. We had established that we were not dating so the level of honesty that might not be there early in a friendship was there. I knew all of her secrets. I could talk about hurting over Jaime. I could talk openly about how I felt about Tammy or Lisa. She told me about all of her infidelities and approximately how many lovers she had in her life. The number was significantly high. These are not things I would have been privy to had Shawna and I been dating. 

I was in the friend zone for sure. But I was also in love so I glorified the hell out of that friendship. With thoughts like those shared in the prior paragraph. This is how I coped with all of the pain of longing. Sometimes I just loved being with her but with my deep feelings for her it would also hurt to be near her so much. I wanted to touch her, I wanted her to love me but I also knew it would be a disaster. She would cheat on me. I knew I would lose some of her honesty with me. I knew it would restrict how I could talk with her. What I realized later in life is that being platonic with her was my safety net. I was controlling her ability to hurt me. When a woman cheats on you it hurts. When a woman breaks up with you it hurts. One or both of these would have been inevitable with her. What is cheating? Cheating is breaking the rules, right? Plain and simple. As platonic friends, she could not hurt me as much, she can’t cheat on me because there are no rules. She can cheat on Tim. She can steal Tim from Carol, which she did, but this doesn’t hurt me because she has no obligation to me. We get hurt in our relationship when people go against our expectations for them, when they break our driveway rules. I put no expectations on her. This would allow me to love her. This would protect me. While I thought I was preventing myself from being hurt I was hurting all along pining for her. Thinking she should be loving me. Thinking she should be touching me, hugging me, holding my hand and choosing me over all others. I guess I was trying to fulfill all of my needs at once. I was trying to fulfill the need to love, which I was, the need to be loved, which I was still chasing and the need for safety. In order for love to work, a romantic love, it requires vulnerability. I was too young to know that at the time.

I don’t know what happened to Lucy after Job Corps. Hopefully she found love and is doing well. I never kept in touch with her and it’s a shame that sometimes life takes us in that direction. I wonder if she found a man who is attracted to a woman whose predominant social personality trait is humor. I wonder if she presents more of herself now than she did in the past. Perhaps she shows the depth of her personality around her friends or perhaps that depth is only reserved for a select few or maybe just one.

The I Love You Conundrum

Welcome back everybody! This is part 3 of The Shawna Years. By this time my emotions were really starting to get involved. However, my confusion when it comes to social norms and the dynamics of male-female friendships really comes into play. My actions are often dictated by my logic but the rest of society often reacts to a different set of guidelines. I hope you are ready. Things are about to get interesting. Enjoy!

By July of 1995 just two months after meeting Shawna, she had firmly imprinted on me. We were still side by side with each other, eating most of our meals together, hanging out off campus and undeniably best friends at this point. We had never dated each other and crossed that bridge. I briefly dated Lisa again, right at the time Shawna had stopped dating Tim #1. Whenever there was a brief window where we both seemed to be available it closed quickly. Soon, Shawna was dating Tim #2 who happens to be my favorite of all of her boyfriends. The three of us got along great.

Being the best friends that we were we started talking about our dating lives. I would tell her about Lisa but confided that it really wasn’t going anywhere. I was kind of over her at this time. My heart was just not in it. She would tell me all about Tim and then some. As it turns out she cheated on Tim, a lot. First there was Shane, then Adam, and then back to Shane. He was the constant and I believe I was the only one who knew about their affair. A line had been crossed, I knew so much about my best friend that it made her undatable. I would end up making myself undateable as well.

A few more months passed by and Shawna was still with Tim and I had begun dating Tammy. Tammy was cute and goofy and let’s be honest, was big breasted and ditzy. I liked her but in my heart I knew she was safe. I knew I would never fall head over heels in love with her. I was not ready for that. I didn’t want it. Besides, I was head over heels in love with Shawna.  I was just unwilling to cross that bridge, she was a cheater. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance with her. You just can’t change another person. We don’t have that kind of power. I feel grateful I knew that at such a young age. It is a lesson lost on many a young person. Despite all this I really spoiled Shawna. I was very kind and patient with her. When she would act up I was calm and collected and forgiving. I took her out to the movies, I took her out for cheesecake, it became our thing, some couples have sex together, we had cheesecake. To have cheesecake with another woman or go to the movies with another woman became akin to cheating in her mind. This had become her driveway rule although we were friends, and not an actual couple. Not that I had a lot of money because I didn’t, but I spent what I could on her. It was how I could show her my love, without saying it. My mom used to show me love by buying little things for me and letting me know she was thinking of me when she was out. You can say my mom showed me how to love.

 After I realized I was in love with a cheater and I wouldn’t stand a chance with her I began to make sure she did not see me as any kind of a future boyfriend. I set out to make myself look like an asshole of a boyfriend. Good old self-sabotage. I told her I didn’t spend money on my girlfriends, I don’t spoil them. I told her I spent money on her because she is my friend but girlfriends get a different treatment. I loved Shawna and in my mind I just had to make sure I didn’t break her heart so to make sure she never got any ideas about me as a romantic possibility I had to make it seem like she had it better as my friend.  Why on Earth would she want to change this situation? I spoil her both with my gentle behavior with her and also by buying her things and taking her out, she gets to sleep with whomever she wants and gets to talk to me about it without any anger or judgement. I made being her friend a perfect scenario. I loved her so much that the last thing I wanted to do was to have to reject her and have to explain to her “You cheat on your boyfriends.”

After Tammy came along a girl named Rachel entered the picture. Tammy left me for a really nerdy guy who wrote her some kind of big love letter after he learned about me so I was a goner. Rachel was in fact a brief romantic interest of mine. All this time Shawna is still with Tim. Tim is growing on me and I really like him for Shawna. Shawna and Rachel got along well, unlike Tammy or Lisa and they started hanging out a lot. Things never really went anywhere with Rachel and I didn’t really care, my heart was always with Shawna. After about a week of friendship I hear Rachel say “love you.” to Shawna. Shawna said it back to her. Now I have to admit I got jealous. I had been Shawna’s right hand for months now and Shawna had never told me she loved me. But a thought came into my mind, they are friends and apparently friends can tell each other they love each other so I will tell Shawna I love her.

One day Shawna and I are together at break time from one of our classes and I decided it was time. I didn’t waste much time. I stood in front of her and just said it “I love you.” “Marc” she said. That was it. And she had a tone in her voice that sounded surprised. Boy, this didn’t go as planned. I wanted her to take it the same way she took it when Rachel said she loved her. I didn’t get the same reaction. No, I love you back. I was very upset. I have known her 6 months, ate countless meals with her, got her back with Tim #2 after she broke up with him, listened to all of her secrets and kept them confidential, all that I meant to her and she doesn’t love me. I thought this was bullshit. Apparently a male friend saying I love you to a female friend is not received as well as a female friend saying it to each other. I think there are some driveway rules in play here for women that I just have no clue about. Apparently, there are other connotations. I deserved that I love you back, more than Rachel, more than anybody. This made me question my value to her as a friend. Does she enjoy my company but have no emotional attachment to me whatsoever? Am I the guy that women like but can’t make a connection with on any level? This was not a pain that I would get over easily. This one hit me really hard.