Marcia is a woman I see occasionally at Anna Bannana's, but until now she has always made a point a point of not greeting me or acknowledging me. Which is okay, since she was never all that interesting to me in the first place. In fact, probably the only reason I have stayed interested in her is because she has been so persistent in avoiding me. Resistance creates a certain attraction.
Anyway, this odd sort of non-relationship we have had goes back to four years ago, in 1997, just before I went on a sabbatical. This woman is married, with four children (all from different fathers, just like you). And the first time I ever talked to her was not at Anna's but very briefly on campus, I was waiting for an elevator, which in that building is very slow, in the X building, and she was sitting there with her husband and two of her kids, and she said to her husband, "I'll go up and take care of the mail and other stuff if you stay down here with the kids," and he agreed. So when the elevator finally came and we both got in, I said to her, "I think you definitely got the better of that deal," and she laughed and agreed with me. And then we got off the elevator and went our separate ways. And I thought, "Here's a woman who's willing to interact and seems like fun. It's a shame she's married." But I doubt that she ever remembered the encounter at all.
She's in the X Department, and after that I used to see her sometimes at Anna's sitting at a table with several X Department people, sometimes including her husband, and she looked rather interesting to me.
Then there were a couple of occasions when I sat next to her at the bar, and had the chance to actually get to know her and talk to her and tease her and flirt with her. I didn't want to get involved with a woman who had a husband and children, but she was fun to flirt with. (I felt somehow fairly certain that she did not have an openly polyamorous relationship with her husband, although even now I don't actually know that.)
One night (still back in 1997) she was at the bar talking to me and a guy named Dave, who was a waiter in a local restaurant and who used to make a point of talking to me at Anna's. He was very interested in Jack Kerouac and punk rock and knew a lot about music. And this woman, Marcia, was having quite a bit of fun with us. I think she was really attracted to Dave, who was more of the age that attracts her, but we were all having fun together.
Then closing time came, and Dave said, "Why don't we go to The Wave?" which is a punk rock club in Waikiki that stays open to 4 AM. Normally I would not stay out that late, but I thought, Sure, it would be an adventure. And Dave said, "Let's get a cab," but Marcia said, "It would be stupid to pay for a cab. I have my car right here."
For whatever reason, Dave got into the back seat, so that I was sitting in the front seat with Marcia. And when we got close to the nightclub, Dave said something that seemed to annoy Marcia. I don't remember what he said, and it wasn't obviously offensive, but it might have been something like, "I prefer to just go looking for casual sex, myself." And when we got to The Wave, there was a long line at the door (I guess it was probably Saturday night) and no parking places in sight. And Dave said, "Drive around to the back street, you can usually find a parking spot back there."
Then Marcia stopped the car and said, "I've changed my mind. I just want to go home now. I'll just drop you two off here." At first, I thought maybe she was just joking and I just sat there for a moment, and then I asked her, "Marcia, tell me what you really want now," and she said, "I want you to get out of the car," and so we did. Dave got out with no hesitation at all. It seemed to me later that there had been some sort of transaction that Marcia and Dave completely understood but that I'd somehow missed. Like maybe he had deliberately said what he had (which, as I say, had sounded quite innocuous to me) because he didn't want to spend any more time with her. But I might be completely wrong about that. And it might have been just the line at the door and the lack of parking that made Marcia change her mind.
In any case, Marcia drove off. And I looked at Dave and realized that without Marcia, there was absolutely no point in my going into the nightclub. And so I walked home, at two o'clock in the morning. Not a big deal. About half an hour's walk. I could have easily got a cab, but it just didn't seem worth spending the money. And I thought, "You know, this is just so typical of my experiences with women. In some respects, women typically just feel no obligation at all to have any consideration for men." She could have at least offered me a ride home. And yet I wasn't really angry. A little annoyed, but in a way it was just an interesting little man-woman interaction. Walking home and getting home late was not a big deal that night, so it was just a little mini-adventure.
Then later, I looked her up on her department's web page and sent her some email. Not complaining and not trying to make a date. I don't know, just friendly email. Just joking. And she wrote back and said, "It occurred to me later that it hadn't been very nice to just dump you two there in Waikiki." So that was nice. A perfectly reasonable apology, and I hadn't even asked her for one.
But then I send her a couple other emails. Little bits of nothing. I wasn't trying to date her, because I didn't want to date a woman with a husband. I didn't want to get into something that might turn out to be messy. I did know that she was going on sabbatical the next year (presumably with her husband) just as I was and was going to be in San Francisco briefly, and I did hope that we might see each other there and I could take her to Specs or one of the other bars that I find interesting.
But somehow she got a different impression. She started being very pointedly unfriendly after that, avoiding me. It seemed obvious that she had decided that I was the sort of aggressive persistant male with whom she had, apparently, had a lot of bad experiences.
And my own history of experiences with women suggested to me that there was probably no way in which I could straighten this out. Besides, I thought, "Why bother?" I had enjoyed flirting with her, but I didn't have any goal of becoming further involved with her.
And so there things stood, for almost four years. She doesn't come into Anna's so often any more, and when I see her I don't make any attempt to say hello. But I've noticed sometimes, because I know how to watch people using my peripheral vision without them being aware of it, that sometimes she watches me with a sort of curiosity.
So last night --- boy, this has really become a long story! --- last night when I went into Anna's, she was sitting with my friend Paul from the X Department on the opposite side of the bar from the only seat available for me. And I said hello to Paul and just ignored Marcia. And she ignored me. Just as we've been doing for the past four years.
But then somehow close to closing time they wound up getting up for a short while and losing their place at the bar, and the only choice open to them at that moment was to sit next to me. Paul next to me, Marcia next to Paul. And at that point, it was no longer possible to just ignore Marcia, so I just gave her a meaningful look. Like, "Okay, the ball's in your court. You decide how you want to handle this and I'll follow your lead."
And somewhere in all this the young woman Carla I've told you about, who likes to talk to me about movies, came in with three male friends and sat at a table and waved hello to me and then came up to me at the bar and exchanged a few words about some information I'd sent her by email and put her hand over mine for a moment before going back to her friends. And earlier in the evening, Heidi and Julie had also stopped by and given me hugs, so that somehow it had been an evening where a lot of youngish women had come up to me and talked for a while and made at least brief physical contact. So after Carla came up, Marcia said to me, joking, "You're the original dirty old man, aren't you?"
I wonder if I need to explain this expression to you. "Dirty" meaning being interested in sex, pornography, etc. Or in this case, an old man who finds young women attractive. It's kind of a traditional joking insult that even young people may say about each other, or men may say about themselves (and sometimes even lesbians may say it abut themselves). But there was, I believe, a little bit of annoyance underlying Marcia's joking, which has to do with the fact that she herself is definitely primarily attracted to younger men.
So she and I and Paul joked about the "dirty old men" comment, and then another guy came and sat down between us, because Paul had unknowingly taken this guy's seat, leaving Paul to stand, which was not a problem. He hadn't introduced Marcia to me, because he definitely knew that Marcia and I had known each other before, but I think he wasn't sure whether I remembered her or not.
And Marcia held out her hand for me to shake, in almost the same way that women used to hold out their hand to be kissed, and I said to her, "You dare to shake my hand?" and she said, "I'm brave."
In America, shaking hands can be a way of saying that there was no real hostility in in comments which have just been said in a teasing way that might be misinterpreted. (In the local culture here, the more common way of expressing this is by saying with a smile and a wave of the hand, "No no no no no," which actually sounds more like "Na na na na na." In other words, "No, I'm didn't actually mean that.") I don't know whether her handshake was quite intended to express this, but there was an intriguing subtext to the conversation (if you remember your literature courses), because we were talking as if we were meeting for the first time, and yet everything we were saying could also be interpreted in the context of the fact that we had a previous history between us. And the question was: were we going to acknowledge that the conversation had this second layer or not? For my part, my attitude was that that that was up to Marcia to decide.
So then she said, "Do you know who I am?" And in response, I told her exactly who she is: married, four children, professor in the X Department, etc. Rather astonishingly, because one of my skills is being usually able to remember details about people very accurately.
And this fourth guy who had come and sat down between us started getting very intrigued by exactly what was going on and asking questions.
And I explained that this was the first time in four years that we'd actually acknowledged each other and talked to each other.
And Marcia said, "What happened between us before was nothing."
"Yes, it was nothing," I agreed. "But somehow or other it became... something." And Marcia didn't disagree.
And I explained a little bit of my impression of what had made her become hostile to me. And again, she listened without commenting. It was in any case my chance to tell her what I'd been wanting to tell her for four years, namely that I had never meant to pursue her and had never wanted to date her or become seriously involved with her.
And this fourth guy kept getting more and more curious and wanting to know exactly what had happened.
"It was nothing," I said. "The only thing we ever did was go to the Wave together. And we never even got there, because she kicked me out of her car," and she smiled and agreed about that. Actually, though, I was joking and teasing her by presenting a very inaccurate impression of that incident, leaving out the fact that there had been another guy who had really played the central role, and not explaining that she hadn't actually "kicked us out" of the car; she'd dropped us off at the place where we'd been planning on going. It's just that once she decided that she wasn't coming with us, there hadn't no longer any point in my being there.
Well, it's a very different sort of interaction than the kind of relationship I have with you. Somehow you provoke a very direct honest kind of communication, whereas Marcia provokes joking and teasing and .... well, a sort of constant challenging. I'm constantly challenging her by saying things that we both know are not true. For instance, this fourth guy kept asking, "Why did she kick you out of the car?" and I'd say things like, "I said to her, 'You're the most gorgeous woman I've ever met and you have absolutely great tits' and then she said, 'Get out of my fucking car.'" And to this Marcia commented, "Tits? That was when I knew he must be blind." (Breasts are not one of her most conspicuous features.)
What makes this teasing and challenging work is that she feels compelled to defend herself and that I can see that she enjoys it. But what is really important is that in this sort of teasing, you have to somehow constantly show that you like the other person. And some people, for instance my ex-wife, can't deal with this sort of thing at all. I never tried teasing her this way, and it would completely bewilder her when she heard me doing it with other people. "Why do you say things to people that you know are completely untrue?"
Anyway, that's what's been happening with me recently.
Love & kisses,