I work with a guy who comes to my desk once or twice a week to update me with amusing tales of his love life. Let's just call him Buster after a puppy I used to have that was absolutely endearing but refused to ever learn from the same mistakes. Buster is a good egg: a health enthusiast, an optimist, a bit of an unintentional comic, and he is oriented toward his family. He is well-liked by everyone who knows him. But he seems to have a knack for bumbling into relationships with overbearing, controlling, fetish-engaging, soul-sucking women-- the kind of women who give my entire gender a bad name. Our conversations almost always end with my saying, "Can't you just find a nice girl at church?"
Buster once told me about a woman I now refer to as Five-by-Five because she was about as wide as she was tall (bless her heart). On their first date, having met online, she asked to meet at a Walmart and grabbed him by the hand there, pulling him to the soap aisle. Yes, I already hear you asking why Walmart on a first date. And wouldn't that alone be a red flag?
"What scent you want?" Five-by-Five asked, and then she blatantly stated that they would be getting a hotel room together immediately post-purchase. In a panic, he created an excuse to leave, and began to hide in other aisles, ducking her calls to his cell phone. Five-by-Five wasn't giving up. Finally, he recruited a store employee to see if there was a certain girl sitting on a certain car outside the doors.
"Daannngggg," said the Walmart clerk, "She is sitting right on that car, and SHE IS A BIG GIRL!" Buster panicked and enlisted him to pose as an uncle stating there was an emergency at home and that Buster needed to go right now. Outside, arms crossed and scowling, Five-by-Five didn't entirely buy his story, but she let him get in his own car and leave.
At first, Buster thought he was in the clear, but he noticed her following, then chasing him in her car, until he lost her in a neighborhood nearby. Meanwhile, his phone never stopped ringing and she left a host of threatening messages on his voicemail.
Now mind you, surely he could have just told the girl that her motive wasn't a shared one, and walked away at the first sign of psychosis. Most grown-ups don't run and hide in Walmart and recruit strangers to pose as family. But then most well-adjusted grown ups don't drag a stranger down the soap aisle in the first fifteen minutes of a first date and ask what scent one finds most pleasant for a sudden sexual encounter.
When I stopped laughing (more like seizing) about this story, he told me about a previous relationship with a dominating woman who, when that relationship was over, was angry with him for not continuing to financially support her, not that he ever should have done so in the first place. I tried to grasp the reality of that, and finally said, "Buster? Why can't you just find a nice girl in church?"
Buster, at 35 years old, is still a little hung up on appearance, and he pays a price in considering super-cute and young as initial criteria. I can't blame him for not feeling a chemical connection or for feeling turned off, but when I gave him the opportunity to go out with a wonderful, mature, professional woman his age, he balked. "You might be missing something great," I said. Oh, well. It's not my problem. And as I listen to his stories, I find myself telling him that he is a grown up and will figure out how to deal with things, but I still have to often shake my head, laugh, and remind him: Why can't you...