They Taught Me to Be This Way

Note: this essay, originally published in three parts, has been consolidated for brevity, clarity, and ease of reading. Legacy section dividers are left in for purposes of historical accuracy.

A Modern Playboy's Restrospective [Part I]

When I was a young man, I became enthralled with a lady. Her name is unimportant. She was a real person but she might as well have been a figment of the fevered imagination of my younger self--reality and my perception of her did not meet until years later, and then they barely recognized one another. I devoted myself to her and spent seven years in that devotion. While devoted to her, I kept her at arms length for fear things would mature too soon and spoil.

I thought that after college had finished and once we had both found means of supporting ourselves we could be together. Some might call those seven years wasted. I would say they were invested in my emotional education. I learned many lessons, and I learned patience and some measure of noble detachment along the way. Good skills for a young man to nurture. I learned about the complexity of long distance relationships, the danger of drawing lines in the sand, and how much it can cost to exhibit devotion for an ideal.

When she told me that she was breaking off any potential future relationship with me in exchange for an immediate 'local' relationship with a friend of hers (who had been pursuing her for years) I accepted that and continued to wait for her for an additional two years. When women made advances or when people asked about my romantic life I dodged the questions with pithy answers or (in the rare case that I opened up) told them that I was waiting for "my beloved", and that served as my barrier and excuse for a long time.

I would have waited longer but for the intervention of God.

I think in each dedicated Christian's life there is a time when we must sacrifice something to God as Abraham did. God comes to us and asks us to place him before all other things, and we find ourselves unable, and he must wrest something from us. Maybe it is our reliance on a substance, or our dedication to an ideal. In my case it was devotion to a woman.

A year before I completed my Master's degree in Engineering, I wrestled with God and he took my devotion for the lady away. I began to understand how Jacob must have felt, lying in the dust with his hip out of joint and his breath ragged in his throat. It had become a sin--idolatry--and it was made clear to me that it was time for me to move on.

I moved on in the wrong direction.

. . .Continued next week.

[Part II]
Lyndsey and I were the classic star-crossed lovers--doomed from day one. She was two years my junior in age and the academic gulf between us was wider than that (since I had started graduate studies by this time) but we had a great deal in common and we had fantastic physical and mental chemistry. I had known her back when she was in high school, and with me romantically adrift for the first time in my life I gravitated to her easily within a few short months.

Our relationship was destined for a disaster and some part of me always sensed that from the beginning. For a while now I've been able to see the futures of my relationships and I was never at peace with the fate of the one Lyndsey and I shared. If I were the man I am today I would have broken it off with her within the first three months, or radically rewritten the relationship into a friendship with no dangerous and unhealthy emotional commitment. But at that time life hadn't seen fit to temper me yet, and I was soft where I should have been firm.

Lyndsey went to a university three hundred and fifty miles away from mine and when school began for us both in the fall things were difficult. Lyndsey is a dishonest person by nature (the description recently provided by a mutual aquaintance was "pathological liar") and so you could never be sure you were getting the whole story--or even any part of the real one.

During that year she chose to take a detour into the party-school mentality. She had been a smoker in high school and she soon added ecstasy, pot, and hard alcohol to her list of preferred recreational substances. I attempted to be an anchor from a distance, but that was a frivolous idea and in my heart I knew it. However, I let things progress, feeling that I could at least be one dependable person in her life, and might do her a worse harm by breaking up with her than I would by letting things slowly fade until she decided I was just too 'old' for her.

I overestimated my own long-suffering ability. I suppose I used up all my resources in that department in my first devotion, and this time around I began to feel trapped, useless and abused. I felt Lyndsey was taking advantage of me--using me as a fallback point where she could feel morally superior because she had this nice-guy boyfriend she could pour her heart out to about all the things she had done wrong lately. Then, when her batteries were recharged and she felt loved and supported again, she could go out and get back to having fun. I'm sure she didn't mean to make me feel this way but this is how I began to percieve it as the year progressed. Simultaneously our physical relationship was heating up and my illusions about my own restraint and personal objectives were being fractured in the process.

Rather than express these frustrations to her, I began to detach myself emotionally from our relationship. I also began to look for diversions of my own.

My detachment was rapidly ripening into a feeling that I was allowed to be aloof from it all, and in the spring I spun that aloofness into something significantly more dangerous--an affair with a freshman girl ("Kid") at my own university with graduation a month away.

Here the story takes another turn.

My relationship with Lyndsey was profoundly, deeply unhealthy. Emotionally tiring and spiritually draining, the relationship ensured that I rarely felt "content" in her presence or with my own place alongside her, even when I was "happy." And then in my relationship with Kid, with a three week time limit and completely void of commitment, I found something rewarding.

And Kid was a million times kinder, even in her distance, than Lyndsey had ever been in her closeness. Where Lyndsey had been clingy, Kid was no pressure, hands off. Kid and I were aligned, and we shared similar interestts and abilities. We shared common ground, and as I felt daily more and more distant from Lyndsey, that had a profound effect on me. She was interested more in meeting the me that was inside than in the trappings of a relationship with me that she couldn't have or sustain. We made clear to one another that there was no future relationship in store for us, and we shared something unique--a genuine bonding of like spirits. We were both at a place in our lives where we needed to know that there was someone else out there like us, and the immediacy of our need made the impropriety of our actions seem a marginal issue.

Ironically, the day she dropped me at the bus station to go to Florida, she looked at me quizzically and said "y'know I think I'd feel better about this--in a mean sort of way--if you weren't so comfortable leaving." I smiled at her, kissed her, and got on the bus.

It occured to me then that we were both so used to relationships coming to bad ends that we were't quite sure how to walk away from one another without the normal melodrama of last farewells. We also were much more used to empty-promises of long-term relationships that were doomed to failure. The idea of walking away on good terms was foreign to us both--and yet it was incredibly refreshing to me.

I realized then that we had been so kind to each other, and our relationship so free of drama because it was in secret, in mutual attraction, and in honest but implicitly temporary love. The health our relationship had didn't seem to be in spite of these things, rather it seemed to be a product of them.

Over the summer, some unspecified events occured. Big, life-changing sorts of events, and I came back to Lyndsey and we tried to make it work in an odd sort of way. But the relationship was fundamentally broken and we were mean to one another and the permanence that we had once thought might be there for us was gone. We struck out emotionally at one another in self-defense and the relationship was worse than ever. In the fall, she went back for another year of University and I wrote the entire experience off.

I took a job as a bartender and got out of the game for a while.

. . .Concluded next week.

[Part III]
I took a job as a bartender and got out of the game for a while.

Then something interesting happened. During the four months I was "checked out", I let my culminated experience from the previous years ferment. It was constantly simmering in the back of my mind as a series of questions--what had I done wrong? What made some relationships feel so right and others crash and burn? Slowly some new ideas and opinions began to form in my head and I started seeking out relationships that were free of any commitment. These manifested and either short-term physical flings or mere friendships that wouldn't develop into anything stupid.

Of course, some of these relationships still ended badly for the women. They let themselves believe that I was lying about my detachment and that I felt something special or unique for them, though I insisted I did not. I made it clear at the start of such affairs that I had no interest in being committed to them and was pretty much just in it for a pretty face and a good kiss. The result was that even when things went badly for them, they couldn't put pressure on me to conform to the typical American guy-with-a-psycho-girlfriend bullshit.

I came to several realizations during my 'percolation' time and I'll relate some of them now.

Firstly, most American women are looking for a man to abuse. They are searching for a long term, 'steady' relationship specifically so that they can commit a certain measure of emotional abuse upon their boyfriends because it makes them feel good.

The abuse is mostly simple things that guys are programmed not to mind. They demand that men say "I love you" constantly rather than letting it be a natural thing. They want to be able to ask questions like "Does this make me look fat?" without stopping to consider whether that is a cruel question to ask a guy (note to the women reading this: it is). They want to be able to demand a minute- by -minute report of men's days without provocation at any time without being seen as unreasonable. They don't want to care enough about their men's feelings to be considerate, and in most cases they're willing to give up sex in exchange for that sort of relationship, because they think of that as "love." And most American men are willing to give up their emotional and basic human rights in exchange for sex, so it's a decent trade to them.

These women want to be able to place demands on men's time that are unreasonable and often unhealthy and expect men to treat them like angels at all times and be constantly respectful. In short: these women are looking for Heinous-Bitch Rights (TM). Each woman is looking for them to a different degree but it is always a difference of degree--not of principle--that separates the nice girls from the psycho bipolar vixens of the world. And because men want to get laid, they are willing to jump through these hoops and even turn a blind eye to the fact that this behaviour is abusive and pass it off as 'normal' female activity.

Now I don't necessarily feel that this system is broken for them that want it that way. It certainly seems a worse deal than the one men got fifty or one-hundred years ago, when they got sex in exchange for just being polite, putting a roof over women's heads and food on the table, but I'm not complaining--all of us men are bastards at heart anyway so I can't say there's something noble about us that is being subverted.

As an aside, I can say that I personally refuse to be treated like that--ever. I'm too proud, and too independent to submit myself to that sort of subjugation. And so I'm doing my bit to change things for--what I feel is--the better (more on this later).

But secondly, my experience with Kid taught me something more: an alternative exists. There is an entire other class of women out there that are in the extreme minority. However most women in the majority can be moved into this other class with enough charm and the right moves. These women are looking for a relationship too but are willing to settle for something less than Heinous-Bitch Rights (TM) if a viable counter-offer is made. If presented with an available, kindhearted and caring male who expresses interest in them as friends, and physically, but intentionally makes an effort to remain emotionally distant so that he won't get hurt or run-roughshod over, they welcome him into their lives.

These women are willing to settle for a relationship where they can't treat the man like shit if he's respectful, charming and kind to them and tells them up-front that he doesn't make any commitments to them and won't be treated as a possession or a slave. He can let them take the relationship at their own pace physically and emotionally--in most cases they'll avail themselves of his mind and friendship and in a few cases they'll also partake of his physique if he's ready and willing.

Now in these cases I feel that playboys have a responsibility to be both polite and up front about the issue. I always make clear that I'll go as far as she wants, but I will never disregard her wishes on the subject. I will encourage a girl to engage in intimate activity but never pressure her. And there are certain lines (esp. the ones between bases) that I will drag my feet over and be hesitant crossing unless I feel she really does want to cross them, for her own sake, not just to please me. After all, if she's uninterested there are plenty more and I'm in no hurry.

These women offer me a potential for physical action, friendships and a constant romantic challenge that keeps my wits sharp and that I enjoy. They are not allowed to control me, manipulate me, or lay any unique claim on me. In return they get to indulge in a relationship that's rather like a serving of gourmet chocolate--lovely until it is gone, and when it is gone there should be no hard feelings. I'll accompany them to events, and often ask them to accompany me. They will be praised in public and seduced in private--made to feel cared for and desired. And they will be treated with kindness and respect throughout it all.

So I'm charming, I'm kind, and I tell them I'm essentially unattached to anyone, and might be dating multiple people at any given time. Indeed to ensure that I have access to the small minority that are willing to take things further, I maintain a constant lead on four or five relationships at a time--some for practice, some for play. They must accept this in order to partake, or there is no relationship beyond simple friendship. If they're willing to allow me my freedom, they get what they want--be it a hand to hold, a person to kiss on new year's eve, or just a shoulder to lean on and someone to talk to and occasionally cry in front of.

Of course most of these relationships disintegrate within a few months of their creation, some within weeks. Sometimes the women in question feel they are inadequate beforehand, and once they realize they're viable candidates for those "real" (abusive) relationships that all the other women are trying to get they set off after one of those.

Sometimes they move away, or I move away. Or a change in schedules or professions ensures our separation.

Sometimes they just get kind of creepy and I distance myself from them over time (My favorite warning sign so far: "The best drug I've had is a mixture of ecstasy and ketamine. You wake up the next day and have no idea what you did the night before!").

And still most of the endings are on good terms. And I find that these relationships are kinder and more healthy than my attempts at long-term relationships ever were.

Some of them have lasted for months now, off and on when I'm in the right place at the right time. Some of them have been incredibly physical, and others have been almost devoid of touch.

In creating this sort of maelstrom of relationships around me, I feel I am doing my part to modify womankind's outlook on what they can reasonably demand from the intelligent, independent, mature American male, and I'm hoping that in some small way my actions will change the balance for the better. I suppose I am leading a sort of one-man vendetta against the modern American concept of Romance.

I hold that it is through watching the behaviour of American women that I have learned to be what I am. They reward a certain measure of distance and either abuse or take for granted any dedication or devotion shown them. I'm just adapting to win using their rules. Women have taught me to be this way.

And yet I know that in modern times we call men who engage in the behaviour I've described above womanizers, and so here I am. I've become a womanizer. I make clear my intentions at the beginning, and I don't treat them poorly--I just don't give them what they expect.

So, for all those ladies who've read this far: what do you expect? If the situation outlined above sounds agreeable to you, but you don't think there is a man around that follows such a code: keep an eye out--one of us will likely find you sooner or later.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006