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LAce Posted Monday, December 16th, 2002
Dispatch from the Dating Scene: A Lesson in Loneliness
Rebecca Brookshire

My last break up hit me harder than I expected. And maybe the relationship wasn't even serious enough to call a "break up" at all. Sam and I had really only been on two dates. But the long distance nature of our relationship created a sort of false intimacy. We lived two hours apart, and so we talked on the phone quite a bit. The second time we went out, I spent the night at his house.

I was attracted to a number of aspects of the relationship. For one thing, Sam was more sarcastic that I am, which is rare. Friends have occasionally hinted that if I ever wanted to have a successful relationship I'd better tone down the sarcasm (at least initially). Sam's sarcasm was so harsh that sometimes I felt like I could dish it out, but I couldn't swallow my own medicine. Secondly, was he funny. I'm a sucker for a man who can make me laugh. So I was hopeful about Sam. But in retrospect, I was overlooking some serious red flags (such as his blatant comments about my body, his self-absorbed monologues, and his general lack of respect towards me). For whatever reason, I saw only potential. You see, I really wanted that potential.

Our last two conversations did not go well. And now I wish that we had skipped these altogether. Sam and I were in the middle of this long distance relationship power struggle. Since he lived two hours away, and I had been to see him on both of our two dates, I told him that if he wanted to see me again he'd better bring his tired ass up to my house. Sam wasn't hip to this idea. He made some excuses, and for a time, his excuses had me convinced. But my gut told me that it was too early in the relationship to be making all the effort.

Sam and I were on the phone one night, and he said that he wanted to see me again soon. There was a concert at the college near him that he wanted to see. It was on a Sunday night. Could I come down; go to the show; spend the night; and then take a half-day off from work the next day? I explained that while that sounded like fun, it also sounded like another trip that I had to make in order to see him, and this time I'd have to take time off of work. No. When I scoffed at his idea, he said, "But I want to see you. I just can't come there."

The topic was tabled, and we moved on other conversations, one of them being the popular reality, "The Bachelor." Sam loved this show. I'd never watched it, because I hated the concept: twenty single women living together and competing over one man who had been deemed "a great catch" by network TV standards. Each week the lucky bachelor eliminates more women, eventually choosing one to date seriously. I jokingly asked him how he would pick a girl from the group if he were "the bachelor."

"Well, a few things..." Sam said, "She can't have cats. I hate cats." I laughed at this, because I have a cat, and he knew that! Silly funny Sam, he knew I have a cat. We were kidding, I assumed, so I told him to go on.

"Well, she can't have any debt," Sam said, "I mean I don't want to get involved with anyone who has debt."

"What?" I said. He couldn't possibly be serious.

"Well, are you a clotheshorse?" Ahhh… So I'd become the bachelorette. "I mean you seem like someone who is kind of, you know, done up. High maintenance. Like you'd be expensive to date."

Uh huh. Honestly, I could be considered high maintenance, but I would attribute that to my personality, not to my looks. And I don't think anyone I know well would refer to me as done up. (Trust me, after this conversation I took an informal poll.) At any rate, I was stunned and joked, "All right. Next time I see you I'll bring some financial statements."

"No, you don't need to do that," he said. (Wait…He thought I was serious?) "It's just that I don't want to deal with anyone else's financial issues."

At this point, I was just annoyed and mad. Who is he to tell me I'm done up and high maintenance and then basically warn me that if I don't have my finances together, I might not be up to par? I decided it was time to for me to get off the phone and go to bed.

If I had cut him loose right then and there—at the moment when there might as well have been large neon signs surrounding me with the message, "SAM IS NOT READY FOR THE GROWN UP RELATIONSHIP YOU WANT," then I don't think I would have been so crushed by the way things eventually turned out. But, like I said, I was looking for a man with potential, and I really wanted Sam to have it.

Sam and I didn't talk for two days, which was a stretch for us. Then I got a message from him saying he was sorry he hadn't called in a few days, and he hoped he hadn't been too "liberal" with his comments during our last conversation. I spent a few days debating a return call and eventually picked up the phone.

He asked me how my weekend was, and I told him it was great, except that I had lost my cell phone and was disappointed that I had to shell out $100 for a new one. "Oh, she had to get the expensive one. She's a spender," Sam replied.

"Wow," was all I could manage. I was shocked.

This was followed by silence. Silence was a trademark of conversations with Sam; it was almost a game. Eventually I said, "Do you think we should talk about anything from our last conversation? Because I don't think it went too well."

"You don't?" He asked innocently.

"You do?" He was quiet again.

"Sam, beyond your dating pre-req's, which were pretty horrendous, you thought that a great plan for seeing each other again was for me to come to see YOU on a Sunday, go to see one of YOUR favorite bands, spend the night at YOUR house and then take a half day off from work to drive home the next day."

He laughed nervously, "You don't have to take a half day. You could just get up at like 5 AM and drive home and be there in time for work."

At this point then I was just quiet and regretted calling him. "I mean…" he trailed off.

"Look, this probably isn't going to work. Maybe I shouldn't have pursued this at all since we live two hours apart…"

"What?" He stammered angrily.

"Sam, I feel like you just don't want to make any effort here, and I think I'm worth a little bit of effort."

"I think you are too."

"But you won't make any."

Silence again, for what seemed like a while.

"So I'm never going to see you again, because you've come to see me twice, and I haven't been to see you?"

"Sam, it's not like that. If anything were to come of this, I wouldn't be tallying up who went where, and when. I just feel…Like I said, I think I'm worth some effort."

More silence, then Sam said, "Okay. Bye then."

I was dumbstruck, because he couldn't have really meant that.

After a pause he said louder, "Bye."

"Bye Sam." And we hung up. And I felt like someone had just knocked the wind out of me. I knew immediately that that this ‘relationship' wasn't serious enough to make me feel this way, but I couldn't help it. I felt like I had been punched. And I began to cry. And I couldn't stop. I cried for all of the dating situations that left me feeling knocked down. I cried for being the only girl among what seems like millions of couples. I cried for seeing an illusion of potential, simply because I wanted it to be there.

When I shared this anecdote with my girlfriends, they were outraged at Sam. I was too, but I've also realized that the only person I have to blame is myself. I was getting lonely. And for all of the great girl that I am, when I begin to feel lonely, and feel that being alone isn't quite the way it is supposed to be, I begin to accept the unacceptable. Don't we all?

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Fawn Pattison on Tuesday, December 17th, 2002 at 10:04 AM
ooch, katherine, you have taken me so far back in time to another world when the unacceptable was pretty much the best i could come up with. all those ugly sams ago... it makes me feel like a wise old crone to smile on that time now, and to be glad for having grown up a little. and to remember it now without shame, even when i read my old journals and laugh at the points that used to make me cringe. sam is a cringe. sam, dick and harry.

Posted by Kerry Ann [ ] on Monday, January 6th, 2003 at 2:59 PM
This was a very timely read. I have a friend that is going through a heartache like this. Even if he didn't have your heart, sometimes it hurts so much just to lose the hope or the dream. I'm glad your perspective is so good. You did the right thing. Peace --Seanachie

Posted by Salome Homeyer on Tuesday, May 10th, 2005 at 2:05 PM
Thanks from all of us who have had a "sam" or two in our lives....

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