Saturday, September 1, 2012

anniversary and some pathological liars.

August 31, 1986 was the day I had my last drink. There was always a big fuss about anniversaries when I went to AA, but today's was very low-key.

Lately I've been thinking about some bad dates and bad boyfriends from my bad drinking days. The one I wanted to talk about was more than a date (we saw each other several times), but definitely less than a boyfriend.

In the early eighties, I was at a Yankees game by myself, and struck up a conversation with an older man who was there with his teenaged son. Martin explained to me that these weren't his usual seats, but that he had lent out his season seats to a friend that day (he pointed to a much better section than the ones we were sitting in). He said that, in fact, he was away on the weekends a lot and wondered if I would like for him to give me the rest of his season seats. I distinctly recall his son rolling his eyes, which at the time I ascribed to his being slightly embarrassed that his dad seemed to e trying to pick up a younger woman right then and there.

I was in my early 20s, and Martin was probably past 50, and I didn't particularly find myself attracted to him. But he appeared to be pretty wealthy, and I didn't see how it could do much harm to see him again - plus I very much wanted those Yankee tickets.

I didn't really understand what a pathological liar was, or really why someone would lie to me at all if I already showed signed of enjoying his company. I saw Martin maybe a couple more times. He gave me his business card, from a company called General Glass, but also explained that he had a lot of other business deals going on. He did drive a Mercedes. He told me about smuggling Torahs and other Jewish religious items into Czechoslovakia. He told me in some detail about a woman he was more or less keeping, a former Miss USA or Miss World  or such. She was from the south, as I recall, and very, very beautiful. He had bought her a co-op. He indicated that they hadn't been getting on too well, and at a subsequent meeting, he acting very upset and said she had killed herself.

What had started to seem like a very exciting and interesting life started to sound fishy. He drank a lot. And although he didn't really make a pass - in fact, he pretty much acted like a gentleman - he started proposing that he keep me in much the same manner as he kept the beauty queen. He would give me an apartment, we would travel together, and he would take care of my every need. And yet, somehow, he always forgot to bring those Yankees tickets. I believe I'd even given him my address so he could mail them to me.

I half-considered it. There was something very exotic about the lifestyle he described, and I felt somewhat honored that he had chosen me; it also touched off a certain level of greed in me. At the time, I worked with a very nice man named Joe, and every time I told him something about Martin, Joe said that the guy just didn't sound right.

The last thing I remember is that Martin had neglected to call, and I tried to reach him at General Glass. Whoever answered the phone told me that Martin hadn't worked there in some time, and kind of laughed about it, as if he couldn't believe that Martin still pretended to work there.

Pathological liar #2: I was fairly newly sober, and met a guy named - I think it was Steve Silverman - at a union meeting at NYU. I was very big in the staff union before I got sober, and stayed with it some time into my recovery, though not long. Steve was age-appropriate and nice-looking. I cant remember what division of NYU he worked at, but I know we started talking on the phone quite a bit. I was working at writing poetry and short stories at the time, and he expressed an interest in reading them. In those pre-internet days, I think I sent them to him inter-office. He later discussed them with me, intelligently and at length. Our phone conversations went on for a few weeks. He told me about some other jobs he'd had - I can't remember what they were, but they sounded interesting. At one point, rather casually, he mentioned that he had applied for a transfer to a position in the division where I worked (though the job was in a different building), and wondered if there was anything I could do to help. I seem to recall that I did speak to someone in the union, and Steve did get the job. He was going to take me out to dinner to celebrate and to thank me, and he stood me up. I never did hear from him again. I did hear, though, that his resume turned out to be largely falsified and that he simply stopped showing up for his new job. I don't know if it was the lying that bothered me so much - it was more that he launched what I would certainly call a courtship rather than simply asking me at the union meeting if I might put in a good word for him.

I never used to assume that someone was lying to me, especially if there didn't seem to be any reason to do so.

The third incident happened when I was well into sobriety, and it's kind of embarrassing in more than one way. When I was sober for a few years, I worked days (still at NYU) and finished my BA at night. I enjoyed school a lot at the time, and was deeply into the romance of scholarship. Between classes and studying, I hadn't had a date - or even gotten laid - for a couple of years. I had also put on a great deal of weight. At the time I got sober, people in AA promoted the use of sugar as a substitute for alcohol, and I ate a lot of sweets to keep myself from wanting to drink. I had put on about thirty pounds.

I should also mention that dating within AA ranged from bad to dreadful. (Joe Ford was an exception, but that's another story). The men blew hot and cold: they'd flirt and show interest, then change their minds, and you'd always have to talk about it. It was excruciating. And I wasn't getting much play from men outside the rooms, so I had this brilliant idea: I saw ads, and read postings online (newsgroup days), about certain bars that had special nights for "Big Beautiful Women" (usually referred to as "BBWs") and their admirers. A guy I met online invited me to one; it was kind of a sexy atmosphere, featuring a lingerie show, but the guy who invited me was way more smitten than I, so I decided to try another club on my own.

I wasn't as "big" as some of the other women who went to these clubs, many of whom dressed in a sexy was, with major hair and makeup; they also tended to be fairly buxom, which I was not and never was. (No matter how much I ever got to weigh, I always somehow remained an A-cup.)

So I went to this smaller club, and was pretty roundly snubbed by the other women. In fact, I won some sort of door prize, and when I went up to accept it, I heard one woman say, rather loudly, "She's too small." So I wasn't quite fat enough to be accepte3d by the other women. However, I did meet a very nice man - I think his name was Chris. He was a good sized fellow - not fat but hearty - and we fell to talking. He was wearing a band jacket, and told me that even though he played in a successful band, he liked a fairly simple life and lived in Staten Island when he wasn't touring. I asked what band he played in, and he rather shyly indicated that it was the band whose jacket he was wearing - Pantera. Now, I was solidly into blues at the time, and knew absolutely zero about those sorts of bands beyond the names, and it didn't strike me as odd that someone who played in a metal band (or whatever sort of band it was) liked a fairly simple home life and had a taste for larger women. When I asked about what seemed to be a wedding band, he said that he and his brother (who was also in the band) had exchanged them as an expression of their brotherly love. I bought that. I started telling him about the blues magazine I had started, and asked if he felt he could offer any sort of financial support (the printing costs were killing me). He said absolutely.

We started to get rather cozy and began doing some kissing and touching in the club. We clearly had the hots for each other, and he asked if he could come to my place, as he was staying at a nearby hotel with the band and it was a little noisy and messy. My apartment at the time was a disastrous mess, so I suggested we go to the hotel instead. He said he had to run out to the hotel and check on the condition of his room, see if his bandmates were running riot...and he left the club and didn't come back.

That one really killed me. It wasn't just the realization that many married men considered these clubs a good spot to pick up willing and possibly desperate women (mostly with big tits). It was that he had lied to me even when I had indicated that I was attracted to him. He had no reason to lie. Which was probably why I fell for it: he was all set for an evening of what would have been some pretty good sex, and he blew it by typing himself up in a knot of unnecessary lies.

It should have been a mere disappointment, but it absolutely crushed me. It played into a lot of self-loathing I had lately experienced, which soon enough led me to a psychiatrist and Prozac. (A couple of AA friends, listening to me describe recent moods, suggested it - both had suffered crushing depressions in sobriety and had ended up on antidepressants).

I still have that naive tendency to assume that someone is telling the truth if they have no reason to do otherwise, but I guess some guys are driven to embellish. My bullshit meter has improved substantially since then.

And once the Prozac took hold, I lost around 30 pounds and started to feel a lot better about myself. I answered a couple of personal ads and went on two dates. Even though both seemed successful to me, I never heard from either again. Still, I liked the idea of dating. When I was a teenager and young adult, no one really dated in any formal hung out, maybe you had sex, maybe you kept hanging out, maybe not. So actual dating was kind of new to me. I figured I'd have better luck placing my own ad. I put my writing skills to work, and came up with an ad that pretty well described who I was and what I was looking for. The headline was "Old hippie at heart seeks same." I mentioned that I was a blues journalist on the side, my age (38) and the age I was looking for (35-45), that I was sober and clean and that I was interested in a serious relationship.

These ads (again, pre-internet dating) would set up a voice mailbox for you, for a limited time, and I felt like my ad had been specific enough to weed out the creeps. I got a very manageable 12 voice mails, spoke to six of them on the phone, and met three face-to-face.

The first one I met was not a bad guy, but he was a sober social worker and basically that was it - all recovery talk. Didn't click. The third one I met seemed to feel that being an "old hippie" meant telling a lot of tripping stories; he also lectured me about Israel. Also not my type.

The second one I met in person was Barry. And we clicked. In fact, I went out with the Israel-lecturing guy the night after I met Barry for coffee, and as much as I had liked Barry, I liked him a whole lot better after the date with the tripping/Israel guy. So as soon as I got back from the Israel date, I called Barry at home, and left a voicemail saying how much I had enjoyed meeting him, and I hoped we'd see each other again soon. He called back in about an hour and said, "I was just going to make the same call." And that, as they say, was pretty much it. I found myself a nice Jewish boy who wanted to get serious, and he was good-looking and funny and warm. He was the guy. And still is.

Of course, I have many other stories of dates and boyfriends and pick-ups (please remember that we're talking about roughly 1975-85, when life and sex were a lot safer and easier), but I still find the liars baffling. And the dating stories are much harder to tell than the work ones.

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