Thursday, June 23, 2016

THE NEAREST EXIT

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I took the cowardly route. But then again, so did he.

It began with that extended weekend when he couldn't get enough of me. Really, that should have been a sign.

And, in fact, there was a sign. On the Monday evening as we walked to dinner, Alfonso bemoaned the Vancouver labor market for someone like him in the higher echelon of the service industry. I listened as he went on what sounded like a rant. I’d mentioned a company a friend of mine works for and Alfonso felt compelled to be dismissive of that business organization. “They have the view that the customer is their greatest asset. How utterly plebeian.”

Alfonso felt that the employees were a company’s greatest asset. Fair enough. But it was the tone and the use of the word plebeian that seemed over the top. A company has a right to establish its own business philosophy. Get hired before you try to change it. That’s what I would have said. But he only looked to me for affirmation. He was right, wasn’t he? That’s what he wanted me to say. When he asked, “What do you think?” I said, “I don’t think you really want to know.” The intention was to avoid a first conflict but the avoidance itself created tension. I’d been in relationships with guys who expected me to affirm everything. That’s how some people feel supported. My problem is I have a tendency to consider another point of view. It benefits me in the employment sector but is a serious handicap on the dating front.

We continued our walk in silence. My mind raced to find a new subject, my eyes searched for a distraction. Alas, there’s never a Kermode bear on a pogo stick when you need one. I could have at least whistled, but that’s a skill I never perfected. Comes out more like a dying budgie.

Dying. Yes, that seemed to be the status of Alfonso and me. But then people do panic over a first fight. This didn’t amount to a fight though. Not a spat, not even a tiff. The word plebeian stuck in my mind. Who says that? I recalled other conversations over the weekend and I got the clear sense that Alfonso would never be wrong. He’d repeated a few affirmations about the universe looking out for him and his talents always finding an audience in due time. I hadn’t known how to respond to them. A slight nod? “Amen”? I pushed aside images of Stuart Smalley and his SNL bits. Affirmations are foreign to a guy like me who specializes in self-deprecation.

What I finally heard in Alfonso was conceit and false state of superiority. Three days into our courtship, I flashed forward to three months and even three years. This guy would be a difficult partner. There would be no compromising, not when he would always be right. I wondered what adjectives he’d have to belittle my perspective. Derivative? Nescient? Picayune? My gut said, Get out.

We passed over the pizza joint I’d suggested. “I can’t tolerate lines,” he said. Instead, we opted for a tapas restaurant across the street. “Do you mind if I have the view seat?” Oh, of course not. Was there an air of hostility or was I just noticing an unappealing egocentricity? Either way, not good.

The following weekend, we met on Friday and Sunday. I tried to put concerns behind me. This guy still liked me. I could ill afford to be picky. To borrow a Barry Manilow song title, I was Trying to Get the Feeling Again.

Not a good mindset after only one weekend. Sizzle turned to fizzle. It didn’t help that Alfonso immediately went into a ten-minute play-by-play on Friday of how he reamed out an employer after he quit an hour into the second day of his new job. The account smacked of a superiority complex and mean-spiritedness.

But I let another week go by. I was busy with work week. No time for contact. I texted near dinnertime the following Friday. I needed to see him to end things. He said he’d already made plans. I felt relieved. And Saturday ticked by. Can’t this whole thing just fade away? He phoned at 6 p.m. when I was running an errand. He took that as me being unavailable and I did nothing to change that perception.

Five minutes later, I received a text. I don’t see “us” happening. Your world is too rigid and I don’t think I am your prince.

I fist-pumped, something I’ve never done in my life, not even on the tennis court. It was a tacky gesture for no one to use, but it was a spontaneous release of angst. I’d avoided what I was certain would have been a prickly conversation. I guess he did, too. And Alfonso could tell others that he made the decision. He’d want that. A perfect ending.

I realized I am not as desperate to be dating as I sometimes think. Things shouldn’t feel uncomfortable on a third day together. The prospect of growing old alone isn’t nearly as scary as being in a wrong relationship again. I’ve been too dismissive of gut instincts in the past. I will still succumb to pity parties in the future, but for now I can embrace my passive stance toward self-preservation. Spineless? Sure. I’m okay with that.



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