The Game

I have tons of guy friends.

On my birthday, over 80% of the attendees were guys.

And though I love them to death, I’ve seen them go through women like underwear and sometimes, I wonder if I should say something to at least save womankind.

For example, I’m friends with guys who already have an end in mind to a girl who can’t leave without him. As one shared last night, “God, I loathe the ending cause Abbie will be crushed, but Raven, I don’t see a future with this girl. After I leave Taiwan, it’s bye-bye baby.”

The superwoman-who’s-out-to-save-womanhood should’ve asked, “Then why are you wasting your and her time hooking up in the first place?

But then again, it ain’t none of my business and I simply butt out.

And how about the guys who are single (or not exclusive attached) and attractive who gets an ego boost with every girl they score with?

As another good guy friend had commented, “Raven, I know this may sound bad but seriously, scoring a girl’s digits and finding out how many you can collect in a night give a lot of guys an intense high. Sure, you’re not going to call them and nothing will come out from it, but still.”

What happened to good ol’ romance?

For an old-soul like me, I sometimes wonder if the guys I meet will ever take any girl seriously… and not count them as mere scratches to the bed posts.

I yearn for a fellow old soul who is searching for more than a casual fling and for companionship that lasts a few weeks/months.

I dream for a guy who won’t necessarily complete me (as am already complete), but will enhance the wonderful life I have right now.

But I think I’d have to wait longer.

If the article below is any indication, I feel that it’s true what they say, “You have to outgrow the game.”

And till any guy have played the field and hit rock buttom by finding out that they have yet to find what they are looking after sleeping with every Mary, Juliet and Samantha, they’re in no good shape for any relationship.

And that’s a fact.

Till then, I share with you a beautiful article that I found about a man’s journey after his divorce and the highs and lows of being single and successful.

It’s a story too common to be told, and that’s why, we understand it well.

Enjoy!
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Back in the Game

The first few years of a newly single guy’s life are filled with agony, ecstasy and glimpses of the occasional hidden tattoo. Here are the life lessons one man learned when he ventured back into the market for his first time in a decade.

My marriage ended with a whimper, not a bang. In 2002, after nine years together, my wife and I split up in the parking lot of a Gap in suburban Boston. Not that I didn’t see it coming. There had been couples counseling, crying jags, and final chances. She wanted to raise kids in an insular seaside town.

I wanted kids, too: just in New York or L.A. At least that’s what we said the issue was. We were two emotional Marxists, incapable of compromise, heading toward mutually assured destruction.
“It’s just not working,” she said.

For once in my life, I said nothing. My first thought was, A Gap parking lot? Sitting in a Nissan Sentra? C’mon, you can do better than that!

We rode home in silence. At the house, I threw some clothes into two duffel bags and laughed bitterly at the wallpaper I’d been peeling off our bedroom walls, prep work for a renovation that now would never happen. I tossed my CDs into a crate and packed up my 1991 Honda Accord for my move to New York City. I was fine for a while, then flopped on the kitchen floor, bawling uncontrollably. My wife wondered if she should call the paramedics.

Finally, I gathered myself and drove away. Five minutes later, she called me.

“Aha,” I smirked. Second thoughts already!

“Hey, you forgot your laptop.”

I waited at a gas station where I used to make goofy faces at her while filling up the Sentra.

A few minutes later, she arrived, handed me my computer bag, and was gone. I threw it on the passenger side, took a breath, and steeled myself for a long drive and the first day of the rest of my life.

Then it hit me. “Damn it!” I screamed. Not on account of her. I just remembered my car’s CD player had been swiped the week before. I was about to be left alone with my thoughts for hundreds of miles on the interstate.

God, being divorced was going to suck.

Or maybe not.

At first, I found being single again at age 36 daunting. During nearly a decade in the matrimonial cocoon, much had happened. Bill and Monica, Internet dating, and insta-communication had altered the way men and women paired off. Could you flirt endlessly with a pretty girl via email and text messages now? Yes! Could the same girl show up at a party with a never-before-mentioned boyfriend? Yes!

As Bill Murray’s character experiences in Groundhog Day, massive repetition led to gradual enlightenment. Well, enlightenment might be the wrong word. I still give thanks to Jesus, Allah, and Zeus for the moment when a spunky makeup artist told me we could “hook up” whenever I was in L.A.

I thought this meant, uh, we could have a night of dinner and dancing. She set me straight: “Hooking up” meant we could call each other whenever I was in L.A. and have sex. But like Murray, who is forced to relive the worst day in his life over and over again until he changes, I came to realize that as a single man I had no one to blame but myself if my life blew chunks. My character was my karma, and if I wanted to change my life or be happy or find whatever your vision of enlightenment is, the responsibility was mine.

Forty-three percent of first marriages end in divorce, and a cottage industry has sprung up to advise men on their journey through Denial, Rage and Acceptance. My stages of grief could more aptly be described as Fear, More Fear and Ultimate Fear. So take your pick: Read a namby-pamby self-help book or follow me on an NC-17 journey that includes stops in the garden of earthly delights and Candy Land’s Molasses Swamp. All I ask is, don’t judge me. Mistakes were made. Dignity was misplaced. I was flying without instruments. Count yourself lucky; at least you have a navigator.

THE FIRST DATE

Unlike some of my pasty-white buddies who broke up with their wives and got all gangsta, blasting “women are nothing but hos and bitches” from the stereos of their Subaru Foresters, I didn’t sour on love. Quite the contrary, I truly thought I might fall in love again soon. How soon? I didn’t know — maybe on my first date in nine years?

She was an editor at a women’s magazine who seemed, via email and a brief phone chat, nice and nonthreatening. We arranged to meet at a Greenwich Village bar. And then I began a disconcerting ritual I call first-date prep. In short, Rodrick Industries closes for business the day of a first date. Gentlemen, don’t try this at work: It will get you fired. But I’m a writer, and my days are permanent grad school; there’s rarely anything that can’t be pushed back in the service of freaking myself out.

For Kelly, the troops began mobilizing the night before. I debated when to shave so I’d have enough stubble to look cool but not enough to look like a vagrant. Unfortunately, the dull razor left a possible-suicide-attempt-gone-awry gouge on my neck. I bought condoms and debated whether to put one in my wallet; that lasted 3 or 4 hours. Eventually, I realized “carrying” might give off the aura that I’m a player. That’s not me! But why did I spend the rest of the afternoon making a mix CD in case of a triumphant return?

That night, I approached the rendezvous point right on time. As Coldplay played at a volume even Chris Martin would disapprove of, I saw a woman who matched the description of Kelly, my setup girl. With the melodic mope rock strumming away in my ears, I mouthed “Kelly” in her direction. She nodded yes; we embraced and agreed to head out for quieter climes. So far, I was rocking the party that rocks the party.

But as we nursed a second drink and made excruciatingly awkward conversation, I gamely asked how long she had known Francis, our mutual friend and matchmaker. “I don’t know any Francis,” she said. The room spun a bit.

“Is your name Kelly?” I asked.

“No, it’s Karen. Are you Scott?”

On my first date in nine years, I’d managed to leave the bar with the wrong woman. I returned to the scene of the crime with Karen, hoping to make a prisoner exchange. I found Kelly and Scott drinking at the bar. He was bald and hairy. Kelly looked like a beautiful blonde bank hostage waiting for the right moment to crawl to safety.

Kelly and I ended up hanging out for a few instructive weeks. After our second or third date, she invited me back up to her apartment, pulled the quilt off her bed, sat down, and started showing me family pictures. She sat very close to me. Her knee collided with mine. Repeatedly. I looked at the photos for about a half hour and then got up, kissed her on the cheek, and left. She looked baffled.

Later, I related the incident to a buddy.

“She invites you up and sits on her bed?” he asked, his eyes popping out of his head. He then spoke to me slowly, as if I was in a special-ed class.

“Do. You. Know. What. That. Means?”

I swirled the ice in my glass and gave him a perplexed look. “No, what?”

“Uh, dude, she wanted to have sex with you.”

“Ohhh.”

When I tried to act upon this intel, I learned about the modern phenomenon known as cock blocking. The next week, I took Kelly to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. My best friend, Sam, went separately with another date. Afterward, we met up for a drink. He clamped his hand on my shoulder.

“You know, I was at the same match as you and Kelly,” he said. “I was watching the two of you through binoculars. It’s clear you two don’t have chemistry. You shouldn’t waste your time on her.”

Sam had been my best man during my first trip down the aisle, so I took his advice and stopped seeing Kelly. Sam and I drifted apart for a few months. I then heard through a mutual friend that he was in a hot and heavy relationship with — wait for it — Kelly.

A year later, they married.

I was invited to the wedding but, in a final indignity, wasn’t allowed to bring a date. I never got them a wedding present.

Clearly, I had a lot to learn.

YOU’RE NOT THE MAN YOU WERE

For the modern man getting back into the game, I’d heartily recommend teaming up with your sister, a platonic female friend, or a pal’s wife. Women can provide you with a look behind the curtain and will give you excellent scouting reports, most of which you will ignore at your own peril. And if you’re lucky, they can help you relocate your long-lost mojo.

Playing the Joan Cusack role for me was my friend Eileen. Shortly after becoming single, I emailed her, moaning about a woman I had a crush on but never thought would go out with me. Eileen emailed back, “I don’t want your sizable ego to get any bigger, but you don’t get it: You’re one of the cool kids now.”

And I guess she was right. My self-image was formed in high school. Since then, I had made some progress but never bothered to sync up my self-esteem with my reality. I had traded a dorky Lands’ End wardrobe and a Caesar bowl cut for artfully distressed jeans and overpriced tousled hair. I now had a job. So it made sense that the same women who once would have adopted me as a mascot and bought me open-faced turkey sandwiches would actually have sex with me.

There were some other changes. A decade ago, I lived in a basement apartment off the garbage room of a Warsaw Pact — era building. The only view out my bedroom window was of the massive calves of the building superintendent as her poodle shot amber squirts at me. Now I had the top floor of a brownstone on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

I quickly found out that having an interesting career is an aphrodisiac. I’d met Sarah on Martha’s Vineyard two months after splitting from my wife. She was a 26-year-old grad student in architecture at Columbia with a shy, delicate face and a gymnast’s body. I called her when I got back to New York, and we had dinner. A second date ended at my place. Things were going well, but it wasn’t until she saw a photo of me in a military helicopter in the Colombian jungle that she seemed, well, interested.

“Can I have that picture?” She asked, batting her giant brown eyes for maximum effect. “Sure,” I said. Then I conjured up my man-of-mystery voice and said cryptically, “That was a tough trip.” Of course, I didn’t mention it was my one and only trip into a quasi war zone and that my fixer was probably on the CIA payroll, ensuring my safety.

Maybe it was a coincidence? Maybe it was cause and effect? All I know is 20 minutes later I was peeling off her jeans, openly gawking at the tattoo on her right thigh, and remembering what a good friend had told me: “There’s nothing quite like seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time.” That first time lasted only slightly longer than it takes to say “Bogotá,” but what an 8 seconds.

SEX DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

For the first time in my life, the world of women felt full of infinite possibility. There was the elegant woman who said after our first date, “I hope you don’t think it’s too forward, but I’ve reserved a room at the Soho Grand Hotel.” Upstairs, she asked me, “Do you mind if I leave my panties on and just move them to the side? I’m shy.” Then she proceeded to show me all the creative things you can do with your panties on.

Another night, I found myself at an L.A. mansion drinking way too much sake with a quirky, semifamous singer. I was too drunk to drive, so she made up a daybed for me in the room where she kept the drums. As she brought me a cup of tea, she kissed me on the forehead, which led to a fairly clumsy make-out session. It didn’t last a minute — not that I was counting — but afterward I was left feeling, That was cool and weird, not I can’t believe this is happening to me.

I was back in the game, but sometimes I wasn’t sure I should be playing. After my first Christmas alone and the finalizing of an amicable divorce, I became a nihilist and carried an “all we are is dust in the wind” philosophy into my dating forays. I’d never really been single since I was 17, swinging from vine to vine in four monogamous relationships. Now I was unattached and high on a lethal combination of making up for lost time, not giving a crap, and knowing that women found me attractive. Filling my head with this psychological cocktail was like giving a borderline-retarded kid an eight ball and the combination to the nuclear football.

When I told a couple of coworkers that a very engaged beauty had shot me a couple of come-hither looks, they laughed in my face. Sufficiently challenged, I embarked on Operation Remove the Ring. There were candlelit dinners where she told me, “Mathematically, you have a beautiful face,” and some torrid make-out sessions. The last one took place in front of the home of her very tall, very large fiancé. I didn’t close the deal, but I also managed not to get my jaw broken, so let’s call it a draw.

Sure, there were the nights of Veuve Clicquot and terry-cloth robes in luxury hotels, but there were also Bible-black ones when introspection came calling. The deeper I got into my life as a “re-single,” the more I realized that there was self-destructive behavior going on here. It was one thing to get my mojo back; it was another to distance myself from the good women I met so I could chase after the ones who were guaranteed to make me miserable.

For a few months, I dated Laura, a 35-year-old sweet and kind comedy executive with an extraordinary Gramercy Park apartment. However, the sex was ordinary — it’s never a good sign when, in week 2, you look away as she gets out of bed — and I sabotaged it by obsessing over her tragic Talbots-heavy wardrobe. This was followed by systematic belittlement, a long-standing character flaw that often left my ex-wife searching for a carving knife. On a summer night, Laura organized a charity boat cruise featuring performances by her comedian friends. She slaved for hours on the event and, at the end of the night, asked me what I thought. In my most bored voice, I quipped, “The funniest thing was when two of your comics missed the boat.”

Don’t worry, I paid for my callowness: I then met Melissa, a 27-year-old who had done lots of acid, attended four colleges, and forwarded my introductory email to all our coworkers as her idea of hilarity. With Melissa, whom my guy friends eventually dubbed “crazy girl,” there were moments of happiness, but they were always followed by behavior that left me believing she’d have burned my house down were it not made of brick.

Once, I received an out-of-nowhere email announcing, “Hi! I’m in Mexico. I didn’t want you to worry. I love you and miss you.” Only later did I find out that she was there with one of my best friends, whom she had been seeing off and on behind my back. Eventually, Melissa showed up on my doorstep, begging forgiveness. She told me she wanted to move in with me and buy a dog. “I want us to be a team,” she insisted. In reality, she just wanted to turn the emotional terrorism up to 11. A week later, she changed her mind again. I was left feeling that if I’d broken up with her 6 months earlier, I’d be 5 years younger.

Every newly divorced man eventually reaches a similar fork in the road. After a few months of getting laid, he can shut out the little self-critical voice in his head, crank up Modest Mouse’s “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” and skate through years of Malibu weekends with girls whose names are instantly forgotten until he’s the creepy old guy at the kegger. Or he can embark on a more difficult path and examine why he’s alone.

TAKING STOCK

It took hours of therapy, and more hours drinking vodka cranberries with friends, to figure out why I was in this sexually rewarding yet emotionally draining downward cycle. And the answer is that I was addicted to charismatic, unstable, and emotionally unpredictable women. This was nothing new. My pilot father died in a plane crash when I was 13, leaving me in the care of my mom, a charismatic, unstable, and emotionally unpredictable woman. Left alone with three kids, she struggled mightily, particularly with me, the only boy.

I learned to keep her happy and smiling by apologizing for things I hadn’t done wrong, coddling her, and subsuming my own wishes in order to keep the peace. All you shrinks out there won’t be surprised that I lugged that steamer trunk of emotional baggage into my romantic relationships. From my 20-year-old film-auteur-wannabe college girlfriend to my wife, I had liaisons with tremendously talented and sometimes sweet women who demanded unconditional appeasement from me. I was more than happy to be their Neville Chamberlain.

In taking responsibility for always picking the impossible girl over the sweet woman, I also had to accept my less charming characteristics. My snide boat-side comment to Laura was not an anomaly. If cutting remarks and impatience were virtues, I’d be spooning with Joan of Arc. Every woman I have ever loved has endured withering sarcasm and condescension, an ugly side of me that I didn’t fully realize until I watched a dear friend mock his sweet girlfriend for not being able to name any members of the Ramones. I thought to myself, God, is that what I’m like?

I try every day to be a little less of a prick, but some days I fail. And you realize that not every dream girl you meet is going to sign up for that. I try to be a better man and approach every date with optimism. Still, dating fatigue kicks in. You reach a point where you have told your life story so many times, you feel like a bad comedian on an endless tour. When the Chardonnay arrives on the table, I’ll open tonight’s monologue with the self-deprecating anecdote about being the only white guy at a former heavyweight champ’s wedding. If it’s a good audience, I’ll save the death of my father for dessert.

Not long ago, I met a woman for dinner at Lucky Strike, a New York bistro I cherish like a dependable friend. But that evening was a classic disaster; a pal had oversold a friend of hers, telling me that Karen could be Mary-Louise Parker’s twin. Not quite. We didn’t hit it off, and when she excused herself for the ladies’ room, I recalled how many women I’d brought here for dinner. By the time she returned with a bright smile and said, “You were telling me about a story you did in Colombia,” I was up to 12 or 13.

It was all I could do not to start crying. I was enveloped in the grim thought that maybe I had exhausted my lifetime supply of “the ones.” In the bistro mirrors, I could see my hair graying, my crow’s-feet crawling, and the circles under my eyes darkening. I felt old, and the Leonard Cohen line, “I ache in the places where I used to play” ran through my head on an endless loop.

I quickly got the check, said good night, and decided to walk the four miles home. A fall storm whipped debris through the canyons of Manhattan as I made my way toward the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight.

My mind wandered to a December night in the last year of my marriage. My wife was away in Pakistan covering the aftermath of 9/11, and I was in New York on business.

After a long day, I sat in a sleek black leather chair in my hotel room, watching snow grudgingly fall onto 43rd Street, and played Bruce Springsteen’s “Valentine’s Day” over and over again. Our relationship by then was irrevocably troubled, but that night I longed for nothing more than to have her back in my arms.

As I crossed the bridge, passing couples whispering like happy conspirators, I realized I missed the missing, the feeling that to one human you mean more than the earth and the sky. I wasn’t lusting after another conquest; no, it was a craving for an intimacy that comes only after you’ve told someone all your stupid self-promotional stories and she loves you anyway. It was for a woman who becomes more interesting the more you understand the lines on her face. For a woman who appreciates the man you are and roots for the man you could become.

About Bonita

I'm a forgetful person. But I think a lot. Every day, a lot of thoughts enter my head. That's why this blog came to be: first, to keep my memories alive through the years, and two, to actually see how I and my thoughts have changed. Please note that I seldom draft or edit my posts. Sometimes, if I'm not careful, I offend some of you, my readers. And while I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, I am not sorry for being honest or for making well-intentioned mistakes. I will however be the first to admit if I change my mind. Hence, do read and proceed with caution. My life is as colorful and as boring as you make it. I complain many days, but offer some encouragement in others. Life is fluid, it changes. So keep the positives and throw away the negatives, and I do hope that at the end of the day, you will enjoy reading the blog and leaving comments here and there if my posts touches you. Happy reading!
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