Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Better off alone? Part 1

Am I better off alone? Is society better off with me alone?

I’ve been pondering this question of late. Maybe it’s because I just turned 50, or maybe it’s because I’m feeling my familiar end of year loneliness coming on. Yet again, there’s no significant other to buy gifts for, there’ll be no Xmas Eve or Xmas Day loving, no New Year’s Eve date and definitely no kiss at midnight as we move into 2011.

My life is work, and the holidays that define the year pass with me at the copy desk at the newspaper. Then again, I chose this life and it’s not all bad; at least, it’s better than enduring the Postal Service.

Still, the loneliness has been exacerbated because I see all the attractive young women on my walks through the University of Florida campus and realize that I’m way too old for them, and that there are countless better choices than me out there. I know I don’t cut the best figure, walking with a New York Mets cap on my head, iPhone earbuds in my ears, listening to downloaded podcasts of NPR shows.

I walk and see much, but I’m in my own little world. It’s not much different at home or at work.

As a teenager, I knew that there was something odd about me. I had realized that girls then were a great, grand mystery. No one showed any interest in me, and my first abortive tries to get girls to go out with me failed miserably. Later in life, I would jokingly say that my favorite word was “no,” figuring that since I heard it so much I might as well “own” it. But that was in regard to finding a job after I was laid off.

But with women, it was more like “You’re a nice guy, but …” I knew that the women I was pursuing could do better in terms of looks and economic prospects. I was and have been aiming high, but missing high, too. And even when I’ve aimed lower, it hasn’t come to anything.

I always thought I’d grow out of the awkward stage, and thought in the mid-1980s that I had made that breakthrough. My postal job then, with its night and weekend work, made it impossible for me to have a normal social life where I could meet people. I was like a grounded teenager who had to be “in” – in the workplace – when the streetlights came on. In fact, I worked hours that were astoundingly awful. How many of you want to be at work at 2 a.m. on Sunday? Not many, I’d venture, no matter how awful the economy might be.

Needless to say, meeting someone on my own was impossible, so I decided to try a “dating service.” I had to try something, because I was going crazy with loneliness.

An outfit called “Together” advertised on TV and said that they’d find “the one” for me. I made an appointment and was interviewed. Having passed the interview (been deemed of sufficient financial worth to be considered), I was told the price and signed up for a year.

Then I waited for the envelope to arrive.

It may have been a fluke, but the first person I was introduced to and I hit it off well, and I thought I was really on the way. She was weird and even accepted that we could not go out at night or on the weekends – unless we got together on my days off, which were Tuesday and Wednesday.

One time, I even took a night of leave on a Saturday and we had a real date. But there was a problem: she wanted to keep it as brother and sister; no touching, no hand-holding, certainly no kissing and definitely no sex. When I couldn’t make any progress with her, I broke it off. Maybe I was being impulsive, but look: after seven or eight dates where I was paying the costs, I wanted to know what was going to happen. And nothing seemed to be happening.

“Together” turned out to be a wash after that. There were vastly more men than women in the service, and I definitely was not a great catch, with my nights and weekends at work and all. A woman who joined this kind of outfit wanted to be out somewhere with someone on a Friday and Saturday night, not sitting home watching TV or videos.

So I can’t really blame them for wanting someone else.

I eventually moved out to Long Island, where the postal job was, and got into another service that seemed to be better. On about the fifth try, I found someone and we actually had what I had dreamed of since I was 17 – a real, live girlfriend. I mean, we called ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend and did a lot of things. I had finally maneuvered into Saturday and Sunday nights off, and it was awesome for the six months.

I pulled a terrible faux pas though, and she dumped me. She was justified in doing so, I see in retrospect, but I was a mess in the meantime. I never found anyone else like her in that service, and soon moved to Florida. Little did I know the frustration was just beginning.

To make a long and very dull story short, I transferred my membership to Florida (the second dating service had branches all over the U.S.) and actually met someone who might have been the one in the late 1980s. I was by this time disaffected with the Postal Service and was pursuing a college education during the day while working nights. Still, I finally had Saturday and Sunday nights off, and could date like a normal person.

She was pretty, intelligent and, most of all, interested in me. We had several dates and began to get pretty close.

But there was a problem, from her perspective, that made me not boyfriend material. She was actually seeing another guy who worked days, and she was inclined toward him because, she told me, “A man should be home at night.”

I agreed, but tried to explain that the way my life was at the time, I needed to work nights to get my classes. I was chasing a much better life and felt the sacrifice was worth it.

I remember that it was Valentine’s Day, I think 1988, and I made my big play, with gifts and more. I basically laid it out that she had to decide.

A few days later, she told me that she had made her decision and had chosen … me!

I was literally walking on air. Finally, it was all going to happen to me. Dating, marriage and more seemed to be at my fingertips.

Later that week, I called and left a message on her answering machine about what we could do the next Saturday night. I didn’t expect sex right away, but figured that we could start to seriously go places and do things now.

It didn’t quite work out that way. She called me back and left a message on my machine, telling me that she had changed her mind. The other guy had his faults, but he was at least a day worker.

This was a crushing blow, and I was in the middle of exams in college, too. I rallied and did well in my tests, but inside I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

Then, as now, I really lacked the ability to go up to a woman and start a conversation. Working nights meant that I couldn’t go to meetings of groups I was a member of and be a part of the clubs. I just wandered in a tiny circle of work and school.

That’s how you get to be 50 and alone.

In my next posting, I think I’ll talk about why I’m doing the civilized world a favor by not trying anymore to find a wife.

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November 18, 2010 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , ,

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