Thursday, July 14, 2011

Then and Now 8 - Nell

Then and Now 8 - Nell
Time: Late 2007, single and at my apartment.

This Then and Now will be a collection of experiences I had with a friend of mine, Nell.

Nell was an incredibly cute, friendly, smart and funny girl that I met over the internet. We got together several times over the course of a few months, and although the time we spent together was fun, none of the things we did together is long enough on its own to make a proper Then and Now. So, I'll combine the times we had together into one post.

Our first hangout time was the first weekend after I got her email. We met up in the main city in pouring rain, late in the day. When I first saw her, I was struck by her smile. Even though it was kind of dark out, and the rain made things difficult to see, when she saw me, her smile lit up everything around her. I was kind of shocked when she joined me under my umbrella, then put her arm under mine to stay close. Whether she was interested in me, or just looking to get as far out of the rain as possible, I still don't know for sure. But as electrifying as it felt to have this girl on my arm, I played it cool and got us to a local restaurant to eat. We sat down on opposite sides of the table and ordered some fried meat and vegetables, then had a long and fun talk, though I don't remember what about. We must have hit it off pretty well, because before she went home, Nell asked me to hang out with her again.

The next week, we went to a local bookstore and had a great time just picking out books we knew and talking about characters, story arcs, subtext and other literary stuff from the ones we read. I told her of some of the books I read for English class back in high school and college, and whether I loved or hated the style and meaning for each one. Then, she quizzed me on the things in the books we had mutually read, and even joked, "Two points for you!" for consistently getting her questions right.

When that was done, she and I went to the main train/subway station to just walk around and do some window shopping. During that time, I related a story of how a very, very chubby friend of mine was clamoring for my attentions, and told a very tasteless joke in the local language about how I was afraid she would eat me. Nell laughed hard anyway, though I still feel a bit guilty for telling the joke.

It was starting to get a bit dark, so we went outside to get some fresh night air. Here, our conversations turned to marriage and sex. Nell told me that there was a guy or two after her affections, but she just wasn't interested in any of them. She also said that as a Christian, it was important for her to get married with someone she loved, but that she still wouldn't mind having sex before getting married. And yes, I know several people who would have throttled me at that point for missing those obvious signals. What's more, Nell wasn't the last girl I've met who had discussed sex with me after only a few days of knowing them. We parted shortly after. She went home, and I went to go meet another friend I met on the internet for the two hour hangout time I had for her.

I met Nell again a week or two later, and we got dinner at another restaurant. This one was kind of high class, but even though I told her I would get the bill, she insisted on splitting it down the middle. I don't remember what we ate there, but I remember some things we talked about.

First, she was taking an English class in college and told me all about the things she was learning there, and I helped her with some of the sayings she was studying.

Later, she had me take two personality tests from that class. The first asked the recipient to draw pictures based on the way the paper was divided. When I was done, she revealed that each division was a marker of what the person's personality was like. In the box that was shaped like a circle, I drew a sun, so it showed that I enjoyed being outside. In the box that was divided diagonally, I drew one stick figure on top teasing one on the bottom, which meant I was afraid of what others thought of me. She seemed genuinely concerned about the latter one, and asked if she could take the paper back to her teacher to ask what it really meant, and to share what a foreigner's desires and fears were. I said it was ok.

The other test was asking me to arrange a glass and any number of oranges in any fashion I wished in my mind. Unfortunately, I didn't quite understand the test as she described it, and I thought she said that I had to pick several oranges, so I told her that I would have a glass surrounded by three oranges in a triangle. She teased me because the glass represented me and the oranges were girls, so I must have been some kind of playboy, but I just laughed and insisted I didn't get the test at first.

Another thing we talked about was about my failure to publish some books that I wrote a few years back. I wrote them, but couldn't find an agent out of a group of several hundred, so I just gave up and stopped worrying about them. She seemed really concerned again, and asked me to not give up and to keep fighting for my dream. She told me that God gave me the gift of writing, and I couldn't just give up on it like that. I was really touched by what she said, especially because nobody else in my life ever cared to even read the books that I had written. Dinner ended shortly after, so I saw her off at the subway station, then went home satisfied and happy.

Finally, Nell and I met up at a second party that I threw at my house. It was much the same as before with pizza and Rock Band, except Ken, Vicki and several others couldn't come, so it was much smaller and less interesting than the party I threw before. After a long, pretty fun time of us playing games and eating up, I popped in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny for us to watch. Unfortunately, all that food and fun made everyone sleepy, and soon, people started dropping like flies on my couches to sleep. One by one, everyone left until it was just Nell (sleeping), Nate (drowsy) and Annie (almost asleep) left. I knew the party was pretty much cooked at that point, so I gently shook Nell awake because she wanted to head home before midnight. She smiled that radiant smile at me, then she, Nate, Annie and I all said our goodbyes.

That was the last I saw of Nell, and I don't really know why. We emailed each other for a while, but I never got the chance to meet up with her again. Just a couple weeks or so after that party, my wife and I got together, and three months after that, she got pregnant and my life ended.

This isn't a post trying to compare a girl I knew to my wife right now. My point is that going out and seeing things around town, throwing parties and sharing fun times and laughs is what my unmarried life was about. Married life, on the other hand, is work: it's shopping for pizza and coke, setting up furniture and music, greeting guests... but not actually attending the party. So why did I never get together with Nell? Well, there are two reasons: one embarrassing, and one regretful.

First, the embarrassing reason: Nell was very into her Christian beliefs, and though I greatly respect Christians and a lot of their ideas, I didn't want to feel compelled to join because I was dating her. In reality, my standards were entirely too high to recognize this great girl who really seemed to be into me.

The second, regretful reason comes directly from the first: I had impossibly high standards for any girlfriend. There were at least eight girls during my unmarried life who showed some kind of an interest in me. And after overcoming my past difficulties, becoming a strong man and living a life of honor, I knew that I was in a position of supreme power regarding women. Because most men either choose the path of power and turn into confident a-holes that women fall before, or choose the path of honor and get ignored by them, I knew that by holding both extremes within me, I simply had to smile my warm smile at any of these girls, and they would be wrapped around my finger in no time. It's arrogant, but it was the truth.

I never slept with a single girl besides my wife since I went abroad. I was in a position of power, yes, but I never used that power to my advantage by promising marriage and a long relationship to women that I had every intention of sleeping with, then leaving. I had impossibly high standards because every girl I met was a future marriage candidate, thanks to my deluded goal to happily marry, and I wanted to make sure I dated the right one.

Back then, as an unmarried man, I had so much awesome stuff going on in my life, and so many prospects regarding friendship, work and women, that I actually put Nell in the friend zone. I had that much power and freedom back then, when I should have been practicing upfront, honest and serial monogamy, and could have chosen any woman, any activity, any day of my life.

Today, I would kill to have one day, just one day, a month to do what I wanted.

And speaking of Now...

I woke up at 10:00.
I watched TV.
I ate lunch.
I read to my son.
I roughhoused with him.
I went off to, and nailed, a job interview. Work starts Monday; the cycle begins again.
I came home.
I read to my son.
I watched TV.
My son fell asleep.
I played video games.
My son woke up.
I watched internet movies with him.
I slept.

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