Two of the men who answered my next ad became part of a short-lived group called the Zanies. Seven of us “eternal children” carried a teddy bear overhead on a pair of stilts down a street of shops; played kazoo; gave artificial respiration to the teddy on a sidewalk; and played hide and seek in the Christmas tree lot. One of the Zanies was Ed, whom my son later proposed to for me, without my knowledge. The ad had intrigued Ed because of this error: I phoned in the ad for “… Sensitive, androgynous companions for banter, cuddling, and eclectic adventures, tickling and treasuring." The ad was printed as “…sensitive and erogenous…” Ed told me at the movie intermission “I just had to meet a woman who’d ask for an erogenous companions." I didn't know of the error and was annoyed at his kidding. When I came home and read it, I let out a loud “Oh, no!” which brought my housemate bounding down the stairs to see if my new friend was bothering me. Ed quipped, “Didn’t I get her back in time?”
Though I was never “in love” with Ed, I probably love him as much as I love my family. He has an enormous patience, incredible gentleness, and a generosity and warm heartedness I have rarely seen all in one man. My kids loved him too – he gave rides on his shoulders, fixed broken bikes, held them in his lap, and always treated them like real people. He now is in a relationship with a woman with children, and I am very happy for them. I will always treasure his friendship .
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One ad got 52 replies, and not one of them developed into a meaningful relationship. Many were in their 20’s; perhaps I was more particular than usual. In any case, they fed my ego. The following ad, months later, which mentioned wheelbarrow rides, zaniness, Seth books, racquetball, traveling and open relationships, introduced me to Hal, whom I still see; a skinny depressed poet I saw twice, and a man who worked with me in starting a massage exchange group, which gathered Sunday evenings for several months. Hal is a story all by himself; he sort of stole a place in my life. He gave a much younger age when we talked on the phone, in order to meet me, and after dinner I wasn't sure if I wanted to see him again. He was 63, I was 40. The thing that got me through my ageism was his offer, when he called next, to push me in a wheelbarrow around Green Lake. That made it a biennial ride: I couldn't resist keeping such a tradition going.
Since that delightful day, we have shared many dessert spots, gathering leaves, putting guitar- accompanied messages on my answering machine, and going to the ocean with my two children and two young friends (he wouldn’t do it again). pigouts (by me) at a deli buffet, reading poetry and handing out free tickets at a street fair. “For what?” they asked. “For nothing—they’re just free tickets,” we answered.
Hal has as big an appetite for the absurd as I do, and that free spirit has been an enchanting companion for the child in me. When we realized our values around feelings and life goals were quite dissimilar, we parted, but I treasured the delight we shared those months. My next ad brought 15 responses, and the first day I met Bill I had already been attracted by his letter and our phone conversation. I felt quite infatuated before the day was even over. Since the feeling was mutual, we enjoyed our ‘floating’ and ‘melting’ feelings, just as teenagers would. Bill was probably the most intense person I have ever met, and in the weeks I knew him, I grew a lot. I needed to spend my playful time with Hal, and that was fine; Bill and I both wanted open relationships. We saw no value in jealousy. When I finally realized we brought out the serious rather than the playful side of each other, and that we had fallen in love with what we wanted rather than what we got, it was time to move on.
More recent ads connnected me with Tim, a Buddhist with whom I shared Easter lunch at a Mexican restaurant and played our new board game, Therapy. Last fall my ad asked for a Zorba-Gandhi partner and never got a Gandhi but Art and I sure did Zorba well. We practiced tango together and now teach it some evenings. I've often been asked if I ought to be more careful. But the only problem I've ever had in these past 13 years was one man who wanted a “dominant woman.” I met him just to see what he'd be like. Out of uncomfortable politeness, I made the mistake of giving him my phone number when he asked, knowing full well that I wasn't the least bit interested. He called, and continued to call even when I asked him not to. When I told him my brother was a policeman and would do something about it, he stopped calling. From then on whenever I have any concerns or feel uneasy during the initial phone conversation with a man, I simply don't give him my phone number or any other specific information about myself and I don't meet him. When I do meet the men I am interested in, I always make a point of meeting them for the first time (and sometimes for subsequent meetings) in a public place.
Another fear I hear is about AIDS. I certainly don’t take that lightly, but I also don’t engage in sex lightly. I have in the past years asked at least once to see results of an AIDS test. I have always discussed sex very openly before getting involved sexually. Safe sex or no sex is the only sensible way to act. If they disagree, then I’m glad I discovered their lack of concern for themselves and others before I before I got any further in the relationship. Have I ever been misled by first impressions? Yes, there was a man whose letter so touched my heart and mind that I had the audacity when I talked to him on the phone to say “If there is chemistry, I'm yours." There was no chemistry.
My current best friend is Charlie, whom I met a year ago when I responded to his ad which mentioned brainstorming and creativity. There is no chemistry but we're each other's number one supporter and confidante. He indulges my preference for 2-for-1 meals (I love bargains!) and I’ve learned to love him even when he cancels our time together because of his work.
Ah, It's been a great 13 years. Most of the time I didn't want the big C—commitment. Now I do. As long as there are men to meet, there is hope that I will find a long-term partner. Will I ever be content with one man for several years or for a lifetime? Perhaps now I will, Yet I am somewhat like a bee, wanting to experience different flowers. Different people bring out different facets of my personality.
I learned greater patience from Ed, more playfulness from Hal and Frank, greater clarity from Bill, and lessons unknown and delights unexplored from the men yet to be met. Let’s see—what shall my next ad say? (And I've placed many in the years since then.)
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