After I had been single for a while I knew I wanted to date. I really think that part of my learning process in this lifetime is to establish a working relationship with a male. I had not been successful with this up to that point in my life. I have no brothers and no male friends, so men were a great mystery to me.
I decided I would answer personal ads which were then in magazines and newspapers. When you place your own ad, I discovered you could establish some perimeters such as, I like ethnic restaurants and living in urban Cleveland Heights. Then you got the plus of a written response from someone. You could tell quite a bit about a person from that response. For example, there was the penciled letter that came on three sheets of spiral notebook paper from a man who lived off the grid with no running water who was sure that I would love sharing his lifestyle.
There was another man who had seven or eight children, many adopted, many with special needs. He was now on his own with six or seven of them because his wife had run off with the oldest adopted son. He was nice enough looking and pleasant enough that I convinced myself I would be quite happy to be in charge of his brood. Thank goodness, he didn’t have the slightest interest in me.
I could also find out a great deal about people the first time we went out to eat. My ad said that I liked ethnic food. One fellow offered to take me to a Chinese restaurant and when we got there waited until I had ordered and then ordered the exact same thing because he had never eaten Chinese before and didn’t know what else to order. Then another, who had come to take me to dinner, ate nothing because he had already taken his mother out to dinner so that she wouldn’t be jealous. None of the men I met this way were bad people. They were just not people with whom I wanted to have a long term relationship.
Then along came a response letter from a David which was a self-portrait surrounded with little comments about himself. It was so refreshing. I looked forward to meeting him. He arrived at my door and although he was a bit eccentric in the way he was dressed, we went to sit in my back yard and talked for three hours. At the end of this time I knew he was a really excellent human being. He confided in me the next day when he called that he was hoarse and he had never spoken that long or shared so deeply with anyone in his life before. He could hardly believe it.
So, we continued to go out together and do simple things. Unlike most men that I had met up to then he didn’t make any physical moves and didn’t pressure me for a physical relationship to the point I said to my friends, “Do you think he’s gay?” They said, “No.” I didn’t think so either, but this was really unusual.
When quizzed about this later David told me, “I wanted that to wait because I knew once you get started on that line you don’t go back and I wanted us to be friends first without distractions.” So he was wiser than I.
About six weeks into our relationship I was meeting with an interior design client on a Saturday afternoon prior to going to a potluck with some other friends. She was single and mentioned she was excited because she had a coffee date on Monday with a guy who had answered her personal ad.
I said, “Oh neat, tell me more about it.” She described the guy and the letter she had gotten from him with a self-portrait.
“Hmmm” I said, “I think I know this man.”
She said, “Really?” and I said, “Yeah, I think it the guy I have been dating for the last six weeks. Get your letter. Yep, same guy. Do you mind if I give him a call?”
“No,” she said, “that’s okay.”
So I called him up and said, “I am at Gail’s house and you are meeting her for coffee?”
“Right,” he said. “Well,” I said, “I am a little surprised.”
He didn’t know why. He said, “We didn’t have any kind of formal agreement. I was married for so many years and got to meet so few people that now I want to socialize and make new friends.”
And I said, “Okay, I understand that, but I hope you will keep me on that list of friends and still come by to see me periodically because I like you and I think you are special.” He said, “Okay.” I thought, “That is that not the way I had seen it going, but oh well.”
The next day about ten thirty in the morning I got a phone call from David and he said, “Never mind. I have canceled the meeting with Gail because I realize I’m madly in love with you.”
My immediate thought was, “Woo, what I have gotten myself into here?”
Now we have been happily not- married longer than either of us were married to our original partners. And when my ex-spouse (who is nearing the end of his years) called to talk to me not long ago and apologized for things in our life together. I said in response, “We both owe each other some apologies. We were young and not easy on each other, but I now believe and tell people that ours was a starter marriage. We both learned enough so that in our next relationships we would have the skills needed to make them long term.” And so we have.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.