Do you even remember a time before you got interested in the opposite sex? I do. Just one.
This is the way I remember it, some 54 years ago:
I was in the fifth grade, age 10, and was rumored to have the most beautiful blue eyes and a smile that could melt your heart by two girls in my class of 18 kids. I could have cared less. Well, this went on for the whole year of fifth grade, the mooning and giggling I mean, and then came summer vacation. I kept myself gloriously busy with farm stuff, shooting BB guns, throwing knives, cracking a bullwhip, chopping down trees in the woods. You know, fun stuff. Then came the fair. It was a small local fair with rides, games, cow barns, bunny judging (which I won plenty of blue ribbons), and the works that came to town the 3rd week of August, just before we went back to school. Being the 60’s, it was ok to drop a ten-year-old boy off by himself and pick him up when the fair closed.
Well, these two poor girls hadn’t seen me all summer. It just happened that the three of us ended up at the fair the same night. That’s when the chasing started. Those two chased me from barn to barn, ride to ride, game to game. I wasn’t sure what they wanted from me, but I didn’t want any part of it. I was pretty quick and lost them plenty, but they finally caught up to me at the Chuck-a-Luck game. It was then that I had to break it to them, I hated girls. And leave me alone. I might just as well hit them over the head with a bat. It was the first time I broke a girls heart (two in fact). Didn’t matter to me, cause I hated girls, but to them, I am sure it was a big deal.
Sixth grade started, same kids. They wouldn’t give me the time of day (like I cared anyway). I was glad they were off my back. But still, I had this new feeling like I had done something wrong like my Mom was disappointed in me. Little did I know a lifetime of chasing and being chased had just begun.
This memory came back to me yesterday. After school, I took my son to the beach to go boogie boarding. As I sat in my chair a few yards away, I could see him having a great time, fully absorbed in what he was doing. After we had been there a while, a family set up chairs next to me. Mom, Dad, and two kids, one of them a cute little girl about my son’s age. Somehow she noticed my son on his board and tried to get his attention, even getting in his way a few times. You could see she wanted to meet him. My son couldn’t have cared less. If it was a boy with a Boogie Board, they would have become best friends in about 10 minutes. He is in the pre-relationship zone.
The first time I fell in love was when I was about 12. Funny how a couple of years changes things. I went with my parents on a vacation to Las Vegas (a lot different in those days) and we stayed in a hotel not far from downtown, 2 blocks maybe, that had a pool. My parents would head to the casinos in the morning, bring me lunch at noon, then head back to the casinos until dark. I played in the pool or stayed in the room. A girl staying there at the same time and seemed to have the same schedule as me. She was at the pool alone every day. Every day I became more interested in her, but never said a word. I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.Then after about 5 days, she was gone. I was heartbroken. Not only did I never tell her how I felt, but she was gone, and I didn’t know who she was. When I got home, unknown to my parents, I looked up the hotel on a postcard we got from there and wrote them a letter explaining who I was, and I just wanted to know who she was, so I could contact her and tell her how I felt. They never wrote back. It was the first time a girl broke my heart. I was heartbroken for months, and never told a soul what I was going through.
I got my first girlfriend at age 16, the day I turned 16. It was on a Friday, the same day I took my driver’s license test, passed, and got to drive the family car alone. That was our first date. We dated for a year until some hot pants wearing girl from California moved to our town and came to our school. I was smitten and got a slap in the face at a football game by my first girlfriend. It was over and I didn’t care. Hot pants became my second, and there has been many over the years. Some I have married, some I have lived with, others dated, and some, well, let’s not talk about it.
I look at some of my friends who have been married for countless years, their whole lives really, and feel a tinge of envy. How did you get it right the first time out of the gate? But was it really right? Commitment is hard work and lot of sacrifice. When is it too much? I would not be the same person I am today if my relationships had been different. Successes, failures, challenges, acquiesces, joy and hurt all gave me the perspective that I now look at life with. Some I have stayed in touch with, others not so much. Ok, here’s the question always asked. “If you had the opportunity to do things differently…”. Of course, I would. I did plenty wrong. Sometimes I think I should have grabbed one of those fifth-grade girls and held them tight my whole life.
The last visit I had with my sister, the talented artist who painted the pictures for Imagine Me, I told her I was going into Relationship Retirement. “What on earth is that”? she inquired. “It means that after 50 years of trying to get it right with women, I am giving up. I am retiring from relationships”. Of course, it made perfect sense to me, given my track record and prospects. And her being close to my troubles agreed. Trouble is, I am not ten years old anymore.
At ten, I didn’t know how valuable it is to have someone at your side. I didn’t know that you would give your life for someone else. I didn’t know that 1 plus 1 equals an unstoppable team. I didn’t know how healthy it is to be loved and love. I didn’t know that someone else might feel about you the same way you feel about them. At ten, I didn’t know that life might be better with a partner than being alone. How could I know at ten?
54 years later, I still don’t know the answer. Have I passed the relationship age? Have I missed those passionate years? I tried to find those answers after my last relationship but left me with more questions than answers.
So I put myself on Relationship Retirement. Like a ten-year-old boy, without a clue about the opposite sex. “I am never getting into another relationship, ever again.” Seems so simple and easy. Would solve a lot of problems. Post relationship.
It’s not that simple.
If I had never tasted a raspberry, I wouldn’t know how it tasted? If I had never gone on a roller coaster, how would I know the feeling in my stomach? If I had never had my first kiss, what would I miss? If I never waited until she breathlessly said I do at the altar, how would I know how it would affect my whole life? If I never heard my child say” Daddy”, how would I know my life is secondary? How would I know if these things didn’t happen?
I have had my heart broken countless times. I’m sure I have inflicted that pain on others. Could I have avoided all of this? No. Well yes. if I had died at age 10. Love and the euphoria and pain that comes with it are part of the human experience. I would advise you not to miss it.
I’m thinking that getting a job might be good for me in retirement, to meet people and keep me involved. Maybe it might not be a bad idea to come out of relationship retirement just once, to meet someone and keep me involved. Or maybe an opportunity missed in the past, revisited. You just never know…