On Trust and Women


Tomorrow is October 16. Thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, the New York Mets won their first World Series, taking the Baltimore Orioles in five games. A little bit more than two months later, I came into the world, destined to be a Mets fan before a became an ex-baseball fan in the 1990s. Because I still remember that the Mets won their first World Series on October 16th of ’69, I also remember that the birthday of my second crush-turned-obsession is also tomorrow. It’s not exactly something that I remember with fondness.

Let’s rewind two decades to the days before 10/16/87. I was beginning to experience homesickness and I was tired of wondering about the past summer and the betrayal and disappointment I felt after being humiliated by this former crush and her sister (see July 23, 2007 blog “A Dream That Had to Die”). I’d been unsuccessful in my first feeble attempts at dating in my first semester of college at the University of Pittsburgh, so that didn’t exactly inspire confidence. But I remembered what a female friend of mine had told me about being more assertive, more determined about my dealings with women at the end of the summer. I felt like I had nothing to lost.

So about a week before October 16th, I bought a purple birthday card with a purple envelope. I wrote up my feelings about my crush and how I saw things regarding the summer that had passed and confronted her about the things that she had said about me in a letter I included with the card. I went to Hillman Library, found her university’s dorm room numbers and got her address. I remember putting the card and letter in the mail and thinking, “Let’s see if she responds.”

About two weeks later, she responded in what I’d call a Prince and the Revolution sort of way. If anyone’s old enough or a fan enough to remember, Prince practically invented text messaging about a decade before ordinary cell phone and pager owners started using it. My second crush wrote an entire letter in Prince short hand, with heart shapes as dots over her “i”s included and “2″ for “to”. She admitted that she was talking about me with her sister in July and that she did in fact “like” me at one point. But that was all in the past, and that it was time to move on. Her letter in response helped open up a wound of distrust that I carried for almost a full year after that.

I no longer had any interest in dating, save if it led directly to sex (not that I was successful in this either). What was more important was that I had even less confidence around women my age than I did before my summer of obsession over my second crush. And that lack of confidence affected everything. My grades, my will to overcome my circumstances, my wanting to stay at the University of Pittsburgh or in any other college, my wanting to form new friendships.

Seeing my 2.63 GPA at the end of my first semester did snap me out of my depression at the end of ’87. But it was my almost single-minded determination–anger and controlled rage really–to push past the shattering of my image of my second crush that kept me motivated the following semester to correct the mistake of my first seventeen weeks. One of the great things about a university as large as the University of Pittsburgh is that it serves as a great place to break patterns, to break with the past and embrace new and diverse ideas, people, ways of seeing the world. I did that the following semester, all while calling people who weren’t in my immediate circle “assholes” and “bitches”.

But even in that semester and for the next couple of years, even with dating and a new set of friends and great academic success, it took time to learn how to trust women. I thought that every woman who had an interest in me had an ulterior motive of one kind or another, which caused me to shut them down before they had a chance to introduce themselves. I just refused to believe that they liked me for me unless they were obviously brilliant in their own right or unless mutual lust was the ulterior motive.

It took until my senior year at Pitt and the summer before graduate school to begin to trust all of my instincts about women in general, to see each woman as a whole human being rather than as some triflin‘ viper seeking to hurt me or exploit me in some way. I guess it took that long because I didn’t want to get hurt again, to feel that sense of betrayal and shame that I felt before I was even old enough to vote. It’s the same sense of betrayal and shame I felt when witnessing my mother’s abuse or experiencing abuse first-hand.

Still, I had to get over some of this lack of trust long before my senior year. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made new friends or dated at all or even made it through my third semester at Pitt, which included my week of homelessness and two months of living off of $200 and giving plasma to Sera-Tec twice a week for $25. My lack of trust–of people and of women–didn’t start with my second crush. But that letter exchange twenty years ago pushed me to the edge of the abyss, to my psychological breaking point, before my trust in the One and my rage brought me back from the brink. All of this, of course, is in Boy At The Window.

I’ve been married for almost 7.5 years, and haven’t had much trouble in my dealings with women since the early ’90s. Still, it was a sharp learning curve, one that couldn’t have happened without getting hurt somewhere down the line. It certainly wasn’t any fun. But I guess that it was worth it in the end.

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