I hadn't dated for quite awhile, by choice. Neither my head nor my heart was ready for the time and energy required to be in another relationship.
A co-worker suggested I might enjoy going to a place in Bernardsville, around 40 minutes from my home, where singles dances for the 50-plus crowd were held Tuesday evenings. I ignored her suggestion for a number of months, but this particular Tuesday it sounded like something I might be ready for. I had no interest in a relationship, or even dating, but I thought it might be nice to socialize and dance for an evening.
I couldn't find anyone to go with me so I decided to brave it alone. When I arrived I walked in, looked around, and instantly felt awkward. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. I didn't know where to stand or where to sit and I didn't want it to be obvious that I had come alone. Being there with a friend is appropriate and acceptable, but being there alone made me look desperate.
A number of men asked me to dance. I accepted most of them because I love to dance, but since I felt no attraction to any of them I didn't want them sitting with me after a dance, so rather than saying, "Don't sit down with me. You're not someone I'm even remotely interested in knowing better." I thanked them then scooted off to the Ladies Room. Consequently, I spent a great deal of time in the Ladies Room.
I noticed a woman leaning against a wall on the opposite side of the room and decided to walk over and introduce myself. She had a great smile and looked as though she would be easy to talk to.
Her name was Phyllis. She was a delightful woman, with a great sense of humor and not above self flagellation. We glided through the perfunctory introductions and discovered we had a great deal in common. We had both been in unfulfilling marriages for over 20 years and divorced for nearly as long. We exchanged horror stories about marriage, but while I had no interest in ever marrying again, Phyllis was ready to give it a another try. Mostly, we laughed non-stop. As women do so easily, in no time flat we each revealed large pieces of our history.
Our animated conversation was periodically interrupted when men asked us to dance, but since neither of us were drawn to any of them, we always returned to each other, after fast visits to the Ladies Room.
It was getting late. I had a long drive ahead of me and work to face the next morning. I was feeling good, and looked forward to making plans to see Phyllis again, so I tuned to her and said, "I've had so much fun with you. I'd love for us to get together sometime soon ... maybe for dinner?"
Without a moment's hesitation she said, "Oh, no, we can never be friends. I have far too many friends already."
I was stunned. I was embarrassed. Who says things like that? I resisted the temptation to sniff my armpits.
There were many times in my life when I had no interest in developing a relationship with someone but I never came right out and said it. What happened to diplomacy and kindness?
The crazy part was that there was no doubt this woman enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed hers. We had spent three hours sharing personal stories and on more than one occasion, we had laughed to the point of nearly wetting our pants.
I said nothing more. I simply smiled, turned and left, hoping she couldn't see how visibly shaken I was. I drove home puzzled but grateful that the relationship would not have the opportunity to flourish because this woman was, in my judgement, the most rude person I'd ever known ... certainly not someone I wanted to know better.
About a month passed when my phone rang. It was Phyllis. She wanted to get together for dinner and a movie. It was as though our last conversation had never occurred. I hadn't given her my phone number so she had researched it on her own.
But, now it was my turn.
"What a surprise it is to hear from you," I said. "I'm honored. Did a friend die and leave you with an empty slot?"
She had no idea what I was talking about so I reminded her of our last conversation.
"Oh, that," she said. "Well, you have to understand how busy my social life is."
"I do. I really do," I said. "But, timing is everything and, unfortunately, it appears that yours is off because now it's I who have too many friends. Why not leave me your number? If a friend moves out of state, or dies I promise to give you a ring."
Then I hung up.
That was cathartic.