Webster’s Dictionary defines a rogue as an unprincipled person, a scoundrel or rascal. I’d known mine for 20 years, since we were both students at the same university.
Back then, I was savvy. I noticed things. I noticed how he was charming but detached. I noticed his contrived gaze, which tried too hard to convey depth and connection. I noticed how he uttered a woman’s name as he spoke to her, knowing all too well the effect it was having. And I noticed, as I listened to him speak to other women, that the sensitivity he oozed could not possibly be sincere. He was too charming, too good-looking, and basically too good to be true. I noticed all those things and I, unlike almost every other woman at school, proudly stayed away from him. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even allow myself the option of finding him attractive. I just didn’t go there. It was easy not to engage with him because I clearly saw the final act, which consisted of a passionate evening followed by a sudden and mysterious lack of interest.
But I kept abreast of this particular rogue since college and he remained a friend throughout the years. Currently, these were his vital statistics: 40 years old, never married, no kids, no long-term relationship history. His career, you may be wondering, was musician-bartender. No surprises there.
Guys with this lack of relationship history are completely suspect — which is why I could not get over my stupidity. Fast forward twenty years after college: I was 39, divorced for seven years, and mother of two daughters. I was three months out of a six-year relationship and still quite fragile from the emotional toll of the breakup. I was invited to a college friend’s 40th birthday party. Among the other invitees was the rogue.
Now, as I said before, I had never really been drawn to him because of the sensor in my brain that was turned off by “ladies men.” So when I noticed him at the bar, I gave him a perfunctory smile and the obligatory kiss hello, and then went on my merry way — searching for the actual eligible bachelors at the party.
It was a fabulous evening. There were quite a few single guys there. I made the rounds, enjoyed many interesting conversations, and welcomed the attention that I wanted and needed post-break-up.
During a lull, I went to sit down with the rogue and his single, handsome artist friend. I had hoped to start a conversation with him when the rogue asked how my boyfriend was doing. Without a thought, I announced that we had broken up and that I was now doing the “dating thing.”
“Really?” he said, “How fortunate for me.”
My hormones surged, my brain went into low gear, and any semblance of sanity I had seemed to take a holiday. I might as well have walked off a cliff. In retrospect, I wonder why. What happened to my “depth” perception? Was I that vulnerable after my recent break up? Had I gotten dumber in my old age? Regardless of the reasons — and it doesn’t matter now — I walked into a minefield without the slightest concern for my wellbeing. I did find out that he was now a kindergarten teacher and was in therapy, so I try to cut myself a little slack. He could have grown emotionally, no?
What happened to my “depth” perception?
The rogue pounced, and I felt literally overcome by some force or power. It was as though he spritzed — no, squirted — his super-virile pheromones right into me: into my eyes, my mouth, all over my body. I was done in, and yet nothing had transpired but a look, an expression. It felt like magic to have the undivided attention of this man. His laser beam of concentrated raw masculinity penetrated my mind and put me in a trance.
He proceeded to tell me that he’d had a crush on me for the last 20 years and was thrilled that I was finally available so that we could date. I believed every word he said. After all, he knew me and I knew him. We were not starting from scratch. This thing could really move fast.
“Let’s go someplace and kiss.”
Then came the mind games — the ones I played on myself. I started thinking, “maybe I had him pegged wrong all along. Maybe the therapy had transformed him into a good man who was more than willing to rescue me from my singleness.” I stared into his eyes, bleeding with apparent sincerity, and lost myself. Then he whispered into my ear the best pick-up line I have ever heard, “Let’s go someplace and kiss.” So we did. We bid our goodbyes, jumped in a cab, and hit the road for better times at his place.
He lived in the east village. Perfect! His cliché of a bachelor pad was replete with just the right amount of masculine mess to be sexy, not gross. I sat on the sofa while he chose the right music. Music for kissing, I assumed. Not yet. We talked, updated each other on what our lives looked like for the last twenty years. Then, he turned off the music and pulled out his guitar. I hope you’re saying to yourselves, “he’s not really going to serenade her with love songs that he’s written (which are actually good — unfortunately).” But of course he did. He had to. He knew if there was any doubt that I was his before, there would surely be no doubt now. It was a deal closer and he, being a pro, knew it all too well.
After a few songs, he set the guitar down, gazed into my eyes, and pulled me solidly and confidently towards him for the thrill of my life. It was a perfect kiss. I could envision him at 16 years old honing kissing skills to perfection on the pupik of a chicken or donut hole or some other sensual, mouthy food. Well, however he learned, he learned well. It was so glorious. I fell hard. The kissing lasted until I had the discipline to rip myself away from him, like hot wax strips on a hairy leg, it was painful to go.
The next day he was back for more. “Of course he is,” I told myself, “He loves me. I am his soul mate, the woman he’s waited twenty years to meet again and marry.” We kissed and held hands during an afternoon movie, enjoyed a post cinema stroll through Greenwich Village with a brief stop at Kiehl’s (he needed to replenish his supply of face cream — probably infused with aloe, verbena and testosterone), then returned back to his apartment for more talking and kissing. I was happier than I had been in months.
On this second date, we discussed children and I made it known that I was not interested in having more. This announcement was not met with enthusiasm — rather disbelief that I did not want to bear his child. So I thought about it for a few seconds and reconsidered. Now there was nothing to stop our “happily ever after.” So we kissed some more until I departed, proud that I had the discipline to stick to my no-sex-until-the-third-date rule.
The third date rule dictates, “Thou shalt try not to have sex until the third date so thou is not perceived as a ho.”
Wednesday night was our third date. I filled the house with flowers and candles. I substituted a red bulb for the natural light bulb in my bedside lamp to achieve the perfect lighting. My children were out for the evening. He came in and we kissed as though he had just returned from war. The drinks flowed. He sung to me. We talked. We consummated our love. He spent all night with me, huddled close and tight. He told me I was beautiful. He mentioned the freckles on my nose several times and how they were so cute. He told me how nurturing I was. He told me he felt safe with me. He told me he doesn’t want to leave my side. Am I crazy for thinking this was something special?
The next morning we passionately kissed goodbye.
Hours go by. Days go by. I was freaking. I could not stand the tension so I finally called. Trying with all my might to sound cool and composed, I said, “Oh, hi, it’s Hilary. I was wondering if we could make a date to see each other again.”
“Sure,” he said, “but I have a really busy week.”
“Really? Or is something up?”
“Well,” he said, “I am being cautious.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Now my heart started to race and a feeling of doom came over me. I saw the proverbial writing on the wall.
He answered, “I don’t think we are in the same space. I imagine myself with someone who doesn’t have children or an ex-husband.”
I felt myself becoming desperate and mustered all the strength I could so I would not say something I would later regret. Here is what was speeding through my mind: Do I try to convince him we are right for each other, or do I get angry and threaten to kill him? Should I go out with grace and with dignity? Nahhhh. I was lost in a frenzy of anxiety. Every abandonment and rejection that I had ever experienced was racing back to haunt me. And then, I understood. Reality set in. I knew it was over.
I opted for one last indulgence and asked him, “ Did you even feel a connection to me like I felt with you?”
He said, “yes,” but then explained, “I often get connected in the moment.”
We both knew the moment was gone.
“How do you know that you are not giving up the love of your life,” I timidly inquired.
“Good question!” he replied. And we hung up.
After a few days of lying in bed, depressed and enraged with the rogue and even more with myself, I emerge stronger, wiser and thinner, courtesy of the “anxiety diet.” Being an eternal optimist, I am grateful for the lesson I learned (and the few pounds I lost.) I forgave myself for my lapse in judgment, confident that I could and would fall in love again — next time with one of the good guys.