Somewhere along the line, philosophies sprouted up that made church people think you had to want to marry someone to be able to even approach. Well, that's a lot to ask someone to figure out without having spent any time with someone.
This brought to mind a young lady, E, with whom I was acquainted back when I lived in South America.
First, some background: as a teenager, I spent eight or so months of the year at an English-speaking boarding school in a different city than where my parents worked. When I was at home, we went to church obviously, which was pretty much the extent of my contact with the native population, and my lack of fluency in the language had a bi-causal relationship with my introversion.
Anyway, last summer, out of the blue, I received a Facebook message from J:
Você mudou tanto na aparencia, que fico imaginando aquele adolescente tímido que passou por nossa igreja em [City-State-Country] um dia..... um grande abraço.*
My Mom had to remind me who this girl was, and in the process reminded me who E was:
Well, J of course is from [City] and a friend of E, and that's who originally found me on Facebook and then probably alerted J. Do you remember E, one of my piano students (I think) who was more obvious about her crush on you? She would come over to see you and then the two of you would sit in near silence, you from lack of interest and she from awkwardness. She would come to see me as well sometimes and I got tired of having to carry the conversation.
She also clarified the translation:
"Timido" means shy, which would have been accurate, don't you think? If you answer J, she'll tell E, who I bet will then contact you via Facebook. Girls never grow up.
As an aside, it occurred to me how the words “shy” and “timid” carry positive and negative connotations of what is essentially the same behavior or state of mind. There is probably a philosophical point to make somewhere about how guys (and I mean me, specifically) often use the positive connotations of “shy” as a crutch for our own lack of courage in the face of attractive women.
But that’s a point for another day. Let me share my own recollection of E. She was a girl around my age or so, very tall (but not as tall as me) and slender. In retrospect, she was quite attractive, and I can’t remember why this wasn’t obvious to me at the time.
No, that’s not quite right. I do know why it wasn’t obvious. I spent high school crushing on a girl at school, the prettiest alpha girl of the bunch and one who kept tantalizingly free of any declared romantic attachments. And E wasn’t her.
Yeah, I know: beta.
But there were other obstacles. As my mom indicates, E was very reserved, more so than I was, in fact. I strain to remember her ever saying anything, or even smiling.
But I do remember this: one evening after church, as everyone milled around, I came to be standing by an open window looking out at the darkness. I don’t remember if I was already standing there, or if E called me over, or if she had a friend call me over. But anyway, I was there, and E was there, and E indicated she wanted to hold hands with me.
Um . . .
So we held hands. It may have been the first time I held hands with a girl. It felt really . . . weird.
I received a letter from my Mom at school that next semester. (Kids, this was back before the internet, and nobody ever called long distance except in emergencies. So we wrote words on actual paper called “letters” which had to be physically carried from one city to the next. Hard to believe, isn’t it?) Mom relayed an inquiry from E asking if we had a relationship, or words to that effect.
My reasoning at the time was as follows: I was going to graduate high school that year or the next and then return to the U.S. for college. Since there was no prospect of taking her with me, and I in any case wouldn’t be established financially for five or six years, what were we supposed to do in the mean time? Have her “wait” for me that long on the slim chance that we would still be interested in each other six years later?
It was with me exactly as Savvy described: I couldn’t resolve a path to marriage and family with E, and I was unwilling to start a romantic relationship on any other basis.
I candidly explained all this in my reply to my Mom, saying finally (and I remember the exact words), “We are not in each others’ futures.” Mom conveyed the message. I can’t recall ever seeing E again after that.
Question: would my present self counsel a different course of action to my past self?
Sadly, yes. I say sadly, because I still think my reasoning then was conscientious (or at least, that variety of conscientious that mothers tend to approve of). But I now know the alternative sucks too.
So my present self would say to my past self: go for it! Be honest with her about what your plans are, but if she’s still game for a date-stamped relationship, well then: she’s cute, and she’s making it easy! And face facts: alpha girl isn’t available, especially to your nerdy ass.
And believe me, you really, really don’t want to get to be 23 without having had a girlfriend, without having been kissed, on the grounds that you weren’t ready to get married the next day. Because when you’re 23, the girls, even (or especially) the girls at church, will expect you to have already done those things, and they’ll hold your lack of experience against you. A lot.
I hate that my experience in life has led me to give that kind of advice. But there it is.
* Yes, I get that you figured out what country this is. That doesn’t mean I want you commenting about it on my blog. Respect the pseudonyms.