Why I don't have a girlfriend? I'm nicer than
those guys. They have a girlfriend, but I don't.
Mystery question: as you read this story,
guess the life principles that are expressed. My answers are at the end.
Making excuses for myself
Easing into sexual desire and discovering masturbation at twelve years old made me realize that I wanted a girlfriend, just like some of my classmates already had. However, I didn't explicitly admit this desire to myself until I was nineteen. Looking back, I believe it was because of my mother's belief that I should be married before having sex, which I accepted until then. Since having a girlfriend was a step toward marriage and I wasn't ready for that, I thought I wasn't ready for a girlfriend either. But I think I was afraid of rejection if I approached a girl I found attractive. It didn't help that there were so many beautiful girls around, making it hard to "make the right choice." I was a serious dude.
My first "girlfriend"
Not until I turned nineteen did I experience my first kiss, and even then, I wouldn't have had a girlfriend if she hadn't lured me into it.
After completing two years of college at North Carolina State in Raleigh, North Carolina, I decided to take a break to ponder over my life and career options. My mother called it a sabbatical. I was fortunate enough to have my grandmother Beebe offer me a 20x20 foot converted chicken house on her farm to stay in while I figured things out. However, I wasn't just lounging around during this time. I got a job as an assistant at the local hardware store in Monteagle, Tennessee, located on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau.
Looking back, I realize that I was quite naive when my friend Johnny Kunz introduced me to his girlfriend's older sister, Donna, who had just graduated from high school. At the time, I saw it as a mere friendly introduction. Looking back, I see that guy who was me as rather naive. Donna and I started visiting together regularly.
While saying goodbye one day to Donna at her parents' home (they were at work), she playfully took the keys to my grandmother's pickup truck from my hands and hid them behind her back. In an attempt to retrieve them, I put my arms around her and tried to pull her hands apart. In that moment, I realized that we were in the perfect position to kiss and that she may have intended for that to happen. It was my first kiss ever, and it marked the beginning of many more with her.
My first love (and my last one for a while)
Donna and I began seeing each other romantically. Our dates usually involved some heavy petting in my grandmother's truck, parked on some secluded dirt road in the countryside there. During one of our conversations, the topic of marriage came up and I casually mentioned that I wasn't ready for it yet.
Not long after, Donna ended things with me and started dating an older guy who had a stable job and his own car. They got married shortly thereafter.
I remember sitting on a hill on my grandmother's farm, writing a letter to Donna expressing my love for her and how much I missed her, but also acknowledging that she had moved on.
Fast forward to 1968: my first relationship coach
I was now living in New York City working as a programmer for IBM. After a regrettable incident where I made an inappropriate explicit romantic proposition to my best friend Anne that we somehow managed to recover from (another story), we had a heart-to-heart about my romantic struggles. I could easily land first dates, but second and third dates were rare for me. I was completely clueless. Anne and I established a routine where after every date, I would recount the conversation to her, trying to figure out what went wrong. Anne would often react with disbelief, exclaiming "You said that? Didn't you think about how she would interpret it!?" It could take up to an hour for me to finally see where I went wrong.
I was also reading numerous books on personal communication and understanding women at this time. It must have paid off because on New Year's Eve of 1970, I finally landed my first long-term girlfriend (another story). And that was just the beginning. Within a few years, I had a new problem: falling in love with two women at once, and having them reciprocate those feelings (another story).
Underlying principles that guided (or didn't guide) my actions
Identity and dufear
Despite not receiving explicit messages from my parents that sex was improper or indecent, I ingrained in myself the idea that I was a "nice guy" who was better than those other men who used crude language and objectified women. I distinguished myself as "not being like them." The thought of a girl accusing me of only wanting sex petrified me, especially when I truly desired it.
What I was unaware of at the time was how my identity of "being a good guy" was blocking me again and again. Not only that, even if I were aware, I would have needed to use something like, "Holy moly and jeepers weepers, I'm so scared she'll think I'm a bad guy!" and choosing courage step by step.
This also relates to taking over two years to open up with my best friend Anne to share vulnerably about my miserable dating life.
In terms of my connection with Donna, I mostly refrained from faulting either her or myself when our relationship ended. Although it caused me some heartache, I recognized that her desire to marry immediately after high school was fairly typical for a country girl. When I informed her that I wasn't a suitable option at that time, she proceeded to moved on.