I’m reading Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love and am struck by the description of avoidants as longing for the phantom ex or dreaming of the perfect partner, “one of the most powerful tools an avoidant can use to keep someone else at bay. It allows you to believe that everything is fine with you and that the person you’re with now is the problem — he or she is just not good enough.” (Pg. 124)
I think I grew up avoidant and insecure in my attachment style. My father is avoidant and my stepmom is insecure and I inherited both of these tendencies.
For fun, I made a list of my girlfriends who were simply the best I could do at the time and I had no intention of marrying. I easily came up with ten names, including five in two years when I particularly needed help.
Then I came up with a list of girlfriends I thought were good enough for me and possible marriage material and wrote out six names. That doesn’t include all the women I pursued and got nowhere.
Prior to coming down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 1988, I didn’t settle in my dating choices. Either someone was good enough for me or she was a learning opportunity or I would simply set myself to work and reading. But once I got sick, I could no longer lose myself into work. For the rest of my life, I’ve been hobbled by CFS and unable to work as hard as I did.
With an abundance of spare time and an ample need to rest, my desire for a warm body next to me grew. I was weak. I wanted nurturing. I couldn’t distract myself with achievement. I also had fewer prospects. As my achievements became less impressive, I had less access to the primo girls. Frequently, I felt the need for a partner to get me through a rough patch, to prop me up so I could be at my best for getting the greatest girl I could attain. I still got emotionally involved with these not-good-enough girls and I still expected their full devotion until I was ready to move on, at which point I wanted no trouble, just a clean break.
I tend to feel and act avoidant when I feel like my partner is below me and not for the long run (most of my partners), and I tend to feel and act anxious when she’s on my level or above me and I want the long run together.
Common Avoidant Thoughts:
She’s taking over my life! I can’t stand it.
Now I have to do everything her way, the price is too high.
I need to get out of here, I feel suffocated.
If she was the one, this wouldn’t happen.
She’s out to hurt me, it’s obvious.
She just wants to tie me down.
I’ll be better off on my own.
Common Anxious Thoughts:
She’s leaving me.
I’ll never find anyone else.
I knew this was too good to last.
I’ve ruined everything.
She can’t treat me this way! I’ll show her.
I knew something would go wrong. Nothing works out for me.
I have to talk to her right now.
She better crawl back and beg my forgiveness or I’m done with her forever.
Maybe if I make a lot of money, things will work out.
After reading Attached, I understand why the most heartbreaking of my relationships didn’t work — I was trying with my anxious attachment style to connect with women who were emotionally avoidant.
Most people on the dating market are avoidant. Even though avoidants only make up 25% of the population, they tend to end relationships more quickly, move on more quickly, have more affairs, get divorced more quickly, etc. People with a secure attachment style usually aren’t on the market long. They quickly form long-term attachments. Also, avoidants never date other avoidants and secures won’t put up with the games that avoidants play. That leaves avoidants dating anxious people like me.
Avoidants and the anxious tend to date each other because the other type confirms their deepest beliefs about love. For an anxious person like me, when I date an avoidant, I confirm my deepest belief that nobody will ever love me back as much as I love them. For the avoidant, dating someone likes me confirms their deepest belief that other people are weak and clingy while they, the avoidant, needs independent and freedom.
“Each reaffirms the others’ beliefs about themselves and about relationships. The avoidants’ defensive self-perception that they are strong and independent is confirmed, as is the belief that others want to pull them into more closeness than they are comfortable with. The anxious types find that their perception of wanting more intimacy than their partner can provide is confirmed, as is their anticipation of ultimately being let down by significant others. So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again.” (Pg. 91)
Also, when the anxious dates the avoidant, his attachment system gets activated. He feels crazy. After enough intense experiences like this, the anxious tends to equate an activated attachment system with love. So when a secure person comes into your life, you’re not activated and you’re not feeling crazy and hence you don’t feel like you can possibly be in love and you discount secures.
Here are some definitions:
* Secure people are comfortable with intimacy, anxious people are anxious about it, and avoidants minimize it.
* “Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that reestablishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.”
* You live in the danger zone when you feel a constant threat to your relationship. You may become used to living with a chronically activated attachment system.
* De-activating strategies are things you do to decrease closeness with your partner such as put-downs, deliberately walking out of step, breaking plans, etc.
I want to talk about the love of my life. Of all my relationships, this one was the best. It was heart-breaking and frustrating much of the time, but we also clicked on many different levels.
What were the warning signs she was avoidant?
* At age 40, she had never married, but had many relationships.
* She had a history of cheating on her partners.
* On our first date, she asked me if I thought that people who had sex could be friends. Why would she be talking about friends with benefits on our first date?
* When she was in pain one Saturday night, I offered to come over but only if I could stay the night. She said no because she prized her space and independence. Needing your space is a big sign of an avoidant.
* After our first week together, she went radio silence for a week. Eventually, I found out she was back with her girlfriend.
* I usually had to call her twice as much as she called me. I had to keep seeking her out and seeking ways for us to get together.
* She would track our calls and emails and texts to make sure she never extended herself more than I did.
* She had contempt for me. I’ve never before had a girlfriend who had such contempt for me. Sure, I’ve had girlfriends who probably had contempt for parts of my life, but this one was withering and for things nobody had ever expressed contempt towards me for such as seeing a physical therapist for my plantar fascitis. She said I was a wimp.
* When I asked her something she didn’t want to deal with, she would just ignore me. She wouldn’t even acknowledge my question.
* She kept talking about moving away.
* I often felt like a jerk around her and I was rarely able to understand why. She just kept me off balance and implied or stated that I was at fault.
* The closer I got to her, the more I became the enemy.
* I had this shiksa GF Holly. She didn’t understand what I ate. She wanted to make dinner for me. I suggested she ask my mother for a recipe and provided my mom’s email address. My mom emailed Holly back a lentil loaf recipe. Holly drove all over town to get the ingredients. I normally eat at 5pm. I got to Holly’s place at 6pm and became rapidly sulky that dinner wasn’t ready yet. Holly rushed it out at 6:30 p.m. The lentil loaf didn’t work. It was too dry. Still, it was better than what I had at home, so in the morning when I found out the loaf was gone, fed to the dog, I was disappointed. I made a tiny little comment on my blog that day about the loaf not working out and Holly broke up with me forever (she had many other reasons for doing this, my blog post was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back). So the mere mention of a lentil loaf is traumatic for me and I need you to be sensitive.
* Dear Diary,
It’s been five weeks since I was here. Wow, what a long discouraging CFS relapse. Down over two months. But I’m back. I was struggling, feeling down and hopeless and alone. I gave up almost all writing. I just lay back and enjoyed life as best I could. I gave up trying to accomplish anything beyond my job. I take pride in meeting my responsibilities.
I wonder what helped me come back? Was it the B-complex I started ten days ago? The Chinese herbs for my adrenals or the herbs for my sore throat? Was it simply time and rest? This might be the first day my throat hasn’t ached for for 10 weeks.
I wonder why I’ve started sleeping solidly? I get in these cycles, solid sleep for weeks on end and then horrible sleep for weeks on end. Is it the cooling weather? Is it the herb combo?
I want to do that assignment from the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love. It’s the best book I’ve read on love.
OK, I need to list off my every relationship, write out the central problems I had in each relationship, what I did about them, how that worked, and thinking of a secure role model, write out secure responses I could’ve used.
So I had my first girlfriend, R, at Pacific Union College when I was 16. The biggest problem in our relationship (the biggest problem in all of my relationships that were to follow) was my fear that she didn’t love me back nearly as much as I loved her. After the summer of 1982 was over, I went back to live in Auburn, California, a 2.5 hour drive away. I only saw her on the occasional weekend but we exchanged letters regularly. One Sabbath at PUC, she told me she was going to a Journey concert that night with this college guy who liked her. I reacted by cutting her off. I stopped writing to her. When the next summer rolled around, I was almost a Senior, and over the previous six months, in the time I’d saved by not writing her, I had developed some awesome kissing skills. I could even handle that newfangled French stuff.
So what is a secure way I could’ve responded to her telling me about going to a concert with the college guy? I could’ve told her how insecure and jealous it made me feel. How inadequate in that I didn’t have a driver’s license nor a car (most of my peers had both). I had never been to a rock concert.
I can’t imagine having the strength to admit such things to R. I’d have a hard time admitting such vulnerabilities today. But I guess I could’ve written them out to her in a letter. And today? I could put them on a blog.
I usually date avoidants. They’re always doing this stuff to put space between us, like telling me they’re seeing other guys.
I came back to Pacific Union College for the summer of 1983. In September, I would start my Senior year at Placer High School. In June, I went to a five-day high school journalism conference at St. Mary’s College with my News Editor Chris McMaster and my Sports Editor Rob Stutzman. During that week, just before our field trip to San Francisco, I visited a drug store and bought my first pack of condoms.
I came back from the retreat, started seeing R. again, and one day, after we walked across a log over a stream, I took her in my arms and kissed her for the first time. Afterward, she said, “We could’ve done this last summer.”
But I was too scared then. Now I was a confident kisser. I knew my way around a woman. I could go to a newsstand and buy a Penthouse. I could go into a drug store and get my man supplies.
On the downside, I didn’t yet have the confidence to get my driver’s license. That wouldn’t happen until after I turned 18 in May of 1984.
I dropped R. for good in July of 1983 when she wouldn’t have sex with me. She said, “I’m not that kind of girl.” I guess I still carried a burn against her and was looking to either use her or discard her. I was confident about my future. I thought I’d have a ton of success inside and outside the bedroom. I don’t think I was ever again so confident about my prospects as that summer of 1983. My biggest source of insecurity was my lack of a driver’s license.
By the summer of 1984, I was 18. I had a driver’s license. I was living with my brother in Australia, but I didn’t have the same confidence I had a year earlier, because I was in an unfamiliar environment, struggling to find work and to make my way.
I came back to California from Australia in June of 1985 but I didn’t have the confidence of 1983 because I couldn’t find work. I volunteered all summer at KAHI/KHYL radio and eventually got hired for 16 hours a week at minimum wage and I bought a 1968 VW Bug. I had some voice trouble, I couldn’t project, and that undercut my confidence in radio. I decided to go to Sierra Community College in September.
In the summer of 1986, I started working construction but I didn’t have the confidence I had in ’83 because I was working for about $4 an hour, when I had made four times that amount in Australia two years previous. Voice trouble undercut my confidence at the radio station.
The summer of 1987 was probably the closest I had to my confidence of ’83 because I had gotten serious with my schooling, I was earning straight As, I was set to transfer to UCLA in a year to major in Economics, and I was in good health. On the downside, I was only making about $5 an hour at my job, I hadn’t had a girlfriend since the summer of 1983, and I had this nagging suspicion I was once again developmentally behind my peers. Voice trouble led me to decide to quit radio in September and concentrate on my schooling.
In February of 1988, I came down with CFS and never again had my vitality. It’s hard to be confident when you don’t feel good.
I got my second girlfriend in 1989. She was cute and cuddly, but I didn’t intend to be with her long-term. She was the best I could do while I was so sick. That went for my next few girlfriends. Their primary meaning to me was instrumental.
My next relationship with someone I wanted long-term was in the summer of 2000. What was the biggest problem in that relationship for me? I couldn’t connect with her for long. She usually felt out of reach. She said we wanted different things. She didn’t return my calls. I don’t know how she did, but I often felt like a shmuck around her.
Now I realize that I was simply try to date an avoidant. She’s never married.
I had my familiar fear that she would never love me back as much as I loved her. So what did I do? Despite feeling insecure and confused, I kept myself throttled down and didn’t do anything. I just let things run. However awkward things got, my life was better with her in it.
Then she didn’t return my call for three days and that’s when I broke things off. If I had not reacted, we could’ve had a longer run together, but there was never going to be a happy ending.
With my next girlfriend in 2002, it was pleasant but it was never going to last. She wasn’t Jewish and had no interest in converting.
My girlfriend in 2003 was my most beautiful ever. She was ten years younger. She wasn’t Jewish and had no interest in converting. Even though I knew it wasn’t going to last, I went through half a dozen break-ups with her, and then always got back together, until after a year, we lost steam. I knew it was over when I saw her blogging about her frustrations with me. I had told her that I didn’t read her blog so she was upset when I replied in her comments section.
What held us together was passion and a shared interest in reading and writing.
My next few girlfriends were also not Jewish and had no interest in converting to Judaism. Because of this, I saw we had no future and simply tried to enjoy our time together, but normal women can’t relax for long when they understand we have no future together. Neither of us got invested in the other and soon went our separate ways.
* I’m an anxious insecure personality. The outside world is a scary place and at social events, I’m often dying to get away.
And then a tall black chick walks up to me with kinky hair and gleaming teeth and she initiates the conversation and we hit it off and I keep circling back to her all night.
I love her confidence. I love her strength. Black chicks are so forthright. They just say things right off. They just get it out there. They lay things on the table. There’s no beating around the bush. You know where you’re at. They don’t play games like white chicks.
If I can’t marry a black chick, an Ethiopian Jewess or some such, then maybe I’ll snag a creamy Persian or Sephardi. Just so long as she’s strong enough to kick my butt.
* “Emotional starvation” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about my early childhood. It’s why I strike people as needy and insecure. What did you want from your parents when you were a little kid? It probably bears a dramatic resemblance to what you want from your partner today (aside from the sex). I didn’t get as much mothering as I wanted in my earliest years, so I suck my sheilas dry today, certain the breast will soon run out. I didn’t get as much fathering as I wanted, so to this day, I keep seeking out substitute father figures, and, on occasion, idealizing and glorifying them.
* I moved to Los Angeles in March of 1994. I was almost 27. I had a ball my first year in LA. I had a ton of dates. Everywhere I went, it seemed, I met women.
I was an unknown quantity. I was new to LA. I had an Australian accent. I was good looking. I was enthusiastic about life having spent the past six years bed-ridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Every night, I wanted to go out and about. I was immersed in women and felt like there was always going to be plenty for me.
By late 1995, I was sick of playing around. I wanted to settle down but it just didn’t happen with the ones I wanted.
As the years went by, I became steadily less attractive to women. Those my age were getting more serious about life, and I just did not look like marriage material.
Now I’m 47. I’ve never been married. And I fool no one.
At 26 and 27, I met a bunch of smart attractive women via singles ads. Now I’m on Match.com and POF.com (and I’ve had previous stints on Frumster.com and JDATE.com) and I’ve sent off about 250 emails and I get about a 10% reply rate and when I reply to their replies, it’s pretty much all over.
Unless you’re hyper-successful, writer and Alexander Technique teacher just has no sex appeal.
I’ve spent my adult life doing what I wanted and I realize now there is much to be said for choosing a stable profession. Hmm, I always thought I was going to be a star. It didn’t quite work out that way.
* It was Makor, a monthly Friday-night program for Jewish singles. It was 1997. I’d been kicked out the year before after a dozen women complained I had spoken to them inappropriately.
Tonight the dinner is at the home of friends and I feel that makes it OK for me to go.
After buttoning my tongue over the meal and staying on the best of behavior, I go to the house where everyone gathers for dessert. I meet a cute brunette, a seven. Our attraction is immediate. She whips off her sweater, complaining about the heat.
“That’s a good sign,” I say.
She smiles back at me.
After an hour of Torah study and conversation, we agree on nothing, she’s way to my left, I walk her home. Outside her apartment, she equivocates for a minute, but then invites me in for a drink. I take a glass of water.
We sit on opposite sides of the room and talk awkwardly. Then I ask to massage her feet. She agrees. I fondle them for ten minutes, communicating more effectively with my hands than with my political positions.
She sits up and kisses me. After a break for me to wash my hands, we make-out further and then she suggests we move into the bedroom.
Thank God I carry condoms to Jewish events.
While undressing, I learn that my Sabbath bride is a “crunchy granola” feminist from U.C. Berkeley who’s considering entering rabbinical school at the University of Judaism.
Down to our underwear, we slide into bed. She clambers on top of me.
“I like to talk about Torah in bed,” she whispers.
“Great!” I say.
I’m up for anything. She can talk about Germaine Greer for all I care.
“I was arrested in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago,” she whispers, “for having sex in the back of a car, with a woman.”
“You’re an edgy girl,” I say.
Over the next nine hours, I make love to her three times in all her favorite feminist positions. Missionary is only allowed to me for a few seconds (to get my groove on) because it represents male subjugation of women. Like a sergeant in a boot camp, she commands me on what I should do, when, and where. She tells me to shut up with my Republican nonsense and to stop making jokes about rape.
I leave for temple Shabbos morning hoping I’ve cemented my ties to my community and to a particular woman. When I call her on motzi Shabbos, she says there’s no point in us seeing each other again. We have nothing in common but sex. I think that’s more than enough to carry on but she doesn’t agree.
Monday night, the rabbi of Makor calls. He asks me again to say away from its events.
* So I had known this woman since shortly after I moved to Los Angeles in 1994. She was a fellow convert to Judaism. We went to the same temples. She was a shy timid sort, a good girl, but I made her laugh. She was a professional, an accountant I think, while I was finding my way in the world.
One evening in 1996, we went to the movie Emma. I think that was the only time we went out.
Some time around 1999, we went to a Jewish event and I ended up at her apartment for the first time.
We’re sitting on the couch and I’m afraid to make a move because I know her and we have many temples and friends in common. On the other hand, I feel attracted to her. I know she likes me, but I don’t know how much.
So I start tickling her and we roughhouse on her couch and I’m not sure if it is OK, or if it is scary for her, if I should be more aggressive or less, and whether we are going forward or backward. On the one hand, I feel like we’re about to do the ultimate deed and to become boyfriend-girlfriend. On the other hand, I fear I am way out of line.
So I stop. And I’m not sure where we stand. I don’t call her. I don’t ask her out.
I don’t know what happened between us after that but it wasn’t much.
So I look back now and imagine that we were on the verge of something. We both would’ve been better off, I think, if we had gone forward.
* In 2001, I met this Latina Jewish girl at a succah party.
After some talking, I walked her to her car and made out with her. We made plans to meet the next day, a chag (holy day), for lunch at the home of friends of mine.
So far so good. We meet up. She complains about this Israeli guy I know who’s been causing me problems in the community (trashing me behind my back). She says he’s harassing her. That he keyed her car. Hmm.
I bring her with me to lunch and she won’t eat even a mouthful of bread for chamotzi (blessing over bread that follows kiddush, the blessing over wine, and starts a meal). I’m embarrassed. I realize I can’t take this girl anywhere.
After lunch, she breaks up with me. If I won’t take care of this guy who keyed her car, she’ll find someone who will.
I’m not big at taking care of things for my girl if it means confronting someone or other physical acts of courage. I don’t want that drama in my life. I like a strong woman who wants stuff I can give her like conversation. I’m not a practical bloke. I’m a talker, not a doer.
I guess I have lingering fears about my masculinity over this. That image of her telling me, “If you won’t take care of this, I’ll find someone who will” has stayed with me, left me feeling not so strong.
Dennis Prager says that women look for a man who will clear the path in front of her through life. They will protect her and keep her safe.
I don’t usually find neediness attractive in a woman. I certainly don’t find the pathetic a turn-on. I did have this one girlfriend who repeatedly said to me when I complained she was irresponsible, “You love me because I’m pathetic.” I protested that she was wrong. I loved her because she was available and ready for love and easy to get along with and undemanding, but once I realized her incompetence at life, I started to leave.
I had this beautiful girlfriend (one-eighth Jewish and not the good eighth) for a year. She broke up with me about half a dozen times during that time, and with each break-up, my willingness to sacrifice for her diminished.
So after her fifth break-up with me and then us getting back together, she got a bad case of the flu. She was staying with her family a few miles out of town. They were out. She called me about 3:30 p.m. on a week day and asked me to bring her soup and salty crackers. I thought for two seconds about all the work I had to do, and said to her, “Isn’t there someone else you can ask?”
I wanted to keep working away at my blog and to then go to an LA Press Club party that night in the opposite direction from her. I’ve never asked anyone, including her, to make such a trip for me. The idea of doing it for salty crackers and soup seemed silly. I have asked a girlfriend to bring me some soup and aspirin, but that was because she offered and it was on her way home.
So, anyway, my girlfriend found my suggestion that she ask someone else a stab in the heart that she never got over. She ended up asking her ex-boyfriend, who abandoned his work on the spot and drove out to her.
I think the next day she broke up with me. We got back together a couple of months later, but on our first date back, I didn’t wait around for the waiter to pack up her dessert to go because I wanted to get to the movie on time, and that was an unforgivable offense. She put it on her blog. I commented with my position. She erased everything. I haven’t seen her since. The internet tells me she married a Hollywood player.
* Wednesday night. Gotta change things up in my life. I’ve paid the $5, now I’m going to take the 30s-40s ride. Match.com is throwing an event at 8029 Sunset Blvd and I’m going. Yes, I know BINA LA has an event at the same time in Santa Monica but it costs $30 and is for the 25-45 crowd. I’m 47 now. I didn’t have success with my last runs with JDate and Frumster. So now I’m keyword searching “Jewish” on Match.com and POF.com and emailing everyone I find attractive. I’m getting a 10% response rate.
So I walk in and start meeting people. Everyone’s nice. Considering the awkward circumstance of a singles mingle, conversation moves along. Still, I’m itching to leave when I hit off with two women about 40 who work in the entertainment industry. I hole up with them at their table for about an hour. They’re not Jewish. They ask me, “What are you doing here? You’re looking for someone Jewish. Why aren’t you on JDate?”
People keep asking me that, “What are you doing here?” As I step out into the wider world, I keep feeling that I don’t belong.
I run into two Israeli guys. They have no plans for Rosh Hashanah. I’m about to leave when this high energy Creole woman with kinky hair walks over and lights up my night. Eventually, I get her alone. “What am I going to do with you?” she says. “I’m never going to become Jewish. I’m not going to change. I like who I am. I can’t drink with you. I can’t eat meat with you. I can’t have sex with you. I’m going to circulate.”
It’s almost 10 p.m.. Time to go home. I do a u-turn across double yellow lines on Santa Monica Blvd and the police pull me over. They ask me to wind down all my windows. They ask for my driver’s license and registration. They ask me if I have anything in the car that I wouldn’t want them to see. I told them they’re welcome to search. They ask me if I have ever been arrested. I say no. They ask me where I was. “A match.com party,” I say. “I don’t drink. You can smell my breath.”
“Do you know why we pulled you over?” asked the officer.
“I followed the example of the car in front of me and crossed the double yellow line,” I said.
“Where are you going?”
“Home,” I said. “I live about four miles from here.”
They run my information and let me off with a warning.
Ivan posts to my FB: “In my opinion, you traded one very controlling religion SDA for another very similar one.”
Michael: “Gives a new meaning to the expression that if we forget we are Jewish, the gentiles will remind us.”
It never ceases to sting when it takes strangers to remind me of who I am and where I belong.
The non-Jews I meet have nothing but respect for Orthodox Judaism. Frequently, they see us more clearly than we see ourselves.
I really like black girls particularly if they have a white girl’s body. I like their strength. I love their gleaming white teeth and kinky hair. They make me smile. They seem to like Jewish guys. They don’t hold back with what they’re thinking.
If I could just land a black (Jewish) wife, then nobody could accuse me of racism and I’d have carte blance!
It was so nice to be wanted and desired by women. I don’t get that so often in shul.
I like women who dress nicely. I like it when they offer to buy me a drink. I walked around last night afraid some woman would ask me to buy her a drink. I’m not into that unless we’re already in a relationship.
There were some women there last night who had a filthy mouth. I like that in a woman. There was this one exec in a super posh outfit, sipping champagne, and the varieties of the ways she could say f*** took my breath away.
I met a therapist and got to talk about John Bowlby and attachment theory for 15 minutes.
* I overheard one unmarried woman give another unmarried woman dating advice: “Don’t text him back. Just ignore him for a few days. That always works.”
I butted in: “That always works if you want to be with someone who’s emotionally avoidant. Anyone who’s secure will cross you off his list if you avoid him. Better to be honest about what you want, don’t play games, respond to his bids for your attention, and if he doesn’t treat you with consideration, move on to someone who will.”
* So I was talking to this hot Sikh at yoga and as I became comfortable, I returned to my normal cutting self, and she told me to watch it or I’d lose “my conversation privileges.” How low have I fallen that I have to watch my P & Qs simply to maintain “conversation privileges” with a hot Sikh? I’d already asked her out and been knocked back weeks before. Now I was in danger of losing the privilege of talking to someone who was paid to talk to people like me. It was like a Ralphs check-out girl knocking me back.
* I’ve always wanted to roll with the popular kids, but have been unable to discipline myself to play by the popular kids rules. The popular kids sometimes deign to play with me, sometimes they even give me a real chance to join, but I always reveal myself to be not one of them.
I wonder when I’ll stop giving off the stray dog vibe?
* There was this girl I liked in high school. She was tall and strong and athletic and two years below me. I never got to talk to her. I never got to hang out with her.
She lived near me. I sometimes ran into her on my walks. I think we just nodded and said hi.
She had blonde hair and a cute face and even though she was strong, she had curves in the right places. She was all woman. I liked how she was kinda shy and demure.
I never sensed an opening so I never got anywhere with her.
About six years ago, a lawyer from high school who was a year or two below me posted on a Placer High School newsgroup, “Who was the best editor ever of the Hillmen Messenger?” He nominated me. He was just trying to stir up a discussion.
This girl I liked got into the discussion. She’s now married with kids. She said she thought in high school that I’d become successful writing about politics and it was sad to see what I had turned into, always writing on my blog about how pathetic my life was.
Oh well, all the girls I yearned for in high school, when I look at their current pictures, I don’t yearn for them anymore.
Around age 43, I stopped finding women my own age attractive.
* So in early 1995, I met this girl, a librarian, at a Conservative synagogue and we started going out. I was living out of my car at the time.
Then one day she came home and found out she had been burgled, so she called me and I started staying with her. If she hadn’t been burgled, that might never have happened.
She was a shy, insecure girl. Almost everything with her was a little awkward. After a few nights, she felt better and I was back sleeping in my car.
When women go through disasters like burglary, that’s when I start to look good to them.
* The scene is a Stu and Lew Jewish singles dance in the mid-90s. Hundreds of young Jews at the Century Club in Century City are eager to connect, to make Jewish babies, to never forget the Holocaust. Every generation the goyim rise up to annihilate us but we’re still here, thanks be to God. From the destruction of the two temples to the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Chelmitzki pogroms and the Shoah, oy, how we’ve suffered, but the Chosen Ones are eternal. We will never be destroyed.
So I spot this woman standing by herself and she seems available.
I just get a feeling about certain girls, that they’re in my league, that I can sleep with them. I’m rarely wrong. As for girls out of my league, I lose all hope at the outset. If they’re too pretty, too popular, too successful, I figure they won’t want me and I don’t really try. When I have tried, it’s never worked out. And as for girls below my league, they don’t interest me unless I’m horny.
Sara is a 6.5. I’m an 8. Just telling the truth. I cannot lie. That would be a sin.
Don’t give me crap that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is objective and scientific. It’s symmetry and hip to waist ratio and perceived fertility.
My scale is generous, folks. Women I think of as sixes, other guys call fours.
I’ve slept with a lot of homely women and my friends make fun of me for it. Even ex-Gfs get mad at me when I date someone homely because it reflects badly on them.
I do have a heart. I find that a woman’s attractiveness changes when I get to know her. Someone who’s a five objectively, she can become a ten in my heart, but I don’t fool myself that objectively she’s a supermodel simply because I love her.
I’ve got a big heart. I can fall in love with fours. Most of my male friends can’t.
It’s important to be honest about these things. You need to know how you stack up. If you’re constantly getting dumped, it means you’re dating out of your league. If you’re the one who’s consistently doing the dumping, that means you’re dating beneath you.
So know where you stand with your looks, your personality, and your life position. Read the book, The Rating Game. It’s written by a woman, Reba Toney.
What’s my confidence level? Generally speaking, it’s low. At my core, I have all the fundamental beliefs of the addict (that’s why I never touch drugs or alcohol or gambling, I know they would destroy me). I know that I’m a rotten person, that regular life is rarely satisfying, but I also know that there are ways to escape from my misery through sex and success and love and God and religion. And I know that there are people out there who can rescue me because I’ve experienced wholeness before through human connection, romantic and platonic, and life became rich and colorful and vibrant. Eventually, however, with everyone I’ve known, the unconditional positive regard has fallen away and my sense of self has dissolved with it.
Do I feel ashamed about living out of my car? Well, frankly, I have so much shame, what’s a bit more? My sense of self, my sense of shame, they’re all situational. In certain contexts, I feel strong. In other contexts, I feel ashamed. It all depends on the outlook of the people around me. If they feel I’m pathetic, I feel pathetic. If they think I’m an adventurer, I feel like an adventurer. I have no core. I rely on other people to tell me who I am. A psychiatrist would say that I’m constantly seeking mirroring and that this exhausts people. I’m so needy for attention that others have to set limits with me and I never take this well.
Do I feel like I’m a catch? Well, I know there are women out there who will go crazy for me. I just have to talk to a hundred girls to find that one. My Australian accent doesn’t hurt me in the search. Once I make a girl laugh, the odds are good she’ll sleep with me.
Clubs and bars don’t work for me because it’s usually too loud to talk much. Shuls, Shabbat dinners, those are my happy hunting grounds.
So what’s my confidence level? It’s strong in the sense that I know that there are people out there who will find me fascinating if we can just have a conversation and that they will want to help me to achieve a good life. I’ve met thousands of people in my life and at least one percent of them have adored me. I’ve known human connection. I’ve known success. I’ve known friends. I’ve known community.
The Jewish theologian Dennis Prager once wrote a friend of mine in 1993, “Anyone who’s a friend of Luke’s is a friend of mine.” I’ve been stamped kosher by Dennis Prager!
So what’s my confidence level? It’s strong in the sense that I know there are certain things I can do well. I love to talk and to listen to people who read books. I know I’m a good writer and a good speaker. I know I can achieve anything if I can just have normal health, which I don’t. I know I can still achieve substantial things, even as weak as I am, if I can just be nudged into the right niche. I just need a helping hand. I just need guidance. I just need adopting. I just need regular sex and baths and home-cooked meals and a few extra dollars a month.
So in the mid-90s, I am about 27. I have a model’s looks. I have personality. And I am living free with a friend, a UCLA professor who soon kicks me out for my messy inconsiderate ways and I have to make do with living out of my car. After six years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve made a two-thirds recovery and moved to Los Angeles and am trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t have a job. I could work something prosaic and get an apartment, but I prefer to live free, to embrace the adventure, it will be great for my writing one day, down and out in Beverly Hills, and to spend my time away from drudgery reaching for greatness. Everyone has told me that I will be great one day. I believe them.
I spent my 20s sick. You probably spent your 20s getting laid. Now I want to catch up. I am new in the big city, I’m a legend in my own mind, and I want to get some. I want to connect. I want to launch myself. I don’t want to work an ordinary job. I want an extraordinary job as an actor or writer or model or escort.
So I go up to this girl at this secular dance and I come in under the radar with the spiritual approach. The first thing I say is, “Hi there, where do you go to temple?”
She smiles. She says she has no regular temple but is going to a beginner’s course in Judaism one night a week at the University of Judaism.
“I’m a convert to Judaism,” I say. “I go to a lot of different synagogues from Stephen S. Wise to Aish HaTorah, usually both each Shabbos. I love being in a city with so many Jews and Torah classes.”
Sara: “What got you interested in Judaism?”
Luke: “Listening to Dennis Prager on the radio. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit. He said that if I moved to LA, he might have work for me.”
I tell her I have an agent (Debbie Durkin) who sends me out for auditions for modeling and acting work and I might return to UCLA in the fall to finish my Economics degree.
She gives me her phone number and I call her the next day and she swings by to take me to the beach.
Sara* is about 35 and never married.
We lie on our towels in the Santa Monica sand and rub each other with sunblock. Then she gratuitously lets her long fingernails glide over my back.
It’s heaven. I’ve never had a girl do this to me before. She just grazes up and down my back and I daren’t turn over or my excitement will show. She’s in no rush. Up and down. I bet she could really work my digit.
I think she really likes me.
I’m lying in the sun on the beach in the company of an attractive woman who shares my values, shares my religion, and shares my love of pleasure.
A few days later, I tell her about this reality show I am thinking of going out for, but it is for couples. Is she interested in coming with me?
She is not.
I am a fool for asking her. I’m not living in reality. I’m oblivious. I’m just thinking about myself. I have delusions about others. Typical! Sara is a private person. She has no need to perform. She has a responsible job in healthcare. This is never going to be her thing. I’ve taken a bridge too far.
Our conversation turns serious. You can’t joke about marriage and children and relationships with girls, those topics are sacred. Once civilizations started joking about adultery, it meant that adultery wasn’t so bad. When I joke about marriage and kids, it just shows I don’t take such responsibilities seriously.
Sara says she can’t see us having a relationship.
I feel like a dick. I thought she was really into me. I have been way too flip in asking her to be my girl on TV before she is my girl in real life and now she’s knocked me down.
Something inside me dies when a girl does that. If she’s not going to take me seriously, if she’s not going to consider me for the long-term, well, I’m not going to take her seriously either. She’s no longer precious to me. She’s no treasure. She’s not somebody I will invest in. She’s not somebody I will commit to. She might be useful, she might be fun, she might be smart and interesting, but she’s never going to be mine. We’re just ships passing in the night.
Have I ever been in love? Yes, of course, but it takes two to tango. I’ve never been in love with girls who’ve declared to me that we have no future. That we’re not having a relationship. That we’re not going anywhere. There’s nothing like such declarations to turn off my feelings. There’s nothing like such declarations to turn off my honorable side. Such girls are no longer precious. When I can already see the end of us, my blood runs cold.
And you know what? All the women I’ve known who I told I could not see us building a future together, they changed immediately from warm to cold towards me. If women can’t see a future together, they get no joy from the present. They’re not like men who are happy to get some today without thought for the morrow. At least I’m open to the present! Carpe diem!
A few days later, Sara invites me over to her place Beverly Hills adjacent for dinner.
Afterward, we sit on the couch. I rub her back. One hundred percent of the girls I’ve known for the past six months who’ve let me rub their backs have also let me have sex with them.
I’ve been with about ten girls at this point in my life, nine in the last year.
Sara starts sighing. Then she says, “Let’s go into the bedroom.”
We make out for the first time and then we keep going. I’ve got my hooks into her now. I’m gonna trap her with the great sex and then just let this thing play out. I’ll have someone on my side. I’ll have a place to stay. I’ll have rescue.
I stay the night and then drive her to the airport in the morning. She’s going away for the weekend and she says I can stay at her pad.
I pick her up Sunday night. I bring her home. We make out. And then she asks me, “What do you want to do?”
“Can we go to Disneyland*?” I ask.
“OK,” she says.
I’ve never done this before but I’ve seen it in movies. It looks so cool.
I only tried it with one previous girlfriend. When she told her mom that Luke wanted to go to Disneyland but she was scared, her mom said she was a wimp. And when we tried it, she was really tense and it didn’t work.
Now I have someone who says yes as easily as if I had asked her to pass the peas.
So my first trip to Disneyland. I have some trouble with the route. I don’t feel comfortable asking directions so we go around a bit, take a few false turns until I finally bear down and get us there. It isn’t pretty but it works and its worth the wait for me. It’s wonderful. It’s one great ride. I feel like a million bucks. I’m ready to fuck my way to freedom.
I’m not just a good little Australian schoolboy anymore. I’m not just Dr. Ford’s son. I’m not just an ethical monotheist. I’m a bloke who walks the mean streets and knows how to ride a girl. I can drive a stick, I can become a Jew, and I can find Disneyland. I know what to do with my tools. I can be a manual laborer. I’m not just an effete writer. Give me a hammer, give me a nail. Let me create something magnificent.
Here I am with a girl who does not consider me worthy to be her boyfriend, who does not want a relationship with me, and now she’s doing everything I want. This is better than Space Mountain, this is better than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. This is freakin’ Pirates of the Caribbean action. I’m getting the booty. I’m going where no man has gone before and I’m making her scream my name.
Why was this such a big deal to me? Because it was fun, exciting, pleasurable, taboo. I couldn’t do this with an ordinary girl. I couldn’t do this in a sweet loving relationship. I needed rage and a desire to inflict pain to pull this off. It’s easy to tap into rage when a girl lets you know you’re not good enough for her.
Sara didn’t want a relationship with me. She’d cut me off at the knees. Now I’d cut her off at the knees. It was justice. I was God’s servant, delivering divine karma.
With some girls, I only love her with my good side. With Sara, I could love her with my desire to do good and with my desire to do bad. She was the first girl to accept all of me. I hid nothing from her and she withheld nothing from me. I had a willing adventurous partner. I had a sport, a good sport, a champ. She took it like a champ.
She offered up on the altar the most precious part of her and let me do with it what I would. She didn’t do that for just anyone. I was special. I was privileged. I was chosen. She held nothing back. When we got together, she wasn’t coasting on her laurels. She wasn’t lying on her back allowing me to feed her grapes. Now she’s changed positions. When she met me, she was a tight end. Now she’s a wide receiver.
During July, we end up getting together twice a week.
Some mornings I get up early and go to prayers and Talmud class. I’m hitting for the cycle — God, Torah, Israel, Disneyland.
LA is a great place. Anything is possible. You can recreate yourself. I ask Sara if she’s ever considered upgrading her B-cups. “No,” she says, “I’m happy with them. They’re proportionate to my body.”
I agree. I was just kidding.
Sara is a health professional and sometimes when we go to Disneyland, she makes me wear protection. Other times, when we’re swept away, we go bareback.
Our repeated trips to Disneyland become progressively less exciting for me and wreak a toll on her.
One evening, we go to a Jewish singles event. “Let’s mix,” I say, “and then we’ll come back together at the next of the night.”
Late that evening when we finally visit Disneyland, we both notice the trip is taking longer than usual and finally she says for the first time, “It’s hurting me.”
The news of her discomfort makes me grow an inch.
“Just one more minute,” I plead. “I’m almost there.”
“OK,” she says.
And a minute later, I’m very happy.
That she was willing to give me everything, that she was willing to open herself up to me, that she was willing to endure pain for the sake of my pleasure, it moves me. I was willing to be uncomfortable for her, to keep seeing her even after she rejected me. So it was only just that this girl would endure some discomfort for me.
I adore Sara. She salves the pain of my neglected childhood, the pain of growing up a socially awkward preacher’s kid who never got any, the pain of all those girls who rejected me, wouldn’t experiment with me, wouldn’t open themselves up to me… I adore Sara as much as you can adore someone who doesn’t want you in her life for long.
I’m a boy-toy. I get it. It hurts.
As we lie in bed one night, I say, “I’m going to New York for three weeks.”
“Who will you stay with?” she says.
“Is your friend female?”
“And you’re going to be having sex with her.”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re going to be having sex with her,” she says, and starts crying softly.
She lets me leave a suitcase with my clothes under her bed.
On the day of my trip, she’s particularly tender. She takes me to breakfast on Beverly Blvd.
I fly to New York. Rachel* picks me up.
About nine months previous, Rachel placed a singles ad for a friend in this Jewish newspaper. She gives all of the responses to her friend but mine.
I start talking to Rachel (about 35) on the phone (she pays!). I send her cassette tapes with my musings.
It’s all very polite and spiritual until one evening, she talks about her difficulty falling asleep. “I’ve found that sex has a marvelously soporific effect,” I say.
She agrees and our connection takes a more intense turn.
I finally meet her when she flies to Los Angeles for Memorial Day weekend. We have a lot of sex. We go to Shabbat dinner. We go to shul. We take baths together.
She wanted to know what I was doing about work. I said Dennis Prager might hire me. I was just waiting for the word. For two months now.
So, unbeknownst to me, Rachel gets on the phone with Dennis Prager’s office and the next day, I get a letter saying they regret they don’t have work for me.
I guess I’ll have to make it as a model.
Rachel and I talk regularly on the phone during that summer. We love Judaism and sex. She knows I’m broke so she pays for my plane ticket to New York. I don’t think things will work out between us, but I’ll give it a try.
Rachel’s an heiress. She can afford it. She was born Jewish. She was born in the money. She has multiple graduate degrees from Yeshiva University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She’s a five.
It makes me feel good when she gives me money. It makes me feel nurtured, cared for. Throughout my life, I’ve always paid for dates. Now due to circumstances out of my control, things have turned. I don’t have money. It makes sense to me that people who do have money and care about me, will help me out.
When I’ve had, I’ve given away. I come from a tight-knit religious community where we were generous with each other. Now I’ve joined a new religious community and it makes sense to me that we help each other out. With the little I have, I give.
I’m a youngest child. I don’t mind living off people. I’m used to getting things just by being grateful and adorable.
I remember in the mid’80s, I heard this story on All Things Considered about a guy who’s told he’ll spend his life living off women. That struck me hard. That’s me.
My ex-girlfriend Holly Randall was interviewed on the radio a few years ago. She said that she usually dated broke guys but most of them were bothered when she paid for stuff. “For some reason,” she said, “that never bothered Luke.”
It doesn’t bother me when other people pay my way. I’m Luke Ford. It just seems natural to me. I have so many gifts that I give to the world freely, abundantly, generously, through my witty conversation, my writing, my personality, my smile, that it only makes sense that the world would want to repay me with free trips to Disneyland.
I stay with Rachel for three weeks at her apartment on 78th and Broadway on the Upper West Side.
Just before I arrive, she has her maid do a thorough clean. Each day after that, however, her place progressively falls apart. She’s not the domestic type.
On my first full day in New York, Rachel starts telling me a little too strongly what to do with my life. I retreat inside. I realize she is not for me. Boom, that’s it. That possibility has closed. I will no longer invest in this woman. We’re just ships passing in the night.
Her bossiness causes me to shut her out for the rest of my visit but I try to make the best of things. We have a vanilla milkshake every night but there are no trips to Disneyland. She gives me $15 a day spending money and shows me around the Big Apple. We visit the Lincoln Square Synagogue, the Jewish Center, Stern College (an Orthodox school for girls), Crown Heights, the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Bnai Jeshurun, and several Broadway plays.
I place a singles ad in the Village Voice and say I’m a bicoastal actor-model. I feel no obligations to Rachel. I tried and she’s just not somebody I can live with. I don’t say this aloud because I’m dependent on her for a place to stay for three weeks.
With two days left on my trip, Rachel reads my ad and calls in to hear my voice. Things get a bit tense between us after that.
I borrow $500 from Rachel to buy two hours of the time of an acting manager. I need guidance with my new career. I tell him about my conversion to Judaism. I tell him about my role in a new movie whose details are listed in the Hollywood Reporter. I tell him I’m thinking about escorting for women! He says that’s probably a good idea.
He places some calls and tells me this new movie in which I have a lead role is a scam. It will never shoot.
On my last night in New York, Rachel and I visit a video store. She rents Sleepless in Seattle. I rent the porn film I Like To Watch.
Rachel pays for both.
We go back to her place. I put on the porno. I sit on the couch and Rachel rides me while I watch my movie.
Then I fly back to LA, forgetting my wallet at Rachel’s. She goes through it and finds the address of a woman I met at the Conservative synagogue Bnai Jeshurun.
She finally sends my wallet back but in our final phone call, she says her therapist thinks I’m using her and that’s it.
I still refer at times to the tiny siddur (Jewish prayer book) she gave me in happier times where she writes in the front in Hebrew and in English: “Wishing you peace of mind and joy to your heart, Love always…”
So I’m back in LA and Sara reluctantly agrees to meet up with me.
We go to a Shabbat dinner hosted by this weird woman. It’s awkward. Then we go back to Sara’s place.
I’m dying to know if we’ll ever have sex again. I’ve missed Sara. I want our old connection. I figure a three-week break will make our trip to Disneyland as exciting as the first time.
We walk through the kitchen to her bedroom and we’re off to Disneyland and the moment I break through, her moan is as loud as mine. She’s missed me as much as I’ve missed her. We’re tight. She grips me like a glove. She loves me. She wants me. She forgives me.
I was so frightened that we were done. That I’d let go of a good thing. That I’d blown it. That our good times were over. Other women didn’t let me do the things that Sara let me do. Sara was a champ. A gold-medal girl. I’d never known anyone like her and I never would.
A girl can talk and talk about how much she loves you, but until she gives you her body it doesn’t mean anything. Words are cheap. Romance is cheap. If there’s no sex, there’s no love between an adult man and an adult woman.
I knew we didn’t have a future together. I could never see myself marrying anyone older than me. I was willing to sleep with the older women, to live with them, to live off them, but I wasn’t going to marry one. It was an older woman, eleven years older, who took me to her shrink in 1993. He prescribed the MAO inhibitor Nardil and from the first day I took it, I was on the path to partial recovery from CFS.
“I have nothing to lose,” I tell myself. “This is healing. This is therapeutic. This is reparations for her contempt, for all I’ve missed out on in life. This is good times. This is an education. This is preparation. This is practice. This is knowledge. With every woman, I get wiser. I make new connections. It’s good for my career. It’s good for my writing.”
“I’m in LA. This is where they make music videos, movies, TV, porn. This is the sex capitol of the world. Everything I’m doing is consensual. In LA, life is sweet and easy. Sex is easy. This is what I deserve. I’m hot stuff. I’ve got a great story. I’m gonna be great.
“All of my life, I’ve had older women bossing me around. Teachers, substitute mothers, caretakers, the works. They’ve been telling me what to do, running my life, squashing me, beating me, harassing me. Now I’m getting some. I’m out on my own at last. Life has restarted at age 27. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to make my way in this world. When will my disease return and turn out the lights? I’m going to stuff as much as I can into each day. What I want more than anything in the world right now, aside from God, is sex. Rough sex. Deviant sex. Dirty sex.
“Yeah, I like to inflict a little pain. A little discomfort. No blood! No injury! No bruises! Just minor discomfort to a consenting adult partner. You’re going to judge me for that? What I do is nothing compared to what women have done to me. It’s nothing compared to being knocked around the house as a little boy by a rageaholic. Multiple women did that to me. This time the bitch is getting hers.”
I wanted someone to rescue me. To show me the way. To give me a place to sleep. It ain’t easy picking yourself off the sickbed after six years and trying to make your way in a big city at two-thirds strength, no money, and a car-home that keeps breaking down. In exchange, I will give you the ultimate ride. There’s no one like me. I’m destiny’s child. My mother used to say when she was carrying me in her womb, “This one will do something special for God.” I’ve always known I was going to be great. I’m the greatest writer of my generation. My insights into life are so keen that other people resent me for it. No matter, that’s the price of being an artist. I don’t complain and I don’t explain. All geniuses are misunderstood.
Life is good. I move in with Sara for a couple of weeks. One evening, she takes me to her parent’s home. I’m dying to see this videotape of my work at a recent acting workshop, and so that’s how I spent most of the visit.
I don’t make a good impression.
A week later, Sara asks me to move out. She says her parents don’t think much of me. She says her friends don’t think much of me. She says her therapist doesn’t think much of me.
I’m in a bind because I’m broke and my home, my 1977 Datsun station wagon, is in the shop.
I borrow $500 from Sara to get it repaired.
In my last scheduled night at her place, she comes home late and finds a tiny drop of my seed on the toilet seat. Sheesh, I thought I’d caught it all! She marches into the bedroom and demands I clean it up.
Then we go to sleep like brother and sister.
While my Datsun is in the shop, I’m supposed to stay with a friend from acting class.
It’s Saturday night. I know Sara has a date. I sit on my friend’s porch and wait.
His name is Alexander Denk and he will hit the news more than a decade later as the putative father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.
When Alex doesn’t come home by 11 pm, I try to sleep in the bushes beside the Beverly Hills High School. After a few minutes, I give up.
I walk over to Sara’s place. I wait until the lights go out in her apartment. Then I ring the buzzer, hoping her date has gone.
She answers. I explain my situation. She’s not happy but she lets me stay the night on the couch.
And that’s it.
Over the next three months, I cry every day over my loss of Sara. I’ve never done anything like this before or since. The intensity of what we shared shakes me up and losing her is like losing an addiction. I am now walking the tightrope of my life without a net. Nobody will catch me if I fall. I have no one to distract me from the hole in my soul. I have no one to distract me from my lack of normal human connection. I have no one to distract me from my lack of friends, my lack of work, my lack of home.
Fear of abandonment is my deepest fear.
To find such rescue again will take a lot of luck and a lot of work. I am back to zero. I am in withdrawal. I have no distractions.
To have tasted connection, to have tasted living from the inside, and then to be thrust back out in to the cold, it makes the pain worse. It reminds me of everything I’ve missed out on in life. For a little while, I had connection and now it’s gone.
I am a scared, frightened, sick, homeless boy trying to make his way in the big city. Again and again I turn to sex to get by — for solace, for affirmation, for comfort, for connection, for the sheer joy of doing what I do best. The only reason I never formally sell my services? I get no takers for the two months of escorting for women ads I place in Los Angeles magazine at $90 a pop.
I feel bereft without Sara. Lost. With her, I have solace and satiety. I have someone in my corner. I have everything I need. I have my basics taken care of — sex, shelter, connection — and with those bases covered, I can look around to do better. And now my security blanket has been ripped away. It would’ve been one thing if I had done the breaking up, if I had someone better to move on to, but I don’t. I’ve been fired from one job without having another one ready to go. That’s not like me. Normally, I’ve scouted out for where to land when the current relationship crashes.
All those thrill rides came to a crashing halt and I am back at the starting line. My life isn’t the unfolding upward progression I’d dreamed.
One Saturday morning at temple, I sit next to Sara. When it comes time to call out the name of somebody who needs healing, I ask Sara — as a joke — to call out my name.
“I think it would be better if you asked someone else,” she said.
My laughter dies. I feel small. I feel insignificant. I feel rejected. I feel like my mommy has died.
That’s about our last conversation. I avoid her after that.
A few weeks later, I sit in the YULA beit midrash and write Sara a valedictory letter telling her about how much our time together meant to me. I send her a $500 check and I send Rachel a $500 check. I’m a bloke who always pays his debts.
Sara replies with equal warmth. She says that while I was in New York, she met a guy she fell for hard. One night he came to her place. He asked her about the suitcase under her bed. When she told him the truth, he left her and never came back.
One Friday night a few weeks later, I meet a new friend, Bobby*. He listens to my tale of woe about Sara. He confides that he’s really well endowed. And that he did Sara on their first date a couple of years previous.
But she never took him to Disneyland!
About five years later, I run into Sara at temple. She is married and living in the Valley.
Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
* I had been dating this woman on and off for a year. Twice, she’d left me for another woman.
Now she was going to Hawaii for a holiday and I started to make plans to meet up in Palm Springs with someone else.
Then my girlfriend called from Hawaii. She was coming home early. She was stuck on the wrong part of the island and there was nothing to do.
So I hastily canceled my plans for Palms Springs and picked up my girlfriend at the airport circa 6 a.m.. I’d had her car for the few past few days.
I brought her back to my place and she crawled into bed and went to sleep.
I sat at my computer and wrote.
About 9 a.m. when she came alive, I read to her what I wrote. She said it was great. How did I come up with such things?
We spent the day together. We cleaned my hovel. We watched a documentary on the Beatles. We rejoiced in each other’s company.
Then, about 6 p.m., I became restless and she could immediately tell that I was tired of her company. For no more than a minute I’d been thinking I wished I could be on my own and she immediately picked up on it.
“How could you tell?” I asked her.
“I just could,” she said.
I find it amazing when people read my mind. Particularly my girlfriends. They get clued in to how I think and I have few secrets left.
David Deda says a woman would rather have your complete attention for 30 minutes than several hours of your weak divided attention when you wished you could be on your mission instead of being stuck with her.
* I met this woman on a Thursday night. When yoga class was finished, we immediately started talking. We sat outside and drank tea and then she gave me a ride home and I suggested we drive to the beach and so we took the 10 West and then the PCH north, hitting speeds of up 80 mph until I asked her to slow down. Eventually we pulled over and walked on the beach and clambered over the rocks. I took her hand. She expected me to kiss her but I held back.
We went on our first date that Saturday night, to an Israeli movie. The talk flowed effortlessly. About three hours in, before we started making out in her rental car on Mulholland Drive, she asked me, “Do you think men and women can remain friends after having sex?”
I was flummoxed. Why was she talking about friendship? Didn’t she want a relationship? To be cool, I said yes to her question, but I was rattled, and rightly so.
Even though we’d go out for a year, we’d break up half a dozen times. I have an anxious attachment style and she had an avoidant attachment style and it was a bad combination. Sure, it was exciting at times, and overall it was my best relationship because a year in, I still wanted more (unlike all my other relationships), but it was a doomed combination from the start.
If you listen, people will tell you their attachment style. When she asked me about remaining friends after sex, she was telling me she was not emotionally available.
Anxious and avoidant types are best off dating secures.
On the attachment continuum, the anxious are further along than the avoidant. Because Avoidants avoid their own emotions, they tend to be blind when it comes to reading other people. I remember this avoidant girlfriend of mine. She was often clueless about me. I didn’t recognize the person she thought she was dating. She kept saying things that showed she didn’t have a clue what I was about, even after a year together.
* She was different when she walked into class. She was subdued, withdrawn, sullen. Very different from two nights ago.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I’m very sad,” she said and did not elaborate.
We did two hours of yoga and walked out together.
“Would you like a ride?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
We drove silently the four blocks to my place.
“Would you like to come in?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “My therapist says I should break up with you.”
My heart pounds. “Why?” I asked.
“You know. Because of the other night. You said you like to hurt women.”
“Just a little discomfort,” I said, taken aback. Women say they want to know what you’re thinking, how you feel. They say they want to know what’s really going on with you, but when you confess that you like to feel powerful in certain acts, to feel like you can inflict a little pain, that you want to play a bit, they get freaked out.
“A little discomfort, a tiny bit of pain,” I said. “Much less than what you inflict when you punch me. I don’t want to damage anyone. I just want to feel powerful.”
“You want to hurt women,” she repeated.
“And you don’t want to hurt men? You don’t have contempt for men?”
“Luke, I don’t want to get hurt again. My fiance, he told me several times that he didn’t like my body. I didn’t think anything could hurt so much. I never want to place myself in that position again. Do you want to hurt me?”
“Occasionally, I want to inflict a little discomfort, with your permission, an amount of discomfort much less than when you bite me or pinch me. I shouldn’t need to justify myself here. I treat you beautifully. I’m always considerate of you.”
“You are,” she said, “but you freaked me out the other night.”
“I’m sorry. Would you like to come in?”
“I bought this new Avocado body soap.”
* So I’ll meet women and I’ll think, this one has the personality, and this one has the looks and this one has the brains. Why can’t one woman have it all? And if she did, would she want me too?
At age 46, my options have narrowed. I’m trying to figure out how much mental illness I can handle in a woman.
When I fall for a woman and don’t want to live without her, all the comparisons I’m prone to fall away. Though sometimes I’ll think about how A in my past was great at X and B was great at Y and C had awesome attributes and D was smooth…
* I noticed this woman at Jewish events. She came every few weeks and she was highly defended. She showed no interest in talking to guys. Not to me, not to anyone.
She caught my eye because she looked just like my last girlfriend, Lori*, the love of my life. Lori was a writer like me. We could sit around and write and then we’d read to each other and there’d go the evening. It was grand.
Lori was the ultimate girl for me. The problem was that she came from a broken home. Her father screwed around. “Hell is listening to your father fucking other women in the next room,” she told me.
As a result, Lori was filled with contempt for men. No relationship was possible.
Our other major problem was that though raised in Orthodox Jewish day schools, Lori hated Orthodox Judaism. I, by contrast, was raised a Seventh-Day Advent schools and converted to Orthodox Judaism. I had the convert’s enthusiasm.
Despite our differences and the 32 months since our break-up, Lori still clung to my heart.
So this mystery girl? Eventually I learned that her name was Rivkah*. She was from Los Angeles.
And then a month ago, I learned that she was about to marry.
I went to friends for the second* night of Succot. They’d purposefully invited another girl I liked, but she didn’t show. Among the guests who did show, however, was Rivkah, and we ended up sitting next to each other in the cramped succah.
She talked about her wedding dress and how hard it was to find the right closed-toe shoes. She talked about her honeymoon. She talked about her rabbi and how she needed limits and how she asked him questions and how she abided by his answers.
I’m not so frum.
Eventually, the host asked Rivkah to keep an eye out for a shidduch for me.
So Rivkah asked me what age range I was seeking. “Thirty to 46,” I said. “I’m 46.”
Of course, I’m really looking for someone younger than 40, but I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t want the grief.
“Are you closer to 46 or 47?” she asked.
“Forty six,” I said.
“Are you open to a divorcee?” she asked.
“Even if her ex is living in the community?”
“Someone with kids?”
“What qualities are you seeking?”
“Someone with a sense of humor.”
“Well, if someone is funny, they’re also smart. Not all smart people are funny, but all funny people are smart. The rest, I’ll know within a few minutes of talking to her. It can’t be defined. It’s just attraction and attraction is not a choice.”
I felt increasingly uncomfortable during the questioning. Not only because it came from a woman who looked like my beshert, but because it was pointless without first explaining that I had a horrible reputation, just Google me, and that I made just enough money to support myself.
She asked me if I knew Rabbi So-and-So and I did, but I knew that this rabbi worked with this other rabbi who was not a big fan of mine. She asked me if I knew this matchmaker and I did, but we never talked about shiduchim for me because this matchmaker knows that no decent woman would put up with my baggage.
Eventually everyone else left the table and it was just me and Rivkah, the Orthodox version of Lori in my mind. And she was due to marry in two weeks. And I wondered what could’ve been.
The dessert came out, including a fruit salad prepared by Rivkah. It had cinnamon, and this simple spice evoked for me all the joys of domesticity that this 46-year old bachelor has never tasted.
I took some home with me and ate it the next morning. I smelled the cinnamon and wondered what I was missing out on in life. I’ve always been a writer and as a consequence I’ve always been poor. Perhaps if I put my nose to the grindstone like everyone else, I could marry and support a family?
And what happened to the woman in the succah? I believe she got married and lived happily ever after.
And what did I get from the experience? All I got was this lousy blog post.
* Dating is the one thing that most people get worse at the more they do of it. People typically accumulate layers of defense that make them harder to get to know.
I’m thinking about one thing I’ve learned from dating — the danger of trying to have a relationship with somebody from a broken home. I don’t think I can recall dating anyone from a broken home who wasn’t thoroughly warped. If her dad wasn’t around, wasn’t a dependable source of love and discipline, she’s likely to have contempt and hatred for men.
By contrast, the women I’ve dated from solid homes were solid. They were emotionally grounded. They didn’t have these big dark scary explosions that characterized the women I’ve known from broken homes.
I’m sure there are many sane women out there from broken homes. I’m just not sure I know any.
Women who didn’t grow up with solid loving fathers tend to be promiscuous as they seek the fathering they missed out on as children, and so I’ve been with many of them, and it was fun at first, but then scary as we progressed into relationship and they started to stray. One GF of mine, her father was promiscuous. Had multiple marriages and multiple affairs. And so my GF said to me that she didn’t expect me to stay faithful to her. That blew my mind. We were talking about marriage and living in Orthodox Judaism and she was saying a few months into our relationship that I could stray.
I bet that men who did not grow up with a solid relationship with their mother tend to be shaky in their attempts at relationship.
* So I’ve been going to Jewish singles events for almost 20 years with the same bachelors. So we sit in the succah and wonder what went wrong. It gets harder every year to meet girls. So is the solution to go to New York, which has a higher percentage of single women to single men (and far more Orthodox Jews) than LA, which has far more single men than single women? No, I say the solution is that we have to double our income. What’s blocking us? Our desire to do our own thing, to not have a boss. So we just grind it out every year, just getting by.
So when a man reaches a certain age, into his 40s, he looks around and finds it is easier to date women his own age. They’re grateful. Yet his desire is for younger women, who aren’t interested unless he’s particularly successful, dynamic or wealthy. So he dates women his age and tries to stop the voice in his head that says, “You can do better. You can date someone fertile.” Or he gets older and lonelier.
* When I talk to my bachelor friends, about 80% of the time, we talk about girls. Sometimes the younger blokes, knowing that I had my time in the sun, ask me for my theories on how to approach a woman, how to sustain a conversation, and how to ask her out.
I say: If you want a woman, the most important thing is to become a man (a provider and protector, respected by his peers and community, fulfills responsibilities). If you become a leader of men, women will flock.
What does this mean specifically? That you should emphasize mastery by increasing the spheres of life where you excel.
If you create a compelling life, a compelling lifestyle, the women will come.
If you don’t have a woman in your life, the primary problem is not in how you interact with women, but in how you interact with men. If you are respected and admired by other men, the women will come. If you’re not, they won’t.