A perversely interesting article in the Daily Mail about the frustrations of attractive, middle-aged women struggling to date prompted some reflection on why I was ecstatically, almost deliriously happy when I finally slipped the engagement ring onto the finger of my future wife in late December, 1986.
After more than a decade of dating, first, as an awkward teenager, then as college student and, finally, and worst of all, as a single guy working my first job in a college town, I was finally through with all it – all those years of anguish, frustration, bitterness, self-recrimination and, yes, even self-loathing.
The article not only prompted memories of those painful years but also of a truly revealing conversation I had a few years ago with an attractive middle-aged woman who had been a cheerleader at her local small-town Alabama high school.|
Needless to say, for a small-town kid, especially a geek like me, cheerleaders constituted the Holy Grail of dating.
I knew intuitively where the conversation would lead. From puberty, all the way through high school, she confessed being attracted only to one type of guy. She struggled to come up with the right description.
I quickly filled the breach.
“Do you mean ‘bad boys?'” I asked.
“Yes, precisely!” she replied, her aging but petite features becoming animated, mental gears ginning up below that platinum blonde hair-dye.
I couldn’t repress a smile. I had offered a delicate substitute for the label I had improvised decades earlier for this male archetype: “whoop ass.”
I knew quite a lot of them growing up.
In fact, whenever I’m reminded of this testosterone-throttled quintessence, I’m invariably taken back to a scene in the 1987 movie Broadcast News, when the teen-aged Aaron Altmann, played by Albert Brooks, is thrased by three such bad boys.
“Go, ahead, Stephen, take your last licks,” Altmann proclaims. “What I’m gonna say can never been erased – it’ll scar you for ever! You’ll never make more than $19,000 a year!”
“Nineteen-thousand dollars? Not bad!” one of them, walking away from the pummeling, giddily exclaims, failing to account for long-term inflation – a perceptive piece of screenwriting, but that’s another story.
Back to the aging cheerleader…
She went into this long self-reflection about about how she was always attracted to boad boy types, adding that she couldn’t understand why she never found “geeks” (like me) attractive – the ones who “went on to college, built successful careers, were polished, and knew and talked about interesting things.”
Then, ending it with a hint of resignation, she sighed and observed, “But, you know, if I had life to do over again, I’d do the same thing.”
I quickly formulated a response, one that, from my perspective as a high-school geek was heartfelt and reflected years of pent-up frustration.
“Yes, I’m sure you would.”
Granted, not all women are alike – not by any stretch of the imagination. But in most small-town Southern high schools like the one I grew up in, the whoop-ass archetype constituted the paragon of manhood for most girls, especially those we considered at the time as “blue-chip girls.”
That’s why my first reaction to reading this article was knee-jerk.
“These women have spent a lifetime chasing whoop-asses and now they’ve finally settled down and all the decent men are gone. Great! Karma truly is a bitch!” I thought to myself.
Then the thought occurred to me: I’m shamelessly stereotyping an entire sex. And certainly outside of my small-town Appalachian bubble, this was by no means normative line of thinking.
Even so, I found it a rather interesting read. The moments of self-reflection and self-pitying that followed provided me with a small measure of catharsis after a passage of almost two generations.
But then, this geek, this rather unrepentant geek, has has come a long way from awkward adolescence and early adulthood.
I’m proud, immensely proud, of that fact.
And one thing of which I’m certain: I’m thankful, damned thankful, to be married and out of the dating game, hopefully for the rest of my life.
In fact, I hope my wife outlives me, if only to ensure that I am never tempted to return to dating.