Thursday, September 21, 2006

How I Found A TrophyHusband, Part 3

Looking, looking for the sign that my running partner was thinking the same things about me that I was thinking about him ...

He asked me out to a movie—aha! A date!

Except he asked another friend along. Maybe not.

He asked if I would give him a ride home from a Halloween party—maybe we would make out in the car!

Except he slept the whole way home and hopped out at his place with a sleepy "Bye!" Maybe not.

Meanwhile, I was becoming more and more certain that this was something I really wanted to happen. He started an ICU rotation, which meant he was on call every third night, which meant he couldn't run on my every other day schedule. And for the first time in my life, I CHANGED MY SCHEDULE. I guess I had it bad.

Then one day I rang his doorbell to pick him up for our run, and instead of coming down, he buzzed me up. When I got into his apartment, I found him on the phone. He gestured that he'd be just a minute, so I wandered around trying to pretend I wasn't listening. Which of course I was, and what I was hearing sounded kind of odd.

"Just give me a call before you come to pick that stuff up," he was saying. "I don't think I have anything at your place I want, but if you see anything, I guess bring it over."

After he'd hung up, I gave up all pretense of not having listened in and said, "What was that all about?"

"Oh," he said, as he locked his door and we headed down the stairs, "Ex-girlfriend." And then (VERY uncharacteristically) clammed up.

I pondered this as we ran down the street toward the park. What ex-girlfriend could this possibly be? As far as I knew, he hadn't really had a girlfriend since we'd started residency, now nearly a year and a half ago.

Finally I couldn't stand it. "Um, how 'ex'?" I asked.

"Two weeks."

At first I thought I'd heard him wrong, but it's pretty hard to confuse the phrase "two weeks" with anything else.

Two weeks? Two weeks??!! He'd broken up with someone two weeks ago? But ... but ... we'd been running together and hanging out for months, and I had heard not a word about any girlfriend!

"How long were you, er, dating?"

"Four months."

Four months? Four months??!! But we'd been telling each other practically everything! Why on earth would he have hidden the fact that he was seeing someone from me?

Of course. He hadn't wanted me to know because he wanted in my pants. But now that they'd broken up, he could tell me. This was my sign.

I didn't press him on it that day, but eventually I found out that she was an undergraduate, and that they'd met when he went into the bar where she waited tables. She was five years younger than he was. Do the math: eleven years younger than me. Oy. But anyway, it was over, and all systems were go from my perspective.

The fateful day, I was post-call from my rotation, and I'd had only 2 or 3 hours of sleep. We'd agreed to go for a run after work (it was his one good day), but he got held up. Now, ordinarily I'd have just gone on my own. But this day, I waited. And waited. And waited. He kept calling me with updates every half hour or so; one of his patients was unstable and the unit was so busy he couldn't sign them out. The hours passed. Finally on his last call, he said, "It's pretty late—wanna just go get some dinner?"

Would I? I scampered over to his place (he lived closer to restaurants) with my whiskers aquiver. I was in the post-call buzz—there's something about sleep deprivation and hard work followed by freedom that makes everything seem a little brighter and happier. I got to his place, and he met me with a grin. "Let's go to the place around the corner," he said, and pulled a bottle of wine out of his coat pocket.

Well, all right.

So we sat in this little hole-in-the-wall place—a takeout joint, really, with just one tiny table—and drank wine and talked and talked and talked and drank and drank and drank. There was one moment when I got a little doubtful again when a friend of his showed up and he invited her to join us—??—but she sat for a few minutes and headed off again. It was pretty late by the time we lurched out of there and back around the corner to his place.

We paused at his stoop. We were joking about something, and he put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a fake neck rub. And I said the cheesiest come-on I have ever uttered:

"Do you give good backrubs?" Giggle. In my defense, I was now operating on no sleep and half a bottle of wine, but still.

"Oh, I give great backrubs .... want one?"

So up the stairs we went. I did redeem myself somewhat with what I said next, as he keyed the door:

"Am I really going to get a backrub?"

"Nope," he said.

"OK," I said, and went in.

[This is where we fade tastefully out for a few hours. I will say that I did get the backrub after all.]

The days following were heady, giddy times, where we marveled at what was happening, told each other the things we hadn't been able to say before ... including, from him, the statement that he'd had NO designs on me.

What the..? How?

That's right, he claimed that he'd had no ulterior motives for not mentioning his girlfriend, it just hadn't come up. And after all, I'd made it so very clear that we were Just Friends that he hadn't given the possibility of Us a thought. He'd been astounded that I suddenly jumped his bones. Very very happy once he'd gotten over the shock, but shocked nonetheless.

And he sticks to that story to this very day.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How I Found A TrophyHusband, Part 2

First, a side note: my new running partner (let’s call him RP) had, in general, quite good taste in clothes … for a doctor. He did like to take some sartorial risks—hence the red jeans.

Our first run together could have been a disaster, because I was so full of my bad self after finishing my marathon that I went much farther and faster than I'm really capable of. I took RP on an eight-mile-plus loop and paced myself so poorly that I had to stop multiple times to keep trying to work out a painful stitch in my side. He was entirely good-natured about it, just mentioning that it was a bit farther than he'd expected. He didn't mock me for having to stop, either. I was sure after this that he’d decide I wasn’t worth the trouble, but he hung in there, and we settled into a much more comfortable 40-45 minute routine, every other day. Which is a lot of time to spend with someone you’re not dating, when you think about it. Especially if you spend it sweaty and nearly naked.

One of the first things I learned about him was, the man can talk. And talk. And talk. He was like a human ipod; I could bring up a theme and he could just expound on it for the next forty minutes. I didn’t have to say a thing if I didn’t feel like it. Maybe that sounds unappealing, but you have to understand that I adore being able to be silent with someone. I just don’t always want to talk, even if I’m happy to have company. And it wasn’t that he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise; I was simply free to hop in and out of the current of conversation as I wished.

So I learned a lot about him. I learned that despite having gone straight through college and medical school, he’d done a lot of interesting things—cycled halfway across the country, climbed mountains in Bolivia—and that he’d desperately wanted to take time off, but his mother had put up such a fuss that he decided it wasn’t worth the fight. I heard about his crazy family and his wild times at college. He adored movies, and could quote verbatim dialogue from something he’d seen once ten years before.

Still, he was one hyper, anxious dude. And he hated being an intern. As in, would probably have quit if he didn’t have so many student loans. I also learned that he was kind of a ho. He’d had a long-term girlfriend in college, but aside from that, he’d never gone out with anyone longer than a few months. And he’d gone out with a lot of women. A lot.

I started joking with friends that if I got desperate, I could obviously hook up with my running partner. Not as a serious thing, god no.

Then something interesting happened: internship year ended, and we became residents. The life of a resident is very different from that of an intern: you’re the one running the show instead of shoveling the coal. And RP seemed utterly transformed.

Thus it was revealed to me that the person I’d been working with—Intern RP—was almost nothing like the real RP. The real RP was charming, funny, warmhearted, cheerful, open-minded, generous, loyal—a mensch. He was also exceedingly smart, and tremendously fun to be around.

So we started hanging out. Movies, brunch, beers. Being stupid, I took a little while to understand what was happening. The first time I had an inkling I was out on a date with someone else, feeling bored and awkward, when I thought, I wonder what RP’s up to? I’d sure rather be hanging out with him … hmmm.

Suddenly I started to feel a little awkward with him. After all, I’d been pretty clear about the boundaries of our relationship, and I couldn’t blame him if he’d ruled me out. Then there was that classic not wanting to mess up a good friendship dilemma.

So I looked for clues that he might be thinking about me the same way I was thinking about him. And couldn’t seem to find any.

Had I blown it?

To be concluded.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How I Found A TrophyHusband, Part 1

When I Certainly Didn’t Deserve One and Didn’t Know Where to Look

I arrived at my residency program finally unencumbered by the messy relationship I’d been mucking around in for the previous, oh, seven years, and I was happy to be single. I was also happy to be starting residency. I was happy to be on antidepressants at last when I’d needed them for years. I was happy, happy, happy.

Which is not to say that I wasn’t looking.

In fact, I made up some guidelines for who I was looking for. I don’t remember them all, but I know they included:
  • No more than five years older or younger than me
  • Preferably not in the medical field
  • Smart(er than me)
Why these rules? I have no idea. I was pretty stupid when it came to relationships (see: Messy seven years). I knew this, and I guess I thought rules would help. But of course, being stupid, I made stupid rules.

The first time I remember talking to TH was at a party early in internship year. It was a dumb “Eighties” party—practically designed to make me feel my age, since I was having sex in the eighties, while these kids were still trading Pokemon cards—and he was wearing tight red jeans. Despite this, I thought he was pretty cute. I definitely have a type—the Jewish intellectual—and he fit the bill. He was also talkative (important since I’m not), funny, and had a cute butt. In addition, he had appealing crow’s feet and had lost enough hair to make me think he was closer in age to me than the rest of the interns.

I was six or seven years older than the people who’d gone straight through college and residency. I didn’t mind this per se, but I felt like it changed my prospects as far as romantic relationships went. Mostly in that I wasn’t so interested in people who’d had little life experience. (Hence the five-year rule, I guess.) So I flirted a bit with this apparently worldly-wise guy, until something he said made me realize that he must look a lot older than he was. When I finally asked him his age, I was alarmed to discover that he was seven years younger than I was. (Later I found out that it was actually six years; the party occurred in between our birthdays.) And I thought, well, rule him out!

Which turned out to be a good call, because when I eventually worked with him, I discovered that he was the most anxious, compulsive, unhappy, and insecure intern in our whole class. He was a mess. It wasn’t even clear that he was particularly smart, he was so lacking in self-confidence. When I would “run the list” of eligible guys in our program with my friends, I always rejected him out of hand.

So the year wore on. I was pretty busy, but I managed to go on a few dates. (Nothing worth describing.) I was horny, but really, I was still very happy. I was running, I loved my residency, I loved my new city, I loved my apartment. I had left my ex with the realization that I would truly rather be alone than be with the wrong person, and I was enjoying being alone.

Then one day toward the end of internship year, Mr. Tight Red Pants approached me.

“I keep seeing you running near my apartment,” he said.

“Yeah, I was training for a marathon,” I said.

“I’m looking for a running partner. Would you be interested?” he asked.

I stared at him for a few moments, trying to decide if this was a come-on. But he seemed genuine. And I could use a running partner—the person I’d trained for the marathon with had developed a hip fracture.

So I said yes. But I made it clear (very clear, according to him) that this was a Running Relationship Only.

What a stupid bitch I was.

To be continued.