The criticism I got was much more subtle. I rarely got a cross look from a stranger. Instead, I got concerned conversations with my father. Dad wanted me to know that her looks were going to only diminish with time. Was I prepared for this? If I’d had the ability to speak frankly with him, I’d have told him that I was quite attracted to her body, even in all its supposed imperfections of age. He seemed not to understand me. And it was some version of this same talk that I got from other men, but never all that frequently. Men usually left us both alone, but as noted before, the sideways glances from other women were copious and sometimes smarmy.
I was never sure why, really. It would be tempting to assign it to simple jealousy. We often criticize the people who have what we secretly want. Perhaps they were envious that she’d been bold enough and direct enough to win me over. The attraction had been immediate and she had not let propriety or nerves overwhelm her desires. The day a friendship became much more I strummed a guitar and sang as she applied gloss to a new painting. She sat on the floor as I occupied the couch nearby, my legs stretched out in front of me. Lengthy breaks between songs were filled with conversation.
Over time I have learned to second guess my intuition, confusing a desired outcome with the real state of affairs. But in this case, my predictions were accurate. What began innocently enough eventually led to her grabbing me frantically by the hand as we ran to the bedroom. The beginnings of such things always managed to consume my thoughts and encourage contemplation. I have always been a fan of the way things start out at first, as there seems to be something magical about them. Maybe it's only the flood of brain chemicals released at such times, but I'd rather be romantic than scientific.
I even think fondly about the minor tragedies. While in college, a girlfriend once startled me by leaping upon me, apparently intending that I would catch her and drag her off elsewhere. Had I been given some warning, or had expected it, I might have very well managed it. Instead, she bounced clumsily off of me, displaying a look of mortification in the process. I tried my best to calm her nerves, but she could not be consoled. The effect would have been extremely arousing had it been done properly. I hope I would have been able to catch her. And those were the good days. I am no fan of the conclusions. Towards the end of our relationship, she told me that she would only sleep with me three more times, so I better pick my dates carefully. And, true to her word, I had three more intimate encounters, then was cast aside. I still don’t understand her reasoning.
I return to the present day. When waiting for my car to be fixed, I struck up a conversation with two other people in the same situation. Both were female. I was basking in the glow of new relationship fixation at the time. One of the women found it sweet the way I spoke of her fondly, but assumed we were close to the same age. I deliberately did not reveal the age difference because it wasn’t all that important to me. This unspoken assumption was proven untrue when she arrived, her hair still wet from the shower, pulled back, wearing no makeup, and looking very much her age. I even had to admit that she did not look her best.
The woman I had been conversing with was shocked. Her eyes went glassy and she was momentarily struck speechless. This was also a popular means of expression for those processing our relationship. I wondered if the reverse were true whether the effect would be the same. Sarcastic comments about trophy girlfriends from both sides of the aisle could be safely expected. Oddly enough, the only person who seemed to understand my reasoning was a mentor whose homosexuality never got in the way of providing helpful relationship advice in a heterosexual context.
I had tried that, too, finding that my feelings toward men were only sexual in nature. Once the act itself concluded, a distressing self-loathing set in, and I couldn’t get away fast enough. After I broke at least two hearts, I recognized that it would be best for me to keep this part of myself in the world of fantasy only. Still, I never renounced my homosexual side, learning the vernacular and living vicariously through the lives of those inclined to kiss and tell. I fashioned myself into a colossal tease and hypocrite, since nothing annoyed me more than those who held aloft potential that never blossomed into action. It was safe and required nothing out of me more than the minimum.