Wednesday, August 30, 2006

There Are Two Sides To Every Story

I prefer the side on which I am not a whore.

Oh, hey! Hiya! Did I say whore? Whoopsie! La la laaaaa...and welcome to another episode of Stories Of My Life That Seemed Like They Were Over And Yet Bear An Eerie Resemblance To Stories Of My Life That Are Happening Right Now.

Or something. I’ll need to work on that title. In the meantime, won’t you come with me? Back in time to say...about ten years ago?


The date: early spring of 1996.

The setting: Junior year of college.

The occasion: The first time I get myself into a situation wherein I make the worst first impression possible on my boyfriend’s parents.

When I first saw David across a crowded cafeteria, I knew I wanted to meet him. He was reading some textbook intently, and had not noticed me enter the room. I would later learn that short of a naked peg-legged pirate in a tutu jazz dancing on his head, David would not notice anything while he was reading. And perhaps not even then.

I strategically seated myself at a table next to his, and surrounded myself with chatty friends. I figured eventually the man would have to look up and notice me and be dazzled. At one point, he did look up and did make eye contact with me, but he did not seem dazzled. He simply went back to reading. And then slowly my friends had to leave to go to class. And the cafeteria emptied. And then I was alone at my table, next to David, alone at his table. And I felt like a loser, because when he finally -- deliberately -- looked up at me, it was evident that all my friends had abandoned me.

“Must have been something I said,” I offered. He laughed. We started talking. We learned a little about our respective classes and schedules, which facilitated our “running into” each other very often over the next two weeks. We eventually agreed to go on something of a date. Except...

...except even though it definitely felt like a date, there were a couple minor problems. Namely, that I was seeing someone and he was seeing someone. And neither of us had ended those other relationships yet.

Now, I am not using "yet" lightly. Both of us were at the tail end of our respective relationships already.

I had been with my boyfriend for a little over three months. It had been rocky from the start, and we’d sort of broken up at least once – possibly twice – in that time. He was an awesome guy and dating him was fun. But that was it. I never saw him as “the one.” And so, following my first “date” with David, I ended my other relationship.

David’s situation was a little more complicated.

He had been dating his girlfriend for four years. At the time, she was living on a campus two hours away. Theirs, too, had been a rocky relationship, and it had been on a loooooong downswing. They saw each other rarely (much of the time they were doing the long-distance thing), and he was convinced she’d cheated on him at least once. And so while they’d been together for four years, he also never thought she was “the one.” He had simply been putting off the break-up that they both knew was coming.

Following our first date, David made the four-hour, round-trip trek upstate to have the conversation with her in person. I understood that it was sad but civil, and in the end? She understood completely and wasn't at all surprised. He felt tremendous relief.

Anyway, once our respective “issues” were resolved, we were free to start seeing each other as often as possible. Which turned into every day, and/or every evening. God, I remember we spent a lot of time making out in his car. (We didn’t really have any choice or any privacy at the time as we were both living at home.) We had just clicked, instantly, and wanted to be with each other all the time. It was amazing.

So amazing, in fact, that we were reluctant to introduce each other to our respective families because, well, they would probably think our infatuation was crazy. How could we be so serious about each other after so short a period of time?

Oh, but we were.

Not even a month after our first date, we had spring break. Coincidentally, David’s parents had planned a vacation for that week, and so, over a game of trivia, he invited me to stay with him. Meaning we had his parents' whole house to ourselves.

The week was very memorable. The east coast had been pummeled by snowstorms all year, and so even though it was March, our spring break was frozen over. While it snowed and snowed, David and I spent almost a full week holed up, building fires, watching rented movies, cooking meals, listening to music, taking full advantage of our privacy (ahem), and essentially using his parents’ home to Play House. It was fun, and it felt so right.

One night, David had acquired a bottle of Dom Perignon for the express purpose of celebrating "us." We sat on the floor of his parents’ living room. He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him. We talked about marriage, as though it were inevitable.

In fact, it was.

HOWEVER. *cue doom music*

The other side of the story is the one from David’s parents’ perspective.

To them, their eldest son had been quite a handful through all of his Teen Angst years. He had only recently started to hunker down and take his future a little more seriously. He’d decided to finish his degree, and save money while doing so by living at home. His parents thought that a good sign. Finally, their relationship wasn’t as strained as it once was.

Equally pleasing was the fact that David had a real, long-term girlfriend. They loved her, and they loved that David was serious about her. They thought she’d been a good influence on him. They thought that David would be marrying her.

They did not know that David never planned on marrying her. They had no idea that the relationship had been unraveling for months and months. They didn’t ask, of course, because they didn’t want to pry. (Plus, that was sort of Dave’s family’s policy: Don’t talk about it. Whatever it is will eventually go away.) And they didn’t have a precedent of being particularly involved in Dave’s personal life.

Actually, I think the closest they'd ever gotten to really knowing David was in getting to know his girlfriend.

His girlfriend. The one he'd been with all through college. NOT the one he was apparently having sex with in their home while they were on vacation.

Yeah, so. While they were away, Dave's parents called to check in on Dave and the house. Routine. And that is when Dave decided to casually mention that I’d been “visiting.” As though it were no big deal.

Ah, communication.

To Dave, it was no big deal. To THEM, however, they were being slapped upside the head with a new reality.

WHAM – No, I’m not with that girl you have grown so close to anymore.
WHAM – No, I didn’t bother to mention that to you.
WHAM – I’m already seeing someone else.
WHAM – I’m not only seeing her, but she’s spending a great deal of time in YOUR HOUSE.

They weren't pleased, but didn't know what to say, I think. I don't know exactly. Dave didn't want to talk about it.

The day his parents arrived home from their vacation, I had class. Afterwards, Dave and I went to his parents’ home to go through our introductions properly.

I thought it would go fine. Parents usually liked me, and I was pretty confident in my credentials as a person and girlfriend. Plus, I figured they didn't really know how much time I'd spent at their house. Maybe I'd just stopped by. I didn't think details had been discussed. I had no idea...

When I went up to David’s room, I noticed that it had been cleaned. Not just straightened up, but thoroughly cleaned. Vacuumed. And the trash – which um, included some rather incriminating evidence regarding ours not being a platonic relationship – had been taken out. And the bed was made and the sheets – um, again – had been changed. I thought Dave had done a very good job of ensuring we’d at least been somewhat discreet...until a wave of horror rushed over me and I realized.

Dave hadn’t cleaned his room. His mother had.

No need for details to be exchanged, then.

When we made our brief introductions his father didn’t even get up from his chair. He simply turned the corner of the newspaper down a bit and said hello. Then he resumed reading. Dave’s mother was polite but stiff and clearly uncomfortable. She informed me that my mother had called their home and left a message on their answering machine, asking if I was there and to please call her.

It was not the first meeting I had hoped it would be. We didn’t stay long.

For the next few weeks, Dave and his parents engaged in the cold-shoulder, silent-treatment game. He started spending increasingly more time at my house with my parents, where he was welcomed without question. Eventually, he started spending the night. And then he just sort of moved in.

It wasn’t until mid-May that his parents finally asked us to dinner and the ice began to melt. Things were practically thawed by the time we were engaged a couple weeks later.

* * * * *

What’s that? The point? You’d like me to make one? Oh. Well, let me try.

In part for good reason in part for absolutely no good reason at all, David’s parents met me in the worst light.

When I piece it together now, I get it. Dave had suddenly ended a significant, long-term relationship and started seeing someone new. He’d cut off a girl after four years without so much as a warning to his parents, despite their having believed she would be their daughter-in-law.

And who was I? I was probably just the next girl in a long stream of them...despite that they’d thought the stream had run its course. If their son could just up and end his last relationship, what likelihood was there that he was serious about me?

Now add to the situation that I seemed -- probably -- sluttish and brazen. I mean, I was young, and had not been with David long before I was evidently sleeping with him. In their home. And, from the looks of it, unabashedly. Even my parents knew I’d been staying there.

What kind of girl does that? They probably wondered. Among other things.

And you know, under the circumstances, it was maybe a fair question. But it’s one I deserved to be asked.

Because my side of the story made sense to me, too. I met and formed an instant and intense connection with David. I knew about his ex-girlfriend, and understood why and how it ended. I wasn’t stupid or careless or naive. Or sluttish or brazen.

And sure, maybe they were not ideal circumstances under which to meet – but I figured we were all adults. I thought if there was a real problem we could address it and move on, or else just laugh at the turn of events and move on. I assumed David (and by proxy, I) would be given the benefit of the doubt, as my parents had always given me.

(Uh, even when some young man seemed to have moved into their home without much in the way of explanation.)

Hmmm. Does that sound like a point to you?

No, not to me, either.

Let me try again.

* * * * * *

Dave's parents met me in a horrible light. Not unlike the circumstances under which I met Ish's parents.

And so I have found myself again in a situation where I'm the bad guy. Girl. Sort of. I mean, my side really is totally defensible, but -- let's face it -- it's not hard to see the other side, either. You know, the side where I'm sluttish and brazen and morally questionable (plus probably a slew of other names since we're all grown-ups now and this isn't college and "house" isn't a game).

And even though I think things could work themselves out this time much better than the first, I also think it's worth noting this case of history repeating.

Hmm.

18 comments:

  1. You know, the side where I'm sluttish and brazen and morally questionable...

    Wait, there's another side? I, for one, am sorely disappointed.

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  2. Sometimes I think it's a thing about boys (men) and their parents. My first meeting with my ex's parents was...a disaster. We were spending the weekend with them and walked out halfway through. They were extremely religious. I, at that time, had no religion at all. They believed in no physical relationship before marriage. My ex and I had already broken that rule. Unbeknownst to me, ex had TOLD his parents about this. Imagine my surprise when I am alone in a room with his mother and CONFRONTED with this fact. Ouch. The situation with the parents improved years later. But the relationship with the ex disintegrated.

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  3. I've always been of the opinion that in situations like this, it is up to the son to man up and pave the way to a workable relationship with the parents. It is up to him to say "Look, this woman is beautiful and intelligent and most importantly, she makes me happy. And that needs to be the most important thing to you, too."

    But that is just my opinion. You brazen hussy. ; )

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  4. Good point, Caroline.

    Do Ish's parents have the wrong idea about you too? That would be a shame because you are marvelous.

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with caroline. Although at the time, you and David were both very young, but this is not the case anymore--OMG I just said you were old. Let me rephrase. Oh, hell. You know what I'm saying.

    Once upon a time, my high school boyfriend told me that his mother thought I was a hussy.

    I couldn't decide, later, if it was worse that his mother thought I was, or worse that he just allowed the comment to pass by and then repeated it to me later!

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  6. I'm not sure what to do with this....are we supposed to write more poetry?

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  7. This is a perfect example to remember in later situations when you/I/we think something negative about someone. How does it look from their perspective?

    You're beautiful, smart, funny and dammit people like you.

    Now the guy that my ex cheated on me with? Well... sometimes a slut is just a a slut.

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  8. Hmmm...not quite as bad, but when my beloved husband and I had first started dating and he informed his parents about me, his mother responded with something to the effect of "I hope she realizes she's just your rebound girlfriend."

    Ouch. Happily, they turned out to be wrong.

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  9. wait. how do you KNOW that Ish's parents have a bad impression of you??

    Also, I know you don't have any brothers, so let me give you insight on mothers and their sons - NO ONE will be good enough for the little prince. In the back of their minds, even if its just .000001%, all mothers think the girls their sons are with are brazen hussies.

    I know this because my mother thinks that about any woman my brother has the termity to introduce to the family, all cheery and unsuspecting ;)

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  10. el_g - no, not really. but i like to pretend there is.

    3c - yeah, um, why would he do that? guilt? sigh.

    caroline - i agree. and even though Dave and i were much younger then, it still wasn't a good sign that he couldn't see the need to say such a thing.

    jenny - um, i'm not sure. i don't think so...but again, the circumstances have not cast me in a very good light. (thanks, tho!)

    aarwen - and this is why we do not date younger men anymore. (and it's okay, i *am* old. but i got carded last night, so it's okay.)

    OM - poetry is always acceptable.

    jester - thank you. and exactly.

    carolyn - rebounds, unite! i know quite a few long-term relationships that *should* have been rebounds. so go on wichyo bad self!

    dena - no; i know that they were (are?) unhappy with the situation in general, for reasons that are completely...well...reasonable. and it would be very easy for them to see me as "the other woman," which i'm really not. but you know. hussy.

    i should make a t-shirt.

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  11. OK, you asked for it. A hussy haiku by Othurme:

    My dear little girl.
    We know your brand of condoms.
    Stay out of our house.

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  12. Here we are with that double standard. Men are studs and congratulated if they have sex no matter with whom, how often or where. If a woman enjoys herself before "holy matrimony" she is a whore, slut, easy, floozy, loose, whatever.

    ~T- brazen slut and loving every second of it.

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  13. Aarwenn - I can so relate. My ex told my offhand, once, that his mother basically said I was a prostitute. She often made remarks about me sleeping with him for the money he was going to get in a couple of years. Ouch. And really, that's insulting not just to me, but to him! What's worse: that she said it, or that he thought it wasn't a big deal? His last words to me were, "My parents liked you!" and I stammered, "That's just--you're lying! There's no point in talking to you!" and I slammed down the phone.
    K - I don't know what to tell you. I don't know about the current situation enough to advise, but with the David story, it sounds like they were annoyed with him and projecting their anger onto you. Really, it's not your fault at all that he broke up with his girlfriend and didn't tell them about that, or about you. Depending on how old he was, I also think it's potentially creepy that his mother would clean his room especially with the intent of snooping.
    Whatever is happening--good luck!

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  14. I think you are smart (and sassy) enought to realize that if your partner doesn't stand up to his parents about your place in his life now, he never will. That is possibly THE only thing I learned from my parents relationship.

    It doesn't get better if a partner is not willing to say to their parents. "Parents. chill. this is the person I'm dating, and you will play nice. Or you don't get to play" then they don't respect you and/or are afraid of their parents. And you can't truly have a relationship if the parents are alwasy interfering.

    That comment of course carries the bitterness of a child watching their parents battle and then years later when my father remarried watching him make the same mistake. Instead of saying to his new wife "these are my children, and you will play nice" he turned tail and ran.

    Spineless. And yeah I'm a little bitter, (duh) but I also see it as a huge warning sign. Very large. Red. sign. with flashing lights.

    And I think, you know this already.

    And also, my husband is constantly bringing up that story about brushing your teeth while watching ESPN...because he is fascinated by it.

    Man...am I bossy. Sorry

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  15. OM - LOLOLOL. that actually made me laugh aloud.

    anon - you inspired me to actually make the t-shirt. :)

    b'licious - he was what? 24 then? still, we all should've known better. this time around at least i have 'experience' on my side...

    brit - you simply have smart things to say. (that makes bossy okay.) :) and you are right, i do know this already, and have been very impressed with his ability to manage all aspects of this sticky situation well. *especially* given his history (like with the ESPN story...). hi! btw.

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  16. MAY I HAVE SOME SYMPATHY PLEASE????!!!
    Sorry, this is Kristy's sister...
    I am so very, very sad, and since I know how wonderfully you (IIF's) have helped Kristy, I am begging for a little of your love!
    You know the story...how we, like several of you, have had to first-hand witness the f-ing course of cancer take over TOO many of our loved ones. Yesterday we had to put our loveable, beloved dog down due to spinal cancer and I am so damned depressed! My mom, my aunt, my grandfather, my father, my DOG??!! Will it ever stop? Please!!
    Off the subject, but thanks to everyone for helping my sister (and myself in conjuction) get through very trying times. Human nature is such a beautiful, loving thing, isn't it?
    Love and best wishes to all!
    P.S.- yes, Vodka has written a half of this comment!

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  17. Yeah, my boyfriend's mother stopped speaking ot us when we decided to live together. He's 32. Niiiiiice.

    Nevermind the fact that she has an illegitimate child out of wedlock, WE'RE clearly living in sin.

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  18. Healy, I just saw your comment here. I want to say to you that I'm sorry for all the loss you have endured. I hope it is a very long time before you have to encounter it again. I hope love seeps into all the spaces of hurt.

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