I went on a date two nights ago. I thought it went well. I liked her and I thought she liked me. I sent a text last night, a day later, and I waited nervously as an hour turned to two hours and to three hours and then morning came, still nothing. I replayed all the scenes from the date and slowly worked my way through the emotions of denial, anger, and finally acceptance. For the next few hours I think maybe, did she fall asleep early? Maybe she busy’s studying or stuck at work? but as more and more time passes reality starts to set in and the gravity starts to ground my body into a more fixed position. There are no more flighty and airy excuses that were on the verge of picking me up and pulling my floating body into the galaxy of delusion. I can no longer come up with any other anomalies or random occurrences to attribute to her ignoring of me, maybe her phone died, she’s purposely waiting to play hard to get, she got swept up in a tornado and was killed? I’m disgusted with myself for letting this person´s response or lackthereof, dictate to me what my feelings will be. The two outcomes are either the rollercoaster of euphoria and ego mania if she responds, or the deflated, depression the next few days, believing my self-worth is contingent on the acceptance of a girl.
In my warped and self centered view, I can only attribute the failing to my inadequate development and maturation as a person, not any personal issues of her’s or simple incompatibility. In my unsuccessful relationships I am the person grabbing for the life raft in the middle of the ocean and I won´t allow anyone else onto it. I suck all the life out of girlfriends like a parasite until they can no longer stand it anymore. After stewing in my mind’s cesspool of potential reasons this girl might have had for not wanting to see me again, its, back to the online marketplace where the options are ever-replenishing with Tinder and all of its replications. I board the merry go round yet again. I think rejection is liberating though because it shows me that the worst possible result of putting myself out there, isn’t so bad. The resentment and anger directed inward slowly subsides, I swallow the realization of rejection and my outer surface is slighter harder and more resistant by the end of the ordeal.
This specific girl hit a nerve because I thought we had the potential to connect on a deeper level, which happens rarely. This is the prevalent “ghosting” that has become commonplace with my generation, the person disappearing without a trace. I might say I am annoyed by the blind-side and lack of explanation, but it makes things simpler in a way, anything that might need to be said, is implied. Whatever the reason might be, there was a lack of interest. I think my generation is the only one who has suffered this much anguish over the words in a small green or blue bubble on a hand-sized electronic device. I can imagine trying to explain this to my WWII vet grandfather and seeing his look of “Why are you wasting my time even talking about such a meaningless thing.” He led a mixed platoon of 300 black and white men in the 1940s, serving in the Philipines. He left the military as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Grandpa always had more to say to my cousin that attended the Naval Academy. He seemed to perk up when he questioned my cousin about military life. When my cousin and I would take him out to the local diner in his sleepy Suffolk County, Long Island town, as we did frequently in the last few years of his life, Grandpa established a masculine and vibrant presence immediately when interacting with the staff. He exuded charisma almost as a side effect, or a coincidental by-product of his efficacious nature as a leader, a changer of circumstances, an upwardly mobile doer. As a result, it seemed only in accordance with the natural order of things that he flirt with the female waiter, in the way that a bird that inherently knows how to fly, must inherently know how to land.
“Merci beaucoup” Grandpa would say and began his playful banter. He was always quick with a charming comment to ingratiate himself and diffuse any discomfort the other person had. After taking him back to his house, my cousin and I would stay as long as we possibly could. He would tell us stories: “Well, I got engaged to Mary at the age of 24 and then I went into the Army for 6 years, so we wrote each other, but there were some nurses I met here and there in the service. I had my fun, but I always knew she was the one. We got married at 30 when I finished serving.” He said. When we finally left the house, we each gave him a hug. He would hold on tight for a few extra seconds and we each gladly kept hugging, knowing only the solitude of out-living every person he has ever known, awaited him when we left the house. Most notably, his 2 wives-each with a married to both for exactly 25 years. The first died of lung cancer at the age of 48, when my Dad was 19. and the second dying 3 years before Grandpa died. He waited in the driveway, waving as we drove away.
Grandpa was born in 1916 and was an adolescent during the great depression. He was fluent in Italian, French, and English, graduating high school at the age of 16 and earning two Master´s degrees by the age of 21, holding down at least two jobs at all times. He had a work ethic that was born of his father’s refusal to offer love as something everyone was entitled to, like some participation trophy in children’s soccer. Love was clearly stipulated to be granted only if you measured up and propelled the family name forward and created a respectable living for yourself. My grandfather’s father was a piano maker and carpenter from Naples, Italy with a stern and distant manner, I am told. He hung himself at the age of 86, long before I was born, to escape chronic back pain after wrestling with it for decades. This model of living of the stoic, silent carrying of burdens was passed down to my father and has been passed down to me and my siblings also.
When I think back to the time my dad called “You have to call grandpa, he is in very bad shape and may be nearing the end.” I called Grandpa as I was leaving work in the evening and chatted with him briefly. He never liked talking on the phone for too long, but he seemed completely disoriented in a way I had never heard in him. I deeply regret not visiting him, as two days later he died. He was 99 years old. He was sharp, with a quick wit, until the very end. I never felt especially close to my grandfather until those last few years when he was clearly lonely and I was able to be there for him. Throughout most of our relationship, he maintained a cool and collected distance at all times. Familial and career duties as a provider were prized above all and any outward displays of affection. I did however feel a deep sense of duty as a Grandson, that I don’t feel I carried out the way I should have. It saddens me that I simply hadn´t been able to comfort a lonely old man who was on the precipice of death’s bottomless abyss, when I could have been there for him.
I believe the burden that type-A extremely driven men carry, whether a titan of industry or a brave soldier, or a wunderkind with numbers, there is something that they don´t allow themselves to have, something that another person can´t access or co-exist with, as if they are operating on a different plane. I can see it in my father and his 3 siblings, all successful and accomplished in their own right. When I interact with each of them, I get the sense that they have placed themselves behind an imaginary wall of glass and there is a buffer that they have erected in front of any one interacting with them, and I am observing them, like a wild life exhibit. The animals are aware of their captivity and alter their actions in order to please their captors, and when they are no longer in captivity, they will try to recreate the situation of pleasing the all powerful captor. By society´s standards of a career and monetary success, my father, his 3 siblings and my grandfather are light years ahead of where I am, when they were my age, so I could learn a thing or 20 from them.