Years ago, there was a man who attended the same church as I do. He was divorced also, and had twin sons about a year and a half older than Cody. The boys were cute as buttons, but wild as march hares. Paul was the director of the local church camp. His responsibilities included maintaining the buildings, scheduling camps and retreats for local churches, and planning activities for summer camps. I had met Paul on occasion, but he was not someone I could see myself dating. Besides that, he was pretty tight with another recently divorced lady from the church. Rumor had it that she really wanted the boys, rather than Paul, but I couldn't tell you if it were really so.
My cousin just loved Paul and thought he was "sweet sweet sweet". She was constantly pushing me to "encourage him". But I just wasn't interested. I didn't find Paul attractive, and it didn't seem that we had much in common, other than both of us being divorced with sons.
One day, seemingly out of the blue, I get a phone call from Paul. I wondered how he got my phone number, since it is unlisted. When I asked my cousin about it, she admitted that she had given it to him and told him that I'd wanted him to call me. She justified it by saying she'd felt I just needed a little push in the "right direction". So Paul called and asked me out. I didn't really want to go out with him, but I said yes anyway. Here's why:
Just a couple of days before that, I'd gotten into a spirited discussion with a co-worker of mine who was telling me that I wasn't giving guys enough of a chance. This co-worker, Duane, was really pretty cool. He was someone that I could talk to. He became my source of information. Many a time I would ask him why do men do this, or why did that man react that way, or what does it really mean when men do or say this or that, and he would explain it in a way that made sense to me. Duane told me once that I had an air of unapproachability about me, and in the same conversation he told me I shouldn't throw myself at men because that makes me look desperate and is a turn off. To this day, I have yet to figure out how I manage to unapproachably throw myself at guys.
Anyway, Duane and I had this discussion about me not giving men enough of a chance. My position is that sometimes you just know when a man is not right for you. You don't have to live with him x number of years or have sex with him x number of times to figure it out. You just know. Straight away. The example I used was a man from work who was unintelligent, unclean (he was always dirty and he stank), rumored to be an alcoholic, suspected of being violent from time to time, and had the reputation of being unfaithful in his relationships. He wasn't nearly good looking enough to make up for all that. I told Duane that with a man like that, I didn't have to spend any time in a relationship with him to know that I didn't want to be with him. I just knew. Duane's answer was, "No, you don't because you are not giving him a chance!" So when Paul called, I thought "Maybe Duane is right. Maybe I should give him a chance and get to know him." On the strength of that, I agreed to go out with him, though I didn't really want to.
The first night we went out, well it wasn't really a date because we had all our kids with us. He wanted to show me the camp where he worked, so we went out there and he showed me around. As part of his compensation for being the director, he was provided with a house to live in at the camp. When we walked into that house, I swear I wanted to hurl. It was the filthiest place I'd ever been in. The floor was filthy, there was very little furniture, and the carpet looked as if it hadn't seen a vacuum in it's entire life. The couch was so grungy and grimy, I didn't even want to sit down on it. When I asked to use his restroom, there was feces floating in the toilet. I was revolted. If I hadn't had to go so badly, I would have passed on using the toilet.
Shortly after we got there, Paul asked me if I wanted a soft drink, and I said yes. To my horror, instead of getting a can out, he poured me a glass from a two liter bottle. I was afraid to drink it. Seriously.
Paul sat in his recliner, and I sat on the couch--holding my drink the whole time because there wasn't any where to set it down--and we talked. The first thing I asked about was this other lady he'd been seeing. I wasn't jealous, but I didn't want to cause any trouble for her. Well, truth is, I didn't want her coming after me in a rage. Paul told me that they'd talked and agreed that they would just be friends. However, her behavior, even after that day lead me to believe that he'd somehow forgotten to tell her about that little talk.
Then I told him that because of my recent divorce (ok it had been five years, but he didn't need to know that) I wasn't ready to get involved in a serious relationship so soon. I assured him that I wasn't ruling out a relationship in the future, but at that moment, I just wasn't ready to get involved. I didn't want to rush in to a commitment I felt I wasn't ready for. He told me that he understood, and that we'd just be friends, but by the end of that evening, I was pretty well convinced that he had no intention of respecting my wishes in that area. I think he was already picturing us married, and may have even mentally set the date.
The next day, Saturday, he came to my house and we visited a bit. Then we decided to take the boys on a picnic out at the lake. By this time, I'd seen enough red flags that I knew I didn't want to get involved with him. At all. Ever. So after we'd eaten and were walking the trails through the woods at the boys' request, when Paul tried to hold hands with me, I didn't let him.
I'll tell you why. Holding hands is not something "just friends" do. I didn't want to give him any encouragement that would just make it harder to end things later. I didn't want him to come back accusing me of leading him on then dumping him. I didn't want to give him any ideas, therefore, I didn't want him holding hands with me, and apparently, that shamed him.
He pulled a switch off a tree, stripped it of its leaves, and switched me across the back of the legs hard enough to leave a red whelp for three days.
"That hurt!", I exclaimed.
"Yeah, it did, didn't it?", Paul replied, his tone implying that he was proud of himself for having hit me.
We continued the walk, barely speaking after that. I kept waiting for him to apologize. He didn't. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to do so, I began to hint that he needed to apologize. I said something to him about the red marks on my legs, and in a mocking tone, he said, "I wonder where those came from?" Even though my hints got stronger, he never did apologize.
Would it have made a difference if he had? Of course.
Would I have gone out with him again? Not if he were the last man on Earth.
Then what difference would an apology have made? Well, I might not have hit him back...
But then again...
As we approached the end of the trail, Paul did a very stupid thing. He handed me the switch. Now, I must point out that this was before I began training in karate. That point must be clearly understood. I would never use my karate for vengeance or to attack another. Nevertheless, when he handed me that switch, I wore his tail end out!
"Oh," he whined. "You're just like my ex-wife. She was so abusive. I was a battered husband." Blah, blah, blah...whine, whine, whine...
By that time, I was thoroughly disgusted with the man, and was so glad when the afternoon finally ended and he took Cody and me home.
When all was said and done, I think the part that hurt the worst was when I told my cousin what had happened. Her response:
"Oh, no, no, no! Paul wouldn't do something like that. YOU must be mistaken."
Even after I showed her the red marks on my legs, she still insisted that it had to have been an accident, because Paul was "so sweet". That just didn't sound like him. What? Did she think I was lying about it?
Her husband was a different story. When I told him, and showed him the marks, he didn't say anything for a long time, but I could see the muscle in his jaw pop out and the vein in his neck start throbbing. He finally said, "He has just made himself unwelcome in this family". And that was the end of that attempt at matchmaking.
Now the best part about the whole thing was when I went back to work the next Monday. I found Duane and told him what Paul had done. Then I asked him,
"How many times do I have to let him hit me before you think I've given him enough of a chance?"
Duane had no answer for that. He did stop advising me about my love life, though. I never went out with Paul again. He eventually got fired from the camp and left the church. I have no idea where he is now, and I don't really care. As I said yesterday, I'd rather be alone for the rest of my life than with someone who will abuse me.
Strangely apropos, today's sketch is the safety rail around my striker at work. It doesn't protect me from the flame, but protects passersby from inadvertently walking into my lit torch.
It's all about being safe, whether at work or in relationship.
Stay safe. Always.