Yesterday, I received one of the strangest phone calls of my life.
A long-time male friend of mine called, immediately chastised me for not having called him in a long time and told me that he understood why: “I know you’re mad at me.” I’ll call this Mediterranean friend of mine Adonis — after all, most of my girlfriends do.
- I met Adonis well over a decade ago, before my marriage, while he was separated from his Midwestern wife. (They later reconciled; a few years ago, she committed suicide. He is now living with another woman from a Southern European country, who I’ll call Genna.)
- Adonis and I went out a few times during his separation, but I soon stopped seeing him because I felt uncomfortable with the situation and his desire to move too quickly in our relationship.
- I’ve never slept with him.
- Without telling my ex how Adonis and I met, I had occasion to introduce the two. My husband thought Adonis was cool…so, from then on, our families celebrated children’s birthdays and other occasions together, socializing a few times a year. We were at his wife’s funeral.
After much small talk and some discussion of my ex and child support, he came back to the topic of my being mad at him. Again I insisted that I wasn’t angry with him. And then he said, “I know you like me…and I like you, too, but I’m in a relationship…”
I was flabbergasted! It’s true that I find Adonis attractive and, given our history, I feel comfortable being mildly flirtatious with him. I enjoy his attention. There was a time after his wife’s death when we talked a lot and I wondered if I might be the woman to whom he was most emotionally connected. I appreciate his sense of style, his DIY skills, his entrepreneurial skills…but (and it’s a big but) Adonis has a very black and white way of thinking: He has a temper, he can be argumentative, he is not often willing to consider other perspectives. He is remarkably non-judgmental, yet stubborn and resistant to change. I have often argued with him about parenting and other topics. In other words, I realized long ago we would not make a successful match.
Luckily, Adonis can go on about his point of view at length with no encouragement, so I sat stupefied while he went on: “…I can’t disrupt my children’s lives and make them live through another loss like that. We may yell and fight, but the children love Genna.”
“Adonis,” I had gathered my wits, “I like you as a friend, and I know full well that we could never have a successful relationship. I’ve heard you complain about Genna and I’ve seen the two or you argue, and I simply think that you deserve someone with a greater capacity for joy in your life.” Not to mention, I thought, that all this arguing in front of the children does not provide a great example or bode well for the children’s future relationships. This and several other thoughts I kept to myself.
He went on: “Well, the last time you were here, you said that you find me attractive and that you want to go out with me, and when you say things like that in front of her…” he trailed off.
Okay, wow! I admit that I can be bawdy, inappropriate and say or do provocative things (always with humorous, not harmful, intent). It was true that the last time I’d taken the children there for a play date, I had indulged in some wine. It’s true that I was generally of a mind to have my physical desires met around the time of my visit (though not by Adonis). It’s true that the conversation between me and Genna became uncomfortable later in the day (which I mostly attributed to our cultural differences). But I cannot recall nor possibly imagine how on Earth I would have said such things! I racked my brain.
There was a time that day when Genna was saying some mean / disrespectful things about Adonis. I may have jumped to my friend’s defense with a playful, “I’d date him” or something, meant in an entirely harmless fashion (even if it is inappropriate), save perhaps to remind her that she’d made a pretty good catch. Also, later in the evening, I suggested we go out for sushi sometime. Perhaps this was the “wanting to go out with him” part of this confusion.
Finally, I owned my bit of all this, “You know it’s true that I haven’t given Genna the level of respect she deserves as the woman of your house and, for that, I’m sorry.”
As if all of this were not random nor awkward enough, Adonis next suggested that, even if we were to go out and do things together, it would get complicated and mess up our friendship.
Okay, I had mentioned sushi, but that was clearly not what he was talking about.
I cut him short, “I would never do that.” And shortly thereafter I ended the call, thinking “Seriously, did this conversation really just happen?”