an endless stream of “real winners”

I was reminded again this evening of the fact that I’ve only ever loved one truly decent man…but that’s a story for another day. Before that was an endless stream of what my father would have ironically called “real winners.” I mean, I suppose it’s possible that one of my high school or college boyfriends might have amounted to something. It was too early to tell back then, when I was in a relationship with any of them. Given my track record, I doubt it.

Case in point, my father called earlier, giddy with news. I tried to explain to him that I’d just gotten home from work, was trying to get dinner and had to race off to a sporting event. He was insistent:  I had to Google an ex boyfriend.

With phone to my ear, spatula in hand, jacket half on and half off, I learned that a man I dated more than two decades ago had been arrested for watching porn on his mobile phone while sitting in his car in a parking lot. Apparently, a nearby couple could see what he was watching, so he turned the phone their direction to show them. They promptly called the police, who charged him with lewd behavior, among other things.

Doubled in age, experience and wisdom since the days of spending time in his company, I’m still able to envision him doing exactly as charged:  noticing others noticing him, assuming they were titillated or interested, thinking he was being cute by sharing his guilty pleasure with them. (Why do you think I dumped the guy?!) Ugh…ick. And think of his humiliated wife and children at home!

(Then again, what kind of police state is this where we can’t enjoy porn in the privacy of our own vehicles?! Cue laugh track.)

The thing is, I’m nearly as disgusted with my father, who was so certain I needed to be aware of this pathetic fact about a long-ago boyfriend. My father, it can be said (endearingly, of course) is, himself, a pig. In his defense, he’s been a loving, caring father and a wonderful grandfather. Also in his defense, he doesn’t know any better — he, too, thinks he’s being cute when he flirts and makes suggestive remarks to the young women where he works. What he doesn’t get is that these young women probably go hide in the restroom after he says something like, “that’s okay, if he doesn’t treat you right, I’ll take care of you,” — or maybe they go home and shower. He doesn’t understand that, if they smile and play along, they’re just trying to survive in a hostile environment. He doesn’t understand that his behavior, no matter how innocuous it seems, is harmful. In his defense, he got better briefly, when I first entered the working world and shared with him some of my own workplace challenges.

Still, once sentenced to live out his final earthly chapter in a nursing home, my father could easily become the dirty old man known for patting the asses of the female staff. My maternal grandparents probably once described him as a “real winner,” bless his heart.

It’s no wonder I’ve struggled with my choices in men over the years. But things may be looking up — the latest guy just asked me to accompany him to the opera. I know it’s no testament to character, but I’m going to take it as — at least — a sign of good taste. And by good, I mean better-than-porn-in-a-parked-car good.

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