Monday, August 19, 2013

Call Me Betty

I grew up in a house full of music. We loved country, big band, and classic rock. I knew  Billy Joel, the Doors and The Eagles before I knew The Wheels on the Bus. To this day, my great pride is being able to recite Don McLean's American Pie word for word. Ask me about it if you ever have eight minutes to kill.

So when I started dating a man named Al, the phrase that ran repeatedly through my mind was "I can call you Betty, and Betty if you call me, you can call me can call me Al!" Follow that up with a snazzy chorus of "nah nah nah nah ... nah nah nah nah nah nah..." and you've got a Paul Simon hit that has echoed in my heart since 1987. I love Simon's Graceland album just as much as The Beatles' Hard Day's Night and Eric Clapton's Unplugged. Music has a way of sticking in a person's head.

How can you separate Betty from Al? One way would be if Al has never heard the song.

I don't understand this! If there was a song with Kimberly in the title, I would make all of my friends change their ring tone so it played when I called. I have always been envious of girls named Caroline, Alice, Lucy, and Michelle for their musical fame. Should I ever have a baby boy, I will name him James so that I can sing him James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" as a lullaby every night. How can Al not know the words to a song with his name in it???

Al didn't have much interest in music, same as he didn't have much interest in books, television shows, movies, or food. I tried finding something that he was passionate about besides running, but he didn't give me much to go on. As it turns out, Al is simply not a passionate person. He's got this take-it-or-leave-it mentality about almost everything in life. He's laid back, easy going, it is what it is. If I'm honest, it drove me a little crazy.

The only thing I could gather from my four (yes four!) dates with Al was how much he wanted to date me. He told his mother about me after the first date. He wanted to know what my favorite meal was, so that his mom could make it when I came over to meet his parents. He wanted us to double date with his sister and her husband. He wanted to bring me to his best friend's wedding later in the month as his Plus One. He was serving as Best Man and was very excited to be taking a real girl to the occasion, especially a girl he was not related to.

I've heard stories about guys who bring their cousin to the prom, but I assumed that these guys were some sort of dating urban legend. Turns out, they do exist and Al was one of them. For the record, he went to an all boys Catholic school. As his cousin was not available that evening, he didn't go to his prom. Taking me to his best friend's wedding fifteen years after graduating high school was going to make up for the tuxedo-clad experience he'd missed out on. No pressure.

On our second date, Al and I went to the beach for ice cream and mini golf. The boardwalk band stand was featuring a rootin tootin line dancing evening. I'm the kind of girl who sees an opportunity like that to do something spontaneously, jump in, join the party. Al is the kind of guy who watches from the sidelines and lets other people have all the fun. Sigh.

Also, he told me that getting chocolate and vanilla swirled was like throwing caution to the wind. I am fairly certain that adding sprinkles was the craziest thing he'd done all week.

While I am admittedly terrible at mini golf (and bowling), Al was actually quite good. I teased him that I was super competitive and hated to lose (true story) so he threw almost every hole, but only by a point or two, giving me enough of a handicap to catch up. He beat me by one point, but since he was the score keeper, that math may have been way off. Al suggested that we have a rematch soon, so I could get in some practice and come back to beat him. That was his sly way of securing another date, and while I did not have butterflies about him, I did appreciate his persistence.

On our third date, Al and I went to Barnes & Noble. When I worked there, my colleagues would check out the couples sitting in the cafe and guess if they were on a first date. We made up stories about how they met, what they were talking about, and if there would be a second date. It's a game I still enjoy playing every time I'm in Starbucks and it's super obvious that the couple has just met. I like to think that these dates actually work out for some people, but for others I can tell you that I witnessed their only date.

I wondered what Al and I looked like to the booksellers spying on us. Me in a sweater dress, leggings, and heels, tossing my blonde hair around my shoulders while slowly sipping a non fat toffee chai. (In my head, I'm seriously fabulous.) Al with his green tea no sugar, wearing a dark polo shirt, jeans that hung off his waist because he had no hips to support them, and his SuperCuts hair style that made him look like a very tall eighth grader. To call him lanky would be an understatement, and he complained to me that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't gain weight. I felt like Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater and his wife. We clearly had opposite thyroid issues. I also learned that the polo and jeans was his standard uniform. It's what he wore to work, at home, and apparently, on dates. Al wasn't the most stylish guy in the store, nor was he the most likely to take a risk: fashion, food or otherwise. I was positively craving a stuffed pizza pretzel but Al had an aversion to dairy products and I didn't need an accidental trip to the emergency room. I was afraid that once he listed me as his In Case Of Emergency contact, he might never stop.

Al didn't have his own personality, his own opinions, his own views. He didn't take a stand on anything one way or another. He didn't find a single book in Barnes & Noble that he was excited about, whereas I used to work there purely for the 30% discount. There were weeks that I would check out with a stack of books, cash my paycheck and still owe them money! I was broke as could be but I loved the feeling of opening a brand new book that was all mine, getting to know the author, falling in love or hate with the characters, getting lost in a world full of stories that weren't mine. I would rather buy books or food than clothes or shoes any day of the week. Al didn't seem to buy anything.

On our fourth (and might I add, final) date, Al took me to lunch at one of my favorite Asian restaurants. It was the first time we were eating an actual meal together, and I really wanted to like him. I wanted to see something in him that I hadn't seen before. I wanted to find a redeeming quality that I could hold on to. Al wanting us to be soul mates wasn't enough to make it so, and it certainly wasn't enough for me to stop criticizing everything about him, especially that he was eating sushi with a fork. He only tried the sushi because I suggested it, otherwise he was perfectly content to live in a world of white rice and chicken soup. I'm not exactly up to sea urchin and eel (gag!) but I'm certainly further along than white rice and plain broth. I need someone who can keep up with my spirit, challenge me, make me laugh. Al was kind and sweet in a completely unexciting way, and I knew I needed more. Before he made plans for us to attend his friend's wedding, or introduce me to his mother, or go on a Caribbean cruise, I needed to let him down gently. He took it harder than I thought, which I still feel badly about but I know that it was still the right thing to do. I wanted to like Al because he liked me but that's just not enough. I guess I'm not his Betty after all.


  1. oh nope not who I thought....but write about THAT one! lol

  2. I can't help but admire you sometimes. You refuse to settle for someone who doesn't make you happy and you seem to know what you're looking for in a partner.