Friday, February 1, 2013

The Tease

I have now lived in LA for twenty years. I don't know the exact date, but I know I came here somewhere around January 20-29th in 1993. I was twenty years old, I only had one vague contact (a church friend of the family who I didn't know very well), a suitcase, and a dream. When people ask why I left NYC for LA I tell them I was seeking technical film work, which is true. I had had a few frustrating years post-high school working at a hipster video store in the East Village while desperately trying to find work in the (at the time) tiny film industry, which usually resulted in unpaid internships or production assistant jobs. Still, the real reason I moved to LA was for a guy.

In the late eighties and early nineties it seemed like everyone who lived in the East Village was either an addict or a recovering addict. One of my coworkers, Lynne, was in the recovering camp (and to this day I've never done a drug or taken a drink, so naturally I gravitated towards the sober types), and I fell in with her group of sober friends. One of them was a guy named David. He had blondish-reddish curly hair, a prominent nose, was a nice Jewish boy, was a screenwriter, and so of course was JUST MY TYPE. The only problem was...I was already dating a nice red headed Jewish boy. Oops.

It's hard to remember the details now, but I believe it went something like this: I met David as a friend, then he moved away to LA. We kept in touch, and the boyfriend and I broke up but were still kind of messing around (as you do at 20), and David came to visit and we started flirting around. We had a wonderful date one night and a wonderful end of night kiss, with talk of me coming to visit him at some point. I thought he was going to be my next boyfriend. So I started to make plans for a visit. 

At the time I wasn't thinking of moving to LA right away - I thought I'd visit and suss it out first. So in January of 1993 I headed out to LA with dreams of palm trees in my head...but more than that, dreams of David. On the phone he'd said he was "psyched to see" me. And we did get together. We had a nice date at a Mediterranean place, and then went back to his place and messed around, but did not sleep together (you see a pattern here...?), with excuses of "having to get up early", etc. We did not see each other again. Ever.

However, it was not over, not as far as I was concerned. I was set to return to NY in a few days...but I had already so fallen in love with the warm weather and sunshine that one day I called my mother and asked, "is there any reason to return to New York?" and when she told me there really wasn't, I decided I was going to become a California resident, on the spot. I had only a suitcase, no money, no job, nowhere to live, and an apartment in NY, but none of those things were going to stand in my way. Ah, the folly of youth! Thank God we have those kind of balls at that age - I could NEVER do something like that now!

So I "moved" to LA. I found a place to live (through the church I attended at the time), sublet my apartment in NY (to the ex-boyfriend), quit my job over the phone, and that was it. However, David was not returning my calls. Or rather, he would return maybe one out of ten - and always when I was out. And that was how it was to go for the better part of a year. I became a stalker. I'm not proud of it. But I was determined to "get" him, whatever that meant; I liked him enough that I was going to do whatever it took. It didn't occur to me at the time that maybe he didn't want to be with ME - I really didn't care. So I called him and left a message every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Why on earth would anyone do this? Why wasn't it so obvious that he wasn't interested? Why didn't I just move on? Well, for one reason I was young and stupid and desperate. But there's a little more to it - and something I didn't really understand until years later. See, whenever I was about to give up on him, he'd give me just a taste. He'd call back and tell me yeah, let's totally get together, I've just been really busy. Sorry I haven't called. And then I would call back. And leave messages. For weeks. And then I'd get fed up. And then he'd call and say yeah, let's get together, I've just been really busy. And this went on and on. In the meantime I was trying to get my life started - learning to drive, failing my driving test over and over, trying to find a car, trying to find a job, navigating this giant city. It was a horribly lonely time. I knew no one and had nothing to do all day, and no money to do it with; my only activity was walking to the local library and taking out books and reading them. I did read a lot of great books during that time. But oh, was I bored and lonely! And every moment tormented by the thought that I had made a huge mistake and I should just turn around and go home.

And don't forget, this was 1993. No Facebook. No cell phones. No email, or even internet at all. Most people didn't have home computers (I certainly didn't). So all I had was my land line phone and my old school message machine with the little mini cassette in it. And the once in a while message from David - yeah, let's get together. I've just been really busy.

I finally got fed up and sent him a letter saying I was sorry I'd been bothering him, that clearly he wasn't interested and I was going to leave him alone now. And of course got a call from him, another message. Yeah, let's get together. 

When I FINALLY got a job after eight months, I let him go. I also started dating through the personal ad section of the LA Weekly, which in those days always brought on a short term boyfriend. I finally left David alone. But that whole episode was very painful. What, exactly, happened there?

For many years I felt horribly guilty and ashamed, feeling like it was all my fault, that I had acted so crazy, that I had been a stalker. And technically I was. But a few years ago I finally looked at it from his point of view. And you know what? He's not innocent here. A normal person would either NEVER call me again, in which case I would have gotten the hint within a couple of weeks and left him alone. Why did he string me along like that? He must have listened to my messages that he got every single day for months. A normal person would call back or send a letter saying you have to stop this, it's not ok to call me all the time, I've moved on, etc. That's what I would do, today. Why didn't he?

Well, in my adult dating life I've encountered this kind of behavior from men over and over again - countless times, actually. And I don't understand it because I would never treat someone like that. But men are wusses. They don't want to hurt your feelings, they don't want to watch you cry or get upset. They're afraid of us. So they don't tell the truth and just say or do what they think will make us happy in the moment - they fill our heads with future dates, even engagements and kids, because they know that's what we want to hear, even though they have no intention of following through on any of it. They keep us stringing along because it's an ego boost, because they're lonely and want attention but don't want any real commitment, and they figure if they didn't sleep with us they don't owe us anything. They keep us on the side while they pursue the one they actually want to work out...just in case she doesn't work out. I bet David had a girlfriend out here but messed around with me because he wanted to...and then felt guilty. But didn't have the wherewithal to tell me he wasn't actually available. Or interested.

I saw David a few years later at a film screening with a ring on his finger and a woman with a ring on her finger. He recently published an acclaimed novel. I have nothing but good wishes for him and his future. In the end, none of it matters. It got me to LA. It's unlikely I would have moved here if not for him; it's probably something I would have tried to "save up" for for years, and it never would have become a reality. So for that (and nothing else!), I thank him.

1 comment:

  1. I like this got you where you needed to be