There are the naive few who believe that the way to climb Mt. Everest is to simply by an airline ticket to Nepal, some equipment, and set off to climb the world’s tallest peak, in spite of the fact that they can’t climb the stairs to their bedroom without pausing to catch their breath.
In early years, I was one of the naive minds who took the same approach to building loving relationships.
Consider my first attempt at landing a date-
After years of angst and hours in front of the mirror practicing my technique while trying to cover up uncontrollable acne, I finally got up the nerve to ask Julie out. Seriously hot, Julie had sat in front of me in homeroom for more than two years without me ever saying more than a shy “hello.”
She was standing in front of her locker when I came up beside her.
Julie turned and looked at me.
There was an awkward silence.
She smiled, “Can I help you?”
Stammer. Stutter. Blurt, “Will you go out with me!”
Her smile grew bigger. Either she thought this was a joke or she decided to humor my sweaty neediness.
“Sure,” she said calmly,and added, “what are we going to do?” as she turned to put her books in the locker.
There was a clatter as I feinted against the nearby lockers. An affirmative response had not been anticipated.
Startled by her suitor’s sudden swoon, Julie turned and asked, “are you okay?”
Obviously not, as my many practice scenes in front of the mirror had not included any happy endings.
Another nervous pause.
Finally, an inspiration popped to mind.
My mouth opened, “and I spoke, “the fish are running. Let’s go to the hatchery and watch them strip eggs.”
There was a loud crash as Julie’s books fell to the floor, followed by resounding echoes of hysterical laughter.
“Are you for real?” she questioned, unable to contain her mirth as I scurried to pick up her books, which I handed to her and then vanished into social reclusion.
Okay. That didn’t turn out as hoped for. It took many months of counseling sessions with my dog, Homer, and many more sessions in front of the mirror, not to mention many more tubes of acne cream, before I finally came up with a date pitch that worked.
I think the winning line was, “Wanna go midnight bowling?”
Although the exact words fail me, I do remember the ensuing experience, painfully etched into the failed relationship files in my mind.
It started out well enough. We walked into the bowling alley, I paid for shoes and drinks, and we claimed our lane. Tina, or maybe it was Shawna, I’ve a tendency to erase negative memories as soon as possible, seemed quite comfortable with the game. I carefully studied her form, and then her bowling technique, noticing she’d already thrown six strikes to my similar number of gutter balls. At this point, she also threw a gutter ball, perhaps a touch of pity coming over her when she looked at the score.
Tina returned to her seat and began to sip her drink. I picked up my ball and turned to face my pins.
Suddenly, bolstered by caffeinated Coke courage, I spun around, bowling ball gripped tightly in both hands, and blurted out, “will you marry me?”
Tina continued to sip her Coke, staring at me, a blank expression in her eyes.
I anxiously repeated my request, “Will you marry me?”
This time there was a response. She dropped the Coke. It fell to the floor and exploded all over my yellow and pink bowling shoes. I dropped the bowling ball as I stared down at the brown liquid chaos. I watched the large black ball fall in slow motion towards my unsuspecting toes.
“Owwww!!!” Again, the exact word escapes me as have most painful relationship memories.
As I danced in agony, the ball rolled into the gutter. another scoreless night as Tina’s bright red hair exited the premises.
Okay. That didn’t work so well either.
Neither did numerous subsequent efforts. Keep in mind that the emotional turmoil that resulted from these failures took months to recover from, and many more counseling sessions with Homer, who is not only much cheaper than a psychologist, he also gives free face licks when he sees me lying despondent on the couch.
Yes, admittedly I’m a slow learner, especially when it concerns social matters. However, to my credit, eventually I did figure out something important.
It is much better to have great friends than to have occasional great sex. Good friends I look forward to seeing again and again. I can’t say as much for some sex partners, although I’m sure those partners couldn’t say much good about me.
I adopted a new dating and relationship strategy. Friends first. I decided that the intimacy I really wanted, that feeling of closeness and security was only possible by building friendship, a process that takes time and commitment. Friendship is not a one night stand. Yes, the bliss of sexual pleasure is alluring, but is often a momentary illusion, a glimpse of something grander. But that something is only possible with dedication to building a mutually rewarding relationship.
May I suggest that if you’re intent on climbing the Mt. Everest of Love, start with “Friends First.”
I don’t expect anyone, especially those youthful in years and filled with love fantasies and raging hormones, to pay much attention to my advice. Each of us must find our own way in life,but I hope you take the time to seriously consider the true value of friendship.
If there is someone special you’d like to be involved with, start with friendship first. If this works and the two of you become respectful, trusting, and supportive of each other, new doorways will open.
Friends first, because if you can’t be friends, why bother?.
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