The Goddess Speaks

By Ruby Mata-Viti

Tuesday, September 28, 1999

All’s fair in the
‘casual’ dating game

I wrote key words on a Post-it note to steer my thoughts. My fingers shook as I pressed the phone buttons. This was supposed to be the easy way.


My voice cracked as I spoke.

"Hi, it's Ruby. (Clear throat.) Listen, I'm leaving a message because I don't know if I'll reach you in time to make other plans. Tomorrow night is off. (Deep breath.) I don't feel like seeing you for a while so I'm going to take a break. Talk to you again ... sometime ... later ... maybe. (Long pause.) Take care."

I can't believe I did that. I didn't think I was capable of it. I ditched a guy via answering machine. And he's got roommates who share his line.

It wasn't a major relationship. We were two strangers who met at a party and had gone out a few times. Still, he's a human being. He deserved a face-to-face, or at least a voice-to-voice "see you around," and a fair chance to retort: "Not if I see you first."

I bash myself with guilt. After all, I must not BE bad if I can at least FEEL bad about it.

A person gets roughed up playing the dating game. I had not been out there in a while. I was happily married to Carl, a man who treated me extremely well. When he died more than two years ago in an accident, I died too. Dating is part of my attempt to regain footing in life.

All social skills are challenged on a date. Survival instincts are triggered. No one enjoys being ambushed by rejection. Yet, nobody is deliberately trying to hurt or make a fool out of anybody. It only feels that way.

I was spoiled by Carl. He showed me what it is to be in love and in a good relationship. That is one of the many intangible gifts he gave me.

Not all guys are men. I've always known this, but it was a dormant thought. It wasn't relevant. There are men who are boys, men who are guys and men who are men. Carl was a man.

He could navigate smoothly and appropriately to boy or guy mode; yet clearly, he was a man.

The guy with the answering machine was, well, a guy. He was a decent guy, quite skilled at saying and doing most of the right things on a date. He was charming, witty, fairly intelligent. And good looking. Beauty attracts, but doesn't impress anyone who's not being treated well.

It's not his fault that the connection didn't hold. It's what happens when someone accustomed to casual dating (him) hooks up with someone who's not. Courtesies like actually calling when you say you will and not already eating dinner if you have a dinnertime meeting have telling nuances that are lost on the routine casual daters.

Which wasn't really why I defaulted from this particular dating match but it seemed like a good loophole. Leaving a blunt message was fitting, I rationalized.

I felt lousy. I told a few friends my story, seeking salvation. As I told it, each gave me the same scrunched-up expression, telling me that I was cold and heartless. But I'm not.

Sometimes you have to do stuff that's out of character for you. People do the best they can, and that's how I try to make sense of the way he treated me and how I reacted.

In the big picture, it's a pixel. But my fear is that I'll get use to doing stuff like that, stuff I believe is out of character for me. Then, it would become character.

This time, I chose the "easy" way. And yet, it really wasn't.

That was months ago. I ran into the guy recently. It was a pleasant encounter. He said he had gotten home before his roommates that day I left the message. We said "bye" and went our separate ways.

People are just trying to connect. Some connections have more impact than others. The connection tends to take on a life of its own, even after the person is gone.

Ruby Mata-Viti is a copy editor
and page designer at the Star-Bulletin.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802, or send e-mail

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