I looked across the table in the outdoor restaurant where Marty and I were exchanging The Stories of Our Lives over Alaskan king crab legs and thought, "He'll do." He was the last of a string of guys I had met via JDate and I was eager to pull the plug on my online dating profile, if only for the sake of my health. I am convinced that online dating raises your cholesterol.
However, after what had seemed like an enjoyable first date, Marty vanished. No phone call. No email. Nada. Months passed before he called. Again, we had a "nice time" and, again, he vanished like a mirage. Over the next two years, I saw him once every six months or so. Since all of our dates were purely platonic, without so much as a kiss, I was puzzled but not particularly concerned. I figured Marty was off his meds, terminally ambivalent or under house arrest.
Why did I bother? Because Marty had a knack for picking the kind of dates I couldn't resist. Antiquing in charming little towns. Strolling along bucolic canals. Seeing plays. (I'd date El Chapo if he had tickets to "Hamilton.") Recently, Marty invited me to a matinee at a neighborhood playhouse near his home.
"Let's meet at my house," he said. "Then we can take just one car to the theater."
I had never been to Marty's house and was apprehensive about leaving my car there. Sure, I had known him for two years, but his ability to vanish into thin air was unnerving. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a night with Houdini.
As I drove along Marty's mile-long, meandering driveway, deeper and deeper into the woods, I started to wonder if he lived in a barn, an old farm house or a dilapidated trailer with a "Keep Out" sign. Then, suddenly, there it was. A soaring, contemporary house of wood, glass and stone that could've been ripped out of Architectural Digest. And how could I not notice the stack of Money magazines in the bathroom? If Marty wanted to impress me, he had succeeded. If he wanted to seduce me, I had other plans. The play was delightful and, when we returned to his house, the sun was just starting to go down.
"Well, I better be going," I said breezily.
"I'm not throwing you out," he replied, tossing logs on the fire and turning the radio to a classic rock station.
"I'm so in love with you / Whatever you want to do / Is all right with me ..."
"Well, uh, the thing is—" I stammered. "I enjoy spending time with you, but I'm not ready to, uh, be intimate."
There, I said it. Marty put his hands on my shoulders, looked deep into my eyes and purred, "Stacia, let's just play it by ear."
Houdini had morphed into James Bond. As my best friend Janie says, "Do you really want to spend the rest of your life alone?" No, I do not. So, after Marty served dinner by candlelight with mucho wine, we cuddled and kissed in front of the roaring fire while the Doobie Brothers crooned.
"She had a place in his life / He never made her think twice / As he rises to her apology / Anybody else would surely know"
We kissed as if learning a new dance—enthusiastically—but our timing was off. Without warning, Marty suddenly straddled me on the sofa, a position he must've picked up from a dancer at a gentleman's club. He ordered me to close my eyes, and started massaging my face.
"Relax," he said. "You're tense."
I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to relax when a grown man presses on my sinuses.
"You know, I understand what you're saying," Marty said, "But I don't agree with you?"
(I had lost the thread of the conversation since I find it impossible to speak when there are two tongues in my mouth.)
"Not being sexually intimate," he said. "I think you are conflicted."
Huh? And so began an unsolicited, wine-fueled analysis of Human Sexuality Over 60 in which Marty lectured me on the hang-ups of "women your age." In the process, he revealed his own romantic disasters. Apparently, Marty had invested years into an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who put her children, horses and dogs before his needs.
"So, that's why you dropped out of sight all those times?" I asked.
Marty nodded, eyes brimming with tears.
"When did you end the relationship?" I asked.
"I don't want to discuss it," he said and went back to his favorite topic: me and my sexual conflicts.
By 2 a.m., I realized that the issue wasn't sex. It was Marty's need to be in charge. I had never said that I didn't want to make love with him. I had only said I wasn't ready that night. But he had turned it into a Supreme Court case and, in the process, dialed down my interest from Maybe to You've Got to be Kidding.
"I'm tired," I said. "What are the sleeping arrangements?"
"You can sleep with me or in the guest room."
I slept, blissfully, alone. In the morning, I made myself coffee before Marty was up. When he finally appeared, James Bond had been replaced by an unshaven, moody Woody Allen.
"You know, you're wrong," he muttered into his coffee.
I drove back down that mile-long bumpy road, humming Al Green. I had gotten to know Marty, really know him, not by giving in to his needs, but by holding firm onto mine.