There is a lot of talk these days about optics. Some people have apparently become more concerned about the appearance of their actions rather than the motivations, morality or consequences. While I typically prefer to rely on an ethical code or at least, a bit of risk analysis before taking many actions, I can’t say that using optics is the worst methodology. For example, even if you fail to use an ounce of gray matter while defining your overbooking policies, the optics of getting cops to drag a screaming and bleeding customer that you sold a seat to, down the corridor of your airplane, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t look good.
My wife, Theresa and I are in the process of selling our house. She has already moved to Raleigh, NC to start a new job, while I remain in South Florida, hoping to get a relatively quick sale of our home. We spent about eight weeks packing, selling, donating and moving half a century’s worth of crap prior to her move. After she pulled out of the driveway, I headed west to visit Jimmy, an old friend from New Jersey, who has retired to Naples, FL with his wife Marilyn.
I really needed the break. My arms and hands were so sore, that I could barely make the drive across Alligator Alley. Since Marilyn was out of town visiting her sister, I was really looking forward to going with Jimmy to the beach, chilling in the pool, and watching a ton of sports, including the NCAA Final Four semis.
When I arrived around lunchtime on Friday, Jimmy informed me that his friend, who is a professional singer, was performing at a local restaurant that evening and that he felt we should go. Great…I’ve been apart from Theresa for about six hours, and I’m already thinking about the optics.
You might wonder what I would have to be concerned about, but this wasn’t the first time that I had this particular experience with Jimmy. Several months ago, I visited him when both Theresa and Marilyn were out of town. We went to see his friend perform then as well. It seems that in Jimmy’s community and circle of friends, there are significantly more women than men, and by women, I am referring specifically to single women.
Theresa and I have been happily married for about 34 years. During that time, I have certainly looked at plenty of other women, but have carefully avoided touching, ogling, sniffing and most forms of communication. Still, every so often, I will get the impression that a woman somehow is charmed by me, causing me to wonder about the great “What if”?
Here’s an example. Several years ago, our doorbell rang during the day on a weekend. My wife peeked through the curtains and said, “Ugh, Jehovah Witnesses…make like we’re not home.”
Well I always open the door for proselytizers. I find it to be polite, neighborly and interesting. Did you know that Mormon Elders are not allowed to tell you their first names? We always had the Awake Magazine around when I was a kid, because my sweet Jewish grandmother always opened the door for these nutbags.
On this particular day, one of the two Witnesses was younger than most was actually not unattractive. I spoke to them for a while, took their magazine and thought nothing of it. Over the next several weeks, this same young lady came back to the house three more times, twice by herself. This seemed a bit unusual to me. I mean, I know I’m a heathen, but there must be more desperate souls than mine.
“Damn,” said Theresa, “She’s into you bad. Quite frankly, I don’t see the attraction.”
I was cut to the quick. I’m charming. Who wouldn’t be into me? On her last visit, the lovely young Angel told me that she was moving to Arizona. She paused for a moment as though giving me a cue to go pack my bag to join her. I wished her luck and returned to my wife who was more amused than she needed to be.
My point is that all married men, or at least this one, sometimes wonder what it would be like to be on the dating scene. We have tons of experience being mistaken about what women want. When I connected with several female former classmates around my 40th High School reunion last summer, I was amazed how many remembered how funny I was and fondly recalled some of my writing and antics. I guess they were too immature at sixteen to appreciate the important things while they blew me off to date the athletes. Enjoy your third divorce, bitches!
I have several single friends and have had to live vicariously through them. One, I’ll call him Subject A, recently met me for dinner. He’s been actively playing the field for decades and I love hearing about his experiences, both good and bad. I asked him how the computer dating was working. Based on the commercials and my experience with computers, databases and statistics, I figured that it must be the greatest invention for relationships since Eve.
“It’s the worst,” said Subject A. “Everyone lies and is crazy.” He told me of a recent experience. Date One: It lasted three days. Other than a minor disagreement about her alcohol consumption, he thought that this might be the one! “She’s even Jewish,” he said. Date Two (a week later): Also three days. He took her to a restaurant and the second the owner saw her, he threw them both out. “Never again!” he shouted. It also was revealed that the woman had been arrested three times during the intervening week, in three separate incidents. She’d spent much of the week in jail. He tried to break it off, but she needed a ride to two different court appearances on Monday and was too impaired to drive. She was not the one.
On the other hand, I had dinner with another friend (Subject B), who met his fiancée through Match.com, so it must work for somebody. I asked if they planned to have kids. “Funny story,” he said, “I kind of already do.” It seems he had a houseguest a few years back from a distant country. At some point, she asked Subject B to be a sperm donor for her and her lesbian partner. He eventually agreed and flew halfway around the world (at their expense…even the most gentlemanly among us have our limits), and gave enough of himself to father boy and girl twins. He gets pictures on Facebook. I asked if he had included this on his Match.com profile. He had omitted this tidbit.
Jimmy and Marilyn have been married for nearly 45 years. Apparently he likes to dance. I don’t know about Marilyn since she always seems to be conveniently out of town when this comes up. The first time we went out to see his friend perform, we were sitting at a large high-top table with about eight women. I don’t know how many were single, but they were here unaccompanied. Jimmy and I sat across from two of them, one who was quite fetching.
As I conversed and told people of my writing and demonstrated my overall charisma, Jimmy occasionally got up to dance. “You should dance,” I was told by several of the women. That’s when the optics hit me. I don’t even dance with my wife. If I end up on Facebook dancing with some chick barely hours after seeing my wife off on a business trip…well, you get the idea.
At one point, a couple of old creepers came by looking for a date and the two women across from us used me and Jimmy as beards. They said they were with us. The one who said that I was her date was a recently widowed minx who played golf regularly. I wondered if telling another dude that she was with me legally bound her in some way. This was all happening too fast for me. I desperately wanted to be with Theresa and the warmth of her six-figure income.
On this second time out dancing with the divorcees and widows, I would be more prepared. I would just cower in the corner until it was over. Unfortunately, the only seats were right up front by the tiny dancing area. I was buffed by more hips and boobs than had I gone through a car wash. At one point, a woman of a certain age sat next to me and that certain age was probably 75. I liked her sweater and thought it would look good on my wife, but I wasn’t going to ask the woman where she got it, nor would Theresa find it under the seat of my car.
The woman asked me how I felt. I muttered that I was okay, but then felt her giving a deep-tissue massage to my forearm as she said, “You feel great to me.” There was an even creepier exchange a bit later that even me, The Man with No Filters, is reluctant to discuss. I was overwhelmed by thoughts of banter and ego, and loneliness and desperation.
I do not think that predicting the optics of a situation is a sufficient means of keeping your sorry ass out of trouble, but is better than no system at all, particularly when seemingly everyone is carrying a camera. Hopefully Theresa doesn’t need to watch me since I have the good sense to watch myself…and it gives me plenty to write about.