Monday, October 03, 2005

The Platonic Gigolo

This past year, I began an unusual relationship. Deborah* had recently been dating a less than perfect fellow who was not ready to commit to the partnership and domesticity she desired. She wanted children. John* was done wanting more kids, having one from his previous marriage. She liked going out and socializing with her friends and family; he didn’t like her friends and avoided her family. She was outgoing and gregarious; he was pensive and brooding. After a year of trying to find some middle ground, Deborah decided that the relationship should end. She began dating again and eventually crossed my path.

Our first few dates went well. We both enjoyed each other’s company, and from my perspective it appeared to be developing into something more substantial. While the romantic overtures were restrained, our get-togethers hinted of courtship. We were seeing each other almost twice weekly, sharing both laughter and serious discourse with each encounter. I was invited to her nephew’s birthday party. She introduced me to her friends and work colleagues.

Feeling like this was more than just platonic, I finally made a move. Surprisingly, Deborah did not see our situation exactly the way I had viewed it and confided that she was not looking for a romantic relationship. We were just friends. Living most of my life as a single, I have received and delivered the “just friends” speech at more than a few points along the way. I took it in stride.

Once becoming newly befriended (instead of boyfriended) I learned that things were not quite finished between Deborah and John, and that she was still spending time with him. Moreover, while admitting that “he isn’t good for me”, she said that she could not sever her connection to him so easily and was still hoping to work things out.

Partially taken aback by this revelation, it wasn’t the first time I had been thrown for a “bad boy”. Yes, deep down I longed to be a bad boy but I never could wear it that well. At worst, I could be a “not-so-nice-guy” or maybe -- with a stretch, “indifference-boy”. But I had given up long ago on being the bad boy to the point where I had even overcome the whole nice guy versus bad boy hang-up that so many guys whine about when trying to understand what motivates a woman.

With nothing worse than a slightly bruised ego, I accepted my newfound platonic relationship with Deborah and wished her the best in sorting out her matters of the heart. I liked her as a friend and looked forward to the infrequent Sunday brunch dates that usually defined such casual relationships for me.

But things progressed differently.

Firstly, I began to see more of Deborah rather than less. Now we were seeing each other at least twice weekly and often more frequently. Secondly, she continued to invite me to family and social gatherings where one would think we were a couple, except for the fact that we weren’t a couple, and she was still spending time with Mr. Bad Boy (as I secretly named him). Was she revising her thoughts about us? I felt reasonably certain that she was not looking for anything beyond friendship, though I remained confused about the status of our relationship.

“You’re the beard,” says the Consultant, my long-time woman friend and part-time counsel on such ill-defined matters. While women have been chasing bad-boys long before the days of James Dean and Marlon Brando, according to the Consultant , some modern day bad-boy chasers have added a pragmatic element by appropriating the same techniques gay men have been using for decades in order to meet social convention. I was Deborah’s cover story: Mr. Nice Guy – the man you can take into any social situation and feel assured that you will meet peer expectations.

What were you expecting? The socratic gigolo?I couldn’t dismiss the theory outright. Friends of past girlfriends always liked me. Parents and family mostly approved of me. I could enter a room full of strangers and become completely engaged with the conversation, whereas Mr. Bad Boy would rarely go out with Deborah, and when he did, it often resulted in a dreadful evening for them both. In this new world order, I would go to the social and family functions, get an A-frame style hug at the end of the date where she’d then head off to Mr. Bad Boy’s place. I was the platonic gigolo.

As for my position on the matter, I do enjoy the things we have been doing – including the public couple stuff. And I don’t feel jealous about Mr. Bad Boy. Some friends have cautioned that I should get out of this situation before I get hurt. Perhaps, if I were hopelessly longing for something more with this woman, but this is not the case.

I’ve already decided that I’m not letting this relationship undermine any chances to meet any new romantic interests. Though I do understand that if I’m perceived to be part of a couple it doesn’t exactly advertise my availability to the world. But what better way to exude some bad boy appeal to a new love interest than with the optics that one is currently partnered. Okay, so I haven’t quite resolved everything on that subject.

One thing’s for sure: if I’m going to be a platonic gigolo she’ll have to start paying for the theatre tickets. I’m through with this Dutch treat stuff. Which leads me to wonder what Mr. Bad Boy thinks about this arrangement. He may actually approve of it, as it gets him off the hook for all those social and couple functions he so dislikes. On the other hand, maybe this is no different than cheating. I’m sure we can come to some understanding. To start, I’d be willing to coach him on embracing the joys of the Sunday brunch date. Maybe in return he can teach me how to become more brooding.

*not their real names (yeah, boring, I know)


At 10/04/2005, Anonymous Scout said...

She should be trying to set you up with her friends.
You know though, however much this doesn't seem great for you, I don't envy her, either.
It strikes me that during all those 2x a week sessions, she should have mentioned this guy and how she's still seeing him, rather than stroking her ego by getting you to fall for her.
I think you should do a martyr thing with her, and say you're too busy for any and all family sessions, unless she puts out.

At 10/04/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

That really should be the social convention, shouldn't it? In other words, if you bring a date to the family Thanksgiving dinner, you really shouldn't be secretly sleeping with anyone else. It's just poor form. But from what I could gather she seemed under some real or apparent pressure to make like she could have a normal boyfriend.

As for the "martyr thing", this story is a little dated, and in the end, I did break it off. Even though I felt relatively indifferent about her, it got too weird for me -- especially when I was with her family. I still miss them, though. But that's me with families. I tend to get along better with them, than with the girlfriend connected to them.

At 10/05/2005, Blogger bob said...

So really it was you using her for her family? The poor thing, she should've broken off the facade a long time ago! Shame on you... :)

At 10/05/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

Scout, well intentioned, but useless advice.

a) Introductions to Friends? Deborahs never do that. They'd lose their Platonic Gigolo. And they don't see the PG as relationship material anyway.

b) Sex on demand? We know you're kidding, maybe once every couple of years they'll go to 2nd base with the PG maybe.

Bob, well done on telling 5M what we'd all have said on the weekend. Don't be too hard on the Chair. I'm sure he's got his reasons for craving someone else's family.

At 10/05/2005, Blogger Kellie said...

Great story, Chair...
I cannot imagine you must go too long before another lady comes along!

At 10/05/2005, Anonymous Scout said...

You've made it to shore!
Welcome back.

At 10/05/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

Thank you, Scout. It was a perilous journey. But in its way, less challenging than these matters the Chair writes of.

At 10/06/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

Your absolutely right, Bob. What was I thinking. I'm just glad I didn't have to break the news to her father that I wasn't sleeping with his daughter. I don't think I could have faced the shame of that inevitable moment when I would have to clarify to him that I wasn't being euphemistic when using the word "brunch" in reference to his daughter.

And welcome back, Dwarfie. Glad you were able to find some driftwood to float home on.

At 10/06/2005, Blogger 5th Muse said...

Okay, here's my perspective. Lots of us are attracted to troubled people, mostly, I think, because they seem adorably misguided and we believe we can help (your attraction to Deborah might involve something like this, too). Unfortunately, those people, as I've discovered, often don't want 1. help, or 2. you.

But, sometimes they do, after all, we're all troubled to a certain extent. It is all a little hard to discover because they also tend not to know what they want.

Anyhoo, whenever I've encountered a truly nice guy (and believe me they are few and far between, because wolves often don sheep's clothing, or mistakenly think they are sheep)I tend to want to take it slow because ...

1. I don't want to hurt him (whereas I don't really care about hurting players, 'cause they'll just move on) if I don't really think we have potential.

2. he could be "the one" and I don't want to screw it up, and I want to make sure he really likes me, too.

3. I would have a really hard time with it if indeed, he isn't as nice as he first appears, which often happpens.

Does that help?

I do want to elaborate on the definition of a nice guy. I have met more than a few men who think they are nice guys, who blame women for dumping them for bad guys, but don't realize that the "bad" guys are often more devoted, sensitive, and honest than they could ever be.

At 10/06/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

I actually have a theory that no woman truly dumps a nice guy. I think that while we can behave irrationally and do things not in our best interest, for the most part, if a woman is dumping you, or not reciprocating her romantic interest, and you think you're a nice guy, you're probably not. Or, at least, not as perfect as you think. I've known a few "nice guys being martyrs" in my day. I was probably one myself at one time. Two things I learned: 1) no one likes a martyr and 2) one may not be as nice as they think they are. With the Deborah story, I wasn't hung up on that issue but more so intrigued by the whole facade we presented to her peers.

And the "let's go slow" thing, I have mixed feelings about that issue. While I understand the reasoning, there comes a point where you have to accept the facts as presented. My friend, the Consultant, has a rule that if you haven't slept with them by the 4th date, you're just friends. While that may be too much of a generalization, I do think that if the chemistry hasn't manifested itself after a reasonable amount of time (question: what is reasonable?), one needs to take a sober look at their situation.

At 10/06/2005, Blogger 5th Muse said...

Four dates is nothing, is the consultant a hippie?

I think Deborah was testing your long-term relationship potential ... even if she didn't tell you so.


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