One of the things I was going to bring up was about a specific period. I had been dating a girl for about a year and when we broke up, I thought, “I’m going to forget about her; I’m going to date a ton of girls,” usually two girls at a time over the course of a year.
How do you manage this?
In the advent of online dating, it’s fairly easy to get, but yeah, it’s tough to manage.
They didn’t know about each other?
No. In the beginning, I didn’t have to stress about one specific person. I could just switch my focus and I didn’t have to really worry about it. It got to be really stressful after doing that for a while.
Inevitably, there are going to be conflicts that result.
We didn’t date for very long, just the initial sort of anxiety was easier to get over because I can shift my focus to something else.
Is this the longest time you’ve been without having a significant other?
No, I’ve been single for a long time. My first girlfriend I dated when I was nineteen. After we broke up, it was two years. Then, I dated some other girl and it was another two years, so it’s been a while.
And you’ve never been married?
No, which I am grateful for. I would like to. To go back to what you were saying earlier, “marriage isn’t the end-all-be-all.” It can be a cultural thing or a religious thing. For me, it’s both. I’d like to have a kid and I think that the best way to do that is being married so there’s some stability there. Those things seem really far off now right now, but it’s something I look forward to. I say that in almost the same breath as saying, “I’m dating two girls at the same time.” It’s this really weird conflict. You get the cognitive dissonance – I’m doing this just to see if I can get laid, but what I really want is this other thing.
Believe it or not, I actually have a theory about relationships based on my own experience. That is, there is something in almost all people that makes us want to be in a relationship, in close relations. And there’s something in us that wants a fair amount of space and doesn’t feel really comfortable in close relationships. It’s a contradiction at the heart of human relationships. Nobody talks about it much. You don’t want to talk about it with your partner unless you’re really very good at communicating! Boy, could that be misunderstood. In fact, a couple of times in my life, I felt I was not in the relationship.
Like we were saying about significant figures.
Yeah, that’s a hard way to put it, but I think it’s true. The third person that I was very close to and talked about broke up with me by e-mail! I was going to be away teaching in Germany on a Fulbright. We talked about how this relationship would resume when I got back. Instead, she just felt that I had not committed myself to that relationship. It’s very hard to win that argument if you’re on the other side of the ocean.
That’s a really good point — what you were saying about space and proximity. You can’t be in relationship without being spatially close. It’s tough.
I have written a memoir of my life up until I married my first wife. It even includes a little bit of the marriage and certainly a lot about me.
Are you going to make a part two?
That’s a good question, but I did it primarily for the daughters and grandkids to get an idea of all the crazy stuff that happened in my life. There’s a whole section about high school when I started becoming interested in girls. I have never, ever found the ability to walk up to a woman that I don’t know and utter something witty and say, “Would you like to have a cup of coffee or something?” Never happened. It’s remarkable that I reproduced. I don’t know how that happened, because I was totally clueless and frightened of the whole thing. I married a woman that I met in class. I married a woman that I actually had as a student some years before. The third person had been a student to people I have been really close to.