By R. CHASE
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon at the Mount Adams pool in June when I realized my mistake. A petite Asian lady in a blue bikini was handing me her phone number when her eyes suddenly lost their gleam.
She was looking at the girl behind me, who was packing up the towels and gathering my things. Although she wasnâ€™t my girlfriend, it sure as hell looked like it.
Iâ€™d succumbed to the siren call of The Surrogate.
There are times when a bachelor will find himself without a woman, friends or prospects. When he encounters a female that he likes but has no sexual chemistry with, a sort of â€œneutral zoneâ€ of relationships will form between them.
Itâ€™s a symbiotic bond of mutual need, devoid of any actual love, joy or romance. This surrogate relationship is usually platonic, but fulfills the companionship needs of both parties without real commitment.
I was doing a summer stint in that wasteland of human culture known as â€œCincinnati.â€ It was a soul-crushing place, where the native inhabitants had apparently been genetically engineered to lack both taste buds and manners.
The local cuisine appeared to be Ohio River water mixed with fried pig feces and soggy noodles, which they brazenly labeled â€œchiliâ€ despite all appearances to the contrary.
â€œItâ€™s an acquired taste,â€ they would say to me, but you can only acquire â€œtasteâ€ if you are possessed of it to begin with.
I met The Surrogate at a local restaurant called The Rookwood, which was an abandoned pottery mill with giant red-brick kilns that had been converted into tables. She liked to drink JÃ¤germeister in a rocks glass, like bourbon.
Bourbon, however, has a positive correlation of dollars to quality. The only thing more money can get you with JÃ¤eger is a bigger bottle of JÃ¤eger.
She drank too much. But it was summer in Cincinnati and heavy alcoholism mixed with pathos and goetta were the only form of entertainment the town could offer.
Nevertheless, it was like a normal relationship. We went to the pool. We went to the bars. We watched movies. We made dinner. People even started to think of us as a couple.
But something was very wrong. The relationship was forged from mutual need and feelings of isolation. While this is not an uncommon occurrence, itâ€™s not really a healthy one. Companionship without sex is just as empty as sex without companionship.
Itâ€™s not that men and women canâ€™t be friends â€“ itâ€™s just that they shouldnâ€™t be only friends. Isolating oneself into a platonic relationship can be just as damaging as isolating oneself into a regular relationship.
To the blind male ego, it appears to be a win-win situation. You can have female companionship and still be single. Doesnâ€™t that sound great? You can feel comfortable around a woman and still take advantage of any sexual opportunities with that hot girl at the coffee shop! What could go wrong?
Pardon me while I pause here for hilarious fits of laughter.
The biggest mistake is in believing that sex is the price for which you pay for possession. Itâ€™s not that simple. Donâ€™t think for a minute that you wonâ€™t be beholden to your surrogate for your attention. Unlike a real girlfriend, she wonâ€™t insist that you lavish her with affection – but donâ€™t expect to lavish it on anyone else.
Men are not great communicators. We donâ€™t have all those subtle methods of conveying information that women do. Donâ€™t think for a minute when youâ€™re talking to another woman that your surrogate hasnâ€™t sent her 6,000 unspoken versions of the words â€œHANDS OFF: HEâ€™S MINEâ€ in-between the time you asked her name and got her a drink.
Women are territorial about men. Even if she doesnâ€™t really want you, she still doesnâ€™t want anyone else to have you.
And I learned my lesson there, at the Mount Adams pool one afternoon, while romancing that woman by the lifeguard chair. The moment she locked eyes with my surrogate, folding up â€œourâ€ towels and gathering â€œourâ€ things, I realized the full irony of my situation.
In trying to escape loneliness and desperation, I had lashed myself to a relationship that was unfulfilling to both parties and removed me from the perception of being available. Even if I was looking, I was crippling my chances of finding a woman simply by being with another one. Both of us had just accomplished the opposite of our initial goal.
I never heard from the Asian lady. But I learned a valuable lesson. I didnâ€™t exactly â€œbreak upâ€ with The Surrogate. Weâ€™re still friends to this day. But I started spending less time with her and more time pursuing other avenues of social interaction.
In being alone and available, I found more possibilities than I had when I was dug into my Surrogate Trench.
How can you find what youâ€™re looking for if youâ€™re not available for it?
Things have a way of finding you when youâ€™re ready for them.
Even in Cincinnati.