The event of my life happened on April 2, 1987. It was the most unlikely of events and was totally an accident. Unfortunately you can’t enjoy what I experienced. The modern world no longer tolerates that kind of thing.
The spring of 1987 was a calm part of my life. I owned my own home, I had money and I was living the dream. Only one thing was missing.
My desire to learn goes back to my childhood. With plenty of free time I could read from sunrise to sunset. I would walk to the corner café for a cup of coffee and dinner most days. I would putz around the place and yak with the local farmers as I swilled my coffee. Sometimes I would hop behind the counter and pour coffee. The patrons loved the conversation so the owner comped most of my meals and coffee.
As much as I was enjoying life I was lonely. (And young!) The farmers were a mild diversion and books were a mild form of cocaine, but there was still something missing.
I would take a class or two at the local college those years. Eventually I met some people I really enjoyed talking with so we started to take the same classes. A degree made no difference to me so I just took what interested me with an emphasis in having a friend or two in each class.
The spring of 1987 was different. The loneliness was becoming unbearable. I had my eye on a cute girl in Microeconomics. She was heavy on the makeup, but had the look I found intoxicating. I tried to make small talk with her. I thought we were making a connection.
One day a group of guys were sitting in a side area with plenty of windows discussing historical issues. Some of the other guys had the class; I didn’t. My love interest was listening to the conversation.
At one point another guy participating in the conversation said something I felt was effeminate. My love interest was very offended and let me know about it. The gloss was off the rose. There are things worse than loneliness.
The next semester our small group, including my prior love interest, moved on to Macroeconomics. It was the spring 1987 semester.
Class was Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday was fine, but there were issues with Thursday. You see, our group was a bit on the frugal side and next to the college was The Image, a bar connected to the bowling alley. Thursday night was happy hour and if we got there before 7 we could buy a drink (I was a soda guy back then) for $1 and we could eat all the tacos we could scarf down.
Our group must have been charismatic because the professor understood our plight and agreed to cut breaks short so class could end 10-15 minutes early on Thursdays.
So far so good.
But as frugal as our group was we also needed to get out and enjoy life a bit, too. Every so often we would make plans for a Friday night at The Image. Then the fateful event happened.
The Image had a dance floor and contemporary music. We danced as a group but dating among our own was rare. I had no interest in any female members of our group. In fact, some of the female members of our group were later invited to my wedding.
On April 2, 1987, a meek girl with a sad face was dancing with her friend center of the dance floor. I had to meet her; I had to know her story.
She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. Girls like that don’t date guys like me. But the pang of loneliness was too strong to ignore. I gathered my courage and walked onto the dance floor and asked if I could join her and her friend. She nodded.
Why I didn’t pass out on the spot is beyond me. God probably loves crazy fools. We danced a few more songs and then left the dance floor and talked. It was loud and it was hard to make a real connection. We enjoyed a slow dance. Did I mention God, heaven and a few other out-of-this-world feelings I had?
The beautiful woman turned pale when I gave her my name. She didn’t tell me her name. I was disappointed.
I begged her to return the following week. To my surprise she did.
Instead of dancing we left The Image for the sitting area of the bowling alley where it was quieter. (Now you know how loud the music was.) We talked for hours. The connection was instant. I found my soul mate. If only she feels the same.
She finally shared her name. Sue. Her name was Sue. (She doesn’t like to be called Susan because that is what her dad called her when she was in trouble.) She told me she was engaged a few years prior to a guy with my name. It explained a lot.
She still refused to give me her phone number or address, but did say she lived near only a few blocks away, pointing in the direction of her home. She mentioned the name of the avenue, but not the exact address.
At the end of the evening I walked her to her car. I was rewarded with a hug. Sue promised to return the following week. We would see each other sooner.
Somewhere around midweek I started missing Sue. (I missed her sooner, but I was able to control myself for a few days.) After class (it might have been Thursday, but knowing me it was certainly Tuesday) I decided to take a ride down her street after class.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw her car outside a home a few blocks up from the college. Emboldened by my prior luck I stopped. I contemplated the risks Sue’s dad might own a gun. Lust got the better of me.
Sue’s mother answered. Sue came to the door. She invited me in. I was the luckiest man alive.
That was 31 years ago. We were married one year and six days after we met. A few weeks ago we celebrated 30 years of marriage and I never regretted a one.
When in a crowd I tell the story a bit differently now. I like to tell people the basic beginning facts where I met Sue, we danced, she wouldn’t give me her name or address or phone number and I walked her to her car.
Then I add I decided to drive up and down every street close to The Image until I found her car and made a nuisance of myself.
I think my fantasy story is more entertaining. And people like to think it’s funny. At least they used to. Up until the #metoo movement.
A Different World
If I pulled the stunt I did 30 years ago I would be drawn and quartered by the #metoo movement if not arrested. There’s even a good chance a few from the movement will criticize me for not knowing how the future would turned out and didn’t adjust my behavior accordingly back then.
Under today’s unwritten rules a lifetime of happiness for Sue and me would be sacrificed. Two beautiful daughters would never have been born. And we would never have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. What a waste!
Yet, the #metoo movement had to happen! Had to. With a wife and two daughters I feel deeply for the rights and safety of girls and women. Men can be cruel and even violent. Rare is the man suffering catcalls walking past a group of women. Women are not as lucky.
As important as the #metoo movement is, there are real problems with the revelations. So many women—if statistics are correct a majority of females (women and girls) suffer from harassment, assault and worse—are victimized that when they all come out with their story it is overwhelming. It begins to feel normal. And that is really bad.
So many women (and girls) have been abused that it is easy to start thinking every female is a victim and every male a scumbag. Nothing is further from the truth.
There are degrees of inappropriate behavior. (You can shoot me later for my opinion.) Rape and abuse of children is always the ultimate bad when discussing these issues. Touching is equally bad, but rape still is worse.
The real problem is communication. If men are honest they all have to admit saying or doing something inappropriate at one time or another. It could be as simple as an insensitive comment about appearance. As innocent as it was meant it still can cause harm because men have no idea how raw the nerves on women are after a lifetime of unrelenting male behavior.
Men who agree with the #metoo movement find themselves in a corner. What can they say without causing harm? What is an innocent inquiry could be construed in a harmful way.
As important as the #metoo movement is we must be careful. When a mere accusation becomes a conviction of guilt in the public arena we risk destroying the movement which offers so much hope for women in the future. Accusations are front page news and for good reason. People we thought highly of did some pretty shitty things!
But not every accusation should be treated equally. I saw an article in The Economist several months back where they listed all the famous people accused of inappropriate behavior. One man was listed with his photo. The inappropriate behavior? He made her feel “creepy”.
It gets uglier. Lawrence Krauss is an American cosmologist I highly admire. He talks English when explaining the complex issues surrounding theoretical physics and cosmology, two subjects I am very interested in and spend serious time studying.
In February of this year Krauss was suspended with pay from his position at Arizona State University due to a BuzzFeed article accusing him of inappropriate behavior and comments. He also resigned from positions in charitable organizations to prevent his attendance becoming a distraction.
Here is the funny thing. Nobody has accused Krauss of anything. Nobody! A news article (it’s on the internet so it must be true) was published with the intent to harm. That’s it. I’m not privy to all the facts, but what I do know concerns me. Nobody has complained over anything Krauss has said or done even when it was made public people were to come forward with anything they had.
That is really messed up and doesn’t do any good for society or the #metoo movement.
There is absolutely no doubt women and girls are abused and experience unwanted vulgar comments on a regular basis. The sheer volume is no longer an unspoken concern, but a raging crisis!
Every woman must be allowed to tell her story. We must also take appropriate action. If the accusations make it likely more women will be harmed immediate action must be taken as a precautionary. If imminent risk is not present we need to wait before passing judgment. The incidence of false claims is low, but still present. We can’t allow a movement with so much to offer to suffer due to a few questionable claims. The risk is too great.
Men are getting gun-shy. The newsfeeds are so filled with women victimized by men that men are feeling they are all guilty. On some level most men have said hurtful things. But an inappropriate comment shouldn’t stigmatize a man for life!
And men are not alone in saying things they shouldn’t. My office is all women so I hear what the ladies say and sometimes even I get uncomfortable. (I don’t avoid hiring men; they just don’t apply for the job.) I try to tone it down when they get boisterous with variable success.
The females in my office are a good bunch, but if men acted that way around women the boom would be lowered and the #metoo movement invoked. I might be the boss, but shouldn’t feel uncomfortable around female employees. Or should I?
When women talk about women stuff guys look nervously for the exits. Uncomfortable doesn’t mean wrong! Yes, my staff talks girl-talk because they are all female. I turn and walk the other way whenever I can. Just because it is uncomfortable for a male, me, to hear something doesn’t mean they are saying bad things.
Men and women are not that much different. We say and do things from our perspective, our worldview. Inappropriate touch is always wrong. Words can be wrong while not crossing a line. Anything insinuating unwanted sexual contact is always taboo and deserves a strong reaction.
The #metoo movement is causing some unwanted results. As men feel more and more isolated they are pulling back from intimacy. What Sue and I enjoyed 30 years ago is less likely to happen today. Why would I, or any man, pursue a love interest the way I did? That’s inappropriate behavior! And over 30 years of wedded bliss and two wonderful girls would never have existed.
The #metoo movement needs to find a middle ground where men and women can coexist.
The world is different today. The internet makes it easy for men to satisfy their, ah, needs without a human being present. Sorry for being so blunt, but it has to be said.
Women want intimacy and complain men no longer provide it. A simple hug is a social crime so men avoid all contact.
Let me be clear on what I am and am not saying. I’m not talking about sex. You can have sex without intimacy. That is what prostitution and strip clubs provide. Sex can include intimacy, but intimacy doesn’t require sex.
Intimacy is the emotional and personal connection between two people. Co-workers can have it; so can lovers. In each case it is a different level of intimacy. Soldiers on the battlefield must have a non-sexual intimacy sometimes referred to as trust. As you can see, intimacy has many flavors.
The intimacy I’m concerned with today involves the interpersonal relationships between men and women. Most women hunger for intimacy. Honest men admit the same. If I had to give up my snuggle-time with Sue my life would be greatly diminished. And for the record, snuggling is not for the young only. After 30 years of marriage I enjoy a warm snuggle more than ever. Pinky (my cat) only wants to snuggle on her terms. Sue is open to compromise to my delight.
What Does This Have to do with Personal Finance?
A frequent refrain in the personal finance arena involves happiness. Bloggers love to talk about the “why” of early retirement and financial independence (FI). FI can bring us happiness, we are told.
I think they are all wrong! Your goal isn’t happiness; it’s joy. You just don’t understand the difference between the words and it does make a difference.
Happiness is generally triggered by an external event while joy comes from within. Winning the lottery brings a lot of happiness upfront. That is why a leading book on Stoicism is called The Joy of Stoicism and not The Happiness of Stoicism. (Yes, I know I butchered the title. I did it to fit my storyline.)
We want happiness, but crave joy. When I felt lonely I was still happy, but longing for joy. Sue brought me happiness and I allowed it to bring me joy. No matter what happens, what is in here (pointing to head and heart) is what will bring me joy and Sue will always be in here.
What value is financial independence or early retirement if you don’t have joy? If happiness is what you want pretty much anything will do. But joy. That is a whole different animal.
I am well aware how long this post got. I’m still not sure I got everything out I wanted to say. The #metoo movement is so important and still at such risk of burning out before desperate changes are made in our society.
While changes are necessary to allow women to live without threat of assault or abuse, a common ground must be found where a man can pursue his love interest in an appropriate manner and not be branded. Chivalry should never be dead.
Most women enjoy being courted. It feels good to be wanted by someone you find appealing. Men must learn boundaries. It is easy (with a look or a word) to get permission to hug. This isn’t a hard game to learn: you don’t touch an intoxicated woman sexually; you never touch without permission even if you’re married (there are still boundaries in marriage; that is why mine is still strong after 30 years); offer intimacy before offering sex. Intimacy is more fun than sex! Sex is better with intimacy!
Or you can succumb to the alternative—prostitutes and strip clubs—a world devoid of intimacy. And a world I don’t want to live in.