Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why Dating Didn't Work


Last week I wrote a story that illustrated I wasn’t a total wimp when younger. I could—when push came to shove—speak up for myself. As the psychiatrist in St. Paul said many years later, “Dee, you have the deepest sense of survival of anyone I’ve ever worked with.” I think I felt my survival being threatened by that first Dayton psychiatrist. He set up roadblocks to my surviving in a new environment.
         As I indicated at the end of that posting, I soon found a second psychiatrist. I want to tell you about that experience, but before doing so, I need to share with you my life outside work those first months after I left the convent.


The Loretto Guild

         This past April I described the Loretto Guild where I lived for the first few months of 1967. While there, I met four young women who became friends. Like me, they worked in downtown Dayton. Unlike me they hadn’t been in the convent, so they were younger than I—all in their early twenties. But in the ways of the world they were so much more sophisticated and knowledgeable.         
         These four women—all different just as the women in the convent had been—helped me settle into the life of a single young woman in a bustling city. I have such good memories of our laughter each night when we went out to local restaurants for supper or settled in the lounge of the Loretto to watch television and gab.



“Dance at Bougival” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

         With them I went to the local dances sponsored by the Catholic Church in a Dayton auditorium. It was there I met two men in their thirties who asked me out on dates. Hesitant, shy, awkward—I was all of these and more. Inarticulate often, I was inept at carrying on a conversation with a man. I still carried with me the fear of the neighbor who’d molested me for three months in fifth grade. (Click here and here if you’d like to read that story.)
         Since I was ten, that fear had pervaded my entire response to men. It—and the acne I’d had in my teens and twenties—had been the reason I’d done so little dating in high school and college. Now I had to move beyond that fear and accept dates with these men and . . . let them kiss me goodnight after a movie or supper. Yet I so feared that one of them would clutch my breast or move his hand up my thigh.
         Here I was, thirty-one years old, no longer ten. I’d studied psychology in college. I’d been in the convent where, especially in Omaha, I’d learned to be resolute when faced with difficult situations.


A 1966 Volkswagen Beetle.

         But in the darkness of a car on a residential street at eleven at night, I lost my certainty that I could say no if one of these men tried to go beyond where I felt comfortable. And so, when one of them would pull up at the curb before the residence where I was living, I’d clutch my purse and say, “Thank you,” while hurriedly opening the car door. I’d almost run up the sidewalk to the residence door, behind which safety beckoned.
         As you must already suspect, the men gave up on me. My conversation was forced. My response to sexual overtures was awkward. My confidence in myself was nil. I must have been—I’m quite sure of this—a dismal date!
         So I stopped going to the dances. I stopped dating. And instead I went to night school to learn more about literature. I could hide in a book.

All photographs from Wikipedia except for the Loretto Guild, which is from the Dayton Library Postcard Collection.            

42 comments:

  1. Learning is not necessarily escapism; it's a complete valid occupation at a station in life. I remain fascinated and uplifted by your honesty of emotion now.

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    1. Dear Joanne, thank you for your kind words about my honesty. I do true to seek for the truth within myself so as to understand everyone I meet. I think that within ourselves and our experiences lie the truth that we can use to understand not only ourselves but others. Peace.

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  2. Echoing Joanne. And still thinking of the things I wish had happened to that man who damaged so much in your life.

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    1. Dear Sue, he did damage my life. The person I am most sad for is his daughter. I wonder what he did to her. Peace.

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  3. Some fears surely stay with us, as such a thing should. Dating is a pain in the butt anyway, better to read and write.

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    1. Dear Pat, I can't imagine my life without reading and writing. I'm so glad that I had such fine teachers in my schooling who nurtured my love for learning. And my parents did the same. Peace.

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  4. Dearest Dee, was I reading about you when you were younger, or myself? You just didn't meet the right young man, for if you had, he would have perservered knowing your shyness held you back. All he had to do, was be a friend and gain your confidence. I love the Renoir painting and the beetle bug car...its my favoured. xxx

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    1. Dear Crystal Mary, I, too, love that Renoir painting. I wasn't dressed like that back in 1967 but the young girl seems shy and so I've always related to her. Peace.

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  5. Dee, you write so well. I value your candor and awareness and I'm grateful you are sharing your life and experiences.

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    1. Dear Carol, thank you for saying that I write well. It's taken me years to really believe that I can craft a good sentence. It's so helpful for me to share my life and experiences. At 78, the time has come to look back over a long life and to find its meaning and to grow in an understanding of all that has been. Peace.

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  6. Your life story is fascinating, probably because you tell it so well!!

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    1. Dear Fishducky, I must say that you always make me smile when you leave a comment. You are so good for my ego!!! Thank you. And it's good to know that you are able to use that arm and comment again. I'm glad you are better. Peace.

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  7. Some fears never leave us, unless we happen to meet the person who can be a friend first and then, maybe, gradually, a lover. It's sad to think of that's man's daughter. I hope he didn't hurt her. Your honesty in these posts helps people. I'm sure that more than one person has read your blog and said, Ah, at last, someone understands.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Dear Janie, I do hope that these stories help others, just as reading the blogs I read often help me to commit to exercise or to reading a book or viewing a movie--thank you, Janie--or planting a garden or exploring my relationships to friends and family or to welcoming others who may be ill or in need. Peace.

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  8. You did quite a bit with your life, Dee, and maybe would not have accomplished so much or touched so many lives if you had taken a different path in life.

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    1. Dear Arleen, I don't regret my life or the choices I've made. I think somehow that all of us touch so many lives during our lifetimes and the hope always is that we have touched others for their good and for the good of the Universe. We need, I believe, a light touch on life. Peace.

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  9. I am sometimes amazed at myself, Dee, when an incident occurs and I find my 10 year old self appearing again. I can only imagine, enlightened by your writing here and at other times, how your traumatic childhood experiences have followed you through life. What impresses me, however, is how you now use them here, writing about them, and, as I've said before, giving others strength and resolve.

    As to literature and writing - we are blessed, aren't we, to have books in our hand?

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    1. Dear Penny, thank you for saying that you, too, experience that 10-year-old within. Sometimes, when I am reading the newspaper and see articles about children horribly abused, I shudder, knowing that for the rest of their lives this tragedy will color their response to those they meet and to the happiness and contentment that is their right. The lives of some children are truly terrifying.

      As to books---I simply cannot imagine life without them. One of the hardest things in the convent was not having novels and non-fiction to read about all of life. Everything we read had a "religious" or spiritual foundation: Merton, Abbot Marmion, Jacque Rousseau, and the emerging theologians of the fifties and sixties. I so enjoyed reading them, but I longed for a good novel! Peace.

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  10. Dating is never easy even for those with no ghosts in their past. I can only imagine how uncomfortable you were in those dates. I am just so sorry that you didn't meat a man who could make you realize that they all were not like that creep from your childhood. Thankfully, being a "pair" is not all there is to life. You have done quite well with your many tools.

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    1. Dear Arkansas Patti, you know, I did meet men who were thoughtful and with whom I could carry on a conversation. But they were mostly all married to women who became friends. And the reason, I think, that I could be comfortable with these men is that they weren't a threat. They were married and so I knew they'd have no interest in me as a woman. And so I have always tended to have a number of wonderful men friends. Peace.

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  11. Dee,
    Beautifully written, as always. Healing words...that's what you write! My daughter is 10 and starting the 5th grade. I can't imagine anything like that happening to her. I remembered your posts from long ago about your neighbor. So sad you had to go through that.
    Much love,
    Stephanie

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    1. Dear Stephanie, I, too, have a ten-year-old in my life. She came to visit me in April and when I see her innocence and joy in life and her wide-eyed optimism, I am so hopeful that nothing will spoil that. I feel a fierce desire to protect her. And I can understand a little of what my mom must have felt when she learned what the neighbor was doing. Peace.

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  12. I think the men are creepier now than they were back then. At least they were for the most part, gentlemen. Men are wimps now prob caused by the feminist movement. They are so confused they don't know their role. To date or not to date..... to marry or not to marry..... neither such a big deal in my thoughts. I think I would also have been just as happy had I not married but I did it for financial reasons. I never wanted to work. But all the time I spent raising kids, you were gaining knowledge. Find peace in that.

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    1. Dear Manzanita, yes, the two men who wanted to date me were gentlemen. They really didn't try anything untoward. They simply wanted to kiss me good-night. But even that was too terrifying for me.

      I don't know really about men today. I have a number of good friends who are men and they seem confident in themselves, but I really don't know any men in their thirties or twenties, so I'm not sure how feminism has affected those younger generations.

      As to the married vs. the unmarried state of life, I'm happy single and have been content not to be married. At one time, I did want to adopt a child, but with the help of friends realized that I am such a loner and in many ways a recluse and I'm so just to having a great deal of time for myself--quite time--that I truly would need a companion to raise a child. And so I never adopted. I simply enjoyed the children of friends! Peace.

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  13. Interesting what life does to us/for us... I enjoy reading about your experiences and I have one question. You may have answered this one, but I don't remember right now what your answer was... "Would you have gone to the convent knowing what you know now????

    Glad you were able to begin dating --as hard and awkward as it was. As you probably remember, my brother sexually molested me when I was a child. I didn't think it would affect me or bother me as I grew up--but it did. I did date and I did get married. BUT--I always struggled to have a good sexual relationship with my husband. I finally got counseling --which helped me tremendously. BUT--life experiences do make a difference in our lives...

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Dear Betsy, I continue to feel chagrined because of what you went through as a child. A brother in your house doing that is so much more terrifying than what I experienced in a neighbor's car on the way to and from school. I can so easily understand why that affected your sexual relationship with your husband.

      I've had lots of counseling, but we truly never talked a lot about me and sex and men. I've been content to be single and so never really felt the need to explore this. And yet perhaps that would have been a good thing. Peace.

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    1. Dear LadyFi, thank you for stopping by to visit and taking the time to comment. I'm glad you found the story "fascinating." I'm never sure whether these snippets from my life speak to anyone and I'm always surprised when readers leave comments that indicate they resonated with the story and the words. Peace.

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  15. Dee, I'm another who admires the honesty with which you write of the difficulties and also triumphs of your younger self. I'm not at all surprised that you found dating so awkward, given your childhood experience and also your convent years. It can be horribly awkward even without those inhibiting factors.

    But never think of books and learning as an escape, but as an enrichment which eventually turned you into a writer.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, you know, I really don't often think of books and learning as an escape. I can't imagine life without either. I've had a couple of people tell me--because I tend to ponder life--that I need to stop thinking. But I'm of the opinion that Socrates held that "the unexamined life is not worth living." And it is from novels--read as both child and adult--that I have learned so much about life and about responses and reactions human beings have to it.

      The truth is that I love to learn and I love to research and that's the reason probably that I've tried to write the novels about first-century Palestine and a much earlier Bronze Age in Greece. So really, in Dayton when I began taking college courses again and went weekly to the library I felt so at home. Peace.

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  16. I am so sorry that you were a victim of such a horrendous crime! My heart bleeds for you. Although, I know you have moved on...I still wish to give you a hug. You are very brave.

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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    1. Dear Linda, thank you for reading this posting as well as the two links I gave to earlier postings. That was sort of a marathon!

      I'm sort of amazed that you see me as brave. I think all of us meet experiences in life that call forth from us fortitude we didn't know we had until we met a barrier. We surprise ourselves often I think with the inner strength we seem to have. Peace.

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  17. I always thought I was lucky because I already had a boyfriend/lover senior year before I was beaten and gang raped right after I graduated. At least it wasn't my first experience. But I think it effected my relationships with men all my adult life--more than I realized at the time. Probably a big reason I've been happier the last 21 years being alone.

    After your early horrible experiences you had been protected for so many years. No wonder you were scared! And you must not have found anyone to make you feel safe. I know I never did. Looked hard--LOL! Never did find a safe place with a lover that was real.

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    1. Dear Rita, your experience of gang rape and beating horrifies me. And it tells me how strong you are within. In your posting you appear to be a contented human being who appreciates her own gifts and the gifts of others. Your philosophy of life is so sound and joyful, You have, through your blog, touched and enriched and influenced so many lives for the good of all.

      You know, I find myself believing in reincarnation because the lives of some people whom I've read about in the newspapers or of people I've met seem so difficult and so tragic that I want them to have another life so as to embrace the beauty and the joy that can be threaded through life. You seem to truly have done that. Peace.

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  18. Those early traumas can be so devastating and truly change the course of one's life. I so respect and admire you for your courage and honesty in writing about the painful times of your life... and the beauty of your words.

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    1. Dear Kathy, I've spent so many hours sitting in a room with a psychiatrist or a counselor or a spiritual director that it would be hard not to be honest. With questions, comments, concern, and respect, they have elicited from me my fears and dreams and hopes. They have helped me recognize the patterns in my life and choose those I will let go of because they no longer serve me or are destructive. I have been so fortunate to have the money to afford this help. Also somehow, from somewhere, came the fortitude to explore the dark recesses of myself. To explore and then to embrace. Peace.

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  19. Dee, you have courage even today to take a look back at the sexual abuse in your early life and to speak to us about some of the post-traumatic responses you endured. The period you're talking about must have been so confusing to you. That you even tried to date tells me that at the time you had some hope of sharing what perhaps other friends were talking about and hoping to enter into wider social experiences than you could have known during the convent years. I really love hearing your stories and hope that they will all at some time be included in the book you are writing. Your resilience and fortitude despite such difficulties is an encouragement to anyone who listens to what you have to share. Continue to be well, my friend! ox Debra

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    1. Dear Debra, thank you for the words of encouragement. As time passed--beyond these early Dayton days--I settled in Minnesota and made many friends--couples and single women. I've had a life rich in friendship and that's been such a blessing because sometimes I can't sort through the details of a problem and I always have friends to call who can help me clarify! Peace.

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  20. I'm sorry you had to go through all that! But think you are an amazing woman and everything you write is so inspiring and it can help a lot of people! Thank you for being so wonderful!

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    1. Dear Baiba, thank you for your supportive words about my writing. One of the things that blogs--like yours and others--do so well is inspire others as they, too, journey through life.

      I hope the upcoming school year is a good one for you. That you'll have fun while learning a lot! Peace.

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  21. Visiting your blog is like reading a good book. You leave me hanging and I want to learn more about you. It's good that you have been able to write about your life so freely. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. Dear Lori, what a wonderful thing to say--that this blog is like a "good book." Right now I'm working on a manuscript that incorporates many of the postings I've done on the blog--the ones about the convent. I'm hoping to add to those postings and come up with a 70,000-word memoir! I'm up to 40,000 words now. Peace.

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