On the Road

On the Road: 2002

Women and Their Big Buts
10 November 2002

"To touch is to heal.
To hurt is to steal.
If you want to kiss the sky, then learn how to kneel."
- Mysterious Ways, U2

Sometimes timing is everything and today turned out to be a case in point. You'll see why as you read this section.

First, though, I better explain this section's title before I get in any more hot water with the opposite sex.

It's kind of dorky, kinda funny. It's a reference to a Pee-Wee Herman joke.

In the classic comedy Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, which has managed to live on in endearment despite Paul Reubens' big misadventure, Pee-Wee discusses life, the universe, and everything with a down-on-her-luck waitress as they watch the sun rise while sitting in the mouth of a huge statue of a Tyrannosaurus rex. During their chat, Pee-Wee comments on how people always sacrifice their dreams for one reason or another. As he says, "All the women I know have a big 'but.'" They want to leave their bad relationship, but... They want to do this, but... They want to do that, but...

I, too, must say it seems like the vast majority of the women I know have a big "but."

It's a conversation that keeps popping up. And it's not limited to Denver. There seems to be a global epidemic of bigbutitis. Whether I'm at lunch in the canteen of this project's London office, in The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Brussels, Atyrau. It just doesn't matter where I am, and that's why the subject has wound up in this diary. The topic somehow always rears its ugly head and I always exit the conversation more disenchanted but still somehow determined to keep the concept of romance alive in my neverending search for a genuine relationship, or at least something like it.

I've heard it a million, billion times now. This girl or that girl just "wants to meet a nice guy."

Well, it gets old hearing about how I am a nice guy, but...

Come on.

Women don't want "just a nice guy." They've got a laundry list of a couple dozen criteria that must be met before the first date can even happen. Looks and material worth are among those criteria. It's embarrassing to watch some of you "ladies" try to cover up those sentiments.

Then I keep hearing about how women are supposed to outgrow the "challenge factor" around the time they turn 25. If that's the case, then I know a lot of women who have turned 25 at least a couple times now and still haven't outgrown their taste for "self-imposed difficulty."

You know the challenge factor. It's when a woman wants a man simply because it's a challenge to get him to treat her right. In other words, wanting that which you can't have. In the meantime, he serves as a reason for her to cry with her girlfriends during another girl's night out of male bashing.

I've been subjected to too many of those male-bashing conversations already. It's gotten to the point of being simply insulting to me, as an individual. I'm hardly here to defend all men. Most of them do suck rocks and most of them I don't want to know. There are a few of us worth knowing, however, and, for the most part, we're all single.

I'll probably never forget, unfortunately, a girl I'll simply refer to as Clueless. We were co-workers in a tiny little office and we got along quite well; we had lots of laughs. As fate would have it, she became one more in a string of many, many bizarre stories. But she was exceptionally bizarre.

She was dating a man I'll refer to as Jackass. He lied to her from Day One. If it wasn't about his age (he was significantly older than he led her to believe), it was about something else. Not only that, he couldn't keep a steady job, owed thousands upon thousands of dollars from business deals gone bad, cheated on her while selling Play-Doh at the Pueblo State Fair, and (surprise!) none of her friends could stand the guy.

Jackass had an extremely young ex-wife, even younger than Clueless. Jackass had a kid with his ex-wife and I knew Jackass had been visiting when I'd stop by Clueless' place and see toys lying around on the floor. Clueless told me stories of how Jackass' ex would call her, absolutely devastated and in tears, and explain to her how Jackass destroyed her life.

His defense? "She's lost it."

Clueless told me about when her very own mother sent her to a therapist for some counseling. The therapist said of Jackass, "He's gangrene! You've got to cut him off!"

Naturally, she went back to Jackass. After all, if Mom and your therapist are against him, Jackass has gotta be good for you, right?

I'll probably never forget, unfortunately, walking into work one morning and asking where Clueless was. Turned out she was in jail waiting for the boss to bail her out because Jackass, the reason for her being in jail to begin with, wouldn't rectify the situation.

After all that, I was stupid enough to take Clueless out to dinner and a concert. We were friends, we were co-workers, and I liked the girl. That night, we had a good time, for the most part.

But, it was weeks before I got to speak with her again. She wouldn't return my calls.

Of course, she had gone back to Jackass yet again. It didn't matter that she was working two jobs and was extremely busy. What hurt was finding out her "smoke break" during the concert was spent with... yes... Jackass.

And then I laid down the Great Law of Mattopia and I explained to her she was indeed the stupidest girl I ever met. It's quite an accomplishment for a woman to get me that fed up. Congratulations are in order, I guess.

Needless to say, we never spoke after that and I have no idea if what I had to say ever sank in. For better or worse, that's probably the way it should be.

Be honest, ladies. How many of you can relate to her story?

That's the kind of stuff and the kind of people I refer to as "emotional terrorism" and "relationship terrorists."

Nice guys? Well, women stay away from them because they don't want to hurt them. After all, it's so much easier to dump a guy that treats you like crap when you finally realize you're not up to the challenge, right? As if the staying away part doesn't cause some kind of hurt to the nice ones? Whatever, Girlfriend. Talk to the hand. Blah blah blah...

Yeah. I know there's a lot that needs to happen behind the scenes. There's the chemistry, the spark, the magic.

But, in my opinion, which means precious little to most women when I talk about relationships, women put up a lot of artificial barriers that prevent success (this thought goes beyond only relationships and can be expanded to other parts of life, such as career, by the way). From a certain point of view, it's a monster of your own making. It's that Adam and Eve thing haunting people to this day.

One woman I've chatted with out here has sworn off serious relationships and recently turned down a marriage proposal (no, I wasn't at the receiving end of the rejection). She's a major honey baby, believe me. But she's not interested in marriage and says she won't be until she's much older, like in a retirement home (if she lives that long, she further qualifies the comment). The problem, she observed, is that it's so difficult to keep the magic - and the wanting to share life - going in a relationship. After a year, the desire starts to wear thin.

I'm being lead to believe by several different and positively jaded women that it's virtually impossible to keep the desire alive on behalf of both parties. But I don't buy that argument. It might take some work, but it can be done... I think.

It's a matter of finding a woman who hasn't yet killed her inspiration. Are any of you left... and single?

It's sort of ironic that I was writing this little essay on a laptop while sitting in the lobby of the Sofitel Den Haag, next to a window facing Centraal Station. A sweet, innocent little boy ran up, tapped on the window, smiled and waved at me. His smile was totally uninhibited and contagious. Naturally, I smiled and waved back. He then went back to his dad, who was also smiling at the scene.

That was irony Number One of Four for the day.

As it turned out, it was another dreary, cold, rainy winter's day in The Hague. After a late night in Amsterdam and being up 'til 2:45, it was a slow-paced morning that included my quasi-traditional Sunday morning spurt of working on this diary. Finally with my act together, I took off in the afternoon for the Mauritshuis, the home of the fabled painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The Mauritshuis quickly became one of my favorite museums in the world. It's a converted house/mini-palace, complete with wood floors which, for the most part, don't even squeak! As an added bonus, it's situated with a nice view of the Hofvijver/canal and central Den Haag.

Of course, there's also a lot of nice art on view: Rembrandts, Vermeers, Rubenses and the like. The Dutch Masters.

Among my favorites:
Christoffel van den Berghe's landscapes (from 1615-1620)
Hendrick Avercamp's On the Ice from 1610, which includes some humorous details
Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp from 1632
Jan van der Heyden's Amsterdam landscape from 1670-ish (the man was another da Vinci; he invented the street lighting system used in Amsterdam from 1668 to 1840 and he invented the first fire extinguisher with a hose)
Willem van Haecht's Apelles Painting Campaspe from 1630-ish

And, of course, Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, the "Dutch Mona Lisa"

Let's see. When I first went in search of this girl at the Gemeentemuseum, I figured she was a figure of some historical significance. Well, as it turns out, she never even existed. Oh, the painting does. It's very nice and eerily realistic. But the woman was never a living woman. It turns out Vermeer was using a trick instigated by Rembrandt and Lievens in which the "fictional" characters they painted wore a turbin, as was this young woman.

The painting itself also has a somewhat interesting story. It was bought by a man named des Tombe at an auction in 1881 for the equivalent of 1.04 euros and it was donated to the Mauritshuis in 1902.

The fact that the girl with the pearl earring never existed was irony Number Two.

Irony Number Three was quickly on its heels. While looking out the windows of the Mauritshuis' second floor, watching the wind and rain play havoc with the water in the canal and taking in the atmosphere of the whole storm, I noticed a sweet, innocent little girl walk up to the museum's gate, look up, smile and wave at me. Her wave was totally uninhibited and contagious. Naturally, I smiled and waved back.

She then went back to her mom, who was also smiling at the scene.

I remember co-workers who actually teased me about walking the hallways and smiling and waving at people back during my torturous days working for an inept sofware company. Why? I don't know. Maybe they don't understand the simple friendliness behind the gesture. Maybe they were dropped on their heads when they were babies.

Irony Number Four came during a pint of Guinness at The Fiddler. This nice (and, yeah, single) bloke named Sam commented on how he's read autobiographies and thought how his would be rather simple: "I go and hang out at a pub." I guess the irony there is how this simple diary is turning into a bloated autobiography.

So what's the point of all this, you ask?

Maybe there are two lessons:
1. At some point we stop smiling and waving at each other and learn how to treat each other like poopies.
2. The images we have of the ideal beauty/mate might not even exist in reality.

And a third bonus lesson from left field, one which I've said repeatedly during the past year:

The good guys will win. They always do in the end. Remember that one, ladies.

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