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Romantic wistfulness not yet deselected by the human genome

Autumn 2006, Kilkenny
Ireland — I saw Carolina [a friend of a housemate] on the town the other day, and this encounter provides me with another piece of the puzzle. The puzzle is this: women and their boyfriends.

Carolina told me that she's bored. She said she's thinking about going to Australia.

This is the question: How could a person be bored, if she really loved somebody? And how could she consider going out of the country by herself, if she really loved a man? Then, here comes the obverse question, the second part of a two-part quandary:   Why would she be with somebody unless she really loves him?

But maybe that's just me. Men do the same thing: something is better than nothing, for most people, when it comes to sex and companionship.

I was out today walking. I went to see her, actually, where she had told me she works. I was interested to talk with her about something we'd discussed.

I'd told her "maybe we should get together." She had said "you mean go out?" and I'd waffled a bit on it; but that had been what I meant. She told me that she has a boyfriend, and that he'd be very jealous; that maybe we'd go have coffee sometime when we meet on the street. To which I'd agreed, as one would. But I felt I'd been less than fully direct; and that this had been due to lack of courage and not merely discretion.

Anyhow, I wanted to go see her, find out if I could speak with her. I got nearly there, and I stopped myself — "she has a boyfriend."

I wasn't afraid. I could have walked in there with some confidence, because I genuinely like the girl.

But, she has a boyfriend.

Walking back toward home, I began to think of other times when I have been enamored of a woman who is with somebody.

And that's where the piece of the puzzle began to fit.

The standard theory, the one my friends have seemed to advocate with a solid consistency, has been that I was living in my imagination; that women who had no interest in me were not giving me signals, and that I was making it all up in my head.

It's a safe theory, and respectable. Anyhow, there's always been something screwy about my belief there's anything possible with a woman who has a guy. No, I never wanted her to cheat; but yes I've held romantic ideas of possibility.

And there, in the word "romantic," lies the clue.

Most relationships, I think, are pretty pedestrian.

Women have boyfriends the way that they shop or spend a long time in the bathroom. It's just something that they do.

My error has often been to mistake the pedestrianism of women's relationships with any possibility that she would separate from him.

Most women don't need strong feelings about a man in order to sustain a relationship. Most men are the same; but women seem to have a higher tolerance for normality — or at least a greater tendency to stay with a partner who is "good enough."

But she's bored.

And she has dreams of romanticism, the way that a man has dreams of the physically attractive woman.

And there I am, obviously of a romantic sensibility. On some days more than others, I may carry myself with a kind of a wistful, dreamy, poetic sort of demeanor.

I'm not the boyfriend sort — not the safe, average kind of fellow who matches her list of preferred qualities. She wouldn't really consider being together with me, and in truth you could not say that she's interested in me at all.

And, so, the theory is true; she doesn't want me like she wants her boyfriend. The court finds against me.

The theory is true, but incomplete. She does not give me signals. She is not teasing me, flirting with me, nor showing any possibility to me. But she has an essential characteristic that shows — and I can see it, feel it.... Something is missing.

Her relationship is satisfactory. But doesn't every woman dream of romance, real love; the destructive overwhelming power of something sweet, something other, something more than just good enough....

I have such a dream myself. She can see that, and sometimes she looks at me like she thinks I'm kind of alright.

I misinterpret.

More accurately, I interpret — which is a failing tendency, for a male, and one that ought to have been deselected genetically by now, for all its uselessness in the breeding game.

— 23 September 2006, Kilkenny Ireland