Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lost in My Labyrinth

Lost in my labyrinth: three provocative tales.

Attraction is sometimes a garden inside a labyrinth, other times a labyrinth inside a garden.

The first two tales are about gardens before me, within reach, if I could have seen beyond my own labyrinth. The third is about a genuine labyrinth, not of my own making, of which I skirted the edges and stayed clear.

All are from long ago, when I taught at Wayne State University. I listen to Ray Anderson and his “Ibrahim Electric” cd as I write this.

A very sexy young lady, toward the end of the term, came to my office hours for a conference on how she could improve her grade. Her blouse was open at the top, revealing a generous cleavage and ample breasts; she wore very short shorts. I duly went over her paper—she was smart, and with minor improvements would write very good papers. At the end of the conference, she thanked me, stood up with her paper and smiled, and said, “Thanks, teach.” This was probably one of the last times I would see her, and it was hard to keep from staring. I didn’t want her to leave. I was embarrassed, said something like “Stay in touch,” and had to consciously keep from watching her go out the door. Months after the class was over, I ran into her and a date at a pizza parlor. She looked as beautiful then as she had in my office. She smiled very warmly, extended her hand, reminded me of her name, and asked if I remembered her. Of course I did. I think on both occasions I was being offered an opportunity, but I was too naïve to respond.

In another class, I had another beautiful young lady. She was not “hot,” but she was very attractive, slender, had a dancer’s body, and was very bright. As it turned out, she was a dancer. By the fourth or fifth week, I was on the verge of asking her out. By the seventh week, I did so. She seemed shocked and instantly declined. I was shot down, but thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and quit thinking about her, knowing also that it was better for me not to develop any personal relationship with a female in a class. The next week, though, she asked me a question after class and was very warm in her smile, as though she might have given my invitation some thought and decided it might not be so amiss. She continued to be very friendly. But by that time, I had abandoned all hope and never renewed the invitation. I never saw her after the class finished, but I thought some time later that I had perhaps once again missed an opportunity.

Both woman, in addition to being attractive, seemed very nice.

Then there was a third occasion. This girl was not attractive in her face—she had buck teeth and stringy blond hair, but her body was tremendous. I finally asked her out, she accepted, and we came back to my apartment after a dinner where conversation was somewhat desultory. She demurred at any hint of intimacy, but the next week invited me to dinner with her family.

She lived with them in a small house, and we sat down to dinner. Her father, whom she introduced as a Baptist minister, was in a wheelchair. I don’t remember the mother talking much at all, but the father was friendly in a way that suggested the ferocity of an ancient prophet, and I began to size up the situation. I was there to be sized up myself, by a very Puritanical family, the mother cowed, the children obedient under threat of severe discipline, and the attractive daughter terrified of any kind of sexual adventure beyond looking attractive. I, of course, must have seemed like an alien: boots, beard, longish hair, and teaching job at that notoriously Communist/atheist institution, Wayne State University. It may have come out that I had done graduate work at U.C. Berkeley—the nail in my coffin.

After that evening, she continued to be friendly, but I didn’t ask her out again. After she moved on from my class, I saw her periodically in the halls—still the slumpy posture, stringy blonde hair and buck teeth, but an even more blatant, even desperate, attractiveness—long white skirts slit nearly up to her underwear and shirts open at the top. I even commented on it one day when I stopped to chat with her. She just shrugged. I’m sure her dress was a sign of some kind of raging, unsatisfied, and puzzling sense of Hormones Rising, but she didn’t seem aware of the full range of implications to her appearance and the way men might respond. Then after awhile, I didn’t see her anymore.

There are lessons here. If I weren't married, I would pay more attention to them. The most important is, be alert to encouragement and don't feel that really desirable women are beyond your reach. (I must say that my wife is one--so the early lessons paid off.)