Once (or twice) upon a time, I went out on a date with a young man who had two different first names. They both started with the letter “S”. He had two different last names, too. I remember both of them — not only because he had scribbled them on a scrap of paper with his hotel room phone number on it (which is the only time anyone’s ever done this for me), but because out-of-the-ordinary things like that tend to stay with me.
We met at the mall the summer after my college graduation. I was working there as the assistant manager of a fabric and crafts store. He was the regional manager for a candy store that was opening a new location in the mall. He had come to town only for a couple of weeks — long enough to set up the new store, hire a team to run it and be on his way back home.
I met him one day when he came into my store looking for Velcro. He was going to use it to put up some sort of signage in his store. I helped him out and he was on his way. The next day, he was back… for more Velcro. This time, he brought a sales associate from his store with him. And the next day, he was back for even more Velcro… and now had two sales associates with him. His need for large amounts of Velcro — and an entourage to help him purchase it — was starting to concern me.
As it turned out… he was just using the Velcro as an excuse to see me again. And the reason he kept bringing employees with him was to give him the nerve to ask me out. Which he did do. Although he did not appear to be my type* at all, I accepted… after my own co-workers nudged me in that direction. They thought he was handsome and sweet — particularly the part about him going out of his way to buy all that Velcro in hopes of acquiring my interest.
So… I gave him a chance. We took a lunch break together that day, sitting somewhere in the mall, where I immediately spilled something on the front of my white sweater, instantly revealing to him how much of a dork I was (am). But… that was also when he wrote his hotel number on the scrap of paper, and his two names. I just didn’t know the story of “why” of the double names yet.
Strangely, my parents and sister all happened to be out of town that week… so I invited S/S over to the house (which is where I was living at the time). I made a salad, garlic bread and lasagna from scratch (it was my go-to, home-cooked meal), which he came over to eat with me one evening after work. After dinner, we went out to see a movie.
The next night, my parents were back in town, so instead of hanging out at the house, S/S and I went out. Before we left, he mentioned that he’d been in the Army until he’d injured his wrist and could no longer hold a gun. My dad seemed to like hearing this information, still being a military man himself in those days. (Weeks later, he asked me, “Whatever happened to that young man you went out with?” I shrugged, “He was only in town for a couple of weeks. He went home.”)
I need to fill you in on something real quick here. My parents’ house is at the top of a hill. It’s very dangerous to turn left out of their drive, so we always tell people (and there is a sign up at the road to remind them) to count to five and then turn right. We all instructed S/S to do this, as is the usual farewell-and-drive-safely message to those who are visiting. Did he do as we asked? Nope. (STRIKE 1.)
Anyway, all S/S and I did on our second evening together was hang out… umm… uhh… in his hotel room. NOTHING HAPPENED. (Seriously. I am not that kind of girl!!! I barely knew the guy!!!) We just watched TV and talked about this and that. I suppose it was during this chat when he explained his two names to me: his real dad was no longer in his life, so his new dad had adopted him and given him a new name. But he had been known by the first one till he was about ten years old, so he hadn’t quite let it go.
So how did our story end? Well… when he was returning me home that evening, he leaned over to kiss me before I got out of the car. But, as I have already noted above, I am not that easily swayed into the realm of romance… so I backed away and told him I wasn’t ready for that kind of thing. He seemed to understand… but two seconds later, he leaned over to me anyway… and went in for the kill. (STRIKE 2.) And I — horrified and mortified and feeling totally disrespected — told him, “Sorry, but….” and got out of the car, upset that he had just ruined the moment.
Such a shame, ’cause I’d actually thought I might be able to really like him. But… you know, I had clearly communicated my boundaries… and he had blatantly ignored me. Again.
(BTW… I just re-read this story and realized how totally scary it is that a young girl brought a strange man into her home when no one was around and had no clue he could handle a gun. And then she went to his hotel room. Eek. He seemed nice enough at the time, though. 😛 All’s well that ends well???)
A couple weeks later, the phone at the store where I worked rang. I answered it. It was him. He asked to speak with “Catherine.” (STRIKE 3.) So I told him there was no one there by that name. He sighed and said, “Catherine/Cathleen… what’s the difference? I know it’s you. I just wanted to apologize about the other night.” But he got my name wrong… and customers were piling up, so I told him it was inappropriate for me to have that conversation while I was working and asked him not to call me there again.
[For the record, shortly after this phone call fiasco, I did try to get in touch with S/S. I wanted to hear him out and see if it was worth making amends. So I looked him up in the phone book, went to the new mall candy store to ask for his contact information… but kept hitting dead ends. This was before the Internet, when such searches were not so easy… and even a few years later when the Internet did begin to make contacting someone less challenging, I still could not find him. It was just as well… because time had gone by. And that was that.]
Anyway… about 10 years later, it dawned on me why S/S didn’t remember my name that day on the phone. It was likely because names, in general, didn’t mean the same thing to him as they meant to me — I only had one; he had two. Maybe he didn’t weigh them as heavily as I did, as part of his identity.
And so, ultimately, as it turned out, S/S taught me another one of Life’s little lessons: What someone calls you is not as important as what they feel for you.
Perhaps, Catherine/Cathleen should have been more willing to let him explain himself. Then again… there was that listening problem of his. Oh, well.
*I can’t really say that I have a “type”, but I can say that I prefer “M”s. 😉