There’s a line at the end of the movie, “Last Chance Harvey” (2008), starring Dustin Hoffman as “Harvey” and Emma Thompson as “Kate,” that goes like this (you can read the plot for the movie at this link). As Kate and Harvey are slowly strolling down a sidewalk, Harvey invites Kate to ask him the questions she would have asked him earlier at the airport terminal in London where they first met (and he brushed her off), and this time when she asks him for his place of residence, he answers, “I’m in transition.”
I can soooooo relate to his answer. That’s the same place where I’ve been living for the past five years with a very recent change in location back to Orlando where I lived twice previously for total of 8 1/2 years (1 1/2 years the first time and 7 years the second time). I left after the second time ten years ago in 2004. My stay in Orlando this time may be brief or long term depending what unfolds in the next few days/weeks since it is not a job that brought me back to Orlando, but rather a kind offer from a friend living here who offered me her spare bedroom when I lost my apartment in the town where I had been living on the west coast of Florida (just north of the St. Pete/Clearwater area). I lived there for 4 1/2 years when new owners bought the house where my apartment was located and upped the rent considerably (see my last post, “I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore” for details).
I first watched “Last Chance Harvey” when it came out in the theaters around Christmas in 2008 when I was living and working in Houston. The movie “focuses on two lonely people who tentatively forge a relationship over the course of three days. Dustin Hoffman plays an American composer who loses his job and his position as father of the bride in the course of a single day overseas [in London] while Emma Thompson plays an airport worker with a jaundiced view of relationships” (quote source here). Harvey is divorced and living in New York, and fits in like a square peg in a round hole with his daughter and her fiancée who are living, working, and getting married in London, and his ex-wife, her current husband, and their friends; and Kate is a never-married single woman living in London who is “overly cautious about romance because of so many past disappointments”; however, by the end of the movie while she initially resists Harvey’s suggestion “that they see what the future might bring them,” she “finally agrees to give things a chance” (quote source here). She wasn’t sure how it would all work out as she lives in London and he is from White Plains, New York, but as the movie ends and she asks him for his current place of residence, he states he is “in transition.” In other words, he’s not going back to New York any time soon.
At this point in my life and for the past decade or so I’ve become very much like Emma, and, like her, I have a rather “jaundiced view of relationships.” I’ve often thought as the years passed by that the role of “wife” was one of the worst roles in America to be stuck with mostly because of all the husbands I ran into, especially in the workplace, who were “out there” looking for affairs. And when I was young it seemed like more married men were interested in me that single men. And the single men who were interested had roving eyes, too, and seemed to always be looking for someone better or prettier or sexier or whatever . . . . I suppose we have Hugh Hefner to thank for the proliferation of that attitude with his publishing of the first mainstream porn magazine the year after I was born–the infamous Playboy Magazine. Now the glut of that kind of stuff in print and online with 24/7 access (and exponentially more hardcore than old Hef has ever published) has gone mainstream and rivals heroin or cocaine in its addicting capabilities. Just try to take porn away from some men and they get angry. And some of them will even yell that it’s their right to have it. Whatever . . . .
Sigh . . . . So I totally stopped dating nine years ago. For one thing, I couldn’t handle the total disrespect I got from men, mostly divorced and older than me at that point in time and who expected sex on the first date or shortly thereafter. And for them it wasn’t about a relationship either (most swore off any real relationship after their divorce). No, it was about sex, and if I wouldn’t do it, they weren’t interested in relating to me. So I stopped dating. Period. End of discussion . . . . I never cared to be “the latest one” in a long line of “serial lovers” or dating guys who had other women on the side. And I’m not a vending machine, either. And my life became a lot more peaceful until I lost my job in Houston five years ago.
It’s not like five years of unemployment hasn’t been hard enough to navigate, but adding a relationship to the mess seemed rather pointless, even though it gets incredibly lonely as long term unemployment has a way of isolating those who are left in its wake (and that’s a discussion for a whole different blog post which I doubt I ever write). And I had no interest in getting involved with someone just so that my own financial or housing situation might improve. I’ve never been into trading sex for love or money or even a roof over my head.
What brought this whole subject to mind was a recent picture I saw on Linkedin.com of a fellow I knew when I worked at that ill-fated job in Houston. He had a striking resemblance to a man I met 40 years ago (actually 39 and counting) when I was stationed in South Korea in the U.S. Army. Long story short I was going to marry him (although I wasn’t in love with him but he said he was in love with me). It was the summer/fall of 1974 and I was all of 22 and he was nine years older than me. He said he was divorced and had two kids (back in the states, obviously). And he asked me to marry him on several occasions and even bought me a little “pre” engagement ring (like a promise ring that was popular back then) until we both got back to the states. Fast forward a year (we were both back in the states by then) and I discovered, quite by accident, that he had never divorced his first wife. He was still married.
And I left him . . . .
I continued dating (dismally) through my 20’s (I hated being a part of that whole “free-love” hippie generation that made sex a free-for-all and respect for anybody became nonexistent), and as I hit 30, I met my second fiancée in a bookstore at a mall. He was divorced with kids (his ex-wife had custody of them and he really was divorced). He was five years older than me and was a self-employed social worker who traveled around the state doing social work at assisted living communities. He was also a narcissist, big time. Everything was always all about him or centered around his needs and wants. While we all tend to lean towards selfishness if it’s not kept in check, he absolutely worshipped himself. And it got really, really old. I found out later that he also “assisted” some of the nurses working in those communities. I wasn’t in love with him, either, but it was the year my mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she died, and he temporarily filled the void (or so I thought) in my life after my mother’s funeral. However, I called off the wedding six weeks before it was to take place (and I didn’t find out about the nurses until after he was out of my life, but to be honest it was no surprise).
After I broke off the engagement to this second guy I was never engaged to anyone again, but in my 30’s leading up to the time I turned 40 and moved to Florida (after accepting the one-year doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale), I met a man 17 years older than me and we struck up a friendship that is hard to describe. He was an architect and also an academic as he headed up the architectural drafting program at a local community college. I was mainly attracted to him because of his intelligence, but knew he was too old for me from a romantic standpoint, and I wasn’t attracted to him in that way anyway. He was very supportive of me when I decided to go back to college and work on a master’s degree at Iowa State University which I received in 1991 and excited for me when I was awarded the doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University and moved to Florida in June 1992.
When I first met him he said he was divorced and told me about his married daughter who was ten years younger than me, but I never met her. He was like a supportive mentor to me, and I knew he was physically involved with other women on the side but my relationship with him wasn’t primarily physical (though we would have arguments over that). I wasn’t attracted to him in that way, but I did become emotionally attached to him. He stated from the start that he was not interested in getting married again (and I wasn’t even totally sure he was divorced from his wife but it was clear that they didn’t live together). And because of our age difference and the fact that I wasn’t physically attracted to him, I had no interest in marrying him.
Over those years we spent a lot of our social time in restaurant bars like Chi Chi’s and sometimes in neighborhood bars, and over time I became aware of the fact that he was an alcoholic but it was hard to tell (except for the quantity that he could consume) until he had too much, and then he could be verbally abusive. At some point he told me he did have a problem with alcohol but that he stopped drinking hard liquor years earlier and only drank beer and wine during the time I knew him. But he drank gallons of beer every week and we could never eat at a restaurant unless they served beer or wine. Also, in his kitchen at the end of every week he’d built what I called his “Monument to Budweiser” from the empty beer cans he consumed during each week and it was always several feet high. Well, he was an architect.
We kept in touch by phone the first year I was in Florida and he came to visit me once. His beer consumption during that visit was just as it had always been and when he left to go back to Iowa, I knew it would be our last contact (and it was). I had outgrown the emotional attachment to him that first year in Florida, but I always wished him well. In some ways he was like a father figure to me, especially when he was so supportive regarding my going back to college to get a master’s degree and when I was awarded the one-year doctoral fellowship in Florida. And during the seven years I knew him, I didn’t feel pressured to “date” other guys (although he didn’t care) and it provided me with a perfect excuse to not date guys who asked me that I didn’t want to date, as I was so tired of dating guys who always expected sex at some point. It just got old beyond words.
I haven’t thought about any of these three main men in my life back in Iowa and in the Army in a long time until I saw that picture of the fellow who worked where I worked in Houston on Linkedin.com the other day. And the memories came flooding back yesterday and today. I wasn’t in love with any of them. In fact, I’m not sure what romantic love even feels like, or is supposed to feel like. There’s a lot of sex going on out there, but I’m not so sure love is attached to most of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. Years and years ago one of my brothers told me I would just “know” it was love when the right guy came along, and after all these years I guess I’m still waiting. . . .
Of course, it complicates things being unemployed. For one thing nobody wants to be around a long term unemployed person for long for any reason. Wonder if they think it might rub off on them if they do hang out with the unemployed (e.g., by losing their own jobs). In case you want to know, we are as human as anybody else; we just can’t find work for whatever reason, and there are millions just like me out there, in all age-ranges and ethic groups.
So here I am, back in Orlando after ten years absence. I have no idea what’s in store for me here or even how long I might be here since it wasn’t a job that brought me back to Orlando this time but rather losing the only place I’ve lived for the past four plus years on the other side of Florida. Talk about being “in transition” . . . .
I may have been unlucky in love all these years, but I was very good at what I did for a living until I lost it, through no fault of my own, five years ago in Houston. I’d like to be able to move on . . . and not to someone’s spare bedroom (as grateful as I am for that, and I am), but to a life of my own again . . . . so let’s see if it happens in Orlando.
After all, this is my third time living in Orlando . . .
And you know how that saying goes . . .
“Third time’s a charm” . . . .
YouTube Video: “Cruisin'” (2000) by Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis: