It is really funny how time changes people.  Changes their opinion of themselves.  Changes of their outlook on where their life is.  And even the change of their opinion of you.  I have a real hang-up about women who find me to be attractive later in life as oppose to at earlier points in time. And the older I get the more it happens.  I get seriously inflexible with the idea of dating a woman that I have known for an extended period of time who has never shown any signs of wanting to date me when I was 10 lbs lighter and with a more crispy hairline.  And that is pretty uncharacteristic of me to be inflexible because I pride myself on being just the opposite in most situations.  I have no enemies or people who I do not particularly like.  I have had fewer fist fights than the average guy.  And I have never really had a serious problem with swallowing my pride for the greater good.  Except…….when it comes to feeling like I am some lady’s back-up plan.

I have always had a pretty decent luck with women.  I say luck because no matter how smooth I think I am; no matter how handsome I think I am; no matter how many woman may make a situation really easy for me, I know that there are probably twice as many women who think that I am just a marginal catch at best.  And that is OK with me.  I do not get bent out of shape if a woman does not find me desirable because there are more than a few women who just don’t tickle my fancy.  But if I didn’t tickle your fancy at 25, I really don’t want to re-hash the issue at 30+.  I know, I know….sounds a little bit absurd.  Maybe I have matured since then.  Or maybe she has matured.  It could be possible that she was in a bad space and didn’t see how great I was years ago and now she sees things more clearly.  I could be missing out on the perfect woman!  I have heard all that bullshit before.  And it is indeed possible that this stuff is completely true.  But this is one situation that I do not see through a rose-colored lenses.

I see a woman who thought, at one point or another, for whatever reason, that I wasn’t good enough for her.  Maybe I wasn’t smart enough, or maybe I wasn’t handsome enough.  Maybe I didn’t meet her height or weight requirement or maybe I didn’t seem to be progressive enough with my career and building suitable finances.  Whatever it was back then, just is what it is.  No hard feelings.  But some years later I am still the same man.  I have matured as anyone does over time, but not drastically as though I were ever childish.  I have progressed intellectually, financially and have maintained my relatively youthful appearance by not drinking or smoking or picking up any other bad vices.  As a matter of fact, if I can display a little bit of cockiness with y’all for a minute, other than this gray hair that I get from my daddy, I get quite a few compliments on how young I look!  But at the core, I am still the same old Jack.  That same guy who was willing to do anything for a friend.  The same old Jack who likes to hang out with friends at the gym, rather than with strangers in the street.  The same old Jack who talks to his grandmother every 2 days and likes to listen to old folks talk about interesting things to pick up knowledge and new perspectives.  At the core……I haven’t changed one bit.  So you can see why I have this sort of cloud of skepticism for women who try to double back with me after it seems that some other options have either dried up or shown themselves to be less than what you thought them to be.

An old friend from Atlanta called me a couple of weeks ago and wanted to just catch up.  She was in town for a conference and had a couple of free evenings that she wanted to fill and thought to call me.  I was pleased!  I hadn’t seen her in a few years and other than a couple of random emails and happy birthday texts we had little interaction.  At one point though I thought that she was “the shit”.  She was so much more mature than the other girls I had known back then.  Not that she was an uptight or stuffy girl who couldn’t laugh at blue jokes, but she had certain mature presence.  She had a graceful sophistication about her that I found captivating.  She dressed and wore her hair like a star.  And not like a video model sort of way but more of a, get on my level, sort of way.  Short haircut always looked super-whipped and she always dressed right on that line of being sexy.  But not because of what she did show, but more so what she didn’t show.  She was slick.  Slick like picking up a bar of soap that had been sitting in hot water.  You could hold it for a second but the minute you tried to squeeze it will slide right out of grasp.  And we were friends.  Not super close but there was a mutual respect there that was shared in common approaches to how we both dealt with people.  Kindly and with respect.  But we were never more than that.  Although we never really had the formal talk, it was clear that she was not interested and that she only viewed me as a friend.  On top of that she fell into a pattern dating guys who seemed so entirely different from me.  A lot older than me.  Usually a lot more paid.  A bit more flamboyant in presentation.  And a few of them even made a very lucrative livings by partaking in recreational activities for public entertainment on cold Sunday afternoons.  You know, I could have very easily just categorized her as a money chasing, ball player dating chick who was looking for a free ride.  But that would not accurately describe her.  She was not really the type to lotion up her breasts and display them as a package deal with a set of long and easily opened legs that you typically see standing outside the tunnel at sporting events.  She attracted all sorts of guys.  Men with power and money who would offer to fly her to other cities and take her on trips to different places.  All of that exciting stuff that any woman would have a hard time passing up at 25.  At 25 I didn’t have money for stuff like that.  I couldn’t offer that to a woman.  I would have to save my money to go to Miami for a long weekend back in those days.  I wasn’t “Ballin” as the saying goes.  So I did my thing and she did hers.  Never did our two lives cross on that level.

We met at a spot across the street from her hotel and sat down for an early dinner.  It was nice to see her.  She was still just as elegant as she was the last time I had seen her.  Her trademark short haircut was just a little bit grown out now but her hair was super-whipped just the same.  She stalked me as I walked into the restaurant trying to think of something funny to say to greet me as was customary for our back and forth banter.  But instead of sarcastically making a wise crack about my haircut or shoes, she just let out a confusing giggle and gave me a big hug when I got to her.  We made a little small talk and caught up on old times.  Asked about old friends from school.  Talked about new jobs.  How much she was tired of Atlanta and how much I was enjoying DC.  And then the conversation went another direction.  She started to get flirty with me.  In a way that had never been her style.  At least not with me.  She would ask me how I managed to still be single(I hate that question by the way)….and I would side-step the question.  She asked me about coming to Atlanta to visit her and I would respond by asking her about the travel on her job.  She told me how nice I looked and I would make a joke about some old memory.  She was clearly throwing her scent down and I was ducking her.  Putting on my gas mask.  And as she did this dance for a few minutes she noticed that I was not taking the lead.  That I was not picking up on her clear signs.  And instead of going into some sort of super direct and potentially awkward, “What’s up with you and me” conversation, she backed into a more friendly tone.  One that was more consistent with what we had always been.  Friends.

As I looked across the table, despite the idea that this woman was attractive, pleasant, funny and a bunch of other checklist sort of things, I just couldn’t bring myself to take her seriously.  Because I cannot truly believe that she takes me seriously.  In all the years of her knowing  me, she never realized that I was more Michael Jordan than Rod Higgins.  (Rod Higgins was Michael Jordan’s back-up when he played for the Bulls.  Clearly no one knows him)  I am a starter, not a back-up.  And that is important to me.  I feel lucky to have been involved with a woman I have dated.  And I need to know that she feels the same way about me.  I am not your acceptable back-up plan when your initial plans fall through.  When you look at me you need to have thoughts of….Damn, he’s fine!…..What a catch!…….This is the guy I held out for…….Thank you Jesus!  Ok, maybe I am going a little over board, but you get my point.  When you feel like someone is just good enough, or think He will do, it is hard to ever feel truly content with them.  So in that sense it is just not a simple response of pride that makes me reject such propositions but a fear that in the long-term, someone will no be truly happy with me.  Women can be hard to please when they do not get what they ultimately want.  You ever seen a woman go to the car dealership with her mind set on a luxury car and come home with a Camry or Accord?  She is cool for about the first 2 weeks but every time she pulls up to the light after that and sees that Mercedes, Lexus or BMW she gets a little bit more disenchanted with her piece of crap automobile. 

A lot of people feel like how you get to the finish line is not always the most important thing.  But what is important is completing the race.  And I can agree with such practical thinking in some circumstances.  Just not this one.  Can you be happy being a back-up plan?  Can you live happily with someone else feeling like you are so blatantly their second choice?