Quest II
Home Up Quest III


The Quest - Part II

Chapter Five - Hiding in Plain Sight

I set up interviews with four men suggested by my friends and co-workers.  I figured the more people I talked to with knowledge of the city, the sooner I would formulate my plan.

My talk with Jerry, a stockbroker who works with Debbie, was discouraging.

“Houston is a terrible, terrible city for single peopleI’ve just come back from New York.  There is a kind of fluidity of social life there.  The infrastructure makes it much easier to operate as a single person.  Houston lacks a street life.  We don’t have a downtown with a ground floor, with delightful messy shops perfect for bumping into people. 

We are cocooned in our homes, our cars, our workplaces.  You want to find single men?  The skyscrapers of downtown Houston are teeming with them.   But that will never do you any good because we don’t rub shoulders with anyone.  Sure, there are bars everywhere, but try to get past the defenses of a stranger in that stressful situation.  The only way to have a good conversation in a bar is to invite someone you already know to meet you there.”

Another man named Jake, a filmmaker said something similar.  

“I think the heat shapes our lives.  People in Houston spend their entire days behind walls and doors hiding from the sun I pass a thousand people every day in the underground tunnels downtown, but that's no place to meet people.  They always have their guard up.  They are always in a hurry and always have something pressing on their mind.  The opportunity for a chance meeting or a conversation is just so remote I don't even bother looking.  Downtown is just so cold, so business-like.  I believe if I were to pass those same people over at Rice University on the jogging trail or walking around campus under the oak trees, I would get twice as many smiles.  In my opinion, concrete, glass and steel don't work the same magic as grass and trees."

Martin is in the Administration at the University of Houston.  In addition he is a Volunteer for the Arts which is how we met.  Martin was the first person to have something positive to say.

To me the easiest way to meet people is through your interests.  That's why I suggest using the arts in your article. I believe people who like art have a bond of sorts.  The arts provide an especially attractive environment for single people in Houston.  There is a real innovative spirit here which brings together the enthusiasm of your urban professionals with the success of established art circles.  Perhaps the most rewarding involvement a single person can have in the arts is as a volunteer.  There are all sorts of activities going on at the Museum of Fine Arts.

However there is no reason they have to limit themselves just to art programs.  I have a friend who volunteers at Theater Under the Stars.  He says he meets an extraordinary group of people.  In his opinion, theater people are the most interesting people in the world.  I'm sure that includes all the actresses he gets to meet.

Jonathan is vice-president at an accounting firm and a sailing instructor. He sees a connection between Houston’s business climate and personal relationships. 

“Instability in the economy destabilizes relationships,” Jonathan said. “People my age have to make so many changes just to survive that a relationships becomes too restricting. People go where the jobs are and that often means switching cities. I had the start of a great relationship with a woman who suddenly had to move to San Antonio.

People who pursue their career sometimes forget to make themselves available for relationships. 

Vast numbers of single men and women came to Houston for rapid, even meteoric, career growth.  Heavily invested in our careers, we find our jobs compelling; we’re driven to succeed which means we go home from work exhausted.  Half the time we are too worn out to even begin to think about nightlife." 

In other words, we are all too well insulated.  We hide in our offices, we go straight to our cars, we head home, and there we hide till it is time to go to work tomorrow.  


Chapter Six - The Personal Ad

From what I gather, all the traditional ways to meet people – through friends, parties, school, church, work, hobbies, and activities – still work quite well in Houston. Without question, you are most likely to meet friends and lovers by following your own interests.  But for every traditional way to meet, a parallel has spring up as part of the booming Houston “singles biz”. 

There are now a great many singles groups, social clubs, dating services and personal ads.  I figured I would investigate each angle.  I started with personal ads.

As I stared at a personal ad titled “New York City Diaper Boy looking for same”, I asked myself if I could ever force myself to do this.  I shrugged my shoulders.  I was a practical girl and I had an article to write.  I had written papers in college that I detested working on.  If I could that, I could do this.  So I concocted a personal ad.   As I anticipated, it was torture. 

SWF seeks SWM…. Oh my gosh, this is disgusting.  I have never felt so demeaned.  Was I really doing this?  Here I am, a professional writer, but it took me two whole days to write my personal ad.  That’s because I didn’t want to do it.  I agonized and rationalized and kept making more coffee.  I endured a serious identity crisis.  Who am I?  

Finally I came up with something I could live with.

“SWF, gentle, very bright, writer and arts administrator, slender, 25 and blooming, very serious but likes to be silly.  Love reading, music, good talk, dancing, running, outdoors.  Looking for good, kind, highly intelligent man, healthy nonsmoker, deeply interested in his own work, for honest friendship and let’s see what happens.”

I had no idea what to expect.  I had visions of serial killers, stalkers, rapists, con artists, and thieves replying in droves.  To my surprise, although the responses varied wildly, all of them were fairly harmless.

Some answers were touching, some were formal.  One man sent me his qualifications carefully printed on lined paper properly indented.  Yawn.  Another sent a letter in eye-catching calligraphy with the salutation “My Dearest” and the closing “Love”.  I couldn’t help but smile.  He would definitely get a phone call.  After all, ‘creativity’ was my main criterion.

Several men just sent their business cards.  How original.  I could just fill my jar and pick out the lucky winner.  One man sent a photo of themselves slouched down shirtless in their phallic sports cars.  I was aroused to near sexual frenzy.  Or maybe not. 

One sent a photo of himself sitting at his mother’s kitchen table in his three-piece suit and tie.  Obviously Mom took the picture.  I idly wondered if the two of them were a package deal.  No thanks.

Another sent a picture as he barbecued oceans of meat in his backyard.  Thank God he had his shirt on.  In fact he had a funny apron on.  I wasn’t sure what I thought about him.  Finally I decided he was a solid, steaks and potatoes kind of guy.  I was about to eliminate him when the voice of Debbie echoed in my head, “I think too many women think they know in the first 15 minutes who is right for them and how isn’t.”

I hesitated.  This guy probably wouldn’t be interested in an artsy fartsy girl like me, but he had replied to me.  So out of courtesy I vowed I would call him back if for no other reason to see if my first instinct was right or wrong.  Life is for learning, right?


Chapter Seven - Dating Services and Shy Boys

Now that responses to my personal ad were beginning to pour in, I was ready to check out dating services.  Would this venue reveal where the men of Houston were hiding?

Now that I was on this assignment, I viewed everything I did through a new lens.  As I made the rounds in my usual circles, I watched the throngs of women hanging around art openings, dances, and cocktail parties with a growing sense of alarm.  If I didn’t know better, I would assume the Earth had become a planet of women only.  Where are the men?

The art openings were the worst.  Theoretically half the babies born are boy or girl, but you would never guess it by going to an art opening.  I thought it was deeply ironic that almost all the great painters are men, but only women seem interested in their work.

I gasped as I did the math.  The ratio of stunning women to stunning men at this art exhibit was ten to one.  This was ridiculous.

Question to all boys - Are you lonely?  If so, take Aunt Cynthia’s advice.  Accept the next invitation to an art opening.  Just by standing there, some desperate woman is bound to hit on you.  Second hint – study the facts about the exhibit ahead of time so you can seem knowledgeable.  If you do this, you will literally be surrounded by women all night long hanging on your every word. 

Third hint – take an adult education course in Art History, pay attention, learn something and you will be never be lonely again as long as you live.  I guarantee you will have your pick of the most highly desirable women you could ever imagine.

Disgusted by my visit to the art exhibit, the next day I visited the office of a Dating Service.

I made a startling discovery.  It turns out that men are glutting the dating services – five men for each woman according to my source, a lady named Sarah.  With those odds, I quickly begin to grasp the meaning of the deluge of responses to my personal ad as well.

It turns out there really are single men in Houston, but many of them are shy.  They are not too good at pursuing women, but they are dying to come out and play if the woman makes the first move.  Is this just an aberration or have I uncovered the dating pattern of the Houston man?

In my opinion, the attraction of the dating services is something similar to an old Sears mail-order bride catalogue.  Assuming that some men possess fewer social skills than women, the thought of Court and Spark (I love you, Joni!) terrifies them.  Consequently the thought of using a catalogue to find women as opposed to guts and imagination is appealing to them.  Many Houston men apply for romance with the same methodic discipline they once applied for jobs.  

Deep down, I am worried that men would actually prefer to buy their mate.  Will the car lots of the future have a showroom for women as well?   Will we sit there with our books and our knitting waiting to be purchased as hood ornaments?

To my relief, I soon discovered there was nothing particularly wrong with these Dating Service guys.  By and large they are just normal guys and they are actively looking for relationships.  They are all just a little shy and frequently a bit awkward.  I have always wondered why back in high school a few guys seemed to keep all the girls occupied singlehandedly.  Now that we are adults, nothing has changed.  The same guys who were tentative around women in high school remain in a state of arrested development.  Anyone who could promise to teach these guys the ropes and actually deliver would make a mint.

My first try was “Match King”.  Billed as “old-fashioned matchmaking at old-fashioned prices”, this place felt like having Dear Abby as your dating executive.  Except now her name is Sarah.  You call Sarah and tell her about yourself for five minutes, then you hang up and wait a bit for her to give it some thought and call you back. 

Ring Ring Ring.  I pick up the receiver.

“Hey, it’s Sarah.  I’ve made up my mind.  Steve is perfect for you.  He’s a 36 year old engineer from Montana.  He is 6’ 2”, blond, blue-eyes, plays the piano, jogs, lifts weights and has a dog.”

Steve sounded good, so I sent Sarah $5, got Steve’s phone number, and rang him up.  I suggested Saturday.  “Not Saturday,” Steve said.  “I’ll be playing the piano, jogging, lifting weights, giving my dog a bath, and sitting in the sun while he dries off.”

I frowned.  “All at the same time?”   Click.  Guess he didn’t like my answer.  Good grief.  This man eliminated me without asking a single question.  Why did this guy even bother submitting his name?  Or was my voice too husky? 

 They say you have to learn not to take this stuff too personally.  It’s a good thing I like myself.  A string of rejections for no apparent reason like this one could quickly have me doubting myself.  As it was, every insecurity about boys and my own attractiveness came bubbling to the surface thanks to this strange, unexplained rejection.  How could it be my looks?  It was a phone call, for crying out loud.  Irrational as it was, I was suddenly afraid to make the next phone call.  Feeling strangely vulnerable, I skipped the next phone number I had purchased. 

That was it for Match King and Cindy.  One strike out was more than I could handle.  I spent the rest of the night chewing myself out for being such a coward.  This was a dark night for me.  I hated bitterly making the first move!  Making the first move should be the boy’s job, not mine!   Hell, someday I will have to give painful agonizing birth to a baby.  I will suffer horribly.  And now I have to make the first move as well?   This is bullshit.

Disappointed and angry, I switched to a computer dating service.  I was curious to see if a computer was a better matchmaker than Cindy and that jerk Steve.  I selected Quality Match because I liked the questions on their questionnaire.

I also liked the way they carefully explained how it all worked.  Elaine, the woman I spoke to, gave me some great advice. If you use a service, it’s a good idea to proceed cautiously – first names only and start with a lengthy phone conversation.  If the phone chat seems promising, next comes a mutual meeting in a public place.  Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into an actual date by the dating service or by your contact.  This all made sense to me.

Too bad Quality Match went out of business.  It certainly wasn’t Elaine’s fault.  Fortunately, right before it folded, I got one very good lead.  Or at least I thought it was a good lead.  Over the phone I met Richard.  I was immediately impressed that he recognized Tchaikovsky playing in the background over the phone.  Hmm, this guy might have some potential.

Then the initial promise began to fade away.  It started when Richard asked me what time I go to bed at night.  Huh?  I rolled my eyes and said it varies.  Next Richard explained how he installed body heat sensors to trigger floodlights around his house in River Oaks.  I honestly wondered if he was putting me on, but he wasn’t.  Good grief.  One big point for Tchaikovsky, two minuses for bedtime and floodlights.  I didn’t feel right about this.  However, I was just getting started and didn’t have much on my plate.  So I decided to chance it. 

We only went out once.  Richard could have cared less that I have three advanced degrees.  Richard turned out to be a fortune hunter.  After several highly invasive questions about the size of my estate, he could barely disguise his disappointment. 

I wanted to defend my meager bank account by explaining I had spent most of my life in graduate school.  What did he expect?  Then I reminded myself that this game involved an endless string of rejections.  At least I knew the reason with this guy.  I was poor.

I learned my lesson.  I should have trusted my instincts on the phone contact.  I felt oddly betrayed.  This man had wasted my entire evening.  If he was so interested in money, why hadn’t he brought the subject up on the phone?

Afterwards I found myself wishing I had gotten his address so I could walk by sometime and trigger his body heat sensors just for the fun of it. 

Back on the phone using a different service, I talked with Eric, a paralegal from Texas City.  Eric does karate while listening to “Hamlet” records.  I idly wondered what “Hamlet” records are.  “To be or not to be” on constant loop? 

Eric wanted to meet me as soon as possible.  He actually said, “Let’s get together soon so you can get a look at me, an eleven on a scale of one to ten!”  Oh please.   I quietly thanked Richard for teaching me a lesson. If they are a drip on the phone, it will only get worse in person.  I’m a fast learner.

Batter-up was Burt, a native Houstonian, who answered his phone out of breath from doing sit-ups.  A transportation law and tariff expert, Burt is also an amateur actor who once played opposite Farrah Fawcett.  Was he name-dropping or on the level?  I liked the acting part, but Burt didn’t set off my chimes.  So I called the next guy on my list.

George was head of the economics department at a local college.  George said he liked to go to Oiler football games, shopping malls, and bowling alleys.  I wasn’t connecting to George, but decided to give it one last try.  I asked him what his favorite mall was.  “Oh, that’s easy.  Westwood Mall.  I like it because it is close to my condo!” 

I groaned.  Every girl knows the old saw about kissing frogs to find a prince, but this phone blather was giving me a headache.  None of these guys had a clue how to talk to women.  All they ever did was share their idiosyncrasies with me, but not one man had the sense to ask me any questions about myself more intelligent than what time I went to bed.  I had to giggle at the absurdity of it all.  Surely there had to be a better way to meet a guy than these waste of time phone leads that lead nowhere.

Just when I was ready to give up and head back to the next 10 girls to one boy art gallery exhibit, I experienced love at first sight. 

I got my first look at Taylor through my apartment peephole.  Taylor had sounded like a nerd on the phone and now through my narrow aperture I could see he looked like a nerd too.  Not a problem.  I love nerds.  Don’t tell anyone, but I am secretly a nerd too.  I hide it with makeup.

“Would you show your identification, please?”  This was a security move suggested by Elaine.

Taylor dutifully slid his driver’s license under the door.  I checked out his name against the computer printout I had been sent.  My computer printout said Taylor was 5’ 11”, bearded, brown eyes.  I looked back through the slit in the door.  Yup, six feet tall, beard, and my goodness he’s cute. 

Taylor and I braved the heat outside and got in his Saab.  We headed to the Museum of Fine Arts to see Bergman’s Autumn Sonata.  After the movie we stood outside on the sidewalk and talked about Bergman for a half-hour with various intellectuals and geniuses.  I sipped my Cabernet and exchanged witticism.  Taylor noticed I was holding my own and smiled. It was all so Woody Allen.  I was giddy with excitement.  If my first child was a girl child, her name would be Delores.

Taylor suggested we go have a drink.  “Would you like to go to Trader Vic’s for an exotic drink and an eggroll?”  I smiled.  Only an egghead would suggest an eggroll.  I love eggheads too.

Once we were seated, I stared into Taylor’s big brown eyes and said, “Tell me everything!”

Taylor was obliging.  He told me about all his computer dates before me.  I felt vaguely jealous.  Surely they were all sluts.  To my delight, they were!  “I’ve been forced to meet big mamas at Birraporretti’s.  A fundamentalist made me take her to Tony’s.  But the worst was taking a computer date to a rock concert where the music was so loud I stuck napkins in my ears.”  Taylor demonstrated by dunking a couple napkins in water, then stuffing them in his ears. 

As I had a giggling fit, instantly our waitress appeared with an alarmed expression.  “Is something wrong, sir?”


Chapter Eight - So Many Men, So Little Time

I concluded the real usefulness of dating services lies in the flurry of dating.  You can meet a large number of men from all over the city in a relatively short period of time.  Mostly the many phone conversations and the occasional dates that developed helped me to figure out what and who I was NOT looking for. 

For one thing, I’m not interested in men who don’t understand the give and take of getting to know someone else.  Some men were so busy presenting themselves to me that they didn’t seem to want to know anything about who I am or what I think about.  Had no one ever explained the power of the innocent question to these men?

I thought back to my favorite Warren Beatty movie Shampoo.  Beatty is a lowly hair dresser with no money, not particularly smart, no discernible personal substance and certainly not much of a future.  Nevertheless every single woman who meets him has to have him.  Of course it helped that the hairdresser looked like Warren Beatty, but it turned out he had a ploy as well.

One day the Beatty character is confronted by a mega-rich tycoon who has discovered Beatty has somehow bedded his wife, seduced his teenage daughter, and stolen his mistress.  With a goon standing behind him to make sure Beatty complies, the tycoon wants some answers. 

The tycoon barks, “How do you do it?  How does a lowly scum like you get all these women?  What’s your secret?”

Beatty shrugs.  He says, “It’s not that hard.  All I do is listen to them.  Every woman has some man in her life that has treated her badly.  She has all this resentment bottled up.  All I do is listen to their sad stories and feel sorry for them.  The next thing I know, they think I’m cool.”

Hey, Guys, another hint from Aunt Cynthia… if you want a higher batting average, find ways to get women to talk about themselves. 


Chapter Nine - The Magnificent Seven

Up till now, I had relied on my female friends and acquaintances to advise me.  Now I wanted to know what Houston men thought about Houston women.  Maybe I could learn something valuable.  I told my girlfriends any secrets I learned would quickly be passed on to them. This strategy was akin to interviewing Napoleon how he conquered Europe, then warn Austria Hungary how to prepare for the next invasion.  

I asked every lady friend I knew to bring me a heterosexual single Houston man willing to be interviewed for my story.  I added one caveat – he needed to be someone who expressed himself well. 

This worked like a charm.  Instead of using myself as bait with the personal ads and dating services, now I could be myself – a writer for a magazine with an article to write. 

One fascinating development I noticed was the world of difference in social skills.  The men I interviewed next were hardly in need of personal ads or dating services.  They were charming, clever, and surprisingly candid with their views. 

I had to laugh.  Men occasionally point to pictures of super-models and ask me, “Do women like that really exist?  I have never seen a woman who looked like that in the real world.”

These guys were the answer to a similar complaint my friend Veronica voices all the time. “I love Cary Grant.  Handsome, witty, charming, fun, mannerly, and suave.  Do men like Cary Grant really exist?”

Yes, Veronica, I can now answer your question.  They do exist.  Over the next month I spoke with seven of the most amazing men I have ever met in my life.

How can I say this gracefully?  Some men think they need a little help in the cold cruel Dating jungle.  These are the shy boys who write personal ads and use Dating services.  Don’t forget there are gems to be found… witness Taylor, my precious Trader Vic buddy.  However, by and large, the social skills of the men who used the personal ads and dating services clearly lacked polish.  I speculate many of them have struck out with women using traditional methods. They aren’t getting anywhere.  So now they turn to other devices not because they want to, but because they may not have any choice. 

The series of seven men I was about to meet for interviews had no need whatsoever for Dating Services.  All they had to do was smile. They were a talented group of men indeed.  I called them the Magnificent Seven.



It took a month for Gary, a high-powered commercial real estate broker, to find a hole in his schedule.  He was working on a multi-million dollar deal that had him so hyper he couldn’t sit still to talk to me.  Finally his deal went through and he calmed down.

When we finally did meet, I was flabbergasted to discover that we had been working out side-by-side three times a week on the Nautilus machines at the downtown Y. 

“You’re Gary?” I exclaimed.  Now he recognized me too.  We both laughed.  Thanks to this odd rapport, Gary opened up quickly.  Gary started by saying he had a girlfriend in Dallas. 

“It’s perfect,” Gary said. “Every couple of weeks she picks me up at the airport.  It’s a 36-hour deal – we spend the entire time in bed.  I had a relationship in Houston but it took too much time away from my work.  If you’re one of the studs in town and you want to get laid a lot, it’s also very expensive.  You may even have to keep her in cocaine.  I don’t do cocaine myself – that crowd is mostly people in their twenties, lower middle management.”

I raised an eyebrow.  This was news to me.  Obviously I have been traveling in different circles.  I asked Gary what he thought about relationships.

“I think the whole thing is terribly difficult.  I have missed out on women I was fascinated with simply because our timing was off.  The timing is has to be precise.  Talented people become available for a nanosecond, then they are besieged by new suitors.  If you are in a relationship yourself, you see this person you have had a crush on forever come available.  Do I run to her immediately or do I weigh the odds?  I am filled with uncertainty that this person will feel the same way about me or that a new relationship will ever work out once we know each other better.  Do I risk tossing what I have aside for this other person?  The stakes are even higher if someone is married and has scruples.  My sense of loyalty has cost me several fine opportunities.

I can't even remember ever being free at the same time a woman I have dreamed about also becomes free. It is almost a miracle to find this woman available at the same time I am available. 

More often than not, someone is going to have to gamble and leave the one they are with.  Jump ship so to speak.  If so, someone is going to get their feelings hurt – me, her, the person I am leaving, the person she is leaving.  Who knows who is going to get hurt?  But inevitably someone is going to experience heartache when you switch partners.

Risk.  It all boils down to risk.  Do we make a move or not?  Most of the time we see attractive people and have a failure of nerve.  No one likes taking chances.  I pass by women I am attracted to on a daily basis, but never say a thing because the probability of embarrassment is so high.

Take you and me.  We exchanged smiles for weeks at the Downtown Y, but neither of us ever initiated a conversation.  I assumed you were in a relationship and you certainly never made a move to indicate availability.   People move around downtown Houston inside their turtle shells and rarely come out to make a move.

I think there are a lot of lonely people out there.  Everybody is trying to make that romance connection.  All of us deep down want to make that jump, but the odds of it working are so precarious that we hold back.  The reason people are lonely is that they are not making themselves available.   They show up at all the best parties, but even then they may not be making themselves emotionally available.  They are waiting for a sure thing.  They hesitate for fear they might get shot down.

I have a different attitude.  I say good women are worth competing for.  Every attractive woman I have ever met had one, two, even three guys falling all over her.  You see a movie, magically some woman shows up to fall in love with the hero.  Turns out she's all alone and there’s no one to protect her.  That’s the movies.  In real life, women who look that have all sorts of men chasing after her.  Not only that, even while she’s smiling at me, I know she still has feelings for some of these other guys.  There is no such thing as an unattached woman.  A woman might say she is free, but I always assume that she might change her mind and go back to one of them It is all part of the game. I know that at any time the previous guy might make a big play for her and get her back.  It happens.  That’s part of risk.  I agree it is better to try and lose than never make a stab.

Even if I end of winning, I know it will be rough at first.  At the very least I assume I may have to share her for a while.  I know full well she’s having sex with other guys.  I don’t like it, but it’s a nasty part of the game I have to accept.  If I go acting possessive and needy, boom, I’m dead.  The woman always goes for the cool guy, so my trick is to stand tall and never complain.  Let the other guy go boo-hoo-hoo, I can’t bear to lose you.  8 times out of 10, I get the girl.  Women always seem to prefer the guy who seems nonchalant.  Don’t ask me to explain it, but it works. 

And even when it doesn’t work, I’m okay with it.  I keep a close watch on my heart.  I don’t open my heart up to any woman unless she makes a similar move.  It’s like getting undressed.  No way I am getting naked if the woman is keeping her clothes on.  I take my clothes at the same rate or not at all.  I'm not getting attached if she isn't also getting attached.

In the end, if she goes back to the other guy, so be it. Hey, love is always a gamble.  In the meantime, I have spent time with a terrific woman.  It builds my confidence to know I can chase women of that caliber.  This kind of high stakes experience has made me brave enough to tackle the next beauty who comes along.  That's my philosophy.

Just then Gary looked at his watch.  I nodded.  Time to go.  Interesting guy.




Jeffrey is an electrical engineer.  He is one of those people who came to Houston in the early Eighties in search of meteoric career growth.   For a while, he wasn’t sure it was worth it.  Jeffrey was forced to make a tough choice. 

Jeffrey had an offer to stay at his school and pursue an advanced degree or come to Houston and begin a high-paying job.  There was only one catch - if he took the job, Janet, his college sweetheart, refused to come with him unless they got married.  Janet had deep family roots in her college town and didn’t want to follow him to Houston.

Jeffrey told Janet he wasn't ready to get married.  Couldn't they just live together for a while to be sure?  Janet stuck to her guns.  Jeffrey came to Houston alone.

As I got to know Jeffrey better, I learned this decision defined his life.  This fateful move was two years in the rearview mirror, but it was still bothering him.  He was full of regret for not marrying his college sweetheart.  Janet was the one who got away.

“The first year I was in Houston I was constantly depressed.  I moved from a college town where I had my girlfriend and the most fantastic group of friends imaginable.  I just couldn’t stop talking about how much I missed Janet and my buddiesThose guys were practically my brothers. 

One day a woman at work told me, ‘Listening to you being depressed all the time is getting really boring.’

That really hurt. She had no idea how painful her offhand remark was, but that barb hit home.  I burned for days.  After thinking about that slap for a few days, I decided she was right.  It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. 

I started my comeback by finding things to do that I enjoyed whether I met someone or not.  I discovered there are pockets of people who have particular interests and through them I could meet other people. It works by geometric progression.  The difficulty is finding the right Starting Point. 

If you are new in Houston, what you need to do is meet some people who are already plugged into a social network.   Once this happens, I get to participate in Group Dating.  Maybe 8 of us – 4 men, 4 women - will go somewhere fun and hang out.  This has the advantages of an actual date without the pressure of telling someone you aren’t interested in them.

I say meeting people is a skill.  It takes self-confidence to get started, but also practice.  It involves risk.  You have to be willing to put yourself on the line and make invitations.  Learn how to accept rejection and learn how to reject others gracefully when you are on the receiving end of invitations.”

Once Jeffrey decided to get on with things, he discovered Houston isn’t so bad after all.  Jeffrey says he sees women friends four to five times a week.  Sometimes it’s drinks after work at the Houston Center Club.  Other times it’s dinner at Tony’s or maybe popcorn and TV at home. 

I asked Jeffrey to reevaluate his fateful decision knowing what he knows now. 

“It took me a full year to get over my breakup.  Let me qualify that.  I am still not really over Janet, but she has moved on so there's no going back.  She is always in the back of my mind.

I just wasn't ready.  I had this tough job waiting for me.  I knew I would be traveling a lot and forced to spend tons of time working late.  I heard what my boss told me when they were recruiting me.

He said I would be married to my job until the Canadian project I was hired to help with was finished.  He could not predict how long it would take.  He said at least a year, maybe longer.  How would I make a marriage work when I was gone all the time?

I knew Janet would miss her family terribly.  Janet is the original small town girl.  Her whole life revolved around her family, friends and her church.  Her father is a professor at my school. I could not bear to take her away from that for a risky move to Houston.  I knew she would be miserable alone in this city with me gone all the time.

I loved her so much.  It's terrible to make such a cold choice, but it was the one that made the most sense to me. 

Besides, I was still more 'boy' than 'man'.  I was hardly ready to start having kids, much less be a full-time husband.  It was just too much at once for me.  I don’t think men start growing up until they are about 27.  Now that I am older, I guess it would be nice to have someone in my life full-time but it becomes self-defeating to make that a goal.  It detracts from anything else that could happen. 

Most women seem to want a commitment.  They seem to feel an urgency, maybe because that biological clock is ticking away.  Their urgency exacerbates my fear of losing my house and my privacy.  I’m not ready yet to settle down.  I’ve had women throw paperback books at me in frustration, but I am not going to let them dictate to me about making a commitment.  It needs to be my idea, not theirs. 

I haven’t had any luck sustaining a relationship.  The women I date tire of waiting for me to show commitment and move on.  My reluctance to commit may be because of fear.  I never want to feel again the pain I felt when I broke it off with my college girlfriend.  I have spent so much time trying to become emotionally healthy again, learning to live alone, and to think about how I want my life to be. 

I'm young. I am getting established here at the firm.  I am sure when the right girl comes along, I will try again.  But right now it is easier for me to keep things superficial.  I never seem to have trouble finding dates, so what's the rush?




Like Jeffrey, Malcolm is also an attorney.  Malcolm, 36, has never been married.  I found him to be smart and funny and maybe a little dangerous in a very nice way.  Malcolm, a man of Scottish heritage, likes to play rugby and thinks a fun idea of a first date is to go to Water World.   In Malcolm’s opinion, any first date where a woman willingly takes off most of her clothes off has great potential.  I was taken aback till I saw the sparkle in his eye.  He smiled.  Gotcha.  Did I mention he is funny? 

I parked next to Malcolm’s Alfa Romeo at Kenneally’s where he goes on Wednesday evenings to hear Irish music.  Once inside, Malcolm waved to a group of friends and schmoozed for a moment before returning to me.  Like Jeffrey, Malcolm is a firm believer in socializing with a group of friends. 

Malcolm said he prefers to get to know women as friends first before taking it further.  With that goal in mind, Malcolm has become a polished organizer of group dates.   

For example, as we talked in a corner before the music started, Malcolm’s friend Rex came over. 

Rex was proudly wearing a “Second Annual Invitational Malcolm Golf Classic” tee-shirt complete with a loveable caricature of Malcolm’s frown after missing his putt wide right.

I casually asked Malcolm if that was an accurate caricature.  “Oh no, I play golf well.  But I don’t see any value in boasting about it.  I am more interested in putting my friends at ease than I am competing with them. Besides, this isn’t the golf you think it is.”

So I asked Rex how Malcolm’s Golf Classic went.  Rex went wide-eyed with excitement.  “The legs on those women were astounding.  Malcolm asked all the ladies to wear short skirts.  I have never seen so many beautiful legs in my entire life!  I have dreams every night!” 

As Rex took his departure, I was a little confused.  Very few women I know play golf.  Where was Malcolm able to round up all these women? 

“You may be fooled by the title.  Actually it was Putt-Putt Golf.  I have no trouble lining up women for these events.  Once I explain that my parties are composed of Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, exquisite T-shirts, and trophies plus lots of single men showing off their putters, the ladies are quite willing to cooperate.  The humor can be a bit sophomoric… ‘hole in one’, ‘check the shaft on that guy’… but the people really get into it.”

I smiled.  This guy was sharp.  He made me laugh.  Then I realized I felt a little giddy.  Uh oh.  I remembered what had happened the last time I got that feeling.  Was it the ale or was it Malcolm?   I needed to cut back on the Guinness Ale and stay on my toes during this interview or we might be crossing professional boundaries.

Malcolm was just warming up.  He told me he has sauerbraten or lasagna dinner parties where he does the cooking.  He cooks while lots of people do wine tasting.  He lets a trusted buddy run the wine show.  Malcolm explained that he is a terrible host at these events because he spends most of his time on the phone with his mother for step by step cooking instructions.”

Why not just invite his mother over?

“And let her curb my style?  I did it once and she spent the whole evening interviewing the women to pick out her official daughter-in-law-to-be.  Worst night of my life.”

I grinned again.  Just then a waiter asked if I wanted my glass filled.  “Oh no, I’m fine, thank you.”  Then I breathed deeply in an attempt to clear my head. 

Trying to buy time to regain some self-control, I asked Malcolm what he looks for in women.  “A sense of humor, honesty, 98.6 body temperature, intelligence, common sense, putting ability.”

Malcolm added that he doesn’t get into a relationship unless there’s some potential for it to be long-term, but that before he gets married he wants to “go up the Nile, down the Amazon, and river-raft in Tibet.  Or is it down the Nile and up the Amazon?  Everyone wants to fix you up when you’re in your twenties and thirties.  Everyone asks me what type I am looking for and I say short blonde just to get them off my back.  You meet some women and as soon as they know you’re a lawyer, you feel like you have a target on your back.  Life is more complex than going to college, getting married, and getting the back forty from your Dad.  I prefer to have a number of women friends I can call and ask to do something.”

Malcolm’s advice to men: “Don’t come on to women.  Avoid stupid pickup lines.  Just talk to them!  Find something you have in common and expand on it just like you would blow on an burning coal to start a fire.  Once you get them talking, then come on to them.”  He winked at me. “Just kidding.  No, seriously, men need to learn to talk to women.  The simplest way to get a conversation going is to find out what they are interested in and ask them simple questions that allow them to keep talking.  I have found the more a woman enjoys talking to me, she will start to get to curious about me.  That’s when I begin talking.  Most guys don’t get that.  They dominate the conversation and get nowhere.”

I was impressed.  Good answer.  So I asked another question.  What was Malcolm’s advice to women? 

“My biggest problem with first meetings and first dates is women who play ‘chameleon’ with me.  If they think I am a Republican, then so are they.  If they think I am Jewish, they bring up that some Jewish girl was their best friend in college.  If I say I like rugby, they say that’s their favorite sport.  Sometimes women try too hard to be someone they think I might prefer instead of just being who they are.  They figure they will keep up the charade long enough for me to get attached to their face, then they will take off the mask.  That act doesn’t work very well in the long run. Now I have to get attached to a new face and I might just walk thanks to their lack of confidence at the start.”



My next interview was with Miguel, 34.  I found him fascinating not just because he said he was a womanizer, but that he was quite candid about it.  I didn’t expect any man to give me an actual recipe for seduction, but that’s exactly what I got here.  If I were to guess why, I think he’s proud of himself.

Miguel has a built-in happy hunting ground.  He owns a Mexican restaurant.  A good one.

Charming and debonair, Miguel spends most of every evening table-hopping at his restaurant.  Miguel said he was awkward at first.  He was frightened of rejection and afraid of negativity for inserting himself into his customer’s evenings.  But that passed quickly.  He soon learned the majority of the people were flattered by his visits. 

After getting considerable practice at talking to his customers, at this point, Miguel said he had his style honed to perfection.  He uses two simple themes - How is the food and where are you from?  

Miguel told me a delightful story.

Miguel’s first big career hurdle was getting used to the finicky eaters.  The danger of asking people how the food tastes is that sometimes you get answers you don’t want to hear.  Miguel admitted in the early days it was difficult to get used to all the criticism. 

One day Miguel complained about it to his father, a former Mexican diplomat.

His father smiled, asked his son to pour them both a glass of wine and then invited his son to sit down.  Miguel smiled at me. 

“And then my father gave me the best piece of advice I have ever received.  My father said that I should learn to treat every complaint that was within reason as a golden opportunity to develop a loyal customer.  My father said that it would be a lot of work at first, but I should try to accommodate every request.  Sometimes this meant comping the meal or ordering something redone.  Sometimes I should offer a complimentary drink on the house as a ‘please forgive us’ gesture even if we had done nothing wrong. 

I protested loudly, but my father asked me to calm down and listen.  Now my father shared the rationale behind that approach.  My father said often that complaints were a request for attention.  If I honored their request for attention in a positive way, I made them feel special.  Yes, I might end up even losing money on the meal, but many of these people would come back time and time again.

I told my father I didn’t believe him.  Although I was deeply skeptical, I promised my father I would try.  It grated my nerves no end to bend over backwards to satisfy these picky, often obnoxious customers, but to my shock, my father’s plan worked.  Not always, mind you, but often enough that I realized my father knew what he was talking about.  I know this because sometimes people would pull me over and remind me how nicely I had treated them on their previous visit.  Sometimes I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, but I had the sense to smile and pretend they were my mucho grande amigo in the world. 

That’s how I learned the deeper meaning of the phrase “the customer is always right”.  No, the customer isn’t always right, but if I can be cynical enough to keep smiling through the negativity, many of these people go on to become real fans of my restaurant.”

Then Miguel smiled at me.  “You will of course refrain from printing my restaurant’s name in your story, yes?”

I nodded.  “Yes, Miguel, you have my word.”

I asked Miguel, “You said you had two themes.  One was to ask about the food.  Tell me about the other one.”

“Ah, yes, I ask them where they are from.  When talking with strangers, it is imperative that we establish some sort of commonality as a starting point for conversation.  I give myself one job every evening – be the host.  That is my goal.  A host must make people feel comfortable.  That involves the fine art of conversation.  Once I discover where they are from, I either share something I know about that place or ask them a question about their home.  If they give me something to work with, I follow their lead.  If they give me nothing, I assume they prefer to be left alone, so I say ‘enjoy your meal’ and move to the next table.”

“What if they are from Houston?”

Miguel laughed.  “Obviously that is the answer I get most of the time.  That is not a problem.  ‘What part of Houston are you from?’  ‘How long have you lived in Houston?’  ‘What do you think of a sports team, a current event, or whatever?  Like I said, if they help a little, I can light a bonfire from an ember.  I just follow each answer with a natural progression of small followup questions.  Once you practice a bit, it isn’t that difficult.  The one piece of advice I can give is not to try hard.  If they don’t help, I simply thank them for their patronage and slide past them.”

I asked Miguel about Houston women.  That was, after all, the point of our interview. 

“I enjoy the company of women.  Occasionally someone I have connected with during my conversations will slip me her phone number on the way out.  I don’t really have the time to go out with as many girls as I have offers.  There are two or three I take out more than once, but I space them out.  If they like you after the first date, they want something from you.  They want to see you more frequently, they want a relationship, they want a commitment.

Of course there is a part of me that would like to settle down, but I have reservations.  I had one woman, Estella, a real beauty, who I considered important.  Estella was a former beauty queen from Venezuela.  By chance, she had pursued me here at the restaurant.  Imagine that, a beauty queen chasing me!   How many men can say that? 

However, be careful what you wish for.  Now that Estella had me, she was convinced other women would try to pry me away from her.  She came to the restaurant every night and spent her time watching me like a hawk.  We would have arguments later if she perceived me as ‘too friendly’ at one table full of pretty women.  Estella made me miserable.  She kept me from doing my job.  Believe it or not, my sales actually began to slip.  I blamed myself and I blamed Estella.  I forced myself to break it off.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Probably never again will I get that close to possessing the Latin Helen of Troy.  But like the real Helen of Troy, Estella brought destruction to me.  She was beautiful, but she made me miserable.”

What a story.  We had talked a long time and I assumed that was the end of it.  To my surprise, Miguel showed no signs of stopping.  So I asked him how his life had gone since Estella.

“I don’t want a relationship.  Perhaps someday.  After what I went through with Estella, I don’t want to wake up five months from now with a woman screaming at me and throwing ashtrays again.  I’m happy the way things are right now.  I choose sensitive, sweet, emotional women.  I get lonely now and then, but I think it’s sometimes good to be lonely, to be able to think about things.

I am not ready for marriage.  I am married to my restaurant.  I do not lack for company.  In my unusual position with so much visibility, it is easier to make a woman than an enchilada.”

And that was the end of it.  Miguel got up, kissed my hand and then went to work.  Before I left, I stopped in the shadows to watch as he moved from table to table.  He was all smiles, a natural greeter, always with his hand out to shake hands with the men.  For the women he gave kisses on the cheeks of the single women and a deft fingertip handshake for the married ones.   Judging by the enthusiastic smiles of his guests, I could tell he was a master at the top of his game.   But was he happy?

I pondered that question.  With a harem larger than that of your average Arab Sultan, he definitely seemed happy enough for the moment. 



I spent a Sunday afternoon at Butera’s sidewalk café talking with Jacob, 28, a serious, handsome internal medicine resident at Baylor. 

For some reason, Miguel’s story still had a spell on me.  I felt rankled and decided to break the ice by sharing the story with Jacob.  I suppose I was curious what he thought. 

I wasn’t exactly tickled by his response.  “I knew I should have opened a restaurant!” Jacob laughed after hearing about Miguel’s escapades with women. The wrong reason, but then I realized he was teasing me.  He obviously sensed that I had energy on this issue.

Like a lot of doctors I meet, Jacob possessed that moody demeanor that makes you fall in love with them at the same time you despair of ever attracting their attention. 

Women friends have told me of “beeper romances” with doctors.  The only way to talk them is to beep them. 

Sure enough, at this exact moment, Jacob’s beeper went off, except that it obviously wasn’t a girlfriend.  I listened respectfully as he gave careful instructions on a change in dosage for a patient.

Then he turned back to me.  I asked him how he meets women.  Jacob shrugged his shoulders.

“I meet women just plodding along at work or through friends.  I like some of the ones I meet, but I deliberately keep them at arm’s length because my career is just now taking direction and it may be some time before I get involved in a relationship.  So much of my time outside the hospital is filled with things related to the hospital – seminars, professional reading, and conferences with visiting lecturers.  Just because I have finished medical school doesn’t mean I wish to stop learning.  The right attitude is to keep exploring and learning about the latest advances.  There is so much information out there that I would not be doing my job if I didn’t include keeping up.”

I asked if all doctors his age shared the same attitude about postponing relationships.  After all, aren’t these also the best years to start a family?  

“Good question. I think I am in the minority here.  A lot of people in medicine are traditional.  We spend so much time in school.  Most of us, when we finally leave school at 28 or 29, we are so damn lonely this feels like the right time to get married.  Your basal needs determined your basal level of activity.  I think my basal needs related to women are set pretty low right now.  I’m not interested in a wife singly as a cheerleader for my career.  That said, I do want to meet someone who’s well-read, capable of stimulating conversation, and committed to her own intellectual pursuits.”

I have heard that doctors are the modern day equivalent of handsome princes and I am here to confirm that legend is true.  When Jacob finished describing his vision of the right woman for him, I impulsively raised my hand and waved it wildly.  My heart thumped and my mind raced. “Pick me.  Here I am!!  I’m the girl you are looking for!”

Just then Jacob’s beeper went off.  Jacob took one look, jumped up and offered a quick “nice to meet you!” 

Then he turned his back and raced back to the hospital.  I wonder if he noticed my hand in the air.



As should be obvious by now, what had started as simple assignment for my magazine to educate Houston women on where to find Houston men had unexpectedly gotten under my skin.  Fresh out of graduate school, I assumed there were eligible bachelors everywhere here in Houston.  In a city this big, bachelors probably grew on trees. 

Finding the right guy was surely no more difficult than selecting the right batch of bananas at a grocery store.  Now, however, I found myself in the grips of a serious depression.  If a smart girl like me could comb the entire city and come up empty-handed, what did that say for all my sisters?   My girlfriends had warned me at the start that finding the Right Guy would be harder than I ever imagined.  Holy smokes, no kidding!

Yes, I had found a hundred men through personal ads and dating services, but only three or four had distinguished themselves.  Lately I had just met 5 hand-picked bachelors who were dream guys for almost any single girl, but women came so easily to them they weren’t even remotely interested in settling down!

Were there any solid guys somewhere in the middle?   If so, where does a girl find them?

Now I was mad.  I was determined to find ONE MAN who was not only wonderful but also looking for a relationship.  Surely these creatures had to exist or the human race was in big trouble.  I was still wrestling with the disparity of leaving a college campus teeming with hordes of intelligent available men and hitting a big city with population of a million, but seemingly bereft of attainable bachelors.

As my quest took me to my next interview, I discovered Peter.   Peter was a tenured professor with a superb education, exquisite taste in art, friend and confidante not only to River Oaks hostesses but to the Southampton movers and shakers as well.  Peter was well-traveled, physically fit, and energetic in his mid-forties.  He carried himself with great dignity, yet I couldn’t help but detect an immediate sadness. 

Peter and I met at his penthouse aerie high over the city where he lives aloft with his teenage daughter Elizabeth and teenage son Nathan.

When I called to arrange our meeting beforehand, his teenage daughter Elizabeth had answered the phone.  Elizabeth collapsed into derisive laughter at the very thought that I wanted to interview her father about women.   She scornfully said, “My father doesn’t know the first thing about women!”

However, obviously sometime between our conversation and my appearance, her father had set her straight, because I was met at the door by a sophisticated, poised, and rather cold young lady. 

Elizabeth greeted me with an put-on show of politeness at the door.  From there she ushered me to her father with all the grace of the River Oaks matron she was being groomed to be.  Now Elizabeth began mixing screwdrivers and arranging the crudités.  I could tell it was all an act, but it was done with same skill one would expect from a trained dignitary.  This was a formidable young lady.

Elizabeth had undergone quite a transformation since her frivolous reaction to my phone call.  I got the strange feeling that Elizabeth had energy on me.  I couldn’t help but wonder if Elizabeth had sassed her father in some way about my visit.  If so, she might have touched a nerve.  Had Daddy lost his temper?   I could only assume that only the threat of losing a car, college tuition, or family inheritance could create such a dramatic change in demeanor.

With Elizabeth lingering in the background obviously listening in, Peter set forth. 

“In the next year or so, I intend to find some kind of permanent relationship. I want the continuity, the length of time, the memories, precisely what on the flip side makes it boring.  This week, two women I admire called to ask me out, and a colleague asked to introduce me to a third.  My search to find the right woman has begun.”

It dawned on me that I had just heard a rehearsed statement meant more for Elizabeth than me.  Playing it straight, I asked Peter what sort of woman interested him. 

He replied, “Somebody who knows her stuff, whatever it is.  When I think of the women I’ve really loved, I realize I’m fascinated by artistes, women who have edges, ambitions, who may be smarter than I am, who won’t’ let me play games.  I want a woman who will show me new things, won’t give up on me when I resist, and who have the ability to share.  I need a woman who is social.  I need a woman who will help with the social activities that are part and parcel of my role as a college professor.”

I replied, “Considering the circles you move in, I wouldn’t think you would have trouble finding a talented woman to assume this role.”

“I thought the same thing, but I was wrong.  I had a very bitter divorce from Elizabeth and Nathan’s mother.  In the years since my divorce I’ve found it difficult to work out a relationship with a woman because I’m the custodial parent of children with a living… and interfering… mother.  My ex-wife is determined that if she can’t have me, no other woman will either.   The moment she finds I am dating someone, my ex makes sure her friends begin the whispering campaign.  Yes, I made mistakes, but how long does my radioactive past have to follow me around? 

The moment any new women in my life looks at the two precocious children who guard me like Cerberus at the Gates of Hades and hear one-sided versions of my toxic marriage, they stop in their tracks.  Given my children and my track record, they are not sure how to proceed.  Am I too big a risk because I made mistakes before?”

I frowned to myself.  This man obviously carried considerable baggage.  Like an ex-con who pleads for someone to take a chance on him and give him a job, this professor had an aura of trouble about him that anyone could sense.  And yet three women were ready to give him another try.  To me, this was yet another indication that it must be a Man’s World after all.  Put a woman with a past in the same situation and see how far she gets.

My thoughts were interrupted as Peter continued.

“I admit I’ve played the parental role for all it was worth, to compensate for my own emotional loss.  My priorities are the kids first, my work second, and relationships third.  How is a single woman going to relate to ‘us’ as a family and the way ‘we’ do things?  There are three of us and one of her.  What woman has the willpower to stand up to three strong personalities and somehow carve out a niche of her own?  That might work in the Sound of Music, but it is an uphill struggle at best.”

I had to admit Peter had a point.  Just then I caught a glance of Elizabeth sizing me up.  Was I really just a mere writer or was I a potential threat to her domain?  Was her father interested in me?   Elizabeth was the woman of the household and determined to stay that way.  I shuddered at the thought of going head to head with this strong-minded young lady.  Not that I was interested, but if I were, I would surely wait till she left for college and then make my move.  

I didn’t need a degree in psychology to see this stunning palace in the sky was haunted with overwhelming Oedipal problems.  Peter seemed to blame all his problems on his ex-wife, but I wondered if he realized the real problem was standing right behind him.  Elizabeth stared at me and I stared right back.

Peter didn’t seem to notice the frosty eye contact between me and his daughter.  He kept talking.

“I do have women friends who are also single parents.  We get together for mutual activities with our children, but who has the psychic energy to make room for a whole new relationship?  It’s hard enough just to negotiate the mine field of human frailties between a man and a woman, but when you factor in the dynamics of merging the strong personalities of two households, the problems seem insurmountable.”

No kidding.

Throughout our conversation, Peter was forced to negotiate minor uproars between the kids.  He found the time to admire his daughter’s new high heels, give his son an advance on his allowance, resolved a curfew question, and asked his formidable daughter to check on a Bartok recording while she was at the record store.

“Bye bye, Dad, I love you.”  Then with one final dart-like warning stare at me, she was off.  Elizabeth need not have worried.  I had the creeps.  Moments later I excused myself.  It was a long, solitary ride down. 

Considering our conversation had been interrupted no less than six times in thirty minutes by his children, I could not help but wonder what message they were sending.  This was my guess.  “Leave our father alone, Cynthia, or we will make your life here a living hell.” 

Got it.  Message received loud and clear.

On the long elevator ride back to Earth, I decided Shakespeare could have a field day with this family.  Then I had a better idea. I thought of Carrie and had an evil laugh.  This family was definitely more suited to Stephen King. 



As I continued my Alice in Wonderland foray through Houston’s most eligible bachelors, I had met lawyers and doctors, but no oil men.  Now came Walter.  He was both an oil man and a doctor. 

During our conversation to set up the meeting, Walter said he was a graduate of Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.  At the moment, at age 40 he split his time between an Emergency Clinic at night and with his father’s oil company by day. 

The doorman at Walter’s condo in the Montrose area accompanied me on the elevator to meet Walter up on the pool deck.  Together we took a ride on a glass elevator.  This ride seemed to never end.  I wondered if we were headed to Valhalla when finally the motion came to a stop.  There to greet me was Walter.

 Walter’s opening statement was “I thought you might like to see the view from here.”

I gasped.  My God, we were on top of the world!  Maybe this was Valhalla after all.  I was treated to an unobstructed circular view of Houston’s skyscrapers and tree-laden surroundings.  I have often thought that Houston grows trees as fast as weeds.  I saw nothing up here in the clouds to dispel that thought. Once Houston learns to line its concrete mess of freeways with forests, we might actually have a very pretty city.

Now my eyes moved to Walter himself.  Wow!  Walter was handsome in his running shorts, polo shorts and tanned, well-toned body.  My hit parade of accomplished men was in no danger of being interrupted by this guy.

Walter was easily the most attractive guy so far.  He had movie star good looks.  He even resembled a young Cary Grant. Veronica would have died if she met him.

I might add I sensed something deep about Walter He had looks, money, accomplishment, and intelligence.  Walter was probably the most talented man I had ever met at this point in my life.  And yet Walter was so nice to me that I didn’t feel intimidated.  However when I thought about his medical training, his wealth, his business success and his confident demeanor, I was in awe.  In fact, Walter was so many light years out of my league, I didn’t even bother getting a crush on him.  Just do the interview, shake his hand, and be grateful for the experience.  I thought of what Gary had said... the chance to be with a talented person even for just a brief time is always worth it.

We got down to business.  No drinks.  Now that was different.   Maybe it was too early.  As we split a piece of Butera’s chocolate pie, Walter warmed up to the subject of relationships.

“My generation has been engaged in undoing the Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best definition of the normal family.  The turmoil of the Sixties which carried over into the Seventies made our vision of things like love, marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood seem like distant clichés.  So many things we once thought were essential to putting together a meaningful relationship were rejected in a violent disavowal of the Ozzie and Harriett model. 

While we were busy tearing down our parent’s values of materialism and conformity, many of us were seduced by the lure of free love and the ‘live for today, not tomorrow’ philosophies.  As people indulged in higher and higher levels of kink, the sexual axis of many generations was abused.  No one knew what the rules were, what the limits were.  A lot of people my age got lost in the Seventies.  Too much sex and too many drugs.  We had no clue what a meaningful relationship was.  Men in particular suffered more than women.  Men have less experience in dealing with emotions and unstructured love relationships.  As men wandered from woman to woman, they watched in shock as women suddenly did the same thing.  Men had no experience coping with women who wandered from man to man. Unprepared for the consequences, feelings of possessiveness ripped men apart.  Jealousy drove them insane.  It was okay for them to have any woman they wanted, but how dare the women play by the same rules.”

I could not believe Walter was talking so candidly about sex!  I got so flustered by Walter’s theories that I ended up getting chocolate all over my notes.  He made me feel like a schoolgirl sitting at the professor’s knees.  Thank goodness Walter was far too much a gentleman to inquire why I was so bothered.  Instead he tried to help me clean my notes off, but I begged him to continue.  I didn’t want to break his concentration.

Walter returned to his train of thought.

“Throughout time, men had never really questioned their own tendencies towards wanting to have every attractive woman they came into contact with.  But when women began to behave the same way, men weren’t prepared for that.  They began to wonder how special could they really be if their favorite woman could disengage from them so easily.  How could she really love him if she was having so much fun with the guy down the street?  Men were not even remotely prepared to deal with the deeper consequences of free love.

Sometimes I wonder if the outbreak of herpes wasn’t a blessing in disguise.  Herpes slowed down the sexual revolution long enough for people to realize that taking multiple sex partners wasn’t really in their long-term best interests.   I think the pendulum has begun to swing back in the correct direction.  People are beginning to realize that sex is just a vehicle to get to know another person rather than the glorified end in itself.”

Although I wish I hadn’t covered my notes, my fingers, my dress and parts of my face with chocolate pie like some catastrophe straight out of “I Love Lucy”, I really liked what Walter had to say.  Thanks to Walter’s opinion that the Sexual Revolution had pretty much come to a grinding halt, I felt much better about the chances for men and women to click again as humans, not just sex toys. 

I was in a good mood.  I caught myself licking some chocolate off my fingers on the way down.  It made me think of Walter again.

Until now, I didn't even know men like Walter existed.

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