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  • Writer's pictureBethany Lynne

Worth Men-tioning Ep 1: Perfect Gentleman, Is He?

Author note: There have been many men to enter and exit my life. Whether as a friend, acquaintance, or romantic interest. Each of these men have brought something unique to my life – a lesson to learn, a truth to observe, a growing pain to experience. Whatever the case, I’ve kept a list of their names so I would never forget. I find myself ready to tell their stories, as they are a part of mine. No real names will be used in an effort to protect their identity.

It was a cold, drizzly night in Chicago. I trudged past the Uptown night life, keeping a safe distance from the dark figures huddled under awnings, shielding their faces from the icy wind. I arrived at the Green Mill – a popular cocktail lounge known for some of the best live jazz in the city.

He met me outside, a perfect gentleman, awaiting my late arrival in the frozen tundra, instead of the space just inside the door in the radiating warmth.

“I paid the cover fee,” he said nonchalantly, as he took my coat and hung it on the coat rack. We slid into a rounded booth across from one another. “I reserved this table so we can hear the music, but are far enough away to hear each other talk.”

He thought this through, I thought. “What’ll you have to drink?” The cocktail waitress asked. My date looked to me. I asked for tea. “I’m not drinking currently,” I told him quietly. He smiled, I’ll have the same, then." “You can get a drink,” I encouraged. “Nonsense," he replied, "tea sounds great.”

He’s considerate, I thought.

We talked for nearly three hours. The bar lights growing dim as the jazz slowed. Family. Future. Stories. The conversation was easy, equal, filled with intentional questions and shared laughter. My mind remained calm, composed, curious.

Does he look too much like my brother? I pondered.

A couple crowded in next to our table. “Could we share with you?” One of the women asked. The club had become chock full of patrons, standing in one massive cluster, filling the aisle next to the tables, drinks in hand, all here to listen to the music. The women took my place in the booth, as I slid around to his side, our legs now pressed together due to the limited space. We laughed together at the tight squeeze. I felt his hand rest purposefully on my knee as our laughter died out.

The presence and placement of his hand was fine, yet the gentle rubbing of his thumb across the top of my knee sent a weird sensation up my spine. I grew quiet and contemplative as I tried to determine how this made me feel and whether I desired for it to continue. With each tea refill, he paid the waitress without hesitation, his wallet revealing a stack of crisp twenty-dollar bills.

He came prepared, I thought.

The third hour struck. He stared at me, a new look in his eye. “What are you thinking?” I asked lightly, but feeling the implication of his gaze. “I’m thinking about kissing you, but it’s a little awkward with this couple right here," he whispered in my ear. The women across from us were in a world of their own, their hands and faces pressed together.

Does he look too much like my brother? I pondered again.

I looked briefly to his lips. Yep. That’s where the resemblance lay. Thin lined lips leading to a familiar jawline. Even the patch of stubble was reminiscent of my brothers failed attempt to grow facial hair in college.

I replied with the first thing that sprang to mind. "Oh. You don’t need to do that." His eyes snapped out of their softened trace. The rubbing across my kneecap paused, “What do you mean?” An ever-so-slight crack formed in his smile. “I don’t… really kiss on the first date,” I replied. He cocked his head inquisitively. I could see his brow furrow in failed comprehension. I began to ramble about my values and my hesitations to jump into physical aspects of a relationship - especially when first getting to know someone.

His demeanor began to shift. His perfectly calculated plan, his execution of first date chivalry did not equate to his desired outcome, and he was at a loss. He grew short with me, his smile fading. “Well most of my relationships spring up quickly and then burn out,” he said with a bitter tone. “Is that what you really want?” I asked him. He grew quiet.

The shift continued as the man I sat with, became a different person. His thin lips tightened as he continued to exchange pleasantries asking me more questions about myself, but not seeming to care as much about my response. The feeling of our previous comradery had turned cold. We left not long after.

He handed me my jacket – the previous care he had given to it, also gone. We stepped into the frigid night air. He seemed to grasp at straws. “You want to grab a drink?” He asked. He mentioned a bar down the road. He seemed to have a slight renewed sense of determination.

If you think getting me to drink will change my mind, you have another thing coming, I thought.

I reminded him I wasn't drinking, to which he seemed flustered. I told him we could walk a bit before I headed home. So we did. The awkward questioning continued. I finally paused. “Why all the questions?” I asked. “You said you have a fear of men not knowing you before they come onto you, so I’m getting to know you.” He said flatly. The equation had continued in his mind - if he asked enough questions, if we talked long enough, if he played by my rules, maybe things could end as he originally planned. “I should head home,” I told him. “Fine.” He stated in defeat. We shared a stiff hug and he disappeared into the night, headed for his place, just a block away.

I checked my phone, the battery nearly dead from the effects of the cold. My GPS spun for service to configure directions to the nearest CTA station. It was late, and I was a solitary woman, on a Saturday night, in an unfamiliar area of an often unfriendly city.

I did what I do best, and problem solved my way to the station - retracing the steps of our walk, back to The Green Mill and from there to the Red Line. My mind spun, much like my GPS, recounting the evening and what had gone wrong. I recalled his words, his eyes, his hand on my knee, his disappointment and his apparent shift into... not a new person, I realized, but his true self. The gentlemanly charade had dropped when it didn’t achieve his desired end.

And that is when I realized the dangers of a “perfect gentleman.”

You see, as a woman, I was told chivalry looks like a man who waits in the cold, opens the door, takes your coat and pays. I was told I’d be lucky to find and retain a man such as this. While a man who nails all these might be a classic “nice guy” who was taught respect by his mother, he may also be a man who’s had a little too much practice.

As a woman, I was told to wait for a man who sweeps me off my feet with grand romantic gestures, who could wow me with his thoughtfulness and the ability to leave me breathless with a passionate kiss. But a man who can do that, in my book, is a man who has had far too many opportunities to perfect his craft, and I have no desire to be so late in the line of experience.

Nothing wrong with a little experience, but I find myself increasingly wary of men who do everything “just right.” I’d much prefer the guy who isn’t always smooth, who forgets to open the door, who gets lost in thought and acts a little nervous from time to time. I prefer the guy who doesn't look at me as a potential quick burn out, or an object of his sexual gratification in return for his expenditures. I prefer a guy who is human, like me, and humble, like I aspire to be.

The duplicitous Green Mill Guy, got married not a year after our date. I wondered how his wife differed from the other quick burn outs of his past. Part of me felt relieved she was the last flame in his box of matches. Part of me felt compassion for her, as I wondered if she knew - but it was not my business to tell her.

Green Mill Guy – thank you for teaching me the appearance of perfection, is always deception.

- B

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