DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: This happened many years ago but the thought keeps popping into my head every now and then and was wondering if you had an answer.
35+ years ago I was right out of high school working at an auto parts store. A car pulled into our lot and out stepped the prettiest girl I had seen, not beautiful in the conventual sense but something about her I was attracted to. Her car was making an awful squealing noise and wondered if we could help. Easy diagnosis, her alternator was going out. While looking at her car, I learned that she was on her way to her sister’s house, from her parent’s house as her sister just had a baby. She still had about an hour to go and it was getting dark so no way she could make it with a bad alternator. No credit card and not enough cash as she still needed to get gas to make it the rest of the way. I offered to pay for the new alternator and install it with the agreement she would mail the money to me when she got back home. I gave her my address and she was on her way. My co-workers gave me grief saying I was a fool and the money I spent on the alternator was as good as gone.
A few days later I receive and envelope with the money and a note saying to call her to make sure I got the money. I called her and she thanked me profusely for “saving her” and offered to take me out for supper to pay me back. I mentioned something about “was that okay with her boyfriend” and she said not an issue as she was single. Because we lived about 3 hours from each other we decide to meet at a truck stop along the interstate that was about 1/2 way from each of us. We met and hit it off well. Made plans to meet the next week at the same truck stop. We did this for several weeks plus calling each other a few times (before cell phones so long-distance charges) to talk and found we had much in common. With my retail work schedule and her rotating days’ work schedule to spend any amount of time together, except for supper at the truck stop, proved difficult. She had plans to go visit her sister again on a weekend so she made an excuse to leave her sisters early, stop by my house on the way back, spend the afternoon with me and go home. Well she had such a good time she called her boss and said she wouldn’t be in the next morning until later and spent the night with me. We did almost everything except have sex as it was “that time of the month”. As the following weekend was my “off” weekend we made plans for me to go visit her.
Went to her place Saturday afternoon, had a great time, laughed, flirted, strolled in the park, supper, etc.. It was great! Ended up having sex that night. In the morning after showering together and eating breakfast she mentioned she wasn’t on any birth control and what did I think of that? I said I had condoms in the car and would have gotten them if I had known she wasn’t using anything. She then ask “what if I become pregnant?” I said “well, I am not a strong believer in abortion but it would be your choice”. “Or, if you decide to keep it, I will raise it with you if we continue this relationship, or support the child no matter what if we don’t.”.
The following week she called and left a message on my answering machine (she knew my work schedule so she knew I wouldn’t be home) and said she couldn’t make it to the next truck stop date night as we had planned. A day or so later I got a letter from her saying she was on birth control but I had answered her question wrong about birth control and she didn’t want to continue the relationship and not to contact her anymore. I promptly called her (mistake?) leaving a message on her machine and asked what I said that was so wrong. No response for a week so I sent her a letter saying I really cared about her (I was going to mentioned I loved her but didn’t) and whatever I did wrong to please give me another chance. I received another letter with her saying to please leave her alone.
Although I have been happily married for 20+ years with 4 kids it still “pains” me now and then (and throws me into a real funk) of thinking what the future between us could have been with her and what I did/said was wrong. I know this was many years ago but do you have any thought on what happened?
Lost In The Past
DEAR LOST IN THE PAST: Hoo boy.
The short version is: you f--ked up, chief. Big time.
The slightly longer version: she was playing stupid games, but you had a choice and as the man said: you chose… poorly.
The long version goes something like this. You had a meet-cute with this woman, where you were her knight in greasy coveralls at a moment when she needed help. By being willing to cut her a break in a time of need and showing an incredible amount of trust, you signaled to her that you were a pretty good guy. She clearly liked you, asked you out on a date as thanks, and had a long-distance friendship with her that eventually turned flirty and then sexual. Then, when things progressed and you went from “everything but” to actual sex… well, you didn’t use any protection.
This is, honestly, the first place you f--ked up. The fact that you didn’t have condoms at the ready, nor did you pause things to go get them was a mistake. It’s definitely a mistake in 2021 and it was a mistake back then, even coming off the tail end of the Sexual Revolution. One of the things to keep in mind is that, if this happened 35+ years ago, that would mean this happened in or around 1986 or so. That, amongst other things, put this encounter right at the point when the AIDS Crisis was in full swing. And while, yes, in the mid-80s, AIDS was still seen primarily as a “gay” disease, Ryan White had died only two years before and straight people were contracting the disease. Plus, even if HIV was off the table, you were still running the risk of exposure to HSV, HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
So right there, I think, is where you lost some serious points with her. Possibly not enough to make her decide that she didn’t want to bang that night, but I’d say enough to at least move you down a few notches from “relationship material”.
Then there was the conversation of “so… what about if I got pregnant?” that you completely wiffed on. Seeing as she was on birth control and brought it up oh-so-casually the morning after, I suspect the answer she was looking for was “well, I’ll support your choice.” The wishy-washy reply plus not getting the condoms plus the long-distance nature of your relationship, I think, is what soured her on you. Calling her after she specifically said “please don’t contact me any more” was the cherry on this particular sundae; it likely confirmed to her that you weren’t someone she ever wanted to see again.
Now, to be fair: this was more than three decades ago, you were barely out of high-school and social and sexual mores were different, so you weren’t egregiously awful. However, you did make a series of bad calls and poor choices and those were clearly changes that she felt strongly about. Strong enough to decide that she didn’t ever want to see you again. Which, y’know, sucks, but you live, you learn and you do your best to make sure you that you don’t make those mistakes again. And seeing as this was 35 years and change ago… well, hopefully, getting an answer will at least bring you closure.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org