Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Unrequiteds

I am the father of three daughters (and one son, but that’s another blog-- or seven). The oldest is married, and she’s been through it. The youngest is 13 and she’s just getting started. The middle one is a high school senior, and in the prime time for collecting young men. I refer here to the young men who like her but who, for various reasons, she does not quite like back so much. We could call them the UO’s, the Unrequited Ones.

I have some sympathy for them, partly because I was one myself for a good part of my youth. I did have a few steady girlfriends, but in between them I spent a lot of time mooning over some girl or other who just didn’t moon me back. (OK, bad choice of words, but you get the idea.). So I’ve been there. I know that sometimes it’s easier to love someone from a distance, especially because then you don’t have to deal with the everyday reality of her not loving you in return. Sometimes it appeals to your angst-y teenage sensibilities to watch from afar and just enjoy the stomachache. (Be careful! You might be prompted to write some very, very bad poetry.) Sometimes you even convince yourself that “its bigger than both of us,” and that eventually, things will come around your way. This is a very seductive way of thinking, but trust me, it’s also very dangerous. You sometimes see the object of your adoration in a somewhat idealized way.

But, as I said, I’m sympathetic. My daughters, who are always kind, bless them, are nevertheless not so sympathetic. They talk of wearing “The Sign.” This is a sign they believe is written on their foreheads that says, “If you are pathetic, I’d make a great girlfriend!” They do NOT like The Sign. I think they blame me for it, somehow. Or maybe just my gender. I’d have to plead guilty to the last one. But I digress. My youngest is now afraid of that time when The Sign will appear on her forehead. The middle one recently told me she wants to replace The Sign with one that reads (or screams, or uses flashing neon and possibly spotlights, clowns, and dancing bears to convey the message) “Hey, I’ve GOT a boyfriend. DON’T EVEN START!” The oldest, safely and happily married, just watches from the sideline, shakes her head in sympathy, and occasionally gives me a hard stare. In later years, when they get together, they will tell stories that begin, “You think you’ve had strange boys fall in love with you? Let me tell you about. . . .” It’s already started with the two older ones (so far, the oldest one is ahead in points).

I’d like to help, I really would. I’ve wanted to take these young men aside and say, “Son, I know how you feel. It isn’t easy, but trust me – this dog don’t hunt.” But I know it wouldn’t really do much good. I’m an old man now, and so they know I don’t understand love. Besides, I’ve had conversations with one particular UO who, believing God was on his side, was determined to keep plugging away until Right Won Out. I think this happened right up to the night of the wedding reception, I’m not sure. And of course, cold Reason knows nothing of the affairs of the heart. And I’ve got the folder full of bad poetry to prove it.

So, if any of my daughters’ UO’s happen to read this, I’m sorry. But don’t stalk them. Trust me when I say you’re wasting your time. And, as I have done a few times, take some comfort in the words of Three Dog Night: “Rearrange, boy. Make yourself strong. You’re not the first or last who’s lost everything.” Take a few deep breaths. Find a hobby. Go out with the boys and shoot some hoops or spit or scratch or something. And as a founding member of the Unrequited Ones Club, rest assured that things do usually get better. Very often, everything eventually works out, and sometimes you get married to a beautiful woman, and have three beautiful daughters (and a son).

One more small piece of advice: under no circumstances allow those children to find that very, very bad poetry you’ve been writing. I’d just burn it now, if I were you.