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Threads: The Lonely Guy

Letters written by me, updated February 2005
to include the period 1966-1979

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Background:  I was a slow starter socially.  On August 9, 1968, I wrote to a young woman I knew at college:

I'm basically an isolationist who prefers not to take the risk of getting hurt when something goes wrong with a close friendship.

I am a timid bear cub,
Content with only a taste of honey,
Afraid to try to get more lest I get stung.

Did you know that the first time I ever took a girl out on a date was in the middle of my sophomore year in college?  I had nothing against girls; I just was afraid to get that "serious" with them.  (Also, I could still hear that mocking second-grade singsong, "Tommy's got a girl friend!  Tommy's got a girl friend!")

Actually, though, like all people I want to be understood by someone else.  So now I'm beginning to open myself up to you in an unprecedented way.  I do this only because I'm convinced that it's safe.

Here are excerpts from some of other letters about the subject.  I kept up a correspondence with two female classmates, even after graduation.  We discussed their crises in romance (which I won't discuss here), and we also discussed my own my rather pathetic attempts toward having a crisis.  But the first letters were written to my mother.


Monday, December 12, 1966

A social note:  Last Saturday night I finally took a girl out for the first time in my life, to the Gilbert and Sullivan production of Ruddigore.

She's a pretty freshman from Worthington, Ohio; I know her since she lives at Harkness and therefore we often eat together.

Our interests aren't very similar:  she wants to become a French teacher (college level) and, if possible, also be a psychologist, and she's also taking flute lessons.

Harkness meal ticket
The sit-down evening meal was at 6:20 pm.

Physics and math are out of her field entirely.  Still, we seem to have personalities that are rather well suited to each other, and we get along quite nicely.


Saturday, January 21, 1967

I'm finding the competition quite a bit tougher than I thought, mainly from people who know French and/or psychology.  The impression I've gotten is that she's been doing more dating than studying the past two weeks.


In March, I moved on.  I renewed my friendship with a member of my own sophomore class.

She was on Social Board, which was sponsoring an experiment in computer dating, and she talked me into filling out a personality survey.  The computer sorted through the forms and paired each person up with the most compatible match.

Of course, this totally ignored the important principle that "opposites attract," and many of the pairings were relatively boring.  But in my case . . .


Sunday, April 16, 1967

The computer date last night was interesting, all right.  I ended up with Paul Wilczynski.

I showed up at Dascomb right on schedule at 6:56 to pick up my date but was told that she was in the orchestra of Finian's Rainbow, a musical that was presented this weekend at Hall Auditorium, and therefore wouldn't be able to go.  But they called her down to the lobby anyway, and I talked to her for about two minutes to at least find out the details of the situation.  She had to leave for the performance around 7:30, and of course it would last until about midnight, so we decided not to try to do anything together.  She was a freshman violin major and didn't strike me as being very personable.

So with two tickets to the Faculty Stunt Night still in my pocket, I went back up to WOBC, where I had been just a few minutes before.  There were a lot of events going on last night, including a WOBC open house from 7:30 to 2:00, and Paul (who's a freshman late-night disk jockey) happened to be killing time up there also.  He didn't sign up for the computer date, but he was planning to go to the Stunt Night.  So rather than our both being lonesome, we decided to go together.

We kept up a running joke all evening, with me introducing him as my date and him warning me not to get too forward, and so on.

When the faculty show was over about ten, we went back to WOBC and helped join in the jollity at the open house.  For about half an hour after the show, there must have been a couple of hundred people in the studios — or at least it seemed that way.  Around eleven things thinned out, so I came back to Noah.

I probably enjoyed myself more the way it worked out.  I have a feeling that it would have been an effort to keep the evening moving along smoothly with this girl.

To compare it with something I'm more familiar with, radio interviews, there are some interviewees who can take a simple question and give a complete answer that actually answers far more than you asked, including things you might not have thought to have asked; it's easy to conduct a good interview with these people.  On the other hand, the interviewer almost has to drag answers out of other interviewees; they answer the questions in as few words as possible, and then you have to prod them again to get them to talk again.

Now when I was in high school I was probably of this second type, but I'm gradually learning to become more open, talkative, personable, or whatever you want to call it — at least outwardly.  This has been helped along by knowing popular girls with whom it's necessary to be outgoing if you're going to sustain their interest.

But inwardly I haven't changed that much, so I filled out the computer-date questionnaire with answers like "I'm usually guarded and reserved," "I prefer to be by myself," and so on — true enough answers, but the girl I'm matched up with is probably the same way, and I'm not exactly looking for someone else who has trouble being outgoing.

Of course it isn't fair to rate this girl on the basis of a two-minute conversation.  Things might have worked out well, but I have a feeling it would not have come naturally for either of us.

The following Thursday, my mother replied:

At least I am glad you found someone to go somewhere with, since you were dressed and ready to go out.

I feel you are improving all the time in your progress of becoming more talkative and open with people, and it is just something you will have to keep working at, maybe all your life.  Your Dad was in the same boat and still has to be on guard not to be too “retiring” or whatever you might want to call it.

If I ever have felt I have failed you in any way as a mother, it would surely be in that area, knowing I have not succeeded in making of you an outgoing friendly person.  But so many times I have seen others who were “forward to a fault,” and I have said to myself “Thank you God, for making Tom — Tom.”

We are all born to be a certain type of personality, and I have decided one cannot change that completely.

Also in the cast was sophomore and future television commentator Robert Krulwich, playing Abel Drugger, the proprietor of a small tobacco shop.  I remember laughing so much that afterwards my face hurt.


Saturday, April 29, 1967

Only a couple of things to report.  Last night I went to a performance of The Alchemist with Sherry Burian — pre-med student, therefore taking physics; Harkness freshman originally from New York State but now living in California; transferring to Berkeley next year to be closer to home; quite pleasant, and apparently glad to be asked to go.

The play was fun, too.  It was written in 1610 by Ben Jonson, who also wrote the words to "Drink to Me Only with Thy Eyes."  Sherry had been studying it in English 4, so she knew the plot in advance, which helped (357-year-old English isn't always easy to understand).

But the characterizations were really what made the play.  The best ones were by some of the English professors.  There were five in the cast (the play was produced by the English Department); Mr. Longsworth had a minor role.


Sunday, November 5, 1967

Jan Olson and I went to the Musical Union/Oberlin Orchestra performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony Friday night; this is the one from which the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" is taken.  Afterwards we went up to the radio station for my Oberlin Digest program, after which the two of us gathered around the WOBC piano and sang songs from the Oberlin College Song Book, among others.  (Not that either of us is a great singer, but as long as no one else is listening, we don't mind.)

I probably won't take Jan out very often (I've known her for nearly two years now and this is the first time), since she does have several other friends who are much better at the social game than I am.  But as long as I don't make a nuisance of myself, I think she and I will stay pretty good friends.  She's a good girl.


Saturday, July 27, 1968
to a friend after she told of going shshflump (i.e., fainting)

I'm slightly amazed to discover that you are capable of crying when things go wrong and of shshflumping when you've got a punctured, screaming infant in your arms.  I'd heard that girls are able to do such things, but I never realized that it actually happens to anyone these days.

As for me, I've lost the ability to cry.  I used to be pretty good at it when I was younger, but no more.  My eyes occasionally get misty when I hear something inspiring, but that's as far as it goes.  I presume it's not a physical change that makes me unable to cry but rather just the standard of our society that big boys don't do things like that.  Big boys don't shshflump, either, but then I've never shshflumped in my life.


Sunday, June 8, 1969

I wish I could say it more eloquently, but since I can't:

Thank you for these past few years.  Despite the occasional troubles and frustrations, you have done more to change my life (for the better, I hope) than perhaps you'll ever realize.  I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to know you so well.

Happy twenty-second birthday.

Happy life!

And I'm sure it will be.


I graduated from college in June and moved on to graduate school in September.  Like the last two letters, the following ones were written to female friends from Oberlin.


Tuesday, July 8, 1969

I've come to a decision myself this summer, after watching some of the energetic brats and haggard parents that come into the garage.  If at all possible, I'm going to avoid having children.  They're just too much a disruption of the well-ordered adult life, taking too much energy and time that could be better spent in other ways.  Besides, there are already more than enough kids being born in the world to perpetuate the species.

Well, I suppose comments like that also sound harsh and unfeeling to you.  Sorry about that, but I'm just a harsh and unfeeling person.  Don't care a thing about how you're getting along up there, whether you've decided on a job, or anything.  Be sure not to write.


Wednesday, September 17, 1969

I am having fun here at graduate school.  Somehow I seem much more aware of what's going on in the past week or so, more able to appreciate things, more self-confident, than I was all summer.

Example:  There's a large mosaic mural [see photo] on the end of one building dealing with a couple of Italian immigrants who were executed back in the 1920's after a trial of questionable fairness.  I began noticing things like:  The two Italians cast shadows but the other people in the picture, all of whom were much smaller, didn't.  The portion of the background which represented the courthouse was a confused jumble, not following the laws of perspective at all. whereas the portion of the background which represented a factory where the common man worked was done with solid and straight-forward perspective.

Of course I've met people.  I can't say I've gone to any great lengths to Extrovert Myself, since I've been kind of happy wandering around alone, but the starting of certain friendships has come about quite naturally.

Among the males, there's on guy I liked right away for the totally inexplicable reason that his voice reminds me of a certain Oberlinian warlock and bread inhibitor by the name of Woodruff.

Among the females, I'm paying the most attention to one who happens to have a room right down the street here at 218 Miles Avenue.  This has led to an apparently semi-permanent arrangement in which I escort her home after our Monday-night class; it's nearly half an hour walking between here and the campus.  I've been indicating an interest in friendship in other ways, too. 

Strange thing about this young lady:  while waiting with the rest of the group for a class to start, she's not unusually talkative, but she practically never stops talking if she and I are walking around campus alone.  My guess is that at least part of this is due to a defensive reaction to being alone with a member of the opposite sex.  It's not that she's trying to make a good impression, because her subject matter isn't calculated that way; she just chatters about whatever comes to mind.  Ah, well, at least she is talking to me, even though she isn't doing much listening.


Saturday, September 27, 1969

You always scolded me for sitting at a table all by myself.  Actually, that way I do get more enjoyment out of eating — but I doubt if I get enough more to make up for the conversational enjoyment I miss.  (In the same way, I prefer walking home with the girl from 218 Miles to walking home alone, but when I'm with someone I don't get to appreciate much of the scenery.)


Wednesday, October 8, 1969

I probably never mentioned it, but Paul Wilczynski was my computer date at Oberlin once.  In the spring of my sophomore year, the computer matched me with a girl who wasn't available that night because she was playing in the pit orchestra at Hall.  So I was all dressed up with no place to go, and Mr. Wilczynski was hanging around the station similarly unattached, so we decided to go to the CRF faculty show at Finney — telling everyone that the computer had goofed.  Great fun.


Wednesday, October 15, 1969

Life would be pretty dull if we attained happiness at age 25 and then just lived statically for the rest of our days.  But many young people seem to think that life works like the fairy tales that end "and they were married and lived happily ever after," and they struggle so that they can reach that state of eternal bliss without taking time to enjoy the journey.  Then when they get there, what's left to work for?

My euphoria last month was probably a reaction to my being on my own for the first time since May, an independent, healthy, in-control-of-the-world feeling.

I gradually came back down to earth; in fact, at the moment I'm slightly below sea level, and I couldn't care less about the mosaic mural.  The cause of my descent appears to have been the same as the cause of my ascent:  being on my own.  Now I don't feel as much independent as I feel lonely.  That problem, in turn, should slowly resolve itself as I become better friends with the other students in TVR, and as I attain small successes like compliments on my work.

As I said, I'm kind of lonesome at present.  And things don't look too promising; maybe I should try to get used to being all by myself in the world.

In college I theorized that things would be worse after I graduated, and my theory seems to be correct so far.  In graduate school one gets to know fewer girls — and them not as well because everyone's working independently, and grad school only lasts a few months, and everyone's going off in different directions afterwards, and some of them are married already anyway.

And then after Syracuse, when I'm working for some TV station or something, I'll probably be lucky if there's one eligible and compatible female working there too.  So I may have to resort to dating strangers; more likely, I'll just live my life alone.  Even if there were a large number of females for me to associate with, I'd probably have a hard time coming up with one that was right for me.

A parable happened to me Sunday after church, as I made the half-hour walk from the church to a restaurant.  It was one of those beautiful sunny October days, and the church-restaurant route winds through a residential street (falling leaves on the sidewalk) and then through a park.

As I walked down the street, I suddenly heard a rustle behind me, and out ran a white dog (medium-sized short-haired type, I don't know the breed; this one had a brown spot on her right ear).  She ran ahead of me on the sidewalk, several times looking back to see if I was still coming.  Evidently she just wanted somebody to walk with.  She didn't follow me too closely, running off on little side trips to investigate whatever caught her fancy; but wherever I went, she went too, grateful for the company.  I did make a little detour in my planned route so that we could go over to check out a cat who was sitting in the park.

As we were about to leave the park, my friend suddenly stopped still and stared.  Over the hill there came another dog of the same breed, this one jet black and handsome.  My friend watched the newcomer, and her tail slowly and deliberately began to wag.  The black dog came up and said hello, and then made a pass at the white one.  She trotted on the way we had been walking, ignoring his gesture.  Now she began to show symptoms of divided loyalty between her walking partner (me) and her suitor, whom she seemed interested in despite her aloofness.  All the time he was growing more insistent, and she was forced to growl him away a couple of times.  I made a turn to head in the direction of the restaurant, and she followed me, but soon her suitor grew too distracting and she headed off in another direction, with him still following close behind.  The last I saw of the two, they were barking at each other.

I couldn't help thinking as I walked on alone:  if I played myself in that parable, then the white dog was you and the black one John.

All analogies break down if pressed too far, of course.  Which is to say, among other things, that I don't want you feeling insulted because I drew a comparison between you and a canine female.  You have no right to feel insulted anyway, since you once compared me to a caterpillar.


Wednesday, October 29, 1969

As it turns out, I took your how-to-drive-loneliness-away advice the very day you gave it to me — last Sunday — which was rather remarkable since your letter containing that advice didn't get here until today.

I don't normally send Halloween cards, but this year I decided to buy one to send to somebody who might enjoy being remembered at this appropriate time of year.  And you're right, doing that did make me feel a lot less alone.

Part of the fun of little unilateral actions of that sort, of course, is in imagining the reaction, which hopefully will be that somebody out there will think pleasant thoughts about the somebody here.  And if that reaction is to occur, there's no point in feeling lonely, because I'm not alone.

Now for a change of subject:  I'd like to inform you that the answer to your "impertinent question" of October 5th has changed to the affirmative, effective a week ago.  I took Miss 218 to dinner, preceded by an hour talk while we waited for the place to open and followed by a half-hour walk back to Miles Avenue.

It was intended to be friendly rather than exciting, and that's the way it turned out.  Miss 218 is very considerate, a nice girl, but unfortunately she's the same sort of introverted non-nutty listener type as I, and it's a little difficult for the two of us to get off onto any absurd tangents that are fun.  We each can have great fun in the presence of other, nutty people, though, which in a way is what led me to take her to dinner:  she is now beginning to know people well enough that she spends most of the time around classes talking to them, male and female alike, without having to resort to talking to introverted me as she did at first; which led to a classic case of my feeling neglected, followed immediately by a request for a date.

After that pleasant but bland dinner, I've decided to try a little harder to extrovert myself but also to keep on the lookout for other female-friend possibilities.


Saturday, November 15, 1969

I did not "give up on a girl after just one date."  But about the time I wrote that last letter, 218 began transmitting some subtle but unmistakable hints that she had no particular desire to try to force a conversation with me.  Things like not looking at me when she spoke, answering my remarks with as great an economy of words as possible and offering no remarks of her own, and manipulating seating arrangements and walking-home schedules and routes so as to avoid having to make small talk with me for half an hour.

Having experienced this sort of thing in January of 1967, I soon decided that fighting it would only lead to further frustration, so then I gave up.  In the past couple of weeks we haven't even acknowledged each other's existence.  And I've enjoyed myself more because of this; no longer having to concentrate on making a good impression on 218, I can now talk to whomever I feel like talking to.  It's a much more relaxed, friendly situation.


Saturday, December 6, 1969

Maybe I should clarify a little better what I said about my preferring not to have children.  It's not only that I would consider kids to be a nuisance disrupting my daily life, but also that I don't think I could be a good father to them, partly because I'd resent their presence and partly because I just don't have the talent for it, judging from what I've observed of me so far.

Literal translation:
“I believe that somebody who took my heart holds me dear.”

Less poetically:
“There's reason to think that the guy I've fallen in love with may feel the same way about me.”


Sunday, December 7, 1969

Uh, if you don't mind, please save your French for your diary and write to me only in languages I sort of understand, like English or Runic.  The first paragraph of your November 23 letter may have been poetic, but it could have been embarrassing to me as I had to ask fellow students to translate it before I could know what you were so happy about.

The young lady who did translate it gave me a quizzical look afterwards, but that's okay.  You wrote, “Today I am feeling so happy that I can hardly bear it.  Je croisque quelqu’un qui a pris mon coeur me tient chere.”  Having gotten the meaning of the second sentence, I'm tempted to say “congratulations” again, but somehow that doesn't quite sound right.  Anyway, I'm glad you're happy!



Saturday, March 28, 1970

I've been a little bit lonesome these past couple of weeks.  I guess that's the best word for it.  The cause of that feeling was actually my most recent TV production, which though it wasn't a failure was not an unqualified success either.  It was just a good mediocre show.  Ordinarily that wouldn't upset me too much; I'd just go on and do something else to prove to the world that I was not, like Judge Carswell, a mediocre person.  But here there aren't that many opportunities to prove my supposed excellence, and I don't have any close friendships to reassure me.  So all I could do was worry and be lonesome.  Perhaps as a symptom, for the past couple of weeks the skin on the palms of my hands and my fingertips has been peeling.

Oh, I have tried to do things.  Rather than spending weekday afternoons reading one of those 25 books we're supposed to get through by June, I've been hanging around the TV studio (just as I used to hang around WOBC), watching what was going on and feeling like I was doing something worthwhile every time I could offer another student some assistance.  I was finding it difficult to concentrate on reading, anyway.  My mind kept going back to that mediocre show.  And sometimes it even went back to you.  I have used your friendship in the past when I felt I needed reassurance.

But then things began to get better.  I was the audio man for another production and got compliments from the director for the work I did to improve what originally was a pretty sloppy, sometimes unintelligible sound track.  Then I was a writer for our news lab and got compliments from that director.  And the memory of the mediocre show is fading.  Besides all that, there's the future:  the Washington trip, going home, the new tape recorder.  So I expect to climb out of this hole before long; maybe by next week my palms will have stopped peeling.

Just the same, I have been lonesome.  It would be better, I think, if my psychological well-being didn't depend so completely on being successful in my work.  It would be better if there were some more constant factor, such as someone's love.  For all I know, it might even be better — as much as I dislike the intrusion of shrill-voiced childish midgets into my private adult world — it might even be better to have a family to come home to rather than just a well-ordered room.  I don't know.

Anyway, thanks for being my friend.  It helps to have someone who'll listen while I try to understand myself by rambling on like this.


Sunday, April 18, 1971

Actually, I probably would be feeling "oppressed" right now if I were dating or otherwise pursuing outside interests.  But as it is, I'm wholly wrapped up in my work and honestly don't want to be away from home in the evenings, except when the job demands it.  When I have free time, I usually spend it resting up for the next day's work.  Now, obviously this can't go on forever; sooner or later I'll get tired of the job and realize that Marion CATV isn't everything in life, and then I'll want to do other things with my time without parental interference or worrying.

Maybe, that is.  I enjoy living in a private world, withdrawn from other people, during my "off hours."  Naturally, I like to be with people when I work.  But when I come home, I prefer it to be to an empty house, or at least to a house with only my parents in it.  It might be nice to come home to a house with a wife in it.  But, unfortunately, with marriage usually come children.  And the more I see of children, the more I'm convinced I don't want them running around in my "castle."  It's bad enough having to be around the immature, shrill-voiced, hyperactive little people at work (we have a children's show on which 5-year-olds are guests every day) without having them invade my own private domain of Home.  Home is where I come to relax.

I intend to avoid being a father, because it would be distressing to me and unfair to the kids.


Monday, September 6, 1971

I often fail to tell even my parents some of the major things that are going on at CATV.  The problem is that when I'm at work, I'm worrying about these things all day; when I go home at night, I want to forget about them, not rehash them all again and answer questions.  So I often give my parents the impression that nothing interesting happened on a day when in fact something rather important happened, something I don't really have any interest in talking about.  Home is someplace to go to forget your troubles.

A corollary:  I'm coming to the conclusion that an ideal wife for me, if one exists, would not only prefer not to have children; she would also be employed at the same place as I.  That way, when we went home in the evening we would pretty well know "what happened at work today."  If the day's happenings hadn't been adequately discussed during the day, we could discuss them with each other in the evening; otherwise, we could forget about them and instead concern ourselves with totally unrelated matters that also interest us.  My theory is that it might actually be easier to go home and forget about the worries of your job, if your spouse shares that job.  (Or, if the worries can't be dismissed that easily, at least your colleague-spouse can share them with you more sympathetically.)


Sunday, November 7, 1971

At the end of your letter of August 17, 1970, over a year ago, you asked, "What does Richwood/Marion offer in the way of social life to a young, eligible bachelor with a master's °?"

Now I'm finally getting around to answering that question.  A new girl started to work part-time in our office at Marion CATV last week:  a college sophomore who attends classes in the mornings and works in the afternoon.  And I surprised myself by getting to know her rather quickly.

I introduced myself to her one day.  The next, I got to talk with her for a while (which isn't easy, since I don't have that much occasion to talk with our secretaries normally).  The third day, I arranged things so that it was she who was working most closely with me in reporting the election returns; three girls were working in the office preparing the returns, but it was the new one who brought them back to the studio and watched as I read them on the air.  And the fourth day, I asked her for a date.  She accepted, apparently with pleasure.  We're going out for dinner and a movie tomorrow.

The thing that pleases me most about this is the prospect of at least a few hours of companionship with someone of the opposite sex.  I've been away too long.  I'm not sure the girl is the most wonderful I've ever met; she is pretty and pleasant, but she's also rather quiet, which might indicate that she has nothing particular to say.  She's probably also about five years younger than I.  Nevertheless, we should be able to have a good time together, which might just be good for both of us.

The election returns seemed to turn out very well.  We had several people tell us that our coverage was better than that of the local radio station, which has been doing this far longer than we have.  Part of this was my doing (which helped to impress my new friend); part of it was the doing of a couple of other talented people who appeared on the air; and part of it was a combination of hard work and good luck.


Sunday, December 19, 1971

You may be wondering how I'm getting along with that college sophomore who's working at our office.  Well, the situation is ambiguous.  Since that first date, I haven't taken her out again, although I did ask her once but found she was going to be out of town on the weekend in question.  Part of the reason for my reluctance is the fact that she already has a boyfriend her own age of whom she's rather fond.  This doesn't stop her from going out with other people, but it does sort of dim her enthusiasm, and it definitely lowers my self-confidence.  I met the fellow at our company Christmas party, to which she brought him as her date.  I'll have to admit I like him, and they make a nice couple.  So I'm left with the feeling, "How am I going to compete with that?"

But I'm not giving up completely.  I gave her a nice Christmas present Friday.  (She seemed pleased, but not exactly excited.)  And I'll try to work an evening or two with her into the next two weeks, before her classes start again.  Since she has night classes now, it's sometimes difficult for us to make connections.  Maybe if I keep trying, we can at least get to be friends.


Sunday, February 27, 1972

You may recall that last November I dated a new secretary here at CATV.  Since then, I haven't been able to make much progress on that front.  The young lady was sometimes cool to me, sometimes not.  She had a habit of answering my questions with as few words as possible (like "Yes"); this procedure naturally puts a damper on conversation.  Yet there were times when she seemed to enjoy my attention to her.

On December 27, when she had run out of excuses, she finally said, "I don't think I'd better go out with you, Tom.  You see, I'm dating Charlie, and he sort of gets jealous; do you understand?"  I told her I did, that I in fact suspected as much, and that I was glad she had told me the situation frankly.  Two days later I sent her flowers for her birthday, partly to show her there were no hard feelings.  She seemed very pleased.

Since then, however, she's remained distant on most occasions, still answering me as briefly as possible.  She carries on more flirtatious conversations with the other men around here, all of them married; but she doesn't seem at all interested in talking to me, with rare exceptions.  Why this pointed lack of interest?


Sunday, March 12, 1972

I agree with your analysis that the young lady in question was probably trying to "discourage" me.  And she probably was right; had she suddenly become friendly again, I probably would have taken that as a signal to resume the pursuit.

Anyway, the immediate problem has been resolved.  The young lady has now left her part-time job at CATV — Thursday was her last day — in order to take a higher-paying part-time job with a Marion law firm.

Only after she'd decided to take this new job and leave CATV did she open up toward me at all, and then not much.  This is getting just a bit disheartening.

Sunday, January 5, 1975

I think I can almost understand the situation.  Forgive me if I've misinterpreted things, but it sounds as though one of the married men you've met in your work wanted to become more than just a colleague.  You were pretty well convinced that you didn't want to get involved, but you weren't sure what you should do about it.  The fact that I'd sent you a Christmas card reminded you of me, and of "exactly where I stand on this issue."  [In general, I think adultery is unwise.]  In trying to think through the situation, you felt that my spirit might somehow be helpful as a participant in the mental discussion you were having with yourself.  So you decided to conjure up that spirit by writing to me.  This move produced no immediate results; but within 24 hours, possibly with the help of conversations with other Oberlinians, you did arrive at a new perspective on the situation.  Now you know what you want to do, and you're very happy.

If the preceding paragraph bears little resemblance to reality, your letter must have been even less coherent than I thought.  But then, that's one of the things I like about you.  If you were always easy to understand, where would be the fascination?

[She replied:  "Once again you have shown amazing insight.  Your interpretation of my letter was essentially correct."]

You know, I'm beginning to think I do have a way of overdoing things sometimes.  Your last letter ended with the sentence "I don't deserve such a thoughtful friend."  Meanwhile in the "O" file is another letter with this sentence:  "As a friend of mine once said, 'I don't deserve the people I know.'"  And in the "R" file, I found this sentence:  "Don't worry about me please, I am really not worth the trouble."

Now I really can't believe that all the women with whom I correspond are so undeserving of me.  It would be nice to think so, but I know better.  What's really happening, most likely, is that I'm being over-friendly, in one way or another.

I've been happily living in my own modern little apartment right here a few blocks from downtown Washington.  I can't say I've become a good cook, although a couple of months ago I did make an Irish stew from scratch.  But with the aid of various frozen and canned convenience foods, I'm able to get along quite well.

I really do enjoy living alone.  Ten years from now I may change my mind, but for now I'm convinced that I don't want to let a wife into my home, much less children.  If someone else were living here too, I'd never be able to relax, because I'd always be worrying about offending my roommates.  But when I'm by myself, I can eat when I feel like it, let the dishes accumulate an extra day if I don't have the inclination to wash them, get up and go to bed when I want to, and not feel in the least lonesome.

The only problem is that sometimes I lack the incentive to finish a project I've started.  No one's around to criticize me for my laziness.  For example, I now have lying on my desk a shorthand textbook.  I've been planning to teach myself shorthand, which should come in handy in my present work or in some future job.  I know I can learn it easily enough, if I can only discipline myself to spend the necessary study time.  (You see, I've gotten out of practice in the past 4½ years in regard to studying.)  You wouldn't care to do a little yelling at me, would you?


Sunday, April 3, 1977

On Brian:  Yes, from the pictures and your description he does seem delightful.  I'm sure I would enjoy meeting your son.

However, I don't think it would change my mind about wanting to be a parent myself.  Being with a child for an hour or so is one thing, but it's quite another to be with him for a major part of the day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, and to have no choice in the matter.

I'm sure you enjoy being a parent, at least most of the time.  But we all have limits as to how much of a particular type of activity we can handle before we tire of it, and my quota for being around children is rather low.  (I'll be I could out-endurance you in road-rally navigating, though!  It's all a matter of personal preferences.)


You did inquire as to whether I'm developing any particular romantic liaisons, to use your words.  The answer is no.  I really haven't had anything of that kind since leaving Ohio three years ago.

Having said that, I now get the feeling I should defend my lack of romantic involvement.  I guess it goes back to what I said on Page 1:  it's all a matter of personal preferences.  I actually feel that I'm happy living alone, working, reading, and not having to worry about any other person's feelings.  Most people get lonesome or bored under such conditions, but I don't.  Maybe I am missing something, but I'm enjoying life in my own way.

(Come to think of it, you're also missing something in the way of life you've chosen, with the responsibilities of your family and your career limiting your activities.  We each have to make our choices as to what we want most.)

Hmm.  I sounded terribly defensive in that last paragraph.  Sort of like the time when I was trying to justify not going on towards a higher degree in physics, but rather getting into the field of broadcasting, which was more fun but less what I "ought" to be doing.  I have this nagging feeling that uninvolved bachelorhood is somehow wrong.  Paul Simon's words echo:

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me.
I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room,
Safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,
I am an island.

Maybe it is wrong, or unwise.  But somehow this independent, insular private life works best for me, at the present time.


Tuesday, June 5, 1979

You've inquired a couple of times as to whether I've formed any romantic attachments, since you recommend married life based upon your experiences with it.  I have nothing new to report.  But I do have an additional observation.

The past couple of days at lunch at the local restaurant, a young lady has caught my eye as, like myself, she eats alone.  She's pleasantly pretty, and as we munched away at our separate tables, I wondered whether then was a possibility of introducing myself to her or anything like that.

No, I'm too introverted for anything like that.

Besides, even if we did become acquainted, what would I do then?  My work gives me all the opportunity for going places and public socializing that I need, since I'm basically a homebody.

No, better leave well enough alone.

The new insight came when I compared this situation with my coveting of a couple of thousand-dollar gadgets.

I've thought from time to time that it would be nice to have a home computer to play with, and/or an home video-tape recorder to record certain TV programs on the nights I have to work.  Each gadget has definite advantages.  But on the whole, I decided that their utility would be limited compared with the cost of acquiring them, and I can do without them.

The same thing applies to the idea of a romantic friend.  It's enjoyable to contemplate having one, but conservative practicality says that there are minuses as well as plusses and I'm better off the way I am.



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