Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The "Other Woman"

Those who know me will be shocked by the title of this inaugural blog post. Kevin cheat on Teresa? they will say. No! He's not the type! I don't want to dissuade anyone from that belief, but if you please bear with me to the end of this piece, I promise you that you will not be scandalized or disappointed. It ends well. I promise.

You see, Teresa and I have An Understanding. We always have. She knows where I stand on this, and she accepts it. Yes, admittedly at times she is jealous and gets exasperated, and I don't begrudge her that, but generally, she is at peace with this. (Right now she is standing behind me with her arms folded...maybe I overstated her peace of mind).

I want to tell my readers a little about The Other Woman. I am going to tell a story about a very significant moment in my life. Again, I plead with you - bear with me and you will not be disappointed, and my honor will be intact, I assure you.

Anyone who has known me well knows that approaching women has never been my strong suit. I never had much confidence. I'm not much to look at, and I'm more than a bit of a nerd. For quite a while I had what the late Chris Farley called "a bit of a weight problem". If a woman was attracted to me, she pretty much had to hit me in the head with a brick for me to get it. Dropping hints on me was a lost cause. I was too timid to act on them. So those who know me are going to be shocked when the read what follows. I am going to relay an incident in which I approached a woman at a store. I, a happily married man, felt the urgent need, the inner yearning, and I had to act.

She was standing in the used book section of the Good Will in Salisbury, MD. I remember that she was attractive, to be sure. But that was not what riveted my attention to her. She had picked up a volume that I had missed when I perused that area of the store minutes earlier, and in her hand, open, was a copy of G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica.

The reader who is not a philosopher may well wonder why that would intrigue or excite me. Trust me, when it comes to philosophy, G.E. Moore was The Man. Moore was a common sense realist and a B.S. eliminator. Moore is famous for denying metaphysical idealism (the idea that the world is an idea in the mind, and that matter is not real) by holding up his hand and saying, "Here is a hand." Moore also cut through the B.S. of Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and the hedonic calculus of Bentham and Mill's utilitarianism by refusing to define Good in his formulation of ethics. Refusing to define the central term in ethics - this was very unusual! For Moore, it is not the case that a thing is good because all rational beings would will it, or because it brings about greater pleasure or reduces pain. That puts the cart before the horse. For Moore, something will be willed by all rational beings because it is good, and thus it would also be no surprise if it eliminates suffering or makes people happy. These are not what define good, but are consequences of a thing being good. Good, he says, is a simple reality, not a complex one subject to breaking it down into simpler elements, analyzing and indentifying them. We do not define value, we define other things by their value.

So, back to my story. I was attracted. I was filled with a passionate desire. You may be inclined to think this was a simple story of a man seeing an attractive woman who had shown an intellectual compatibility, an interest in common, and wanting to get to know her, but since I am a married man, it is a bit more complicated than that. I began to feel my old insecurity well up in me. I wanted to approach her, but I always had that phobia. I anticipated the sweating and the stuttering that I was sure I would emit if I dared to address her. Was my desire strong enough to overcome this terrible timidity? YES! I knew I had to say something to her, or I would regret it. I would wonder for God knows how long whether I would have succeeded in getting what I felt I so urgently needed.

"Excuse me, miss?" I heard myself say.

She looked up at me expectantly, saying nothing.

I breathed in heavily and gulped before continuing. "I'm going to ask you something, and if you say no, it's no..." I began, trying to get the words out quickly so I would not begin stammering like a fool.

She nodded, indicating I should continue.

And suddenly a very confident, articulate, savvy, smooth-talking person stepped into my body - someone who seemed to be able to talk to women with the greatest of ease. Part of me was stunned and, within a psychological fortress, I watched in awe as Ricco Suave went to work, speaking words out of my mouth, moving my head and hands in subtle, cool ways.

"I noticed you found that copy of G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica," I (Ricco) crooned.

"Yes," she smiled, "I was just looking through-"

I plowed over what she was about to say. My passion was aroused and I had no patience for small talk.

"Well, ma'am, that's your find, and it is only fair that you should be able to purchase it if you want to, but I have to tell you that I am very interested in acquiring that copy of Moore from you. After you take it up to the cash register I would be happy to buy it off you for significantly more than you will pay for it."

She cocked her head, confused. No doubt she was expecting some kind of come-on, some request for her phone number, some cliché, some silly line. "Well," she said haltingly, "If you want it, you can have it."

"Are you sure? It is a beauty, and I can understand your wanting it. Like I said, if you want it, you can tell me no, and that will be that."

"No," she said, her eyebrows tensing, "no, it's all right." She slowly handed it to me, looking at me and then back to the book. Then back at me...and saw me looking at the book. I could tell...I could see out of the corner of my eye...she was waiting for something. The line, the pass, the come on. When was I going to ask for her phone number? Or say, "Hey, let me make this up to you. Let's go get some coffee, my treat." But once the book was in my hand I smiled. "Thank you!" I gushed. "Thank you very much!" And then I was moving, on my way to the cash register, joyous at the find. She was looking at my back, and I already would never see her again, thrilled that I would never regret that.

At this Good Will, at that time, books were sold at 25 cents for hard covers and 10 cents for paperbacks. I pulled a dime and a penny (for the tax) out of my pocket, paid for the book, and I was out of there, already gone.

I love Teresa very much, but I also love She whom Anicius Manlius Severinus Bo√ęthius called "Lady Philosophy". Teresa knows about this "Other Woman" in my life. She's like Peggy Hill on the animated TV show King of the Hill - she is a trooper, a very understanding soul. “Peg and I have An Understanding…” Hank Hill says. When I hear him say that about Peg, with reference to his own mistress, "Lady Propane", I have to nod knowingly and smile. I am lucky like Hank.