Note: When you get to the end of this post it may seem like a cry for help. It’s not. Just an honest expression of how I feel sometimes.

So I went on a real date a couple weeks ago. The first one since I’ve been down here. I say a “real date” because Sprinkles and I went to lunch once last year but I don’t think either of us considered that to be a real date. I don’t know what she was thinking, I’ve given up trying to figure that out.

Back in September 2009 I put a profile on a dating website called OKCupid. It was kind of on a whim, but I have done well in the past with dating sites because it helps me get past my Aspergery tendencies to misread social cues etc. On a dating website, you know that someone is actually available (instead of just stringing you along and playing games with you — no, I’m not bitter). You can also look through questions they have answered to see how compatible you are regarding religion, ethical issues, dating, and sex.

Before I get to my date, though, a slight digression:


OK, Asperger’s. Here’s the thing about Asperger’s: I don’t have a normal brain. No, that doesn’t mean that I was kidnapped by aliens and had half of my brain removed and replaced by Swiss cheese. Although that would explain a lot of things, and what a great explanation for when I screw up at work: “Sorry, boss, I must have been thinking out of the Swiss cheese side.”

Of course you know about my chronic depression, but that is “the common cold of mental illness” so that doesn’t make my brain unusual. There’s also the ADHD (Inattentive Type), again not all that uncommon. No, what really sets me apart from the teeming masses is Asperger’s Syndrome. Those of us who have been diagnosed with AS actually separate “Aspies” from “Normies.” Kind of like the preppy kids in college towns are distinguished from “townies.” Although Aspies don’t get beaten up if they walk into a Normie bar.

Of all the pieces of my unholy trinity of mental hoo-hah, Asperger’s is the one that I understand the least. That may due to the fact that if I do have Asperger’s it’s a mild case, and also that the book I’ve tried to read on the subject is as dull as dishwater, watching paint dry, and American Idol.

One of the key points of Asperger’s is the inability to understand or properly interpret social cues:

  • The lack of or inability to make eye contact
  • Difficulty in understanding sarcasm or non verbal cues
  • Difficulty in knowing when a conversation has ended
  • Difficulty staying focused on one particular subject or becoming over focused on another
  • Problems understanding emotions of others
  • Taking everything literally, not understanding the hidden meaning
  • Extreme honesty, often saying things that may seem a little too blunt

Again, if I even do have AS, it’s a mild case; but I can recognize mild cases of all the above in my life and daily interactions. Take the whole “Sprinkles Saga” for example: A normal 51 year old guy would just recognize the fact that a hot 27 year old girl is flirting with him because she’s a flirt. He would enjoy it and that would be the end of it. Me, however, not so much. I had to whip myself up into an illogical frenzy of wanting the flirting to lead to something. I had to get my heart involved even though I knew that there was no chance.

This has been a problem all my life, making friends, getting along with co-workers, and especially with the opposite sex. It’s not that I didn’t have friends in school, but I often felt like an outsider. I didn’t have a girlfriend until after high school, and partly due to the misinterpreting of social cues I haven’t had that many, and didn’t get married until I was 40. I always seemed to be chasing after the wrong girl, while oblivious to the one over there who might have been interested in me.

While I’m digressing, funny story about Cupid:

During the first couple years of our marriage, Tania worked at an Evangelical Conservative Religious University as a professor and that allowed me to go there to finish my MSW. Henceforth, said university will be known as ECRU. One semester she was teaching a night class and her students were complaining that one of the sessions was on Valentine’s Day and, hence, was going to interfere with their love lives. So Tania decided to give the students Valentine’s Day off, but instead they had to go to see a particular romantic movie that was out at the time and write a short paper about the relationship dynamics portrayed in the film.

So the week before Valentine’s Day she decides that Cupid should come to her class and make the announcement, and who better to play the role of Cupid than her ham of a husband? We decided not to go with the minimalist costume depicted above. Not that I didn’t have the bod for it, but it was a conservative school. Instead we opted for a red shirt and sweatpants and home-made wings and bow and arrow made out of poster board.

My appearance in Tania’s class went fine. For no apparent reason my Cupid had a New York accent: “I’m Cupid over here!” The students were amused and seemed pleased with Tania’s compromise. The problems happened before I got there. Because my wings would get ruined if I tried to wear them while driving over to ECRU, I had to put them on in the parking lot of the school. It was a really windy night and that made it very hard to get the damn things on, besides I was afraid they were about to break. To try to protect myself from the wind, I crouched down between cars and successfully got the wings on.

While I was still struggling with the wings, a guy walked by and saw me crouching between the cars looking either very suspicious or very stupid, or both. I felt an explanation was in order so I just said, “I…I’m Cupid.”

He didn’t miss a beat. He looked up at the sky and said, “Well, it’s a good night for flying.”

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, OKCupid.

So I went on OKCupid and put up a profile that went a little like this:

My Self-Summary

I have baggage, but who doesn’t?
I’m opinionated, but so are you.
My idea of roughing it is Holiday Inn.
The great outdoors is best experienced via a picture window.
OK, let’s get religion and politics out of the way: I’m a Christian and a lefty. Some people find that to be a contradiction, I don’t believe that Jesus is one of them. I supported Barack Obama and still do.
I’m not a good dancer, but I might be able to learn.
I’m a social worker currently taking a break from handling other people’s problems and working on my own.
I’m not Brad Pitt, and you’re probably not Jennifer Aniston, but if you are I wouldn’t throw you over for Angelina Jolie (ewww!).
Some people say nice guys finish last, what do you think?

What I’m doing with my life

Spending time in the South with my family.
Recovering from a bout with major depression.
Getting my shit together.

I’m really good at

Writing, but haven’t been able to make a living at it…yet.

The first things people usually notice about me

That I remind them of somebody, usually somebody they like.
Blue eyes.
Follically challenged.
Look about 5-10 years younger than I actually am.

My favorite books, movies, music, and food

History & biographies
I’ll read anything that can get past my ADHD.

Blues Brothers
Brazil (pretty much anything by Terry Gilliam)
Citizen Kane
Godfather 1-3

The Office (US & UK)
Countdown & Maddow on MSNBC
Daily Show & Colbert
Just about everything on Adult Swim except anime and Squidbillies

Real jazz (no Kenny G)

I like it

The six things I could never do without

My daughter
Sweet tea
My sense of humor
Rainy days

I spend a lot of time thinking about

See the above six items

On a typical Friday night I am

Either working or home.
That’s why I’m here because I need to get a life.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit here

I struggle with Major Depression, the common cold of mental illness, but it is reasonably under control.

You should message me if

You’re not scared by what I said earlier.
You’re looking for a gentleman.
You’re not looking for a quickie.
You’re interested in a short or long term relationship (but keep in mind that I will eventually move back to Southern California), or just a kind and friendly (I may need to be drawn out a bit) person.

≈  ≈  ≈  ≈  ≈

I thought it was a pretty good description of me in a nutshell (“Help! I’m in a nutshell!”). It was important that I be honest about my depression and the fact that I’m only in the South temporarily.

So I got two responses that seemed promising. The first was from a very nice lady who contacted me first. I may write more about her in the future because we communicated a lot online, but she apparently didn’t see the statement that I will eventually be going back to CA in my profile. She decided not to pursue a relationship because she has abandonment issues. We became Facebook friends though and we still communicate, but we’ve never met in person.

The second time I initiated the conversation and she seemed very fun from her pictures and her profile. She was OK with me being crazy, she was OK with me going back to CA. We answered similarly on a lot of the questions so we seemed pretty compatible. That felt right to me. We made dates and then had to postpone them twice, but she always seemed very interested in meeting me.

When we finally met, she seemed like a different person. She hardly ever smiled or laughed. She mentioned that she herself is reluctantly back in the South after living in New York and Europe, that she would be happy to be travelling again permanently (she designs jewelry), and that she wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend.

So at that point I’m saying to myself, “OK, then what am I doing here?”

She also didn’t seem to understand how chronic depression works. She talked about a time when she was depressed and read a book that snapped her out of it. That’s OK, a lot of people don’t understand it. I used to be one of them. But something tells me I’m not going to be the one to educate her on it. If she lived closer maybe another get together might be a good idea, but she lives 42 miles away. That might not be a lot by LA standards, where we live on the freeways, but around here it seems like a long distance.

There was just no spark there, no electricity. I don’t think there was any on her end either. We met at the place where we had dinner and so I walked her to her car. I didn’t exactly go in for a hug, but I said good night and touched her shoulder in a way that could have led to a hug if she had wanted it to. It didn’t.

On the other hand, maybe I misjudged her social cues…but I don’t think so.

While I was driving home, as I often do I was scanning the local radio stations. I stopped scanning when I heard the familiar sound of one of Tom Scholz‘s guitar solos. It turned out to be ‘A Man I’ll Never Be’ from Boston‘s second album ‘Don’t Look Back.’ Boston has always been a fave, but this song was one that I hadn’t heard for a while. It’s a signature Boston song, well produced, some might say overproduced. Scholz is an innovator and a great musician but his solos always kind of sound the same to me. The singer Brad Delp has always been Boston’s selling point for me, and he particularly sold this song that night:

I can’t get any stronger
I can’t climb any higher
You’ll never know just how hard I’ve tried
Cry a little longer
And hold a little tighter
Emotions can’t be satisfied

You look up at me
And somewhere in your mind you see
A man I’ll never be

If only I could find a way
I’d feel like I’m the man you believe I am
And it gets harder every day for me
To hide behind this dream you see
A man I’ll never be

The song, written by Scholz, is most likely written from the point of view of a man who is in a relationship with someone who thinks he hung the moon, but he knows his demons and knows that he will never be able to live up to what she really thinks of him. He knows that eventually the house of cards will come down, and then…pain.

Even though I was in a melancholy mood from a date that seemed like a waste of time (even though I knew that getting to know another human is never really a waste of time, even if it doesn’t lead to anything lasting), that’s not what the song was making me relate to. I was thinking about Boodles.

Boodles who is crazy about her daddy. Who deserves the best daddy in the world, and here I am 3000 miles away from her. Will I ever beat my demons? Will I ever get any stronger? Will I ever be the man she thinks I am?

When I started doing extensive research on Boston for this post, I found out something I didn’t know: Brad Delp took his own life in 2007. A successful man, an artist, a rock and roll star, and yet he described himself in his suicide note as “a lonely soul.” He brought two charcoal grills into his bathroom, shut the door, fired them up, and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Brad Delp was known for his kindness and considerate nature though, and before he did all that he had the presence of mind to put a note on his front door warning that there would be carbon monoxide present.

This song haunts me.

Even though I have no intention of taking my life…ever. It haunts me. Even though Brad Delp didn’t write the song, he poured his soul into it with his soaring vocals.

And it haunts me.

Because I think I know how he must have felt. Alone. Trapped. Unable to breathe. Drowning in his own body.

It haunts me.

It haunts me still.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piaser/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


14 thoughts on “A Man I’ll Never Be?

    • BEG, you responded to an early version of this post that accidentally went public with just the first picture called ‘Loneliness.’
      But, yes. Excellent decorating tips. Does Delacroix have any paintings of Cupid peeing?

  1. Joe….Thank you for your Honesty!!! Always know this that you mean so much to us all!! When you are sad or questioning or dealing with your depression I want you to know I will always stand by your side. My Forever Friend……


    p.s. Your such a writer!!!!

  2. Even though I am a nurse, and know that Asperger’s is a legitimate diagnosis, I have always LIKED people with Asperger’s, because they are so direct and literal. It’s like they are missing the “let’s play stupid emotional games with one another” DNA. My boss has it. We do just fine cause we are both direct and say what we mean and mean what we say. LITERALLY. I think somebody might APPRECIATE this about you….I know I would! Kids need LOVE, UNDERSTANDING, and ACCEPTANCE. From what I can see, you ARE that “man” already…..the rest is details.

  3. I want to comment, but this post stands all by itself. Just know there are SO MANY people that think you are SO SPECIAL. You are the cinnamon sprinkles on my toast and the Chai in my tea…what more could I say? (except….Dude, when is your book going to be published???)!

    • Thank you soooo much, BEG. Glad to know I play a special part in your day.
      And re the book, you’ll be the first to know. 🙂

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