Part one of this entry: THe Background Story...
For those of you who missed the saga, Jamie-the-take-your pants-off-man (JTTYPOM) is someone I met at a They Might Be Giants show in the "I HATE BOYS" period of my life after I found Tim in bed with Amanda and before I met Kirk.
Jamie grew up around the corner from one of the guys in TMBG (had mowed their lawn when he was little) and never missed one of their shows when they came to Boston. He was attractive, in a nondescript white-guy-with-glasses sort of way. He now lived around the corner from the Apartment and we liked to eat at the same restaurant in our neighborhood. He pulled a page out of his set list notebook and offered up his phone number. "Give me a call. We can meet for dinner some night." As the house lights came on, we said goodnight and went with our respective friends. I went home and stared at his phone number. Finally, I stuck it on my bulletin board and went to bed.
The number sat there for a week, reminding me of our conversation. I debated about calling him. On one hand, he was a guy, and hadn’t I just sworn off guys? On the other, I didn't plan to stay single forever for real, so I was going to have to go out with someone eventually--why not him? He seemed nice enough. I sighed and picked up the phone.
When he answered and realized it was me, he confessed that he'd given up on my calling, but said he was glad I had. We made plans to meet that weekend and take a walk in the Arboretum, equidistant from both our houses.
The walk was nice. We talked and got along well. I told him I was repainting our kitchen, but was having trouble reaching the top, as my "ladder" was a kitchen chair. On the way home, we stopped at his house and grabbed a ladder. He took it and me home in his truck, came in and introduced himself to my roommate Erica, complemented my choice of paint colors, and asked me out again for the following Thursday. He had tickets to see another band, if I was interested. I said yes.
Our second date went equally as well. He picked me up, brought me irises (my favorite flowers) because he thought they'd look nice in the new kitchen, and made me dinner before the show. Afterwards, we went back to my house and sat in the hammock for an hour or so, talking.
I told him the bare-bones minimum story about Tim, and explained that I wasn't interested in getting seriously involved with anyone right then. I was still on shaky ground, and needed to get my balance. I also told him that I didn't want to get too heavily involved physically with anyone, as that just led to other issues. He told me he completely understood, and that he enjoyed being with me, and would let me hold the reins. Great. He was going to be out of town all weekend, so we made plans to go to the movies the next Wednesday night. I was looking forward to it.
Monday after work, my phone rang. Jamie was back in town and had missed me. Did I want to meet for a drink at the restaurant? I agreed, and got down there about two minutes after he did.
Somewhere over the course of our conversation, I started to get that creepy feeling, like maybe there was more to Jamie than I'd previously realized, and maybe that "more" was more than I wanted to deal with. There was talk of a house he owned in rural West Virginia, a house with a long and complicated story attached that made him visibly uncomfortable, a house his mom was after him to sell, a house he quickly moved away from talking about. Other things, too--the way he talked about his family in general, his living situation, the mention of an ex-girlfriend, moved away from too quickly. Nothing blatantly obvious, but enough that I started to feel, well, less-than-thrilled.
I didn't cancel our plans for Wednesday, though. That would have been rude. I figured, though, that I didn't need to make any plans beyond that if I didn't want to.
Wednesday night, he picked me up and we went to the Kendall Square Cinema, a movie theater in Cambridge that shows mostly "artsy" films, stuff that doesn't run in your suburban mall multiplex. He’d chosen the movie, and wouldn’t tell me what we were seeing until we got there. It turned out to be some subtitled French film about an older woman having an affair with a much younger Italian man. The opening scene showed her rolling around on a bed, naked and crying, masturbating and yelling out "Adolfo! Adolfo!" over and over. It got worse from there. I shrank in my seat.
Two long hours later, we walked back to the truck. I was silent. Jamie didn't notice. He pulled over on the way home at a 7-11 to grab a couple things they needed for the house--toilet paper, paper towels and milk. He asked if I minded if we stopped to drop them off before he brought me home. He didn't want the milk to spoil. I agreed, but pointed out that it was a Wednesday, and I had to work tomorrow, and I didn't want to be out too late, blah blah blah wayoutearlycakes.
When we got to his apartment, his roommates were spread out with their friends over the whole first floor, so he suggested we go up to his bedroom. There was an old bluegrass album he owned, one we'd talked about a few days earlier, that he wanted to play for me. We went upstairs and sat on the bed, the only place to sit in the room, and he put the record on.
We talked about the movie for a minute, and then he kissed me. Then we talked some more, and he kissed me again, and we talked, and he kissed, and I talked and he kissed, and I talked and he kissed, and finally I talked louder.
"Gee, Jamie, you know, it's late. I should really head home. Work tomorrow," I said, reaching for my shoes.
Jamie sighed a deep, painful sigh. "You know, Jennifer, I'm feeling a little frustrated," he said. When I looked at him puzzled, he continued, "I don't feel like you're giving enough of yourself to this relationship."
"Relationship?" I thought, "We've been on four dates!" I looked at him and tried not to laugh. "I'm not sure I follow you, Jamie." He started on this big speech, telling me that he understood that I'd just finished a long-term relationship, and that I'd set up these boundaries that I felt I needed to stay within, and while that was all fine and good, he was tired of playing the nice guy and being taken advantage of. Then he said, "I think you should take your pants off."
"Excuse me?" I was sure I'd heard him incorrectly.
He smiled. "Just take your pants off, and get under my covers, and in a little while, I'll take you home, and everything will be fine."
I glanced around the room, looking for something I could use to defend myself with if necessary. That's when I realized the man only owned six books. Six. That's it. And the one on the end of the shelf, the one most easily identified from where I was sitting, was a copy of the Unabomber Manifesto.
Get out now, Jennifer, I thought to myself, Get out now, before the police find you in a closet a month from now, or no one ever sees you again! I sat up straight, took both his wrists in my hands and held them against the mattress, and looked him straight in the eye.
"Perhaps you didn't understand me the other night, but let me make this perfectly clear, just so I know there's no misunderstanding. I'm not taking my pants off. I'm not taking anything off. In fact, what I'm going to do is get up and put my shoes on. And then whether you take me home or I walk from here, I'm leaving, because this evening is over."
He mumbled apologetically as I tied my shoes, and then drove me home. On the way, he attempted to backpedal. "You know, Jennifer, I really like you, and I think we could have the start of something good here, and I really hope you call me again, and that we go out, but I understand that that needs to be your decision, so I'll wait to hear from you."
I said goodnight and went inside.
Safe, I woke my roommate up so I could tell her about my evening. In my own living room, I started to feel less creeped out and more amused by the whole thing. For the next several weeks, "I don't think you’re giving enough of yourself to this relationship" became the catchphrase in our apartment.
That Friday, I got home from work to find a message on my answering machine. "Hi Jennifer, it's Jamie. Listen, I'm going to an art opening tonight, didn't know if you’d be interested in going as well? I know you said you had to go to your mom’s tonight—I'd be happy to drop you off there after the show. Give me a call when you get home and we can make plans. Talk to you soon."
I stood in the living room, dumbfounded. Apparently, "I'll wait for your call" really meant, "I'll wait until Friday and then call you myself." I let the answering machine rewind and did not pick up the phone. Later, after I'd left for my mom’s house, he called again, but talked only to machines.
The next day, I walked in the MS Walk with my mother and some friends. On the way to Cohasset, I amused them by recounting my Wednesday night. The more I told the story, the funnier it got. By the time I got home again, Jamie was nothing but a source of amusement.
That night, we had a "bad fashion statement" party at my house. We'd invited all our friends to come dressed in clothes that represented the worst fashion trend they'd ever embraced. I dug my black spandex Metal Chick outfit out of the back of my closet, complete with the chain belt and the vintage 1984 cross jewelry. We had a couple Madonnas, some acid wash denim, an Izod shirt with the collar turned up, a pair of overalls with one strap undone. The pictures are hysterical.
The blender was running overtime and I'd had several yummy frozen drinks by the time Erica called me out to the back porch and said, "Tell everyone about your date Wednesday night!" Drunk and loud, I told the story again, dubbing Jamie officially Jamie-the-Take-Your-Pants-Off-Man. We all laughed. I went inside to refresh my drink and use the bathroom.
I came out into the hall to find Jamie standing in the doorway.
**Very important dating lesson of Jenistar’s diary #1, boys and girls--if you’ve just started dating someone, never never NEVER mention that you're planning a party at your house to them unless you are SURE you want them to show up.**
He was wearing a terrible pair of Champion shorts and an old concert T-shirt. "I came dressed for the occasion," he said, smiling. "Great," I mumbled, and headed off to find reinforcements.
Word that JTTYPOM had shown up spread quickly, and I found myself surrounded by my over-protective guy friends. They didn’t leave me alone for the rest of the night. Jamie wandered through the party, standing on the edge of people’s conversations but not quite joining in. Eventually, people started leaving. As they’d go out the door, they'd say to Steve, "Don't leave her alone with him!"
Finally, the only people left in our living room were Steve, who lived there, Erica’s brother Ian, JTTYPOM and me. Erica had thrown up and gone to bed. Steve sat in a chair in the corner. Ian sat on the far-left side of the couch, with me practically on top of him. Jamie sat on the far right, sideways, so he was crouched on the cushion, facing me. As I held on to Ian for dear life, Jamie would reach over and just randomly touch me--on my hair, my shoulder, my arm, my leg. Just--touch me. Lightly. Like he was trying to get my attention, except that there were only four of us in the conversation. I couldn’t possibly have been ignoring him.
After about 15 minutes, Ian stepped in. "Jamie, I know you live right around the corner from here. So do I. Do you think you could drop me off on your way home? We should let these two get to bed."
Gratefully, I hugged Ian goodbye, and somehow managed to get Jamie out the door. Steve and I sat up until we were sure he was gone and then went to bed ourselves. I didn’t sleep very much, though. I was half-sure he’d come back. The next day, Jamie left three messages on our machine. Monday, he left two. Tuesday, our phone rang almost on the hour. Finally, I called his house and told him to just leave me alone.
Many months went by. I met Kirk, broke up with Kirk, started dating Tim again.
One night, I was at Tim's gallery for a spoken word show. It was early, and I was helping Brendan work the door. Sitting on the steps wearing Tim's gray hooded sweatshirt, I collected donations from people coming in to see the show.
Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. I pulled the hood on the sweatshirt in close and handed the money to Brendan. JTTYPOM was bringing a date into the show! Once they were inside, I went to find Tim. He laughed. He thought it was funny. He said, "THAT’S the guy you went out with after me? Jennifer, I thought you had better taste than that!"
I didn't hear a word of the show. Jamie and his date wandered through the gallery and then went home. After they left, Tim apologized. "I didn't realize you were that upset," he said.
Not long after that, Tim and I were at a fundraiser for the Milky Way, raising money for the renovations. Again, I looked up and saw Jamie come in, this time with a different date. All night, I stayed aware of his location, making sure it was nowhere near my own. Tim, smarter this time, stayed by my side except when his band played. Moments after he got up, Jamie came over and sat down.
We made small talk for a minute. Then, he surprised me.
He said, "You know, Jennifer, I've always felt bad about what happened between us. I obviously put you in a position you weren't ready to be in, and I'm sorry about that. I hope you can forgive me."
I was floored. I mumbled an acceptance as Tim came back over. He introduced himself to Jamie, doing that strange territorial dance boys sometimes do. More small talk. Finally, Jamie walked away, thankfully out of my life (except for a strange interlude when Kirk and I spotted him at a Gallery event several years later, but that's a strange story for a different day).
In the past two seasons, I've gotten hooked on Without a Trace, a side effect of my mother living with us. Thursday nights find us both glued to the TV. I generally try to make it into bed before the show starts, but I usually watch the first five minutes standing in the kitchen, unable to move until the Missing Person of the Week (MPOW) has faded from view. This past Thursday was no exception.
If you don't watch the show, the MPOW was a college girl who had disappeared after breaking up with her boyfriend. The resolution of the story revealed that she had been killed by a guy who lived in her dorm, one who she knew but not well. He was unhealthily obsessed with her, was almost stalking her. The night she died, he followed her to a rest stop and, making it seem like a chance meeting, convinced her to go with him instead of continuing on her way home. She didn't want to go--hesitated in the parking lot, thought about saying no. But, in the end, she went along, got in his car, drove away and to her imminent death. Saying no would have been rude. It might have hurt his feelings. Nice girls don't do things like that.
As the credits rolled, I shook my head and half-laughed. Kirk, inches from sleep, asked me what was so funny.
"I was just thinking how hard it is to be a parent. How hard it is to teach your kids a balance between being polite and following their own instincts."
He mumbled agreement and rolled over, but I sat and thought about it some more.
I'm generally a pretty good judge of character. I've been trained as a rape crisis counselor and know far more than anyone should have to about what happens to girls who don't trust their instincts, or who allow themselves to lose their instincts by drinking way too much in unsafe situations. I know ALL of these things.
In a spot where it came down to trusting my instincts, I was afraid to come across as rude.
I was lucky. JTTYPOM turned out to be weird, not psychotic. His behavior, while not really socially acceptable, was not dangerous. But the opposite could very easily have been true, and by the time I noticed the Unabomber Manifesto and started planning my escape route, it could very easily have been too late.
Of course, I have a friend. Had a friend. SHe was trained at the same rape crisis center as me, knew the same things I did, lived in the same world. Her car broke down and she took a ride, perhaps against her own best judgement. Instead of making it home, she showed up a week later in a shallow grave in the middle of the woods. Her story is the makings of an episode of Without a Trace in itself, no less dramatic than what I watched the other night.
May I do a better job than our mothers did of teaching my children to trust themselves.