I gathered some inspiration for this from a recent post over at one of my favourite blogs: Mooiness. Marcus was musing about whether tolerance for other peoples' idiosyncracies was the key factor in determining whther a newly-formed relationship could last. And wondered if the too-quick identification of a "character flaw" in a potential partner was a subconscious escape clause. I'm paraphrasing, and I'm not sure if I've done justice to Moo's excellent post, so you can read exactly what he had to say here.
But in my case, it was 1985 and I was 26 and about as single as you could get. A colleague was having a fancy dress party and when I arrived early as Angus Young, there was only one other guest there: this beautiful Asian girl who was wearing an I Dream of Jeannie outfit that came very close to making me forget all about Barbara Eden. We spent a fair proportion of the evening talking together and somehow ended up getting in touch shortly afterwards to organize a date. I was through to the semis.
She lived out in Keilor Downs and when I got there she was not quite ready so I chatted with her sister, also a stunner, and then we went next door so I could meet her folks. That's right, her folks lived next door to the house where the two sisters lived. Dad was of Malaysian Chinese origin, and had worked for the RAAF in Malaysia and then emigrated. Mum was English. They were really nice people. We spent quite a long time talking with her folks and they made it clear in a subtle way that Helen, the younger of their two daughters, was unaccustomed to going out with blokes and that I was being afforded quite a privilege. None of which bothered me. It was a first date, so it was bound to be something of an exploratory expedition for all concerned.
We had dinner at a restaurant in Fitzroy and she was really lovely. But very shy, and although obviously intelligent, not terribly worldly. Like she'd been a bit sheltered. All of this was okay. I wasn't exactly the playboy of the western world myself, and although clueless in a great many ways, flattered myself that I understood how we don't all march to the beat of the same drum.
I dropped her off back at her place, had a quick cup of coffee with her and her sister and went home. It had gone well, (albeit a bit more G-rated than I'd have liked), and I was keen to continue.
So I thought it was great when she rang me the following Friday to see if I wanted to go out to the pictures with some friends of hers. We met up at the house in Pacoe Vale where the three friends lived, two guys and a girl. This particular evening did not go well.
There was far too much umming and ahhing about what film to see. I kept quiet and left them to it. Threw in a suggestion or two but these were not taken up. The debate dragged on and on until finally they settled on The Breakfast Club. I'd never heard of it and asked who was in it. Turned out it was a Brat Pack movie. Fuck. Oh well, it was a night out.
We arrived at the Greater Union cinemas in Russell St in the city with a bit of time to kill. I suggested we pop around to the Carlton Hotel in Bourke St for a couple of drinks. More debate. I found their dithering frustrating, and I think it showed. And the film was shit. I know director John Hughes passed away yesterday, but I didn't think much of this film at all, so I'm taking his many eulogies with a grain of salt.
There was more indecisiveness about what to do after the movie so it ended up being a date-that-pretty-much-wasn't. And I decided not to pursue things with Helen. We were heading in different directions. As much as I liked her, as lovely as she was, (and she was lovely on all levels), I couldn't imagine hanging around with her friends and she was clearly very family-oriented. The prospect of spending long nights in front of the TV at her folks' place (at anyone's folks' place, including my own!) was one I didn't relish. There was just the matter of the party I was having at my place in a couple of weeks that I'd told her about.
During the leadup to this party, I didn't contact her. She resolved everything when her phone call got me out of the shower before work one morning to tell me announcement-style that she wouldn't be coming along. I said that was fine, but asked her why. Because she didn't want to go out with me anymore. I told her that was fine too, and wished her well. Quite a nice, mutually satisfactory ending. Rare? In my experience, yes.
It was a shame, but it was looking too much like I'd be dating a shy teenager, and that just didn't suit me. And I'd also say there was probably a good deal of me not suiting her involved too.
But the funny thing was that a couple of years later, when TLOML and I started dating, I found a lot of similarities between the two of them. Some differences too. However, on reflection the big difference was to do with me. Because for TLOML, I was ready to make some kind of commitment. I think also by that time, I was thinking it was more about her than her surroundings.
The rest is history.
But just by way of a coda: some seven years later, TLOML arrived home from work one afternoon after we'd been married about a year wanting to know who this Helen was. I didn't connect initially, but it turned out Helen was this beautiful Asian replacement teacher who'd filled in for her the day before and in the note she'd left TLOML, mentioned that we'd dated and asked to be remembered to me. Helen was doing replacement teaching while she was on family leave, and I managed to piece together that she'd married a pretty cool bloke I'd once worked with briefly and they'd had a baby.
I think that makes four happy endings, all up.