At Arm’s Length

“That dude is fifty years old, been divorced a week, and already has a girlfriend? What the fuck is wrong with me?” I said over the phone to my mom.
“You always push people away, like keep them at arm’s length,” Mom said. “And you give off this, I dunno, ‘aura.’ Like a player. No girl is going to take you seriously if she thinks you’re a player.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about, Mom.”

Mom means well. Mom always thought I was a ladies man with all this potential and all these options that I squander. But I’ve never been a ladies man. To be a ladies man you have to make with the sweet talk. That’s what Charles Bukowski said. In that way, I have never been a ladies man. I’m more of a dude who gets laid sometimes in the right situations man.

I’ve been in love before. I think. But I fall in love about once a week. I’m a romantic at heart but most would deny it. Maybe sometimes I give off the “player vibe,” like Mom says. A narcissist is the word I think she is looking for.

Sure, I can be self-absorbed. But there have been a few “special” girls. I can’t wait to see them. To touch them. Just to talk to them. If I want to talk on the phone (I don’t really care for talking on the phone), then there’s probably something there. Some girls really make me want to talk on the phone. Most do not. And to them I probably project a “player vibe.” Aloof. Unavailable. Until I’ve had a couple drinks. But I dream, like in any good romance story, there is that one girl who changes everything.

But then reality.

I did the math and statistically, based on recent relationships at least, I am three times more likely to help a woman cheat on her husband, fiance, or boyfriend, than I am to meet a nice, single young lady with her head on straight and make it work. The trysts I enter are sometimes healthier than my attempted “real” relationships. We share things more openly. We talk about how good we make each other feel without the worry of playing games. Probably because we know it is all fleeting.

It’s easy to make an unappreciated woman feel good about herself. Everyone should feel good about themselves.

But think about that. Women with husbands, fiances, and boyfriends. Most with kids. Families I could be ripping apart. Should I feel bad? Something drove her to another man. Something was missing that she wanted.

I was on the phone with a girl (yup, one of those) and she said her personal trainer was so hot. She told me it was nothing to worry about, he was engaged. I told her that ring doesn’t mean shit. I vaguely referenced my indecent experiences.

Why did I tell her? Maybe I was angry at her naivety. Maybe I was jealous. Maybe it was a moment of weakness and I wanted to get it off my chest. Maybe I thought by being more open with her, we would become closer. I believe as imperfect beings, humans connect to other humans through our flaws.

She asked me why I would do that. “Why would you do that?” were her words. I thought it was a weird question. I told her I didn’t know. It wasn’t that I sought these women out. A lot of times they came to me.

How am I the bad guy? They’re trying to cheat. What does it matter if it’s with me or someone else? I don’t really feel one way or the other about it. To me it’s like Hank Moody said, a morning of awkwardness is far better than a night of loneliness. I wonder how miserable life must be waking up beside someone and still feeling alone.

That girl cancelled on our plans to hang out the next day. I guess it was a stupid thing to share. Or maybe her excuse to cancel was valid. I don’t care. Detachment has set in and I can’t feel.

To be fair, I sometimes ponder what if the shoe were on the other foot? Would I expect another man to “respect” me if my woman made advances on him and told him how unhappy she was with me? No, I always conclude. I don’t suppose I’d expect that. I’d expect him to plow my girlfriend.

Then I wonder if my girlfriend would ever be so unhappy with me to need to do that? How horrible must all these men be? Then I wonder, why are these girls with these men in the first place? Then I wonder, what if they are all just lying whores looking for fresh dick and making excuses for their infidelity? Then I’m bitter. Sometimes I’m bitter.

Maybe I am seeking these unavailable women so I don’t have to commit? They can’t cheat on me if I never have them. God it sucks to be cheated on.

Then further it sinks. Further I sink. Down and down. It’s a vicious cycle, really. This circular pattern of shameful event, excuse, rumination, numbness dulls my sensitivity to the whole circus until I find a decent girl and I’m so desensitized to what is “right” and “wrong” that I start stupidly spitting out the truths of my life over the phone like they are normal and the girl vanishes. Idiot. Sometimes I’m an idiot.

Maybe she would’ve been my girlfriend. That could’ve been neat. Going on trips together. Maybe to the beach. Sharing in experiences. Sounds more fun than avoiding public places where we might be seen out together by her boyfriend’s friends or the gossips.

Then I’m detached again. Back on the rebound. Another night at the bar. Another placeholder who is too often another disgruntled mom, wife, girlfriend. And in a way, Mom is right and Mom is wrong. I don’t think I’m a player, but I do keep it at arm’s length. Just in case. Just far enough that I’m never the guy on the other end of the phone when she answers, “Hey babe, what’s up? Oh yeah, I’m just stopping by Jessica’s for a while, be home soon.” It’s better to not think too much about it.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my novel Hang-Ups and Hangovers. Buy now.

About the Author Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan, I write New Adult Books that don't suck. i.e. The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series. I like to write about the challenges of being a single twenty-something in today's hookup culture. My blog offers Dating Advice For Men.

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