I've spent all year trying to identify and avoid The Wrong Tree.
But I've been so focused on figuring out that which not to bark up, I've completely neglected any attempt at identifying The Right Tree.
Would I know him if I saw him?
Had I already met him and, perhaps, dismissed him?
Pretty much every guy I've ever been with has been The Wrong Tree, and I've always known it, somewhere, deep down. I've tried to make it work with them, loved them despite their faults, forgiven their forgets, intoxications, indiscretions, and impositions. But I knew it would never last. They would never stay with me. They would never want to meet my family. They would never accept my love. They would never return it.
But I've tried very hard - especially in recent years - to accept the affections and invitations of those who seem to really like me. I favor The Nice Guy over The Brooklyn Bruiser, The Tortured Artist, The Charming Bartender, and The Roughneck Rocker. But even those who appear to be perfect candidate - not to be Mr. Right per se, but at least the right type of tree to be barking up, someone who at least could and might love me back - always seem to find some way of revealing their true identity, e.g. as The Wrong Tree.
Last weekend I was out in LA and I met a young guy who was polite, gentlemanly, shy, respectful, and really into me. He questioned whether it would be too forward to ask for my number, and when I said no, gladly accepted it and made a plan to meet up with me later that night. When he actually showed up later and bought me a drink, he treated it very much like a first date, asking me to tell him more about myself, inquiring into my thoughts and feelings, telling me how much he liked me and how pretty I am. He also spent what seemed like a long time trying to figure out how to make a move on me, and although I'm a seasoned bar kisser who could have easily put him out of his misery, I made him sweat a while, until our lips finally met.
And then he changed.
I watched him transform before my eyes. His face literally changed.
Pulling away from me, pausing, emboldened by our embrace, he suggested, more or less, "Your place or mine?"
Thinking him a foolish 26 year old who didn't know better, I told him I was relatively certain we wouldn't see each other again if we did that, and that I'd rather go home by myself and see him again some other time.
"OK," he said, "But I don't think I can satisfy your needs..."
"Sexually?" I asked.
"No, your need for a relationship."
And I realized then I was a victim of bait and switch, The Wrong Tree masquerading as The Right Tree, an even more insidious phenomenon than The Wrong Tree who doesn't pretend to be anything but, yet is charmingly and alarmingly irresistible to the weak and vulnerable, susceptible to their seduction. I mean, I'll sometimes take a Wrong Tree who presents himself as such, if the choice is mine. But God help me, I don't want to be duped into thinking someone's The Right Tree when they're just going to pull off the mask and reveal their true, monstrous identity.
Needless to say, I sent him home. Alone.
So how do I know when someone's really The Right Tree? Is it the guy I feel like I could marry? (That unfortunately did not hold true for my eye doctor, who has proven himself to very much be the wrong tree.) Is it the guy with a good job, his own apartment, and enough money to not have to go Dutch? Does he pick me up in his car or call me a cab home? Does he bring me a glass of water? Does he hold my hand and hold his hand in the small of my back? Does he make friends with my friends and worry about making my single girlfriends feel even more single? Does he leave my life and come back? Does he want to stay? Does he want to try to love me?
Maybe I can spend the rest of the year ferreting out somebody worth barking up.
And if I have already found him, trying to figure out how to keep him in my life.
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