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  • Robert Farago

The Kindness of Strangers

The author’s dating priorities have changed


When I worked at CNN, my girlfriend (not shown) was one the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, warmest women I’ve ever known. Some forty years later, I found Nancy (not her real name) on social media.


I wanted to know Nancy’s opinion of our liaison. Did we have a healthy relationship? No small matter, considering my long history of relationships that do not answer to that description.


I know: her response to my compliment – phrased as above – wasn’t going to be a reliable data point. So many variables. So much water under the bridge. But one undeniable constant: me.


Or is it? Am I the same person I was some forty years ago?


Back in the day, I was full of what my father called piss, shit and corruption. I was an over-educated wise-cracking sex-crazed daredevil bent on sucking the marrow out of life.


Coming of age during the Watergate hearings, falling under the spell of Hunter S. Thompson, I was also an aspiring journalist looking to speak truth to power. To someone. Anyone? Everyone!



CNN was and wasn’t the place to realize this ass-kicking agenda. I entered the Cocaine News Network at the lobster-level, what Ted Turner’s majordomos laughably called a “video journalist.”


Video yes. Journalist no. I was a minimum wage assembly line worker with no editorial input. I spent hour after monotonous hour, day after dull day, month after mind-numbing month watching the world go by. Literally.


I could do what the writers, reporters and producers could do with my hands tied behind my back. (Not literally; speech recognition wasn’t a thing.) I had more than enough real-world media experience to be a proper news guy.


Instead, I was an angry, frustrated, cynical worker bee. My sole productive output: sarcastic comments. Good ones, but not welcome in all corners. Precious few.


After almost two interminable years of monkey work, I became a videotape editor. A damn good one, too. As fast and accurate as any, in a newsroom where the need for speed was paramount.


To my co-workers’ surprise, the trouble-making asshole became a valuable, friendly, fulfilled member of the team.


I met Nancy before I was let out of VJ prison. I remember our first up-close-and-personal encounter. We were at a CNN party. The flirting was first class. Blue eyes smiling at blue eyes.


And then, out of the blue, Nancy asked me a question: “What do you want from me Robert Farago?”


“Sex,” I replied.

I’m not a one-night stand guy. If all goes well in the bedroom - as it usually but not exclusively does - I view sex as a prelude to a relationship. How else am I going to get more sex? And yes, that’s been an if not the issue.


Except when it isn’t. When doing the horizontal mambo creates a connection that forms a firm foundation for a relationship. It’s how I’ve formed all my romantic relationships with women. Red alert! Red flag!


Anyway…


From our first night together, Nancy and I made beautiful music. As I said, she was a real sweetheart. No guile. No drama. She was good to me and I was good to her. We both genuinely cared about – and for – each other.


I was hoping my renewed contact with Nancy would serve as proof that there was a Land Before Time. That my new priorities take me Back the Future. Or something like that.


About those new priorities…


While I still have an eye for the ladies, I have another one looking for one characteristic above all: kindness. To paraphrase Blanche DuBois and Fleetwood Mac, I have never depended on the kindness of strangers, but I have a feeling it’s time to try.


Diogenes much? As Marge would say, you betcha! You wouldn’t believe how many women I’ve met and/or been with who aren’t the slightest bit kind. (If you do believe, that’s a pretty sad statement.)


These women see me – men? – as born-to-the-job providers of what they need, whether it’s money, approval or attention. Their love language is “pay attention to my love language.”

Chef don’t judge. Some part of selfishness is down to genetic disposition. Some is due to upbringing. And trauma isn’t known for increasing empathy.


Whatever the cause, no judgement. We all have to find a way to be in the world, to get what we need mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. If a woman’s give-and-take scale is heavily tilted towards take, that’s just the way it is.


Unfortunately, I’m a die hard giver. Of time, money, intellect and yes love. Low self-esteem beaten into me as a child or my basic nature? Yes!


By the time I realized that a relationship is one-sided, it’s too late. I’m in too deep. Heartbreak and loneliness are waiting just outside the door, no matter who shuts it. Or how it’s shut.

That was me before. At least in theory…

After I texted Nancy my heartfelt compliment, I waited with bated breath for those three flashing dots to transform into words. And then…

Thank you Bob, and I’ve appreciated your ability to make my laugh and enjoy the moment. Best to you my friend.

Hmmmm. Not exactly what I was looking for. A bit formal. Not terribly informative. But we are talking about a lifetime ago, and nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.


The other day, an elderly gentleman smoking a T52 (the cigar not the tank) reminded me of that fact when we spoke of an ancient torture technique known as the “slide show.” When we moved on to the topic of relationships, he shared his definition of the word “assertive.”


“It means your needs are just as important as anyone else’s,” he asserted. “Not more important. Not less important. The same.”

That’s an easy principle to accept intellectually. A hard one to remember in the heat of battle. Especially when you can’t shake the feeling that someone’s doing you a favor by “letting you” into their life.


It wasn’t like that with Nancy. I think. As for the slightly cool tone of her texts, I take solace in a quote from Ally Condie. "Growing apart doesn't change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side. Our roots will always be tangled."


By the way, I go by Robert these days. FYI.

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