Monday, June 29, 2015

COLUMN: Succubus

I'm 44 years old and still single... but you don't see me crying about it. That's because I live alone and do all my crying in private.

Seriously, though, I'm okay with my life. Sometimes I might get a twinge of loneliness, but for the most part I'm cool with it. It's not like I'm some hopeless loner shut-in. I've had a lot of relationships -- some great, some not-so-great, but I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. It's those experiences that have shaped me into the loveable neurotic I am today (except, apparently, for the "loveable" part, since, as we've established, I'm 44 and still single and live alone.)

There are perks to single life, though, and these are gift horses I do not look in the mouth. I can play video games without a single disapproving look. I can eat what I want when I want, and I can watch whatever TV shows I fancy. My income goes to me and me alone. I have no school clothes to buy and no college funds to save for. I'm not saying I'd run away if a soulmate came strolling into my life, but I'm kind of content riding solo.

Too bad I can't say the same for my old friend Esteban Thistlewaite McPoopypants. (Note: Some names in this piece may have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.)

Esty (as his friends DON'T call him because I made up the name) and I weren't cut from the same cloth, but you could probably find us on the same shelf at the fabric store. From an early age, it was clear that the both of us preferred holding computer keyboards to footballs, and we quickly bonded over our shared geekery and the shared humiliation of being the last two picked in gym class. Somewhere along the way, though, I managed to develop a basic level of social skills. Esty, though, not so much.

Rather than normal high school, Esty went off to some accelerated academy for gifted students (like the X-Men for nerds, except that the X-Men are kinda already for nerds.) The single smartest person I know, Esty only recently joined the job force, having spent the past umpteen years going from his Bachelor's to his Master's to his doctorate to his post-doctorate to now, where I'm pretty sure he legally holds the title of Wizard Genius. His specialty field is in artificial intelligence, and I've always had a suspicion he chose that path in order to one day build a robot girlfriend.

He moved to the other side of the country, and I couldn't begin to tell you what he does for a living. I asked him once, and the resulting e-mail was two pages long, of which I understood about two sentences. Esty's doing work that will either save the world or enslave the world, I'm just not sure which. He's scarily close to TV's Sheldon Cooper, but he's also one of the kindest people I know and I'm proud to be his life-long friend.

Whereas Sheldon Cooper spends every episode of "The Big Bang Theory" running from romance, my friend Esty instead spends much of his life leaping towards it. Every one of his e-mails usually details a new masterplan at finding love. This puts me -- 44-year-old still-single me -- in the unique position of doling out relationship advice. I've tried my best over the years to help him with everything from online personals to unrequited crushes on co-workers. But nothing could have prepared me for this week.

There's a new girl in Esty's life. Let's call her Susie Succubus. Apparently Esty and Susie met online and have been trading e-mails for some time. This week, Susie traveled across the country to meet him (cue ominous music.) And she wasn't alone. Her two teenage children (who I'll call Red Flag #1 and Red Flag #2) were along for the ride.

Odd, for sure, but not unheard of. I once met a girl online and she drove halfway across the country to meet me. Ours was NOT a love connection -- but hey, no harm in Esty trying the same approach, right? Then I got the second e-mail.

According to Esty, Susie and her kids have been living in a non-ideal abusive situation, plus she's got some health woes (chronic Red-Flag-#3-itis, I fear) that keep her from working. So she packed her car, grabbed the kids, and stole off in the middle of the night to meet Esty with no game plan and no future. Not good.

The third e-mail was several days later and several degrees more alarming. "I've bought her an RV and given her about $2000 in spending cash." Oh no. "All of this is likely to make it sound like I'm being taken advantage of, and that is a possibility I can't entirely discount." Ya think? "She has in mind to eventually take the RV to the Dakotas, where she hopes to find work given her skills in farming." Oh dear.

Before I could even craft a response, he followed with another e-mail. Susie has now informed him that the RV requires repair, and until these are made, she and the kids are just going to move in with him to "see if a relationship can blossom." Shy of getting in my car and roadtripping on a rescue mission, I'm not sure what I can do to fix this.

I am about the least qualified person to issue relationship advice, but I'm fairly confident when I predict this will not end well. My only hope is that it doesn't end with a Stone Phillips narrative on Dateline NBC.

I suppose I've heard of weirder love stories. Who knows, maybe Susie is on the up-and-up, and my friend will finally have the relationship of his dreams -- with an RV-driving unemployed migrant farm worker and her two children that she yanked out of school in order to drive cross-country and move in with a stranger. I don't know why I'm worried.

Methinks Esty's about to learn a hard lesson. I can't just write him back and tell him that he needs to end this ridiculousness now. If I bust his bubble, he's so lovelorn that he might just ignore me altogether. He's geniunely happy right now, and that doesn't happen often. But I just KNOW he's going to come home and find his house empty, his bank accounts wiped, and her, the kids, and the RV halfway to Fargo. All I could do was write him back, wish him luck, tell him to be careful, and recommend that he hide all of his financial documents pronto.

Any way it plays out, the next few e-mails should be seriously interesting. If you're the praying type, throw in a word or two towards my friend, would you?

Meanwhile, because the world revolves around ME, the worst part of this whole story is the realization that I can't even get a girl to SCAM me, let alone fall in love with me. This sent me down Pity Party Lane the other night, which always ends with me vowing to be pro-active at romance. As you'd expect, it did NOT go well. More on that next week.

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