My Letter to Popeye


[Prologue]  This is one of the more sober pieces I will write, although there are bits and pieces of my humor thrown in for good measure.  My usual tendency is to joke around in the face of seriousness.  So, if you are like my friend Rachel, who prefers to laugh in merriment and gaiety, this may not be the post for you.

“If you must know, I had a crush on you with the first emailed, apologetic picture of your scruffy face.  I thought you were cute at first glance, accepting the facial hair that some women would consider yucky.  I saw something in your face that appealed.  (Or was it the spot on my glasses that I failed to clean?)

The engaging, humorous chatter, that we were having online, served to heighten my attraction. You are a funny guy who gets this funny girl’s dry sense of humor.

I wanted to meet you in person, so we planned a Friday afternoon stroll.

Then I went back to the dating site and read your profile. Separated was your status. Frowning was my face.  I’m not accustomed to making dates with men whose status is not officially single.

What was I thinking?  I was far too stressed and broken during my own divorce to engage in a relationship with a man. It was completely out of the question and it makes me wonder why others in the midst of separation and the divorce process would consider dating.

But who am I to judge?  I kept the date. We planned on a walk to help ease the burden of the first date’s inquisition period.

You got out of the car. Wow, you are cuter in person. Do you know I felt an instant attraction akin to static electricity? Except it didn’t hurt or make me jump. If there is a good kind of static, this would be it.

So off we went. Talking, talking, and talking. Laughing, joking, and more chatter. I told you about my cats, my mom and yoga. You told me about your children, your job, and your love of sailing. Then your bombshell: ‘My wife and I have been physically separated for a year, but I’m not legally separated yet’

Oh boy.

The walk finished with the clear tinge of sweat on our faces from the late summer heat and plans had been made to eat supper together.  Some might say I should have said goodbye right then and there and ended our communication forever.  Ha! I never said I was a member of Mensa. Off we drove in our separate vehicles for a Chicago dog, a Diet Mt. Dew, and more conversation. Thoughts of ‘what do I do now?’ and ‘dang, I really like this guy!’ swirled in my head as I led the way to the restaurant.

So, as we sat and ate our relish-filled dogs, I had the talk with you. My Christian lifestyle and moral beliefs would not allow for our continued dating. In my conscience, it would be no better than having an affair with a married man who still lived with his wife. I would not respect myself if I made any other decision. I could not face my family and friends if I went down that path.

I remember that you mouthed respect for my decision and told me to stay on course.  You were waiting for a couple of changes in your life, one of them being retirement, before you would consider filing for divorce. Okay, but that does not change the situation.

And, yet, the electricity is still there.  I hate it and love it at the same time.

After solving the world’s problems except for our own, we said our goodbyes with a ‘let’s keep in touch.’ I felt a friendship developing, although you desired more. And so did I, although I wonder if the heat-of-the-day sweat had soaked into my head and turned my brain to goo.

See you around.

October came and I started thinking about you again. I started emailing you again (ugh!). You emailed back and it was apparent that we had a special ease in talking to each other that had been lacking in other men I dated.  You continued to understand my stupid sense of humor, especially when I said that dating would never work for us since you have a sailboat and I have suffered from motion sickness my entire life.  You would most likely get mad at me the first time I puked on the smooth, clean deck of your sailing vessel.  I could see the headlines, Popeye throws Olive Oyl overboard!

I met you again…as friends…for coffee…so I could see pictures of your sailboat…so we could talk more about life. You had not retired yet and your marital status was still intact. I could feel that you wanted the situation to change, but I could also sense hesitation and fear. I understand hesitation and fear in separation and divorce. Personally speaking, fear was my biggest enemy.  It was the one thing that seized my psyche and almost didn’t let go.

Remember when I accused you of being fearful in an email, that the threat of fear and thin air were holding you back?  I still believe it, to some degree, but I also believe my accusation came out of my unrealistic expectations (and underlying codependent crap) that we would somehow meet, you would give me good news and we would kiss under the light of a full moon.

Not to be.

We said goodbye again and I walked away with the ever-present feel of a static charge, along with a sadness that came from knowing we would likely never be more than friends.  We talked cheerily on the phone after that, but then I sent the ‘fear’ email and everything went quiet on the western front until I wished you Merry Christmas and you replied with ‘Thanks, same to you.’ And you said retirement was coming at the end of January.

In case you are wondering, I wasn’t sitting around this entire time.  I continued to date and search for ‘the one’.  You know…a single guy…someone handsome, charming, responsible, respectful, happy and single.

A cold January came and went and you retired.  I sent you another email, congratulating you on your retirement and I asked how you were doing.  You were doing fine, marital status still intact.

I was doing fine too, except for all of the snow in February.  I was jealous of you, not having to get up early and drive to work, not having to trudge through the snow.  I was also in the midst of a two-week, pre-date conversation with a guy from a somewhat distant city.  We had a lot in common and had very nice conversations, even had a very nice first date.  And then he went away with the wind, without a word, another serial dater crossed off my list.  I had a pity party for myself. Fifty-something hormones and a bad attitude were invited.

I thought of you again.  I let the pity party get out of hand and sent you another email to see how you were doing.  Within a back-and-forth emailing session, we found out we had both started swimming and I made wisecracks about flailing tunas in the pool.  Your marital status remained intact.

You asked if you were allowed to see me. (*sigh*) Really?

I thank God that he ended my hormonal pity party and gave me a shot of common sense at that very moment.

No.  No, you cannot see me.  It’s impossible to maintain a friendship if the desire is for more than conversation and a cup of coffee.  I cannot go there.  Stop pouting.

So, Popeye, here’s my blunt (and exasperated) soliloquy:

I’m not waiting around.  That would be stupid because it’s obvious to me that there are no impending changes to your marital status.  There’s nothing for me to believe that will change at any time in the near future.  I’m still unsure of what’s holding you back and I’m not admiring your obvious willingness to hang out in limbo and do nothing to get on with your life.  The electricity I felt toward you has increasingly become a deadening thud.

You have options, Popeye, and you know what they are. You told me you are ‘deep in sin.’  No doubt. There’s a solution to that, an answer to your life of limbo.

Do you realize that it’s not only affecting your life, but your wife’s as well?  It’s downright mean what you are doing to her, letting her think that there’s a chance you may come back to her (unless she’s playing you for a fool).  You’re not letting her get on with life, a place where you currently dwell.  You are the one who walked out on her.

You will have to pick an option and be committed to that life rather than pouting about what you can’t have.  It’s of your own doing.

Choose wisely my sailor friend.”


[Epilogue]  I hesitated about sharing this story because it is so very personal.  (It started as a daily writing challenge in my “Write Brain” book.) I didn’t want anyone to judge Popeye or Olive.  Rather, I wanted this to be a story of how dating, trying to find “the one”, can take so many twists and turns.  Human nature and failings can make it a difficult road that doesn’t always end in storybook wonderland. I shared this story with Popeye and he thanked me for my brutal honesty.  I don’t believe it’s going to inspire him to do anything, but he did offer me these parting words: “You WILL find that special man and he will feel the same about you! It always ends that way, may take time, but that’s how the story ends.”


2 responses to My Letter to Popeye

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