There is something interesting about the guy in my life who prefers to be called “Mountain-Metro,” yet carries a “Murse,” (the official name of the man-purse). Several years ago, while still spinning in the vortex of Lost Girl hell, I reconnected with Murse through a mutual friend. At 43, Murse still has the hot thing going on big time. He is one hundred percent muscle. When you combine his steady diet of yoga, plus the 100 or so miles per week he logs on his custom-designed bikes, the end result is a twelve-pack plus much more. His ass is well….ridiculous. His biceps brilliant. When combined with Murse’s most tantalizing feature- incredible crystalline blue eyes, Murse is lethal.
Too add spice to his sizzle, Murses lives in Arizona, and is also someone I went to high school with. Now, before your hearts get all atwitter at this possible Classmates.com success story, let me tell you that Murse is the prototype for guys who date “Lost Girls” -a Lost Girl is a woman who may have outgrown the string of one-night-stands, but just can’t seem to shake the “No Dignity Dating” rituals that produce the same result – falling crazy in love with a man who is emotionally unavailable. Six months down the road, while the Lost Girl’s still putting out, he’s told her point blank he isn’t ready to commit. Yet still, the Lost Girl wonders, “Why…why isn’t he my boyfriend?
I spent my first evening with Murse laughing, reminiscing and listening to 70s music, with friends from high school. As I was in a relationship with JohnnyLock, ex-boyfriend, Lost Girl “love –of-my life,” I rebuffed Murse’s charming advances, despite the blue eyes and killer abs. Since then, like the tide, the relationship has ebbed and flowed.
When I returned to Phoenix for Spring Break the following year, the relationship with JohnnyLock had come to its devastating conclusion. Still stinging from John’s rejection, I “sexted” (sex texted) Murse eagerly, thus initiating the hook-up phase of my relationship with Murse. It was simple. When I came to Phoenix we met for drinks, laughed, and hooked up. Despite his invitations to stay the night, I would always leave though, unable to quiet my mind, the harsh grumble of his snoring torture. I had no interest in cuddling, nor the romanticism of the sleepover, and as a veteran Lost Girl, I knew waking at my house was critical to maintaining emotional distance. The relationship was perfect, until one Thanksgiving weekend, when Murse invited me to drinks with friends. Engaged in conversation, I noticed Murse’s head turn.
Murse had locked eyeballs with the blonde a few feet away, a cute teacher he recognized from his daughter’s school. He turned to greet her. They hugged. I stood for a moment, waiting. Watching to see if the conversation would end. It didn’t.
I was hurt.
We didn’t have an exclusive arrangement, yet I was furious. I abruptly left the restaurant, halting communication with Murse for two years.
Last Thanksgiving, one month after my mother died, I texted Murse while driving on the 10 Freeway. Destination Phoenix.
“I’m in town,” I wrote.
Minutes later the phone rang from its spot on the console. It was Murse.
“I thought you were mad at me,” he said, his voice rising as he waited for my response.
“Bygones,” I replied. “People change….and, it has, after all, been two years.
Then, beyond my expectations of someone such as Murse, a man who typically feasts on Lost Girls for lunch, Murse apologized.
“I’m glad you called,” he said. “Really glad. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have ditched you that night. I’m sorry. I like you….I would like to see you.”
“Hmmm,” I replied, slightly confused by his apology. Then, I remembered the way his laughter made the corners of his eyes crinkle, the fact that we grew up in the same town, and those damn abs.
“Let’s hang out. Call me when you get in,” he said. “We’ll hike with the kids.”
Hmmm. Hiking wasn’t hooking up. And thus, the relationship with Murse took a new turn, shifting from ebb to flow. Murse invited me to dinner with mutual friends at a quaint restaurant in Scottsdale. We drank wine. Ate dinner. Shared appetizers. Laughed. Connected. We talked about raising daughters. Divorce. Struggling with our fears of losing independence while in a relationship. Murse enjoyed my company, it was clear. He invited me to hike the next day, planning an incredible afternoon of exploring the desert. Plans which included his daughter, my dad and my three daughters. After the hike, Murse took us to a café nestled in the red rocks. More laughter. Connection. Murse was into me. The next morning he called at 7:00 am inviting me to yoga. We did asanas, sweating side by side, and when class finished, Murse invited me to lunch. It seemed I was dating Murse. In fact, I had spent more time with him then anyone I had dated in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, I was conscious. Aware. During these dates Murse frequently discussed his fear of commitment. His love of life as a single man. Freedom. The joy of riding hours and hours on his bike up into the desert mountains without having to worry about who or what he had left behind. It felt good to be with Murse, despite these conversations. It felt good to be pursued. It felt good to be with someone who shared common interests.
I left Arizona in November, unsure of where I stood with Murse. He called me frequently, but one thing became clear as the months progressed. I was looking for a relationship. And Murse, he was not. We spoke less often, as I intentionally moved Murse to the back burner of my consciousness. In December he called to wish me happy holidays. I thought about him again, but then quickly cast aside the fantasy Murse was interested in a relationship.
In April I returned to Phoenix. I had told Murse I was coming to visit, he was eager to spend time with me. We had dinner together, my dad and his girlfriend watching the kids as we went for drinks afterwards. Then he asked me to dinner. A date.
Or was it? He left the choice to me. I texted him.
“I might wear makeup tonite.
Might not even wear the oversized sweatshirt,” I wrote.
“Hmmm,” he replied. “Sweatshirt means we are just friends. Alternative = date. Your call.”
It was my call. Despite my certainty that Murse is not interested in a relationship, I decided I would wear makeup, ditch the big clothes and clumsy hiking shoes I had been wearing each time we were together. I considered my clothes carefully. Black boots. Short skirt with black tights. Plaid cap. Earrings.
When Murse came to get me he was shocked, pleased and smiled brilliantly. He made small talk with my family, as if he had been part of our clan for years. As we prepared to leave he gave me a gift; a small compass to put on my keychain.
“It’s so you never get lost,” he said. “Wherever you go.”
Tucking the compass into my purse, we drove to the dark wine bar where he shared stories of his past. Difficult childhood. His struggles with how it still impacts his life. His realization that until he tackles this hurt he may never be able to love someone with fervor. His realization that perhaps it isn’t his love of cycling that prevents him from making a commitment. Perhaps it is his fear of having to take care of someone like his father, his exwife. The people whom he had loved that had needed him too much. He opened his heart. I walked in. The date continued. Sushi. Ice cream. Walking hand in hand through Old Town Scottsdale. At midnight he took me home.
“This is a date,” Murse said. “And so it will end properly.”
Walking me to the door, he gently kissed me goodbye.
It had been the perfect date.
For the next few weeks, Murse called often. He came forward when he sensed I might be pulling away. But like I had been with Rockstar, this former Lost Girl wasn’t being manipulative. I was busy. Bat Mitzvah. Launching a website. Planning a seminar.
Two weeks later Murse came to LA. We both were too conflicted to admit he was in town just to visit me. I had already made plans for most of the weekend, I would make time to see him Saturday. I didn’t want to change plans for him. He didn’t want to intrude, he said. “No worries.” It was just a relaxing weekend in LA. Nevertheless, Murse phoned on Thursday when he arrived in town.
“Can you squeeze me in…. lunch?” asked Murse.
We then spent Saturday together as planned. Again, we laughed. Yoga. More connection. Shopped on the promenade.
On our drive back to change for dinner, we discussed whether or not we would sleep together. He had been thinking about it. I had been thinking about it. I had decided I would not have sex with him. I knew to do this would involve emotions. Expectations. Expectations Murse could not live up to.
“Girlfriends go away,” Murse said, putting his hand on mine, the conversation building. “I don’t want you to ever go away. I want you in my life always. We shouldn’t sleep together.”
Murse had taken the offensive, throwing a wrench in my plan. He had decided we would not have sex. He was being mature. Responsible. His confession proved that despite his flirtations, our connection with each other, Murse was holding to his truth; the truth that he is incapable of making a commitment to relationship.
Arriving at home, I told Murse to shower first. He undressed, revealing everything – revealing those abs.
I was conflicted. Aroused. Confused. Walking into my closet, it dawned on me. For months, I had considered Murse as someone with whom I could possibly have a serious relationship. When he lived in this category, I could not have sex with him.
The water running, Murse’s silhouette moving quietly behind the beveled glass shower door, I began to think. Realistically. Clearly, Murse was not in this category. I was adept at putting men into their proper category, and there have been many who have shifted into the “friends with benefits” category, on their way towards “just friends.” I knew then my relationship with Murse was headed this way. I didn’t need to withhold sex from Murse to determine if he was in it for the duration. He wasn’t. Of this I was sure.
The tide had gone out, ebbing as we had hooked up. And now, it had come back in. There was no future in Murse.
It was time to simply ride the wave. I took off my robe, opened the shower door, and shook out my hair.
“Hey Murse,” I said.
There is this element of maturity that requires knowing when to say yes and when it is best to say no, even when it is the last thing I want to do. Clearly, the big guy upstairs has some message for me in this area, as I have been getting plenty of opportunities to practice being the one who has to put on the brakes. When it comes to knowing when to stop myself from pursuing the great relationship with the wrong guy, saying no initially feels plain bad. Even though it is clearly the right thing to do.
I spent an incredible evening with Murse that night. We shared soup. A Caesar Salad. Orange Roughy. We walked Main Street holding hands. We shared pumpkin pie under twinkle lights, sipping tea. We laughed. Connected. We did what we do.
Upon returning home that evening, Murse crawled into bed, and lay on his stomach. He mumbled.
“Tired. Yoga…killed me.”
I had ridden the Murse wave til it’s end. No more sex with Murse. Murse knew, like me, that he needed to shut down. Protect himself. Protect me.
As I watched him doze off, I realized it was time to put on the brakes. Put away the fantasy that Lost Girls’ will hold on to forever. I am no longer Lost, however. I know when it was time to say goodbye to Murse, say yes to friends.
I have been collecting friends lately. Saying goodbye to Rock Star. Smart Guy. Murse. What’s more important, however, is when I am dating with dignity there are less resentments, hurts and dramatic endings. And so I continue.
Because this is dating.
Dating with Dignity.