What follows here are two parallel stories that are meant to be compared and discussed. The first one is about an older man who temporarily reunites with a younger and very attractive, but manipulative woman with whom he was once romantically involved. The second story, following it, has the exact same wording, and describes the exact same events, but the roles of the man and the woman are reversed, so that in the second story it is the woman who is older, financially secure, while it is the man who is younger and very attractive & manipulative. The point of presenting these two stories side by side is to precipitate a discussion that will, among other things, possibly shed light on thoughts (prejudices?) that most all of us have but don't know we have, as regards men and women and their respective and culturally assigned roles, their associated bad habits, and their often-granted (and respective) privileges in life. It's also hoped that the two stories will prompt some reflection on the different kinds of love there are that exist between men and women, and also what the costs are, to any relationship, when one or more of the two people lack any real ability or willingness to even for a few minutes put themselves in the shoes of the other person.
First up, then, is the story in which the man is older and financially secure, and the woman is younger and more attractive financially insecure.
Following it, the same story but with the woman this time being older and financially secure, and the man being younger and more attractive but financially insecure.
One of the stories is based on real events, as perceived by one of the two people involved. Only the names, certain circumstances within the story, and the locations in the stories have been changed, to protect the identities of the two individuals.
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Robert looked very good for 66. He walked a couple of miles every day at a pretty good clip to keep in shape, and ate plenty of salads, and very little meat or dairy. His parents had both worked hard and saved a remarkable amount of money. So when they passed on, they left him a pretty penny, which he had invested wisely. Well, fairly wisely. Unfortunately the apartment building he had invested in had lost value in the recession and needed plenty of repairs. But he still had his social security check, and the apartment building did yield at least a few hundred extra most every month, and sometimes a thousand or two or three, after all the expenses were paid for the month.
The problem in his life was not money, really, because he was not that fond of material things. His politics, art, conversation and thoughts were of much greater importance to him. Plus he had a great reverence for nature and loved to commune with it. It took the place of religion.
His problems were with women, and right now it was with one woman in particular. Wanda was only 51 and he'd always been quite fond of her. They certainly didn't have everything in common, but they did share a few very basic things: they laughed at many of the same jokes, liked a lot of the same music, enjoyed the same kind of food, and both loved nature and the outdoors. And perhaps most important of all, they had had, for a few years at least, a great sex life. He loved the way she made love with him. No one else compared. Wanda was very nice looking, had a beautiful body, and knew exactly what to do in bed, to make him feel as no one else could.
Unfortunately there had always been problems with the relationship as well. Wanda was very critical of him, often scolded him, and often talked over him, which he intensely disliked. Basically she was very self-centered and didn't know it. Plus she was very attached to her possessions, of which there were a great many. Household goods mostly, of a wide variety, including a great deal of furniture. Plus there were clothes. Tons of fine clothes. All of it had once jam-packed her apartment, garage and storage locker, and now she had it all in storage -- three different storage lockers, on which storage fees were adding up at the rate of nearly $400 per month. She had moved all her belongings from the Bay Area to L.A. a few months ago, with her live-in boyfriend in tow, but the place where they were going to live fell through. Then her savings and income from medical disability ran out, and they both ended up homeless -- in Las Vegas of all places, where motel rent was comparatively cheap, and where her boyfriend supposedly had a friend who could get him a good job in a casino. But that didn't pan out and so he and Wanda ended up arguing constantly -- to the point that Wanda had finally had enough and simply couldn't take it anymore.
That's when she got back in touch with Robert. She desperately needed a temporary place to stay. She was hungry, sick and homeless. And she desperately wanted to get her stuff out of storage. Robert missed her terribly, but was worried that she still might be attached to the attractive young man she had been living with for the past year or more. However, having a major weak spot in his heart for her, he reluctantly allowed himself to discuss the possibility of meeting her in L.A., retrieving some of her stuff from one of the storage lockers (which would require him to pay a fee of $340), and then drive her and her stuff back to Berkeley in his Toyota van. But Robert had great misgivings about this plan, and kept vacillating, which enraged Wanda.
As it finally turned out, he eventually paid for her travel by bus from Vegas to Oakland, where he picked her up at the depot. There was a tearful reunion accompanied by a warm, extended and heartfelt embrace. But that was the last embrace he received from her. And it soon became clear that she didn't want to have any kind of physical intimacy with him, not in the least. She kissed him once, with hesitation and reluctance. Evidently her heart was still with the boyfriend she had left in Vegas, who called her constantly on her cell phone, and demanded to know the name and address of the person with whom she was living. Wanda and her Vegas boyfriend had several phone conversations in the first several days, at least one of which left her in tears. It was obvious that she still cared very much for this attractive young man, crazy though he seemed to be.
As a result of realizing that there was going to be no re-ignition of the romance the two of them once had together, Robert quite naturally became increasingly reluctant to drive to L.A. with her, to pay her storage bill, in order to get some of her stuff out of storage and bring it back to his home, as she wanted. So Wanda's next move was to try and persuade him to simply pay the bill, so that the stuff wouldn't get auctioned off. Robert of course balked at this plan as well. Foolishly he had already loaned her eight thousand dollars over the past few years, in hopes of getting her to come back to him, but now knew that he would never get either her or his money back. Plus, if he were ever foolish enough to pay the first storage locker fee, he knew that there would eventually be demands to pay the second, and then the third and the fourth. It would be like a black hole, quickly absorbing any and all money that got near it, none of it ever to be seen again.
Wanda's presumption, on the other hand, was that she would eventually get a job, and would be able to pay those additional storage fees, and would soon enough get all the stuff out. But the hard truth was that the US economy was in the toilet, six people were looking for every decently paid job, and Wanda had a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome (and several other medical problems) that prevented her from doing much work. So Robert could see the writing on the wall, even if Wanda couldn't. And when he tried to explain all this to her, she flew into a rage and slammed him for "lying" to her, not keeping his "promises" to her, and for "manipulating" her.
Another problem was that Wanda really wanted to live in L.A., the city in which she had grown up, and Robert did not simply want to be used by her, as a temporary means of support and housing, until such time as her boyfriend in Las Vegas -- or some other man -- could come up with the money and the job it would take to win her full favor and commitment. Indeed, Wanda had made it very clear to the boyfriend in Vegas that she would come back to him, but only after he paid all the fees on her storage lockers, had a steady job, and had rented a decent place for them to live that was large enough to accommodate all her many belongings. In the meantime she felt she should be entitled to live with Robert. The glamorous Wanda was a great lover, and felt that she was entitled to the privileges that her glamour, charm and intelligence should naturally provide.
Wanda had at one point suggested to Robert that he would be very happy living in a part of Long Beach that was very near some beautiful cliffs overlooking the beach and the ocean. When he foolishly asked if she would live there with him, her guarded answer was that she would "consider" it.
Periodically Wanda would accuse Robert of not keeping his promise to her, to drive to L.A. and get some of her stuff out of storage. She had medicine there, which she desperately needed; her best clothes were there, which she needed before she could go on a job interview, and there were a lot of important documents in one of the lockers which she also desperately needed to retrieve. Finally, there were certain pieces of medical equipment which she also desperately needed. That is when she began accusing him of "manipulating" her and "playing games" with her. But when he asked her to explain exactly how he was manipulating her, she declined to say.
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