A Send-Up . . . Or, Rather, a Send-Off

Ever since I got engaged last September, I’ve been thinking that this wedding may very well spell the end of my storytelling days. Certainly many of my most outrageous stories center around weirdos I’ve met on the street, but there are plenty more that feature weirdos I have actually dated. And while I may still encounter some “less desirables” as I walk the dog or visit the nearby Kolache Factory, I more than likely will not be experiencing any more dates. For that I am both grateful and sorry. I have found the love of my life, but now how am I going to entertain my friends?

In preparation for my marriage, I have decided to write a send-off to all those amazing men who approached me on the el, on the sidewalk, on my bike, at the movie rental store, on the beach. Some I dated, while most I quickly escaped. To that string of oddballs, misfits, and potentially gay men, I say a fond farewell.

It all started with Pat from high school, whom I had a crush on, off and on, for four years. We finally went on a date during senior year, but he blew it by whistling at me. I don't mean a catcall, which I probably would have found flattering. No, he whistled to get my attention from across the movie theater lobby to let me know our movie was on the other side. How rude! (For years after that, my sister would clap her hand on her calf, whistle, and say, “Come here, Katherine, come here! Good girl!”) When he asked for a kiss at the end of the night—his mother standing on the front porch while we sat in my car—I just shook my head.

But maybe I should go back a little further, to Chris Somethingorother, an odd fellow with long, blond hair. Chris was a social outcast who, unbeknownst to me, had a crush on me all through freshman year of high school. I knew nothing about this unrequited love until early in my sophomore year, when the girl sitting in front of me in Spanish class handed back my paper and said, “You’re Katherine Hinkebein? I know somebody who hates you.” That sure got my attention! The hater in question was not Chris but his longtime girlfriend, Dawn, whom I had never even spoken to. In fact, I was surprised she knew who I was. According to the girl sitting in front of me, Chris had written my name on his pillowcase in black marker with a great big heart around it, and he would kiss it before bed. Apparently that didn’t go over so well with Dawn!

It’s clear my plight began at an early age. However, it was after both high school and college that things really got interesting.

Farewell to the guy who, late one night as I walked down the street, so thoughtfully announced: “Excuse me, I don’t mean no harm, but you’ve got some big legs. Can’t I say that? Cause you got some big legs!” Farewell to the man in the pickup truck who hollered that he liked my shorts. Farewell to the guy who sent a shot to me and my married sister from across the bar; my sister did both shots.

Farewell to the old man who touched my Spandex-encased butt with an open palm while pretending to look at the “crazy” clipless pedals on my bike. I was new to the newfangled pedals myself, and struggled to get away without crashing.

Farewell to Patrick, whom I met while riding my bike at the beach. We had so much fun together that first weekend—swimming in Lake Michigan at sunset, having a late dinner at Moody’s, going to a jazz club, where he actually sat in with the band—then spent six weeks wishing we had something in common. I was hoping for a summer fling, but it turned out he wasn’t a very good kisser and some friends hinted they thought he was a little too femme. Knowing me, I would have put up with both of those things indefinitely had he not started talking one night about how many “hats” he wore—as in, “I take off one hat and put on another one,” complete with hand gestures. That was the last straw.

Farewell to the crazy guy in my photography class who asked if I was the teacher, even though I was sitting next to him in a sea of desks. When the actual teacher came in, she acknowledged said crazy guy, clearly aware that he was off, as he had taken her class the semester before. He was later seen in the hallway pretending to talk on a cell phone. How did we know he was pretending? He didn’t have a cell phone! Naturally, he caught up with me after class one day, on the northbound redline. I got rid of him when he asked where I was headed. I said, “North.”

Farewell to the very nice cross-dresser with the wide, hairy feet and too much makeup who chatted me up while we waited on the el platform. (That’s right: a dude dressed as a woman hitting on another woman.) I felt bad for him because he really was very nice. Yet I also felt I had to elude him as soon as the train arrived. As a wise woman once said, “Life is too short for nice.”

Farewell to Saint, the Jamaican personal trainer and masseur who had no money. At the end of our first date—tuna fish sandwiches at my apartment—he borrowed ten dollars from me for the cab ride home, then decided at the last minute to take the bus. I never did get my ten dollars back. We went out one more time (that’s how good-looking he was), but it was a bust. He called me every night leading up to our next date asking if I missed him. (Did I miss him? No, I didn’t fucking miss him. We'd only just met!) The day of our lunch date, he refused to enter the dive-y deli I suggested and we ended up eating at the chain sandwich shop across the street. After some other questionable behavior, I decided that was enough. I told him over the phone that I didn’t want to go out again, and he ranted at me, saying I judge people too quickly and would never be happy. Five minutes later he called back, apologized, and said he hoped we could be friends. Talk about dodging a bullet!

Farewell to Brian Y, whom I actually let pick me up at Hollywood Video. It was a Friday night, I was bored, what can I say? We had chili and salad at his place and watched a terrible movie while he played with his cat. As soon as the movie ended, I got the heck out of there, never to see him again . . . until the next week, when he caught up to me on the sidewalk as I walked home from work. I was unshowered, un-made-up, exhausted, and sick. He asked if I wanted to get together again, then paused and asked if I had a cold. The look on his face said, “Please don’t get your germs on me.” I said yep, I’m sick, and sorry, no time to get together. He tried to sound disappointed, but after the sight of me, I’m sure he was thinking he had just dodged a bullet!

Farewell to my very kind ex-neighbor, whom I like to call Boo Radly. He had a totally hot voice and such severe astigmatism that he had to sit sideways to see the TV as we watched the baseball game together. He lived across the courtyard from me, and after we stopped hanging out, I'd occasionally see him peering out his window at me when I came home from work.

Farewell to Billy the actor, who was fifteen minutes late for our blind date, then talked nonstop for the rest of the evening. Quote of the night: “Nicholson is my mentor.”

Farewell to Pedro, my handyman, who asked me out the weekend after the Billy disaster. He didn’t talk at all—until the movie started. Perhaps he got bored or didn't like the film, but did he have to bring up the termites in my apartment? Farewell to the other handymen who have given me plants or asked me out for a beer. (Seriously, am I the only tenant nice enough to talk to these guys?)

Farewell to the guy on the bus who flirted with me for a couple of weeks, then invited me to a party. For all kinds of reasons, I couldn’t make it. Farewell to Toad, who looked like he had just walked out of Miami Vice. He told me in front of a whole party of people that I was “very beautiful.” Sweet, but more than a little embarrassing. Farewell to Lionhair, with that incredible mane, who said I was “very beautiful and pleasant to talk to.” Why couldn’t someone even remotely my type say something like that?

Farewell to effeminate Brian X from photo lab who scammed my number—a true first for me. He said he needed to borrow some film to finish a project, so I gave him my number…and suddenly he didn’t need the film anymore. A week later he called to ask me to a vampire flick. I seriously considered going, except I thought he was gay. Luckily, by then I was learning to just say no.

Finally, farewell to the Asshole, who apparently thought I was hitting on him when I said he could eat my spare taco. We were sitting in a Mexican restaurant with mutual friends; you’d think he’d know I was kidding. Instead, he gave me his card and asked me to call him. I guess I should have seen it coming.

Yes, farewell to all, and thanks for the memories. Here’s hoping marriage can provide me with as many interesting stories to tell.

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