As always, summer has brought a new crop of sad love stories. The other night I heard my sister's version:
"I first saw him in the science library at school in October. At first, I didn't want to get serious with anyone. But by the time spring rolled around, things were going very well. . .But I had this job in Washington, and he had one in San Francisco. I didn't think that much about us being apart until it actually happened. I guess I was trying to forget last summer."
We talked a while more. She told me she felt guilty about going out at night with her friends, her phone bill was enormous, and she wasn't sure that she and he were going to make it until September.
"You know," my sister said, "it's getting to the point where I associate warm weather with being lonely and breaking up. Summer has a way of doing that."
"I don't know what to say," I said.
She understood, and so we said goodbye.
In my high school, every sophomore had to read a book by Alan Sillitoe called The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.
After a lot of late-night bull sessions, it was retitled The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Relationship, and and with it came a thousand and one teary-eyed tales of a sweetheart too many miles away.
But not being able to figure out what to do about the loneliness of the long-distance relationship -- a condition undoubtedly older, more painful and less deserved than the loneliness of people who choose to run long distances -- was frustrating.
It's easy enough to break up. Here's a short try at an alternative:
Make sure you both work where you have access to a WATS line. Telephone calls are a positive force. Especially free ones. Letters, contrary to popular belief, are less helpful, because waiting for the mail to arrive is humiliating.
In the same vein, it's important to develop a telephone policy: Decide when you're going to call each other and agree on the next time before you end each call. Paranoia creeps especially quickly into long-distance relationships if you're constantly waiting for the phone to ring. And then it does ring. And it's your neighbor asking you to lower the stereo.
Don't be jealous, don't complain, don't feel guilty or ever make him/her feel that way, even if it kills you. This one has a corollary:
Be strong, have patience, practice self-restraint at all times. If you can't do this all the time, try it at least once a week.
As soon as you get to you get your new job, tell everyone that you're engaged to be married. Some claim that this white lie is transparent and -- worse yet -- totally ineffective. Nevertheless, it can't hurt to tell people that you're "deeply committed" to someone else. For effect, every so often, act engaged. Stare into space ans sigh, bring china patterns into the office, hint around that you'd just love a bridal shower. Accept all gifts graciously.
Little things -- like seeing other couples walking arm in arm, going to sappy movies, and reading romantic novels -- are self-destructive in the long-distance relationship. Hence:
Make this your summer to read Hegel, Kant and Goethe. Perhaps they aren't the most spell-binding subjects, but phenomenology, socialism and positivism (not in that order) are un-sexy. Really un-sexy. So un-sexy that after reading about any of them, you'll look forward to spending the evening with a dust rag.
Back in the '60s, behavorial psychologists made a lot of money by setting up clinics where they forced smokers to look at pictures of slime and bile. Ultimately, smokers were supposed to link, in the deepest, darkest crevices of ther minds, cigarettes and slime and bile. And then they were supposed to quit.
One real benefit of this kind of therapy, pyschologists argued, was that one could do it in the privacy of home.
So if things are getting tough, lock yourself in your slide-projection room, and pull out your collection of slime and bile photographs. In other words.
Associate dating members of the opposite sex with slime and bile. It's probably a good idea, however, not to tell anybody you're treating yourself with this method.
Finally, Hoep, pray, keep your fingers crossed and hope and pray some more. And then hope and pray some more after that.
Because luck isn't on your side.
Time is, though: Only 63 more days 'til the fall.