As I mentioned in a prior post , I was already quite damaged socially when I graduated from high school. I was very shy and timid. However, my sense of adventure remained intact. Imagine my family’s surprise when I had decided to participate in a student exchange program for a year. I, the one who had not slept a night outside my own bedroom in years. My family’s consensus was that after one week, I would begging for them to send a one way ticket back home. Little did they know that except for just a couple of weeks, I would never return or look back. It has been over 30 years now since I have seen my family.
When I arrived in Finland for my exchange year, I was placed with a family with two children of my own age. My “brother” was a year older and my “sister” was a year younger. During the day time, I attended classes at the local high school. It was a brand new world for me: female teachers, and more importantly, female class mates. There were immediately some girls that caught my eye, but communicating was quite difficult. Though I was fluent in English, their English was “scholastic” or limited to what they had learned in their text books, but their conversational skills were rudimentary ate best. My solution was to become “the funny guy” and learn Finnish very quickly. It did not take very long before everyone knew me. In the evenings and on weekends, my “brother” took me along with him and his friends. Those were the first times that I experienced “nightlife” and went to clubs. .
Nevertheless, I could not seem to get the attention from females my age, neither at school or at the clubs, despite being called a great dancer by my brother’s friends. It was not only till I was in my forties that I realized that there actually had been women that were interested in me, but I had never understood the cues and signals that transmitted their interest in me.
At one of the orientations organized by the exchange organization, I noticed a cute blonde with Brigitte Bardot lips looking at me in a strange way. There was something familiar about her, and when she walked up to me she introduced herself and told me that she was in my German class. Indeed she was, and when I asked why she was here at the orientation she told me that it was because of me. “Oh, you want to become an exchange student too?”. She hesitated and smiled faintly. For the rest of the semester, whenever I was in German class, whenever our eyes met, she smiled. “She must like my antics”, I thought.
That was not the last time that I would not pick up subtle cues. I could not even read obvious sexual clues. After the year in Finland I decided to go to college in San Francisco and had a part time job at the university. One Sunday, a coworker of mine invited me to spend a Sunday afternoon across the bay in Tiburon. I took the ferry and we spent the afternoon together. We got along so well that we lost track of time and I had missed the last ferry back. She suggested that I stay at her place. So, at bed time, she went into her room, and I decided to freshen up in the bathroom, but I did not close the bathroomdoor. A minute later, I heard her door open and I looked up. She stood there naked looking at me. I waved at her and said ”good night, sleep well” and stretched out on her sofa.
Shortly thereafter, another late evening at a classmate. She lived with roommates, but she had a couch in her bedroom. Fifteen minutes after she had turned the light out, she said ”I am so horny”. My response: “I suppose you could take a cold shower”.
Even when a woman asked me straightforward whether I wanted her, she had to clarify herself and tell me that she wanted me to have sex with her. Only then did I get the message. However, after that time, nobody ever gave me a similar obvious invitation and I would be celibate for the next 25 years, until the next time that a woman just undressed in front of me after having giving me cues for hours before.
There were times though that I totally misinterpreted certain actions as signals of romantic interest. A college classmate and I were co-editors of the student paper and we spent a lot of time together trying to put out a new issue, staying on campus till the wee hours writing and editing We both loved to write and pushed each other in our writing endeavors. Editorially, we stepped on many deans’ toes, and we thrived on defying the deans’ attempts at censoring us. After a particular difficult issue, my co-editor touched me on the arm, and then gave me a hug. I rarely had been hugged before. It was an electric shock, and I fell head over heels in love for her. Unfortunately, that was not the message she wanted to send to me.