So said the professor with a Ph.D. and several masters degrees. My Google search revealed a page (not written by him) that called him “a famed professor” in his area of study. Other sites also lauded him. So I thought perhaps he was being modest when saying he was a nerd as he pursued me by sweet, thoughtful emails and phone calls.
His initial email said he was from out of state — 2000 miles away — but was planning to relocate to my area. I am a sucker for a man with good writing skills, so I responded and soon a vigorous email and phone conversation was launched.
When I met him a week after his first email, I saw that he was telling the truth. Can you imagine a 56-year-old Steve Urkel? I’m afraid the similarities were scary. Instead of hiked-up pants, he wore an ill-fitting patterned jacket with clashing shirt. His hunched shoulders suggested a form of osteoporosis or some other back malady. But as I stood straighter, so did he, so it seemed more habit than affliction.
He had braces, which seemed to be helping pull in his buck teeth and closing the gap of several missing ones. This also explained, in part, his lisp. His amblyopia, or lazy eye, kept me guessing which eye to address.
He’d changed his already-scheduled trip to my area for other matters to arrive a day earlier so we could get to know each other. But within a short time I knew there was no romantic future for us, no matter how interesting a writer he was. During lunch I asked him questions in his areas of expertise. I defected his flirting to other topics or ignored it.
This was more difficult when in an uncrowded area he kissed me. Luckily it was a brief peck, and I pulled away quickly. When he tried to take my hand I did not respond. I found it a challenge to brush off his advances. I didn’t want to be rude as he was a nice man who’d gone out of way to come meet me. But I didn’t want to encourage him by seeming to return his ardor.
Ironically, he told me he had to beat off women in his home city. While I recognize he had many inner strengths, was I shallower than his local women who may not have been put off by the outer trappings? Or was he delusional? I’ve always said treasures can come in imperfect wrappings, but something beyond the physical that was not attractive to me. Was it a kind of neediness, bordering on desperation? Was it his continual trying to brush up against me I found off putting? His flirting despite my giving him no cues that I was interested? Yes, all of the above.
So what to do? Tell the truth, of course, with as much caring and sensitivity as possible. I wrote him what I thought was a kind email, thanking him for his efforts to meet me, and for his generosity taking me to lunch, but saying I didn’t feel we were a romantic match, and I’d be honored if he’d allow me to be his friend. I received a terse email back, “I do not think we should waste our time being friends.” Obviously, what I felt was a gentle email still smarted. Having been on the receiving end of such emails, I can understand it is never easy to be rejected, no matter how kindly the other tries to put it.
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