>>> Edited For Content
By staff writer Mike Forest
August 17, 2005

I‘ve held onto this column for a while now. I'm still not sure I should publish it, but then again, what's the difference anymore.

Have I ever been in a “normal” relationship? What would such a thing look like? Feel like? If it smells like poop, feels like poop and tastes like poop, then what you probably have is poop in your hands; but what about the “thing” that two people share? If it feels like a relationship, is it? If it is, is it a “normal” one?

Type “normal” into Google and see what you come up with. Or better yet, read on because I have already done so. (None of you would have anyway.)

Here are some definitions culled from what came back to me:

-Something regarded as a normative example
-Conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm
-Not abnormal
-In accordance with scientific laws
-Forming a right angle
-Conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
-Containing neither basic hydroxyl nor acid hydrogen
-Occurring naturally

These definitions help us define a framework for what is normal, but not the specifics. The first definition is circular. Something normal is regarded as a normative example. Thanks. My refrigerator is that refrigerator-looking thing in the kitchen. Bravo. The second definition is not much more help, but it does mention society, which is an ever-changing beast. Since what was normal 20 years ago does not seem to be normal now, maybe we can assume that we will always be chasing normality and never achieving it.

If something is not normal it is abnormal. Though this may seem to be very circuitous at first, it’s not a bad measuring stick. If I were to run around wearing a Scream mask and all black waving a knife, that would be easy to define as “not normal.” However, if I was to wear black clothing and white makeup and hum through all my classes, you could call me weird, but “abnormal” may be a little harsh. If nothing else you could say that I was more normal without the mask and knife. Now we’re into relativism.

As far as I know, I have been in accordance with scientific laws when I have been in my past relationships. I always observed the Law of Gravity. Natural selection has come into play a couple of times as well. If this was the only definition, I would have to say that all of my relationships have been normal. However, this is stupid. Scientific laws and relationships should not be discussed together.

While I may be scientifically normal, I have never formed a right angle in any relationship I have had. I’m just not that flexible. A girl I was dating may have formed a right angle…but that’s another topic in itself.

Furthermore, no relationship I have ever been in has contained hydroxyl or acid hydrogen. At least not that I know of. Liquor, pot and beer; but not that other crap. This was supposed to lead to a funnier punchline about being an English major and not a chemistry major and the only physics I like is the physical kind, but you’ll have to just imagine it. I’ll pause to give you time to chuckle.

Better? OK.

I had been single now for…well…that would be difficult to determine. I don’t know when my last girlfriend stopped returning my calls, but I would have to say I considered myself single about a week or two after that.

While we were together it was magical. I never had to pretend to be anybody else and we had a great time together. I loved cuddling with her. I loved the smell of her hair. I loved the way the moon reflected off of her cheek. Wait. I’m reciting some cheesy novel, but you get the point.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t love her.

Now, before you write me off as a bad person, let me finish. From the beginning, it was more like an arrangement than a relationship. Sure we liked each other and had a great time together, but it had a built in self-destruct. At the end of the semester she was graduating and I was staying here. She didn’t want any ties to hold her here at the end of the semester and I didn’t want to stand in her way of her dreams. I didn’t love her, but I wasn’t supposed to. This wasn’t going to end like some cheesy flick where the couple stays together forever despite the dreams they once had (or was it?).

What we formed was a special friends-with-benefits, but with our schedules, it was hard to schedule even that in. Who thought it would be so hard to schedule sex into your day? I either worked or had class during the day into the evening. So did she. We both had homework and other things that we did apart from each other. After all is said and done, who’s not down for a little making out and a romp in the sack? More people than you imagine, at least more than I imagined.

First, one person has to call the other. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it was. She didn’t have voicemail, so I could never leave a message. I had her on a special ring so I always knew when she was calling so I could run to the phone, but sometimes she would wait for me to call. Once we finally got hold of one another, we would have to make small talk about the day. Then we decided if we were going to get together and “watch a movie or something” or not. Usually this means sex, but not every time. Then we had to decide if she was coming to my place or if I was going to hers. Then there were roommate schedules to deal with. Say if my roommate will be home by midnight, that leaves us three hours, but she’s still eating dinner so that may not work. Sure, all of her roommates are gone now, but what about by the time I got there?

It wasn’t all about sex. I knew exactly what my “job” was as her boyfriend. I took her on some fabulous dates. (Okay…two or three fabulous dates.) I made her dinner a couple times. Took her dancing on a riverboat for Valentine’s Day. We went to the movies a couple of times. The sex was pretty good though, so it usually ended up there. Both of us were very busy and poor. I asked myself, “Why not skip the going out part and just hang at one of our places?” Brilliant. We’d make pizza and watch TV or Nintendo and get high. It was a good time.

I’m not sure when the bottom fell out. I didn’t think I was being too demanding, but then again, I should have known something was wrong when I didn’t want to call my girlfriend for a week because I knew she had an exam that she was studying for. A simple “Hi, how ya been?” from either party would have satisfied me. Also telling was Spring Break. While one of my buddies got 4 calls a day from his girlfriend, I didn’t get so much as a text message. Neither of my calls were returned (no voicemail, remember).

So eventually, we faded. I’m not sure when we “broke up.” I’m not sure what it was to begin with. I know that we actually had a talk at the beginning where we agreed upon calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend so that other people would have something to call us.

I don’t regret a second of it. Maybe hindsight is covering up all the little things that used to bug me. I’ve romanticized it all by now, but that’s a good thing as far as I am concerned. In the role of “boyfriend,” I think I did a pretty good job. I was funny, sexy and charming; but I was also needy, petty and horny. A good mix is important. I didn’t want to be the “one that got away” but I wanted her to have happy memories of us…of me.

I did it all right, but it still ended. I know that was the plan. If we would have had a contract, the expiration date of what we had would have been in there. I comfort myself by telling myself that I know I’d do it all again, but would she? If she would, is there anything we would do differently? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

A relationship is never “normal,” or maybe it’s always “normal.” Whether you ever say it or not, it’s always an arrangement of some kind. Relationships are organic. They either grow or they die. They stay fresh by continual renewal or they stagnate. They evolve or they get left behind.

I’m trying to draw a parallel from “organic” to “occurring naturally,” which is the last definition in the above list. It’s there. I could make it work, but I’m suddenly melancholy and reminiscent.

Comedians make a living out of joking about their pain. I’ll never make a dime off of this. This started as a column about all the wacky relationships I’ve been in and the crazy women I’ve met. Now it’s…it is what it is…and that’s life, ya know?