Mud-Wrestling to Win My Man

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

Do I mud-wrestle for the man of my dreams or politely let him go? That’s the dilemma of the week that Josie and I have been wading through.

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I don’t know why our get-togethers keep turning into forays of to-date-or-not-to-date. It’s not like men are the only things on our minds, but then again, when we’re having lunch, we can finally let go of all the other business in our lives and talk about something less weighty. Personally, I think we end up of talking about guys because we were both with men for so long and we bottled up all the conversation about men so they wouldn’t be jealous or mortified.

But now Josie’s posed a question and won’t let go. She’s asked me to make a list of men—unmarried and straight—that I would consider dating. Not date. Just “consider” dating.

This list does not include Johnny Depp, even though my daughters insist he’s the only man cool enough for me.

On my short list is a name that causes Josie’s eyes to widen. “You should sodate him,” she tells me. “He’s cute. He’s smart. He makes good money. He’s recently divorced. And I know for a fact that he respects your work and likes you.”

The best I can do is shrug. “He’s dating somebody.”


Josie grew up all over the world, not in the South. Here, it’s different. A woman doesn’t just go after another woman’s man. Not without being branded a whore or at least…rude.

But Josie doesn’t even want to know if he’s serious about a woman. To her, it doesn’t matter. Unless he’s married, he’s still fair game. Probably for her, he’s fair game regardless.

When I was in high school, my friends and I hated the girls who stole our boyfriends. Never mind that the “boyfriends” didn’t know we existed. These dauntless trollops would show up, flirt with the objects of our affection, and win them away without the poor boys ever knowing our interest. Easy to see that now, but back then, oh, we hated those brazen hussies!

In high school, I dated during my junior and senior years but never anyone who went to my own high school. When my best friend, Marybeth, and I went off to the same college, we agreed not to date anyone the other was currently dating, had dated in the past, or called dibs on for the future. This contract was meant to protect our friendship. The last thing either of us needed was to have the other girl flaunting success with our past failures or competing over some guy who’d probably be gone in a month anyway. Our friendship was more important than that, and this was a matter of honor.

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To my knowledge, she never dated Cliff, who made me weak in the knees for at least a year. (Hmmm, come to think of it, he was an accountant. Damn, I need to remember to stay away from bean-counters!) Marybeth knew how I felt about Cliff and kept our contract. Our contract wasn’t official, but many of our female friends had similar unspoken agreements. You just didn’t mess with a friend’s current boyfriend OR her ex.

That’s probably why I was surprised when another friend in our circle, Annie, started dating Cliff. He pursued her just as he had pursued several of my friends, and she allowed herself to be caught just enough to enjoy his attention. That didn’t stop her from denigrating him to his face. In hindsight, my treating him well was probably a mistake. In fact, he seemed to enjoy Annie’s put-downs because they made her more of a challenge. Which, unfortunately, she explained in grand detail in my presence, good frigging friend that she was. I found it all too…dishonorable of her.

But I never thought twice about trying to win him back or fighting her for him. If he was interested in her, then I’d do the honorable thing and remove myself from the situation. I certainly would not grovel for his affection.

Josie just shakes her head when I call up the past. “This isn’t high school,” she says. “And it isn’t college. You’re all grown up now and in every other corner of your life, you go after what you want. You compete, and you usually win.”

The guy on my list has had a grand total of three dates with this new woman in his life, she tells me. She knows well enough that I won’t try to break up a serious relationship, even though I know the occasional man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who has proposed within three dates.

But that brings up another old hurt. It’s a pattern from my high school and college days and a little bit more recently, and I have fears that this pattern will reassert itself. Several times, boys/men who have interested me were involved with other girls/women. Going steady, committed, married, whatever. Unavailable. Then suddenly, their relationships have broken up and they’ve been devastated. Finally, an opportunity for me to start a relationship, but no, I’ve decided repeatedly to “give him some time” before trying to get close. And repeatedly, by the time I’ve felt enough distance had passed that it would be appropriate to get involved, the guy has already started dating seriously, gotten engaged, or (!) married someone new.

Statistics say a divorced man usually remarries within two years. Is this a lesson for me? How much time is enough time to heal? And do I even concern myself with his healing or do I just try to take his mind off his old pain by offering new experiences, new memories?

I do the considerate thing and try to give the guy some time to heal and—bam!—he’s unavailable again.

Maybe it’s a guy thing. Guys seem to need to have a woman in their lives, and soon. The level of commitment varies, but soon. “A guy’s gotta screw,” as one friend so delicately puts it.

One of my program managers for the Department of Defense sat in the Officer’s Club with me, drank sugar-sweetened tea, and quietly told me how he’d caught the love of his life in the arms of another man four months before, but it was okay because he was over her now and his divorce would be final in another month or two. I argued that he was fooling himself about being over her. He’d been nuts about her four months before and I couldn’t see that vanishing so quickly. I could still see the pain in his eyes.

But I was wrong. He met a new woman right after our lunchtime psycho-analysis session and a week after his divorce was final, he married her. He got over his ex really quickly, and I’ll bet his new wife didn’t sit back and wait for him to heal from the pain of his break-up.

But that’s my history: give a guy time and I’ll lose the chance. The first indication that he’s ready to date again is often the realization that he’s already dating someone else, and by then I feel it’s a matter of honor not to interfere but to let his new relationship run its course. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if he knew he had another option.

I don’t know where this sense of honor comes from in regard to backing off from a relationship with a man who’s dating other women, particularly one other woman. I do remember in the early ‘80’s when I watched two bikini-clad women wrestling in a pit of slimy mud that had the consistency and color of sick-baby shit. At the moment, the thought going through my head was that it would be my luck to lose a contact lens in that goo. The slime-covered brunette emerged grinning from the mud pit, having lost her bikini top and her dignity, but she won a date with the man of her dreams.

There’s got to be something more dignified than mud-wresting to win your man. There’s got to be something more compassionate than not giving him enough time alone in the hope that he’ll close old wounds on his own. And there’s got to be something more honorable than breaking up another woman’s relationship.

I miss the good old days when competitions over honor and romance were settled at twenty paces.

ould have found if you’d made your home elsewhere.

Yeah, that’s where I want to sleep.


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