Redefining The Relationship

1:45 AM, Manasquan, New Jersey- Heather had an unwanted conundrum on the rocks with Grey Goose.

The night to that point was one of those magical ones only summer can provide: A sparkling 81 degree sunset over scallops, clams, burgers, pasta, and pinot grigio at a backyard Bar-B-Q. It was here where Heather met Matt, who happened to be new to her beach house but she hadn’t met until that afternoon.

After one of those 60-minute sidebar conversations as if they were just two and not three dozen people mingling in the green grass, she was sold that Matt had boyfriend potential. They both loved to play tennis, both DVR’d Lost and The Office, both just returned from separate trips to Vegas.

“Give those two about six hours,” I said to one of my beach house veterans, Rebecca, while noticing Matt and Heather hadn’t moved for their chairs near the side of the house in about the time it takes to watch an episode of The Sopranos. “I’ve been predicting this since he (Matt) passed the interview process to join our empire three months ago.”

“Do you take credit for everything?” she asked me.

“Everything but the weather…”

“As they shared a mirror while getting ready before going out, Heather asked her friend and sharemate Katie her opinion of Matt.

“He’s cute, but you already knew what my answer would be,” Katie said. “Go for it.”

At the same time, Matt asked housemate Frank a question cleaning up the backyard before going out as well:

“Yankees win today?”

“Yeah, 7-6…but Randy Johnson sucked again,” Frank replied.

“Old man should retire already…” Matt responded.

At the Parker House that evening, a place where some say dreams really do come true, there were no sidebars to be had. Matt was a guy who fully knew the ramifications of paying too much attention to someone too soon, and he already subconsciously discerned that he had planted a seed with Heather. Besides, he was with his friends now, and those friends had found five fetching girls to talk to. None of their names were Heather.

“So much for your prediction,” Rebecca said to me. “They haven’t said a word to each other since they got here.”

“He’s just keeping his options open,” I responded. “He may have a steak at home, but right now he’s just in the mood for a burger.”

Rebecca gazed at me for a moment before acknowledging her confusion, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It will. You’ll see. Being single is the best alternative for some and a horrible thought for others,” I said with the pontification of Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty.

The Parker House closes at 11:30, so in the world of Sea Girt that represents a time to get to neighboring Manasquan (whose bars close three hours later) and a tranquil place called Leggett’s for a nightcap or 8.

The same group of girls that Matt and the other guys from the house were talking to at Parker ended up going to The Boathouse in Belmar instead, so apparently our male protagonist was back to square one.

“Those girls were decent,” I said to Matt as we waited on line to pay cover.

“Yeah, I should have gotten her number, but it didn’t feel like the right time,” Matt said.

“Your instinct was correct,” I explained. “The beach really is like college. No one with any clue actually exchanges numbers unless you’re having breakfast with that person the next morning. Since there are essentially four bars possible to go to, you’ll run into her again, just like you never took anyone out on dates at school. Here, you “accidentally” meet up with groups that you meet along the way. And that’s how it works unless you want to see the girl during the week…”

“…And I’m too tired or busy with shit to date during the week during the summer,” Matt said, finishing my sentence.

“Exactly,” I said…now feeling like Myagi when Daniel understood a proverb.

“You really put too much thought into these kinds of things,” Matt chuckled.

I couldn’t disagree with him, but watching these situations unfold is my second favorite form of entertainment.

From there, the rest of the evening was predictable: Matt and Heather had another hour-long sidebar around 12:45 AM, and proceeded to do an Irish exit (which occurs when you leave a bar or party without informing anyone in the group you had originally gone out with). The time was 2:00 AM according to the clock on the dash in the cab they took to get back to Sea Girt.

Heather had been in this position before, but since reading my Rules of Engagement piece on Hoboken’s premier online magazine and learning that hooking up with housemates too soon in a beach season was not recommended if thinking relatively long-term (like, until July 4), she was confused as to what should happen next.

On one hand, she liked Matt. He seemed stable, funny, focused…and not really a cheesy asshole who just wanted to indulge in pleasures of the flesh. On the other hand, the proper thing to do—if she were in Hoboken, anyway—was maybe a kiss goodnight and go home. The problem was, her home two nights a week was Matt’s home.

Before she could even make a decision, she turned to Matt and his lips were already about six inches from hers and closing in slowly. With non-verbal communication all the rage in taxis going from Manasquan to anywhere, she closed her eyes and leaned into him, where a five-minute cab ride turned into one of those sloppy but exhilarating first base sessions that she lacked and missed during the final year of her 16-month relationship with her former soulmate.

Heather wasn’t used to this. She was happily buzzed, not necessarily drunk, and wanted the night to continue, but also needed to keep her reputation with her housemates, and more importantly, Matt, in place.

“Where is the middle ground?” she thought as she felt something rubbing up against her leg. “If we go to the bed together but I keep my clothes on, would that be respectable?”

Matt, also having absorbed my Rules of Engagement piece, concluded that he really didn’t give a fuck about the laws of beach houses. But if given the chance to inject him with sodium pentothal, he would tell you that while he thought Heather she was extremely cool and esthetically pleasing to boot. However, he wasn’t about to sacrifice his summer with his friends and freedom to pursue anything…at least until Labor Day, anyway.

Regardless, Heather and Matt were victims of a slippery slope that quickly retired to the privacy of his double bed in his screened off section of a huge basement in the house. In an effort to be a good girl and maintain her integrity, she fibbed and told him in the heat of groping that she had just received her monthly bill, which he didn’t exactly believe but didn’t press her on nonetheless (asking for evidence to be presented in such a situation is not suggested). Deep down, he wouldn’t have respected her if she had done anything else, and despite being somewhat of a player, didn’t push her to do anything she didn’t want to do.

Note: It just isn’t as fun when you beg for anything, he thought. And too many guys make asses of themselves when doing so. Show some pride, for the love of God.

Still, the weekends from there were different between Matt and Heather. After coming down the same weekends two weeks after the opener, she explained to him in the fog of 3:00 AM that she wouldn’t continue their so-called relationship unless he showed that he was interested in her beyond late-night convenience.

“That’s fine, I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m just not ready to do that right now. I’d be misleading you if I stated otherwise.” Matt said and paused. “It is what it is, but don’t take it personally. I’m just in a different place right now.”

He then turned and went to the backyard to hang out with the other men of the house who were bullshitting in the backyard until 5:00 AM…without a care in the world.

“I don’t understand him,” Heather thought. “He seems to value his independence more than hanging out with me, and I know we have a connection.”

She valiantly stood her ground the following weekend after two more sidebar conversations filled with hugs and various touching both ways of the elbows and stomach. It was then that her expectations lowered from “Matt-boyfriend” to “Matt-opportune boy-toy”.

“Maybe he’ll come around,” Heather said to Katie. “I know he likes me, but maybe the time and this environment just aren’t right for anything more than what we’re doing.”

“Just go with it,” Katie said. “There’s no shame in going with him down here as long as you don’t set yourself up to be hurt. And if doesn’t eventually act on it, it’s his loss. Have fun…you deserve to act like a guy sometimes too…it’s not like that doesn’t happen with almost everybody at the beach, anyway.”

And so the relationship had been successfully redefined. It was just like college, she thought, and remembered to the way things were at Arizona State when she hung out with a boy named Troy for two years without going on anything that resembled a date. They would always be at the same bar on a particular night, and from there it was pretty much a given what pillow her head would be resting on that night.

By putting independence over infidelity (the latter of which Matt would have definitely committed if he promised Heather something he couldn’t deliver on just to get her to sleep with him), Matt actually accomplished having his cake and eating it too without lying to do so.

Even the most mature, reputable girls are willing to accept a redefine as long as you don’t insult their intelligence in the process. Honesty, even if it means not giving a person what they may truly want, is always valued no matter what the context. And never underestimate the power of wanting something you can’t have, or in this case, what you can only have when it’s only suitable for the other person involved.

So go ahead…call gents like Matt a player, a commitment-phoebe, or a guy who refuses to grow up and act responsibly.

But you can’t call him deceitful.

And such is life at the Jersey shore. It truly is a place to flee from reality…whether it’s work, stress, or having to follow the proper rules of courtship.

Unfortunately for most girls looking for true love, and there are obviously exceptions…particularly towards the end of the summer, finding Mr. Right likely won’t happen because the power of temptation, and an affinity for the lack of restrictions, are simply too great.

For now, settle for Mr. Right Now.