Better a mad scientist than a marathon runner

I had four dates with Stephen Longfellow III. It was four dates too many. Our incompatibility was obvious from the start, but I persisted for four dates, driven by dogged and dumb hopefulness. Maybe we are perfect for each other. We just need to get to know each other more.

After all, my initial objections were petty:

Objection 1) We met at 90s Night at a bar-turn-sloppy-dance-club in Allston.

Allston is one of those cities included in Greater Boston that you would just call Boston, unless you lived in Boston and knew that Allston is not Boston. It’s a mix of Harvard Business School, unruly townies, and college students from god-knows-which-university. Allston is approximately 4 miles from downtown Boston, but was basically unreachable before Uber was invented. It’s on a godforsaken branch of the metro’s Green Line that runs on street level and stops every block to pick up belligerent college kids drinking spiked Gatorade. There’s a puddle of vomit on every train and someone publicly urinating around every corner.

The train runs along a strip of bars offering deals like “free Jagerbomb with every pitcher of Bud Light” and dingy apartments that house the patrons of these bars. Away from the metro line, there are swaths of Allston that are eerily deserted and undeveloped: no shops or restaurants, just a gas station, a few rundown townhouses, and a characterless three-story office building where you have to return your keys when you move out of your apartment, which is in a nicer part of Greater Boston.

Allston is weird.

But I agreed to go to Allston one night because my friend Alice wanted to go Allston because she wanted to go to 90s Night because she had a crush on a guy who would be at 90s Night and she wanted me to be her wing woman.

COMMONGRI was three drinks into the night (four if you count the Nips we had in line, but who counts Nips in line?) and Chumbawamba was playing. I spotted Stephen Longfellow III because he was the tallest man in the crowd. Eventually we spoke.

I consulted Facebook and realized we had two mutual friends. Two mutual Facebook friends? There’s no way he could be a murderer! We hoped in an Uber and whisked to Backbay, an area in Boston proper. I forgot about Alice. I never claimed to be a good wing woman.

Men who frequent 90s Nights in Allston are probably not the men I should be dating. But it was my first/last/only time there, so perhaps it was his first/last/only time there too. I ignored my first objection.

Objection 2) Stephen Longfellow III was a wealthy Southern conservative.

He was from Richmond, VA. He went to Princeton for undergrad, as had Stephen Longfellow II and Stephen Longfellow I. He was wearing seersucker in his Facebook profile picture, not ironically. His accent made him sound racist no matter what he was saying. And his words made him sound racist because of what he was saying.

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But could I really fault someone for taking on the norms of the culture in which they were raised? Wouldn’t he change and shed these views after more time in the northeast? Objection two seemed surmountable.

Objection 3) Stephen Longfellow III was probably a mad scientist.

He was a neuroscientist working for a company that is developing a mind-controlling device. By applying electric stimulation to specific skull localities, “the device” alters the user’s mood, producing feelings of relaxation or happiness. Like Prozac, but delivered by shock therapy.

It sure sounded like the back story to a super villain. One day he’s a research scientist developing this device, the next day he snaps and uses it to force women to love him and world leaders to do his bidding. Didn’t they already make that movie?

But I hadn’t had a real boyfriend in six years, so I was willing to risk him being a super villain in the making. However there was one thing about Stephen Longfellow III that I could not look past.

4) The deal breaker: Stephen Longfellow III was training for a marathon just so he could talk about training for a marathon.

You know the type. There’s one at your workplace. There’s one at every work place. Someone who picks up running, decides to train for a marathon, and then proceeds to talk, post, and update about it incessantly.

I am not opposed to recreational running. In fact I really like running. I ran cross-country and track in college and high school. Many of my friends are serious and dedicated runners. I still run a few days a week, in addition to other forms of exercise. I believe that exercise is vital to physical and mental well being, and I get cranky if I go a few days without it.

But the problem with people who pick up running just to do a marathon is that they often also pick up a holier-than-thou attitude. They perceive themselves as heroes and prioritize their training over professional and social responsibilities. They come late or sweaty to your birthday dinner—“Sorry I had to get in my long run.” They can’t volunteer at the office community service event—“Sorry I have to get in 70 miles this week.”

Unless you are a professional athlete, running a marathon—or running any distance—is a hobby. It’s a hobby like dancing salsa and knitting and drinking beer with your friends. It’s what you choose to do for fun in your free time—what you choose to do instead of working, taking care of your family, or contributing to your community. Yes running is hard and it’s good for you, but it’s for you. It doesn’t benefit the world. It only benefits you. Running a marathon does not make you a hero, any more than binge watching Girls makes me a hero.

My last date with Stephen Longfellow III was at a courtyard beer garden. A ferocious rainstorm started right when we sat down, so we huddled close to the table and pretended that the umbrella above us could block sideways rain. It could have been cozy and romantic if we had felt one ounce of tenderness toward one another.

Me: “So how was your day?”

Stephen Longfellow III: “Ah yeah, pretty good. I had a decent run. I’ve got to hit 60 miles this week…”

Me: “Oh okay…”

Stephen Longfellow III: “I was supposed to hit 60 miles last week, but my knee was bothering me, so I decided to hold back.”

Me: “Okay, so any plans this weekend?”

Stephen Longfellow III: “Well, yeah I have my long run on Saturday and then Sunday I’ll do some cross training. Probably elliptical. Only 24 days ’til Boston!”

Maybe I could date a conservative mad scientist who goes to 90s Night in Allston. But I could never date someone who trains for marathons just to talk about training for marathons.

aaa

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