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When guys who were hot to trot gallop off

September 28, 2006|Samantha Bonar | Times Staff Writer

HE makes you feel as safe and warm as a cup of cocoa with a big marshmallow melting in it. But then, when you get to the bottom of the mug, you find a dead fly, and disgust replaces delight.

Virtually every woman has had experience with a man who comes on strong and retreats just as vehemently.

This type calls and e-mails constantly, is romantic and generous on dates, talks about how special and wonderful you are, how perfect your dates and kisses have been, and speculates about your future together -- often including marriage and kids.

Your wary modern woman typically sees this guy as too good to be true, so it takes her a while to be won over. But just about the time when she starts to think, "Well, maybe this would be kind of nice" -- which is generally at the exact moment she has invested in some new lingerie or bought the guy his own toothbrush to keep at her house -- the following scenario unfolds.

The man says: "Let me hold you. Relax. Do you feel safe? Do you feel warm? Good. Now I am going to drop you on the floor. Try not to conk your head too hard. Bye!"

He also might offer one or more of the following statements: "I'm not sure I'm over my ex-girlfriend," "This is moving too fast for me," "I don't want to be in a relationship right now," "I'm going to leave you alone for a while while I figure things out," "I'm confused about my feelings for you."

The woman is left rubbing her head. Is this the guy who was sending her flowers, annoying her with phone calls, begging to see more of her, buying her Kobe steak and gelato, caressing her arm for an hour and telling her how beautiful she is? The experience is completely disorienting.

Descriptions of this sort of fellow -- he's practically an archetype -- range from the clinical (the Commitmentphobe, the Narcissist) to the poetic (the Houdini, the Vapor Trail) to the sarcastic (the Scared Wittle Wabbit) to the caustic (the Creep). I like to call them "Runners," from the classic futurist 1976 film "Logan's Run." (In the movie, doomed Runners tried to escape from their domed city to the unknown "Sanctuary.")

I am not concerned with the psychology of such gentlemen. In fact, I prefer not to think of them as psychological anomalies (or "whack jobs," to use the clinical term) at all, but rather as a dangerous natural phenomenon, like nitric acid.

And since it is no longer socially acceptable to have one's father or brother horsewhip such triflers on the steps of the club, my interest lies in how to spot and avoid them. In other words, in social control.

A modest proposal would be to brand or tattoo such men with a small "R" on the palm or perhaps behind the ear. The problem is, women are experts at ignoring warning signs, even one so obvious. Also, Runners undoubtedly would offer all sorts of assurances, such as "I used to be a Runner, but I'm more mature now," "I got branded by my vindictive ex-girlfriend/wife," "I may have run in the past, but you are so special, I'd never run from you."

And it would work, too, because even without the branding, most women must admit that when they first started dating Runners, in-between the "Sweethearts" and the cuddling, at some point the Runner made an unequivocal statement such as: "When I start to have feelings for someone, I run." To which the woman responded with something like: "Did you say something? Would you kiss my hand again?"

And then, typically, women let the Runner run back and forth after his wishy-washiness emerges. When he gets too close, he runs away. When he gets some distance and turns around and sees the woman isn't chasing him, he runs back. If she accepts him with open arms, he's off again. If she slams the door in his face, he starts up with the five phone calls a day again, but just until she answers. Then he runs again. He doesn't want to be with her, but he wants to know she's still there.

Even absent the tattooed "R," your self-respect demands that the next time a man gives you a big clue that he's a Runner, you put on your running shoes and sprint in the other direction as fast as you can

Besides, swimmers are hotter anyway.

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