Facing sins of the past


Amid the swirling allegations of sexual harassment by men against women (and in some cases other men) comes a realization by those who us who have actively pursued relationships with the opposite sex over the years that we have too often guilty of sins of the past.

That point came to rest in my email box last week when a woman I dated in the “swinging” 1970s during my single days reminded me that I was “all hands” and reluctant to take “no” for an answer back then.

She turned it into a joke by noting that she, too, got handsy during our times together.

“It wasn’t sexual harassment,” she said.  “It was foreplay.”

Still, we were out of hand in the 60s and 70s.

In high school, we measured progress in the pursuit of women by “bases.”  “First base” could include a kiss.  “Second base” could involve a little feeling up.  “Third base” meant unbuttoned blouses and a “home run” was “paradise by the dashboard light.”

I lived on my own in an apartment in Roanoke at age 17 while working for The Roanoke Times.  Did I enjoy life with the ladies?  Damn right.

I married in Roanoke in 1969 but divorced four years later in Illinois.  Reentering the dating life revealed a lot of changes of what was or what not could be considered normal behavior.  Use of birth control pills helped women approach sex with more freedom and what we could call “enlightened attitudes” toward even casual sex.

In an active dating life during the 70s, I enjoyed intimate relationships with a number of women.  Several stay good friends to this day.  We enjoyed shared times that sometimes involved sex but that was never the only reason for being together.  Most were fascinating companions and great friends.

Still, I was an alcoholic during the 70s and I could be, and too often was, a handful who pushed too hard, sometimes demanded too much and was a bastard too often.  Some called me on it, others did not.  They should have done so and, as part of my “making amends” stop in Alcoholics Anonymous, I have contacted those who were victims of my drunken times and apologized.  Most have accepted those apologies and remain friends.

Still, dating in the 60s and 70s included too many occasions where men considered a “no” part of a negotiation that could mean “maybe” or perhaps “yes” with alcohol and persuasion.

Sometimes it worked and that bothers me to this day.  Interactions between couples should not be a game.  It should be consensual acts between adults..

Amy taught me a lot about relationships after we started dating in 1977.  When we married in 1979, I understood what was and what was not acceptable in my behavior with her and others.  It took a while to get me to face my demons, most driven by drinking, and she helped put together the intervention that forced me to recognize my need to get my life under control and walk into my first meeting of Alcoholic Anonymous in June 6, 1994.

It saved my life and our marriage.  On Dec. 15, we will celebrate 38 years as man and wife and my 23 years , six months and nine days  of sobriety.

In the last few weeks, I have heard from some of the women of my single days in the 1960s and 70s.  Several got in touch because of the focus on sexual harassment and activities of the times when we were together. Their comments are much appreciated and I value their friendships.

I can atone for my sins of the past but — as Willie Nelson sometimes sings — “a little old-fashioned karma comes around.”

My 70th birthday arrives two days after our wedding anniversary.   I’ve managed to cram a lot of living into those seven decades — some good, some bad, some worth remembering and some best forgotten.

But when the piper comes calling, I will answer the door and deal with whatever he delivers.  That’s called living and facing up to what I was then and must be now.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse