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2005-07-07 - 11:58 a.m.

One of my funniest college stories also happens to be one of the saddest and most bittersweet in a way.

In my undergrad days I was one of those intellectual "nerdy" types. Not the geeky science brand, but the academic type which are seen in those ivory towers with their heads in the clouds! Oh yes! I was a PHILOSOPHY MAJOR!

ON Fridays we, the philosophy "clique" used to CLOSE the CAFETERIA over our black coffee and hot cocoa and intese important debates over the meaning of life at a time when most student were getting ready to go out to close the bars.

We were eccentric, and I am sure the odd anomoly, and we were HAPPY in our diverse little circle. We were all so very different and had such a blast on those afternoons. Our group consisted of me- the Straight laced RA who steadfastly followed all the rules (since the enforcing of them paid my room and board!), the beutiful woman named SARA who was a lesbian that seemed to try to HIDE her stunning beauty with a cropped hair cut BEFORE it was in vogue (but she couldn't hide her face and incredible blue eyes and STILL got hit on by the hot unknowing grad student teacher guy!) and was sad at our Catholic college it was so difficult for her to be herself, sometimes Vanetta the georgous Italian woman who was an older student than us and worked in merchandizing and was getting a degree just to list in on her resume for her already booming career that brought her from Milan to NYC weekly while hopping into Buffalo where she ran an upscale custom tailor shop and made required test day appearances, Brilliant Max who was clearly smarter than many of the professors yet unaware of this, Eccentric and Artistic JACK who almost defys description but imbibed alot and wrote incredible poetry and always had a dreamy far away look in his eyes, (also older than us at the time), Moody and serious Rocco who was as Narcissic as anyone I ever met, with the brains and looks to get away with it, and fun loving CHRIS who was a hippy born a few generations too late for her time that was a PETA card carrying member and scorned the burger you ate and when I lived with her and a stray cat wandered by and it was clear either the cat or I had to go: I moved. (And I UNDERSTOOD her compulsive love of animals beyond reason! THEY don't hurt people!)

On one occassion the conversation was with only the male philosophy dudes and myself and the four of us were hashing something over and for some reason gender issues came up.

I don't recall what EXACTLY was said- but I remember being STUNG by words ... and I recall the realization that MAX in particular- whom I had a WILD CRUSH at the time, never thought of me as a GIRL. WHATEVER he said, it was something that would have been said to "the guys" - which I clearly was in his eyes- one of the guys! It was a strange moment of revelation about my friendship with him- that it was only on that INTELLECTUAL plane! We spent time together- but always in those intense DISCUSSIONS and while I felt they were a basis of a solid FRIENDSHIP in that moment he was so literally UNAWARE of me being A GIRL that it was distressing and clear that he hadn't CONNECTED with me EMOTIOANALLY but kept his distance THROUGH his itellect!

I remember talking about the conversation and my crush with one of our FAVORITE professors afterwards who commented
"Not only were they not recognizing you are a woman, they were not respecting you as a person."

After that Max and I didn't spend as much time in our intellectual chats. I however wanted to get beyond it and MISSED them. At the same time we started a class and I observed that there was a girl in the class who would ACT DUMB like she didn't understand what the hell was going on and sought his guidance.
Now this girl was on my floor, a few years younger than me, but from what I knew of her SHE WAS NOT STUPID. I was utterly AMAZED by what I saw as such SILLY games girls play to get male attention! I thought FOR SURE that MAx too would see her as silly! Yet amazing to me I actually HEARD him grant her his notebook to borrow for some notes after a hair flipping, eyelash fluttering show she gave him. I noted her silly sounding baby talk like voice, and her dumbing down of herself in regard to his OH SO SUPERIOR intellect. OH SAVE ME MOST BRILLIAN MAN, FOR I AM A WHEEE GIRL IN NEED OF YOUR HELP.... I was just AGAST that her contrived methods seemed to be WORKING in getting his attention! I was astounded and repulsed by the devious ways and wiles of women... and a little in awe as well as I SO CLEARLY lacked all knowledge of flirting and knew none of those laws of attraction.


Now at this time I had an EX Boyfriend who I was still on decent terms with as a friend I'd occassionally talked to. He also happened to be one of MAX's best guy friends. He one day came up to me and actually ENCOURAGED me to just get it the hell over with and ASK MAX OUT. He assured me that it wasn't that MAX wouldn't be interested, but that MAX JUST IS SO INTENSELY CAUGHT UP IN HIS SCHOOL WORK AND SO FOCUSED HE'D NEVER INITIATE!


So I thought about this advice.
And I decided I would FINALLY take the leap and make my interest known and I WOULD ask MAX out! I figured I HAD TO NOW BEFORE HE SAW BARBIE AS THE ONLY POSSIBILITY

At that time I also had planned on going to this place in Buffalo that offered YOGA classes. A girlfriend and I had been talking about going there some Fri night when they had open classes anyone could show up for. It was at a place I forget the name of now, but an Eastern Philosophy Association of a sort that seemed rather exotic and very interesting and a bit scary in its newness to me at the time! I had been reading about EASTERN meditative practices in a magazing I got from THE HIMALAYAN INSTITUTE that I had come across somewhere and was excited to take my interest to the next level.

I was a bit nervous about trying to make my way downtown by myself when something came up and my girl friend told me she couldn't go. (ITs funny to think how as a dorm student who remained on the insular Canisius Campus and a bred suburbanite that going downtown seemed like a big deal then!) So a few days before I planned on going, I decided to ask MAX if he would go with me. He was from Buffalo and was a commuter student who knew his way around and I figured I could ask him as a FAVOR to me. I also thought he might find the YOGA class and Eastern Philosophy Center of interest.

I can still envision the hallway that we were in when he stopped to say hi and I then asked Max if he would be interested in going with me to a yoga class on Friday night at the place (I wish I could remember it's name now!)

The intense response I got was not at all a reaction I was prepared for. Max had an uncharacteristic outburst, not uncharacteristic in its intensity- as he was often intense, but uncharacteristic as he seemed ANGRY at me! HE said disdainfully, "I can't believe you would ask me ! That's something you should do for yourself!" and in a huff he very condescendingly walked off after putting me down. He acted like I committed a SACRALIGE and was EXTREMELY OFFENDED.

He left me in tears there in that empty hallway outside the Science Labs.

I was stunned.

I later ran into my EX, his best friend who couldn't have been more opposite MAX. Jason was a LATINO who was so open and affectionate and charasmatic and fun loving.... but a bit TOO much for me as our relationship ended when I caught him with another girl. And then it was SO DIFFICULT when he would corner me and put on his CHARM , or maybe his intense phermones, or whatever caused that amazing SEX APPEAL... GOD THE BEST NON SEX I EVER HAD WAS THE PERPETUAL FIGHT AGAINST MY ANIMAL INSTICTS WITH THAT DON JUAN! I never before or after enjoyed making out with that feel of jeans on...I mean we would do that FOR HOURS until he had to sadly walk away in PAIN that at the time I had NO UNDERSANDING OF! HE was so sweet in EXPLAINING This to me at some point... but patience WAS NOT his FORTE! (Kissing was....)
In fact we ended our relationship as I was TOO CATHOLIC and he was just too impulsive so he moved on to more friendly pastures...
So in the LIBRARY in what I called the FISH BOWL as it was a BIG GLASS ROOM where everyone could see you, and therefore offered the BEST defense against sexy Jason who by now was sleeping with a willing girl...(AT LEAST ONE), Jason came to say hi again.

He asked if I got up my nerve yet and asked out MAX. (Who he thought was more my type as MAX wouldn't have been so FRUSTRATED by me since he wasn't as interested in such base carnal desires as Jason anyway...)

I told what had happened. And once again I got the absolutely LAST reaction I would ever have anticipated.

Jason was laughing SO UNCONTROLLABLY, and SO LOUDLY that he could barely breathe.

Once again I started to get upset, when he controlled himself and apologized and managed to then explain,
"Maureen. HE LIVES THERE."

I asked "WHAT???"

And Jason went on to explain that MAX was in some residency program of an intense study of EASTERN PHILOSOPHY and LIVED AT THE CENTER.

I think I have NEVER been so embarassed in my life!

Jason must have gone back to tell MAX that I DIDN'T MAX DID approach me one day when I was outside. He asked to talk to me and then gave a really LONG HEARTFELT apology. I never have had such an apology and likely never will again. He talked for a long time, telling me all about his residency and explaining how it was so important to him that he was overly sensitive and judgemental and mistaken in his rash response. He at the time had ASSUMED I was just feigning interest in something to get his attention. He was himself very embarassed by his reaction. I asked why he never TOLD anyone about it- and he talked about how he had fears too, about how its a bit odd for a college student. It was a really nice conversation.

It was also our last conversation.
Max was dating the BARBIE girl. He told me in that conversation that he had started a relationship with her. He was happy to share his newfound interest.

Shortly after college they were married. Shortly after that they had children.

I am so pleased that MAX is now a Philosophy Professor and is living his passion and truly doing what he has called to do in life. His wife ROSEANN is a lovely girl who I always actually DID LIKE when I knew her on my floor-- and who I knew WAS INDEED a SMART girl and who was also VERY TALENTED at the art and skills of FLIRTING.

Today I wondered about Max and wondered also about his sister who I ALSO had known as she was the EDITOR of our school paper that I also wrote for. I had a nice repoire with her although she was an acquaintence. I wondered how his wife is and their kids.
I found out today that his wife is now a YOGA instructor!
I think that is perhaps the funniest and most ironic thing of all!!!! I Assure you that until she met MAX she had no interest in EASTERN philosophy or meditation. She had a job as a border patrol agent along with two other good friends of mine who I used to chat with about IMMIGRATION REFUGEE services. AFTER that experience MAX'S wife left her job and became much more interested in social issues and more inclined toward the refugee assistance work that my friends Chris and Elizabeth and I were involved in, rather than border enforcement! We interacted with her and MAX then a bit surrounding social justice issues.

I also love to periodically check out the work of VALERIE LATONA, MAX's sister who is the BEAUTY editor of SHAPE magazine.
Today I found this great article she wrote years ago... in which she used MAX's wife's maiden name... instead of the same last name they share as sister and sister in law.

Oh and the other funny quircky weird things that I discovered AFTER having graduated. The EAST /WEST bookstore that I frequented for years for all things related to EASTERN philosopy that was near University at Buffalo and was my pick for the place to shop for CHRISTMAS gifts of cool books and gifts turned out to be run by MAX's MOTHER! (It has since closed)

AFTER years of reading the magazing from THE HIMALAYAN INSTITUTE

one day I noticed that their ATTORNEY is named LATONA-- and was a bit freaked as that is indeed Max's DAD. I may in fact have found the Buffalo Eastern Philosophy Center from that publication that I read throughout college and for years later! (I stopped after they had a web site and it was clear I wouldn't be getting to go to any of their workshops!!)

My interest in the merging of Christianity and EASTERN traditions can be thanked due to the reading of FRANNY AND ZOOY by Salinger way back in High School.
I always remember the JESUS prayer from that book as fascinating! Today I LAUGHED when I found THIS:

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