Yes, the Swede was naked. Yes, why my second wife laughed at the poor man, that takes some explaining.
No, I didn’t see it happen…but I came close. Close enough to–well, perhaps this one should be told from the beginning. I’ve written about it before, but truly, the tale deserves a more expanded version, a more complete telling of the events that took place that winter afternoon and evening in Vermillion, South Dakota, circa 1976.
Carolyn and I had been together since December of 1972, meeting and falling for each other (hard, I might add) in Spokane, Washington, right when I was looking for an anchor to give me strength. I’d decided to terminate my first marriage, but it was not going to be easy, and I was too much of an emotional wimp to go it alone.
From Spokane, we’d shifted to Eugene, Oregon, for a while (office jobs), then Rapid City, South Dakota (don’t ask), Huron, South Dakota (group home houseparents), and finally Vermillion.
We’d chosen the town because the University of South Dakota was located there. She went back to college part time and cut hair at a local beauty shop part time. For my part, I floundered for some months and nearly broke us financially in so doing, but had at last miraculously located a truck insurance specialty company in South Sioux City, Nebraska, that needed an underwriter. It paid reasonably well, I had experience in the industry, and I was hired on the spot.
The only drawback was the commute: Forty-five miles each way, down into Sioux City, Iowa, then across the river (and the border) to South Sioux. This meant leaving our garden level apartment by 7:00 a.m. or so and returning around 6:00 p.m.–on a good day. If there was a blizzard, or if I ended up parking the car and fell asleep behind the wheel because I was too tired to make it the forty feet across the street and into the building, then I might be home much later than six.
But commutes are no big deal to me. Great West Casualty was a godsend, I’d settled in nicely, and we were good to go.
One fine, relatively mild winter day, Carolyn got off work at the beauty shop in early afternoon and decided to take a stroll over to the campus to see what might be going on at the Student Union. She didn’t have any classes that day, but hey. She could afford a Coke or whatever, and the social aspect was inviting, much better than being cooped up in the apartment.
Along the way, she struck up a conversation with a good looking young man, a handsome blond, blue eyed dude from Sweden, who was–of course–going her way. Or maybe he struck up a conversation with her, but either way, the two hit it off.
Here’s where you need to know something about my beloved Carolyn. (Yes, she’s still beloved, never mind that we divorced in 1980. Pam likes her a lot, too.) Here’s the thing:
She can be as naïve about human nature as Mary Poppins dipped in rose colored glasses and sprinkled with Tinker Bell fairy dust.
You have to understand that for the rest of the story to make any sense. Around violent men (and she’s been around some) or men with evil sexual intent on their minds (and she’s been around some of those, too), her primary defense is denial.
Pretend it’s not there. Refuse to see it.
And that’s what happened with the Swede. Her blond buddy turned out to be a 25 year old University student (at least, she assumed he was a student). Early on, at the Student Union, he let her know–proudly–that he’d been a male model at one point in his life.
Any warning bells yet? Well, yeah, for paranoid, cynical, suspicious types like thee and me (i.e. normal people), absolutely that’s at least an amber light, not a green go-go-go light. But for Carolyn, such thinking would be wa-ay outside the box.
So naturally she invited yon husky young lad to come on back to her apartment to, you know, continue their titillating conversation.
“I’m in!” He’s thinking, double entendre intended.
Hold on. We’re getting to the naked Swede part. We have to get to that part before we can tell you why she laughed at him.
Now, to set the scene a bit more: The 25 year old Swede, by all accounts, stood around 5′ 10″ (she didn’t think of him as an over-six-footer, anyway), well built at something like 160 pounds, give or take. Carolyn topped out at 5′ 4″ and weighed right at 125 lb. at age 32, trim and sexy despite having flat feet and a relatively indifferent attitude toward sex. She was great in the sack; she just didn’t care about it all that much.
There seems little doubt the young Swede could sense the “great in the sack” part…and that was good enough for him.
Once behind the locked apartment door, they did talk about mundane stuff a while longer–she even made him a cup of herbal tea–but the would-be Scandinavian Seducer decided it was time to get to the good stuff. He began dropping hints, trying to get this little hottie to meet him halfway, like maybe admitting he was the hottest thing since the latest sun flare and she really wanted his body.
But oho! Not my Carolyn. For the longest time–as she related the story to me later–she really didn’t get what he was driving at. Then, when he upped the ante by taking his remarks out of the area of innuendo and into direct suggestions, she told him firmly (and repeatedly) that no, she was not only happily married (which we were), but that she also was just plain not interested in any of his various proposals.
They fenced verbally like this for nearly an hour.
Finally, however, Mr. Swede appeared to give up. He just let the subject drop and, seemingly as an afterthought, asked to use the bathroom.
Why, of course he could use the bathroom. He’d been there for something like two hours at this point, had drunk that disgusting herbal tea (which Carolyn and I both liked a good deal). Of course, he’d need to use the bathroom.
Not so fast.
When he came back out of said bathroom, every stitch of his clothing stayed behind, dropped in a pile on the bathroom floor.
Naked Swede with an erection.
No, he didn’t physically assault my (2nd) wife. What he did was, he sauntered proudly over to the living room couch–Carolyn was in the kitchen, but only a kitchen counter separated the two rooms–and plopped down, stretching out and pointing his full monte toward the lady of the house.
“You know you want some of this,” he told her–or words to that effect. I might be paraphrasing; when Carolyn got to this point in her recitation, I started laughing so hard, I might not have the quote exactly right.
This was enough to fluster even my Queen of Denial spouse. She was used to ignoring things that were right there in front of her, but that, even she had to recognize for what it was.
Nothing she said, no matter how she said it, seemed to faze the naked Swede. Surely this American chick would be all over him any second now.
That was long before Lorena Bobbit, and in any case, Carolyn was not the physical type. What was she to do? He wasn’t offering physical threat–he stayed on the couch, waving his flag–but each new protest on her part only seemed to encourage the fellow that much more.
Besides, too much time had passed. I was due home any minute now.
And I was the physical type.
The naked Swede didn’t even seem to believe her when she warned him that her husband might turn his key in the lock at any moment. He was going to get this girl to admit he was irresistible, yes he was.
Until…finally, in desperation, Carolyn hit on an idea. She started laughing at him. Uproariously hilariously laughing, pointing at his nakedness, practically doubling over and rolling on the floor laughing.
There’s one other thing you should know about Carolyn: She’d never worked onstage at that point (thought we both did community theater later), but she was a born actress–and when she laughs, her heartfelt amusement lights up the room.
The naked Swede did not feel lit up. He probably was lit up at first, riding on a marijuana high from the moment they’d met on campus, but ridicule shrunk him up like a blast of forty below weather with a thirty mile an hour wind.
It didn’t take long. The naked Swede slunk sulkily into the bathroom, donned his clothes, and left as quickly as he could, my wife’s snickers following him down the hallway, lashing him unmercifully. She never saw him again. Perhaps he left town entirely, determined to seek a more respectful and predictable female on some other campus, or maybe some other planet.
But she saw me when I came in the door twenty minutes later (fully dressed, I might add).
To this day, I have difficulty determining which makes me laugh harder, what Carolyn did to the naked Swede when she laughed at his energetic efforts to seduce her…or how she could have been so blind as to set herself up in the first place. One thing is certain, though.
Even 38 years later, either image is still worth a chuckle.