Duke Hanley: High school was okay. I was average in most classes, but did very well in math.  There was something about the purity that appealed to me. My social life was okay: parties and dating, the usual. I was pretty successful with some of the girls. I learned early that I’d do best with the insecure, the low-self-esteem unattractive ones. I had no success with the popular ones, the cheerleaders, the smart ones, or the good-looking ones. I was tall, but at the time I was very skinny and had complexion problems. I spent a lot of time with Peggy, an unpopular girl, which led to her abortion. Dad loaned me the money for it.  He seemed proud of me because I was scoring regularly. After that, any girl that I went with had to pledge she was on birth control or I wore a rubber.

A high school counselor suggested I go into the local community college actuarial program for a way into a secure, well-paid job using my math skills. The program was like more high school, but totally concentrated on passing the necessary exams. There weren’t very many women in the program, so I stuck with some of the girls that I dated in high school that hadn’t gotten married or moved out of town.

I passed half of the actuarial exams required to become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (despite the title, women can be Fellows) and got a job at a local insurance company, Federal Union (known to its employees as FU). Bobbi had been there a few years when I started. At close to six feet tall and a little on the heavy side, she was just a little shorter than I and several pounds heavier. As a result of her looks and being a lot smarter than most men, she was a little like the women that I dated in high school. I first started eating lunch with her, and then coffee dates, dinners and bars, and finally trading overnight stays at our respective apartments a couple of times a week.

It seemed odd; it probably was odd that we spent most of our time, when we weren’t in bed or on a real date, talking life insurance business. I learned a lot more from her outside the office than anything inside the office: understated liabilities, cash flow, product development.

This went on for three or four years without much change until she said to me, “You know that you could improve yourself,” while staring at my waistline. I blinked, and then we went on as if nothing untoward had been said, but it got me to thinking. I could improve myself. I’d been on cruise control just about all my life; self-satisfied and mediocre.

We didn’t talk of it again, but I devised a plan to improve myself physically and mentally. Night school educated me in arts and classical music. Before that, it was whatever was on the top 40 radio station. I joined a gym and lost the emerging paunch and got ripped. The insurance company had a basketball team that played in a local league, so I joined them. Not much of a shooter, but I was a good playmaker and rebounder and I made the league all-star team five times. I was surprised that Bobbi didn’t mind that my extracurricular activities cut down on our dates, but other than the frequency, our dates didn’t change much. Compared to my previously slovenly self, my style improved a lot with bespoke suits and salon haircuts.

I could afford these improvements because I’d been promoted over Bobbi.  She was smarter, but I was smoother.

A year after she challenged me, I started to notice her deficiencies. She wasn’t that attractive and had no known interests outside of work. Her apartment was a mess, and she fancied spiky, miscellaneous-length hair. On a night when it was her turn to sleep over at my place, I asked her, “I improved a lot, isn’t it your turn yet?” She gave me a stony look and walked out. After that, the only time I saw her was at the office, and then it was strictly business.

Life has been good since then.  I’ve conquered several other sports and have an enviable style.  I’m in line for the presidency of Federal Union. The personal connections don’t seem to be there, though. Most people don’t want to be corrected when they’re wrong about the many subjects in which I am well educated. Maybe I bark at teammates that don’t quite cut it, and after my own excellence program, I don’t like to date women for long who don’t take care of themselves or keep up with what’s happening. Fortunately, with my many interests, I’m too busy for much of a social life anyway.

Next week, same time, Dr. Helm?

Dr. Helm: Yes, we have much to process.