Some Hatin’ on Datin’

20 Jan

I am a romantic.  I feel like I should tell you this off the bat because the experiences I am about to share with you would leave most people assuming that I am a cynical old hag.  No indeed.  Not only am I a true believer in romance, but I find it quite amazing that, despite my nightmarish dating experiences, I continue to press on with this wide-eyed outlook.  However, my attitude does come with with an artillery of self-defense to ward off the goobers, emotionally-unavailable hipsters, self-proclaimed “asses”, and most of all, any personal feelings of unworthiness.  They are the enemy.

To put you in the right mindset, I have to tell you the story of the first time I was asked out by a boy.  I was 11, and I was working at a middle school wrestling tournament that my school hosted.  My job was to use a rolled up towel, held together by some duct tape, to slap the back of the ref when time had run out in the match.  In this case, the ref was my dad, and I was having a gay old time running over and smacking him across the back as hard as I could.  Good fun.  This merriment was considerably quelled when I was approached by a boy from another school as I was standing to the side of the mat.  He was a wrestler, so you can imagine the embarrassing view I was getting of him in his very tight singlet.  Our conversation went like this:  Him: Be my girlfriend?  Me: No, thanks.  And that was that.  The best parts of this encounter were not only his blush-inducing singlet package, but also the fact that he hadn’t even taken out his mouth guard to ask me out, and that my father (who was on a break) had witnessed the whole thing.  These themes of discomfort and general awkwardness are what has permeated my dating life since the beginning.

I got into dating a bit later than everyone else in my age group.  My mother had taught me that I should just be friends with everybody, and that having a boyfriend wasn’t important while I was still so young.  I took this a little more to heart than I should have, because I pretty much shunned all dating until I was 17.  Not that I didn’t have crushes on people, oh no, I crushed with the best of them.  I fell for the smart boys, the class presidents, the runners, the guys who were good at music -I was into the cool nerd from Day 1.   However, my response to being asked out by any of these types was something less akin to enthusiasm and more like a schoolmarm’s light scolding, “You’re really nice, Adam, but I don’t think we should go out since we probably won’t get married.”  Yep.  That was always my reason.  And while it wasn’t entirely incorrect, I’m sure I wounded some pride and did zero for my popularity with the boys I liked.  This attitude paired with my reaction to the one time a boy called me to tell me I was hot (hanging up on him and running to my room crying) made me something of a dating pariah.

When I began my very first relationship at 17, I was astoundingly ill-equipped to deal with not only having feelings for someone, but them actually having feelings for me.  I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to make a relationship work (but then, what 17-year-old does?).  However, despite having to go long-distance most of the time, this first relationship lasted two years and I was the supreme of first-love bliss.  My boyfriend was kind, loved to surprise me with romantic gestures without reason, and was actually a big fan of all of my quirks.  I have to give teenage-him a long distance shout out for giving me the confidence in romance that I still maintain.  I also want to shake him violently for giving me very high expectations for every other guy I’ve dated.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Ali, if he was so great, why didn’t you stay with him?”  I’m glad you asked, because this brings up another theme in my dating life: awkward last words.  Now when I say “last words”, I don’t mean the last thing someone says to you, I’m talking about that dealbreaking phrase that comes out of their mouth and annihilates your future with them in a matter of seconds.  For my first boyfriend, it came in a conversation where he started getting into “future talk” and marriage was being brought up in vague terms.  This was terrifying enough, but the line that did it was, “My grandma just asked my sister if it was okay if she left you her china instead of her.”  Allow a moment for reflection . . . . . . . . . . . . now SCREAM!  Nothing scared me more than realizing that someone was planning my future for me, but not with me.  Even 19-year-old me knew that it was a bad sign.  While this was definitely the most earth-shattering of last word revelations, it was by no means my last . . .

The last words I have encountered have ranged from minor, irksome statements, to all-out “how have you survived life?” flubs.  Some of my favorites are these:

The Modest Braggart “I like to do really great things for people and not tell anyone about it.” – I don’t think I need to tell you why this one annoyed me.

The Meathead  Me: “You’ve been to Israel? Oh my gosh! How was it??”  Him (with stupid smile): “It was pretty sweet.” – Nice guy.  Personality of a doorknob.

The Quarter-Life Crisis Hipster “I don’t know what to do! I just hang out and play in a band, but my dad was already DEAD when he was my age!” – I considered the meals he bought me as payment for these therapy sessions.  I also considered this guy a complete waste since he had initially gone for me after I had done my Pee Wee Herman impression.  It’s very important to me that any guy I’m with thinks it’s awesome.  Nee, it’s crucial.

The Goob-Maker: “You’ve changed my life.” – Mackenzie and I have been talking a lot about goobers.  This guy was a perfect example of one: wide-eyed, naive, too willing to like me before knowing me.  This line came on our third date.  I’ve never come closer to cartoonishly whacking someone in the face with a frying pan.

The Hypochondriac: *I scrape my leg on a branch while running and it begins to bleed* Him: “Oh God. Do you have your tetanus shot??” – Throughout our dating, or whatever we were doing, he also diagnosed himself with ADHD, hepatitis, and scarlet fever once for about five seconds.

Super Dad: “I can’t wait to be a stay-at-home dad someday!” – For the record, this guy broke up with me.  However, this line (said at about two months into our relationship) put a pretty bad taste in my mouth.  Nothing against stay-at-home dads, but I think this information would have been more relevant sometime after we’d shared what our favorite colors were.

As you can tell by these examples I’ve had some duds in my time, but I’m sure you also note my tone of sarcasm here.  This sarcasm doesn’t come from me being annoyed by these guys, it comes from me being annoyed by myself for letting them in.  While I was initially really excited about some of these guys, a lot of them I knew were doomed from the beginning.  Recently I’ve had to ask myself “Why?”  I could go into our human need to feel wanted and all that jazz, but really, I don’t think I gained anything for myself by being with them -nor them from being with me.  The change I’ve decided to make in my dating life is to be clear about the signals I’m putting off.  I tend to act very friendly and jovial around guys who I actually DON’T like.  To me it says, “I already think of you as a brother (aka, non-sexual entity)!”  To him it says, “Girl. Girl digs me. Girl. Girl. Girl.”  Doesn’t matter that I’m any particular kind of girl.  No, I’m just a girl who likes them. And for a lot of guys, that’s enough.  But really, can you blame a guy for thinking it’s a signal?  I realize now that I have to change this habit.  Another problem is the signals I send to guys I really DO like.  I tend to either get on a roll with my glittering witticisms until I can’t stand how clever I am, or I have trouble forming words clearly and have the feeling that I’m constantly in danger of falling over.  Neither of these is ultimately very attractive.  I know that, in order to attract that special someone I really want to be with, I’m going to have to keep myself in check to make sure he’s getting the message I want him to get.

The situation that caused me to re-evaluate how I act around guys is actually a very fitting story since it happens to be my most recent dating experience.  It was a turning point in my attitude toward dating because, though the guy was one of the biggest failures of all, he made me realize that I’m the one who needs to make a move to create a better romantic situation for myself in the future -I’m like my own version of Smokey the Bear for my dating life: “Only YOU can prevent goobers.”  I met this guy at a concert soon after I moved to Colorado.  In talking to this guy and his friend, we all discovered that we were recent transplants to Colorado and began talking about getting together to hike sometime.  Since I was new and eager to meet people, I thought this was a grand idea.  The guys also told me that they had another friend, a girl, who was also new to the area and liked to hike.  All-in-all, I looked forward to meeting up with them and getting a chance to explore my new state.  Fast forward to the day of the hike, when I receive a call at 8 AM.  Of course, it’s Soon-to-be-Failure letting me know where and when we should meet.  As you may have guessed, the ridiculously early call rubbed me the wrong way, but I made myself adjust my attitude to get ready to meet the group.

As it turned out, “the group” didn’t exist.  While pulling up to the trailhead, all I saw was this guy.  No one else.  He just hadn’t brought them.  A normal person would have said to him, “Hey, where’s everybody else?” or, “I thought this would be a group thing.”  Not me.  I said hello, felt weird and uneasy, and decided to go along with it.  Of course the potential danger of the situation occurred to me -it would occur to any normal person.  But let’s look at this for what it was: I was more willing to die in the woods than have an awkward confrontation.  This moment defines why I knew I needed to make a change in my approach to life if I ever want to be with someone awesome.  However, let’s get back to the story and another very important fact: this was NOT supposed to be a date.  Sadly, that was not the view of this sneaky little goon.  He gave me the big, hopeful eyes, he kept going on about he was “so glad he had met me”, and the worst part: the elbow.  For some reason he was too chicken to take my hand, so his hand ended up coming to rest on my elbow.  Again, another good reason why I need to be more upfront.  Did I shake him off and ask him what he was doing?  No.  I pretended that I had had a horrible biking accident as a child and had no feeling in my elbow from the fall.  I just ignored it.  Both of us at this point deserved to be slapped.

At the end of the hike, this idiot revealed that he had brought a picnic lunch for us to eat next to the mountain.  (Don’t get sappy on me here, folks, remember that this guy tricked me into a very uncomfortable situation)  As we were eating, I happened to let him know that my parents would be visiting me in a few short weeks and that our hiking spot would be a great place to take them.  This was where he revealed his Last Words to me, “Oh! I wish I was in town then.  I could be their guide while they’re here!”  If you’re wondering, yes, this guy was already sunk because of his trickery and inconsiderate behavior, but to me, inviting yourself to meet my parents after only meeting me twice is the ULTIMATE dealbreaker.  I was appalled.  After I finally got home, I knew I would never talk to this guy again.  He didn’t feel that way, apparently, since he continued to text me until November (our “date” was in August).  I never responded to him.

Of course this guy and others I’ve dated could stand some advice on how not to act, but all I have control of now is me (and I’ll get to a post about what you man-folk can do to improve later).  If my dating life so far could be summarized in a picture, it would be a picture of me, alone on the floor with a non-romantic movie like Star Wars playing on the TV, on the phone with someone (probably Mackenzie), beating my head against a wall.  It is a picture that depicts that, while the world of dating will make you feel alone, you are not alone.  I plan on changing this picture from now on -except for the part about Kenz and Star Wars.  Those parts are awesome.

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