I Don’t Know Anything About Dating
It’s difficult for me to talk about relationships and dating because it seems everyone knows more than me, and it always becomes rapidly clear as I elucidate my own flawed opinions that I don’t know anything about anything and should just shut the hell up. Nevertheless, I soldier on against the rising tide of derision like a fat dumb cow trotting earnestly into the ocean to drown.
In dealing romantically with women, there is, I am told, a complicated system of rules governing behavior. The more apparent one — do not head butt her, do not sit in a car parked outside her house all night, do not text her fifty times a day and then start screaming and then guzzle Drano — I understand. The subtler ones I tend to fail on. A signal which others would describe as “like a flashing ten-foot-tall neon sign” I overlook or misinterpret. Because of this tendency for confusion, I have an impulse to ask a lot of questions, many many questions — something which there is also a rule against because evidently asking questions does not exude “confidence” and “manliness.” I have a lot of questions like, “Are we dating now?” and “What does this mean?” and “If I kiss your face, will you flee in terror?” and “Am I acting like a clingy person, and if so, does it bother you?” All of these questions indicate a person who lacks confidence. All of these questions asked all at once consecutively indicate a person in a state of manic insecurity. This behavior also seems to stereotypically be a “girl thing” and reflects poorly on my potential as a boyfriend. (Which is why I’m writing about it on the internet. Because I’m an idiot.)
Once, after a long stretch of no communication, an ex invited me to a picnic with her new boyfriend and a few other friends. My reaction was to rant about it to anyone in the vicinity — “She’s taking advantage of how reasonable I am! She should be afraid I’ll wreak havoc at the picnic and flip over a table and claw my own eyes out!” I wrote a poem called “Fuck Your Picnic.” I integrated this event into the tragic narrative of my life set to the Road to Perdition soundtrack. Then I went to the picnic, enjoyed myself, and felt generally like a melodramatic idiot.
At the picnic was also this girl, my friend’s sister — let us proceed past this small detail without comment — who exhibited signs which seemed eerily analogous to flirting. She followed me around, seemed intent on talking to me, and later, when I asked for her phone number, she happily gave it. One of my friends even observed, “She sure seems interested in you.” This all seemed like a pretty unlikely boon from a previously cruel and hateful deity. Nevertheless, I took the pieces of this puzzle, assembled it, and — based on my interpretation of the resulting picture — I made the momentous decision to ask her out for coffee. Coffee turned into walking around campus. Walking around campus turned into driving over to her dorm room. When I asked her if she wanted me to come inside, she answered yes. All seemed to be going shockingly well. Impossibly well.
After discussing her art for a few minutes or so, I made a move to kiss her face. As my face swung toward hers, she dodged out of the way and started babbling about some ex boyfriend of hers she was still somehow involved with. I have never gone flaccid so quickly. She started crying. The air was sucked out of the room. Evidently, she had no idea this was a date. She thought I was a friendly boy who wanted to show her around town. At this point, I stood up and said something dramatic like, “I MUST LEAVE THIS FOUL DEN OF DECEIT!”
In my car outside, I stared intently at the steering wheel. I recycled the night in my mind, dissecting it for clues as to what had led me so inexorably to this moment. For one thing, she made a particularly big deal out of paying for her coffee, would not let me pay for it under any circumstances. For another, she hadn’t made any overt gestures or comments that would confirm her attraction to me or knowledge that this was a date. I also had never specifically said “date” or “I like you in a romantic type fashion,” or any other clear warnings that this would be more than a fun activity for platonic friends. Other than that… nothing! Confusion! Brief few minutes of emotional devastation! Then I moved on with my life. (Except for the whole thing where I vividly recall this incident many years later.)
But this wouldn’t be the last time I went on a “date” like this which is why I always return to it as a kind of paragon of awfulness. Experiences like this have led me to be highly suspicious of every aspect of a date. Nothing is for sure. Everything is in doubt. I need a network of experienced analysts nearby to assist me in interpreting various complicated situations, but instead I receive input like, “You fuck her yet, bro?” This is why you should never listen to me when it comes to dating — because I never know what I’m talking about.
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I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”
To begin, I got totally screwed over in the dental genes department. I was born with a pretty severe overbite and a mouth that was too small.