When I was single and guys would stop calling me, I would always convince myself that “I had no idea why they dropped the ball” and “I had been consistently not-weird throughout our entire hangout time, totally normal, in fact, WTF?” Not only was this rarely true, but most times I was able to trace my steps back *exactly* to the precise moment where I had done something to press the inner “off” button in the guy I was casually dating.
Below is a list of several of those deal breaker moments that each directly or indirectly (usually pretty directly) led to a slow decline towards overville. (If I were dating someone new now and I used the term “overville,” I would chalk our parting of ways up to that.)
1. I referred to a guy that I was just hanging out with as someone I was dating — to the guy. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take hold of them and shove them back in, but not everyone has the “Time-Out” powers Zack Morris had for when things went wrong and he wanted a do-over. So, I just stood there with my words suspended in midair while he said something like, “I didn’t know we were dating.” Ouch! Still, he continued to hang out with me one last time. On a Saturday night, he met me in the LES to see my friend’s band play, armed with a well-curated mix CD for me (do people make mix CDs anymore? I might be totally dating myself), replete with a crafty, glitter-ridden cover — and no, the moral of this story is not that he’s gay. He brought a friend who turned out to be way cooler than he was, and I spent the whole night wanting to flirt with him but trying to hold it in for obvious reasons. And then, circa 3:00 a.m., after having moved locations even — we were now at a new bar and up to the “get super wasted and dance” part of the night, which leads to the “go home together in a cab” part, I was instead “broken up with” on the sidewalk. Seriously? Why’d you let me put in all that energy, and discourage me from hitting on your friend, which I totally would have done if you’d had the decency to leave your mix CD at home and tell me early on in the night that you just wanted to be friends? Or, more likely, you could have simply stopped calling, allowing me to mull over all the things I might have done to make you do so, all the while knowing (but pretending not to) that it was the moment I referred to us as dating instead of just hanging out.
2. I called a guy I was vaguely dating and asked him how to “get rid of” a mouse. You know when you’re casually hanging out with someone and you have a super fun time with them when you’re out at night — the drinks are abundant, your flask starts out full, and it’s so loud at the show you’re at that you don’t really have to talk all that much? But then you wake up the next day and realize the person you went to sleep next to the night before is pretty different than the one you’re waking up to that morning, and you don’t have very much to say to the morning person. But you liked him so much the night before… and he’s cute… and, I mean, you are kind of hungover so maybe you’re just not capable of being your “best self” in that moment but in another moment you’d feel differently? I had one of those times and eventually, after a slightly awkward breakfast, I kissed the dude goodbye and took the subway home to continue the rest of my day solo. And then I came home to my apartment to find one mouse and zero roommates. Tired, and new to finding rodents scurrying around my kitchen, I thought somewhere in my sleepy brain, “I know how to save this not-even relationship — I will call this guy I’m seeing and ask for his advice.” Not because he’s a guy, or because I thought of him as a hero or anything weird — I would have called my best girl friend if I were trying to get over an awkward patch with her. But it was a way to fill the gap, to kill two birds with one stone; one, recasting the lingering tone of our semi-awkward morning together, and two, setting a new precedent, one where we had things to say to each other. Things like, “Do you know how to exile a mouse from your apartment?” and “Totally, I’ve had tons of mice in the apartment I live in with five other twentysomething males; this is how it’s done.” (This apartment, btw, actually had a self-proclaimed name, and it was — brace yourself — Dude Manor. Yes.) Needless to say, that is not how the conversation went, and instead it quickly became clear that my calling Sam to ask him how to kill a mouse made me seem “weak” or “needy” or something because he sidestepped the question, abruptly got off the phone, said he would call me later but never did. Lesson: Don’t use “asking for mouse-eradication advice” as a Band-Aid for when things go awry with the guy you’re newly seeing; stop seeing him instead.
3. I told a guy I liked him. Sounds simple enough, you might even think it seems like a bold thing to do on my part — I wasn’t even drunk, just being honest. But the reaction was essentially the adult version of the time in third grade I told Rex Rosenthal on the school playground that I thought he had a crush on me. Which he did (he admitted it in my high school yearbook), but my approach obviously had many holes in it, and rather than agree, he threw a tantrum, yelling and screaming that he, in fact, did not have a crush on me, how dare I accuse him of such a thing? I found a recess monitor and bawled. As an adult, having seen where I went wrong in third grade and determined to show that I had learned from my misfortune, I tried a different technique, putting my emphasis on order this time. If this guy could have screamed and carried on and told me he didn’t like me, I think he would have. And it might have been the more dignified, or at least the more honest thing to do. Instead, he tried to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me he liked me too — it was clear he meant “in a friend way” but he didn’t say it outright — and then he did not call, email, or text me for two weeks straight (after being in touch on the regular). When he finally emailed, it was to say that his lack of communication was not fueled by our conversation that night — it was a mere coincidence. Also a coincidence is that we stopped hanging out after this.
4. I called him back. I got to a point in this mini-relationship I was in where I was pretty much done. The guy I was hanging with was overly persistent, cocky, and relentless about getting me in the sack, which is a very unattractive quality. Honestly, his chances would have increased by a million percent had he just toned it down a little bit. I was surprised he had come as far as he had — he was nearing his mid-thirties when we were hanging out — did other ladies actually fall for this sh-t? So, just as I had decided I was really not digging this — my last-straw moment came when he let out a squeal at the sight of the magazine he edits on my bed, I had bought a copy and forgotten to hide it — he called and left a voicemail. And it was really, pretty nice. He wanted to see how I was doing, when he could see me next, etc. Still, I held my ground; I was done. Then, a few days later, an email. Something to the effect of, “Hey, I hope we’re cool. I just wanted to see how you’re doing,” insert specific detail about something going on in my life at the moment that he remembered to ask about (that I of course don’t remember now, or feel like sifting through my emails to find). But the point is, he got me. I called him back, totally willing to give him a second chance, not because I thought I had been too hard on him, but because enough time had gone by that I forgot how much he annoyed me… and then he never returned my call. Which makes me wonder to this day if all he wanted was the last word, or if his next relationship could have possibly started in the 48 hours it took me to finally give in and call him back? I’ll probably never know.
5. I got all emo. At the young and naive age of 23, I was put in a position where I had to take the morning-after pill, and I made two mistakes. One, I told the guy I was hanging out with that I was going to take it, and, two, I asked him if he wanted to come over that night and watch a movie with me. The subtext of this was: I really have no idea what this will be like, but in case it makes me feel kind of emo, it’d be cool if I weren’t alone. The way it translated was: I want you to be my boyfriend. Believe it or not, I did not want him to be my boyfriend (though, many boys I have said that to, I surely did want to be my bf). But this was, from the beginning, not someone I wanted to commit to, but someone I was having “temporary fun” with. Anyway, he agreed to come over, volunteered to rent the movie (again, dating myself), and then never showed up. But not only that, was out with his friends, kept calling and saying he’d be over in a little, and then finally had to admit he was not going to make his way to my apartment, ever. I wound up in my best friend’s bed for a sleepover, not feeling emo at all, but instead, pissed. The funny thing is, a friend was randomly dealing with a similar situation around the same time, and being the amazing stoic that she is, her man asked if she wanted him to come over and chill with her; she didn’t. Guess who was still together several months later?