We met on Tinder and I cherished every moment spent with her. I wasn’t expecting to meet someone I’d end up wanting to be with, since I hadn’t officially dated anyone in seven years. After many heartaches and let downs I’d become guarded and sensitive, very selective about the people I’d want to pursue any kind of relationship with. For a long time, I avoided feelings and didn’t search out anyone, until I met her.
I enjoyed her pace, our pace, and all the things we did together. I loved that we loved so many of the same things and I especially appreciated our differences. She caught me off guard when I first met her but knew after that evening I needed to spend the next couple of days re-arranging my mind so there would be room for her to stay. (Okay, we might have watched The Great Gatsby that first night too).
I excitedly anticipated seeing her and became more intrigued each time we went out. I started to love so many minute and subtle things about her that talking to anyone else or keeping in touch with the handful of girls who had become interested in me prior seemed meaningless. I made it known I was indeed seeing someone I hoped to date. The words were startling even to me.
Over seven weeks of consistently seeing her I was having some of the best times I’d had with anyone in years, simply because I knew I felt a certain way about her. The third time we went out she came over in this stunning dress. I couldn’t wait to sit across from her at dinner so I could admire how beautiful she was and how blessed I felt to be able to take her out. From swimming in the ocean when I thought she looked hot enough to destroy Frodo’s ring, to our mutual nerdiness and love for the same books and movies, I adored cuddling her even though she seldom cuddled back.
One day when she was sick I brought her soup and we awkwardly watched (500) Days of Summer while I was having my own internal “Tom moment” wondering what exactly we were or how she was feeling. I watched as she caressed her beloved cat, their faces making the same bewildered expression.
I especially loved how she stood out among all other girls I’d met or had any kind of interest in over the last several years. She appeared to have values and boundaries that seemed so evident and made me like her even more. She, like me, seemed to prefer a slow route, except I mistook her pace for what I thought was an unhurried romantic interest in me.
Her introvert complimented my extrovert and for the first time in an extremely long time, I felt at peace with a particular person. You see, I’m not the kind of guy to take just anyone on boardwalk rides with Ferris wheel kisses. Those things are reserved specifically for a girl I hope to or am dating. Throughout my life, the unfortunate reality was I’d become interested in people who hadn’t been careful or considerate of my feelings, allowing me to romance them without any intention of reciprocating. From the girl in college I spent a year essentially dating but had no real interest in me to the one I took out and hit it off with only to find out the next day via Facebook that she had, that same evening, started a relationship with another guy, were among countless strange scenarios leaving me with a bleak track record and disheartened outlook. The problem with people who are honest and mean everything they say is that they naively believe that others do so as well. Sometimes I prefer my childlike fantasy over reality, fall in love with my own hopes and ideas and in the end suffer for thinking such innocent thoughts. Many times, if not all times in romance, I had been a victim of my own optimism.
For her, I had grand plans. One day I took her to Washington, D.C. We explored and ate and wandered, watching the sunset from the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial. Walking back to the metro along the Reflecting Pool, I just wanted to grab her hand, pull her close and kiss her like I never kissed anyone else before. But I didn’t do it. Because every time I tried kissing her before she would accept the first couple but would then back off, as if she wasn’t ready for anything more. Out my reverence and respect for her, wanting her to only feel comfortable, I too would back away.
In my mind my plans included dinners in New York City and warm hot chocolate in Central Park in the winter. I looked forward to sharing our mutual love for Halloween and Christmas, finally having someone to share it with in such a way. I anticipated road trips to Montreal or Pittsburgh or Cincinnati or wherever we decided to go on a whim. I wanted to leave her notes on her car and surprise her at work and go out of my way to let her know how much I cared for her.
I wanted her to feel comfortable enough to open up but she remained closed, standoffish, even bothered and annoyed by me so I was careful to give her space, trying hard to balance the “Girls want to chase boys” and “Girls want to be pursued” mindset.
I was hoping she would be the one to text me or ask me to do something someday but I slowly (too slowly) started to realize that wasn’t ever going to happen. When I told her that I wasn’t seeing or talking to anyone else, that she was exclusive in my life and absolutely exceptional, I hoped for some kind of response but I didn’t get anything. It left me confused and bummed out.
One evening I carried my heavy heart into a diner with a close friend. Sitting across from each other in the booth, my eyes downcast slowly spinning a spoon around a cup of coffee my friend said, “You know, I hope you never love anyone who makes you feel like you’re ordinary.” I looked up and bit my lip.
“Listen, I’m going to text her. I just need to know what’s going on,” I said. After hopeless attempts to meet up in person due to her busy schedule, I decided that text was my only choice.
“I’m just going to say that I hoped to have this conversation in person. That I think she’s made it pretty clear that she doesn’t want anything to do with me romantically and doesn’t seem to particularly care if she sees me again either. I’m not trying to come off rude to her, but I’m trying to figure it out so I don’t have to be in this perpetual state of wondering and contemplating, shrouded in mystery over what she thinks of me. I’ve made it pretty clear throughout several weeks of seeing each other what I think of her, yet I still don’t know anything at all from her end.” I started typing out the message as politely as I could.
My friend rested her cheek in her hand. “And what does that tell you?” She asked. There was silence. I stopped typing, my finger hovering above the “Send” button.
“We carve out time to be with people we care for. You carve that time out for her but she doesn’t seem to have any desire or initiative to do so for you.” Again, silence.
I couldn’t help but think about an incredibly cherished friend of mine in Austin. She took such an interest in me and my life, holding our friendship above career, ambition, busy schedules. She was open and deep and made it a point to be a part of my life despite our distance. I knew if I was ever in her city, she would stop at nothing to spend as much time with me as possible. I thought about the girls who genuinely took interest in me and wanted to know me and be a part of my life. And then I also looked at the one sitting right across the table, knowing how much she cared and wanted the best for my life and how blessed I was with her friendship.
“The right person is going to cherish you the very moment you walk into their life. You won’t have to wonder or hope for it. So, before you send that text I want you to read this post,” she said, sliding her iPhone across the table. The screen was opened to an entry entitled “Fuck Yes or No” by Mark Manson and it started with this: Why would you ever choose to be with someone who is not excited to be with you?
My heart sank and then leapt. The summer had taught me that the best things are worth waiting for; those seven years of singleness were worth it just to spend those seven weeks with her, where I was a kid again with butterflies. I didn’t regret a second of it but in that moment I knew I already had the answer to my burning question. Finally, at long last: liberation.
Every summer had its story, and now I had mine. My phone buzzed with a new Tinder notification, “Congratulations, you have a new match.” I swiped it out of the way and looked down at the blinking blue line on my pending text. I hit the backspace button until my message was gone. Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it’s a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldn’t be one of them. Sighing with relief, I clicked the phone off, slid it to the other side of the table and took a sip of coffee.