(because this blog wouldn’t be where it is today without you)
Hello readers! After a regrettably long period of dormancy and a brief identity crisis, this blog is back and here to stay.
Some of you might be have noticed the not-so-subtle title change –and if you didn’t, check the top of your screen. Was this sudden rebranding a ploy to attract more readers? A symptom of a not-yet-quarter-life-crisis?
No. I’m not laboring under the delusion that my wordpress title will keep anyone up at night, but the change is significant. When I began this website, it was with the hope that it would evolve into less of a blog and more of a platform for women to teach and learn from one another by sharing their stories. I wanted it to be a place that helps women grow, and in that respect I believe it has been successful.
But I never anticipated how much this website would help me grow, too. When I read your stories, I see myself in you, and I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to read the lessons you’ve all taken away from seemingly irredeemable situations. And when I look at how far this blog has come, it seems only fitting that it should grow with the rest of us.
So while I’d like to think “Dating Woes and Ego Blows” was catchy, it doesn’t really reflect what this blog is anymore. A cynical title doesn’t really fit a website dedicated to helping women share their experiences and help each other through the twists and turns on the road to modern love.
With that, I’d like to welcome you to “Ms. Twenty-ish,” because I am a Miss, and I am twenty…ish. My goal is to make this an upbeat, honest, and funny site by women, for women. Does that mean I’m going to adopt a unicorns-and-rainbows approach to blogging? No, but a more positive title at least illustrates that we can all use these stories to learn something good from even our most cringe-worthy stories. And worry not, I’ve still got plenty of those in store for you.
Stay tuned to see what else is new this December 😉
(the side of the breakup that rom coms don’t show you)
It’s a fantastic (and frigid) Sunday morning here, what should Louie be doing?
a) Bundling up and going for a run
b) Working on homework
For the folks playing along at home, while the more productive answers might be a) and b), the correct response is… c).
Still, I’d argue that this post isn’t completely unhelpful –writing this blog helps me find answers, and I hope it helps you in that way, too.
So what drives me to write today?
Last night, after walking home from a play, I had to do my best to fight back tears. It wouldn’t have been so bad had I not chanced to walk by the entire men’s soccer team mid sob, but that’s life for you.
“Why were you crying?”
Ah, an excellent question. You might have noticed that I don’t talk about sadness or tears much on this blog; humor is my defense mechanism against all things awkward or uncomfortable, after all. But I’m only human, and sometimes even my tear ducts fall prey to sappy commercials or heart wrenching movie scenes.
Or running into an ex I never really got over.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’ve maintained that I’m “completely over” Ryan. I don’t write about him on here for that reason. We’re just friends, it’s great. He’s a wonderful person and I’m happy that we can still be part of each other’s lives in a platonic way.
Anyone who knows me in real life can also tell you that I’m not a very convincing liar.
And while it’s true that, unlike Derek, I respect the newly platonic relationship that we have, I’ll admit that I still catch myself daydreaming about our time together or starting over and forging a new future for ourselves.
But yeah, I’m totally over him.
So, why was I hiding my tear-streaked face from forwards and midfielders after last night’s play?
Ryan played one of the leads: a man who falls for a vivacious, generous person who is compassionate to a fault. And I’d scored a front row seat to watch my ex fall in love with someone else.
Here’s how the night unfolded:
A while back, while I sat planted in front of the TV engrossed in The Food Network and a bowl of Ramen, my phone buzzed. It was Ryan.
“I got the part!”
I beamed. “Congratulations!!!! Not that I’m surprised, but I’m really proud of you.”
“Thank you. Are you coming to the show?”
“Wouldn’t miss it :)”
Should I have known that wholeheartedly agreeing to watch my ex take on a romantic role in a shown renowned for its raw emotion? Maybe. Did I let that stop me? Not at all.
So last night, I trudged across campus to the college theater and settled in next to a couple of friends and waited for the lights to dim.
“Have you ever seen this show before?” one of them whispered.
“No, but I’m glad I’ll finally get all of the references to it.”
Just then, Ryan strolled onto the stage, handsome and serious. Things started out fine –he’s an excellent actor– but my enjoyment waned as the show progressed, and I slowly watched his affection grow for a new woman.
One scene in particular made my heart sink.
In the midst of some cutesy banter, Ryan slung an arm around the new girl’s waist. “I’ll just have to repay you with a thousand kisses, then…”
That line. I’d heard it before. My head spun as a wave of memories washed over me.
Suddenly, it was December again, and I was pacing my room in a blue dress. Excited. Ryan had sent me a message a few days earlier:
“Hey, let me know if your weekend is open. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
I’d asked what I should expect, how I should dress, what amount of time I should free up, but he would just grin and say “That’s the whole point of a surprise, isn’t it?”
So I waited, giddy and probably overdressed, while I watched his bright red car pull into view.
“So, did I dress the part?” I asked, climbing into the passenger seat.
He squeezed my hand. “You’ll have to wait until we get there.”
Eventually we made our way to a cozy restaurant in town, where he led me to a quiet table near the back. I left to find a mirror to fix my hair –static electricity and dry winter weather had done a number on me– and when I sat back down I found another grin spreading across Ryan’s face.
“Did you hear what that waiter said when you left?”
“Did he say something to me?” I hadn’t heard, and suddenly felt worried about seeming rude.
“He said you were beautiful.”
I blushed. “That was nice of him.”
“Well, it’s true,” Ryan leaned back in his seat. “You are beautiful.”
“You’re not too bad yourself,” I smiled.
After the meal Ryan picked up the bill, refusing to hear a word I said about paying him back.
“Please,” I’d asked as we stepped out into the cold. “You really didn’t have to.”
“It’s Christmas,” he’d reply.
But we were college students, and I didn’t want him to overspend on a night out with me. “Can I at least give you the money for some of it?”
“How about this,” he pulled me into a hug as a gust of wind sent snowflakes swirling around us. “You can pay me back with a thousand kisses. Deal?”
I pressed my lips against his cheek. “Deal.”
It’s November now, and last night I looked away as my ex’s fake new love interest moved her face towards his.
“But Louie,” you say, “it’s just acting. I bet he wasn’t really in love with this other person at all.”
And you know what? You’re right. Ryan isn’t really head over heels for his costar, but that’s not what made that scene difficult for me. As I heard Ryan proclaim his love for someone else on the Theater Department’s makeshift balcony, I realized that someday this wouldn’t all be just for show. Someday, Ryan really is going to fall in love with someone else, and after dinner dates she’ll repay him with a thousand kisses, just like I did.
I got to watch a preview of my first love moving on with another woman, and it broke something inside of me.
And some of you might be thinking “Well then, go out there and win him back. Show him that you’re the only one worth one thousand kisses. Forge that new future out West. Give yourselves that fairytale ending you deserve.”
But I can’t.
He has dreams that don’t involve children or chilly Minnesota nights by the fire. He’s heart-set on becoming a music professor of renown, with fancy cars and a home in the mountains. And my big-break writing opportunities are all here in the Midwest, and even though I plan to share my work with the world, I want to share it with a family of my own first.
I can’t make myself the girl he’ll grow to resent for making him give up his dream, and I know I can’t forgive myself if I give up mine.
Our lives aren’t fairytales, no matter how much we want them to be.
So here I am, searching a tear-blurred screen for answers while I pour my heart out to people I don’t even know.
Now, if you’ve been following this blog, you know my posts are never just about me. If my stories can help someone else avoid the dating pitfalls I’ve encountered, I’ll share every story I’ve got. But how can I help when I myself am at a loss for what to do?
Well, I can offer some advice that I’m not ready to take.
As hard as it is to hear, if you know that you and your Ryan have no future, you have to learn to accept with that. And that won’t happen overnight. I’ve been single since May of 2017, and last night I felt the pain of my breakup all over again. It takes time, it takes tears, it takes strength. But you will move on, and you’ll be able to watch them do so, too.
The night Ryan and I ended things, I sobbed into his shoulder that I hoped he’d find someone who likes to talk on long car rides, who loves music as much as he does –someone who can offer him everything I can’t.
“Don’t say that,” he managed, his voice strained, “I don’t want that right now. I want this.”
But Ryan, if you’re reading this, you do want that. And I want that for you, too.
We’ve all loved our Ryans, and not all of us have lost them. If you’re one of the lucky few who hasn’t, I applaud you. Cherish him as much as he cherishes you.
And if you’re like me, broken and reeling from a wound that never seems to heal, know that you’re not alone. Someone out there will love you, care for you, and make you smile without requiring you to give up on your future. They’re out there, we just have to wait a little longer than everyone else.
You’ll make it through this, and I’ll be right there with you until you do.
Remember how I promised fun new perspectives this November? Well, today’s guest blogger doesn’t disappoint on that front. Meet Glen Ocsko, the UK-based blogger behind Diary of a Dating Dad. The very funny father has learned a lot about life and love since his divorce, and he uses his blog to share his stories and advice with the rest of us.
Today, he offers his insights about what goes through a man’s mind on the first date.
Enjoy this story? Be sure to check out the rest of his writing here.
Until next time.
Like the ability to change a tyre, cook a tasty meal or secretly enjoying watching shows about dancing, over-thinking before a first date is not something confined to a single gender. In my experience, the only difference is that women are more likely to admit to their friends that they are nervous before meeting someone for the first time, or that they tried on a thousand outfits before settling on one of the first options considered.
Everyone gets butterflies going into a first date, including guys. The trick is trying to get them to fly in formation.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d lift the lid on some of the things which go through the minds of the male half of a date. Obviously this doesn’t count for everyone, but some may be surprised that we’re not all as blasé, relaxed and cool as we try to appear!
Holy shit! You’ve actually matched with someone! Wait, double check and make sure she wasn’t an accidental drunken swipe which in the cold light of day you’ll regret at first glance…no, weirdly she’s hot and still chose to match with you! She probably won’t message back, though. Let’s take a quick look at her bio and phtotos and craft a witty and interesting opening line.
No, delete that, try again. And that. You’re trying to be funny, not creepy. Right, press send. Then walk away – forget about it. Definitely don’t keep checking your phone to see if she replies.
She replied! Woohoo! No, play it cool. Don’t reply instantly. Give it a minute. Don’t seem too keen, otherwise she’ll think that you are desperate, and according to all those dating advice sites you secretly read apparently desperation isn’t sexy. What’s the right number of messages before you suggest meeting up? Over how long should they be sent? What if we send thirty messages over the next hour? Is that the same as sending ten over the next four days?! Why isn’t there a simple formula for all this?!
Arranging a date
Great – we’re on to arranging a date. She wants me to suggest somewhere. Needs to be somewhere cool, imaginative and interesting but not too weird and not too cliche. It needs to give her the chance to duck out rather than be trapped (so boat rides along the river are out) and give us an activity to do. Has to be evening too – no good dating story ever started with “we finished up lunch and headed back to the office…”.
I know – how about that cocktail bar with the indoor crazy golf bit? We can have a drink and can decide whether to play or whether to just drink more! You’re a genius!
She said yes! Oh, damn. Better start saving now – I totally forgot that drinks are super expensive there, and that’s without thinking about food or actually playing golf. Why didn’t you think about this before?!
Two days before
Okay, so we’re messaging a lot, that’s good, but is it too much? You missed her last message and then got caught up at work so didn’t reply for hours, she must think you’re playing games with her. She’s not replied to you all evening; she must be on another date. He is probably funnier, better looking and more successful than you are. He probably goes to the gym to further define his chiselled physique, and then drives his sports car to the orphanage to volunteer teaching kids how to read in between performing life-saving surgery at the hospital he runs. She’s probably having a great time with him. You were so close, only for her to find Zac Efron crossed with Toy Stark just before you meet and she falls for your Jimmy Fallon crossed with Hugh Grant schtick. What gave you any confidence you’d ever have had a chance, anyway?! Just look at yourself! You’ve not even shaved today! Your jokes aren’t funny and have the dress sense of Winona Ryder in the 80s.
No, wait – she’s messaged. She was out with her sister. Phew! And she’s still up for the date! Don’t come across as insecure. Play it cool. Confirm the time and place though. Don’t want to go to the wrong place. Again.
On the day
How hard can getting dressed be?!?! You do it every single day – EVERY SINGLE DAMNED DAY, MAN!!! Just choose a shirt and put it on. No, not that one. It’s not ironed. Not that one, either. It makes you look pallid. There; a plain shirt. Nice. Do you roll up the sleeves or not, though? If you do she’ll see your lack of Dwayne Johnson-sized guns, but might notice your tattoo. Shit. You haven’t checked whether or not she likes tattoos. Schoolboy error. Okay, roll it up but keep it long enough to cover. Hair done, manscaping done (you should really do that more often, the bath looks like you attacked a bear with a beard trimmer), aftershave applied (probably too much, but some of it’ll wear off, right?!), shoes polished, teeth cleaned; you’re good to go.
Actually, go change your shirt.
On the date
Don’t say something stupid. Listen to what she’s saying. I’m serious, don’t say something stupid. But be interesting. Tell those funny stories from when you were travelling, or when you did that cool thing at work, but don’t brag. It’s not a competition. Damn, she’s gorgeous. Just look at her smile! Even when she’s talking, her eyes are smiling! They’ve got a way of sparkling, it’s as if they were lit up from within… Shit, you got lost looking at her smile and lost what she was saying. Stall! make time to work out how to change the subject!
Don’t look at her boobs, either. I mean, they are magnificent, but she’ll notice and put you in the same box as every other guy who only wants her for her body. You need to come across as noticing her good looks and appreciating them, but not over her personality. No, I’ve no idea how to do that. Improvise.
Seriously, don’t say anything stupid. You really want to see her again.
At the end of the date
Right, it’s gone well. You’re waiting for her Uber. Is this the time to try to kiss her? She kind of made eye contact for a fraction of a second longer than you thought she would normally, that’s a sign, isn’t it? And she’s swiveling on the spot a little. Or is that just her looking for her cab? What if you got it wrong and she’s not interested? Will she think you’re a creep? What if you’re actually a bad kisser after all? Wait a minute, you’ve totally forgotten how to kiss!!!
No, stop panicking, get a grip of yourself. Just put your hand on the small of her back, put a little pressure on, pull her close and go for it. Any second now. Go for it. It’ll work. No, it won’t. Yes it will. Probably. Quick, the Uber is only a two minutes away! Stop thinking about it and do it!
Later that night
See. It wasn’t that difficult! Now you’re walking on air like a teenager! It went so well! Wait, what if it was a sympathy kiss? What if she just kissed back so she could get away?! She noticed you looking at her boobs, didn’t she?! Idiot. You should’ve stayed locked on her eyes – that was the plan! And she probably hated your shirt too. Wait, you’re getting a WhatsApp message…
She had a great time and wants to meet up again! You legend! You didn’t mess it up! Well, you’ve not messed it up yet, anyway… Now, where to go to next? And what shirt to wear? And what to tell her about how much fun you had without seeming desperate?! Why aren’t these things easier?!?!
(how I ended up on a date with someone who had forgotten how to read)
Do you ever find yourself in a situation so strange that you have to mentally step back and ask yourself “How did I get here?”
Well, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I find myself in those situations quite often.
As I type, I’m sitting in a quaint little coffee shop, burrowing my nose into my scarf and warming my hands around my too-hot mocha. In other words, I’m being a complete cliché.
To be fair, I don’t completely fit the brooding hipster blogger stereotype. My friend is sitting across from me, and we’ve been talking about The Iowa-Iowa State football rivalry for the past ten minutes. Whoever said that sports fans couldn’t be cultured has clearly never met Mary Lou Robertson.
But I’m getting off topic (as I often do). The last time I had been in that coffee shop I hadn’t been in the company of Mary Lou; I was with Brett. Yikes.
“Who’s Brett?” you ask?
If you took everything that I am not and rolled it into one cringe-worthy little person, you’d have Brett.
“So how did you end up on a date with him?”
Let’s just say it was the result of a series of unfortunate events. Get ready for a long read, but I promise I’ll make it worth your while.
Think back to the last week of August. The sun was bright, the air was thick, and this blog wasn’t yet a twinkle in my eye.
I found myself at a bonfire one weekend, ready to ring in the new school year with music, friends, and some well-deserved relaxation.
For my non-local readers: standing around an open flame in the middle of the woods might not seem like the ideal spot for a social gathering, but that’s exactly how Midwesterners like to spend their summer evenings. I can’t really explain the appeal, but bonfires make for the best nights. Just trust me.
A group of us stood in just beyond the glow of the flames, chattering away about school, life, and everything else. Some of us were sober, some were beginning to enjoy the effects of our pinot grigio.
“Oh, Brett’s here,” one of my tipsy companions said.
“Who’s Brett?” I asked.
“He’s, uh, I don’t think you’d know him.”
That was fair. I don’t go out much, so I don’t know a lot of the people who do. Brett walked over to us, but between the fire’s shadows and the natural darkness of the night, I couldn’t get a good look at him.
Yes, I know. This was red flag number one.
“Brett! This is Louie,” my friend gushed. “She never goes out but she’s great and I love her a lot.” I hugged her tight. Drunk girls can be so sweet.
“Oh, Louie, do you have a Facebook?” Brett asked.
“Yes, you can add me if you want. I’m always happy to have new friends.”
So ended my first conversation with Brett.
By now I’m sure some of you are asking “Why would you offer that up, Louie? Do you always friend guys who start conversations with ‘Heyyyy’?”
We all make mistakes. Some people drunkenly text their ex, some let questionable bonfire-goers friend them on Facebook. À chacun son goût.
The next morning, I awoke to find a new message on my phone. The sender? Brett.
“Hey, I’d really love to get to know you. Would you like to get coffee sometime?”
Was I eager to get coffee with him? No, but I didn’t know how to say “No, I don’t want to get to know you.” I didn’t learn that lesson until later.
One coffee date can’t hurt, right?
“Sure, let me know when you’re free.”
At this point, it dawned on me that I should try to discover a little bit about the person I would be “getting to know.” Our mutual friend hadn’t given me any reason to believe that he was dangerous, but nevertheless, I wanted to know who I’d just agreed to spend my time with.
I found red flags two through twenty on his social media. Every picture proudly proclaimed that he was more interested in getting stoned than anything else. Pot leaves and smoke-streaked pictures with pseudointellectual captions littered my feed. I cringed. What did I just sign myself up for?
My first instinct was to cancel the date. We were obviously very different people, so it wouldn’t work out anyway. Just as I began to draft out a polite cancellation message, my phone buzzed. It was our mutual friend.
“I’m at a party right now and Brett is asking all about you. He really likes you!!”
I looked back down at my carefully worded message. Would it crush him? Was I heartless enough to cancel after he’d expressed a real interest in me?
With a heavy sigh I deleted everything.
It’s just one date. You can make it through that.
Let the record show that I don’t believe any woman owes someone else a date. If I could go back in time, I probably would have cancelled. That’s most respectful to you and your date, but sometimes we can only see that in hindsight. At the time, I stuck with my decision, for better or for worse.
(Spoiler alert: it was for worse)
When the morning of our date rolled around I sat at my desk, unenthused.
Just get it over with, maybe he won’t want to go out again either.
That didn’t do much to placate me, and soon my mind began to race.
What if you get stuck in that coffee shop for hours? What if he’s one of those people who never ends a date? What if things get really creepy and you can’t politely exit?
Why hadn’t I considered all of this before? I kicked myself as dread began to bubble up in my stomach. The morning sun peeked through my windows and illuminated the smudged glass screen of my phone, giving me a sudden inspiration.
“Can you meet me at BelleMagnifi at 11:00? If anyone asks, it’s for post-breakup retail therapy.” My heart raced anxiously as I awaited the reply.
Seconds later, Mary Lou’s name flashed across my screen.
I love that girl. No questions, no judgement. She’s definitely good in a crisis.
But anyway, let’s get back to the date.
When he arrivede I climbed into his van and said hello, trying not to inhale too deeply.
“Sorry if it’s a little messy,” he began. “I didn’t have time to clean it before today. I don’t even know where I woke up this morning and then I was like ‘Oh shit, I’ve got a date,’ so I just hopped in and drove here. Wild night.”
“Haha, I guess so.”
I’m sure I sound stuck up right now. “Wow,” you say, “she thinks she’s too good for him just because he smokes? Because he drives a van?” No, that’s not it at all. I don’t smoke, but I don’t walk around acting like I’m better than people who do. There are plenty of girls who would have found smoking and weed-infused car seats charming, but I’m not one of them. We were way too different, and that’s why I was apprehensive.
“I probably shouldn’t lead off with that on a first date,” he laughed. “I’d tell you I usually remember where I am when I wake up, but that’s only kinda true.”
I laughed, uncomfortable. How do you respond to that? ‘Cool! I spend most of my nights curled up with one of my many copies of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t get out much’? Or ‘Ahh, I get that. Once I fell asleep in the study lounge and woke up curled up next to the fireplace’?
I decided to just go with a subject change. “So, what are you studying?”
He talked about his major for a few minutes. “How ’bout you?”
“English,” I replied. “I’d like to teach writing.”
“Oooohhhh, so I bet you really like to read, huh?”
I thought back to my well-worn Poe book. “When I have time.”
“That’s chill. I wish I could read more.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It gets hard to keep up with good books during the school year.”
“Oh, totally,” he began. “But like, I don’t know, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do the act of reading.”
“The act of reading?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah, like the physical act of reading. I feel like I’ve lost it. Like I just don’t know how to anymore.”
My eyes widened in disbelief, and I was silent for a few moments before I managed:
“Oh, that’s too bad. Reading’s a lot of fun.”
Was that the best reply? Probably not, but what do you say when someone casually tells you that they just forgot how to read?
How did I get here? How is this the culmination of my life so far?
“Hah, you’re probably like ‘Oh no, I’m an English teacher and this dude can’t read’ haha.”
“No,” I lied. “To each his own, right?”
We pulled up to the coffee shop and I checked the time: 10:15.
Just forty-five minutes. I thought. Keep an open mind. Just don’t talk about books.
Coffees in hand, Brett and I settled into a booth in the back corner of the shop.
“So,” he began, “What do you like to do for fun?”
Don’t say read. Don’t say read. Don’t say read.
“I like to write.”
“Oh, awesome! I don’t think I’ve written a paper sober in a looooong time. Probably not so good haha.”
I had to wonder how he could write a paper –sober or not– without understanding how to read, but at the same time I didn’t want to ask.
“Well, you could always bring your work to the Writing Center and they can help you out.”
“Nah, I don’t take criticism well.”
“Oh, yeah that wouldn’t work then.”
I shouldn’t have talked about writing.
The remaining forty minutes passed without incident. Brett and I were opposites in every way, and while that didn’t seem to deter him, it was too much for me. By 11:00 I was happily pawing through racks of wrap dresses at BelleMagnifi when I got a text from Mary Lou.
“I’m parked out front. Want to come back to my place and make hot chocolate?”
Ahh, a woman after my own heart.
As I buckled myself in beside her, I couldn’t help smile. I might have just spent my morning with one of the worst dates imaginable, but I got to end my day with a fantastic friend.
“So, why are using ‘retail therapy’ again?”
I grinned. “Oh, do I have a story for you.”
And now, months later, I find myself in that very same coffee shop in much better company. I’m lucky to have a friend like Mary Lou, and I appreciate her because she’s a good person, not just because she helped me out of a sticky situation. She’s kind, she’s generous, she’s the kind of person I can talk to for hours, and I hope I can be the same for her.
At the end of the day, we all need a Mary Lou in our lives, and we need to be a Mary Lou for others, too. Whether you’re looking for your Mr. Right or still reeling from your encounter with Mr. Wrong, the Mary Lous of the world are there for you. We should all find time to show them how much their friendship means to us.
And my Mary Lou, if you’re reading this, thank you. You’re one wonderful woman. ❤
I hope you’re all enjoying that extra hour of daylight-saving-sleep (I know I did).
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that Florence will always hold a special place in my heart, and luckily enough today’s guest blogger writes from that very city! Meet Nikki, an expat from Southern California who chronicles her Tuscan adventures on her site: The Culture Addict.
Today she’s offered to share her experiences as an American dating abroad. If you like Nikki’s work, be sure to check out the rest of her writing here.
Until next time.
Living in another country rarely has its dull moments. You are constantly learning new things, new ways to do seemingly simple tasks, a new set of social norms, and suddenly things that came naturally to you back home now seem like uncharted territory. Dating, for example, is one of those newly foreign things. Dating in […]
If you said “Vehemently denying that she’s overscheduled herself,” you’d be correct.
Yes, I have trouble saying no. If someone asks me to do them a favor, no matter how ridiculous, I readily accept. Want me to proofread your paper? No problem. Need someone to pick up an extra shift? I’m your girl. I even took on an acting role in a Spanish skit once because I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint my professor.
The point is, I don’t like to turn people down, but too many men have taken that to mean “Louie has to go out with me.”
Why do so many millennial men view politeness as a romantic invitation and rejection as an opportunity to practice persistence?
Last night I got a series of texts from a guy I’d been casually friends with when I was 20. Let’s call him Derek. He moved away over a year ago, but we talked once in a blue moon; he was never a big part of my life –nor was I a significant part of his.
I knew that he’d had a crush on me, but I’ve made it clear time and time again that I would like to be friends or nothing at all. I’m sure plenty of you have been in that position before, too. We want to think that people of any gender can enjoy our company without some underlying motive, but sometimes that’s not the case.
Derek proved as much to me when he sent me an out of the blue message last month.
“Hey Louie! How are you?”
“Hey! It’s been a while. I’m doing well –busy as ever. How are you?”
At first, I was happy to hear from him. I’d had a long and stressful week, so it was nice to get a message from an old friend. What reason did I have to be suspicious?
My phone buzzed again.
“I’m good. How are things with your boyfriend?”
Oh no. I know where this is going.
My long-term boyfriend, Ryan, and I broke up last May. He wanted a carefree life out West, I wanted something more traditional, and no amount of love or compromise could reconcile those differences. The breakup was amicable, but tough on both of us nonetheless. And I had a sinking feeling Derek knew that.
“We broke up, but we’re still close. I’m not really interested in dating for a while, though.”
“Oh,” he wrote back, feigning ignorance. “I’m so, so sorry. Louie, if you need anything at all or if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”
I sighed. I’d already watched another male acquaintance unsuccessfully try to take advantage of that breakup to forge a romantic relationship between us. It wasn’t an experience I was eager to repeat.
“I’m alright, thank you. Just need to stay single.”
“I completely understand.”
From that point on we stayed in contact. He texted frequently and eagerly, while I replied sporadically with cautious politeness. Every now and then he’d ask a strange, unrelated question, like:
“Are you close to your parents?”
“What’s your favorite food and why?”
This always struck me as odd. We’ve known each other for three years, I thought. What’s with the corny get-to-know-you questions?
But they weren’t all corny and superficial. Why would an acquaintance need to know about my relationship with my parents? Why would they want to know?
I avoided giving deep answers, but felt too busy to give the matter much thought. I had papers to write and meetings to run; there was hardly time to consider why a platonic friend would be so curious about the details of my life.
But last night, I had a little more free time. My sleepless week had finally come to a close, and I celebrated spending the night in with friends, sushi, and Stranger Things.
That’s when my phone buzzed again. You can probably guess who it was.
“Hey can I ask you a question? What’s your biggest fear?”
At this point, I was feeling fed up. I’d spent my week scrambling to get my work done and helping everyone else with theirs; all I wanted was a carefree evening with my girlfriends. I shot off a curt reply.
“Oh, interesting. Why is that?” he asked, before divulging his own fears, unsolicited.
Why does Derek need to know this stuff?
As I pondered that, I began to think about his other questions. What was with this sudden fervor to learn everything about me?
I started to google the questions he’d asked me and found a New York Times article that I’d read once before but forgotten about until then:
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 36 questions, they were made famous when a researcher placed groups of two strangers –made up of one straight man and one straight woman– in a room together and had them take turns asking and answering each of the 36 questions. At the end of the experiment, a number of the couples apparently fell in love.
People have since romanticized these questions, and that’s an argument I’m not going to get into today. But, the difference between the consenting couples and Derek is: everyone who took part in the experiment was aware of and agreed to every step of the process. Until last night, I was in the dark.
As I stared at my phone while the TV blared in the background, I felt sick. Derek didn’t just disregard my insistence that I didn’t want to date, he actively tried to manipulate me into falling in love with him. To him, it didn’t matter that I had said no; he wanted a relationship, and he was willing to jump through any psychological hoops to get it.
I let the message sit, my sense of unease growing.
Can I ever be friends with a guy who isn’t just waiting for an opportunity to sleep with me? Why can’t men enjoy my company without the promise of sex?
And the tragic thing is, I know I’m far from the only woman who’s had those thoughts. The concept of the Friend Zone encourages this creepy, controlling behavior. People often say that women need to be better at saying no, but I think the real problem is that men need to be better at hearing it.
The next morning I got another message.
Derek: “Hey, I’ve got more questions if you want.”
I grimaced. 35 more, to be exact?
“I think I’m too busy to answer any more questions.”
If I’ve learned anything from my run-ins with Nice Guys, it’s that you owe them nothing. Not your body. Not love. Not intimacy. Not friendship. Nothing. Someone who shamelessly manipulates you to get what they want doesn’t deserve to have you in their life, romantically or otherwise. That night, Derek lost my respect because he proved he never really had any for me in the first place.
Don’t let your Dereks force you into a relationship that you don’t want. Don’t let them force you into anything. Wait until you find someone who actually excites you, attracts you, who doesn’t have to strong-arm you into having feelings –in other words, someone who’s worth your time.
If you want a real relationship, it has to be based on real emotions, after all.
Keep your head up, your heart open, and your mind sharp.
I promised to treat you to diverse perspectives this November, and the author of today’s reblog delivers just that. Meet L. Rorschach, the mastermind behind Back in Stilettos Again. Since her divorce, she’s chronicled her dating experiences in San Francisco. Read on for her own first date advice!
If you enjoyed the post, be sure to check out more of her work here.