I didn’t so much mind the velvet ropes, just the bouncers and the authority games. Being on the list. Even being at a place with a list. It was annoying and not at all who I was. And even at the time, I knew someone who put us on the list, got friends in and left. Usually, I just went along for the ride. I liked the cab time with the girls. The way Alexandra had to listen to 80s music and Dulce needed to begin her lipgloss ritual, making circles with her finger over the pod, but only on red lights, for fear that the cab might suddenly jerk, causing her finger to dent her perfect pod procedure. I liked watching my friends.
What I didn’t like was wiggling. It’s what I hated most about dating. I layered on dates, piled them up like luncheon meat. A quick face to face over coffee, then home to change for drinks with someone else. And even if drinks were going well, I’d keep the next date, usually dinner–which meant it wasn’t a first date. And if that date sucked early enough, as soon as I was home, I’d IM or email a guy and have him meet me in "How fast can you get to the upper west?" I didn’t care so much that I’d forgotten which stories I’d already told, and I became a bit of an expert at fibbing.
A suitor, not The Suitor, would ask me for plans on Thursday night, but I already had plans with another man. "Sorry, my sister is in town that night, but I’d still really love to see you. Does Sunday work?" I’d be very specific with the lie if I really liked him. Because I knew.
I knew all too well what the vague "I’m busy that night" meant. Or equally as disappointing, "I have plans" or "I’m not free, but how about…" It never meant a poker game or a family dinner, or else he’d say as much. It rarely even meant plans with a friend. And if it did, and the intention was to hit some party, if he really liked me, he’d say, "I want you to come with us." Or he’d at least reveal, "I have dinner plans with a friend, and then we’re supposed to go to some party, but I really want to spend time with you. So can you come to the party at least, and then we will also be able to spend all of Saturday night together, too?" I liked the guys who wore it on their sleeves.
I was completely spun up in it all, and half-detectived my way through each communication. I was irritated by it, of course, because I was playing the same game. I knew what vague meant because when I was vague it meant someone else, someone with whom I wasn’t ready to let go. However, I have girlfriends who’d never think this way, who are always vague about telling men their availability, and not as a manipulation or plot. They simply don’t care to bog him down. They keep the mystery without ever seeing it as a strategy. I was all about strategy and could over think myself into a pirouette. Some of these same friends didn’t much care if the guy she liked was dating other women. "So am I, so it’s fair." I can’t stand level-headed people. "You can’t win the game if you don’t play." Who says shit like that aloud? Seriously. "Well, if he really likes you, all those other women will eventually be weeded out. So until that happens, just enjoy it." I hate you.
No, no, no. I didn’t care how special the relationship, how extraordinary our circumstances and our magical "I feel like I’ve known you forever" cliche crap; if he wasn’t all in after those first few dates then forget it. I couldn’t be bothered with a wiggler. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have patience and wanted everything to happen fast (which I did). I didn’t want to be with anyone who’d choose me second, even for a second. Who wants prudent when it comes to the heart? I wanted a man who’d cancel on someone else to be with me. Someone rude, I suppose, as long as it wasn’t to me.
But a real man wouldn’t need to be rude, only honest. A real man could say what’s hard to say. Could phone that girl and say, "I know we had plans for Friday night, but I need to cancel because, well, to be truthful, I am developing strong feelings for someone else. And I need to see where they go." Then he can reassure her, use the whole, "it’s not you at all" thing. A man who does this knows he’s burning a bridge, is going with his gut and following every impulse except for the frightened practical one urging him to hedge. To keep one around in case it doesn’t work out with the other. Well, padding sucks. I spent my life padding and hedging. Battened in safe ego-friendly layers. Eventually we all should grow up. We don’t all do it, but we should.
There are two camps, really, when it comes down to it. There are those who wouldn’t ever dream of online dating, fearful of the stigma, that it makes them look desperate. It makes them feel like a loser. That, or they’re waiting for "destiny." For a grocery store incident. I’m not talking about these people. The camps: those who after a terrific date sign on to their dating site to both read email and also to see if the other person has logged on (and are relieved if they haven’t–and if they have… their shoulders drop and they question all their choices and in a way want to figure out a way to punish the other person). And then there are those who genuinely couldn’t give a shit. Wouldn’t even think to adjust their privacy settings to prevent others from seeing when they’ve logged on. They don’t care, and wouldn’t bother to even look to see if the other person is signing on, etc. I am the type to play at the first camp, Camp Psycho. And I don’t think, even with all the confidence and perspective in the world, you stop being that type. Because at the end of the day, that kind of person doesn’t ever want to feel like someone got something past them. They don’t want to be outplayed, caught off guard. They don’t want to feel dumb. Rejection is one thing, but when it blindsides you, you begin to worry that it’s your problem or your fault for not picking up on it sooner. And your subconscious takes the reins and vows to never let you look like such an ass again. A psycho, yes–but not an ass. But really, you don’t even care how you look. You just don’t want to be betrayed, to believe in something, alone. Because you feel like a fool.
And when we get there, to that unhealthy place of suspicion, when we’re that insecure, there’s a bigger problem going on. Not just self-esteem and wall-talk. And forget the whole, "well, if you behave that way, it usually happens because you drive them to it" crap. Self-fulfilling prophecies, blah. What sucks about it is the energy you waste, the life you waste on it. And for what? To be right. Great. Must feel great to know you were right in suspecting he was on the prowl. Because even when your detective work is right, your life still feels wrong, and you still feel like a fool, even if you aren’t.
I didn’t like what was quiet and unsaid because I didn’t like believing in something enough for two people. I wanted the truth, straight up, to know where we stood, especially if he was still figuring that out himself. We’d have an intoxicating evening, making plans already to see each other again. We liked the same things, charmed each other, and the chemistry was intense. We layered over each other’s sentences, so eager to share and add on things; "Remind me to tell you later about the time I==" happened all the time. We said everything. And then there was a good night, an end to the evening, back to our own apartments because of dogs or schedules. And then the unsaid would come out. I’d see that he signed onto the dating site, even though I hadn’t. And it undid things. Wasn’t I enough? "But it’s just habit," I knew he’d say. And it didn’t matter who the "he" was. It was always the same. "It’s window shopping, just something I do." And then it undid more.
I did find that when I myself was man enough to deliver the truth, aloud, without sugar, guys actually did respect it, the "I’m not going to bullshit you" angle. The truth. All of it. They liked not having to play detective, and even said, "If it doesn’t work out with him, I want to be your first call." Which felt amazing and really showed me the kind of people they were. Not angry or spiteful. Gracious. And it made me like them more. If a guy I’d been crazy about did this to me, though, I’d completely respect him and definitely like him all the more for it. But. But I’d never let him back in because once upon our dating life ago he chose her instead of me. And I’m not big enough to ever move past that kind of rejection. Even if it was their mistake. Even knowing how it looks from the other side, how much more I liked the guy when he handled it all so well. I would handle it well, but I’d never open that door again. I had, and still have, plenty of growing to do, but at least I know who I am.
Before I cowboyed up and became completely honest, I figured my fib would soften the blow of rejection. No matter how specific, in the end, people can always see through it. If they want to. I’d always assume the worst simply because I myself was the worst. I was bending the truth, was juggling and wiggling with the best of them, so I assumed everyone else was, too. Nothing is fair in love.
I was mildly irritated with the guy who of that Friday night party with his friend I presumed thought, "No point in bringing sand to the beach. So I’ll see her Saturday and see who else I might meet on Friday at the party." It wasn’t as if it was illegal to date. I was, after all, doing the same thing. But who cares what I’m doing? He should just want me, to live and die for me. I wanted this only with the ones I actually liked. And no, the argument does not go, "Well, maybe you wanted them because they didn’t drop everything to be with you." No. That argument is trash talk. It is absolutely wrong. If he wasn’t taken and smitten up front, then he didn’t count as far as I was concerned.
And then it got trickier. If I got a call mid-party on Friday night, with the whole, "I couldn’t stop thinking about you, and why should we wait until tomorrow night?" thing, I could think one of two things. 1) He clearly likes me and is already smitten and eager, desperate to see me, and I love it! 2) He clearly likes me. Um, or he just wants a woman to put her hand on his penis. But let’s assume the hand to penis thing exists in all men, at all times. Then my thinking would go to this place: the party sucked. I mean, clearly he’d been drinking and all the "so we’ll talk tomorrow" promises said earlier in the sober night no longer counted. The drunken words mattered more. Immediate gratification mattered more than the polite emails of plans and reservations. When I say "the party sucked," I mean the girls were dogs, or too religious for his liking. Because if the women were just completely insane or had horrible reputations or drug problems, the guy wouldn’t give a shit and wouldn’t be calling me at 12:20 am. Depending on how eager and persistent he was in making plans with me, I could feel out the rest. But that after midnight calling, or far lazier TEXTING (which is the most unmanly thing a guy can do), shit would need to stop if we were going to go anywhere.
While I was fine to date as I pleased, to layer on the men and moments, if I suspected he was choosing to honor plans with another woman, I lost interest. I didn’t want to be bothered with the possibility of rejection. Then I’d spend the day squirming, wondering if I killed something before even letting it begin. That’s how much I hated rejection. It wasn’t about putting up some barrier, preventing someone from getting too close. That’s shit you hear on crap television. "I want to let you close to me, but I’ve built this wall from being hurt so many times." Please, someone hurt her once and for all. I wouldn’t let it start because by my standards, he needed to be floored before we could take off. Men are the gas; women are the brakes.
"I can’t do Friday" meant another woman, one he liked enough to give me a "How about Saturday instead?" And then I’d wonder if that meant Saturday day, or night? And I’d have to say, "Saturday during the day?" To clarify like one of those people who had to fill up every second of her time–because I was one of those people. Because really, if a guy likes you, and you suggest Friday, and he doesn’t respond, "Great, what time?" And instead keeps things very vague with some "plans" bullshit, then he doesn’t like you enough. No one, it seemed, would ever be enough for me. It’s called needy, and it shouldn’t be permitted past the velvet ropes.