We’ve all put ourselves there. In some cases you spend many years building up heavy defenses and put up thick walls that are meant to keep people at a certain distance. It can be a challenge to show the inner you to someone and convince yourself that you’ve found a reason to stop looking for something new for a while. I sometimes admire the type of person that is so readily able to openly risk the heavy feelings of dejection and the choking stress associated with relationships.
I suppose my reservations about commitment could be analyzed to mean any number of different things. I think most pointedly I look at people who’s lives have plateaued as a result of their relationships. By their mid twenties they’ve already resigned their lives to embracing boredom and choosing familiarity over excitement. I’m referring to the people my age that choose domestication and isolate themselves under the assumption that that’s the way things go. It depresses me to see people my age doing a redbox movie and a bottle of wine nearly every Friday or Saturday over experiencing an entire world right outside. Let’s be honest, movies aren’t all that great these days anyways, why in the fuck are you spending your precious time and youth filling your head with bullshit movies marketed directly to brain dead idiots just like you.
So I think much of my fear of relationships is that most but not all relationships require me to knowingly removing myself from the world and accept boredom via domestication as a standard. I make no reservations that my lifestyle right now isn’t bursting at the seams with culture, entertainment, and art. But I do get out more and blend with interesting walks of life in new and different places. I don’t lead a mundane existence and I don’t have any intention of slowing down the frequency of those experiences. Part of the journey is enjoying the ride.
This leads me to my most recent debacle of “an almost girlfriend.” That’s correct, I nearly found myself on the precipice of a relationship and I was actually willing to jump but it didn’t go as I’d planned. I met this girl when I was out with some friends a few months ago. I was standing alone at the bar waiting to get the attention of the bartender when she approached the bar and waited to order a drink right beside me. I looked her up and down and started a dialogue. Her name was Daphne. She was an attractive 24 year old with dirty blond hair and eyes that lit up when she laughed. We hit it off and I managed to grab her phone number after we shared a cab back to Arlington. The situation progressed pretty quickly and within a short time she was a very regular part of my weekends. Within a few weeks we were
hanging out for almost the entire weekend start to finish; every weekend. It was a new thing for me but I went with it.
She wasn’t anything like the female version of me (I don’t even want to imagine that). We shared limited similarities but I think we got along because we both complimented each other’s characteristics rather well. She brought out the good things in me and it was working, I was having a great time. After one great Saturday night we came back to my place from being out all evening and the two of us hung out in front of my house for a few moments as I finished my last cigarette. We joked about the random nature of how the day had unfolded and in the midst of the conversation I paused and looked her over a few times.
“I’m thinking about getting out of the game Daphne.” I said like I was an old school international fine arts thief talking about one last big heist.
She laughed, “What does that mean?”
“Well, I’ve been single for six years now and I’m thinking about doing something a little more regular for a while and seeing where it goes. I’ve had enough time to fly solo. Maybe a little change is okay.” I said pacing around flashing glances at her as I continued to pontificate.
She smiled as I went on.
“I’m not saying we have to do anything drastic and become facebook official but I’m thinking maybe we try it on for a bit and see if it fits.” I said jokingly and then I caught her eyes with a smile, “How do you feel about doing the girlfriend-boyfriend thing for a little?”
She looked at me and took a breath then looked off to her left distantly, “I think we should talk about it in the morning when you’re sober.” She said standing up.
I sighed. “Daphne, I’m Irish. I don’t get drunk, I just get honest. I’ll feel the same way in the morning.”
We headed inside and went to bed without saying much more.
After this incident things still remained fun and seemingly normal until she went away for a “girl’s only” beach trip for the weekend. I called her during her trip after I had just finished a day of tubing and boozing. When she picked up the phone all I could hear were idiot bro’s in the background yelling at Daphne to take a shot and get off the phone. “Girls trip” my ass. As you might imagine I wasn’t thrilled about being lied to about the nature of a trip but I let it slide and opted to talk with her when she got back.
Once she returned from her trip, she immediately began acting differently. I’m right about half the time, but that also means I’m wrong the other half. But I had no doubt that Something had obviously happened during the trip causing her to come off apprehensive and awkward around me. When I got politely ignored for an entire week and the weekend I knew something was clearly going on so I asked Daphne to meet me for dinner. We ordered to-go sushi and posted up outside the restaurant while we waited for our food.
“So you can stop acting weird now.” I said flat out, “Ever since that trip you’ve been acting differently, what’s going on with you? It’s obvious something happened at the beach.”
She wasn’t exactly ready for such a direct question and fumbled to find her words for a moment then suddenly came an outpouring of doubt and unease about “dating” anyone along with a laundry list of reservations she had about relationships. I listened and shook my head. Our food was soon ready and when we got back to my place, I continued to press further about the beach trip at which point she admitted she had “kissed” someone. I’m not an idiot, that translates to “I had sex with someone while I was at the beach.” After a long discussion we both agreed to take a week apart and “re-evaluate.” Once again, that’s passive female speak for “I want out and don’t know how to directly tell you it’s over.”
We didn’t talk for a number of days and I was extremely disappointed with the direction things were going as I knew this was a major investment of my time, energy, emotions, etc and it would be coming to an end without any sort of an explanation other than, “it’s not you it’s me.”
I was feeling kind of low when Daphne texted me on Thursday out of the blue and invited me to meet up with her and all of her friends in town visiting from Connecticut. She had invited a total of seven girl friends to come visit her and partake in the 4th of July festivities around the nations Capitol.
They were all at a one of the bars I often frequented. Without much hesitation or thought, I told her I’d be there shortly and I started to get ready. She had talked a lot about how much fun her friends were and I had pictured a wild night of drinking with a large group of interesting people. Granted I didn’t have the most realistic expectations. The foolish side of me imagined me winning the group over and turning my deteriorating situation with Daphne around in the first ten minutes; save the world get the girl kind of thing. There are very few group situations that I don’t blend well with and with almost no exception, I know how to work a room pretty well. But In the back of my mind, I had some doubt. There was a feeling coming on that I might be walking into some sort of trap. Considering Daphne and I hadn’t chatted in a bit and things were seemingly on the outs already; there was a serious chance that these other girls were aware of it and had every intention of exploiting it. Admittedly my nerves peaked as I got out of the cab outside the bar. In reality there was a minimal chance I’d be stepping into a cake-walk. But I was already there and it wasn’t getting any earlier, so I took a breath and walked through the front doors.
This isn’t far off from what I pictured:
I spotted the group of girls sitting at a large table off to the side of the main entrance. Seven girls eyed me with folded arms and blank faces as Daphne and I spotted each other. They were all reasonably attractive ranging from 4’s to solid 7s. I opted to do the meet and greet first before I grabbed a drink. I approached the table with a smile as three of them stood and surrounded me. I introduced myself to three of them in rapid succession and was heading to shake the hand of a fourth girl when I stopped them.
“Hey guys, I’m not that great with names. Why don’t we slow it down a bit and I’ll get everyone’s name as we go. It’s going to be a challenge to remember all seven of you at once.” I said in playful tone.
Faces crinkled up like tin foil. “What’s my name?” blurted out the taller pudgy blonde I had met first.
I rolled my eyes, it looks like we were playing this game, “Kirsten right?” I said a little taken a back by the aggressive manor she had taken despite my good intentions.
“Do you remember my name.” the next girl asked defiantly.
I looked over to see if she was serious and she was. In general I don’t remember names all that well because I went through a span in college where I would meet hundreds of new people every weekend and I realized that I could get by just fine without ever needing to park that name anywhere. It just became an unconscious thing. Granted this has changed some since entering the professional world, but my night-life is no different. I used to get upset with people that took issue with me not remembering their names. If we shared nothing outside of a handshake and a one word utterance, I have absolutely no context to remember you by. And why should I? It’s nothing personal, but if you didn’t take the time to get to know me then why am I going to push myself to memorize another Stephanie, Katie, Sara, or Lauren… sorry, it’s just not that important to me. And trust me the statistics of me remembering you get even lower if you’re a guy lacking a personality that is a friend of a friend visiting for the weekend.
“I believe it was Kara.” I said confused as to what angle these girls were going for.
“Ugh, dumbass.” She blurted out in disgust then glared at Daphne. “It’s Andrea, thanks.” She said taking a bitchy tone.
“What are you drunk?” Said the taller blonde girl.
“What? No?” I said taking exception to being bullied by a bunch of idiots that I didn’t know. But given I wasn’t here for them I played it cool, “I actually had a shot before I came here because I thought I might be walking into this. But I’m just not great with names unless there’s context.”
“Well you look like a douchebag. Maybe you’re not drunk, you’re just a total douchebag.” Said the taller blonde Kirsten, resting a hand on her hip as she waved her half full rocks glass around.
“And what makes you say that?” I asked in a curious tone.
“You just look like one. I mean if you’re not a douche bag then you’re probably a homosexual. You look like a faggot.” She said in a sharp voice.
Now mind you I’ve been here for a little over a minute at this point. At first I wasn’t certain if this was genuine hostility or just a bit of a game; because why in the world would you be so rude to someone whom one of your friends has been having sex with for two months without any type of provocation? But it was clear I had walked into an ambush. These cunts had some sort of agenda and weren’t planning on acting like adults that evening. I considered just walking out but I’ve also overcome far worse set-ups before. This wouldn’t be the first flabby blonde that thought she owned the show to step between me and something I wanted. I have a knack for deflecting and verbally dismantling girls with big mouths and even bigger bellies. It’s somewhat of a specialty of mine, yet this situation was a little more delicate as she was a friend of a girl I’d been seeing and I was still attempting to make a good impression. I had my work cut out for me but I was willing to give it a shot. However considering that I was stone sober, I wouldn’t be in the best state of affairs to verbally tango yet so I opted to hit the bar and re-evaluate.
I politely excused myself to grab a double whiskey-coke and then stepped out to the back patio to burn a cigarette. I wasn’t furious yet, I just needed to think this one through. I sat there running different scenarios over and over in my head while I texted Daphne. No matter how I chose to play the proceeding events, I wouldn’t be walking out looking like the good guy. Daphne ignored my texts and I went on thinking as the last of the ash fell off the end of my cigarette.
I came back and had to go toe to toe with the ole’ frumpy blonde girl again as she approached me with the somebody just farted face when I was only a few feet from the table.
Before she spoke I interjected, “Did I miss something here? I haven’t said anything so far to give you any indication one way or another about what kind of person I am. Are you going to be acting like this all night or are you going to play nice?” I asked in an even tone.
“Well I know that if I saw you in a bar and you walked up to me, I would call you a douchebag to your face.” She said with a smug look of self satisfaction.
“Luckily for me I’m not approaching girls like you in bars. And I’m pretty sure I’d check you on that attitude right after you said something like that to me in bar.” I said smiling back at her.
“Yeah?” She asked looking me up and down.
“Yeah, I’d say something like, who pee’d in your cheerios this morning. Or something even more direct. But seriously, is this about me or is there something else going on that I don’t know about?” I asked stone faced.
“Well I got of a relationship recently but that’s none of your business.” She said looking away.
I laughed, “This makes a little more sense. So every guy looks like a douche bag right now. How about I grab us a shot and we can put that behind us.”
She straightened up and glared at me, “The last person I’d take a shot from is you.”
“Great.” I said, “I’m going to find Daphne. Excuse me.”
I did a lap around the bar and couldn’t find Daphne and when I came back to the table I was looking at six pissed off girls with folded arms once again. One of them pointed at the chair at the head of the table.
I laughed and shook my head, “I’m not sitting there.” I announced, “That chair is on fire as best I can tell. It’s been a pretty tough crowd so far tonight.”
Nobody smiled or laughed as I sat down. A second or two of silence went by as all eyes fixed onto me. As if that was my cue to entertain the group like some type of comedian or traveling puppet master. I only had one puppet at that moment, it’s attached to me at all times, and I was more inclined to shove it straight into this girls ear than sit there for a moment longer. I tried to engage the Andrea girl who had given me attitude about not catching the name she mumbled towards me during our introduction.
I cleared my throat and leaned toward her, “How are you enjoying DC so far, have you guys gotten a chance to see or do anything cool yet despite the hot weather?”
I got a sideways glance then Andrea looked upwards but not at me. “Um, I’ve been here before. Thanks.”
“Okay, I said” laughing at the absurdity of her condescension and blatant rudeness she and the rest of these idiot girls were dripping with.
“Well,” I said shaking my head. “We’re doing a 5k costume beer run on Saturday that should be a lot fun, if you guys are looking for something to do-”
She cut me off mid sentence. “That sounds stupid,” She asserted.
“Well it’s for charity and is actually a lot of fun.” I said playfully as I watched her roll her eyes and shake her head.
I’d had enough, I stood up and found Daphne and took her off to the side.
“What the hell did you tell your friends about me before I got here?” I asked looking at her then back at the rest of the idiot girls who were just perpetually pissed off.
“Nothing? I mean they know about you but that’s it.” She said.
“Daphne, they clearly had something poured in their ears in a majorly negative way before I got her. Are they normally this incredibly reproachful? Why else would they be acting so rude for absolutely no reason? ” I asked trying to keep my frustrations to minimum.
“They just take some getting used to. Let’s sit back down and maybe it’ll get better.” She said encouraging me back over to the table.
The blonde who was so blatantly rude at the start wasn’t at the table so I looked around and asked, “Is everything okay with your friend Kirsten? She was extremely rude to me right out of the gates and I don’t remember saying anything to set her off.”
Andrea jumped on the defensive right away with cunt-like reflexes and snapped at me, “Don’t talk shit about my friends. You don’t even know her.”
It was reminiscent of the immature crap I’ve seen on MTV reality shows and I have no doubt that’s where she learned her social tact and manors. I pulled back and made an effort to apologize then stood up looking at Daphne. “Can you accompany me please. I think I’m ready to head out. Girls, It’s been real it’s been fun, it’s been real fun.”
I got outside the front doors with her and threw my hands up. “What the hell was this Daphne? Why would you bring me out here to be berated by all of your friends? Who does that?”
She shrugged and her eyes widened. “I don’t know. I feel awkward now.”
“You feel awkward?” I asked squinting at her.
“Can you imagine how I must feel being placed in such a toxic situation. There’s not a man alive that could have overcome this type of nonsense. I stuck around because I thought it was going to get better but it clearly hasn’t. I could have been as charming as James Bond (Sean Connery James Bond) and still failed miserably. This was a firing range on a minefield. I’ve never been treated like this in my life. I would never let any of my friends speak to you the way I’ve been tossed around in there tonight. What was the point of all of this?” I asked angered.
“I know. I feel just really awkward for my friends.” She muttered again.
I was exasperated with a range of emotions and chose to leave rather than transition into asshole mode and berate her vapid friends one by one. I said my goodbyes to Daphne and left.
Of course in the cab ride home all of the fancy come-backs, zingers, and deep insecruties-based insults came washing-in. I wished for a time machine so I could go back and sling insults left and right to all of her friends. I’m not talking minor league crap like, “the jerk store called.” I envisioned myself picking apart each of them for the trash they were like seagulls going through a discarded Mcdonald’s bag of french fries. But I had too much pride along with a sense of class to get on their level.
Part of me assumed I was due a phone call with a real apology by the end of that night and it never came. I sent a lengthy accusation that night and a quick text the next morning telling Daphne that this stunt was an atrocious way of getting rid of me and we were done.
The following week I got a call from Daphne asking me to come to dinner; which I accepted with some apprehension. But part of me naively thought it would be an outpouring of regret from Daphne followed by an ask for going back to what we used to have. Yes, I foolishly considered that to be a real possibility.
We engaged in some small talk before I finally just blurted out, “Why did you ask me here? It was pretty evident that we were through.”
She went on to explain that she didn’t want me to think she had asked her friends to act unreasonably rude in an effort to seal the separation. Which the only conclusion I could draw from that was that they were naturally fucking awful people with no class. As we continued our discussion, she began to tear up in the restaurant. I was all out of sympathy that day and even considered walking out but gave her some time to walk me through her thought processes. It wasn’t long before she admitted that she had continued to see the guy from the beach trip who just happened to live near us in Arlington. It was rather obvious that he had come along on the “girls-only beach trip” and given that she had lied to me from that point on- her intentions of ever seeing anything in me beyond a good lay were pretty much cemented.
I had fooled myself on this one. I projected character and personality traits onto to someone who didn’t have any of those things. I took a plain practically blank canvas of a person with no hobbies and minimal intellect, then painted over it in my head with beautiful strokes of vibrant colors of humor, intelligence, charm, wit, etc. But underneath this imagined display of perfection, it was still the same plain person; a nearly empty canvas. I walked her back to her car in a parking garage to get a small bag of things I’d left over at her apartment. And after a few more short words I stepped out into the pouring rain and trudged back to my truck; how cliche. Somewhere a french baby is smoking a cigarette in a black and white photograph.
Sometimes the only thing that makes a terrible experience a little better is knowing that you learned something after it was over. I haven’t figured out where the golden nugget of wisdom sits in all of this. And I’m not sure this was one of those things that you walk away from with a profound lesson. But I can say that everyone gets tangled up in the mess of infatuation, attraction, passion, and even “love.” Maybe we all need to be burned once in a while to remember what it feels like; or maybe it’s a long way to go just to understand “what wrong is before we do right.” Just as it is with all other things in life, sometimes when you take a big chance, you walk away with everything and sometimes you get nothing.