Like clockwork every guy who’s ever had a crush on me comes out of the woodwork every winter. It’s usually around December or February when everyone’s depressed and sick of the snow. I’m usually rather lonely myself during this time, but not desperate enough to agree to a date with any of them. A parade of every guy I’ve ever turned down appears, lined-up to ask me out every year. I’m not even kidding, literally SIX contacted me out of the blue after a year+ of silence in a two-week period. I could even name each one. I was definitely surprised by one of them. He’d deleted me from FaceBook over a year ago when I declined his invitation to dinner. All of a sudden all these men are all, “let’s catch up,” “we should hang out,” and so on. Not once do they consider that they’d be a part of my life by now if I had any interest. Maybe I don’t let them down firmly enough. But maybe they should also catch on that it’s impossible “I’m busy” every single day they suggest a date. Maybe they should realize one makes time for those they want to see. One of them tricked me. He offered to help me out with something I’d posted about on FaceBook. I should’ve known. It’s never without expecting something in return when they’ve had a thing for me in the past. At first I accepted his help. “Really, for free, you’d just help me like that?” The moment I say “Sure,” the “So, how about we catch up this weekend? We could grab a drink or dinner…” happens and I freeze. I had been pretty sure he had a girlfriend, or I wouldn’t have accepted this offer. I’d have seen through it. I look up his FaceBook. I scroll down. “Relationship Status: Single” appears in my line of vision. “SHIT!” I exclaim, in the office. No one seems to notice. They must have broken up. All of a sudden I’ve gotta let him know, “I’m busy…every weekend…and every moment I’m not in my office as well.”
I did it. Lending your favorite book to someone in the middle of your breakup is never a good idea. But, I finally did it. Four years later and I ordered a new copy. I’m onto e-books now, but I still purchased the hardcover version I’d owned. It was sort of this symbolic gesture, I thought. Acknowledging and accepting that I’ll never be getting that book back from him. We haven’t been in contact for nearly four years now, and I prefer to redirect my thoughts to something else if he ever crosses them. So, I haven’t really thought about him in quite some time. Then my phone rang the other night and I didn’t pick up…
No, it wasn’t him. It was just some kind of telemarketer, so I enter the password to my voicemail to delete the message, when I suddenly lose service on the train. My voicemail box has been nearly full for about seven years now. If I don’t delete a newly saved message that comes in, I can’t receive any new messages. I didn’t know who some of my saved messages were from anymore, but I knew there were some I didn’t want to hear. They’re messages that I wish I could add to the box at the bottom of my closet that I never open, but also don’t plan on throwing away entirely. If I hang up in the middle of checking my voicemail, the message gets moved to my saved voice messages, and the only way to delete it is to listen to all the saved messages that come before it.
I take a deep breathe. The first message is from a guy named —- But I’ve dated so many men with that name, I’m not even entirely sure who it is. I figure I’ll feel nostalgic over it at a later time and save it again. Then I start to sort through the rest of the messages, deleting some, and re-saving others. Random friends I’ve missed calls from over the years chime in with 2am drunken rambles, birthday wishes, accidental “I love you, bye” messages, and then my ex’s voice comes on. Did you know there’s such a thing as instant nausea? I imagine it’s like getting punched in the stomach, though I’ve never been hit. It’s sort of like when you see the car crash and you know you’re going to see something upsetting, but you just can’t look away. So, I listened. I made observations about our relationship from his tone and what he said in each message, sort of as an outside observer now.
Then I reached the message that must have happened right after our break-up. He was explaining why he wouldn’t be able to use the internet immediately and begged me not to delete the pictures of us on FaceBook because he liked them and wanted to save them before I did. I wasn’t feeling great by the time I got up to my most recent message. I remembered why I didn’t listen to those messages, open that box in my closest containing mementos from our relationship, and had blocked him and everyone he knew on FaceBook, four years ago. But, this time, listening to his messages, I remembered the break-up more than the relationship. There was more exhaustion than love in his voice in these messages. I was feeling like we’d never been right for each other listening to his messages, yet simultaneously it felt incredibly difficult to hear his voice. In my mind I had revisited the circumstances in which we’d broken up. Who tells someone they love them for the first time while dumping them, anyway?…
On Sunday he told me I was a good writer. I’m not, or at least what he’s read that I’ve written isn’t that great, but it prompted me to reply. So, I asked him what brought him to a dating site. He spoke pretty realistically and on Monday I decided it was time to start exchanging textmessages, which was earlier than usual. He was also a bit taller and a bit younger than I usually prefer, but it didn’t seem sensible to turn down a date because “aw, you missed the cut off by a few inches and years.” (Inches as in height for those of you who read something else.) At one point he made a comment about meeting my cat. “Oh, you’re coming over?” I asked. I told him we’d have to meet elsewhere first so I could make sure that he wasn’t a weirdo, or rather that he was “good-weird” and not “bad-weird.” On Tuesday we settled on a bar at 6:30 that Saturday. On Wednesday we were still chatting, and then he stopped replying. The last thing I’d mentioned could be a deal breaker for some. I didn’t know what to make of it. Eight hours later I tried a “How was your Wednesday?” sort of test. No answer. Thursday came and went without a text. Friday was almost over. I didn’t know what to make of it. He was texting me constantly and now he’d disappeared. Plenty of people have gone ghost on me in the past, so I started to assume this is what was happening. Of course, I wasn’t used to his texting habits, so it was hard to judge and then this conversation happened after a long pause following my first message:
So, we went on the date. (After some excuse about him not responding due to a big project at work.) Honestly, I was more excited about putting myself together for a night out, than I was about meeting him. I wore my usual go-to wintertime first date outfit: My favorite perfect-fitting pair of jeans, a plain black cowl-neck blouse, and boots. I wore the boots that give me an extra couple of inches, with his height in mind. I tried to arrive on time, but still wound up 10 minutes early. I’m always early. He was two minutes late. I didn’t judge. He was kind of cute. I nervously removed my glasses when I saw him wearing his. “I don’t usually wear my glasses, they’re just for distance, and I can see better this way now.” That’s the first thing I said to him. “Okay? Should we sit?” was his reply. “It smells like licorice in here!” This was the next thing I said to him. “It does, but I like licorice, so that’s okay. Do you?” We both like licorice. He seemed really nervous and his hand was slightly shaking as he picked at the corner of the menu on the bar. “So, have you always lived here?” I asked. “No, I actually attended college at…” He unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a t-shirt with the college’s name. I raised my eyebrows, “uh, right, I see…” The bartender probably enjoyed the show. We wound up being two awkwardly quirky people dating as if neither of us had been on a date before. I guess it had been a while for me. He ordered a beer and I had a glass of their happy-hour wine. As cheap as it was, I didn’t mind that he didn’t offer to pay. We talked about religion, our families, where we grew up, trips we’d taken, and my dark humor shone through it all, but he didn’t seem to mind.
We took a walk in search for food. He stumbled over a bicycle resting near the curb. “Are you okay?” I asked. He said nothing. “Did you just trip over a bicycle?” I asked. “Yep,” he replied. “There’s a place over here…” he said while looking at his cellphone. He announced the name and continued to describe it. An image flashed through my mind of the…“intimate” moment I’d shared with someone in the bathroom. “Don’t tell him about the last time you were there,” I made a mental note. “Er…I’ve uhh…I’ve been there.” I said. “How was it?!” he asked. “Don’t tell him what you remember about that place. Don’t tell him about the bathroom encounter,” I repeated in my head. “Uh, it was okay. I saw someone’s band play there once.” He responded with an enthusiastic “Cool!” and I changed the subject. We got some wraps at a falafel place. They were pretty messy. He didn’t offer to pay, but they also weren’t that expensive. Normally this would have sent up a red flag for me, despite claiming I want everything to be equal, but my job had given me a bonus the day before, so in this moment it felt kind of rewarding to be this financially comfortable, and I wasn’t really seeking anyone to treat me to anything. Not that he knew that. “I saw that on your profile it said you prefer to date someone older than you, why is that?” I asked. “I don’t know if they can teach me something exactly, but I feel like they’re more experienced. I don’t really like women my age. Most of them aren’t looking for the same things as me and they’re kind of immature.” His leg was bouncing up and down on the bar stool. “Do you have to pee, are you nervous, or do you just do that sometimes?” I asked. He said it was just sort of a nervous tic and he was a bit nervous. I admitted to doing it occasionally as well. He asked if I wanted to head to another bar. It was still early, so I decided to let the night continue. He scrolled through bar options on his cellphone. “You know, you’re just going to find a bunch of bars, we’re never going to settle on one, and then we’re just going to walk around and find one anyway, so-” He put his phone in his pocket and said “I was just thinking that.” I pointed out that he had something stuck in his teeth and helped verbally guide him to where it was. Then we were off.
We eventually wound up going to a bar in the area at my suggestion when I realized we were close. I hadn’t been there in years. It looked different than I remembered, but it also could have been that I was sober at that point. Walking there, I asked “do you smoke?” “I have a pipe, you wanna see it? I took a picture of it!” He replied while pulling out his cellphone. I glanced down at the glass octopus tentacle-shaped pipe. “Wow, it’s octopussy,” I replied, then quickly frowned thinking, “Did I just say ‘pussy’?” This time he offered to buy me a belated birthday drink, but I declined again. We had two more drinks each. We talked about drug trips, previous relationships, the concept of marriage, being losers in school, the recent surge in crime and how he knew someone who could get me pepper spray. When I returned from a trip to the bathroom I asked him how many people he’d slept with. “That’s what you were thinking about in the bathroom?!” he responded, confused. “No, I was just wondering,” I clarified. His number was significantly less than mine. He uncomfortably stated, “I don’t really want to know your number, but I feel obligated to ask.” I gave him a range. “So, you know the exact number just like that?” I pointed out. “Yeah…” he replied hesitantly. “It is a kind of a low number,” I admitted. Suddenly he became a bit defensive about how he chooses not to just sleep with anyone. “I didn’t mean it like that! I think it’s by choice. I was just pointing out that it is less than what I usually hear from a guy,” I explained. He nodded. When it was close to midnight he said he was going to get going. “Okay. I was going to invite you to my place, but I don’t mean to hook up or anything,” I said. “Yes,” he replied, rather quickly. “Are you sure? You realize I live really far from your place, right? It’s cool if you stay over, but I’m not inviting you for anything sexual,” I warned him. “You’ve made that very clear, you’re not attracted to me, I get it. That’s okay,” he said, defeated. I shouted back in his ear over the music and chatter of the bar, “No, I mean I don’t mind you staying over because it’s late and you live far. I think you’re cute and all, but I don’t want to hook up or anything because I only just met you and I wasn’t lying earlier when I mentioned I had my period.” Because you know, this is all first date talk, right? Though I have a history of bringing dates home just for sleeping.
So, we boarded the train to my place. I ducked under two men kissing in front of an open seat, “Excuse me.” He awkwardly held a pole over the seats opposite me. I shrugged, “There was a seat.” Eventually the seat next to me became available and he joined me. We arrived at my apartment and it was quiet. It suddenly felt a bit claustrophobic to me, like there was too much attention drawn to each other, away from the distracting hustle and bustle of the bars and trains. I attempted to offer him pajama pants, but we were very different sizes. He tried to climb into my bed with his jeans until I’d repeated a third time that I really didn’t mind if he took them off to sleep. Suddenly he was nervous again. “I just want to warn you I will wake up with really bad bed head,” he turned to me. “That’s fine,” I replied confused. Did he not think my hair got messy when I slept? This was the first man I’d met who had shown worry over sleeping on his hair. He asked if he could wash his hair in the morning to fix it. I told him whatever he needed was fine, and added that I had an extra toothbrush. Suddenly I started laughing, “Not that the toothbrush is for your hair. I just meant that you could also have a toothbrush.” He joked along, “Some toothpaste as hair gel.” I started cracking up, “I just pictured you coming to tell me you’d just used up ALL of my toothpaste tomorrow morning, and I’m just liked ‘that’s…okay…’ and I just replaced the tube, too!” He laughed at the picture I’d painted.
We continued to talk and laugh and almost watched a movie but I quickly turned it off when the characters sounded exactly like a conversation I’d had with him earlier. “But, it’s us! I want to hear our story and find out what happens, let’s keep watching it!” he protested. “It’s creepy, no!” My vote won. Around 3am we got to sleep. That morning I heard him running the water in the bathtub. He came out asking me for a towel for his hair. “I just don’t want to spend the whole day looking like Ace Ventura,” he explained, pointing to his hair. I smiled, “It does look EXACTLY like his hair.” He went home shortly after that. -After he offered to cook me something (he cooks!), and give me a massage (he took Swedish Massage classes!) “Are you a hugger?” he asked. “No, not really,” I answered, and then hugged him goodbye anyway. He was all smiley like he liked me. He told me he felt a lot closer to me. I brushed it off. He was sweet, but the entire night he’d repeated the sentence, “Isn’t it nice we also have _____ in common?” Like he was pushing too hard for us to be some perfect match. I had to push back that I wasn’t looking for someone identical to me. It’s differences that compliment one another that make a good match. I don’t want to say he was “too nice.” I don’t want to say it because I know how stupid it sounds, but I felt it. I wanted him to have a tougher side to him that I just didn’t see. When I admitted a certain fantasy/fetish-thing I had, he was too freaked out by it. Okay, it’s not that common, but it’s also not that uncommon and I’ve met plenty of people who brush it off like it’s nothing, which I’d prefer. He even brought it up in a textmessage to me that afternoon, after leaving my place. It was about how he didn’t think we’d be a good match just because of what I like to picture during sexual scenarios. I have a feeling he’s one of those “let’s just make love” kind of people. That’s all nice and everything, and sometimes that’s great, but there are times when one hopes for something a little more uninhibited and so I found myself shooting some pretty sexually explicit messages to my far-away-crush shortly after my date ended. The weird part was that it felt like cheating. I’d only just met this date, my crush is thousands of miles away, and yet I couldn’t help but feel like what I was doing was wrong…Of course, it hasn’t stopped me.
You can’t tell a guy you’ve never received a “dick pic” without that smirk appearing on his face. I went out for a drink with my coworkers the other night which turned into drinks, shots, and would-be-extremely-office-inappropriate-conversation. It wasn’t even a Friday night but it wound up being the latest we’d stayed out with each other since any of us had started at the company. This is one of those “let’s grab a happy hour drink after work” gatherings that take place a minute after 5pm, before you’ve had any time for dinner. We’re getting better and realizing we should order a pizza to our usual bar, but that thought hadn’t occurred to us yet the other night. I’m starting to like that we have a usual bar and a usual group. It’s a crappy bar. The drinks aren’t all that cheap, the glasses aren’t cleaned well, and the bathroom’s basically on the other side of the planet, but it’s growing on me. We’ve got a usual group, a usual bar, and even a usual waitress and usual booth –Isn’t that what every sitcom lover has always hoped to have?
But this night we all got a little too personal. The morning after was one at the office where not one of us could make eye contact with the other. Maybe it was the brutally honest round of “who would you do at the office?” that pushed it too far. The first drink arrived and I had my nose in my phone, fingers rapidly tapping against the screen. I threw it in my bag with a smile and announced “Sorry, it’s morning on the other side of the world.” The girls chimed in, “Well, you were talking to someone you’re into because you’re smiling.” I couldn’t deny it, but what does one make of a crush on someone you’ll likely only meet twice, briefly, in your lifetime. “Yeah but this-” I pretended to type textmessages on my phone- “is really the extent of our ‘relationship’ –I don’t even know how to react when he sends these sexy kind of pictures when he’s in bed with his shirt off and whatever. I’m over here all ‘hey uhh here I am bundled up in my winter coat.’” They giggled, “Well, you just gotta send one of those pics back!” I glance at the one guy at the table before the others arrived. He was squirming around in his seat. “We’re making him uncomfortable with our girl talk!” He laughed and took a long sip of his beer. I passed around a picture of my crush. Yeah, that’s right, I wanted them to know who *I* was capable of attracting. I actually appreciated that one girl sounded a bit surprised when she exclaimed, “wow, he’s pretty hot!” I flashed the phone at my male coworker, explaining that I didn’t want him to feel left out. He shrugged, “yep, a guy.” “Well, I was out when he sent me one picture in bed,” I continued my story, “but he asked me to send him a picture while I was at the office. So I did. I actually went in the bathroom because I didn’t want anyone to see me taking a picture of myself at my desk.” They giggled and asked if I’d taken nudes in the bathroom. I hadn’t.
The rest of the group showed up. We explained how uncomfortable we seemed to have been making our coworker when there wasn’t much testosterone around the table and they wanted to be filled in. My coworker started, “Well, if a guy sends a girl a sexy picture, how should she respond?” “Send one back!” both guys replied simultaneously. “And if they’re at work?” she continued. “Go in the bathroom” they agreed. “That’s what she did!” my coworker announced, pointing to me. Their surprised expressions were priceless as they stood up, jaw dropped open, demanding I hi-five them. I insisted I hadn’t been nude in the office bathroom, but of course they weren’t about to drop that idea. The conversation inevitably moved to the topic of dick pics, and how I never received one. “Dick pics” remained the recurring topic of the night. It circled back when a couple of the guys decided to text another coworker asking to send dick pics –from my cellphone. Luckily, I caught it before too much time passed and was able to explain the joke.
The buzz from my third glass of wine on an empty stomach was strong. Cellphone in hand, I couldn’t resist the urge to drunk-dial. I messaged my far-away-crush while the room seemed to be spinning and the chatter of dick pics hadn’t ceased. The next day he responded with a laugh. Only then had I remembered I’d messaged him before passing out in my bed. I scrolled up to reread my jumbled rant about how I’d never received a dick pic and I didn’t want one, but I did want one of him in his underwear. I thought, “aw what an innocent version of that request.” But, I’d followed it by some sort of, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” A few days passed and one morning I awoke to a new picture message. It was my far-away-crush in his underwear. Request honored! Shortly after this message I remembered my part of the deal…But, I was running late to work so I sent an “IOU” message and let it be. I’d never sent this sort of picture before with the paranoia of where it might end up, and because it had never been too difficult to arrange an in-person-meeting posed this way. If there ever was a time photos like these were appropriate, this was definitely the type of “relationship” that called for them. My mind raced- “I don’t actually have to follow through, but I kind of want to because I’ve never done that. If I’m just in my underwear it’s really not that different from a picture in my bathing suit at the beach. But it is different if I’m not at the beach. I can’t have my face or anything in my bedroom in the picture so no one will ever be able to tie it back to me. I should probably shave. What kind of underwear should I wear? What was I wearing that night I was with him? It can’t be the same or he’ll think that’s all I wear. It shouldn’t look too posed, it should look realistic, but it should look good.”
All those questions considered, I took the picture –or rather I chose the picture that came out the best- and clicked “send.” It was only minutes if not seconds, but such a simple and small action had felt like such a rush for me. I nervously awaited his reply, phone in hand. I’m now convinced guys always see your message right away, but they don’t always respond right away –unless your message is a picture of you with clothing removed. So, after this week, our messages have evolved to include occasional nearly-nude picture messages, and for the first time I’ve joined the rest of the world in becoming extremely paranoid about whose hands my cellphone falls into.
So, here’s another weekend bitterly single and replying to messages of those I’m not interested in on dating sites…