We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled adventures into my juvenile past soon enough. Unlike the narrators from “THE WONDER YEARS” or “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER”, I don’t recall every instance which happened in my life in robotic detail nor do I have enough such moments to fill seven plus seasons of network TV. If I had, I’d have already sold it to a network, gotten rich and then no longer would have been the Dateless-Man. Besides, as the narrative shifts from junior high to high school, this will be a good segue into it.
This is a dynamic and a debate that’s as old as time, and has been a part of humanity since, well, humanity became civilized. When one or two people find each other attractive, there are usually two major choices afforded with them in how to proceed in a socially accepted way. The most common is “the date”. One party – usually the man/boy, although not always – asks the other (usually but not always the girl/woman) out for an activity to be shared together. The most common is something with as little stress as possible – a cup of coffee, or the malt shop, dinner & a movie, etc. Sometimes it may be more unique, such as a hike or a concert, or so on. They set a date, get dressed up, one party (usually the man) pays for everything, and then at the end of the date numbers are either exchanged and a second date planned (or the first date continues into more sexual avenues), or not.
The other is more simple and more often a result of mutual lust and usually a more intimate setting, such as a party. There’s no set date of meeting, no dressing up, just a mutual attraction (usually but not always nudged along by drugs or alcohol, or even peer pressure). The couple cuts to the chase as it were, starts to make out, hug, and perhaps more. Dubbed “hooking up”, it too has naturally been around forever. One might argue it’s far more primal than a date at a drive in was. However, previous eras were more obsessed with female virginity and male ownership of women so more formal dates were established as the norm. The Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers, aside for the “sexual revolution” era, were more the dating kind. Millennials are said to be more for “hooking up”. As someone born just after the “Generation X” period and at the start of the “Millennial” era, I often feel that I was at a generational crossroads between two eras. Hair metal, 8-tracks and basic cable soon led the way to fast speed Internet, high powered video game systems and endless entertainment at the click of a button. Things work in cycles and as the 21st century dawned, “dating” seemed more old fashioned and “hooking up” was more common, or at least more socially accepted.
Can you guess which type I preferred? I was definitely more expecting of dating. This naturally presented a problem as I could almost never work up the gumption to ask a girl or woman out. I still can’t. Just that simple eye contact, smile, walking over and introducing myself is almost impossible for me to do. And then what? I don’t like coffee, I don’t have a car and I’m usually too broke to pay for too many dates. Such things were coming to an end in high school as texting was becoming all the rage as cell phones became more available. Hell, I’d never owned a cell phone until last year! That isn’t to say that I’ve never gone on dates, of course. I must say that I did enjoy all of them, although obviously I can’t say the same for the ladies I was with, as they never wanted a second one. Regardless, I always felt more human when I was on one, even when all we did was eat dinner and talk. I felt a connection potential, and of course it made me feel like not so much of a freak, a loser, a monster for just a little while. It’s a format that I am accustomed to, which became more old fashioned towards the end of high school and into college.
“Hooking up” can seem more common in high school and college, but it’s far more accepted now than it would have been during the 50’s. In fact, when I was still in college I soon realized that some of my friends had rarely been on any actual dates, but they’d hooked up several times. It’s something I cannot understand on any conceptual level. I imagine that’s for a very fundamental reason; for me, attraction and lust have always been one sided affairs. I have never been in a situation where anyone from the opposite sex who was within my age range who I liked had that “chemistry” for me. I don’t know what it feels like, and trying to imagine what it must be like feels like trying to imagine what it’d be like to fly – something left to the realm of fiction and the impossible. Therefore, “hooking up” is something I cannot even fathom; another woman just meeting me and literally being so infatuated and turned on that she wants to cut to the chase and make out with me? ME!? It’s beyond comprehension for me, as improbable as turning lead into gold via spontaneous combustion. Which wouldn’t bother me accept I’ve seen it happen for friends, strangers, and acquaintances. I’ve literally been a third wheel between flirtations between a friend and someone else and had to knowingly step aside to not complicate things.
I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not a man who believes women “owe” me anything. They don’t. Nobody owes me anything besides a boss after I have worked hours fairly for him or her. Nor do I merely see a “date” has something I have to endure to get to “the good stuff”. I actually like dating! I like meeting up with someone, I like sharing a meal or a movie or another experience. I like finding out more about someone with conversation, especially a woman I fancy. It feels natural and I always enjoy myself doing it. I imagine one dilemma is that I have never mastered the subtle shift from small talk to flirtation. Usually when I am trying to flirt I simply try to be funny, to make the woman laugh a lot. This would seem useful, although in reality my sense of humor is really my only tool with most interaction which is beyond functionary. In essence, I am a one trick pony. And at the same time, I am usually so eager to make a good first impression without doing anything edgy, embarrassing, or awkward that I likely come off as boring or stiff. That said, even though I’ve never gotten a second date, I have never regretted any first date. Quite the contrary; they exist as rare memories where for a short period of time, I was like everyone else, just once. I wasn’t some alien trapped in a world I can’t understand, not some reject who seems to have lost before any contest has ever begun. I’m just being a guy with a shot, like everyone else. That’s precious to me in a way which I don’t think I can properly describe. Never getting a second date with any particular woman was always disappointing, but I harbored no anger or resentment towards them individually. I mean, I’m a stiff, boring, neurotic mess with only one trick and nothing else to offer romantically. I certainly can’t blame them for never wanting to waste any more of their time with me. Frankly, I just appreciated the one chance. It’s just a shame I’ve had so few of them.
“Hook ups” tend to happen at places like parties or clubs or bars or similar venues. I rarely attended such things over the course of my adult life and I actually don’t like those places. I never feel comfortable, or at ease – or at least I feel even more uneasy and uncomfortable there than I do most places. I’ve never done drugs and I don’t enjoy getting drunk and losing control of myself. I also refuse to take advantage of any woman who is in an intoxicated state, as I feel such things are morally reprehensible. Unfortunately, once you grow up and leave high school or college, it becomes very hard to be exposed to a steady steam of new people to meet or date, and I hardly took advantage of all those years in high school or college either! I am not a robot, I’m not devoid of sexual desire, infatuation or lust; it just is always one sided, unfulfilled and ultimately frustrating. And it seems wanting to meet a woman who genuinely liked me, who didn’t need to be plied with alcohol, who had the same feelings for me that I had for her at the same moment of time…was asking too much of what piddly skills and traits I had.
So, in the debate between dating vs. hooking up, I prefer dating. I am not opposed to hooking up, but only under mutually consenting circumstances. Not being handsome or charming or fit or tall, I imagine that my best shot is to try to convince my way into their heart, which favors classical dating. Hooking up, either at a party or using technology like apps or one night stands, just seems impossible for me. I cannot imagine any woman who is anywhere near “my type” having that sort of immediate, explosive, “Oh my god I need to tear his shirt off” passion for me unless I am literally the first man she has ever met. And even if that did happen, I do have a deformity on my back which is an instant passion killer even on top to having the abs of a bowl of jello. I don’t have regrets towards womankind for this lack of success; only myself for failing to have anything to offer, and existing in a society where nothing I am or have is good enough – a society essentially run and controlled by the same sort of men who would have bullied me as children in junior high.
The next state in my adventures through the shadows of my past is high school, where the juxtaposition between dating and hooking up was playing out before my puberty laden eyes! Awkward for me, but hopefully readable for everyone else.