Dating vs. Hooking Up – the Millennial Debate!

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.

My Type, Your Type, everywhere a Type Type!

After the somewhat grim tone of my flashback to 7th grade, I figure it may be time to another break for a more general rant. Much like the “She Likes You” Game, it’s time to redefine one of the terms or phrases I may be throwing around a lot. In fact, I already have and I am likely not alone. So, what’s the “type” of woman that I prefer?

This may wax philosophical into how men and women sometimes “rate” each other. Most people seem to utilize a number rating system, where a zero would be Quasimodo, a ten would be [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE MODEL OR ACTOR(ESS)], with a five being the average Joe or Jane Schmoe. During one of my countless insecure moments in college, I posted a picture of myself at HOT OR NOT.COM and at best I was rated “4.7% Hot”, which was right around that average. At other times, people usually throw around adjectives to describe their “type”, and how kind or poor they sound depends on the one giving them. One person’s “fatso” can be another’s “full figured”, and one could claim the same about virtually any body type on any person. Our society places a lot of pressure on physical appearances – more on women than men, but still some pressure on both sexes – although that’s also not the only attractive factor that some can have for others. Mass media from fairy tales to TV shows and films attempt to drill into the heads of women to see “the true heart behind the Beast/nerd/jerk/Batman” as a pop culture moral. I can’t say I have experienced any of this in my personal life, but I am aware that it exists, and there is little in the way of a gender flipped narrative (beyond rare films such as “Shallow Hal”, which still prefers to cast an attractive and lean actress and dress her in a “fat suit” rather than have a full figured female lead). In recent years there has been some more pressure on the physical appearances of men, at least in terms of bulging muscles and hairless bodies (even for men with full beards), but that’s still a fraction of what women get bombarded with.

Having often felt like an alien among my own species, much of what I have learned about the opposite sex beyond my own usually awkward and pitiful interactions has come from “study” of not only media, but others and especially online circles. I’m an avid reader of many Tumblr accounts run by women as well as sites such as “The Mary Sue” and “Jezebel”, which I enjoy due to the topics and writing quality but also to broaden my horizons and fight my own macho perceptions. Unfortunately, attempting to use this data to try to figure out what women like best is impossible, as every woman is different. As a crude generalization, men who are at least six feet tall, physically fit, dashingly handsome, and with access to a good job/pile of cash, their own place and a car tend to be of “catch” quality to most straight, single women. Men, by contrast, seem to segment their “type” of woman into simpler and more crude slots, at times bordering on whatever their fetish is. Some men like blondes, others red heads, or focus on a woman’s chest, or rear end, or so on. Even a woman’s ethnicity can become a fetish to men, unfortunately. In terms of interpersonal relations, the men I seem to hang out with usually expect a woman to tolerate his baggage, but rarely are as patient with hers for long. Yet being more sensitive hasn’t exactly gotten me many dates, either.

When I was younger, I used more crude terms to describe women I fancied same as my peers have. As I have gotten older and attempted to evolve, I have sought to redefine these terms I use, even to myself. Thus, I’d rather say that someone “wasn’t my type” rather than claim them as “fat” or “ugly” or so on. Naturally, one may say this is a result of my own experiences with bullying and peer shaming, although I admit this sort of change within my own acts and words came later than it should have. So what is my ideal type of woman? Often when asked this, my answer sometimes seems wishy washy and it could be in how I describe it. The best way to get to it is to say that I am a “face” man – in that in terms of physical attraction, a woman’s face is what immediately draws me in. I imagine this is a hold over from childhood, since none of us are born in puberty – which is good because reaching it after a decade or so is rough enough! So long as a woman’s face is one that I “like”, the rest to me are details. If am honest, it is possible for a woman to be too lean or too full figured for me, although I would like to think my range is wider than most of my peers. My golden rule is that I don’t expect any woman I am with or attracted to to be a super model until I myself am one. I am intimidated by women who are taller than I am, as I often feel emasculated and shy enough around them. I do believe that faces are unique, to the point that none are the same beyond for some sets of twins, and to this end I feel my type is more flexible and varied. Hell, I even find glasses on a woman attractive – to the point that if I did use a “number system”, glasses would add +1 to appearance same as a sword would add +10 to their damage roll.

Naturally, there is more to a type than physical looks, even if that often is what initially attracts. Again, I feel personalities are varied and I also feel I am open minded. When tasked to come up with a blunt “type”, I often throw up my hands and narrow down my ideal personality types to either “Catwoman” or “Princess Toadstool”. By this I mean I tend to become attracted to women who seem dangerous and impulsive, far more so than I and willing to yank me from my shell, or to those who I feel need to be helped or protected. I do realize that the latter is likely condescending. Ideally I prefer women who are intelligent, experienced at life, and like at least some of the same things that I do. I would add that having a former “flower child” as a mother has caused me to not have any hang ups in terms of a woman’s sexual experience; I don’t get wrapped up in “Madonna/whore” complexes. Considering my own virginity and lack of game, I’d NEED a woman to be more experienced otherwise nothing would ever get done! Yet as I go through life I find that women seem to prefer convicted felons than someone who needs to be led by the hand ’round the bases.

What type would I be to a woman? My blunt, id answer would be, “a loser”, but let’s try to be objective here. I am of average height for a man (5′ 8” – 5′ 9”) and while I am not obese, I am at least 10-15 lbs. overweight for my body mass ratio. I have dark hair, which unfortunately means I can appear like I have a stubble even when I shave until I bleed. I am missing part of a tooth due to my 7th grade misadventures, and I do have a red mole on my face. I’ve been told more than once that my looks were average for a man; no greater or worse than most men out there. Not being tall or fit, or coordinated, are major downsides as is being broke. I do actually have a minor abnormality on my back, which is noticeable to anyone who hugs me, which would immediately kill any physical desire in any partner when they discover it. Having it removed would be a health risk (as doctors’ mistakes are actually the third most common form of death in America) and because this is a cosmetic issue, isn’t covered by insurance and is beyond what I could afford. I suppose I am intelligent, and I like nerdy things, but I am also incredibly shy and have severe esteem issues – to the point that someone could claim I am “passive aggressive” if they were being crude. I always imagined I would be an ideal man for the sort of woman who wanted to use and dominate someone of weaker willpower, yet I haven’t even caught the eye of women who seemed to get off on dominating others. I do possess a sense of humor, which is a classic attractive detail issued by women in magazines and polls, but do this date that’s only landed me in the role of quirky associate or a good friend. Now, I certainly don’t mind being friends with women; there are at least 2-3 who I have been friends with for over a decade and happily so. Yet it becomes difficult to avoid getting bitter when everything you read (by women) claims they like open minded, funny, sensitive men yet they always seem to gravitate towards burly hair gelled types who drink first and question later. Even my most sensitive and open minded male friends are far less tolerant of a woman’s baggage than I am, and far more blunt in their desires.

I sometimes feel that if I were horribly ugly – like “DARKMAN” ugly – I’d at least have pity or fascination going for me, due to that “Beauty and the Beast” narrative I mentioned earlier. Yet as someone who is merely one average face among millions with no wealth, body tone, charm or personality to make up for it, I’m just a face in the crowd, forever alone. A trip to the dentist is better than a date with me, because at least a dentist has a good job and plenty of experience with hands and mouths. I’ve never earned a second date in my entire life, and by this stage in the game I doubt I ever will. I am more than aware that men of my type often mean more drama and baggage than most women care to deal with, and I can’t say that I blame them.

At this point I may as well mention a piece of advice I always disagreed with – asking out women who were NOT my type merely as a confidence or experience building exercise. “Oh, ask out girls you don’t like, that way you won’t be nervous!” Firstly, I would still be nervous, even if I was asking out a mummy that just sat up in the MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. But secondly and more importantly, I consider that to be cruel. Having been used and exploited by others at many times, I try to limit if not negate my acts doing so to others. I feel I am not being genuine asking out a woman who is not my type, to either her or myself. Worse, what if I am her type and our entire interaction was just a ploy for my own benefit? Maybe other men don’t care about that sort of thing, but I do. It isn’t being “open minded” to use someone else just to “get your rocks off” without stress. She’d be better off with a man whose type she is, not one looking for an ego boost.

TL:DR – My type of woman is variable, but depends on the face. The type of guy I am doesn’t cut it for collective womanhood. My mission, as the Dateless-Man, is to try to figure out why, where I went wrong, just for my own intellectual satisfaction. After all, it’s too late to do anything to amend it.

7th Grade of Hell

Despite some of the revelations in my “Origin Sequence” post or even some of the borderline embarrassing segments in my first two adventures involving the opposite sex, this may be the most difficult segment to get into. From all I have learned about psychology and the helping arts as well as in examining my own life, this grade/year was my most pivotal. It would prove to set the tone for the rest of my life, even until now. The person who I was entering that grade wasn’t the person I’d become once it was over, and especially by the time junior high ended and I moved onto high school. It was this grade that, at least in my mind at this time, transformed me into the Dateless-Man (among other things).

To recap, 6th grade offered a drastic change as I went from a fairly intimate and sheltered private school experience to a very alien seeming public school experience a mile away with a completely new cast of classmates. After some initial awkwardness, however, 6th grade wasn’t so bad in the long run. I made a close friend in Russo, a foreign student, and settled into the gist of things at the school. As time went on some of the old distinctions I had at my first school began to emerge; my sense of humor (albeit in “yo mamma” joke competitions) and my creative writing.

All of that changed in 7th grade. The school had two classes for every grade level and one would be assigned to different ones based on…who knows what. So the classes would get jumbled up as one went along which usually meant friends getting separated and class rosters getting mixed around. I wound up in a class in which everyone knew each other but I hardly knew anyone there. I would still see Russo at lunch and after school, and I actually made a few friends from his class through him as time would go on. Throughout the bulk of the school day, and especially during gym classes, I was at the mercy of a bunch of 7th graders who decided that I would be their target for mockery and harassment. The boy at the center of it was named Jon (name changed, slightly), who was no taller than me but far bulkier, and his immediate circle of 4-5 friends, and their outer rim of chums which encompassed virtually the entire class (even some of the girls). I don’t remember any one incident which caused them to target me, nor do I believe there ever was any. Years later, one of my close friends (who is now a cop) would tell stories of how he and boys in that neighborhood used to do things for fun in school, and one of them was tormenting the one poor schmuck in the class who was new, or outcast, for some reason. It described Jon and his crew to a T, as neither one of us knew each other, but they were many and I was one.

In comparison to other examples of bullying, I suppose what I experienced wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t as if they’d beat me to a pulp every day for my lunch money or anything like that. The lion’s share of it was a steady stream of insults, put downs, taunts, and verbal abuse (or threats) from Jon and parroted by the others in his circle towards me. That wasn’t to say it never got physical; it wasn’t uncommon for Jon or one of his friends to “accidentally” bump into me in hallways to and from class, often so hard that I was toppled. I had things thrown at me, an occasional pencil jabbed into my arm or hand, my notes (or notebook) thrown or knocked down, or my pen or pencil stolen from me for an entire class. When I became angered, Jon was often unfazed, content in the knowledge that he and his friends far outnumbered me, and even if I had the stones to challenge him, I would not face fair odds. In addition, Jon and his friends were far more involved in extracurricular activities within the school, and thus were far more well liked within the teaching staff than I was. Attempts to inform a teacher as to what was going on often resulted in no action being done, other than the taunts and ribbing becoming more intense immediately after – because now I was a “wuss”.

Gym class was often the worst. Being the class target in a boy’s locker room was often not fun; at times my pants would be stolen and insults regarding my body (my weight in particular) were merciless to the point that I often wanted to change in a bathroom to try to avoid it. It hadn’t helped that the Catholic private school offered little functional instruction in sports, so I was a kid who couldn’t even dribble a basketball, much less had any athletic ability. Regardless, teachers would naturally force kids to play in teams for drills or whatnot. I was always the last picked, looked at with scorn by many of my own teammates in any particular game, and often the target of cheap shots during the games themselves. After all, there was a perfect excuse to knock someone over, repeatedly, during a basketball or touch football game, right? If I complained, well, I was just a wuss or a crybaby who couldn’t take it, right? So I often didn’t, so it continued.

It didn’t help that a girl from the other 7th grade class and her friend felt content to play the “She Likes You” Game with me during these combined class gym periods. I wasn’t yet as experienced at it so there were moments when  I genuinely thought their taunts about liking me were genuine, even if most of the time I wasn’t fooled. Unfortunately, these were mostly intended to make her hulk of a boyfriend jealous – a tall athletic kid who was almost 6′ tall in 7th grade. There were times when he came the closest to ignoring the plausible deniability of “checking” someone in a game of basketball or volleyball and just decking me outright. I distinctly recall a moment after his girlfriend made one of her taunting “flirts” towards me during a game of “touch football”, he threw the football full force into my skull, missing my temple by about an inch. I lost count of how many gym classes ended with me having a cut lip, or a nose bleed, due to “rough” play.

By this point, my primary defense mechanism had more than manifested itself. Rather than vent outward at trauma, I tend to go inward, burying the feelings in an attempt to deny having them. After all, men are supposed to be tough and feel nothing, shrugging off any pain. The problem is the feelings never go away, they merely become buried. I also was more sensitive than boys at the time were supposed to be; I won’t deny that I sometimes cried after I got home and felt I was alone, which I felt more shame for doing. After all, “real” men don’t cry. I recall one bit in particular during a science class when I was seated, due to rotating arrangements I couldn’t control, at a table with Jon and two of his friends. It was the usual round robin of mockery, insults, threats, and other put downs. I was fighting urges of anger and sorrow and probably burying the urge to cry and Jon chuckles with his mates and says of the matter, “These are the good times.”

My friend Russo (as well as some friends I met through him) were usually the only joy I had anywhere related to school at this time (besides working on the school paper, that is). We would walk to and from school together, and hang out on weekends. We were in different classes but still able to commune at lunch, at least until 8th grade. He was training in karate and I suppose in theory I could have tried to get him involved in my mess, try to gather my friends against Jon and his in some sort of group showdown. However, I didn’t want to involve my best friend in my own struggles and risk him getting hurt in the process – I also was embarrassed about the entire affair, so I often played it down when I was hanging out with him.

I tried my best to hide it from mom, but she eventually figured out what was going on and did try to get the school to intervene. Nothing ever changed, despite one incident where another kid socked me for my lunch one day and gave me a black eye. Near the end of 7th grade I was running with Russo out of class and across a street when one of Jon’s circle of friends tripped me as I was going full speed. I hit the pavement and broke my front tooth in half – a cosmetic injury which remains due to my inability to pay for nonessential surgery. My mother tried to press charges, but I hadn’t seen who’d tripped me and, this being a New York neighborhood, “nobody saw nothing”. As time went on, the perpetrator became an open secret, one the others knew but never told me. I now had to see a mark of my affair on my face, every day.

How did this all end? Did I man up and challenge Jon to a fight? Did the school intervene? No. In the end I chose the coward’s way out, and sunk down to their level. Near the end of 7th grade, Jon and his comrades had decided to give me a break to start mocking one of the outcast girls in the class, and I joined in. My taunts made them laugh, and for the first time I gained their tolerance – at the expense of someone else. Even at the time I felt bad about my actions, but I did it anyway; I turned around and did to someone else what I hated done to me, for no other reason than trying to save myself. By 8th grade, it was actually my knowledge of comic book lore which caused me to become a more vital part of the group, and by and large I was accepted – to the point that I was no longer mocked. By then I’d developed a strange sense of humor, inspired a bit too much by the then current Jim Carrey film, “The Mask”. The tale of a hapless loser who gains a magical mask to get revenge on his tormenters and land the girl was pretty much a fantasy for me. I was dubbed “Spaceman Spiff” by one of my English teachers, after the alter ego of Calvin in “CALVIN & HOBBS”, which at the time was still syndicated in newspapers. Still, I was on the lower rung of the school totem pole. No girl would be seen next to me, and I knew it was best to skip the junior prom – after all, who’d go with me? By this stage, Russo had utilized what I’d shown him about how to act in America to earn himself quite a few girlfriends – either I was an excellent teacher at skills I myself hadn’t mastered, or he was an exceptional student.

By the time it was over, the negative self image imposed upon me by my tormenters had become the default narrative within my own mind. I’d never been bullied before and I didn’t knew classmates could be so cruel for so long in such numbers. Add in the fact that I was mugged that summer as well by other youths in a parking lot, and it was the year I lost my innocence. I define that as a time in someone’s life when they learn first hand that other people are not nice and sometimes will deliberately try to harm you. There’s never any “right” age for this to happen, but usually it is worse if it’s at too young or too old an age. I was always a shy and introverted kid, but the bullying I endured caused this to eclipse to the point where I became a loner, almost a hermit, ill at ease in almost any social setting.

More to the point, it was first hand experience of how I failed to live up to my own idealized image of what a man was, at least as formed by media I absorbed. I was weak; the taunting had caused me to feel sorrow and cry. I was not brave or tough, as I avoided fights at all costs and never fought back when hit, fearing further beatings. I was not charming, as girls around me looked at me with scorn, as something they might find under a shoe. I was not athletic, and above all I wasn’t even just. I wasn’t even man enough to silently take the abuse, I had to sink as low as to use their tactics against an innocent person to gain their tolerance. I never became a bully myself, but there were times I bordered very close as I was stuck sitting alongside nerds even lower on the class pecking order than I during 8th grade lunch. Perhaps to this day I have never forgiven myself for compromising the ideals I claimed I had merely to escape torment I couldn’t bare. And if I wasn’t a man, what was I? Faced with this, it was easy to internalize all of the things said about me for all those months and years. I must be a loser, a coward, fat, ugly, a wuss, etc. if I was treated this way and I reacted in the ways someone who was a fat, ugly, wuss would react. I had a lot of anger towards them in private, and to this day I am glad I in no way had access to the sorts of weapons that too many psychopaths seem to have access to.

Even when  I look back, I can see no easy solutions. Maybe it would have been easier had I simply challenged Jon to a fight and taken my lumps with pride. Maybe it would have been better had I not given in and at least kept my self respect for another grade. And as much as I have tried to bury or move on from those years, my own negative self esteem and poor self image stem directly from this period. My experiences here caused my own unique shyness and awkward introverted nature to become my own worst enemies.

There is an addendum to this. Many years later while I was in college, I actually ran into one of this crew at a house party my friends were throwing. He was not Jon, but one of at least two of his close circle of friends named Tony. I immediately recognized him despite it being many years since 7th grade, and in time he recognized me too. I tried to avoid him, still trying to sort out who I was as a person in those young adult years, and pretend like what’d happened to me was no big deal, that I was a tough guy who had healed. At one point during the party, Tony confirmed who I was and asked if I remembered him. The proper thing to have done was to say, “Yes, and this has been a long time coming,” and decked him full force in the face. But as usual, I always chose the non-violent, cowardly option. Instead I acted as if it was just normal ribbing, even as he made a very half assed, not-terribly-serious attempt at apologizing. I lied and said it wasn’t a big deal; perhaps fearing how pathetic I’d seem if I instead claimed what’d happened in 7th grade was still effecting me as a college man. I never ran into him again, and to this day wonder if I should have played things differently. In the years since he’d grown up into a typical “dude-bro” type who liked drinking, acting macho and mistreating women; a dime a dozen in my neighborhood. I’m confident that he’s not someone who’s still a virgin who spills his guts on blogs.

I can’t think of 7th grade without considering it the worst time of my childhood. Some years would be worse due to various family emergencies or traumas, but in terms of my pre-teen life, nothing was worse or as defining for me. While I still feel that my subsequent misadventures with women bare some venting and examination, or at least reflection, it was this period which has shaped who I am. I try to be mindful of the element of bullying and have worked to become someone who doesn’t mistreat others, even if that did take more years than it should have. I often consider myself a broken, failure of an individual, and it was this period which unfortunately helped cement that feeling about myself. It is terrible to give so much power to a group of immature 12-13 year old boys, but unfortunately nothing else in my personal narrative has ever overridden this. From there on out I became far more cynical, pessimistic, frustrated, and bitter.

It is said that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself. And I don’t. It wasn’t their fault that I reacted to 7th grade in the ways that I did, but the results of it have shaped who I am now, for better or worse. It could have been worse, and I suppose at some point we all have to lose our innocence to the cruelty of the world, and those within it. The only thing to be gained in suffering is to realize how painful it can be and to try to limit, if not completely end, how much of it we inflict on others. I’ve spent much of my life since trying to make up for 7th grade, and a part of me doubts I ever will. A part of me will also hate those boys for the rest of my life, even if I try not to think about it anymore. It was through that fire, that the forge of the Dateless-Man was born.

So, the being which stands before you was formed by bullying, not radioactive rocks or mutant genes. I still think I got gypped in the origin sequence, don’t you?

The 6th Grade Adventure!

Welcome to all new and past followers, likers, and readers of this blog! It feels good to know I am officially not typing into dead space. Hopefully these forays into the past, present, and future adventures of Dateless-Man prove enlightening or at least entertaining. I know I can’t compete with that viral video of a house cat surfing while filing out a basic tax return in shades, but I try my best.

In order to continue along my on hall of shame in terms of relations with the opposite sex, the rule of fairness requires a pause into 6th grade. It was the first grade of junior high, and was a completely new experience for me. For the first time in my young life, I was “the new kid” to a school’s campus and social system. It was roughly a mile distance between my home and this new public school, and a somewhat different neighborhood to boot. I started out taking the bus until I learned I could just walk and pocket the transportation money for my own uses. I was a poor kid and allowance was hardly consistent; if Mom happened to have $5-$20 to give me, she’d give me (if I was good). Aside for that, if I needed money I had to save what I got from birthdays and holidays, sell stuff I didn’t need to a local comic store, recycle bottles & cans, or get creative. Poverty hasn’t changed but I can say it was easier being a poor kid in the 80’s and 90’s than it would be now, with more technology being considered “common” than it was then.

I digress. Simply getting me enrolled into the public school was a pain in a half for mom, and I missed most of my first day of class. As this school was JUST a junior high, as in the building only held grades six through eight, many of the students were in the same boat as I in theory. In practice, many knew each other from the local area, and nobody knew me. I quickly realized that sheer proximity to the same class of people for six years had negated my shyness, and I’d made friends at the private school just by sheer proximity. It wasn’t so easy in the new school, and I spent weeks barely talking to anyone beyond answering a teacher’s question.

Although a public school, it was intended for “gifted” students, even if in practice that just meant everyone was at grade level in reading and math. The private school had been far more strict in terms of homework assignments and the rate of tests, as well as a longer school day. Even as I neared my “tweens” as this period was, I’d realized that I wasn’t terribly tall, athletic, strong, or handsome. The only skills I seemed to have were intelligence and a sense of humor; I was once a class clown after all. Thus I was coming into a new school and I was too shy to be funny, yet I usually always answered my questions right and did well on tests. To boot, for a time I was wearing prescription glasses. I’d become the nerd, almost overnight. And this was long before nerds had any cred in terms of tech skills – which I didn’t have, either. At the very least, uniforms were  a thing of the past, even if the school had a dress code.

The class didn’t have students seated in rows, but in odd circles and islands of tables to encourage…something. Creativity? At any rate, these seating arrangements were assigned and I found myself at a table alongside some other students. One of them was a blond girl, who I’ll call Jane. She immediately struck my fancy in terms of looks and became my second crush, even though her personality was nothing like my original puppy love. She was blunt, liked the larger, tougher boys in the class and usually seemed to look at me with disdain – a look I’d later dub, “The Look of Ick” as I’d eventually get it all the time from girls and women. I tried to be nice to her, make small talk, but most times she never responded or when she did she’d give me curt, blunt answers.

Yet at some point through the semester, this briefly changed. I can’t recall the exact circumstance, but eventually she cottoned on that a lovesick nerd could be a useful thing in a pinch. So she started asking me for the answers on pop quizzes or tests now and again; in exchange she’d treat me like a human being for a short period of time. Looking back now it seems so obvious, but as a 6th grade kid I guess I was just gullible. Did I really think I’d worn her down? Someone won her over with my lame glasses and striped shirts? At any rate, the more I helped Jane with tests and quizzes, the nicer she’d get towards me. Of course, she never let me sit near her or her friends at lunch, and never would agree to walk home from school with me.

About midway into the semester I’d finally made a friend, a foreign student I’ll dub Russo. He actually had to tag along with me and annoy me into becoming friends, but once I accepted him we were best buds for the entire time at junior high. The later grades would get rough and if not for him, I’d have become even worse than I did. We soon began walking home from school together and it was Russo who brought up Jane and the fact that she was using me. By then I’d begun to suspect the obvious but my new friend, who often looked to me to help him assimilate better with America and the neighborhood, had the fresh perspective.

Once I stopped giving Jane test answers, she reverted to her old self. By the end of 6th grade she’d barely look at me. Simple and to the point.

It would be the next grade that would prove the most defining for me, and not in a good way. In fact a post about that may end up being a rant or moan about bullying more than a flashback into my dating life. But it’d have been inaccurate to skip this segment, and so here it is. Everyone may love nerds on superhero teams, but in 90’s junior high it was quite different.

The “She Likes You” Game

Before we get too far into the flashbacks to my previous experiences, I’ll define a term which I may end up using from now on. It is a game which was played on me many times throughout my life, especially as a child and teenager, so much so that I gave it a term. I’ve mentioned it to other people and they never seem to be able to figure out what I mean by it. Hopefully text will prove to be better suited than verbal explanations. I will note as a caveat that I grew up in the mid to late 1980’s to the end of the 1990’s, so it may be possible that it’s not done anymore in most social circles. After all, my childhood and even a chunk of my college life pre-dated things that most younger generations take for granted, such as i0S mobile devices or even sites like MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, or YouTube.

The “She Likes You” Game tended to go like this. Two girls (or young women, although in my experiences this tended to happen mostly in junior high and high school ages) approach some hapless boy who seems to be alone, and likely radiates some unspoken body language of being shy, awkward, and non violent or aggressive. All will be relative strangers to the other. It can include more girls but it usually always requires two. The opening often varies, but the endgame is always the same. One girl usually does most of the talking while the other(s) watch with levels of bemusement or embarrassment. The girl doing the “opening” will ask about personal information out of the boy, such as name, hobbies, age, address, what class he’s in (or school), favorite color, and all around fishing. When asked why, she usually will reply with a variation of the line, “See my friend over there? She likes you.” Sometimes the opening will include this line before the info-fishing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, Dateless-Man, you fool. She/one of them really did like you, and you blew it.” That is what I thought the first time it happened in a public park. The endgame is always the same. Answer all the questions, even get excited about it, and eventually the finale is always the same. One of the girls always admits that it wasn’t true, and they laugh at you. It’s just something some of them did to kill time, see how long the hapless schmuck can be strung along.

I’d have long ago dismissed this as simply one of the random things that happens in life, but it happened at least a half dozen times. In fact, one of the last times was between two cashiers at a grocery story I frequented around 2006-2007 or so. And as I got older, I got better at immediately telling by vocal tone and body language that none of the claims of being “liked” were genuine. And as stated, the girl doing the talking is never the one who “likes” the target; it’s always her friend behind her or off to the side watching somewhere.

Now, I don’t want this description to be misunderstood. Nowhere am I laying blame or hate on an entire gender. I am more than aware of the things that men and boys do to girls and women when they’re “bored” or wanting to “test” some target they consider “hapless” are often far more cruel, violent, and even criminal. And I am also aware that many of those things may be in their minds because our entire society is built around a mangled ideal of masculinity which includes women seeming to exist as the prize or goal for a man. I’ve never denied that my own shame and self loathing over my inability to succeed with dating is a result of this; it simply is what it is. If it were something I could turn off or reset simply with a learned realization of, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid”, I would have long ago done so and been a much happier fella.

At any rate, as I said above, the “She Likes You” Game happened so many times that I became adept at recognizing when I’d become a target. Up until the moment I began typing this, I had dubbed it the “I Like You” Game until I realized seeing it in text that my long held term was misleading. By about the second or third time it happened, I began cutting it off at the introductory phase by giving obviously false names. Having knowledge of comic books often made that very easy. By about the third or forth one, they’d usually get irritated at my inability to go along with the game, and go off to do something else. As I got older and, sadly, more aware of my own transformation into the Dateless-Man (essentially, by junior high and high school), my denials that any random girl would like me (especially at random) often ended the game prematurely as well. I remember one exchange when I was a junior or senior when at least 3-4 girls attempted this game went like this:

“My friend over there likes you.”

“No, she doesn’t.”

“Why not? Don’t you like her?”

“No girl likes me.”

Yes, I used to sometimes say that like it was a magical decree. That I possessed an “Anti-Hormone” that would repel any of the opposite gender. To this day I sometimes joke about it.

I imagine it happened a lot of times because I was alone. While I’ve always had friends, I’ve also been willing to hang out somewhere alone to pass time, whether on campus when I was attending a school or in a public park near an arcade when I was younger. Groups of boys of a particular temperament will pick on another, especially one they don’t know well or at all, if they happen upon him at random. It’s not unreasonable that some girls would do the same in a similar circumstance, albeit in a different way. Our society encourages violence and physical things to boys and manipulation in girls, after all. Lord knows girls can be bullies the same as boys can be, to either those in their own gender or others. Once we start to cover my flashbacks around junior high, the theme of bullying will become more distinct. To offer a prelude, a group of 12-13 year old boys basically wound up controlling how I would view myself for the rest of my life.

At any rate, the “She Likes You” Game often would act to cement the idea that other girls didn’t like me, regardless of whether I’d known them or not. It was hardly the worst thing I had to endure as a kid but it was something that happened enough to me that it left a lasting impression. Considering that my first “Puppy Love” experience below told the tale of how the very first girl I had a crush on essentially pretended to like me back on a dare, I thought this would be a good addendum to that tale.

And it did teach me one thing which I don’t think many men learn easily – that pretending to “like” someone just to make fun of them (or gain anything from them) is mean, and it’s something which should never be done because it hurts. Fortunately, I have never been in a position where someone else liked me and I didn’t notice, because I would hate to put someone through some of the things I had to endure. It is for this reason that I have never followed advice given to me which went along the lines of, “just ask out someone you don’t like/is too fat/is ugly/is not your type to build up your confidence”. I consider that to be cruel manipulation to my own ends, and not something I wish to inflict on other people – even if nobody ever cared about inflicting it on me when I was more vulnerable. If that’s part of “the game”, then it’s a game I don’t want any part of.

Maybe I was the only awkward kid who went through the “She Likes You” Game. I wouldn’t be surprised if boys had their own version that they played on awkward girls. I only have one version of my own experiences to relate, after all. Social media has only made it easier to verbally bully people than it was in my childhood. For all I know this “game” lives on in another form. All I know is that it stunk in the 90’s too.

Puppy Love – the first adventure!

As promised, the first installment of my trip down my hall of failure – or rather, my previous misadventures with the opposite sex to try to figure where I went wrong.

Naturally, I know there is more to it than that, and part of it reaches back to childhood. As a Millennial (or of “Generation Y”), my childhood origins begin in the 1980’s. It was the era of Ronald Reagan, hair metal, He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Inspector Gadget, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cold war paranoia ebbed and flowed, and manly action movies were all the rage featuring one square jawed muscle man with no emotions but tons of catch phrases after the next. I was raised by a single mother who, ironically, had been a “flower child” of the 60’s and 70’s and a very well “liberated” woman who was a major fan of sci-fi. Most trained in classical psychology would blame all of my problems on either her or the lack of a father figure, but I find that both dismissive and simplistic. If I did indeed need a father figure, I imagine I created some sort of ideal male image around what was projected at me by the media. A man was tough but honest, brave but compassionate, patient but whose righteous anger could come when most needed.

Unfortunately, I was never very physically inclined as a kid. I wasn’t good at sports and wasn’t very coordinated. I was never a violent child nor did I pursue it as a means to end conflicts.

Naturally, my earliest memories wouldn’t start until I was about 3-4 years old, as for most people. My mother once related a story about when I was about 1-2 years old on a train once, where she was talking with another parent who had a daughter who was roughly 4-5 at the time. Apparently I  imitated something I’d seen on TV as I took her hand and kissed the front of it, as royals sometimes did in cartoons. Naturally I remember none of this, and it’s just my mother’s hearsay. According to her, I also probably took way too many of those lessons at the end of He-Man or Inspector Gadget episodes to heart as I often would encourage kids not to do something wrong on playgrounds, such as sliding backwards down a slide.

So, it seems even as a toddler, I was a boring drip.

Attempting to find solid day care for me so she could work full time again was quite a challenge for mom. I fell and lost a tooth at one center, which led to a lawsuit and a small settlement years later. At another I was traumatized by some experience involving one of the workers and “a bad doctor”, but to this day I remember none of it. Mother claims the very sight of a “Jack & the Beanstalk” Golden Book would cause me to become hysterical for a year or so after.

My first major foray into the opposite sex came in elementary school. I attended a private Catholic School from kindergarten to 5th grade. Although neither mom and I were Catholic, she chose the school because she thought it would offer a better education than public school, and that I’d likely be bullied at public school as well. Later experience would prove that her concerns were completely true. Perhaps the best thing about that experience is that aside for a new kid now and then, the same class which entered kindergarten any particular year would remain together for every grade after that; everyone knew everyone. The ratio of boys to girls at the school at the time was roughly 2:1. Most of us boys by then were going through Freud’s “latent” stage of psycho-sexual development, picking friends of our gender and thinking the other had “cooties”. To the best of my memory the girls also acted the same way in the earlier grades.

Yet there was one (whose name I will change to “Cynthia”  to protect the innocent) who caught my interest despite this being the time of boys doing boyish things. It was either 2nd or 3rd grade and I forget many of the details, but my crush on her seemed to be an open secret within my class. Her mother and mine talked after school sometimes and eventually they knew it as well. It is very possible in one of the creative writing classes or homework assignments I made envisioned her as some princess to save or something. It is also possible I may have blurted something out in class some day, or just the general feeling the other kids picked up. We did talk sometimes, but I was always quite shy.

At one point, I think it was either 3rd or 4th grade, something different happened. Cynthia suddenly started talking to me a lot, hanging out with me in the schoolyard and even chatting with me at lunch if possible. She was acting very much like a girlfriend, even giving me her phone number and telling me I could call after school sometime. I was on cloud 9, wondering what I’d done to make this come true. Had I been charming? Handsome? Did I impress her at gym somehow?

I was always shy about calling girls on the phone, and after a few days I decided to take her up on her offer to call. Remember, this was long before cellular phones were nearly as common for everyday people to possess, especially kids in elementary school. Anyway, the conversation didn’t go for long until Cynthia dropped a bombshell. She’d been dared by her friends to “pretend” to be my girlfriend for a week, and she’d taken them up on it. She did feel bad about it, which was why she was telling me. I was more surprised and shocked than anything else.

By the time I was reaching 4th and 5th grade, that “latent” phase was starting to break down among my peers, and some were dating. I recall it being an awkward transition for me; I was comfortable remaining within my “tribe” of male friends for various activities, yet there was always  some space for girls I liked, at least from afar. Let me take this moment to note that although I was a goodhearted kid, I was hardly above teasing other people on occasion, even girls I wasn’t as fond of. There was one newer girl at the time who I heartlessly nicknamed “horse-face” a few times. Years later, she really blossomed and when I ran into her during high school a few times, she’d become truly beautiful. By then I’d long regretted those taunts (especially since by junior high I’d been bullied for quite some time) and make a halfhearted attempt to apologize. She claimed to have barely even remembered it at all, and while we didn’t ever interact much she seemed to only have positive memories of sharing a class for a few grades. But now I am skipping  ahead a bit.

After 5th grade, my grades were starting to slip and my mother was no longer able to afford my tuition there, so I would go to a public school for the last three grades of elementary school (often called “junior high”). It was a whole new world for me, going in as a new kid instead of the well known class clown of private school. The Catholic school did experiment and hold some dances (in the gym and church basement) for the kids by the time we were in 4th-5th grade and I usually attended. They were awkward affairs, usually full of bad dancing and hanging out, and some coupling for some. Naturally, Cynthia and I continued to be in the same class and we’d talk now and then as classmates do, and I think a part of me always wondered how true her statements were.

This was only the beginning, and I highly doubt my experience here would factor nearly as much as the trials and tribulations of junior high (7th grade in particular). Still, a first crush is usually some landmark memory for some, and mine ended up being nothing more to me than a childhood prank. I have to admit I did carry a torch for Cynthia longer than some kids probably should have, and even to this day I bare her no ill will at all. Kids are kids. Despite this anticlimax to my first case of “puppy love”, my time at that private school were some of the happiest and most innocent years of my life, despite having to deal with a lot of stern and often bitter nuns as teachers, as well as having religion crammed down my throat. I’ll never forget the priest’s face when I asked him why none of the twelve apostles were women, if Jesus Christ were so perfect. I always considered myself too open minded to believe in religion, instead trying to be a good person despite it.

Hopefully the end to this adventure doesn’t seem too disappointing. Trust me, they mostly go downhill from here.

I am tired of being Jacob Marley!

In Charles Dicken’s 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol”, Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s corrupt business partner who died seven years before the fateful events of the novel. He is the first ghost to visit Scrooge wearing chains which he forged through his own misdeeds and mistakes in life for all of eternity. Despite scaring the wits out of his old friend, he seeks to try to save Scrooge from his fate by trying to scare him into changing his ways, or at least being receptive to the three spirits who are going to do so. I always was fascinated by this segment if only because the idea of a ghost being tormented by chains he forged in life through misdeeds is very close to the Buddhist concept of “karma” which was far more common in the east than it would have been in 19th century England.

(For the record, I am not exactly the biggest fan of “A Christmas Carol”, not merely because I am a curmudgeon myself, but because its’ lessons about the follies of greed, especially around the holidays, have virtually been ignored by society in general for over 150 years. Hell, “A Christmas Carol” itself has become a commercial empire with no end of film and stage versions dedicated to it.)

I bring this up because throughout my life as I interacted with peers and even with younger people, I often sought to inspire them to be better than me, to escape my fate. It is for this reason I used to issue advice I had no right to offer during high school and college to people. I do like to help people, and for a brief time it was even my profession. Yet I always came back to Jacob Marley, that I was becoming a living version of him.

It happened again at my current job, which could have been the turning point for me starting this blog. I’d been at this job for roughly three years, and while I’m not management, through sheer experience I have an unofficial place above most newer workers. One of them, a tall lanky youth in his 20’s, has seemed to take to me as a mentor. He often asks for my advice not only on the job, but often random bits about life and relationships. In so many words he told me he’d “never been in a relationship” and I took that to meaning he was either a virgin as well, or very close. It was an uncomfortable topic for me, but I didn’t want to be rude and as I said, I stubbornly like to help even when it gets me nothing but complications.

My job often employs more men than women by a 2:1 ratio at least, and most of the women employed are senior citizens (or close to it), while the men are usually in their late teens to late 20’s on average (with some notable exceptions). Due to the nature of the work, people come and go, and one new worker is a woman who is roughly in her early-mid-late 20’s who is quite attractive (at least by my standards). I don’t like applying “rating numbers” to women like they’re appliances but I will say that she is full figured with short hair, but still very much “my type” (which is more broad than “blonds” or “LOTR fans”). My usual response towards being in classes or work places with women who were “my type” is to come up with any excuse not to try talking to them unless I have to, because I am too shy and nervous. No, that’s not it. It’s because I expect any attempt at trying to ask them out would be awkward and wrong, and fail, and create tension for her and me. In fairness, such concerns are more appropriate in a workplace than they were in college, or high school. But we’ll get to those stories later.

This young woman has caught the attention of my unintended “apprentice” as well. Now, Dateless-Man works alone; I wasn’t looking for a sidekick. Yet through sheer proximity we would talk and I would have to choose my words carefully to not give away my own secret shame of being a pathetic, dateless virgin. Yet I can recognize that my younger peer is in a similar place I was in at his age, and I’d rather he not share my fate. I’d rather he not be over 30, still a virgin, and be reduced to spilling his guts on a blog because his shame has become too much to bare.

Unfortunately, this has now placed me in the position of giving advice to someone in a similar boat that I was once, including whether or not to make advances towards a coworker I myself am interested in but wouldn’t dare approach in any way besides functional small talk. I have once again become Jacob Marley, trying to spare some poor soul my fate of floating through the afterlife bogged down by chains of shame.

And that’s how I feel as a man, in more ways than relationship experience but related to it. I feel like a phantom with no hope, wrapped in chains I’ve made through my own mistakes, errors, lapses in judgement or just poor luck. Yet I exist to steer others towards better fates, but despite my inability to ignore their pleas it isn’t enough. I get joy when I see a friend or peer succeed where I have not…but also a mourning longing. Is this being selfish?

Being Jacob Marley sucks. I wish I could be free of my chains and live once again. Instead I feel trapped in a world I can see but never touch, as Mr. Freeze once said in an episode of “Batman: the Animated Series”. I don’t know how this situation will turn out and I do wish my unintended “student” better than I, as most teachers do. But is it evil to want something for myself? Just once?

If so, then maybe this very blog can spare some other soul online my fate.