It is possible to be friends with women

You hear it a lot of times from a lot of places; that men and women can’t truly be friends. Much like with many things, if enough people hear it enough times, it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. You especially see or hear of it in any topic regarding dating or the lack thereof; the dreaded “friend zone”. Straight men especially seem to abhor such a term, using it as if they were diagnosing a form of cancer at times. Since I have a limited amount of past experiences with women to recollect, that means this blog will run out of material in a few months if I don’t also use it to address related topics, such as this, and how I feel about them personally.

I mentioned some of my feelings about this back in July in the “Dating vs. Hooking Up” installment, but it’s a topic worth addressing directly. While I will admit that it can be challenging to “just be friends” with a woman that I am attracted to (same as I imagine it is difficult for women to be pals with someone they fancy), I have also been in fully platonic friendships with women in the past and present. In fact, for me that seems to be the ideal path of romance, which my mind processes as normal. You meet someone, you become friends, and then if there is sufficient chemistry or things in common, such as desire, it leads to something more.

A part of it could be due to being raised by an assertive single mother. Another could be absorbing too much morality from comic books and 1980’s cartoons. It could also be due to the fact that I literally cannot imagine a woman being purely attracted to me physically without being impaired to a significant degree due to alcohol or drugs (which for me is a turn off, as I don’t like taking advantage of people). No woman has ever been physically attracted to me as a youth and now that I am getting older it is something that I can’t fathom. To date the only members of the opposite sex who ever commented positively about my physical appearance have been elderly nursing home residents or middle aged housewives in unsatisfying marriages who were not my type at all (even if I were to even entertain the idea of a romance with a woman I knew to be married, which I would not). I’ve received no end of negative comments about my physical looks from girls and women my age throughout my life, or simply have received “The Look of Ick” (which I already defined).  The media likely play a role in this as countless films, cartoons, and so forth introduce the idea that men are attracted by physical looks but women are expected to “look deeper” or are usually presented as the characters more attracted to other traits. In truth of course, what attracts people is unique to them. Therefore, in terms of romance I always figured that my only chance would be to appeal to her personality with my own, somehow. I am a loyal friend, and people seem to remember me after befriending me, even if it’s been years since we’ve seen each other – even when I may have forgotten that particular person myself.

A lot of men, especially men who share my particular shame of being a virgin, sometimes look down on or belittle friendships with women. To them it can seem like a tease. I can understand that and appreciate that, and will admit to times when I did feel that way for brief intervals. However, for most of my life I have not only been content to be friends with a woman, but often feel it has advantages. Chief among them a sense of ease with being more open, honest, and vulnerable with them – especially if it is platonic or if any chance of romance has been abandoned. Also due to media presentation, it isn’t accepted for men to be vulnerable with each other unless it is in the middle of a sporting event or a military adventure, at least without being horribly drunk. For me this is no exception; in previous posts I have said many times how I dislike feeling emotions. I have hated to cry and on the rare occasions when I have, I have done everything in my power to not do so in public, or in the presence of someone I know. To me it is weakness, another reminder of how I do not fit the ideal of an attractive man. Intellectually I may know that is a bit absurd, but emotionally and spiritually that is how I feel. I also do not talk with my male friends about my insecurities or baggage very often. When I do, it is only in brief intervals. I recall one moment when I mentioned my absentee father at a gathering and one of my friends mentioned something to the effect of, “Wow, you never talk about your father.” Men to a degree are in competition with each other or have a sense of it here, even when they’re friends and even if it makes no sense.

My best example and experience with this is in regards to a friend I’ll call Heidi. I met her online around 2001 and we have met personally at least twice since. We bonded due to our shared interests (comic books, mostly) and that has evolved into a deeper friendship. From the beginning, it has been a platonic friendship. I have never been interested in her romantically and vice versa. And that is totally cool, and she is honestly one of the best friends I have ever had. I have told her everything, been as emotionally honest with her as I have ever been with anyone. I tell her things I don’t even tell my mother. While she has other, closer friends, she is also the same way with me, never being shy about telling me something which is bothering her. We talk online every day, even if it may not be much at times because we’ve been friends so long. At heart she is dear and sweet (even if she dislikes those aspects sometimes since it’s often taken advantage of), but we’ve been friends long enough that she isn’t afraid of angering me if she tells me something negative. I literally cannot picture my life without her as a friend. As much of a hopeless malcontent that I am, I would be even worse without her.

I have been friends at various points for various lengths of time with other women, too. I met one in a high school “comic book club” (which in practice was more of an anime appreciation club) who I kept in contact with through the middle of college, even going to parties at her house a few times for Halloween or her birthday. She wasn’t my type and occasionally I did have to defend her to my friends on rare occasions when one of them called her “ugly” in a private conversation. I have even been friends with women who I mentioned (under false names) in previous installments who I was attracted to, such as Sybil, Sonia (who will get her own post someday), Marsha, and Jackie. Facebook makes it easier to reestablish contact, and any I have fallen out of touch with were due to life’s nature of moving about; I’ve lost touch with male friends on occasion, too. I try to avoid feelings of bitterness at least in regards to only being friends with someone I fancy. I would never reveal any of my previous feelings for any of them, especially since most are married or otherwise engaged now. I don’t consider it being “used” for emotional support, but that could also be because in the end, I don’t mind helping people out. I feel more “human” when I have a female friend, like a part of me belongs on this planet.

It is unfortunate that I have never been able to inspire anything deeper with a woman. I am glad that I have never been attractive to a woman who I didn’t fancy, because I would hate to break someone else’s heart or reject someone, since I know how much that can hurt. However, “going along” with a relationship with someone I don’t genuinely like would merely be using them, and no matter how desperate I may have been at times, that was a line I vowed not to cross. There is a difference between “being open minded” or “using” people you assume are “beneath you”. I will admit some lamentation that I have never inspired feelings beyond friendship to any woman I did fancy or get to know for any length of time. Yet that lamentation doesn’t lead me to treat them poorly or want to see any ill befall them. The positive traits I have make me a memorable enough fellow that I am fine with hanging out with or chatting with on occasion, it seems. But in terms of being that guy who is “hot” or encourages fantasies or desires of sexual escapades, that’s a nut I have never cracked, nor have the tools to do so. The friends that I have had that were women have rarely even wanted to give me the obligatory hug and/or peck on the cheek that they give out to other friends (men and women) that they have. Usually the ones that do are merely acquaintances (i.e. the girlfriend or wife or fiance of a pal). It is through this experience that I have learned that what I am seems to be more unique than merely being a “creeper” or something monstrous. I don’t directly repulse every woman I meet, but none of the women I meet or have known would ever even entertain the notion of anything romantic or physical. I’d compare myself to some sort of anthropomorphic mascot or children’s character in that regard, but there’s always someone who is attracted to that sort of thing somewhere (“Oh Alf, your fur is so sexy!”). I apparently possess an “anti-hormone” which may as well be a super power; the ability to eliminate all presence of female sexual desire within a certain radius. Even the most “free spirited” women I have met (i.e. the ones who sleep around as often as guys do or wish they could) may as well have been akin to nuns around me.

Befriending someone of the opposite sex is more than possible, though. Those who claim it can’t be done honestly have some growing up to do, and some impulses to control. And very likely may not be able to sustain many longtime, worthwhile relationships. After all, most of the relationships we have in life are not sexual.

The “Everyone is Doing Better Than You” Party & why I don’t date online

It is time for a break between anecdotes from the past to offer an anecdote from the near present. Atop of it being a general rant, the aim is to set up some subsequent posts in the future. This may be a personal blog, but I do attempt to move along certain themes.

During the time between this past Christmas and before New Year’s Eve came an annual event in my social calendar; the birthday of one of my close friends. Like many of my friends, it’s one I made in high school who has since carried on with me ever since, who was slightly younger than me and just turning thirty (or “dirty thirty” as it seems to be called these days by guys I know). Even in the era before Facebook, his birthdays used to be massive affairs with dozens (sometimes over a hundred) people invited to descend upon a particular bar of choice (at least ever since he turned 21). I’ve joked that such parties usually are so massive and offer such an economic boom to some of the small bars that he chooses, that such bars likely consider his birthday to be akin to their “Black Friday”. As always, I was invited and as always, I attended. This year’s affair was at a different bar (which was within reasonable travel distance for me) and had a slightly lower turn out than the previous year. It was a good thing as the bar was a lot smaller than previous ones chosen.

I don’t drink very often; if I do it usually is in some social setting and I don’t drink very much. That isn’t to say I have never gotten buzzed or drunk in my life; I have several times. However, I don’t usually enjoy it and I try to limit it. Alcoholism runs in the family and I am very much aware of how easy it is for a misanthrope such as myself to become addicted to something; therefore I try to be selective about what I get addicted to. This is usually in stark contrast to my circle of friends, who are all varying degrees of social drunks. They spent years getting wasted at every possible opportunity on weekends or vacations or times away from work. And while some of their shenanigans have lessened with age, their desire to gather and drink socially usually hasn’t. Not even getting higher paying jobs or even significant others have seemed to eliminate their desire to mobilize and get drunk together. I have never enjoyed drinking as an activity unto itself; I don’t like losing control over myself. Naturally, this stark contrast means I didn’t spend as many years trolling bars and clubs as my friends have since college. It also means that I don’t usually see them much; usually once every few months.

It was an odd little bar; there was a fish tank behind the bar and a backyard with a small pond and tree in the rear. Many bars will air sports or movies (usually action or horror) on TV’s or projectors for patrons to watch amid the din of drunken chatter and/or music. This place aired, of all things, a DVD of “Twin Peaks” episodes. It was easily the most hipster bar I’d been to in years, and as usual I only had one drink (which I nursed for a while). As usual, there was nobody who appeared “single” at this establishment. I have rarely seen anyone at the various bars that my friends have chosen who wasn’t a part of a couple or a band of couples. Granted, that is an unfair criticism; were I to encounter any lady I even suspected of being single who was my type, I wouldn’t think of even attempting to “make a move” with my friends nearby. I don’t need witnesses to my failures.

At any rate, I did have as good a time as I could just hanging with my friends and their various associates. Not all of my pals came but a great chunk of them, and their significant others and/or related acquaintances. I showed up about an hour late and naturally by then, the birthday boy was fairly drunk by then. However, it was this moment in time where I seemed to reach a staggering conclusion. As as I looked around the bar and made my rounds (piggy backing other people’s conversations as best I could), I realized that not only were all of them enjoying far better paying and steady jobs than I had, but almost all of them were in a very serious relationship. The birthday boy had just gotten engaged a few weeks prior. Others had been with the same significant other for years, and several were even married. Even another pal, who works in the postal service and who we worried was becoming a hermit, spent most of the night making out with his current girlfriend who I’d never met or even was aware existed. The conclusion I made was that out of our entire circle, I was the poorest and loneliest member of the troupe. It seems every social circle has that one guy on the fringe who is broke, alone, and generally a failure at life, at least compared to the others. That one screw up drug addict or otherwise dysfunctional person. And for this circle, that was me. In high school I tried to act like a wise elder, but in reality all of my friends had leapfrogged me and left me in their dust. All of them had moved out, and I was still living with mom (who is handicapped). All of them had enough disposable income that bar crawls or vacations or cars were no big thing, and for me just an extra fare or two of mass transit was a major expense. And all of them had had their fair share of romances, lovers of the past, while I was one of the eldest in the room, and a virgin. Here all of them were settling down into stable and successful lives with significant others after having sown some wild oats, and I may as well have been back in grade school in comparison.

Despite how that paragraph sounds, I was not envious. I used to be, especially in high school. As a teenager I often would vent some my envy in the form of barbs as part of our teenage bravado. I used to become disgusted at times when I was the third or fifth wheel between my friends and their lovers of the moment at times. There were periods I took them for granted as friends and took some wisecracks too far (even if in terms of banter, they gave as well as they got). It wasn’t until college that I even realized that I was venting envy at my friends, and once I realized that, I realized how little I liked it and how terrible such a thing was. So once my teenage years were over I made active, concerted efforts to not allow a green eyed monster to arise, and relearned how to be happy for them. And that continued into this party a few weeks ago. I was genuinely pleased to see the birthday boy in such a state of happiness and contentment with his fiance; the two make an adorable couple. I was happy that my postal worker friend wasn’t teetering on the brink as we’d feared. They are all a great bunch of pals, and they’ve earned all of the happiness and stable lives they’ve forged for themselves. I merely became aware that despite it all, I seem to exist on a level below them. They work as bankers, postal workers, cops, and hospital workers (mostly), so none of them are rich or anything. I suppose it is easy to note social advantages; all of them came from two parent middle class homes and none of them had to grow up in poverty or serve as caretaker to a mother or grandmother for years of time. But on the other hand, unlike me not all of them went to or graduated college, and those that did had debt which I didn’t.

Among my friends was a lady friend, who I will dub Sonia. She is actually someone I have known for a long, long time; since I was about 18-19 or so (and who is about 2-3 years younger). I haven’t mentioned her before because I honestly don’t know at what point in my time lime of dating failures to list her, as she’s remained a figure in my life for a long time. As a quick summary of foreshadowing, she used to be the roommate and sometime lover of one of my friend’s ex’s and we began to communicate via AIM once I went onto college and became pals. She moves around a lot, either to upstate New York or New Jersey (where she has family) or one of the five boroughs. In fact, one of her dilemmas is she’s rarely had a stable home environment for long. At any rate, I hadn’t communicated to her online or otherwise in almost a year, and not for lack of trying. At some intervals, we could chat almost every day; and at others months could pass between crisis points. However, she was among the cast assembled for the party, and like the others, we chatted for a bit. The guys were busy boozing and the birthday boy’s fiance offered some assistance looking for a better job, although the dilemma with that is the jobs she is privy two have pay schedules on a once a fortnight schedule, and with no savings that would mean going a week without money; as someone with a handicapped mother that is something I cannot endure. Yet it was Sonia who caught me off guard asking about my love life.

Sonia and I had talked about that stuff for years in the past. In fact, it was routine for me to offer her advice or a shoulder to vent to regarding most of her past boyfriends (some of whom were abusive). She is one of few people who knows my deep dark secret of being a virgin, although she didn’t bring that up. What most surprised me about her bringing up my love life is that such a thing is something I rarely talk about in public. I’ve been single so long that my friends usually accept it as my identity. At the moment, it is one of the least of my concerns, as I have been actively working to concentrate on leaving it behind me in the trail of life. Yet here was Sonia bringing it up as if it was no big deal. She suggested OkCupid, one of the biggest online dating sites which I have an account with, but I only sporadically check; she even offered to set up an account for me. The irony is that this is not even the first offer from a pal to essentially play Cyrano de Bergerac for me; I have another chum (a unique fellow with Asberger’s) who I only know online who once offered to create a Match.com account for me. Naturally, I turned down the offer, listing several reasons. Thankfully, the often fluid nature of a bar left this conversation ended.

Online dating will play a hand in my next recollection of my adventures with the opposite sex from college. Therefore, much as with Sonia, I figured it is best to offer some foreshadowing now. Why would I reject having someone else do the work of online dating for me? Pride is one reason, if I am honest; what little ego I have left would be offended to have a friend go through all the trouble I have failed at all my life. The other, however, is that it feels patently dishonest to have someone else reach out to a perspective date on my behalf, pretending to be me, only for such a deception to be revealed or exposed later. Online dating has been offered as a solution to me many times; because I have interest in writing, it is seen as some sort of magical alternative. It isn’t. It isn’t that I fear that women are being dishonest online or that it could all be traps for muggings. It is that no matter the format, I only have myself to work with and I don’t believe that any relationship, even a date, should have a foundation in dishonesty if not lies. The fact of the matter is that I offer little which is appealing in an attractive, potential lover for the women within my vicinity, online or off. I’m neither tall, or handsome, or in spectacular shape, nor have any money to go on dates with, a car to travel in, or my own place to take someone to. While my hobbies lean on the geek side, my lack of funds limits them compared to others. I am not a musician or any kind of artist, the one type of man in NYC who can survive as a mooch and still be considered potentially attractive or successful. Those traits which I do offer, most single women could get out of a good friend or a pet. I cannot even fulfill any satisfaction on a pure physical level, being a virgin who has no idea of what to do. And sure, either I or someone else could spiff up a bio and fudge these details, but that feels wrong to me. It feels wrong to con some poor woman who’s already fended off hundreds of cyber stalkers or rude commentators into some outing with me, only for her to get someone like me with no prospects. After all, this isn’t high school or college anymore, this is real adult, post-30 life. Most women want to settle down, and quickly, not hang around a guy who can’t afford anything who wants to make up for lost time. So the fact that I never know what to say in an online dating greeting is irrelevant; you can’t sell a shoddy product without resorting to outright fraud. If I am unwilling to do such a thing myself, I certainly would not want a friend to do it for me by proxy.

The night ended quickly, and despite it all I did have a pretty good time. Yet at the end I couldn’t shake the feeling of life having passed me by, and me being caught in its’ dust. I am happy for my friends, and seek to be content in what is left of my life. There is a part of me that wonders how life would have been like had I had a successful teenage romance, a college fling, a few lovers worth of experience or some genuine happiness in my adult life beyond a particular comic, film, or cartoon. But then again, there’s a part of me that wonders what it’d be like to fly, or have super powers, or other impossible things. I am no longer envious of my friends, and that is something I am proud of. Yet I cannot shake noticing the gap which exists between me and them, and that such a gap has never been wider.

Dateless-Man versus College: The Lady, the Jock & the Stoner

I’ve been promising this one since November, so it’s time for me to deliver. This is another of my adventures with the opposite sex – or at least my failed attempts at one – from my college years. Between working part time and life issues I was in college almost six years to complete a four year degree, and I went to two schools to do so. This took place at the first community college I went to, a smaller school with students who mostly worked as well and didn’t remain on campus to socialize as much as cliche would expect of college students. This one goes back roughly a decade, towards the end of my tenure at this particular school. I would have been around twenty, give or take. It was an awkward period, transitioning into becoming a legal adult (at least in terms of alcohol consumption) and no longer being a teenager (and putting some distance behind being one beyond months).

Naturally, still being a virgin at this age was probably the most troubling it had been up until that point. It is the tip of the double edged sword that is the “double standard” that exists in terms of dating. That is, a man is expected to pretty much sleep around as much as possible with as many woman as he can, and that only increases his “stud factor”. Yet if a woman does the exact same thing from her perspective – sleep with as many men as she desires to – she’s usually labeled a “slut” or some other insult. It is so engrained in society that even many women encourage it amongst themselves. The downside of that for a man, though, is that if you’re unable to “score” or “get to first base”, then you’re the exact opposite of a stud. You’re a loser, a feeb, something must be wrong with you. In times past when premarital sex was taboo in America, people tended to elope young to counteract that – teenagers marrying was standard up until my generation, really. And in the times since I graduated, there has been some attempt to whittle away at the “double standard” so everyone can enjoy healthy sex if they want it. But that didn’t help me then, nor does it help me now.

It was at this point in time that I was seeking the most advice online as I could as to my “condition”. I was too embarrassed to discuss this with many of my friends (especially male ones), whether online or off. When it did come up, it was acknowledged (I never lied to them about having sex, even if I did fib about having a previous relationship for many years), but I never liked elaborating. I sent many emails to the Playboy Advisor, and was a presence on About.com’s dating forums. I usually proved resistant to most advice attempts, but I was slowly trying to work through it. By this stage, I had actually begun following some advice I considered doable or worthy in terms of trying to get past anxiety with talking to strangers, women in particular. I would try to strike up as many conversations with nearby women as I could, so long as it was appropriate, I felt confident enough to try, and she wasn’t preoccupied. As this was the era before the advent of tablets and iPhones and whatnot, that usually just meant making sure she wasn’t reading a book, on a cell or had a walkman/discman on. The exercise was to continue a conversation until I felt too awkward or nervous to continue and then stop it, hoping to get better at doing it for longer periods every time. As I took public transportation, this gave me an easy environment to try to come up with an icebreaker – i.e. “Bus is never on time”/”Did we just miss it”/etc. Often times I got what I call, “The Look of Ick”, in that a look of disgust which a woman gives a man she has absolutely no interest in wanting to be near. By this point, I’d long gotten used to it, and could recognize it easily. I never pressed when I got it, and never got angry at the woman; any frustration was with myself, or life in general. But there were times where I didn’t get that and naturally some small talk chatter happened. It was rarely anything very profound or long. I remember in some time I had gotten good enough that I had chatted up two women for my entire bus ride home, and one woman at a nearby park who was resting between tennis matches. I never hit on them, never tried to make them uncomfortable; if I sensed that, I’d just cut it off. Just small talk, trying to get used to that. It doesn’t come off well with these posts, but I actually do have a sense of humor; in fact, it is probably my biggest crutch in terms with talking to people. Having it makes small talk easier; the problem is knowing when it is okay to try to flirt, or how to do so. But, now I am getting ahead of myself.

It was at this point in time that I met the titular lady of this adventure. I’ll dub her Melissa. It was my third go at taking Biology and passing with a high enough grade that it would transfer to another school. I was an apt student, but this class required a lab session once a week, which was often too early for me to make on time. As such, the first time I took the class, I had missed too many labs and regardless of acing the tests, I only got a D (as a certain level of attendance was mandatory). The second time around had a similar result (I’d missed too many labs) and I was able to drop the course before it effected my GPA; as it was, that lone D effected it for my entire tenure there (I usually averaged a B+ in classes at that time, if not better). By the third go around I’d finally smartened on to take a Biology class in which the labs were later in the day, and thus easier to make. Since it was the third try at the class, I was familiar with the material and usually knew everything about stuff in the lab once we got past the third week or so. I even recognized the teacher (and he soon recognized me). It was the first day of class and I, as usual, had run a few minutes late in attending. All of the seats were full at the tables and Melissa encouraged me to sit next to her. She immediately seemed familiar, as if we’d shared a class before and simply had never been introduced. One very close friend who I shared this story to had another opinion; that my assumption that we’d been in another class previously or that I recognized her from somewhere before was simply my subconscious mind justifying the fact that an attractive woman had reached out to appease my self image, which is someone of low self esteem and worth. While this estimation is certainly possible, I contend that I rarely forget faces, and I definitely sensed that we’d been in some sort of proximity before. I’d been at the college a while, been to many classes via both courses I passed and courses I dropped out of within the first two weeks for a variety of reasons. It is very probable that we’d been in some class before and simply never spoke to each other before and she recognized me.

At any rate, Melissa was naturally very physically attractive, which would have been one reason why a strapping young man like me wouldn’t have forgotten her face even if I’d only shared a class with her (and 30 other students) for a fortnight. She was a brunette with blue eyes and tanned skin, who was an Italian American from Brooklyn, and had that sort of “attitude” to her as some cliches dictate. She was all about having a good time, which was hardly unusual for young woman in their late teens/early twenties. Another of the “techniques” I was trying to work on for attracting others at this stage, which I mentioned previously, was the “can I walk you to your next class” ploy. Of course, I would genuinely do that, or would take “no” for an answer, but it was naturally a ploy to talk to the woman more and learn more about her, make smalltalk, gauge the chances of success if I ever got the gumption to ask her out. As it turned out, most times this Biology class was her last of the day, and she’d leave campus afterward; she usually accepted my offer to walk her to the front of the campus or to her next class and it became routine.

For about a month, we would chat within class (when we could), before class, and naturally after class for the walk. The more I learned about her, however, the more that I learned that in terms of personality and socioeconomic status, we had little in common. Melissa was very much “daddy’s little girl” insomuch that she lived in a large family home, seemed to have little worry over money despite not working much, and literally considered public transportation as “dirty” and wished to be driven everywhere. While the fact that she was attending a small community college instead of a larger university with a dorm suggested that her family was hardly rich, but Melissa clearly was a few rungs above me. Her car was being repaired and until than, her father or brother would pick her up after class outside of campus. Her major was “liberal arts”, which for a great percentage of college students, is the major which suggests that she didn’t yet know what to do with her life. Now, I don’t list these things as if these are bad, or were in any way a turn off for me. Very few people genuinely know what they want to be even in college, and many of those who do naturally can change their mind due to a variety of factors. I myself am in a very different place than I imagined I’d be a decade ago. And while I figured that Melissa and I were not compatible for a long term relationship, she was still a lot of fun to be around and she seemed ideal for a short term relationship. No, I am not talking about a “one night stand”; I’ve never striven for that, nor do I have anywhere near the appeal or charisma to succeed with such a strategy. I imagined at best we’d date once or twice or so forth and it would likely end quickly, but we could maybe have a good time or as best a time as possible in that meantime. There is a world of middle ground between dating strategies which consist of, “waiting for ‘the one’ to arrive” and “one night stands forever”. I was, and am, totally open for fun, spontaneous short term dating as well as long term dating.

Because of my intelligence and the fact that I’d taken the course in some way more than once, I naturally aced all of the tests and all of the lab assignments now that I was finally caught up. At one point Melissa was frustrated that she wasn’t doing better than she thought she could, so I suggested that we meet up in the college library and study. This was another strategy I’d learned through my online questions – suggesting a “study date” with someone as an excuse to hang out. Melissa accepted and even gave me her number, asking me to give it a call if she was running late. The arranged day and time came; I was to wait at a section of the college where she had another class and then we’d meet up and hit the library. The time came and went, and no Melissa. I did wait a while before giving her cell a call via the payphone, and only got the voicemail. Naturally, at this point when you arrange a meeting with someone you fancy, and they run late, how long you decide to wait when all attempts to call them fail is a factor of how understanding you’re willing to be to circumstances versus how low of an opinion you have of yourself in terms of what you’re willing to put up with. I suppose a reasonable person would have stuck around twenty minutes; perhaps a patient but dignified dude might have pushed it to a half hour or forty minutes, especially for a meeting which was, at least in terms of the pretenses, in no way romantic.

I waited over two hours before slinking off elsewhere. Clearly I was patient to the point of being a doormat, and had little sense of dignity for myself. In Melissa’s defense, the next day she insisted that she “forgot” and/or some other event came up, and she was apologetic. I wasn’t angry with her at all, partly because I fancied her and partly because….to be honest…I expect to be treated this way by women I like. I know any woman who hangs out with me is doing me a favor, so I am willing to put up with a damn lot in exchange. I wouldn’t go out of my way to make a date with me, either.

Still, that month went by and I hadn’t “made a move” as it were. I didn’t reveal directly that I liked her. I never do; that usually just leads to rejection faster. However, it was likely clear indirectly that I had some interest in her, because after this month long period two other figures came into the picture. One was a burly, athletic sort of chap of Slavic descent who seemed to always wear a cap, always wear t-shirts even if it was cold outside, and seemed to very much be a typical Jock type – into sports, working out at the gym, and little else. The other was a lean, gangly dude who also admired wool caps but seemed to have a short beard or stubble and bushy hair underneath, and was clearly a pot-head or Stoner (as in, an addict of marijuana). For a month, no one else in the class seemed to talk to Melissa (besides one or two of the other women); now, both of these new fellows were chatting her up as well. Melissa enjoyed their company, and they seemed to share more of her interests and appeared more aloof than I did, with all of my rigid planning and attempts at quips. Melissa, for one, considered herself a pot-head as well and like many young adults in college, was one to partake in weed now and then socially. I never did, but nor did I look down on any who did. Melissa, naturally, went to the gym sometimes (which was more than I did; I only sporadically worked out at the college weight room at that point) and seemed clearly impressed with the physique of the Jock. It quickly became obvious, especially in the lab sessions when students were more mobile, that Melissa now had what seemed to be three young men vying for her attention.

It came to a head after one class where I completed an exam early and had to wait outside the classroom until the teacher noted that the test time was over and we could continue with another lecture. I was naturally waiting outside the room and before long, by sheer luck, both the Jock and the Stoner had finished up as well. It was one of the first times we were interacting without Melissa present. The Jock was clearly the more assertive of the two and he quickly steered our conversation towards Melissa. And by “steered”, I mean that he began ribbing me about Melissa, trying to get me to admit that I liked her and becoming frustrated when I refused to. The Stoner joined in but it was mostly the Jock’s show. By this point, I was familiar with bullying tactics; I knew that the Jock wanted to see me squirm, and wanted me to admit my affections for Melissa so that he could further use it against me somehow. I refused to give him that answer, and at the time thought I’d successfully utilized my experience and intelligence to outwit him. In reality, I was likely clearly flummoxed and since the entire point was to see me squirm, the Jock got what he wanted. I believe I insisted we were “just friends” and the entire episode lasted about ten or fifteen minutes. There was no threat of violence and I didn’t feel genuinely scared physically, but it became quite clear that a gauntlet had been thrown. The Jock and the Stoner made it clear in no uncertain terms that we were now in a competition for Melissa’s affections.

I’ve never been good at competitions. It stems from not being much of an athlete or very good sports (any sport). I rarely measure up well when compared to other men and when I am, I always come up short. Some people would claim my success in college as proof of the contrary, but school is not a competition for me. Nobody is directly opposing me; my ability to do well on a test or get a good grade on a paper is entirely up to how much time and effort I put into preparing for such things. There are no rivals in my way. I can succeed or fail based on my own desires. But in other matters, such as landing a job, a promotion, or a lover, quite often you will have opposing forces in your way who will be as aggressive as any opposing football player.

It had been a long time since 7th grade, a long time since I was 12 years old and at the mercy of aggressive students who never cut me a break and ganged up on me. I had had years of time to recover from that, build up my defense mechanisms, convince myself that I was a smarter person, a grown up, an experienced sort, compared to then. But then suddenly I was in a hallway, being picked on by a Jock, and even though it was college, I felt like I was 12 years old again. That no matter how old I got or how many smarts I thought I had, nothing I was could ever measure up to guys like that. That sooner or later one of them would turn up and see blood in the water. Guys like that had their fingers on the pulses of what women wanted, at least at the time and age, and I didn’t. All of my awkward planning and ham fisted calculations were no match to pure charisma, looks, or confidence, which I didn’t have. I couldn’t compete with the Jock’s looks or muscles, or the Stoner’s access to drugs. What was the point of trying?

Not long after that, I began to fade into the background of this “love quadrangle” as it’s sometimes called. I still tried to talk to Melissa, but at every turn the Jock and/or the Stoner were there. By this time, Melissa’s car was also fixed and she was able to drive to and from school once more. I distinctly recall a moment where all four of us went to walk her to where she’d parked her car, which was several blocks from campus, and then she drove me back because I still had a class. Yes, the four of us in a car together. It is sounds awkward, that’s only because it was. The Jock and Stoner didn’t rib me much in Melissa’s presence, as they seemed to have little respect for me. Not long after that, I stopped interacting much with Melissa and the others in Biology class. I felt that her choice was clear, and there was no need to prolong the inevitable. Eventually the class ended and we all went our separate ways. I never knew if she actually dated either of them. One day several years later I was outside with one of my friends and Melissa happened to be passing by, and we exchanged a brief greeting before going about our separate ways. My friend was genuinely surprised that I could possibly know such an attractive woman who was unfamiliar to him and our social circle. That’s the sort of guy I am; my own friends express surprise if they see me friendly with any woman they don’t also know.

Looking back, I still can’t quite figure out if I had shared a class or something with Melissa before that fateful meeting in Bio, or if it really was my subconscious justifying it. In fairness to the Jock and the Stoner, it seemed obvious to them that I was interested in her for a month, and after I seemed to fail to “seal the deal” by that stage, they sensed weakness and moved in. While I imagined that had Melissa made that study date I would have attempted to make my interest clearer at that meeting, but there’s no guarantee I would have, either. I was always waiting some sort of magical “moment” or “line” which would work or seemed less awkward to me as I planned it in my head, but said moment or line never came. One could say that if she was really interested, she wouldn’t have broken that meeting; on the other hand, life does happen. Would I have been more willing to compete for her affections if by then I’d learned we were more compatible in terms of personalities and interests? Perhaps, but doubtful. It is entirely possible that Melissa did in fact like me, gave me every opening she imagined possible, and when I didn’t get the signals, she lost interest. As I have said previously, I am the opposite of most men in that I don’t assume that any friendly action on the part of a woman means that she desires me romantically. I simply interpret it as being friendly, at best. Romantic attraction is the last thing I would assume; I literally do not know what it feels like to have a woman my age attracted to me. The best I can do is try to guess from what I see of second hand experience or media.

After this episode, however, my attempts to get myself more used to chatting up woman outside stopped. I had no desire to pursue it, to work on improving upon it. It actually took me years to realize how much this experience rattled me, how much it reminded me of junior high, and how much it sapped the will from me to try to improve upon that aspect of myself. And naturally it made me feel bad to realize that despite all of the defensive walls I put up to toughen myself up, I was so soft inside that one bad experience like this can shatter my attempts at betterment. It showed me that no matter what I did to try to make myself seem more interesting – such as wearing more black leather jackets – I was just repackaging the same old thing. A nerd in a black leather jacket is still a nerd. No matter what campus or setting I found myself in, I was stuck as myself, with what skills I had. And while those skills may have served me well scholastically now that I was actually interested enough to learn again, they were useless with the opposite sex. It was like being asked to build a house with a rubber band, a corkscrew and a rubber chicken – with the best will in the world, the tools just are all wrong for such a task. And that pretty much any other man could show up and outdo me without even trying.

This was not my final adventure with the opposite sex, nor my final adventure regarding them during my college years, even. But it was the last at that first community college and in many ways, the last where any facade that I’d moved on from 7th grade was gone. The same sorts of people who walked all over me then could do so in college, and despite all of my gruff exterior nothing had changed. I could obsess and study and plot and plan, but I could never learn how to be charming or attractive. If anything, I had mastered the art of the exact opposite; repelling anyone I had desire towards. At the time it made me woefully depressed; now I am seeking to entire the acceptance portion of the five stages of the mourning of my love life. To lay bare my experiences, and walk away from them once and for all and be free of their weight.

It is a new year now, and I will soon grow even further past 30. At this point, any expectation of anything close to a normal or satisfying romantic life has long evaporated. Within the next year I hope to finish more adventures from my past, and probably more rants about my life and times. I imagine this episode was more along the lines of what some readers might find interesting – love rivals and all. Unfortunately, my adventures usually end on a somber tone; I am the Dateless-Man, after all.