I couldn’t fake it, and I never made it

One bit of advice, both for dating and general confidence boosting, which is offered by many reasonable or wise experts (both online and off) as well as many sleazy Pick-Up-Artist types is “fake it ’till you make it”. Essentially, if you don’t have genuine confidence or experience, to act like you do and dive into those scary realms of dating until you “master” enough of it that the act can eventually fall away like training wheels, or you become the act itself. It works for some people – one of my close friends told me point blank in high school that it was what he was doing – but it never worked for me. And I don’t say that because of some sort of sagely self awareness I gained meditating on a mountain somewhere. I say this because for what I could arguably say was almost half my life, I did make an attempt to bolster my own experience and confidence with stories and “legends” about myself which were 100% grade A baloney.

I can’t testify what it is like growing up in a state outside of New York, or a country other than the U.S., or even a time period which wasn’t the 1980’s and 1990’s. I can only speak from my own experiences in this matter, at least with the most accuracy. And at the time, gender roles which were spread through the media, society, and to a degree many of the people around me (even my mother at times) were that there were only so many ways for a “real man” to prove himself as one. One was finances/wealth/a career, but as a kid and teenager that was beyond me; I knew I was poor from an early age but I didn’t start becoming more self conscious about it until junior high and high school (where it became more clear that I was nowhere near middle class or upper class). Another is looks and charm, which I also didn’t have. At no point in my childhood did anyone consider me cute or handsome unless they were a relative or some elderly person. The third is through physical means, either through athletics or violence, which links (at least in my mind) to being tough, brave, and tenacious. This isn’t to say that there aren’t far more regressive and dangerous gender “norms” which exist for girls and women even now, much less in the 80’s and 90’s, but to a degree there is some minor choice in that a girl can either be passive or aggressive. Being a “tomboy” isn’t the ideal, but it is more socially accepted than a man who is cowardly, passive, or weak.

In elementary school I was probably the most fearless and confident that I ever was, based on little more than ignorance and being sheltered. My social circle was small, my single mom was very protective, and I’d gained acceptance from my peers at school based heavily on sheer proximity over years from impressionable ages (from kindergarten to fifth grade, or roughly ages 5-11). Moving to a new school for 6th grade was a shock for me, as I have chronicled elsewhere. But with it came opportunity to try to alter my own past, in my own mind. After all, nobody could prove I was lying if they weren’t there, right? So as I entered a new school and was forced to gain acceptance for really the first time in my life, I built a facade which was comprised of, if I am honest, an idealized version of my own past to tell others, and to try my best to live up to.

So, in my own account of my own past, my first “puppy love” incident ended in a much better way with Cynthia supposedly being my first girlfriend. While I was not a braggart, I would imply to friends on occasion that I’d been more of a “bad ass” in my last school than I was there (which was somewhat true, as I was the class clown). It was a presence I tried to build from within myself based on nothing more than fiction, lies I told myself. Naturally, any kid knows that the worst problem with lies is remembering the details, because one slip and you’re exposed. I still attempted to keep this up a little even during the bullying of 7th grade. Perhaps that is why it was so demoralizing and pivotal a time for me; not only was I dealing with being plagued and bullied by virtually an entire class of peers, but I was being hit with my own logical fallacy. It’s easier to try to puff yourself up with embellished (at best) memories of your own life during easy times. But when times are hard, it becomes almost impossible. How can I convince myself that I am some “bad ass” when I am getting my rear end kicked in gym, or someone breaks my tooth, or I get socked in the eye, or even the entire affair in general. Never once did I challenge the main bully (Jon) to a fight, even though the impression one would have gotten from my own “legends” was that would have been my first recourse. I was too scared and embarrassed to do so, and hardly being proud of myself for feeling so. And when the only times you have any interaction with girls is when they’re dishing out the “she likes you game“, it is hard to buy one’s own tale of a former elementary school love. When I finally was accepted (sort of) in 8th grade, it was hard to feel very confident about it, even if I acted as if the bullying was no big deal, that I’d endured it bravely rather than merely proving to them that I could tease someone else if dared to or be available for convenient comic book knowledge.

I continued to do this in high school – try to fluff up my own past accounts of my own life to myself, and eventually to others. By now I was a teenager, hormones were kicking up, and the pressure to live up to that ideal of what a guy is supposed to be were never higher. Naturally, nobody wants to admit they’re inexperienced around women as a teenager, so naturally my own “narrative” of my “puppy love” would change to seem like it lasted longer; now it stretched into junior high. I have a minor scar on my face from a chance incident as an infant which I couldn’t remember, but naturally to make myself seem more “bad ass” and “dangerous” I’d concocted an entire “origin” for it that involving getting it during a fight over my “puppy love” in grade school. I even had some baloney story explaining why I was near sighted in one eye which honestly came off like something I came up with after watching some martial arts anime. Yet I was not a violent or aggressive person by nature; I had occasional fits of temper, but most people do. Thankfully my own boasts never got me into any real fights, and I wasn’t in an environment where I was forced to live up them. I eventually gained a circle of friends and naturally that meant occasionally telling those stories again. By the end of high school, I seemed like even more of an “old man” because by now the stories were familiar.

And the hell of it was they never delivered on their intended purpose. Concocting fantasies of me being a “bad ass” didn’t make me any braver or more willing to stand up for myself on the occasions after 7th grade when I would be picked on in high school (or college). The stories about the make believe “first love” were even worse; I linked both aspects of the fantasies and had to stick with them, and as I never wanted to admit to how inexperienced I was around girls (especially as all of my friends were dating at various points of time and few teenage boys want to admit to never having had their first kiss yet), I was stuck with clinging to them. They never emboldened me towards making any moves towards any girls I did like, and simple proximity to a variety of people never caused any girl to develop feelings or chemistry to me. In my heart of hearts I believe I knew how hollow my own facade was, but I kept it up out of habit, or out of needing a way to try to justify offering advice about relationships I had no right to offer, or just to not seem like the lone virgin in the group.

By college, I started bringing up these “legends” and narratives less and less often. Different schools from my friends and different schedules made this easier. By the time I was in my early to mid twenty’s I’d abandoned all of these phoney tales, but it’d taken me a long time to do so. Even in the late 90’s to early 2000’s when the Internet, chat rooms and message boards were new I’d tried to keep it up to those I talked to. But by my mid 20’s, I finally realized how useless and pathetic the act was. It was an act I myself couldn’t buy, and so nobody else did either. These days, such fluffed up tales have long been forgotten by my friends, and I am glad.

Unfortunately, that leaves nothing as an alternative. Instead of trying to draw upon a baloney story to try to build courage to talk to a woman, I have nothing to draw from. And the knowledge of the greatest “feats” of my life being nothing more than figments of my imagination in a desperate attempt to fit in does my ego no favors, either. So when I tried online dating or even have chance encounters on the street on rare occasion, I have no well to draw strength from. I have no past experience of success; only the fact that I tried to lie my way through it as a kid among my many failures and frustrations. And so while I am glad to not have to work so hard on a useless facade, now I don’t even have the illusion to hide behind anymore. I am what I am, in all my chaste, virginal glory. And even now, I’m loathe to admit this stuff publicly, or openly online without hiding behind an alias. This blog was intended for some personal release, to finally get out some experiences and facts about myself and my (lacking) love life, and there’s no way to do that without a segment on this. I suppose I am hardly the first or last American who “embellished” or “fluffed up” his past to try to fit into a gender norm as a boy or teenager (or briefly as a young adult), but that doesn’t omit the fact that I have nothing to replace it with. Stories are important; life and history in the end boil down to stories and religions, mythology and even society itself have at their foundation stories that are told. Some could say a key element of romance are two people sharing their stories with each other and having them add to the attraction. I tried to alter my own life’s story as a youth to try to have to have it match the stories of those (boys/men) around me. In the end it didn’t work, and all it did was add to my shame and angst.

This blog is an attempt to tell an accurate story about what was my attempt at a love life. I didn’t want it to become a tragedy and in theory it may not end that way; we don’t know what fate entails. For all we know I could win first prize in the lottery tomorrow, or encounter a woman in my travels who is my type, is instantly smitten by my sheer appearance, makes the first move herself, and is endlessly patient and has low enough standards to want me. None of this is terribly likely, and at this stage of my life, love is a story that I think needs a definitive ending for my own sanity and quality of life. I need to let it go as something which isn’t to be much the same way most of us let go of wanting to a cowboy, or an astronaut, or a robot. It’s simply the most difficult story of all for me to end, or to admit has ended.

Which is ironic, because if this admission atop of others proves anything, it is that the story of my love life never had a beginning. I never had a “puppy love” moment that went well. I never had a first kiss. I was almost out of high school when I had my first date, and I never had one or more awkward hormone laden teen romances nor any more serious or intimate explorations in college. I have a big, fat, nothing in this regard. And while filling it with embellishments and fantasy isn’t the way to go and I am glad to be free of it, it does leave a bit of a gap in a story which for most is filled with…something. Without it, I have nothing to offer to a potential lover, nothing she gets out of it compared to any other well or even maladjusted man (or woman, or pet). If this segment proves anything it is that there is no way to change the past, and trying to even to ourselves doesn’t always do the trick unless you are convincing enough to genuinely fool yourself. There is no way to go back in time and get that experience that I lack; no way to get a do-over as a teenager or a youth in college. Even if I did, I doubt very much anything would be different. There is absolutely no way I am ever going to have anything close to a normal and fulfilling love life having not even begun at this late stage of the game. That’s not pessimism; that is fact. Without a miracle, a windfall, or a reality TV show or some other shortcut, this phase of my life is truly over. As a boy and a teenager it was understandable to fear such a fact and to try to hide it at any cost. As a man, omission is as far as I go.

Before then, though, I do have more experiences to exorcise from me. I am genuinely glad that the era of self generated fairy tales is over. I’d rather be an honest Dateless-Man than a dishonest fop. It’s time to own it, and be free.

I am what I am. I’d rather be someone else, but in the end I am always myself. For better or worse.

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Of mice and men (and a woman)

Sometimes it seems that I should have named this blog, “the past adventures of Dateless-Man” since most of my recollections of my encounters with the opposite sex are from years ago. Yet today while I was running some errands I did have a notable encounter. Before I analyze, psychoanalyze, and over-analyze this incident, I figured I’d summarize it. I’ve chosen the method of poetry I’ve mastered, which is the limerick:

I saw a woman get scared by a rat

And we began to chat.

With my schedule to blame

I never got her name

And it was all over like that!

To recap, I ventured into Manhattan (New York City) this afternoon/early evening to run some important errands. One of them was paying a bill at a storage facility. It was quickly past 7:00 p.m. and I had to perform two errands which were roughly a mile apart from each other in less than an hour. I was on foot and while there were buses, I couldn’t rely on them or their schedules. As I was leaving the facility, I hopped off the staircase and there was a woman walking down the street in front of the facility as I did so. She glanced at me and I believe smiled. She was thin, about 5′ 6” and had very short hair, and black rimmed glasses, wearing a black coat and boots. If I had to guess her age I’d assume she was in her 20’s to possibly early 30’s at most. I nodded to her and crossed the street on my way with my tight schedule; shortly after she crossed it behind me.

New York has gotten a lot of snow this winter, but today it was warm enough for much of it to finally melt. I was passing by a church which was near the storage facility and passing by a box which was near one of the remaining snow/ice piles. I heard what sounded like a shuffle, like a door opening or someone coming from the church’s nearby stairwell to their basement level. Only there was no one there, and quickly at least 1-2 rats fled from the box and scattered to different directions. New York City is rather notorious for their rats (and pigeons), especially in the subway system. I let out a “Whoa!” in surprise, which I suppose was interpreted as a warning. A second or two later the woman I’d encountered screamed at the sight of the rats and was clearly rattled.

She caught up to me, as I’d stopped to see if she needed help. She wanted to confirm what she’d just witnessed, and I did confirm it for her.

“Normally I’m not squeamish about those sort of things,” she rattled off.

“It’s alright to get squeamish about three rats fighting about a yard from you,” I replied, or words to that effect.

I made a few light hearted comments about the situation. I am always good with what I call “Spider-banter”, named after the sorts of endless wisecracks that Spider-Man tends to say in comics and cartoons. She seemed to smile and enjoy them; making someone laugh is rarely difficult for me. It’s really the only social skill I have.

“Good thing I wore my extra long boots today!” she exclaimed at one point.

“Can’t leave home without ’em!” I quipped.

We walked together for about two short blocks before my pace seemed to naturally be faster than hers. I realized at that point that we’d just had a friendly chat and it has reached a critical junction. A normal person might have introduced themselves, at least exchanged first names. A particularly charming or confident dude may have sought to get her phone number or other contact information. I weighed both options in my head. Official introductions for me are always awkward and difficult for me to pull off. While she was attractive to me, I also was hesitant to exploit the situation to attempt to land a date. Capitalizing on an early evening scare with vermin seemed like a sleazy thing to do or consider. Despite being startled I did think that the interaction was positive and I didn’t want to cause her any discomfort. From what I have read from many websites, one of the things that women dread are unsolicited cat calls or attempts to pick them up outside.

I also had a very strict timetable to run my final errand. I had less than half an hour to walk a mile (or hope to catch a bus whose schedule I didn’t know) and I had no time for a side quest. I bid her a good evening and quickly departed from her path. It would turn out that I’d missed that bus by a minute and I probably could have walked with her another few short blocks (which were on my way), but I had no idea that I’d missed that bus and couldn’t have known. I did just barely make my final errand (with 13 minutes to spare, after some jogging). After that I naturally went home, but with a fresh “adventure” to type about.

As I have mentioned several times, I don’t take any friendly or positive reaction or interaction from a woman as romantic interest. Not only is such a thing the last thing I would assume, but I would probably deny it if a third party witness claimed such a thing. Sometimes friendliness is just that, and nothing more. It would have been bold, but also a bit cheesy, to try to exchange numbers with a total stranger after such an incident, as I estimated at the time. Yet I do know of many men who wouldn’t have been so shy or thought as much about such a simple thing as exchanging first names. It also confirmed what I knew of myself and my own interaction abilities with women which has remained unchanged since college. I am fine with small talk or brief amusing banter, but anything beyond that and I hesitate. I seek to analyze everything, consider whether or not I am bringing discomfort to my guest since that isn’t what I want to do, gauge every angle and weigh all pros and cons. And then the moment passes. It was extremely unlikely that she was single, and it probably would have been poor form to risk any sort of overture, especially given the rush I was in.

I’m not the Dateless-Man because I am a monster or because I never get along with women. I’ve never claimed that and don’t usually assume that. Instead it is because for whatever reason I cannot bring things to the next level, go out on a limb regardless of sense or logic or what I know from experience to flirt or make an attempt. In some ways that’s almost worse; to have an idea of a flaw but being unable to fix it. I can’t even have some bliss in ignorance. In the end I was glad that I didn’t risk ruining her day with some fumbling overture, but I did think about it afterward.

It was a quick and cute New York encounter, though. Nothing says the city more than bonding over rats. The only way to have made it more New York-ish would have been to involve pizza or the Yankees.

The Dark Side of the Internet

March is always quite a month for me. It’s the end of the half of the year I usually consider the “most lonely” or at least where I usually get the most depressed. It’s also the month where winter starts to transition into spring, at least in New York. It is also the month of my birth. I like keeping a lot of identifying details vague, so I won’t confirm whether I’m an Aries or a Pisces. I don’t put much stock in horoscopes, regardless. It’s a time of year I usually get extra reflective, which rarely results in anything good. I grow a year older, and often upon looking back at the preceding year, I don’t have much to show for it. New Year’s Eve is a time for this too, but there’s something about birthdays which make it worse. If I am honest, I haven’t usually enjoyed my birthdays since I was about nineteen. It just feels like scratching another line on the wall of life.

My friends have long tried to make my birthdays something positive for me, despite my best efforts. I usually had to be nagged into coming out to the local bar for many of them. For some others, they took me out for dinner; usually a steak house or some other meat serving establishment. In later years as their social circle increased, they tended to create larger parties and outings for those whose birthdays fall near mine. Off the top of my head at least 2-3 other associates of mine (and their chums) celebrate their birthdays within less than a week of mine. Last year was actually the first year there was no attempt to invite me out or hassle me into some gathering for it. It was the quietest and most isolated birthday I had. I’m still not sure if I preferred it or not.

This time I’d like to talk about the darker side of the world wide web in general,  and Facebook in particular. It’s one of the key bits of media which is considered “social”, next to Tumblr, Twitter, message boards, and naturally blogs such as this. I joined it in March 2012 after being all but blackmailed by my friends to do so. At the time I hadn’t had a cell phone in years, and I was rarely at the home phone. Frustrated at the difficulty in contacting me outside of AIM, two of them vowed to create one for me themselves featuring a lot of “candid” pictures they had of me (mostly just goofy pics from various parties) unless I made one myself. I told them I’d get it done within a week, and I was as good as my word. In fact, I got it done on the literal last day. Now it is a part of my routine, and it has made it easier to remain in contact with friends, associates, and co-workers.

I’m not one who belittles the Internet or those on it all the time, even if I was finishing high school by the time the “modern” version seemed to evolve. I’ve made good friends online, and have gotten at least one of my rare dates online too. It’s allowed me to express myself through this blog, after all. But it has a darker side, and I am not talking about porn, PUA’s, “Gamergate”, or predators now (even if that’s all bad enough). I am talking about having access to more of those from your social circle in a format where people may be more candid than they are one on one, or even at times in person. There are too examples of what I mean.

The first will be recent – as in within the past two weeks. One of the couples who was at the “Everyone is Doing Better Than You” party from late last year broke up. Unfortunately, Facebook and social media have allowed break ups to become more vile and spread across one’s entire list of friends. This break up was particularly ugly, especially since this couple were the friends of at least two of my good pals (including the one who got engaged last year). The woman starting talking about her new ex as “the devil”, making claims of infidelity and being lied to, and so on. It progressed to her wanting photos in others’ albums taken down, and an online argument/shouting match between her and my pal’s fiance. This couple was so key to my cast of friends and associates that it will almost be impossible to avoid taking a side or commenting on it somehow in the next gathering or two. It’s something I don’t look forward to, honestly. However, it did put a bright side on my dateless state; I was reminded of how ugly break ups could be and that I was glad I never had to go through this. In fact, part of the reason why I am hesitant to once again try to bang my head against the wall of destiny is that I am older, and with the online world what it is, a break up would be more than just some drama on a campus or classroom. It can effect money and friendships, and be broadcast for dozens to read. The time for that has passed for me, and I was grateful to not have to be at the center of something so nasty.

The second is a bit more distant – as in around this time in 2013. It was near the first year anniversary of being on Facebook and I was still adjusting to it in my routine as well as having easier contact with friends and what they were doing or saying. It was also nearing my birthday and as usual I was bracing for the inevitable attempt to yank me out for an outing. I suppose while I don’t always enjoy it as much as I should, I enjoy the consideration. That year, one of my friends had started a “discussion” on his status asking if anyone knew any (to paraphrase), “desperate, alcoholic sluts” who “weren’t picky” for a “friend of his” to have sex with because he needed it badly. It did not take long for me to realize that he meant me, and I wasn’t alone. Virtually everyone I was friends with, including Marsha from the “Millennium House Party” responded. To their credit, none of them “tagged” me to publicly identify and embarrass me. But everyone seemed to figure out quickly who my pal’s “desperate” and chaste friend was, and they all were doing the text version of winking and nodding. I sometimes have a self depreciating sense of humor and more than once at a bar I’d quip how, “there isn’t enough alcohol here [or in the universe] to get ____ to go out with me” or something similar when such conversations came up. Of course, I’d never take advantage of any woman who I even suspected of being buzzed, but that’s another point. To me, there was a difference at being in on a joke on my expense, from my own lips, and peeking in on a joke at my expense, made by one of my friends. I have no doubt in my mind that my pal was trying to do something helpful, but in the end I was getting a candid look at what all of my friends truly thought about me. And they were all having a good online chuckle at this dateless, virginal pal of theirs who’d likely never have sex. “If it hasn’t happened by now, it probably never will,” one of them typed.

I insisted my feelings weren’t hurt, but I do think it left a mark. That year I deliberately avoided their attempt at a gathering. Partly because I didn’t want to mention it and partly because it wasn’t even for me; it was for someone else and I was supposed to piggy back it. I was in no mood to piggy back another person’s party after that that year, and instead had dinner with one of my other friends (Sonia, also mentioned before) and her then boyfriend/fiance. Word cycled through the grapevine that I’d read that topic and likely was insulted or effected, and it was deleted. I’ve never been able to find it again. But I know what I read. But, in a way, I am glad I did. I am glad to get some idea of what my friends think of me and my dateless status when I am not around to humor. Honesty is a good thing. The added salt in the wound was that my friends weren’t even trying to set me up with someone they thought fit, just someone “desperate”, “slutty”, or “drunk”, or some combination. I wouldn’t be opposed to being set up with someone by a friend per say, but those adjectives didn’t exactly enamor me to the idea. My friends have been too mercenary to ever try, and after that I’d never agree to their attempt since I know what kind of woman they believe I deserve. Considering my age and my dateless nature, perhaps it’s also the truth as well. Like I said, honesty is a good thing. At least now I know for a fact what my friends genuinely think of me, and things won’t ever be the same.

I’ve since moved on, attended gatherings with my friends since and never mentioned it. They’re the best bunch of friends a grump like me could ever have, and all are good, decent people. However, the internet allows everyone to be more candid and open, and sometimes that’s not always the easiest thing to behold.

This month I will be even further past age 30, even if I don’t want to be. If I had the option to stop aging at a particular p0int physically I may have chosen age 25-26. But, it’s inevitable. Another year, another notch on the wall, another year older as the Dateless-Man.