Reflections

To a degree this might be the blog post version of a “clip episode” of a TV show. That is, an episode where it seems like the producers were tasked with trying to make more episodes than they had the time to actually make footage for, so they figured out a plot which justified a lot of stock footage like flashbacks or whatnot. I’m not going to tell a new story just yet, as recently I was going over some of my old ones here and was reflecting on them, and life, and perspective. After all, that was one of the aims of going through this process here, right? So, just as a warning, this post will include a lot of links to old posts, but it may be good for those who haven’t read them all to see where I am coming or going.

For the moment, we’re in a period of the year I usually consider to be less depressing for me, April through September. For various reasons laid out previously, such as holidays, my own past, and my birthday, the six month period of October through March are usually when I get the most depressed about life. That isn’t to say that I’m a hopping bowl of optimism and glee during the spring and summer, just that my “Wallow-Meter” usually ticks up from “Maximum” to “Minimum” or “Moderate” during this period (on average). I also have a job which allows me time to think and reflect about all sorts of things as I go about the routine of work. Finishing up “The Last Actual Date” a week or so ago got me thinking about some of my previous dates and experiences with women which I’d posted here previously. And due to either the increase in temperature, or bouts of insomnia during the past fortnight (which I suffer frequently), or just a fluke of a certain circuit in my brain, I was able to fully step away from my own feelings about several of them and sort out how the other party may have been feeling or acting in these incidents in a way I hadn’t before. And I did find a common denominator behind a lot of my reactions, which at the time seemed logical but with many years of hindsight likely duped me out of at least a little more dating potential.

Having wrapped up a story about my “last date” got me to think a little about my first date, which was back towards the end of high school. A girl in my class (dubbed “Sophie”) had passed me a note asking me if I wanted to go to a movie with her, and literally had check boxes for “yes” or “no”. The movie we wound up seeing was “Double Jeopardy”, so you could date the time of this incident as 1999. Being confused and thrown off by this, as well as carrying along baggage from elementary school (such as being bullied by boys and teased by girls, including my first crush), my initial response was literally writing in a “maybe” box and asking for details. By the time we actually went on the date, she insisted that it was “just as friends” to the point that I never made any sort of move on the date, and we lost touch as she never wanted to go on another. On reflection, I put myself in her shoes a bit more than I ever had. Here she was going out on a limb and being the one who made the overture about the date – something which isn’t usually expected or taught of girls in American society (at the time or even now). Usually it’s the guy who is expected to make the overture, which is something that shy wimps like me dread. The fact that she was a Russian immigrant likely was part of why she hadn’t bought that nonsense. Anyway, she goes out on a limb with a guy she at least liked enough to pass a note to asking him out, and she gets a response of “maybe” back. At best she might have figured I was playing hard to get, and decided to act accordingly. At worst she might have misjudged my interest in her (in truth, while Sophie was my type, I was more infatuated with another student in the class and had barely noticed her) but had no way to back out of the date entirely now. At any rate, had I responded to the note differently – maybe checked off a “yes” and actually treated it as the thing I’d all but literally been praying for like it actually was, and then maybe tried to make some move at the movie theater or give off some sign of interest, could it have gone better? A part of it is “Analysis Paralysis”, trying to plan moves ahead as I am in the middle of one, but it’s more.

I then reflected on another incident from high school not long after, the “Millennium House Party” where I was confronted with watching a girl I liked (dubbed “Marsha”) drunkenly making out with one of my friends, and I tried to make sure no one was taken advantage of. Today, some would call it trying to be a “White Knight” because the line between me wanting to be a “good guy” and protect someone versus me being disappointed she wasn’t coming onto me (and wondering if I’d have been as noble had she) blurred. Not long after the party (during the year 2000), Marsha eventually confronted me about the incident and kept asking me why I seemed to “care” so much. She had at the party, but now she was sober. I thought of it from her perspective, and to her it must have seemed incredibly odd that I was essentially trying to “cock-block” one of my own friends. At the time I felt that she was fishing for an answer revolving around me admitting that I liked her:

“Now, I am not one who easily understands body language or social ques and when I try I usually am dead wrong. But I kept feeling that the answer she wanted was, “Because I like you”. Which was true, but it also complicated the idea of doing the right thing by her. Is it wrong to protect someone from being taken advantage of (in your eyes) if you yourself like them romantically? Or does that make it hypocrisy? I don’t know but what I did so was refuse to give her that answer. She never asked for it in those terms but I insisted it was because it was the right thing to do, and that’s what I am about. Admittedly, another part of it was the fear and shyness I mentioned earlier; I feared it “getting out” that I liked her and how my friends would have reacted. I also feared how she would have reacted, as I doubted the feeling was mutual. I always do; in my life, it never is.”

I’d reflected heavily on this incident already; in fact I stated in the post that had I to do it over again, I’d have told her how I felt and let the chips fall as they would. But that word kept popping up – “fear”. I feared this or feared that, and despite being handed what was without a doubt the most obvious moment to reveal to somebody that you like them that I’d ever get, I balked. I didn’t trust my instincts and I doubted she felt the same way. There’s no way to tell how it would have worked out, but for the fifteen years since I’ve regretted it. Life gave me so few chances with women, so it can get disheartening to reflect on how I screwed up one of them.

Finally, I reflected on my second date, which I’d gotten from the website OkCupid in college with a woman I dubbed “Star” from her online handle. Much like my first date, a woman was doing all the work of making the first move; something which is rare. When I looked back at some of the chatter I still had in my account, I was astonished by how blatant her flirting was; she was calling me “cutie” and everything. On the actual date itself, she volunteered stuff like the fact that she’d done nude photography in the past. Here she was deliberately trying to put the image of her naked body into my mind for me. But I was stuck in my “Self-Awareness Paradox”, missing every signal and acting like a nervous bundle of nerves throughout the entire date. Time had passed since high school, and we weren’t at a movie theater; if ever there was a signal to try to flirt, make any interest or attraction known, it was now. But I balked again. I didn’t bother. No wonder she never wanted to go on a second date; she did everything but toss off her top at me and I wouldn’t take the bait, and assumed I was disinterested. What makes it even worse was that there was nothing ambiguous and no risk of revealing any attraction or overture would somehow “get out” in my social circle. It was a dating website, for crying out loud – everyone on it is seeking some form of romance! But at least when I was in my early to mid 20’s, not even that was enough. Had I responded to her signals, it was very possible I could have at least gotten to second or third base. At the very least, I missed every signal that it would have been okay to at least try, so long as I wasn’t a groping beast about it. There’s no excuse for botching this one beyond that word again – “fear”.

To a limited degree something like this came up in the comments of another of my college adventures. I was questioning why another young lady seemed to always “vanish” after class and never gave me an easy opportunity to do my usual low ball, “trying without trying” attempt to hook her. “PerfectStorm”, one of my loyal followers and commenters, stated that she could have simply been shy too, and didn’t know how to handle attraction herself. That option had literally never entered my thought process. I couldn’t even fathom it in my imagination.

Now, I’ve always maintained that I am the Dateless-Man for a variety of reasons, and many of them may objectively be true. I genuinely lack a lot of the emotional, physical, and charismatic tools one needs to successfully date and attract someone. I genuinely did not have many opportunities in life with the opposite sex. But upon this further reflection, had I been less afraid and more opportunistic, more able to go with the flow and accept what was being handed to me on its’ own terms, maybe I could have gotten farther. Maybe I wouldn’t be a freak over thirty who is still a virgin and still in the elementary school of dating. Considering the pre-teen bullying I faced, maybe I have some excuse in high school, only a few years removed and still within the same neighborhood. College, though, was many years and miles removed. There was no excuse not to grow up and not continue to allow a band of 12 year old boys from the past to rule my destiny. Despite my lack of looks, or charisma, or any signals on my part, at least 2-3 times in the past some woman was interested anyway, at least initially. I’ve never denied that my failures with women weren’t my own; I don’t blame the women themselves at all. I guess now I got some reflection on how I failed in a different way, like an animal tilting their head to look at something confusing from a new angle.

I suppose the question now would be, what do I do with these reflections? I’m older now, and the deformity on my back (what I believe to be a lipoma) has only gotten larger and would make for an unpleasant surprise should things get physical. It’s considered a cosmetic thing (as it doesn’t effect health, just looks weird), so my insurance won’t cover it and I am too broke to pay for it out of pocket; this is America where medicine is all about profit, after all. I don’t have as much access to women in my area as I did in college, and I am farther behind the curve in terms of romantic experience and money than men my age are expected to be. I have few options and there’s extreme doubt that any of them would be any more successful then in the past. Would I really notice signals as they happened now, without literal years to reflect on them? Would I really make a move now, with added years/decades of failure and frustration as my only source of emotional ore? Is there any way to spin being a low earning post-30 virgin as being anything other than pathetic, without resorting to lies or acting performances? What would I have to be confident about? On the other hand, I’m not getting any younger, and far worse men than me are far more confident or arrogant while offering far less.

I didn’t type an article titled “the Last Date” to be less than blunt. Intellectually, I would like to be done with dating, forever. It has caused me nothing but pain, anxiety, frustration, and failure for my entire life. But there’s some segment of me, spiritual or emotional or what have you, which has refused to detach completely. That still wants to convince the rest of me to get back into the ring and give it another round, despite the fact that I’ve lost every previous round without having thrown a single punch, and there’s no way to catch up on points. Emotions and spirits aren’t logical, I suppose. So maybe this reflection was a last ditch effort, the heart trying to appeal to the mind. I may very well continue on with my goal of finishing up my narratives and walking away from my lack of a love life. I just can’t ignore what I reflected, and I thought it would make for some interesting typing.

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The Last Actual Date

As I have stated in the last installment, my recollections of past adventures with the opposite sex are coming to an end. That’s the major downside to only having genuine memories to deal with, instead of an ever increasing fictionalized life to work with such as the figures behind “The Wonder Years” or “How I Met Your Mother”. I let a month pass between posts last time, due both in part to a heavy workload as well as some subconscious unwillingness to officially end this chapter of my life. I know that it won’t be as simple as I intend, to simply abandon all desires and urges of companionship and romance once I finish all of my recollections here and released them from my mind onto some other format for some other audience besides myself. However, there are two dueling parts within me; a part which despite all evidence to the contrary doesn’t want it to be over, and another which is absolutely tired of all of the years of futility. I’ve never done anything like this project before, and there’s no way to know how I will or won’t react to finally reaching the end of my “stories about women” until I actually get there. It’s only symbolic, but symbols can still have meaning.

That may seem like a long and disconnected introduction to this latest flashback sequence, but there’s a good reason for it. There’s not a whole lot to unpack with this one. No instances of bad timing, no jocks or stoners, and no drunken friends. It was just a blind date which worked out as well as most blind dates tend to for most people – poorly.

It took place seven months after I graduated college and while I was still looking for a steady bachelor’s level gig (which I would find, then lose, with the “Great Recession”). It was also under two years since my previous date, which I’d gotten via the dating website OkCupid. About two years between dates is a rut for some people, but for me it was actually impressive. It’s a track record I’ve never duplicated, after all. That’s the biggest advantage of having absolutely no love life, or much prospects for one; the sorts of scraps or droughts which would drive the average person batty are simply no big deal for me. After all, as a hopelessly inexperienced post-30 virgin, I literally have to cling onto memories of all of my awkward first dates, frustrating crushes, or miscommunications if I want to talk or type about women at all. At any rate, I was in my mid 20’s and it was the beginning of the year, before my birthday. At this time, I was spending a lot of my “off time” when I wasn’t looking for work, fiddling online, or hanging out with friends trying to help my handicapped mother tend to my aging grandmother. To recap her final 3-4 years of life is to get into a lot of sordid details which this blog isn’t about. Suffice it to say, between an aunt who was directly sabotaging things and not having much money, it became a years long effort to keep grandma out of a permanent nursing home and in her own apartment until the inevitable happened. Unfortunately, every time she would become hurt in a fall or react poorly to some medication, she would have to be hospitalized and often sent to some sort of elder care center to recover. Mom would tend to her almost 5-6 days a week, and I would cover for her twice a week, either at home or keeping an eye on her at whatever home or care center she was at, to ensure no further acts of malpractice occurred.

At about this time, I’d had a few conversations and visits with one of my mother’s friends. As stiff and boring as I am, my mother is actually the exact opposite. She is an ex-“flower child” whose youth was full of a lot of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, and whose adulthood has remained connected to the arts as best she can. That included her last profession before becoming handicapped herself, and many of her friends are related to those fields. This friend is quite a character, a few years older than my mom (as in, late 50’s) and perhaps even more “adventurous” when it comes to sex (and proud of it). My mother’s claimed that she’s even flirted with me on occasion, but I hardly noticed. Her current boyfriend is a priest (who seems to not mind breaking his vows, nor she for encouraging it). Before anyone reading this gets any ideas out of “The Graduate”, this older woman is absolutely not my type in any way, which is a shame. As free spirited as someone may be about sex, I wouldn’t want to exploit someone that I have no emotional or physical feelings for based on nothing more than getting “something” from them. Besides, at this point this was nothing unusual; by this time, most of the only women who I ever knew found me attractive were middle aged, usually married, and not my type. At any rate, eager to “help me out”, this friend of my mother’s arranged for a blind date with a younger woman that she knew from her artist circles. As someone in his mid 20’s who was already embarrassed enough that mom would talk about me and my lack of a love life to her friends, I wasn’t entirely enthused to the idea of a blind date set up by one of her friends. It’s humiliating, to say the least. However, soon it was set up and I went through with it. I’d like to think a part of me was optimistic that it could work out; after all, in the Spider-Man comics, Mary Jane Watson was originally the niece of Aunt May’s neighbor who the old widow was constantly trying to get Peter to date, who he’d never seen and assumed was hideous. In reality, it was likely a mix of both desperation and humoring my mother (and her friend) that got me to go along with it.

So with it only being a month or so before my birthday that year, a meeting was arranged for me to meet her in front of a small Spanish restaurant. There was still a chill in the air, and I avoided wearing a winter parka in some attempt to let my dress clothes shine a bit. I arrived a few minutes early and she was right on time. An artist herself (into painting and weaving), she had short brown hair, glasses, and was quite lean. Contrary to some beliefs, not all men desire only to date “lean” girls, and I am one of them; I have desired women of various shapes and sizes. She was about 8-9 years older than I was, and was in her mid 30’s. When we met, we were friendly and cordial, but there seemed to be no immediate sparks. As we were looking over the menus for dinner, she asked me my age, and after I told her, I saw her face sink a bit. It was obvious that she wanted to date someone her own age, not in their mid 20’s. I recall literally telling her that with my birthday being only weeks away, I’d be older very shortly. After that we talked about hobbies, jobs, majors in school and other various chit chat of little substance. Being fussy about food, there was actually nothing on the menu that I “liked”, but I ordered the closest item there was and choked it down.

Once our meal was over (and I picked up the check, as expected), she noted that there was an arts supply shop across the street. I forget whose idea it was for me to tag along with her as the final “activity” of our date, but the next twenty or so minutes were spent in the shop as she picked out various supplies she needed for various projects and we made more small talk. As usual, I tried to keep the tone light and I usually am good for some humorous banter, at least so long as my nerves are in control. We weren’t having a bad time, but even I could notice the absolute lack of any chemistry or much common ground in terms of desire. While I certainly was willing to try things out with her, our age gap seemed to have stifled any interest on her part cold. Despite my age I was mature, at least compared to my perennially drunken, bar hopping and club going pals, but that rarely helps me either; I come off as stodgier than someone’s grandfather. After barely two hours, it was time for an obligatory friendly hug, a pat on the back, a line about “doing this again some time” and then a parting of ways. I doubt I ever got her number, and if I had, I doubt she would have responded. By this point, I didn’t take such words literally and I usually caught on that unless concrete plans were set, it was usually the nice way of saying, “better luck next time”. I completely understand why women do this, rather than be honest and direct about a rejection; most men react rudely or even violently to such things. Despite how obvious it was that things were not going anywhere beyond the first (and last) date, I wasn’t feeling bad at all. I’d been on a date. I’d had a shot. And it wasn’t a bad time at all. When your love life is a big fat zero, even something which elevates it to a decimal number is still progress. I never regret any first date.

The next week or so, my mother’s friend asked about how the date went. She seemed surprised that the lady seemed disinterested in dating a younger man, and thought we would have been more compatible. I wasn’t disappointed or angered; after all, I’d barely even wanted to go on the blind date in the first place, and had been proven right. I chalked it up to one of life’s little non-events. If me merely being younger was a turn off, I imagine she’d have fainted once it became obvious that I had no experience as any sort of lover! Thankfully, she avoided such an awkward turn of events for herself.

As of this writing, that date was a little over seven years ago. I had no idea then how much worse and lonely my love life would be. I imagined I would find a steady job, earn some serious money, and be able to better provide for myself, my family, and have extra for dating. Little did I know how poorly that plan would work out, or how long a drought it would be after that. Looking back, I am glad that I bit on the blind date idea after all; at least I could say that I had dated after college and not be lying. Of course, I barely dated in college, or high school, but that goes without saying.

Like the title states, it was the last “actual” date I was on. If I succeed in my desire to exorcise all of my romantic desires from me via this long form act of storytelling and journal writing, it will also be the last date I will ever go on. It seems so final when stated like that: the last date. And it was very much like all of my previous dates, and most of my interactions with women. Awkward, ham-fisted, with any sort of desire or potential for it being one-sided (mine). Always a prelude and never a novel, always the bread and never the meat, always an appetizer without a main course. And as always, having to make due and become excited with the sorts of incidents that most men wouldn’t even notice.

This won’t be my last recollection. I had one more major attempt at some sort of dating strategy a year later, and one more woman from my past to talk about who I have saved for last. And there will, no doubt, be general opinion or whining pieces to come to break up the pace a bit. But in terms of romantic dates with other women, this was my third and last. As my twenties were coming to an end, it was becoming more and more clear how woefully behind I was in the realm of romance, and that unlike fiction, there were no shortcuts. There was no chance to make up for lost time, no opportunity to have the sorts of youthful trials, errors, and successes which most people use to propel themselves more meaningful and adult romances and relationships. There was no chance of my love life being anything normal or satisfying for anyone (myself or another person) then, and that was ages ago. It merely took me until I was over 30 to see it for what it was in stark black and white. I was the Dateless-Man, and at least in terms of love, that is all I’d ever be.

My last date. So be it.

Dateless-Man versus College: My Minor was in Bad Timing

A month can fly by so quickly sometimes, can’t it? I normally post more frequently than once a month, but certain factors have come into play. One of them was simply being too busy to sit at a keyboard and write about this topic for a while. Another is the knowledge that I am coming towards the end of my past chronicles regarding contact with the opposite sex. Including this one, there are only four left. I have said more than once on this blog that this entire exercise on my part is an attempt by me to get down in text all of my experiences with women which I’ve never told anyone to get them out of my mind, before walking away from this chapter of my life entirely – or at least making my most valiant attempt to do so. Perhaps a subconscious part of me doesn’t want that chapter to end. It’s a natural human response (perhaps intertwined with some biological animal ones); it’s not easy to accept to oneself that this area of my life has proven to be just as impossible as nearly any other fantasy I’ve had, and to let it go forever (much as I’ve let go of things like being a superhero or a robot or similar fantasies from youth). But end it must; the frustration from this area of my life is a weight which I no longer want to bare, and once it is gone, I hope to maximize what is left of the rest of my life. Happiness is overrated; merely being content will do. Dreams are for children; adults have to make do with what they have in reality.

But, enough with the prologue. This is my 6th adventure from college, and also my last. Between adjusting to college life as well as working part time, it took me over six years to obtain a four year degree (Bachelor’s). I began college as a teenager who thought he was no longer a kid and left it as an adult in my mid 20’s who thought life would only get better afterward. In other words, despite my own maturity, experiences, frustrations, and resentments, I was still too naive. My major was in social work but I took a variety of other courses both to fulfill my major’s requirements and also to learn; many of them were psychology and/or sociology courses (with one of them literally being “social psychology”). In addition to my desire to make a profession of helping people (or trying to), perhaps I thought I would better fit in with people once I understood them. In reality, it may have made me more of an outsider, like an alien trying to understand humanity with books or classes but still not being one of them. At any rate, one of the last sociology courses I took actually turned out to essentially be assisting two professors with Masters’ Degrees complete what was (probably) their thesis and/or research assignment; they made it sound loftier than that, but that is what it was. Much like many of my courses in my major, the class size was smaller than average (under 25 students) and most of my fellow students were women. One woman immediately caught my fancy; a natural red-head with fair skin, a lot of freckles and an overall friendly and positive disposition. It’s time for another alias, and it seems that many of the women I have met in my life have names that begin with “S”. Scarlett will do.

I forget if I arrived in class first and took my seat beside hers by happenstance or choice, or if she arrived after and sat next to me for similar reasons. In fact, she may have sat a row behind me on our first class and I or she moved closer for the next ones. As we learned more about the class, we learned that it would involve more time outside of the actual classroom and more time studying the subject of our study – which was an iconic mode of public transportation that that section of New York was known for. We were to study the history of it as well as get data on demographics, ridership totals, and even conduct a “walking interview” with a rider going over their opinions and memories of it as they commuted. Considering it was technically a class I didn’t exactly “need” to graduate, it was a considerable bit of work to conduct in theory. While I had some interest in the course, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that 80% of why I stuck it out was being infatuated with Scarlett. Only this time, something was different than in many of my previous adventures and incidents with women leading up until this point.

As I said, Scarlett was very friendly and had a warm demeanor. We began to talk to each other in class and sometimes afterward as I walked her to her bus afterward. One reason for her friendliness was that she had moved to New York from another state (from the Midwest if memory serves); New Yorkers are somewhat notorious for being rude, isolated, and unfriendly, and as a native I can attest that by and large this is true. She was highly intelligent and also majoring in psychology and sociology. She even shared my interest in comic books in general (and Marvel Comics) in particular; while such a thing is pretty common in the post-2008 era, it was far more rare beforehand in my travels. And yes, she was physically very cute and very much my type, but it was more than a physical attraction the more I talked with her and interacted with her. There seemed to be an ease to how we would converse, with the more we did so, the more in common we seemed to have. While I haven’t a clue as to the signs of attraction or affection from women, I read up on them enough that I knew that one sign that someone at least is feeling at ease with someone is that they’ll find an excuse to touch them; not sexually, just touching. A pat on the arm, a bump of the shoulder, that sort of thing. At one point during one of our many class sessions outdoors at the station of the public resource we were studying, she touched my thigh with her hand amid her conversation with me. That had never happened to me before, ever. It’s never happened since. I don’t know what chemistry is like between two people, and I wouldn’t recognize it if it happened, but I have to imagine that whatever it is, what we seemed to have had to be damned close in the least.

We got to know each other better during the first two weeks of the class. We always sat together whether in the classroom or at the station or riding on the public transportation unit we were studying. I walked her to her bus at the transit hub afterward many times. Talking with her seemed so easy, and we seemed to have so many similar interests, that mixed with her demeanor, something strange happened. For the first time in my entire life, I had a genuine belief that if I “made a move” and asked her out, that she would give a positive response. Much like the thigh touch, that was also something else which had never happened to me before. For a brief period I was on “cloud 9”. I felt a happiness and a soft confidence begin to flow over me, which was also something I had never experienced with a woman before. Beforehand, all I usually felt with women were feelings of infatuation, anxiety, frustration, dread, and inadequacy.

Now, this is the part where avid readers of this blog, or even casual ones who may have just stumbled upon it and are sorting out the premise should be asking a simple question: “What went wrong?” Unintentionally, many of my adventures with women seemed to follow a pattern; they were either one sided infatuations that went nowhere, or any interaction which had even the slightest hint of developing went awry. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be the Dateless-Man after all. So, what was it this time? It wasn’t a love triangle between jock and a stoner. It wasn’t a lack of mojo during first aid class. It wasn’t memories from the past. In the end, it turned out to be something fairly routine in the world of dating; poor timing. In a way, my last adventure from college was similar to my first adventure from high school.

As we continued to interact, and proved nearly inseparable in class (especially as we were assigned together as study partners), I was building my nerve to ask her out. Some might say why I waited so long, but the last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself to a classmate who wasn’t interested or available, and then have to go through an entire awkward semester with them afterward (knowing I liked them and had made a foolish move towards them). I had learned that most women who have a boyfriend or husband will mention them if given enough time to talk (even if they’re unhappy or unsatisfied with them). After two weeks and no mention, I was sure that I had a clear chance and with our interests intertwining it felt inevitable. Then, Scarlett finally mentioned it. She had a fiance, a man she’d been seeing for five years, and was living with. As if that wasn’t enough, later on when we had to arrange for that “walking interview” with a rider (who could be someone one of us knew), she not only chose her fiance’s mother, but literally introduced her to me as “my future mother-in-law”. Within a span of another week or less, what had seemed to be feelings of chemistry and romantic inevitability had been smashed with a giant STOP sign. To say I was devastated is an understatement.

I like to think I handled it well. I was vastly disappointed, but I had no feelings of resentment or anger. I briefly considered dropping out of the class during a thin window of opportunity, but I thought that would be too transparent and shallow. At one point later on I even briefly entertained ideas of asking her out anyway and trying to directly compete with this unseen fiance. “To hell with him, she’s mine!”, I recall thinking to myself once. But very quickly I realized that she was not some object that I “deserved”, and that whatever feelings I had on my part were clearly one sided and she had made every sign possible that she was unavailable short of inviting me to her wedding or wearing a white gown with her fiance’s name stitched on it to class. Plus, like I said before, we had a lot in common and talking with her was always good regardless of circumstance. It wasn’t so much that I felt I couldn’t compete with her fiance; I came to the conclusion that even the attempt of interfering with her life in that way would be wrong and selfish. I did not want to cause her any distress, irritation, or resentment. After all, I was just some wacky guy from a class she was taking.

So we completed our share of the course’s assignment, and we both aced the course. Scarlett would happen to turn up in another class I was taking the next semester, but that class was a very large one with a heavier workload, and we were unable to sit together and we didn’t chat much after class. I lost touch with her, as I did with many people (men and women) through the course of my life.

I recounted this story to one other person; my friend who got engaged in December (who is currently married). At the time, he called me a “schmuck” several times for not pursuing her. He seemed to not share my belief that facts such as having a fiance who she knew for five years and was living with, as well as calling his mother “her future mother-in-law” were not clear enough signs that Scarlett was unavailable. At the time, he seemed to share a more lax attitude about boundaries, and would routinely flirt with whatever women he wanted, even ones he knew were currently dating someone else (even a friend at times). It’s ironic that he’s since been one of the first in my social circle to actually wed (and he’s two years younger than me at that). But I suppose such feelings are common for men in their early to mid 20’s. Given the facts, I became convinced that whatever I thought was chemistry between us was just her being friendly as an out of towner and me believing it was more than it was. I would rather accept a woman’s boundaries and fail than risk distressing her in an attempt to succeed. I genuinely believe men were not intended to be as empathetic to women as I am sometimes. It’s caused me nothing but misery, placing myself in their shoes metaphorically and not wanting to risk them undue harm, especially with the full knowledge of what little I offer in the long run anyway. Most men are ignorant or arrogant about their own attributes, and stumble and bumble their way into happiness and success romantically, at least in my opinion and experience. None of my over analysis can match.

I naturally graduated college shortly afterward, and my work in this class actually enrolled me in some sort of sociology award I had no idea existed or I had a shot at. So I got a $200 check not long before my diploma due to it, which was a pleasant surprise. I don’t have as many feelings of regret or frustration about this incident as I do for others, and I’m not yet sure as to why. I think a large portion of the reason is that whether it was one sided or not, for the first time in my life I genuinely believed I had an honest shot with a woman, a feeling that the odds were in my favor romantically. It might have only been for a few moments and it may have been one sided, but I felt it, and that glimmering feeling within, that sense for a moment that I fit in with this world and that someone else would want to share it with me for a little while, means more to me than words can tell. For a brief moment, I was not the Dateless-Man; I was just a man.

This brings us to the end of my college recollections. While there may be some rants or opinion pieces coming later, the next adventures involve some more dating as well as the story I’ve been saving for last. Sorry for the long wait and thanks for reading, for those who have. I don’t desire advice or pity, but having an audience has made this journey easier for me.