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.