So, it’s officially 2017. A new year, new possibilities and the same old worries. The minimum wage has gone up in NY, which has led to downsizes at my job. I’m safe, deeply entrenched, for now. America has a new President and my birthday is only two months away (give or take). It will be another year as Dateless-Man, and another year of older male virginity. Having exhausted most of the recollections of my interactions with women, at least those worth typing a few hundred words about, over the last two plus years, topics for posts sometimes get scarce beyond my sporadic whining about stuff. But, this weekend was an exception!
Long time readers may recall the last time I mentioned a woman I dubbed “Carrie” last February. The long and short of it is that she’s the ex of one of my friends from maybe a decade ago who I later realized I had an awkward “2nd Base Moment” during that tenure. Basically, during the time they were dating, she was at one of my pal’s BBQ’s, got falling down drunk, and in trying to catch her from face-planting on a porch the side of my hand brushed against her chest. I apologized to her, and my pal, frantically, everyone laughed, great times (for them; I was mortified for an hour). We got reacquainted on Facebook last year as she went thru a bout of depression. Eventually she got better as she met a new beau, and life moved on. Last week was her birthday and she invited a bunch of people to a party over the weekend. I was invited; in fact, I was the only member of my usual “crew” (who I barely see anymore) who was.
At first I debated going. The party was held in two places; a classy pizza place/Italian restaurant and then at a bar which was loosely themed around Dr. Who. “Carrie” was the only person I would know at the party, for one. The bar was also fairly far from home, for another. And then there was my general dislike for parties. But there were other advantages. I had nothing else going on, for one. Another was that while we’d chatted online, I hadn’t personally seen Carrie beyond a quick “hi-bye” at some previous bar shindig years earlier. And I won’t lie; having something to post about here was maybe 20% of it.
The rest was my mixed emotions regarding her. Carrie had been seeing a guy as of last year, but in recent months I noticed a change in her online feeds. Less happy pictures with him, more seeming to acknowledge being single. Some angst about hitting another year in her 30’s unmarried and without kids. On the one hand, we are going in different directions romantically; she wants to settle down with something long term, and I’ve not even begun. She also doesn’t know about my secret and it’s embarrassing enough with a woman I haven’t known long, much less one I have probably known loosely for almost a decade. On the other hand, I won’t lie and say that maybe 2% of me was curious if she would give me some “signal” at the party. I knew better than to unload emotional vomit towards her at her birthday party. As it was, whatever angst from last year is over for me. I moved on emotionally, but am fine with being pals. Since her social circle was new to me, I was also curious as to any possibilities of any of them including single women as well as general networking.
So I got a hair cut, shaved, and put on nice but still semi-casual attire. It was appropriately dressed for the shindig as I got to the restaurant later than some but earlier than roughly half her guests. Carrie seemed genuinely surprised and pleased that I had made it out. I have a reputation of being a bit of a hermit in our social network. She naturally had to move about to different sections of the table as more folks arrived. I chatted with some of the other people there, who were either single dudes or paired up couples. The party in the restaurant was fairly intimate, only about a dozen or so people around some tables. The pizza was okay, gourmet and all that (i.e. light and flaky). There was one older woman who was maybe in her late 30’s or early 40’s who I actually would have liked to chat with, but she wasn’t there long and spent much of her time with Carrie. Overall, at least I thought I handled myself well. There was no noise to drown anything out, and I kept people laughing with one liners or banter about whatever topic it was (usually shared media we liked). I didn’t hog Carrie’s attention and there were moments when I had to “recharge”. But I doubt if anyone there who didn’t know me would have known I was shy and introverted.
Two of the couples there were heavily into gaming and other nerdery. They bonded a little over having Dungeons & Dragons days per week and playing other games. One couple I talked to extensively; oddly I seemed to get along well with a perky blonde who was with an ex-soldier turned snowboarder and thrill seeker. They wore matching tuxedos, but she decided to wear his top hat, so she was like a blonde Zatanna. It was delightfully weird. It also made me think about how being into nerd things seemed to be no big deal compared to my college days. The couples talked about nights playing intense board games like old school couples used to talk about poker or bridge. It made me wonder what it would be like to have a lover who shared my passion for something.
Once we got to the bar, however, I’d say my social interaction deteriorated drastically. It was insanely loud and packed; barely standing room only. It also had live music, in particular a swing band whose specialty was playing “swing” versions of mainstream rock or pop songs and mixing them together into movements. It reminded me of The Mask and my fascination with that film and animated franchise in junior high. Hell, I related so much to the Mask as a tween that it alone may be worth an article. It was a great band, but it added to my feeling of isolation. Some of the people were dancing in the front, which only reminded me of my inability to do so.
There are three reasons why I don’t dance. The first is I have no skill. The second is that I have no rhythm. The third is that I am too uptight to humiliate myself trying. I didn’t used to be; in elementary school during my class clown, pre-bullying days I went to some of the dances the school started holding in the church basement by about 4th or 5th grade and didn’t mind flopping around like a dingus. But then again I also had plenty of pals to chat with between movements. Nowadays I am far too sheltered and closeted to even try to do so. I sometimes wonder if I would were I wearing some disguise and there was no risk of identification. Unleash my inner dance comedian (because that is how badly I dance; it invokes laughter, but when I am the right mood I actually don’t mind performing for laughter). Sort of like a park mascot or…The Mask. Some of the people had some skill (the women more than the men, naturally), but a lot of it involves just letting go and moving to the beat, and I can do neither.
Carrie danced. At one point she rubbed up against one of her other, taller, guy friends who she was very familiar with for an extended period. She wore a rainbow sparkled dress thing and had dyed her hair red. She sometimes laments about being a size 8 or 10 or whatever but it’s all proportioned. Besides, anyone who isn’t sleaze would consider that “fat”. It sounds lame, but sometimes I simply enjoy being around a woman I consider beautiful even if it’s totally platonic. It makes me feel good, in a non lustful way, to be in her presence. To be worthy of her presence. Maybe it is inexperience, or prolonged years of being unworthy or beneath the notice of women I desired or was attracted to or even got along with. I tried not to huddle around her too awkwardly, but the noise and dancing made it hard to chat with anyone for longer than a few lines. There were 2-3 other women there who were Carrie’s friends, but it was too loud for introductions and I was neither confident nor loud enough to introduce myself. I felt it awkward or risking being “obvious” to loudly try to introduce myself to them at a bustling bar without any prompts. Two were in corsets. Carrie has some very unique friends. Maybe that’s my problem, I was the only one of my crew who stayed weird. They all morphed into normal guys after college, and I remained an awkward freak.
I would watch the dancing, the overall going with the beat, and would try to calculate imitating it like a robot. Like most bar experiences, it made me feel left out, like an alien watching humanity and trying to imitate from afar. At one point Carrie noticed and asked, “Too social for you?” I replied, “No,” which was maybe half a lie. The restaurant was fine, but at the bar I was overwhelmed. I wondered if I could handle parties or even dating again, so long as we avoided being lost at a bar. I wasn’t the first to leave, but after the band left around midnight people started filing out, and I didn’t want to miss the last bus out of town. As it was, I barely made it. Carrie once again noted being pleased that I made it out, which she followed up on via Facebook.
I imagined that had this party happened maybe ten years ago, or even 8, I might have reacted differently. My reason for going would have been 100% hoping Carrie initiated “something” rather than acknowledging that we were on different paths. I would have sulked or been jealous about the geek couples I wasn’t part of. It would have depressed me later. Instead I am calm, collected. I acknowledged it all and enjoyed what I could. Carrie did inquire about her ex who was my pal, since he’s quit social media for at least a year. We also chatted about other friends who will soon be parents. Carrie expressed surprise that they would be the first in our group to breed, since she considered most of them “immature”. I joked that most men’s emotional maturity is at best half their physical age, so they were on track.
Overall, it was an interesting experience for me. It reaffirmed my inability to cope in loud bars or massive groups socially. In more intimate settings, I imagine that I joke around enough that people might not know I was shy and introverted unless they knew me well. One half of the evening allowed me to become a part of a group of mostly strangers, and the other half reaffirmed how in many ways I am an alien on my own planet. I will never relax enough to dance, and I always feel apart from people in too large a group at clubs or bars. Carrie obviously made no “moves” towards me and if anything, rubbed up against another guy literally in my presence. There were at least 3-4 other women I encountered that I would have liked to get to know better who for aforementioned reasons I never said a word to. Yet there were no feelings of malaise or regret to this shindig for me. Maybe in a way this was also part of why I went. To see how I would react should things develop in the way I expected them to. C’mon, I’m too experienced to assume that Carrie would reveal some secret desire or I’d bump into another woman who was into me. I’m not a teenager or in my 20’s anymore. I know that’s not meant to be, and doesn’t happen at social settings for me.
And I was okay. I wasn’t skipping down the street about it, but I was okay. It was water off a duck’s back, a fact of life I had accepted. I was more concerned at the end with catching my bus and making it home without being involved in a drive by. Is it possible I am coming closer to my Zen? I’ve lamented many times how I wished that my inner desires for companionship and love would vacate my body. How I could wish to somehow reach into my soul and turn that desire off like a switch, through willpower alone. And sure, there are moments still of frustration and envy. Unfortunately, I am only human. But overall I think I am in a different place now than I was at the end of my 20’s, or even in 2014 when I began the blog. Having this as a safe space to safely vent my romantic frustrations and bleakness has mattered. Getting all of those stifling, humiliating, and one sided disasters of my memories about women out of my mind and into text, where others can see it, has had some impact.
The absence of pain is not pleasure. But it’s still the absence of pain. With my sense of humor and experiences from work I can handle the rest. This party, while short, was an interesting experience for me and my reactions. If this is the development of Zen, of no longer giving a damn about being alone anymore, then I welcome it. I’ve yearned to be free of these urges. Perhaps now that I have vented in essays for two years, I am closer to that state. Perhaps this is a sign that I have entered the last stage of mourning of my love life — acceptance.
And with my birthday coming up soon, that may be the greatest gift of all.