Why I Shouldn’t Ask People Out (Pt. 3)

The next time I asked someone out was right here, at Oxford. Yes, you heard me. Between ninth grade, when I was fifteen years old, and my third year of university, at the age of twenty two, I never asked someone out. Nor, by the way, was I technically asked out during all that time. Dating and me just don’t go together.

But let me make one thing clear. It’s not that I don’t make the first move. It’s not that I wait around. I sometimes wish I was more patient, so that I could do that. I sometimes feel bitter, in fact, about how often I’ve actually made the first move. The people I’ve made those moves on have invariably told me that if I hadn’t made that move, they wouldn’t have made it, being too scared or nervous to do anything. At the time, it makes me feel glad, proud of myself. Later on, after things go sour, I don’t regret it (because I don’t particularly feel regret about things anymore; experience is experience, no matter what) but I feel… complicated about it. I twist my brain around with the logic of the clinically depressed, and promise that next time, if there is one, I won’t make the first move.

But then I get impatient.

This year, I was participating in an activity for a while that took up a lot of my time for an intense week or two. I got to meet someone who I’d seen around and had been introduced to a couple of times, though he didn’t remember me. This should have been my first warning. In fact, it was. Let’s call him Michael, because the name makes me giggle for a whole host of reasons that have to do with other things that are really unimportant.

My second warning should have been that Michael was very, very similar – in body type, in face shape, but most of all in attitude and ego – to a person I knew at Sarah Lawrence College. Another person who I was extremely attracted to, in a stupid, illogical way, because the SLC person was also not particularly nice to me, made me feel very small when I was around him, and was far too confidant and aware of my attraction to him, while also making no move. Basically, the SLC-M and the Oxford-M were very different in context and content but very similar in the way they acted towards me.

They made me feel like they were stepping on me. And though I’m usually not actually so dumb about people who treat me badly, I was dumb here. I thought, because of the context and content of the Oxford Michael, that he was actually a nice guy. He was also younger than me, which I thought might give me an edge.

So one night, as he untied his bike from a lamppost, I boldly asked “Want to go out sometime?” and he said, confused, “what, clubbing?” I quickly remedied this mistake (shaking, as I always do, even when I don’t care about a person, when confronted with doing something that is potentially embarrassing and said “No, for coffee, or a drink or something.” He said “Yeah, okay.” And kind of smiled. And I thought that was that, I would get to conquer my irrational fear of SLC-M through this other person and deal with my fear of a certain kind of ego.

Next night, he asked me to clarify. He asked me “When you asked if I wanted to go out… what, did you mean like a ‘date?'” I said yes, because he was being giggly, and I thought he might be flattered, and I never thought that what was about to happen would happen – really, I didn’t, because I didn’t realize anyone could be quite so unaware of another person’s existence.

He burst out laughing. Really, really laughing. He said he was Eastern, that they didn’t do that, and that it was so American of me. I tried to laugh too, saying that, well, it’s not really how I usually do it either, but it seemed like the only way I would see him after our activity was over. I asked if that meant a no. He said that no, it didn’t. But then, for the rest of the day, he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

That night, I stopped before he left, and told him “You can really say no, it’s fine. It’s not that big a deal, I barely know you.” And he asked if, it wasn’t a big deal, why I needed such a clear yes or no answer. Something broke inside me and all the confidence I’d gained died.

The next time he saw me was at a dance, where I misinterpreted something he said in a very, very awkward way. The next time after that I was dressed in an American flag. And now? Now he invited me to a leaving party. I have no idea why. Weird.

But the lesson is clear. I should. Never. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ask. People. Out.

It just doesn’t end well.

It just doesn’t.


Why I Shouldn’t Ask People Out (Pt. 2)

Most people hate high school. For me, high school was the first time I belonged. There wasn’t a ruling faction – there were cliques. Each clique kept pretty much to itself, except on rare occasions. People were civil to one another unless taunted into acting otherwise.
The clique of friends I belonged to was large – we’d all been the social outcasts of our previous schools, to some extent or another. Or else, upon reaching high school, we’d been thrown off by old friends and had to find new ones to hang out with. We gravitated towards one another, and we were cool, in our own way, because we didn’t give two fucks what people thought of us. We just did our own thing. Made our own jokes. Took over a corner of the classroom during recess. Had our own spot of grass to lie on when the weather was nice. It was good.
I even met another girl like me. She wore baggy clothes that were her brother’s castoffs. She liked anime and manga. We watched Inuyasha together on the phone every evening and squealed over our first acknowledged cartoon fandom. We also discovered music together. First Good Charlotte and then Green Day; Sonata Arctica and then Metallica; Blue Oyster Cult and Pink Floyd; Dream Theater and Kamelot and Nightwish and on and on and on – we started slow and grew quickly into metal and melodic metal and death metal and psychedelic old stuff and punk and on and on and on – we reveled in our discoveries and listened, for hours, dissecting the way each guitar rift or drum roll made us feel, the way it made our stomachs leap and our bodies roar and our heads explode with unknown pleasure. It sounds dramatic, and it was – growing up with older brothers, we’d both felt the need to defend our choices of radio pop music for far too long. High school, our brothers’ disappearance from our lives – mine to the US, hers to the army – allowed us the freedom to listen to what we’d heard emanating from behind their doors for years and finally enjoy it.
With the music, came the fashion. We started lusting after black clothing and lip rings. The latter wasn’t doable – yet – but the former was. Down the slow road to gothdom we went, doing what we could with what little funds we had. Black cargo pants and black t-shirts and tank tops and black nail polish became our daily fare.

Suddenly, we were a bit cooler. Just enough for a guy two years above us – let’s call him Frank – to pay attention to us. He had those big, big, big headphones that we lusted over. He had a CD player (MP3s, I’ll remind you, still played an average of 20ish songs in 2004 or were very expensive – but you could get a CD player that read MP3 CDS, which meant mounds more music). He listened to good, good, good music. He deigned to visit my friend and I in our (!) classroom, the lowly ninth grade – when he was in heavenly eleventh – and play us music. He put the headphones on our heads and blasted roller-coaster sound in our ears, making us forever-conscious of just how to move our heads and rock our bodies and pump our knees.
My friend didn’t think he was cute. I did. I think, in all honesty, that I was mostly just flattered by the attention, but that was enough. I crushed and I crushed and I dithered and I tried to flirt, but the truth is I have no idea how to. If I flirt, I do it accidentally and I don’t know I’m doing it. If I try, I end up being awkward.

Finally, after much encouragement, I asked him out. On a date. I asked him to go see a movie with me. His lips curled in a sweet smile, and he said sure. And I said great. And I ran back to class. And was ecstatic throughout the week.
Until Friday. On Friday he called and cancelled, telling me he was sick. I was disappointed beyond words, but I also wasn’t mad, because hey, everyone gets sick sometimes, right? I’d already had my outfit picked out and everything, but what can you do?
On Sunday (the school week starts on Sunday in Israel), at school, a girl who lived in the same town he lived in sat me down and very seriously told me that she’d seen him at the mall on Friday night with all his friends. I felt like killing her. Why had she told me that? I’d have preferred (I thought then) to not have known. To have lived with the lie. In retrospect, I’m glad I found out, though I also know that she shouldn’t have stuck her nose in my business or gotten involved.
The last I heard of him was that he had a long-term girlfriend who was religious and wouldn’t sleep with him, so he would try to spur that same friend of mine from high school into having cyber-sex with him all the time. She found him creepy. I’m rather glad the whole thing didn’t work out.

Why I Shouldn’t Ask People Out (Pt. 1)

I’m a feminist. Unabashedly. Unashamedly. What that means to me – before anyone gets incensed and rolls their eyes – is that I believe in equality. I believe that women deserve equal rights and I know we’re still not getting them. I also have a lot of issues with gender-binary stereotypes, even though I spout them a lot because psychology still works through socially constructed ideas that are part of how we handle day-to-day situations.

What this all boils down to is that even in eighth grade, having just turned thirteen, I knew that I had just as much right to ask a boy out as he had the right to ask me out. Of course, the fact that I was a pudgy, tomboyish, glasses-wearing, musical-singing-during-recess-with-only-two-friends-I-had, good-grades-getting, aspiring-actor-whose-acting-teachers-didn’t-like-her, reading-obsessed, non-pop-cultured weirdo meant that I wasn’t really getting lots of offers. But there was this one boy, a reader who was in the same acting classes as I was. He was beautiful, and he was occasionally nice to me. Along with many other girls, I nursed a not-so-secret crush on him. Let’s call him Stag.

In Israel, when you’re in seventh and eighth grades, there are a ton of big parties, for Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. Families who have the money to spare or aren’t throwing big family-get-togethers for the occasion of their kids’ Jewish coming-of-age rent out halls and invite the kids’ grade for a big dance party. Tame stuff, but it was when I discovered that I loved dancing, and that I could mimic other people’s dance moves, and that it made me feel alive and sexy.

Seventh grade was the girls’ Bat Mitzvah parties. Eighth was the boys’. It so happened that another boy I had a little bit of a crush on through a big party too, a family and friend affair. There would be a bus to ferry us to the location. I had a new shirt, velvety purple with bits cut out for my shoulders, long-sleeved. It felt sexy, to my eighth grade self. A few days before the party, I decided I’d ask Stag to be my date.

My heard pounded all day long. I was shaking as I walked up to him. And asked. And he… said he’d think about it. I smiled, happy. I got a non-negative answer! I was a girl, who’d asked a boy out, and it wasn’t a no! He hadn’t laughed at me! Of course, the laughter will come in this saga, but not from him. No, he bruised my ego but just letting me wait, until I heard that he’d asked someone else out – had, in fact, forgotten that I’d asked him. I remember vaguely confronting him about it – saying something about how he owed me an answer, and him saying that he was taking someone else.

The story doesn’t quite end there, though. The boy whose party it was – let’s call him Opie – was a nice guy. I earned the nickname “Ilana Massage” from him, because I gave good massages. I got to touch him, and he made me cooler by association. He was the class clown. He liked me – he thought I was funny, and smart. I think, looking back, that he might have been gay and not known it yet. But he was nice to me. He wasn’t an asshole. He made fun of me occasionally in the way that kids in middle school do, but he didn’t exclude me from things. Stag, on the other hand, played favorites. He pretended to be all innocent-faced, but he switched camps to whoever treated him more like an idol.

Years later, Stag and I met in a military office, waiting to be interviewed for media-job postings. He had a broken leg from a ski trip. I was running a high fever. We weren’t at our best. I thought he looked familiar. But he recognized me and called my name. We chatted. He still looked good. He still made me nervous. But he remembered me. Who knows – maybe I’m still the only girl who’s ever asked him out, however unsuccessfully.

Whether the weather be good or bad…

I love England. I love Oxford. But I have noticed that there is a remarkable amount of discussing the weather that goes on here. Nowhere else have I reverted to that social stereotype of “chatting about the weather” during awkward situations so often. I’m not complaining, mind you – I’m just stating an observation.
[An aside: my typing volume has apparently reached critical mass and has chased one of my flatmates out of the kitchen where I am sitting. While I am known for typing vast and loudly, it is also only in England that I have become quite so aware of how much the volume of my typing noise annoys people. I swear, though – it’s partly my keyboard’s fault. Its keys are small and make staccato noises that appear to bother people. Am I the only one who loves the sound of typing?]
Back to the weather, though. It does’t matter whether it’s absolutely gorgeous outside, the sun shining proudly over the Oxford spires, or whether it’s grey and cloudy and depressing and grey (when it’s grey, it’s so grey that it deserves being mentioned twice). Either way, people will discuss the misery or loveliness of it, and will complain or rejoice. I find that concentrating on the miserable weather, when it’s as it is today, makes me far more aware of it. I prefer to ignore it and just get on with things. Otherwise, I’ll succumb to that most lovely of prospects – the rainy afternoon nap – and will be lost to the world for several hours.

Is this a thing anywhere else? This constant discussion of the weather? Or am I right in my supposition that it’s peculiarly English/British?


PHOTO /  Earthwatcher

The Ups and Downs of the Isle of Wight

Bus ride to the ferry to the Isle took us through Portsmouth. Made me think of Dickens and Copperfield. Not the magician. Though he’s cool too.
Ferry to Isle. Sunlight and wind and cigarettes and friends.
Isle of Wight. Bus takes the road to where the little Roman helmet points but turns back because can’t fit between two parked cars. Drove all the way around the island. Back to the same exact road. Manages to fit between same exact two parked cars. Horrah! Lunch and Roman ruins for all!
Low point. Roman ruins would be could be should be fascinating. But leg muscles are mutinying and patience is capsizing. Medusa isn’t straight in her mosaic on the floor and I still haven’t gotten a straight answer over who made the joke about it being just like all of us.
More sun. More bus. Hotel by the beach is beautiful. Room small but comfortable. Feels like vacation. Walk to the beach, walk along the beach alone. Feet are tired of standing still and meandering so brisk hard walk in the sand is a relief. Trying to walk over rocks to join in becomes a torture and I turn back. Feet are still bruised. Bloody rocks.
Back to hotel. Seven minutes in hot water heaven. Wrote outside. Read. Moved inside. Cold. Trivial Pursuit – which was to be pursued for hours yet – getting warmed up in the background of Jeanette Winterson’s “Sexing the Cherry” which blurred before my eyes.
Low point. Dinner. Embarrassing, as usual. Making a fool of myself. Food. Food food food. Why can’t you eat like a normal human being? Do you eat salmon? Salad? Vegetables? Potatoes? Sausages? No? No?! REALLY?! Well what DO you eat?
Walk on the beach. Confusion. Friend jealousy, feeling out of place, but also out of comfort zone and bravely proud. Good. Odd. Good.
Back. Bottle of wine split down the middle without breaking one shard of glass. Tension? Cher from Clueless thinks wine makes you feel sexy. Made me feel spinny and inarticulate. Not proud of my honesty, because honesty changes every time I dig deeper into my thoughts to uncover something else I hadn’t thought of before. Apologizing sincerely for honesty erases it and makes it dishonest – not the apology, but the honesty.
Morning breakfast bus bus Osborne losing people getting lost finding people lunch. Bus bus bus bus ferry bus.

Back in Oxford. Last term. Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.