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.