On Saturday night, I cratered. I mean, emotionally, I hit rock bottom and kept on drilling. A weekend of failed plans, friends going out without me behind my back and finding out that my ex had just gotten engaged. Plus Armageddon – one of the eight movies a guy is allowed to cry during – was on and like a dumbass, I watched the whole thing.
Romantically, things hadn’t been going my way either. Sure some fish were on the hook, but I wasn’t really ready to haul them in. And a lot of them had been flopping off the hook at the last minute. Whenever things look like they’re going good, they suddenly go completely sideways for reasons I simply cannot understand. My dating life is a metaphysical shitshow that culminated in me having one crystallizing thought: I will never understand women.
It’s a cliche, I know, but until Saturday I never truly understood it. It always seemed like some punchline told by hack comedians to get some easy yuks. Men and women are different right? We’ll never understand why they do this one seemingly silly thing! Hardee har har.
Now, I understand the feeling of helplessness, confusion, bitterness, anger, and a tiny bit of nausea that the right girl can pose. Some girls will put you in a choke hold and demand you solve a Rubix cube behind your back before revealing what they’re actually thinking. This was the case with the latest in a long line of women who put me into a Tilt-O-Whirl of emotions. So this weekend, in my state of despair, desperation, and drunkenness (which will likely be the title of my autobiography), I made a bold choice: I blew it up.
My whole life, I have been a man of precision. Calculation. I was that kid whose binder was organized by subject. Who rehearsed how he would say “here” when his name was called for attendance. If I met a new girl, every aspect from the first message to the first date to the first kiss was reviewed, analyzed, and fine-tuned. I don’t know how to do it any other way. It might be my greatest flaw, my need for control over the uncontrollable and my perfectionist tendencies, that makes me have to play it safe. According to “the rules.” So now, watching yet another girl slip away despite the fact that I had no clue what had gone wrong, I resolved to throw out the rule book and just swing away.
One text, three lines, that was all it took. With this collection of words, I toppled the fragile state of limbo that was my dating life with this girl. A couple of sentences culminating in the thesis I’d always been too scared to pose to a girl, for fear of driving her off. A sentiment that just seemed in my head to be so brash, foolish, and untoward, there was no chance it could work. The opposite of what my every instinct told me was the safe play. The gist – “So do you just want to bang?”
A lot of guys might be laughing that my big revelation was something simple they’d figured out in their youth. Shooters shoot, right? But you have to understand, this wasn’t how I thought this worked. It wasn’t according to the rules. You’re supposed to take a girl out and feel her out over the course of some small activities. As George Costanza once frantically cried: it’s signals, Jerry! If she likes you, she’ll keep going out with you. If she really likes you, you can make moves early in the courtship.
I’ve been in this situation many times when things hit a snare and stall for some reason. Normally, it would either drift into the shadow realm of the other ghosts, or I’d passive-aggressively drive her off. Not this time. Sink or swim. Red light or green light. I was tossing the relationship into the water and see if it sank or floated (naturally we would burn the witch if it floated or, alternatively, if it weighed the same as a duck).
Initially, I was terrified after I hit the “send” button. Like legitimate flop sweats. I shoved the phone in a book, out of sight, with the ringer off. I paced like the star of a ’90s sitcom, checking it whenever bouts of bravery took hold. Each minute without a response was agonizing, not knowing one way or the other.
As an irrationally anxious person does, I imagined every possible bad outcome. She could be passing the phone around to all her friends, giving them a big laugh at my desperation. She could be shrieking in horror, deleting my number and blocking all traces of my repugnant identity from her existence. Maybe she was grinning maniacally, crafting the perfect response to reject me. Sincerity plus pity with a dash of arrogance, knowing she had the upper hand. The perfect knife twist before she dropped me off the cliff she’d been dangling me from for weeks, watching me fall away in slow-mo like I’m Hans Gruber.
A half hour passed. Then an hour. My stomach churned. My mind raced. I heard the dynamite cascading down into the mine, but I had no idea if the blast would kill me or not. Then, just after midnight, as I lie in my bed tossing and turning trying to fall asleep, I heard the buzzing of a text message notification. I won’t lie, I was scared. Stomach churning, I psyched myself up for whatever response awaited me. Ready to finally find out if the cat in the box was alive or dead, I swiped the message to be read. It was my father. Texting me that Bryce Harper had been injured during the rain delayed Nationals game he was attending.
I burst out laughing, as all my fears and anxieties evaporated. I felt foolish, stressing over an answer I knew was probably going to be bad. It was at that moment I realized the answer was actually immaterial. By acting at all, I’d succeeded.
Eventually, I got a response. Not an answer, one way or the other, but a response nonetheless. But I was relieved, knowing that I was finally making some decisive moves. Confident that if and when I end up in a similar quandary I have the stones to push all my chips in instead of slow playing until someone folds. I may not be much of a gambling man, but you can only play it coy for so long before you reach the end of your rope. When that moment comes, have the confidence to just grip it and rip it. .