She was convinced before we ever met that I was the one for her. We’d bonded on the internet over a shared love of craft beer, history, and the Chicago White Sox. On paper it was a good match. At least that’s how I saw it. She, it seemed, saw it as a done deal.
The first date went reasonably well, I suppose. We had dinner. We walked around talking about whatever it is that strangers talk about. She invited me back to her place with the promise of New Glarus Spotted Cow.
Shirts came off. It was her idea, not mine. I just played along because I couldn’t figure out why I was still there and I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t left. I was pretty deer in the headlights at that point, is what I’m saying.
I genuinely did not know what to do. This was not a situation for which I had prepared myself. Most of my dating life was a string of first date disappointments. Either I didn’t much care for her or she didn’t much care for me. My few quote-unquote successes were back in the days of meeting girls in church where it was expected that the shirts stayed firmly stapled in place until the wedding night. I was a very good little Christian until I stopped being a Christian.
By all outward appearances I was still a good little Christian even after that. I didn’t start going to strip clubs and snorting blow off of hookers’s asses. The major change in my life was that I started grocery shopping on Sunday mornings because that was when everyone else was in church. And, y’know, there was all the writing about how the Christianity I grew up with was a load of bollocks.
I eventually figured out how to extricate myself from the situation. Street parking ended at 2:00 am. It was getting well past midnight and my car was on the street. Problem solved! I mean, kinda. She tried to get me to stick around anyway, but after that was the, “I have to go take care of my dog,” argument. It’s important to have multiple lines of defense when trying to avoid first date sexual congress.
We went out again the next weekend and it was pretty miserable. I’d basically friend zoned her by then and so didn’t put a lot of effort into much of anything. She’d done the whole, “Hey, I want to go to [some random place], want to go?” And I was all, “Sure. Whatever,” and just kind of called when I was on my way over. So the first, let’s call it half, of the date-like-thing was spent with her bitching me out for not being better prepared. Then whatever it is we were going to do wasn’t actually available so we ended up doing something else. Fuck if I know what, though.
Then we went to a street festival in Chicago because Chicago street festivals are awesome. This one in particular included Scott Lucas & the Married Men, who I had not yet seen live because they became a thing while I was down in Texas. They were on the same bill as Toad the Wet Sprocket, who I’d just seen at the Wildflower Festival in Richardson, TX. They’d gotten one of those 45 minute festival sets and I walked away wanting a whole hell of a lot more because Toad the Wet Sprocket is an amazing live act. She obviously gave no shits about SL&tMM and then claimed she was sick and wanted to go home right before Toad came on. I was pretty pissed about that.
So and that point I figured I was in the clear, right? We were still good as friends on paper and could get along just fine on an intellectual level. We were equally obviously terrible as a couple. I happened to get amazing tickets to a White Sox game so we went together and just kind of hung out. It was actually a lot of fun and there was no dating type shit going on.
Yeah, no. She immediately went back into trying to convince me we should date. We ended up hanging out one more time, like, six months later after sporadic communication and then only had sporadic communication after that, most of which immediately devolved into trying to figure out why we couldn’t get along with each other.
That, for the record, was my third-most-successful relationship.
I ended that whole fiasco-in-the-making because of personal experience. Specifically, I’d been on the other side of that equation. I once spent nearly two years trying to convince someone that she and I totally belonged together. It started with three months of genuinely great times and then moved into a year and a half long slog of misery and mutual hatred that neither one of us could break because I was delusional and she had abandonment issues.
For a long time after that I thought of her as “the one that got away,” although there were many who fit that category, really. She was just the only one who seemed like she might be willing to stick around. Because, again, I was delusional. You can’t just convince someone to love you.
The other day I started thinking about the “relationship” where I did the leaving. I wondered what would have happened if I’d just gone with it. Was there enough there to say, “Eh, let it happen and eventually everything will fall into place?”
I’ll spare you the details, but the answer I came up with was, “Wow, that’s a terrible idea.” The thing that I missed when I was the one trying to convince is that while I remained convinced that the combination of me and the her-in-my-head was perfect I was slowly growing to hate the her-in-front-of-me. And she definitely resented and increasingly despised me. Once the spell broke I realized that I wanted nothing more to do with her ever again. Like, if she popped up on my Facebook tomorrow and said, “Hey, want to have a coffee and catch up?” I’d have to think long and hard about whether I even wanted to respond.
Had I willingly acquiesced when the tables were turned there are few scenarios where it would have ended well. What I’ve realized is that playing that game would have wasted both of our lives on one person’s fantasy. It also turns a person with hopes and dreams into a simple object to be won. I was disrespected as a person when I was the pursued. I disrespected another person when I was the pursuer.
The motivations were different. When I was doing the pursuing I was searching desperately for someone to justify my existence. I didn’t think I could decide on my own that I deserved love or respect, so I wanted someone else to love and respect me. When I was being pursued I’m pretty sure I was just another box to be checked off on a list. She had a Master’s Degree and was on a career path and just needed a man to step in so she could have it all. This is, of course, speculation, but looking back on it later I realized that all of the, let’s call it nagging, she did right from the start was because I was lacking in several of the key qualities on her checklist and stubbornly insisted on not immediately adjusting myself to possess them.
It’s like, well, this.
The thing I’ve learned in life is that we’re more constrained by the things we don’t do and the choices we don’t make than the things we do and the choices we make. For everything I do there are an infinite number of possible things that I don’t. For every choice that I make there are an infinite number of choices I don’t make. We lose track of this because no one is ever introduced by the things they don’t do. No one’s obituary is filled with the choices they didn’t make.
Michael Jordan never ran out onto the court at Chicago Stadium to the announcer saying, “And now, at guard, 6’6”, not from Michigan, not from Ohio State, not from Vanderbilt, not from Duke it’s not-insurance-salesman, not-accountant, not-dog groomer Miiiiichael Joooordan!”
The thing I’ve learned in life is that we’re defined by the things we do and the choices we make. There are only enough hours in the day, days in the year, and years in a lifetime to make a tiny number of choices and be a tiny number of things. We pay attention to those things because we assume that if a person chooses to do a thing that must mean it’s important to them.
What if Michael Jordan had become an accountant? What if he had said that playing basketball was too hard and was, instead, somewhere in Raleigh pulling all-nighters to close out the tax season? His friends, family, co-workers, and clients would know him as the accountant Michael Jordan and no one would ever call him a 6’6” guard from North Carolina.
The world would still be spinning. The NBA would be a different thing. Chicago would have six fewer championships to its name. People would argue over Kobe and LeBron with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as their main points of comparison. That’s really not that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things.
What we choose defines us. Everything we don’t choose closes off a possibility. The saddest life is the one lived by closing all the doors to the most desired definition.
This is not the only time I’ve found myself talking women out of, y’know, stuff. It was the most fully developed situation, as it were, but there were others. Like, two or three. Maybe four. I’m not saying that there are women throwing themselves at me on a regular basis is what I’m saying. I’m just saying it’s happened. And every time it does I reflect on how in church I learned that boys want to push things and it’s the job of the girls to keep the boys from going too far because boys like sex and girls don’t. Now leave aside for the moment the huge, disturbing implications when it gets time to choose who’s to blame in cases of rape. I’ve often wondered if the women whose advances I spurned walked away feeling incredibly confused.
I laugh about it sometimes.
Holy shit! I just figured out what to do with my life! I’m going to become an advice columnist for guys who have just had enough of it and don’t want to get laid! That’ll sell, right?
 Also, in my defense, I’d just moved across the country and was trying to get into the groove of a major life change. Also I suck at making plans in general.
And so but anyway I’ve now moved onto a plan whereby I go on a date every other March. In 2013 I went on one date with someone I knew was terrible for me the moment I met her. She was way too young, emotionally manipulative, not particularly bright, and kept doing this weird baby talk thing that I later found out is something women apparently think men find sexy. I mostly find it incredibly annoying. Also, when we were in the car she constantly fucked with my radio. You do not fuck with my radio unless you’ve known me for at least 5 years and I know your Venn diagram of musical tastes overlaps at least 65% with mine. In 2015 I managed to go on a date with a woman who thought that her employer should totally be allowed to tell her what she could and could not do with her own uterus. It was like going on a date with a unicorn and finding out that the unicorn is racist and super anti-union. I look forward to next March. I’m going to try to meet a Guatemalan KKK member who voted for Donald Trump.