You know how sometimes, in the movies, the protagonist is divorced or widowed and decides to start dating again and they realize they don’t know what they’re doing? They say something cute like, “The last person I dated was my wife, and I was 18. I don’t know what I’m doing any more! The game has changed! How am I supposed to do this?”
I feel like that. I have no idea what I’m doing. But unlike our movie protagonists, I have no excuse. I never left the game. I’ve been here all along. Yet I still feel like it’s somehow left me behind. It’s changed, and I can’t keep up.
A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a group of friends (most of them married), and naturally, I started talking to the only other single person there (a guy). In the morning, I got a text from one of my friends that said, “So, how did it go?!?!” Confused, I wrote back, “Good. I went to sleep.” When I talked to my friend later, she questioned me more. She couldn’t believe nothing had happened with us and asked if we had at least exchanged numbers. While I had enjoyed talking to him, the fact that he might be interested in something more than just pleasant conversation hadn’t really occurred to me. I told my friend that I had just said goodnight and that was it. She shook her head and said, “Ellen, he could have been trying to kiss you – literally leaning down, trying to kiss you — and you wouldn’t know.”
She’s basically right. I’m oblivious.
In college, I was at a small party where I didn’t know very many people. There was a group playing cards, and an older guy — who I knew, but not very well — asked me if I wanted to join in the game. I was thankful for the friendly gesture, but told him I didn’t know how to play. He kindly offered to have me sit with him, and said he’d help me learn how. It was a card game, so it wasn’t too complicated, and I caught on pretty quickly. Although I knew what I was doing after a few minutes, the guy stuck around – continuing to give me tips, offer advice, and make conversation. Unfortunately for this guy, I happen to be super competitive. I didn’t agree with some of his “tips,” and I wasn’t about to let him ruin my chances of winning. So, I politely told him that I understood the game and that I could take it from here. Then I promptly ignored him until he left the table and went into the other room. I had no idea that he was actually interested in me, and was just trying to get to know me better until days later when a friend told me.
I won the game. The guy went in the other room and struck up a conversation with a girl who didn’t ignore him, and who he later ended up marrying.
Although I often have no idea what’s going on, this can sometimes work to my advantage. For instance, if I don’t know someone is interested, then chances are I wont make (as big a) fool out of myself. I promise that I’m not normally ridiculously socially awkward, but stick me on a date, and it’s like I forget how to make sentences. A couple of weeks ago, a guy asked me the totally normal question of “What do you like to do for fun?” There are many normal ways I could have answered this question, but instead I panicked. So, instead of something like “reading” or “baking” or “watching movies” I said, “I guess I like to drink.”
Seriously. I said that. Hi, I’m Ellen. I’m a lush.
The problem is that even when I think I get it right, I still end up missing something. A few weeks ago, I met a guy who I thought I was interesting, funny, and good-looking. We talked most of the night, I don’t think I said anything too awkward, and when the night ended I was feeling very good about the whole thing. He pulled out his phone, presumably to get my phone number, and then he asked me… wait for it… to be Facebook friends. I’m not joking. Is that even a thing? Am I that out of touch? When did that become ok? No, I don’t want to be your Facebook friend. I want to be your real life friend. I don’t want to read about what music and movies you like, I want you to tell me what movies and music you like, preferably over dinner.
Needless to say, I never hung out with him again.
I’ve had (maybe more than) my fair share of bad dates, awkward conversations, missed opportunities and crossed signals, but I’ve also had some good, really fun dates, and met some pretty awesome people. So, even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I guess I’ll continue to at least pretend I have a clue and hope for the best.
Wow. Lots of feelings. Don’t worry, I’m baking them into Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, so keep a look out for the next post.