Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why I am the Charlie Brown of dating

How do you feel about open relationships? he texted me the other night.

Well this doesn't bode well, I thought, my heart sinking a little, and I was right. Since our first go-round last winter Jimmy James has performed a complete 180 in his misconceptions of me. Back then, for some reason he assumed that because I was "reserved and shy" (his words, ugh) I was some kind of tightly wound prude who thought that having sex with him meant I should start picking out wedding dresses. Since then, I seem to have set him straight on the matter, albeit unintentionally, by mentioning one time that I was planning to hang out with my out-of-town friend that night. Yes, a guy. No, not my boyfriend. A hook up? Do you really think I would tell you if it was? But as it turned out, I didn't have to tell him. Though I stuck by my story that I was just hanging out with my friend (which was true), he wouldn't let go of the idea that I was hooking up (which I suppose was also true). I played nonchalant and didn't try too hard to convince him otherwise, since he seemed to get such a kick out of the whole thing. Instead of repressed prude, he now saw me as some kind of sexual free spirit, and it's funny how someone's view of you can change so completely and still be so off mark. I'd gone from Charlotte to Samantha practically overnight in his eyes (though he may not have put it that way), and he seemed thrilled by the whole thing. "Good for you!" he exclaimed, his delighted laughter devolving into giggles. "That's great that you have a hook up. No really, I mean it!" I just shrugged, still neither confirming or denying anything. Looking back, that should have been my first clue. What can I say, I guess sometimes I go willfully color blind in the face of waving red flags. And it's not like I actually thought anything would happen with him, anyway. We were just having a beer, for god's sake. And then another night, and another beer. Lately I've been seeing him about once a week or so, though I always end up feeling like an afterthought.

He likes me more this time, he said; I'm different than I was before. More laid back. He thinks I've changed, though I haven't. He just never bothered to actually get to know me, before. He still hasn't really, now. And so we hang out, and it has quickly evolved into a pal-sy kind of relationship, hanging out with him and the guys, and a hug at the end of the night. So, fine. So, we'll be friends. (Can you please not sock me in the arm like that though? I'm not actually one of the guys, and that kind of hurts.) So, fine, except that through all the buddy-buddy stuff, he would occasionally get started with the flirty, sexy text messages, which, also, fine. I would playfully respond, taking secret delight in the fact that maybe, just maybe, he wanted to take this friendship thing to another level. Which would also be fine. And just look at me, a model of laid-back-itude and hey, man, whatever, it's cool. But then.

Open relationships?
I texted back. Bwargh? Huh? Or maybe something marginally more coherent. Why?

No reason, just wondering, haha.

No, it did not bode well.

Hanging out with him last night, it was me and four dudes and all the farting and masturbation conversations that that inevitably entails. But fine, I will happily borrow his friends for a couple hours on a Friday night given that I currently have, like, maybe one friend of my own here. (Ahem.) At the bar we finally had a moment to talk alone, and it started innocently enough. "I found an apartment," he mentioned. "Me, my friend Al, and this girl."

"That's great," I congratulated him. "So who's this girl? Someone you know?"

He immediately went all coy and vague and eye-darty, obviously hoping to get a rise out of me, which, perversely, only made me want to prove to him the ponderously heavy weight of exactly how much I did not give a fuck. I refused to take the bait, changed the subject. When he mentioned the price, though, "For a three bedroom?" I exclaimed incredulously. Here came the shifty eyes again.

"Actually, it's a two bedroom..." he said, leaving me to do the math on that one. This time it was him that changed the subject. "You know," he said, "if you're interested in any of my friends, I wouldn't have a problem with that..."

I hadn't thought it was possible for this conversation to get any worse, but then, here it was. "Uh, what?" I said.

"You know, I'm just saying... It wouldn't bother me. Like, my friend Al said he thinks you're pretty cute..."

"You want me to get with Al?" I said, my mouth agape. "You think I should be with Al???" Not only was I not at all interested in the Al in question, but we are not even the kind of people one would look at and think, Now they would make a good couple. The idea of it was just preposterous. Not to mention that I had said all of five words to the guy. "With Al?" I repeated dumbly.

"Or any of my friends," he said. "I'm just saying, if there's anyone you're interested in..."

I quickly ran through the options: friend one--has a girlfriend, friend two--moving to Florida next week (with his girlfriend), leaving...yeah. Al.

"I don't understand. Why are you saying this?" I said, silently pleading with him to stop, hoping my voice didn't betray the hurt that was building by the second. Not wanting to date me was one thing, but to try to pawn me off on his friend like an old shoe... I felt myself sinking into my bar stool.

"So, this person that I'm going to be living with," he said in response, "is actually a person that I know pretty well..."

"This girl," I said. "You can call her a girl, I already know it's a girl."

"I met her after you and I stopped seeing each other, and at first I didn't think it was going to work out, and then she moved to Pittsburgh. But we kept talking, and well...we're both kind of doing our own thing now, but she's going to move back here. Maybe. I mean, it's not definite. I hope she does."

"With you," I said. "She's going to move in with you." Trying to rationalize the fact that he wouldn't even have sex with me, because that was moving too fast. Moving in with her. Trying not to be hurt by it. Failing.

"Why are you telling me this?" I said dumbly.

"I didn't want you to be shocked when it happens. And, you know, I've been having a good time hanging out with you. I like getting a beer with you, and hanging out with my friends with you. And I know it's hard to meet people here, so I want you to still be able to hang out with my friends if you want. And, you know, I think you're really great and I'm obviously really attracted to you, I mean, that's obvious."

He expounded, insisting over and over how obvious his attraction to me was, when as far as I was concerned, that was the one thing that wasn't obvious at all. Like saying black holes are obviously black. I mean, maybe they are, but how do I know?

My thoughts were a muddled mess; I didn't know what to say. I mumbled something about just being friends, then. Or continuing to just be friends, rather, since we were never anything but in the first place. "Just as long as you still help me move," I said, not quite joking. (Priorities, people.)

"Of course! Definitely!" he responded, too enthusiastically.

And that's how we left it. We said goodnight and I came home a whirling, swirling mess of emotions I couldn't even identify. Was I sad? Angry? Indifferent? I didn't know, but whatever I was, I was a lot of it. Out of all the whirling, swirling thoughts, here's what I am left with: there is bad luck, and then there's me. I know it's sort of what this blog is based on, but even I think this is starting to get ridiculous. Charlie Brown, Kono calls me. Synonymous for some lumphead who takes a flying leap at a football and lands flat on his back every time. Someone who thinks that maybe this is it, this time they're not going to yank the football out from under me, this time they'll play nice and I'll kick that football as hard as I can. Someone who never, ever learns. Wahh wahhhh. Poor Charlie Brown.

There's some new age-y theory out there that says, in essence, you get what you give. You are putting something out there, sending messages to the universe, whether you know it or not. Now, I am of the opinion that this is a load of horseshit. It's a convenient way for successful people to congratulate themselves while easing their white, middle-class guilt because poor people must want to be poor. But still. After a while this so-called "bad luck" does start feeling less like a bizarre string of coincidences and more like...well, a pattern.

So what do you think? Does Charlie Brown secretly want that football to be yanked away at the last second? Does he think he's not good enough to kick the football? Is his expectation of failure a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is Charlie a hapless bystander in a cruel and senseless universe, and Lucy a devious bitch who should have been socked in the face long ago?


  1. have you read this book?

    (did i comment that before, or just think about it?)

  2. Jessica--I haven't read it. Should I?

  3. I know your friend options are limited, but...this guy? Is not a friend. Friends don't treat you like this. I don't think you know every single guy in Mythaca, and if you do then it's time to move on! You're far too awesome to be wasting time on these guys.

    I don't think you like having the football pulled out from under you, but I think you don't know how to stop kicking.

  4. yes, definitely! it's about a girl's dating history, more or less. pretty interesting and sometimes funny.

  5. Agree with Alisonian! You don't like it and you don't deserve it, but you need to stop tolerating it, no matter how small Mythaca is. A sad fact of life is that ass-faces will treat people as badly as they can get away with. You are awesome and people should treat you accordingly. My one piece of advice is you should start telling people off to their faces more. Like that guy who asked about seeing other people in your bed--he should have been told off to his face. I'm not talking yelling, I'm talking asserting to jerks' faces that you are better than that and have no interest in their crap.

  6. I could not agree more with Alisonian. Right now you sound confused, but I really think you should be angry. This guy is a douche. I have been reading your blog for a while, and all of your dating posts center around the same few asshole guys. You don't necessarily call them out as being assholes, but you certainly describe them accurately, so you must know. Either way, you keep going back to them; even knowing what they are.

    This guy is not a friend and does not deserve your friendship - he should be completely purged from your life.

  7. You can't let anyone play with your feelings like this! Don't be so polite and all. As this guy's a jerk...let him know that! Just don't lose control while doing it. Stay calm and kick him out of your life. You deserve far better...

  8. Speaking from personal experience, I think the problem is that you're picking the wrong guys. Over and over, you're picking the guys you want, but not the guys you need. I made the same mistake over and over again. I would date a hot musician, knowing deep down the whole time that I could not imagine it working out. I would make myself miserable during the relationship, wondering why he didn't call or what it meant when he said what he said, or why he was choosing to spend time with his friends instead of me one night. Once I even dated a Republican who wanted nothing more than a wife who stayed home with their kids (I've never wanted kids) and who said that it made him sad to know that I voted Democratic in the last election, but at least he knew his vote canceled mine out. I stayed with this guy for a while because he was sweet and cute and we had great sex, and I didn't think there were any other decent options. But the whole time I knew that there was no way I could live a life with him. These were all nice, sweet guys, in their way, but it still didn't mean they were right for me. In one case, I fell head over heels in love, and I was basically miserable the whole time.

    It took me doing that over and over before I finally realized that I needed to start looking for the kind of guy these guys weren't, to find the guy who embodied all the things that I knew was missing from these other guys. And we're talking simple stuff: a guy who wouldn't blow off my two or three family get-togethers a year to sit at home and watch a baseball game. A guy who would call when he said he'd call, or show up for a date when he said he'd show up. A guy who understood that kids weren't part of my future. And it turned out that when I finally met this guy about three years ago, it honestly felt like this was the guy I'd been waiting for. I don't believe in soul mates or any of that crap, but this guy is perfect for me. I never ever feel worried about where we stand, I never wonder what he's thinking about the relationship, I trust him completely, and those are all things I was never able to feel with past guys, no matter how hot the relationship was or how sweet they could be at certain times or how much they made me laugh.

    So now that I've gone on about me me me, what I'm really saying is that you're choosing the wrong guys, and I know that you know it somewhere inside. You can tell these guys aren't really good matches basically right from the start (they're married, they're too conservative for you, they hunt, they aren't over their exes), but you talk yourself into sticking with it because you've convinced yourself you have no other options. I promise you that as soon as you stop talking yourself into dating a guy "even though he..." and find a guy you want to date "because he...," you will be so much happier. I'm rooting for you.

  9. Megan--If I were to reject someone automatically on the basis of being a Republican (for example--or any other number of "deal-breakers") and I guarantee I would suddenly be inundated with cries of "You're too picky!!!!"

    I can't win!

  10. Yeah, I totally understand that. I thought for the longest time that I was being way too picky and was going to be alone forever if I didn't find a way to be happy with one of these guys. And obviously there has to be SOME compromise (did I ever think that I'd be happy dating a comic book collector? No I did not). But I finally learned that I could compromise on things that hurt me.

    Maybe what I'm saying is that Charlie Brown looks at Lucy, and he knows that the odds are she'll pull the football away, and yet he decides to do it anyway because there's no one else to play with. Maybe he should wait until someone different comes along to hold the football.

  11. This sounds like a page taken out of my own life...

    Man, I can relate!


  12. If you are Charlie Brown in this scenario, you should start aiming for Lucy's head instead of the football.

    (Side note: I don't think you're the only Charlie Brown in this scenario, unfortunately. Hopefully Jimmy James isn't the only reason this girl is moving to Mythica.)

  13. "Does Charlie Brown secretly want that football to be yanked away at the last second? Does he think he's not good enough to kick the football?"

    Yes and yes. You set yourself up for failure by keeping close to the most hopeless cases; you seem to have programmed yourself to be punished through an addiction to personal rejections. The good news is, it's not heroin or meth.

    The guy makes mentally retarded earthworms look like Einstein. I don't know what his issue is, exactly, but never, ever put yourself in the presence of this presumed adult again. Try seeking a man with grown-up ideas. This obviously is harder in East Nowhere than, for example, NYC or Chicago or Miami (not that there aren't more than a few losers in those places, too.)

    You're very smart and attractive. The psychological stuff is holding you back. Go win!

  14. Okay, you need to not be friends with this guy. He's an asshole, plain and simple. He spells it out for you every time you're with him. A-S-S-H-O-L-E

    I know that Mythaca is small, but damn girl, it cannot be so small that you have to put up with shitty people. Have you tried I know it's been handy here in Baltimore with making friends with people of similar interests. Groups that like to get together and drink, or brunch, or play games. There generally are French speaking groups as well.

    If you can't get out of the same pattern you should move. And as for him helping you move, go ahead and let him if it will be easier than doing it yourself, but after the move is done tell him you're sorry, thanks for all the help, but you have to run, you're meeting up with some fabulous new people and you hate it when people aren't punctual.


    I'm sorry that he thinks it's completely acceptable to treat you this way.

    WOnder why he thought you'd be okay with that?

    Flattery or insult.. Both I say.

    Just know oyu're not the only person to have had this issue to deal with, some of us, more than once.

    You deserve better, obviously, so dismiss him, actually cut him out of your life all together....after he helps you move.

  16. You teach people how to treat you.
    ...and they will.
    Cliche? Maybe. Simple? Definitely.
    But true.

  17. Kalee--I spent the first few months that I was here scouring Craigslist and I've been going to the French speakers' meet up every month since I arrived here. The people are...fine. I see them every month at our meet up. Meh. Other than that there aren't many options. I tried finding a book club, and when I couldn't, I tried starting my own, which also didn't pan out. I've been trying, in other words. Really, I'm trying! But, like everything else, so far it just hasn't been working out.

  18. Maybe the problem is that you're trying to hard, i don't know, see Charlie really wants to kick that football even though he knows it's going to get yanked away but he tries anyway when really he already knows the result, i'd say stop trying, The Tao of Pooh maybe, just be and things happen, i've always been one for doing as little as possible and things seem to work out alright, i'm not big on destiny and all that bullshit and when i here the words "the one" i want to fucking vomit, i'm not saying you reek of desparation but most men are predators, we look for weakness and exploit it to our benefit... i also agree that you need to tell some of these tools to stick it, politely if you wish or not, i'm leaning towards the or not side but when they realize you're not some pushover people pleaser you'll be surprised, might not be the dickhead you're telling off, might be the guy a table over or a few stools down he thinks, that chica is alright.

  19. As a divorced single mom who would love to meet someone, but is petrified of putting myself out there, I am in awe of you. I can't comment on your choice of men because I clearly don't trust my own judgement anymore, but I believe someday you are going to meet the right guy. I love your writing, even when it is another story about getting that football ripped away, but I look forward to the day when you write about the right guy, and not just the guy but about your life being the way you want it to be. I'm rambling... anyway, I'm cheering for you!

    P.S. If "OG" is anywhere near - you should date him!

  20. Open relationships are bad, bad, bad news. But at least with this guy he gave you advance warning. Imagine thinking you're in a "closed" relationship only to discover that you were in an open one all along? Even worse news. I would know.

  21. Open relationships are bad, bad, bad news. But at least with this guy he gave you advance warning. Imagine thinking you're in a "closed" relationship only to discover that you were in an open one all along? Even worse news. I would know.

  22. I've been telling myself and my friends lately a line from the (embarrassingly chick flick movie) The Wedding Date, which I'm starting to believe is true:

    Each of us is in the relationship that we want.

    Or something very close to that. Considering that you and I aren't in stable relationships, does that mean that this is what we want/need at this time in our lives?

    That's the philosophy I'm considering as of late. You can take it or leave it. I'm still deciding what to do with it.

  23. TBTG--I disagree. If the Rolling Stones have taught me anything it's that you can't always get what you want. That doesn't mean that my relationship-or-lack-thereof situation right now is of my choosing. We all have wants. (But if we're lucky, we'll get what we neeeeeeed...)

  24. Disclosure : This is a man's opinion.

    Delete this dude from your phone, online contacts, and in general, your list of people you'd ever go share a beer with - voluntarily.

  25. [F]oxy--Yours seems to be a common opinion. But why? I am struggling with this myself. Did he do anything that wrong? He still seems to want to hang out with me (like once every week or two, nothing big), and it's not like I am heart-broken that he doesn't want me to be his girlfriend (far from it). So why is he automatically such a bad dude? I'm just trying to figure out where everyone is coming from. I have a sneaking suspicion you all are right, I just can't quite articulate why, yet.

  26. He offered you to a friend for sex. In other words, he's a pimp, and he acted as if you were a prostitute. Other than this, he seems to be a perfectly swell guy.

  27. Hmm, I see your point.

    God, he IS an asshole. Being a girl sucks.

  28. maybe i haven't followed closely enough, but i don't see why he's so bad.

    he asked if you'd be into an open relationship. you said no. some people are into those. i don't think they're bad for checking for others who are.

    he was a commitment-phobe of sorts and now he is having another girl move in w/ him. that stings, i'm sure, but once again, is it mean or evil? so he likes her more than he liked you. it happens. haven't you not wanted a relationship w/ someone, then later wanted a relationship w/ someone else?

    i guess the bad part would be if you banged recently, which i can't really tell for sure from the post. like if you're currently banging him and now all of a sudden he's switching it up. but i thought that was in the past?

    i didn't take him mentioning his friends as treating you like a prostitute. i took it more as him feeling guilty that this girl is moving in w/ him when he knows you probably wanted a relationship, and wanting to tell you "here, date someone else!" and his dumb friends were the only ones he had to offer up.

    if he's a friend only then i don't see why you'd never talk to him again. if you have feelings for him or think you will continue to feel hurt about him having this girl move in, then yeah, maybe it isn't worth it or it'd be too hard.

    the shittiest part about it that i see is that he was cowardly about how he told you about this girl. he was not straight-forward.

  29. Now Jessica has a good point too. What's a girl to dooooooo?

    (And no, we've never "banged.")

  30. You talk about how he says you're more laid back than you were, when really, he's just changed his perception of you. He went from thinking you were "reserved and shy" (not true) to thinking that you're some sort of sleep-around Sally (also not true). He doesn't really care who you actually are, just who he thinks you might be and how that works for him. That's kind of asshole-ish.

    He sends you "flirty, sexy text messages" even though he's been brokering this deal with his sort-of girlfriend to not only share an apartment with him, but a bedroom. In my book, living with someone is a commitment, and to openly flirt with another woman is asshole-ish.

    Since even you seem to recognize that you've still got maybe a little thing for him, or else you wouldn't have been hurt by the idea of him moving in with this girl, I'd guess that he also knows you've still got a thing for him, and to continue flirting with you when he has no intention of being more than fuck friends with you (now that he knows that you "hook up") is really asshole-ish. Which, by the way, is what he's angling for.

    Essentially, it's these small things that he does that end up making you feel bad about yourself or about your relationship with him. Even if it were purely platonic, friends don't make their friends feel bad. Asshole in my book.

  31. "Even if it were purely platonic, friends don't make their friends feel bad." Right on.

    If you feel awful around someone, you have to trust that it's because he's a d-bag, not because you've done something wrong or need to change. I am not below stealing mantras from teen rom-coms, so as Heath Ledger said in 10 Things I Hate About You, "Don't let anyone ever make you feel like you don't deserve what you want."

  32. Kinda fascinating I fell across your blog looking for the same image as I feel very much the same... however from the guys side. One thing that needs to be made clear is that it can very much equally suck to be a guy. Neither gender gets to claim the trophy for mistreatment as it is definitely a human thing, not a gender one.

    Anyway what to do, what to do. Hopefully you have found some positive resolution to this particular dating dilemma. However from personal experience I know this kind of situation can get drawn out for years if you allow it.

    From a random guys perspective, and it'll probably sound a little odd at first blush, but this is the kinda guy you deserve.

    In truth that is the kinda man all quality woman deserve.

    However, kinda more on the topic of the basic and inherent challenges of love that every human faces, this one is quite excellent as well.

    Lastly, just trying to wrap ones brain around why in the hell we humans have so much dang difficulty relating to one another in the first place the latest one by Ruiz is quite fantastic.

    So for whatever reason you, and random consequence it seems, have encouraged me to contribute. Well at least an attempt to contribute ;) I do hope you find at least some value in these suggestions and that your situation has greatly improved.