So, I was sort of failing this try to meet people thing. So, partly as punishment for my sins and partly because I know it will make Sparkles happy, and partly because I try to listen when both Sparkles and Ster (seriously, cmon there must be a cooler name for you, you’re such a cool person) tell me I need to do something. I grant, they both are leaning toward the grabbing random guys in bars to make out with end, but I’m still I’m still me here.
So I made an ok cupid profile. Ok, Sparkles made a lot of it. But I totally contributed! And then I started talking to people. And then I started reading Captain Awkward. And somewhere along in there I got inspired. And made a plan. It goes like this:
1. Unless I’m creeped out, I will go out once with anyone who asks and is of a decent age and not married.
2. Public places only.
3. I will not give them my full name, my phone number, or an email address I actually care about. I will certainly not friend them on facebook or let them know where I live.
4. I will be honest. If I disagree, I will disagree politely, but I won’t agree just to be nice or compromise my disagreement to make them feel better. I will not avoid subjects or activities because I don’t want the awkwardness of me disliking them or disagreeing with them. If I think they’re going to try to hold hands? I won’t put my hands in my pockets, I will leave them out. And since I really don’t like handholding in many contexts, if they take my hand, I will take it back. Or say no. But I will not avoid any potential issues except through direct words and actions.
5. I will be assertive. I am open to trying new things, but if I want something I will say so, not hope for mindreading.
5. Having met once in person, the rule on seconds will be this: I will do it if it sounds more fun than staying home, based on the first time. If it does, I may let them have further contact info. Maybe.
6. If it makes it to a third time, I will give proper contact information.
I will not:
1. break these rules to make someone who sounds interesting go out with me. This is what makes me feel safe and comfortable, I am the one at risk of rape and if they don’t respect that, that’s them being rude, not me. I will not feel guilty for taking safety precautions. I may decide to change the safety rules on my own, but I can only do it for actual reasons.
2. Apologize for these rules to make someone feel better. These are appropriate safety boundaries and until we stop apologizing for being safe, no one is going to start accepting that as normal.
3. Give another chance to guys who seem nice, well meaning, awkward or nervous. If I did not have fun the first time, that’s the end of that. I’m sure they’re very nice people, but if I didn’t have fun the first time, I am not going to have another time of awkwardly not having fun out of sympathy. At least the first time is an adventure. You expect dull parts. The second time will just be dull. Sure, maybe it could improve. But if I allow that option, I’ll maybe get one improvement out of 20 dull second go rounds. How they feel is their responsibility and I am not here to make it mine.
4. Agree to something that I don’t want to make the other person feel better.
5. Pull the fade away after meeting someone. While it’s still emails, fade away is fair. After meeting once, if they don’t contact me, it’s still fair. But if they do I will directly say, I had fun, you seemed nice, but I don’t want to do it again. Good luck! (ok, I’ll be a bit nicer, but I’ll still be direct).
So today I tried that for the first time. AND I FEEL GREAT. I have a cheerful glow about me. I sang the whole drive home.
The guy: works in tech. Seems very nice, we watch a lot of the same shows and movies, so something to talk about, he suggests dinner at a restaurant I like, so yummy.
We meet. He goes in for a hug right away. I decide I do not wish to be hugged by a stranger, put my arms up in front of my body and say that I am not comfortable hugging someone I’ve just met. Because I’m not. I then smile cheerfully say it’s nice to meet him and that I’m starving, let’s go eat! Yes, it’s awkward, and he clearly feels it. I do a little bit, but somehow I feel a hell of a lot better than I ever have when I let someone hug me to avoid hurting their feelings. Because this time, the person who created the problem is also having to deal with it, instead of just me. And because this time, I dealt with it, and I made it clear what I wanted. I don’t know why that transformed it, but although this sounds totally awkward, and it was a little bit, I felt fine, and comfortable and in control. Awkwardness was external to me, and I was not helpless victim to it.
The menu: Ok, this was fair. Restaurant expanded its menu and it is both long, confusing and entertaining as hell. But he stared at it for AGES. and AGES. AND AGES. I know it was fair, but sheesh! I was trying to make small talk and he’s still reading it. waiters keep walking by and checking to see if we’re ready, but he’s still looking! Finally I gave up and just read the parts of the menu with stories while he decided what to order.
The conversation: ok, I know I’m not the best at small talk or conversation starters. But I really tried here. I asked good conversation starting questions about tv shows we both like. I asked about what work is like for him. I told a couple of funny stories from my work. It was all just no go. We had a good discussion of chopsticks. And another one about active listening. But most of the meal? Not so much. Lots of silence. Toward the end, I just gave up on meaningful conversation and figured I might as well give him a good complaint for his friends. And then I started in on the First Amendment. Which I love and adore and can talk about ad nauseam without any need for external input.
The check: ok, yes, I am poor. And I would like not to pay. But I would also feel guilty since clearly nothing was coming of this. So when he reached for the check I said, thanks that’s really nice of you, but I’d be happier if I paid for my own meal. AND SO I DID. (I do have a guilt exception. If someone suggests a place, I say I can’t afford that let’s go to x instead and they say they’ll pay, that’s fair. They can then pay and me guiltless. Because sometimes you just want to eat somewhere and have company so paying for the company is the price of eating where you want.)
He walked me to my car, I thanked him for a nice night and said I’d talk to him. I did not say lets do this again. I was prepared to say no then and there if he asked to see me again, but glad I didn’t have to. If he emails I will say it then. Nicely. Clearly.
This all sounds miserable and dull, right? It does, I know it does. But you know what? I was fine. I was bored, but not miserable, not ashamed, not guilty, not any negative emotion. I was Toretha, bored. I wasn’t trying to make it somehting it wasn’t. I wasn’t trying to make him like me not like me, do anything at all. I was trying to be a nice, friendly conversationalist, and even though I wasn’t succeeding, I was ok with that. Because you know what? Not. My. Problem. I’m trying, and he’s not talking. And that’s fine. That’s cool. I don’t need to fix anything, it’s not about me, and I didn’t have guilt. Even though at least part of his silence was probably him feeling awkward about the not hug. His emotions, not mine.
I will not see him again. Yes, he seemed like a nice guy. Yes, I’m sure he is interesting and cool and probably just felt awkward and shy and could probably overcome these things. But I didn’t see anything that made me think a second time would be more fun than staying at home, and it’s not my job to help him overcome his awkward and shy. This is assuming he asks, which, given that dinner, I think well may not happen.
Despite all this? I drove home glowing. And happy and relaxed and singing gleefully along with my CD. Because that felt good. That felt really, incredibly good. I said no to what I didn’t want. I set boundaries, and I didn’t take responsibility for making the other person feel anything at all. And all that? Made me feel relaxed and comfortable and able to focus on the simple goal of trying to have a decent conversation. Sure, I failed at that, but that was the only part I failed at, because I wasn’t trying to make him feel better, or like me, or anything. I was just trying to be me, assertive, honest and talking to another person. And guess what? Being an assertive and honest bitch who makes the other person feel like awkward crap? Beats the HELL out of being the nice girl who lets the nice shy guy hug her to keep the rest of the meal from being awkward. Not even a contest. It doesn’t make sense, because I got a whole meal of awkward rather than a short hug of it, but boy is it true.
BRING IT ON! I WANT TO TELL THE TRUTH TO MORE PEOPLE!
(In other news I have also been propositioned by a married man. He told me he liked my smile. I told him I had this little quirk of not bothering with married people. He told me I needed to pop my cork. I told him he needed some ethics and that I wanted no involvement in the nastiness of married people on a dating website. He just recently responded again to reassure me that he wouldn’t break my heart. Oy. Narcissus has met his match there.)