I got through high school and college without a boyfriend. I had a few dates, but no one you could call a boyfriend. (By boyfriend I mean someone who would actually refer to me as his girlfriend.)
So after dating (and I use the term loosely) guys who seemed incapable of anything resembling a actual relationship, I was willing to be someone else.
A friend set me up on a blind date–the reason she decided he and I would make a good pair was that he was taller than me, the general belief being that no relationship begins when the woman is taller than the man. Fine. All my blind dates had been based on height.
We went on a double date to see a play, and while sparks didn’t fly, when he called me to ask me out again, I said yes.
The thing about seeing a play is that you don’t talk much. And when you’re on a double date, you can let the other established couple do all the talking. You can end the evening not revealing much about yourself at all.
He showed up for our second date wearing running shoes, jeans, silver belt buckle, and a plaid short-sleeve shirt. I wore a copper-colered silk blouse, dressy black shorts (pleated and almost to the knee), black stockings, and black flats. And he said, “It’s too bad that’s not a skirt.”
My roommate said to him, “The thing you want to say is, ‘You look great.’”
He looked back at me. “You do. You do look great.”
This, I thought, was going to be a wasted evening.
But okay. Open mind! Positive thinking!
Then I had to climb up the steps of his oversized pickup truck with gun rack.
Open mind! Ooo! Look at that red flag! Isn’t it pretty?
When we pulled into the Denny’s parking lot, my mind made a foolish decision. I decided to barely speak to him and to tell him next to nothing myself. I decided not to be me. I would be the way I thought a desirable girl was supposed to be.
I’d be rubbish at it, of course, and he’d never want to see me again.
All through dinner he talked. I’d ordered a salad, which I’d never done before on dates because salads are too girly and I like to eat. I nodded, and said things like, “Really?” and “Hmmm.” and “Oh, interesting.”
He said, “So, you’re working on some kind of paper thing?”
“Yeah. My Master’s thesis–but you know, I like have to do it.”
He changed the subject. “You’re thinking of joining, what is it, the Peace Corps or something?”
I shrugged. “I’ve filled out the paperwork and had my interview.”
“But you might not go, right?”
I shrugged and changed the subject.
At the end of the evening, I let him come upstairs. My roommate wasn’t home. When he said I was amazing, I assumed this was just talk to let him stay until morning. He told me I was the most interesting girl he’d ever met. “Maybe so,” I said, ” But you’re still going to have to leave soon.”
He said he thought I was “the one.”
He said a few more ridiculous things. They were things no one else had ever said to me, the sorts of things a lovestruck boyfriend ought to say. But he wasn’t my boyfriend and after a while I made him leave.
And that, I thought, was that. I’d talked about almost nothing and let him think the night would end differently than it did. And he lived over an hour away. Surely he wouldn’t call back.
Well, he called. A lot. He sent flowers. He sent a teddybear. He sent a poem. He told my friend that he knew I was the right woman for him.
When my friend asked what I had done to the poor guy, all I could say was, “I wasn’t even me!”
I did feel bad I’d led him on, but I hadn’t thought it would actually work.
I was angry though that apparently the only way I could get a guy to pursue me was to lie. From the moment I’d ordered that salad to the moment I kissed him goodnight at the door, I had been faking who I was. The fake me was called amazing.
The real me…not so much.
All these years later I remember this and wonder about my writing. All the rejections and no agent calling me, I wonder–what about my writing should I change? What would make my work desirable? Maybe I should write about completely different things in completely different ways.
I worry that I would have not to be me.
And then! And then I would have an agent.
But it might be an agent who likes teddybears holding heart-shaped balloons.