Reversing douchebag conditioning

I recently went on some very nice dinner dates with the types of companion I guess you could call atypical given my history with men.

Having gone through a relatively lengthy dating drought and also having lost almost all hope of any decent company involving males and either non-platonic chemistry or non-awkward conversation, I was pleasantly surprised by the change in pace. So before I go on further, here’s to the nice guys that mistakenly think niceness detracts from game.

The first of these dates was with Topher a few weeks ago. Now, granted, the Topher saga did not last long, and the untimely demise of that episode shall be discussed in next week’s post. I will say he was a touch insistent on our meeting up sooner than our agreed-upon day a week later and on establishing that meeting as a formal dinner date.

But I didn’t mind terribly, since my interest at least initially was piqued, and I was still at least considering the possibility of pursuing that matchup. (It goes to say that playing the mildang (“push-pull”) game is worth jack shit, and that acting “needy” and “desperate” by showing your interest in someone should never be someone cause for pushing you away if they’re sufficiently interested in you. But let me get back to that later.)

Despite Topher’s repeated insistence that we stay out despite my own insistence that I needed to get home to sleep before work the next day, I was having a fairly good time with Topher, who was the perfect gentleman. He showed up nicely wrapped in a clean, fitted suit, and never presumed to touch me in even the most nonintrusive of gestures — not even the light guiding hand on the lower back or the accidental arm brush, or even a responsive clutch of the hand as I smacked him on the shoulder for one or two choice comments.

Despite our good laughs, I was feeling fairly exhausted by the end of drinks and politely declined Topher’s invitation to grab some extra bites. Polite smile crumpled into active cringing when he ignored my refusal and asked the waiter for a menu anyway. I sat there resisting the urge to yawn and tap my fingers while Topher pored over the menu.

“Hey,” he suddenly asked, keeping his eyes on the menu. “Do you usually pack or buy lunch when you’re at work?”

“Hm?” I thought about it for a second. “I guess I try to pack lunch as much as possible. More economic.”

He nodded. Then he looked up and waved the waiter over again. “Grilled octopus salad and cheesecake, to-go please.” When the food arrived, he slipped the waiter his credit card, then turned toward me, holding the back out for me to carry.

“Here,” he said, beaming. “Now you’ve got lunch for tomorrow.”

On my way home, as I was contemplating how sweet (and slick) a gesture surprise packed lunch was, I noticed a slip of paper, folded in half, inside the bag of food and lying on top of to-go boxes. I spread the paper open and read.

“Sorry I kept you out so late, even though you said you had to be home early to sleep,” Topher wrote. “I just didn’t want to tonight to end. Hopefully this food will give you the energy to get through tomorrow.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am certainly not the frequent recipient of such attention. In fact, I’m far more often the victim of quite the opposite — hence the existence of this blog. But for once, I couldn’t deny that I was yet another girl that delighted in loftier romantic flair, despite my insistence that as a simple, laid-back girl, I prefer the sentiment behind a, perhaps not so grand, but no less charming and perhaps even more sincere for it gesture.

Speaking of the seemingly insignificant, my second date was an about-face twist on the date I’d had with Topher. Replace high falutin’ sashimi and French cuisine and Muscadet wine with sneakers, go-karts, and pizza, and you’ve pretty much got all the ingredients for my date with Boy.

But here again, I found myself in the company of a perfectly kind and genuinely considerate male specimen who, though perhaps not as impeccably coutured up as Topher, was just as impressive to me — if not more so.

It started in the morning when Boy came to pick me up from my apartment.

“I brought you breakfast,” he said when I hopped into the passenger seat, pointing at a plastic bag he had just placed at my feet to let me sit down. “I figured you probably wouldn’t get a chance to eat after working late last night.”

“Oh!” I really hadn’t been able to eat breakfast before hurrying out to meet him. “This looks delicious,” I told him, stomach growling. I was delighted at my discovery of a pork bun and some milk tea inside the aforementioned bag. “Thanks.”

We had an enjoyable drive over to the go-karting facility, shooting the breeze about this and that as Jersey City zoomed past. I was silently amused by the stark contrast between Boy’s rice rockety (at least according to my limited automotive vocabulary and my self-declared usageaster-ness) ride and his person decked out in his… shall we say, ahh, general geeky presentation.

When we arrived at Pole Position and finally got ourselves registered for our first race, I was giddy with excitement. I’d never been go-karting before, and I was excited to show Boy that I was an exception to the damning female Asian stereotype.

Suffice it to say for now that this dream did not come true. Instead, I found myself having to be rescued from under a pile of plastic race course barriers and being unceremoniously removed from the premises for the remainder of that first race.

After Boy had finished up the rest of the first race, Boy hurried over to me after the race. I braced myself for rampant ridicule and was surprised to find his face contorted in concern instead.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” He saw my arm and freaked. “Whoa! Should you go wash that off? Do you need a bandaid?”

I blinked. “Wow, you’re not giving me crap about this?”

He raised his eyebrows. “What? Why would I do that?”

I stuck out my tongue coyly. “Honestly, if it had been you this happened to, I would’ve laughed so hard.”

He grinned and put his arm around me to walk me to a seating area nearby. “Well, I guess that just makes me a better person than you,” he teased.

Determined to redeem myself, we signed up for a second race, and I resumed my loud-mouthed boasts once again — albeit, without quite the vigor of before. Sure enough, I found myself gripped with terror at the possibility that I could very well nearly kill myself once again. Where once I had been accelerator-happy, this time I found brakes to be my best friend.

I could see Boy in his kart up ahead. To my surprise, he slowed down to a stop.

I pulled up to him a few seconds later and slowed down to call across to him from my kart.

“What’re you doing?” I queried.

He grinned, then beckoned for me to go ahead.

For the entirety of the race, Boy stayed just behind me, holding back each time I hesitated at sharp curves, speeding up when I finally regained the courage to do so.

A bit too proud of the unremarkable facts that I hadn’t tried to prematurely kill myself and also that I had begun to get the hang of making non-lethal turns, my heart fell when we rushed over to check out the time scores and saw that I had still come in — despite my somewhat recovered audacity — dead last.

Only one person seemed more disappointed even than myself.

“Damn it!” Boy exclaimed, jumping.

I turned to face him, feeling guilty that he couldn’t streak around the race course to his heart’s content on my account. “I’m sorry…” I began.

“What? No,” he murmured absently, still perusing the scores. “I thought I was driving slowly enough too!”

I shot him a blank look. “Huh? Wait, why?”

“Hm?” he hummed, finally looking up at me. “Oh, um, I figured you’d be too scared to drive fast and I didn’t want you to have to feel bad being last.”

“Oh!” I exclaimed, otherwise speechless.

Afterward, Boy drove me back to the city, and we passed the time stuck in traffic with lively conversation. Though I was already significantly late for work, I found myself wishing traffic would keep me in the car longer. But inevitably, the date wound to a close.

As we reached my destination, Boy slowed the car to a stop at an intersection. Then he put the car in park and turned his body toward mine. I batted my lashes at him, waiting expectantly for him to make his move.

He did — or… didn’t. “Hey, we should plan to hang out again soon,” he said, gripping his steering wheel with his left hand and smiling shyly. “Make this happen again.”

I smiled, in part thrilled, but hiding my simultaneous disappointment by dropping my gaze to the floor. Then I flicked my eyes back up toward and mumbled, “Text me,” then bit my lip. Then I dropped my gaze again and then gripped the passenger-side door latch.

“Text me”? I winced at myself as I exited the car.

But mass pussying-out aside, the evidence from both dates should have been clear. No guy would pay not only for dinner and drinks during a date, but also a girl’s lunch to eat at work for the next day — without interest. No guy would preemptively bring breakfast for a girl in consideration of her schedule the night before, without prior conference — without interest. No guy would forego his chance for epic shit-giving — without interest. And no guy would give up the opportunity to step on it on a mother effin’ race course, just so a girl wouldn’t feel like a loser — without interest.

…Right?

And yet, in the aftermath of both encounters, I found myself strangely disheartened — disgruntled even — at how the two men had each wrapped up their respective dates. Why had neither made more attempts at flirtatious touching? Why had neither dropped liberal hints — but of course, never a clear declaration — of their possible fondness for me? But most importantly: why had neither attempted that nerve-wrenching, heart-fluttering, leads-to-more-than-intended-more-often-than-I’d-like-to-admit first-date kiss?

I also found myself at odds. Given the courteous, nonplayerish behavior of the two suitors, I should have felt well at ease enough to reach out my feelers and confirm a desire to continuously engage. By that, of course, I mean the thank you note, followed, hopefully, by some flirtatious back-and-forth. And yet, here I was, hesitating, wondering whether I should wait two more days to send my devious, hint-laden text, calculating the interpretations to be made of the exact hour and time of the sending, and keeping score of whose “turn” it was to extend invitations.

Of course, I should have been glad that neither date attempted the kiss (oh that ungrateful me). Firstly, most guys tend to incorrectly gauge the signal when it comes to making the kiss and draw near unbeckoned and unwelcomed, not to mention the concern of a terrible kisser or a sudden realization of lack of interest. Even worse is the potential for “What if he we kiss,” and “What if I kiss back,” and “He kisses me back again,” and “I have to kiss him back again now,” and “He takes that as an invitation to take it further,” and then “I respond in kind out of politeness,” and then “He takes it further than necessary,” and I wake up the next morning in a foul mood.

I was distraught. I had been sure that, one, both men had displayed more interest in me than I had in them, and consequently two, I had felt fairly confident in the power being in my court.

But then on the other hand, I mused, why was I even playing the power game at all? And was it important who was more interested than who?

Yesss, a devious voice in my head hissed at me, drawing out each sibilant word. It alwaysss doesss.

If he likes you enough, it’s all inconsequential, the voice of reason, well, reasoned.

Shut the fuck up, my inconfidence snapped.

Shut the fuck up.

To quell the opposing forces in my brain, I called up my good friend Janice for some gal pal support.

“I feel like I’ve been conditioned to expect douchiness,” I began, scowling. “It’s like, if they don’t pull some douche move, I don’t know what the hell to do.”

She giggled. “Yeah, I can see what you mean,” she replied.

“I should be super stoked that I wasn’t taken advantage of or pressured into giving up things I didn’t want to, but instead, I just find myself feeling very confused. I guess the not-being-douchey means they’re being nice guys, so I should be whatever about calling them up again, but instead I keep lapsing back into, like, faking being aloof and playing all those stupid mind games I hate so much.”

“Point very well taken. You’re probably fine.”

“I don’t know, Janice.”

“Know what?”

“It… It’s just SO weird not dating a douchebag.”

At this, Janice burst out laughing hysterically. “Oh my god. I’m totally quoting that.”

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One thought on “Reversing douchebag conditioning

  1. Pingback: Parking the Go Kart « Love Games, or the Lack Thereof

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