I met him on a night when I wasn't expecting to meet anyone special: an event called a Mingler.The e-mail said to bring a snack to share. I brought chocolate-chip cookies, my surefire instant friend maker. Wear comfortable clothes, it said, and pack a pair of slippers to keep your feet warm after you've taken your boots off. Romance wasn't on my agenda. At all, actually.
But he was tall (!!!) and had kind eyes, looked strong underneath his loose-fitting sweater; his first job, I learned during an icebreaker game, was collecting trash at Six Flags. He had a golden retriever and loved his family. Who am I to argue with fate? So I went home with him.
It's not what you think. He had to walk the dog; she'd been home alone all night. So he invited me to his apartment for a glass of wine. The dog had taken a crap in the kitchen while he was gone. A great story to tell our friends later. He poured us glasses of sweet white wine; he gave me the grand tour of his bi-level Lakeview apartment, showed me "where the magic happens." He lit candles, and we listened to music on his iPod stereo as the golden retriever, duly chastened, nudged at my knee and begged me to throw the toy just one more time. Just one more time. One more kiss.
When I finally got up to leave, my contacts were gritty, my lips were chapped and I was drunk on possibility. We linked arms and walked to Southport, where he hailed me a cab, handed me a $20 bill to get home and made me promise I'd let him know I was home safe. He kissed me on the forehead. Sigh.
Clearly, it's all downhill from there.
That charmed first meeting happened three days before I left Chicago for the holidays. We exchanged a few texts and enjoyed a lovely phone call a couple of days after Christmas. We arranged to spend more time together when I returned. I was so excited. Then he got the flu.
Don't hate me, he begged. He'd really been looking forward to it, too. Then his dog got sick. (Should have known she'd be a problem, after our messy first meeting.)
Then I was traveling. He was busy at work. The calendar was not our friend.
We finally set another date for mid-January. For this past Saturday, actually. More than a month after our first meeting. He'd pick the place; he'd pick me up — just as we'd planned. Yes, a real date!
Then, after my run on Friday — before my much-needed shower and before the voicemail from the Knight, who had spotted me from inside Starbucks — I got the text. Don't hate me. He was canceling our rescheduled date, canceling me for good. He wanted to see where things might go with another girl he'd been "hanging out with."
What. I. Don't. Get. Rejected.
Okay, that's not true. I've been rejected a lot. All throughout high school, in fact. I was rejected wholesale by the fraternity community of the University of Kansas (except for the cliché of a man who got me belligerently drunk two nights in a row, then ditched me when he realized I wasn't going to put out no matter how much jungle juice he pumped into me). The men of New York rejected me in my infinite virginity. Rejection, yes. Fine. But what came next: No hard feelings? Can we keep in touch? You never know what will happen in the future.
Right. So. If dream girl doesn't work out, you can feel free to schedule and cancel some more dates with me. Second-fiddle girl. Rejection I can handle, but I'm not used to being second choice. All or nothing, bucko. I'm a gem, dammit. Asshole. Cue irate, rapid-fire tweets and responses from an army of 140-character supporters. His loss, they told me. Yeah. His loss. I wiped one hot, bitter tear from my cheek, and I washed that man right out of my hair.
Later that day, he wrote to ask how I was doing. And I told him I didn't want to be friends. Didn't want to wait around for him to decide whether I was worth his time. I wasn't hurt; I just wasn't having any of it. Dramatic? A little. But the waiting around, the wondering if he's going to change his mind? Not worth my time.
The truth is, he's not an asshole. I'd rather have known before we went on a date, before I got attached to his dog and his bi-level Lakeview apartment, grew accustomed to drinking wine on his sofa and riding in his car. He did the right thing. Until the "you never know" moment.
Men are so dumb. They are really dumb. For real.
He thought he was doing me a favor, thought he was letting me down easy. He thought it had broken my heart that he'd chosen another woman, so he planted a little false hope for the future, something to dampen the blow he'd dealt me.
And actually? Maybe he's not even dumb. Maybe other girls relish the possibility of a second chance with a guy like him. A guy like him. What is that, even? I'll probably never know. Darn.
It's easier to place blame, point fingers and call the man out for being an asshole and an idiot. Hell, it's more fun, too. But I'm realizing, again and again, that it's really no one's fault. He just wasn't the one for me.
And false hope is just that, and it doesn't get me anywhere but disappointed. The only sure thing in my future is sitting at this keyboard typing. Yes, it's me. And for now, at least until my next accidental romance stumbles onto the scene, I'm surprised to find I'm actually all I need.