The best-worse line ever used on me occurred in my senior year of high school. This boy followed me out of the building and asked, “On a scale of 1 to America, how free are you tonight?”
Never being in the mood for such antics, I retorted, “North Korea.”
It wasn’t long into my adolescence that I realized my dating life would be different.
Not bad…just, different.
For example, I quickly found myself on dates I didn’t sign up for.
Like one time I met with a classmate at the library. After an hour of studying he suggested we get something to eat. It was about seven and I was hungry so I thought that was great idea.
Another thing to note is that at this point in my freshman year of college, I was incredibly lonely. Like I hadn’t had dinner with another person in weeks. My initial roommate had moved out and I was all alone in the dorm-room. I was craving human interaction.
It wasn’t until he payed for my burrito that I realized I was on a date. Crap, I thought. I’m wearing a shirt that says Kale and just ordered a huge steak burrito with queso. This is so typical. Other girls know when they’re going on a date. Other girls get to plan out their outfits, do their hair, and mentally prepare for stimulating conversation.
I didn’t get that luxury, so I had to move to drastic measures. I had to pretend to be…outgoing.
We start talking and I’m able to propel the conversation forward by asking him questions about himself. Always a safe bet, people love talking about themselves.
He informed me that he recently visited Greece.
“Oh,” I say excitedly (reaching for a common-interest because I love to travel too), “did you see the Parthenon?”
“The Parthenon? It’s in Athens…It’s like that big temple with all the columns? It was meant for Athena, you know, the goddess the city was named after? It’s on their money? It’s on our money because our national architecture is heavily influenced by Hellenistic themes.”
“Uh, yeah maybe.”
How could you maybe not see the Parthenon?! It’s the most iconic structure to Greek culture. When I say Athens, you say Parthenon. Athens! Parthenon! Athens! Parthenon!
Look, it’s fine not to know what the Parthenon is…but at the same time, when planning a trip to Greece maybe you should be familiar with the term?!
If he had said no, I would’ve been more forgiving. I get it, there’s never enough time to visit all the places you want to in a nation—even one as small as Greece. But maybe, as if he might’ve missed it because it was so small and obscure was absurd!
Another time I didn’t know I was on a date happened within that same semester.
This kid had public speaking with me. Full disclosure, I didn’t need this course. My lord, if there’s one thing I can do it’s talk in front of people.
I knew Dylan had a crush on me, and I knew there was no way that was going to happen. I’m one of those who relies on my gut, and my gut was like “Nah girl, friendzone him.”
My gut is kinda heartless….ba duh bum. Organ humor.
When he invited me on a hike with him and another classmate Terrance, I was all for it. Like I said before, this was a time when I had very few friends and was desperate to make connections. I also liked that Terrance would join us, keeping dates and romance far from Dylan’s mind. I was sure this would be a good time.
Dylan wanted us to meet at this high school in Loveland, like forty-five minutes from Greeley. I wasn’t thrilled with how out of the way that was for me, but on the other hand if you’ve ever been to Greeley you know how awesome it is to get out of its city limits.
I show up and find Dylan. Then I look around for Terrance.
“Is he late?” I ask innocently.
“No, he never replied.”
Panicked stare, “Is he late?”
Okay, this excuse was total bullshit. True, millennials ghost each other all the time (“ghosting” refers to when a person ignores a text/message from another person…because you know, it’s better to throw someone into a void of silence than to actually give them a definitive answer. Ghosting is a grassroots movement.), but we literally just saw Terrance that Tuesday…and it was Friday. He was there when we said we’d go hiking. He agreed—he was the reason I agreed!
This was fishy. Fishy bullshit.
“Did you try calling him?” I ask, feeling more and more anxious. I started looking for him underneath cars, behind trees, in Dylan’s trunk…
“Yeah, he’s not answering. Sense you’re already out here—the trail is about fifteen minutes away. We can take my car if you want.”
“I honestly can’t think of a reason why not.”
After commenting on my outfit (he said I was quite unprepared for the hike we were doing. Which was funny because I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and hiking boots. What else do you wear for an afternoon hike? Like what will we be doing, hunting buffalos?), he asked if I brought water.
Anywhere else in the world, this gesture would be seen as caring. He wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get dehydrated. But in Colorado, from a Coloradan to a fellow Coloradan—this was highly offensive. I wanted to shout, “Who the heck do you think you’re talking to buddy?”
I’ve been on hikes before, I know the basics of hiking etiquette. You say hi to people you pass on the trail, throw away your trash, bring a light snack for when you reach the top, and a WATER BOTTLE.
I let it slide, but I didn’t forget it.
We reach the trail (which was not the Himalayas, shocker), tramp up this hill which has a few boulders strewn across the path…you know, like most average trails do. After passing over each boulder, he reaches back and offers his hand to help me up.
Last I checked, I wasn’t three and this rock was not half my height.
It was a step up. My stairs at home are steeper than this. Taken aback and stunned, I accept the hand the first time. Following that, I hiss stubbornly, “I’ve got it.”
Maybe it’s unfair for me to be so defensive and antagonistic towards “chivalry.” But honestly chivalry has never impressed me. Also, real chivalry has way more stuff about how to ride your horse or torture your enemy (and torturing your enemy while riding your horse) than it does about ladies of the court. Even then, it was for ladies of the court—you had to have papers to receive those benefits.
I can’t stand it when people prematurely put me in a box I don’t belong. Like I’m a bubblegum princess that’s never gotten dirty or doesn’t know when to bring a Nalgene. Fool, I always bring a Nalgene. In fact, I have three. Each personalized and named, thank you very much. Bitch.
At this point, my mother laments, “Hannah, he was just trying to hold your hand. Poor boy.”
Um, poor me? What about my stunted pride? Isn’t that important?
Back to the story. After fifteen minutes, Dylan stops—winded—and sits down. Glancing over my shoulder, I still see the car. Sighing, I sit as far away from him as socially acceptable.
He then starts talking about how outdoorsy he is and askes suddenly, “Have you ever had pine tea?”
I should’ve said I’m allergic to pine, but foolishly I reply, “No…”
“Let me make you some.”
“What, like here?”
Home-boy then proceeds to build a small fire (pretty sure that was illegal) and heats up some water. I say heats up, because he didn’t wait until it was boiling. It was barely tepid. Then he stands up, plucks a few pine needles, drops them in a cup, and gives it to me.
I glance down at the lukewarm pine-water and wordlessly rescue a black ant drowning inside it.
While he’s busy picking his own pine needles, I toss the water over my shoulder and say, “Thank you that was…really unique.”
“You ready to head ba—”
I didn’t look back as I zoomed down that hill and frantically pulled on the car door like a little kid wanting to leave the grocery store.
We start driving back to civilization and I (who has not had a proper breakfast or lunch that day) stupidly groaned, “I’m so hungry.”
“Oh! We could quick stop by and get something. There’s a burrito place not far from here.”
Another thing you should know about me; I need food in order to function. I don’t consider myself freakishly into food or anything—but I need regularly scheduled meals in order to be the charming, intelligent individual I am. Without food, to quote my grandma, “Watch out! She becomes a woolly-booger.”
I don’t know what it is about burritos and bad dates for me, but I agreed to this new plan.
“But first,” Dylan adds, “I need to drop some stuff by my house.”
“Y-you do? Right now? Are you sure that’s safe?”
“It’ll only take a minute.”
We stop at his house and I remain in my seat, assured that this is such a quick trip I need not get out of the car.
Dylan then says, “You wanna come in?”
No, as a matter of fact I do not. What I actually say is, “Sure.”
We go inside and it becomes clear that Dylan lives with his parents. Now, I have nothing against living with your parents and going to school. Obviously, because I’m doing just that as we speak. Thing is, I tell people when I’m bringing them to my house the likelihood they’ll meet my family. I see it as polite, especially with potential love interests.
Dylan, the maverick he is, doesn’t abide by such rules.
I met his whole family, including his grandma. I met their cats. They have like fifty and I was formally introduced to each and every one of them. There were a few that didn’t come out immediately, because that’s how cats are sometimes, but Dylan went on arduous journeys underneath sofas to ensure I met these animals. Did I mention I don’t even like cats much?
He then suggested we eat there, because good ole’ mama had already brought over some fried chicken from King Soopers.
That’s how I found myself sitting in a living room with three cats strewn about me, all of Dylan extended family, watching Wheel of Fortune and removing bits of fur from my drum-leg.
While Vanna strutted across the stage in the easiest gig known to womankind, I plotted my escape. My greatest hurdle was that I had no transportation nearby. My car was still parked at the high school—who knows how far away that was. Therefore, I’d have to pry Dylan away from this living room and use him to get me to my car.
Again, I was brought to drastic measures…I’d have to lie.
Jesus won’t like that, the cat sitting on my lap chides. Apparently, this cat could read minds.
Jesus is going to have to forgive. And you know what? He’s really good at that.
Before I get to formulate my lie, the mom says, “Dylan’s little brother has a football game tonight. Annie, would you like to come with us?”
Dylan looks hopefully at me, but it was too late. My cutthroat biology had kicked in. I was determined competitive Annie now.
“Actually, I should probably go soon. I’m auditioning for this band tonight and I’d like to get some practice in before I do it.”
It should be noted this was not a complete lie.
I was planning on auditioning for the worship band in an on-campus ministry group. The lie was the “tonight” part. The audition was tomorrow afternoon. Don’t worry though—Karma made sure I didn’t get in.
So, he drives me to my car. But before I could get behind the wheel of Charlene, he held out his arms in the infamous “I wanna hug” gesture.
Nowadays if I don’t want to hug a guy, person, dog, or sasquatch, I pretend not to see him and get in the car anyway. It’s subtle rejection.
Yet, this was yesteryear and naïve past-Annie sighed and submitted to the inevitable. He smiles, “This was fun. Maybe later this week we could go for a movie-date or something?”
Like a cornered animal, I glance about wildly and growl, “Uh, yeah.”
Then I leap into the car, lock the doors, and speed away.
Later that night I sent a text to Dylan, kindly explaining that I was sensing we might have gotten our signals crossed. I apologized for giving him the wrong idea, but I only saw him as a friend. I mentioned I had a crush on someone else and it might become something (I was referring to Jeremy, which was not a lie). I said I had hoped we could still be friends.
He replied, “Oh yeah, I didn’t mean like a date-date…I meant as friends.”
I love men, I love dating. When I say Athens, you say Parthenon! Athens! Parthenon!