Today I was thinking about my misspent youth—misspent in the sense that I never, not once, did anything wild and crazy, and a tiny part of me regrets that—and in particular about my relationships before I got married at the ripe old age of almost-22. Or maybe I should say my “non-relationships” or “fantasy relationships” because I had a lot of crushes on guys who never asked me out. I also had some dates and even actual boyfriends along the way, but not that many, partly because I was always mooning around over some guy who hardly knew I existed.
These guys were always Unavailable, either because they were taken or they were just way out of my league. When I think back, I cringe with embarrassment because I must have truly been a millstone around these poor boys’ necks, what with my total inability not to stare longingly at the object of my desire; and then when his eyes met mine, look away so fast that I almost got whiplash. I could live on this kind of yearning for weeks, even months—an eternity in Teenage Dating Time. I bet the guys wished I would fall off a cliff or something. (I’m sure my parents did. I once walked around outside our house in the rain—okay, it was misting—singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables, a song about unrequited love that, I failed to notice at the time, ends with Eponine’s death. No, I’m not making that up—I wish I were.)
Because really, what could they do to let me know nothing was going to happen between us—except not ask me out? What could a "nice guy" do to tell a “good girl” know he isn’t interested? Nothing, that’s what. But I didn’t want to believe that nothing was ever going to happen between me and my latest crush. I wanted to believe that one day I would walk into a room The Guy was in, and I would look beautiful enough that night that he would see me in a different way. Our eyes would meet, and I wouldn’t have to look away because I would see from the look in his eyes that he felt the same way that I did, and “Some Enchanted Evening” would begin to play…
Basically, I guess the moral of the story is, “Keep your daughter away from Broadway musicals. Also, all Disney movies with princesses in them.”
A few years ago, I heard of a book called He’s Just Not That Into You. I never read it, being married by that time (thank God!) but I understand that the gist of it is, if a guy doesn’t call, it’s because he’s not into you. If he doesn’t want to date you or commit to you, he’s not that interested, so go find someone who is. There are a lot of excuses that mothers and best friends will tell a woman to make her feel better about why the guy isn’t calling—he’s scared of commitment, he’s intimidated by your brains/beauty, some floozy has him hypnotized—but of course the women who love you best can’t imagine why some jerk doesn’t love you as much as they do. The truth is, as the author puts it, “if a (sane) guy really likes you, there ain’t nothing that’s going to get in his way.” I proved this in a totally scientific survey: I asked my husband, an actual guy, if he had ever not asked out a girl he liked, or otherwise let her know he was interested, and he said, “No. Never.”
I really wish I had learned this early on. I could have saved myself a lot of tears. I wish I could teach it to my daughter. Of course I know she’ll have her heart broken, much as I would like to prevent that. Still, I’d rather it be broken by a guy she has actually spoken more than seven words to. I’d like her to spend her youth having fun with the friends she has instead of daydreaming about true love, which will come along when she’s ready. Also, I would like not to have to endure the floods of tears and the mopiness and the sad love songs, now that I’m the parent and not the teenager. (Thanks for not sending me off to boarding school, Mom and Dad!)
But I know she won’t listen to me, because what do I know? I’m only her mother.
So I put it here, to document that I did learn something during my single years. What about you? What did you learn from dating (or not, as the case may be)?