Through middle-school and high school, I subjected myself to a series of monumental and unrequited crushes on a succession of unlucky girls. Too insecure and clueless to ask any of them out, I would instead awkwardly orbit them, doing nice, thoughtful things, and pining away in sweet misery to a dolorous soundtrack of Cat Stevens and Simon & Garfunkel. I hoped at some point that one of them would realize that I was The One and effectively raise her hand and we could stroll together into some crepuscular idyll.1 Like everything else in my life, I felt like this should happen without much of an effort on my part. After all, it was much safer to wait for love to come crawling to me, rather than humiliate myself with the rejection I assumed would greet me if I ever made the first move.2
I came closest to having this strategy work for me in the fifth grade, when a girl actually brokered a deal through her friends for me to be her boyfriend. It was a painfully businesslike and short-lived arrangement, about as romantic as the failed merger of Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, and within a week the flimsy charade similarly collapsed in on itself. I went back to my crushes.
One constant through all of these one-sided romances was that, without fail, every one of these girls would, at some point, say that I was “sweet”. The words rang in my head like the steel doors of the friend zone slamming shut, and my latest opus of self-sabotage would be complete.3 That’s why I laughed so heartily one morning in high school, when I turned a page in the Chicago Sun-Times and saw the headline staring back at me: “‘SWEETEST GUY’ HELD IN AX-KILLING OF 4”. I tore it out, pinned it up over my desk at home, and would chuckle wryly to myself from time to time. What an insufferable asshole I was. How I wish I could go back and punch myself in my dumb fucking face.
1Brace yourself for the most pathetic thing you may ever hear: I remember vainly hoping that a girl would reveal her feelings for me through a school-sanctioned Valentine exchange or even a proclamation in the school newspaper. I’m not sure if it’s more excruciating for me to admit that or for you to read it. But there it is. Go Back To Reading
2Close readers of this blog may draw a parallel between my approach to romance and how I tried to orchestrate my first fight. Again, how fucked up is that? Go Back To Reading
3Much later (maybe last week) it occurred to me that at least one or two of these girls might have actually liked me back, but they assumed from my bizarre behavior (quite understandably) that I was not interested in them. Ah, well. Their loss, right? Go Back To Reading