I Didn’t Believe They Were Really That Into Me
In my story about my first boyfriend, I mentioned a college guy I’d been dating in my last months of ‘high school.’ I also said that he was a great guy and that, partially out of fear, I hadn’t given him a real shot.
What I glanced over in that story, however, was how things ended between us — the part of the story that makes me look like a real asshole.
So in the spirit of honestly sharing our mistakes…
Here’s what happened
This college guy — let’s call him Tim. He and I had been on a few very nice dates early that summer. He was smart and nice and charming, and he was a friend of a close friend, so all evidence would suggest that he was a good guy.
At the same time, however, I was also in communication with Jake, my crappy then-friend now-ex-boyfriend. And at some point, I decided that my feelings for Jake were enough that I needed to finally give him a shot and be in that long-distance relationship with him if that’s what my heart wanted.
As luck would have it, Jake was coming down to Florida with his mom and little brother that summer to spend a few days at Disney World. And much to his mom’s displeasure, Jake and I managed to get me included in their little trip. (Yes, I understand now why that woman hated me.)
I didn’t mention any of this to Tim, who in my mind was someone I’d only been seeing very casually.
During that weekend at Disney, Jake and I acted like your standard obnoxious teenage couple. We were clingy, couldn’t keep our hands off each other, and took plenty of photos of us kissing.
And several days later, those photos ended up on Facebook (because that’s what you did back then).
As would surprise no one (except for myself apparently), I immediately got a text message from Tim expressing his hurt and confusion.
After all, I hadn’t told him I was seeing anyone else, and he’d had absolutely no warning prior to photos of me kissing some other guy ending up in his Facebook feed.
So, why? Why didn’t I tell him I was seeing someone else? Why did I allow those photos to go up? Was I just too much of a wimp to be direct with Tim?
Well, yes, I was a wimp, and my excuse was that it wasn’t like Tim and I had ever talked about seeing each other exclusively.
The biggest reason though? I didn’t think it mattered.
Because I didn’t think Tim was really that into me anyway.
Now, had he actually done anything to give me that impression? No.
But in my mind, it was like, why would he want to be with this practical child? I wasn’t anything special. He’d been my first real date, so obviously, guys hadn’t been breaking the door down to be with me.
If anything, I thought it was more likely that he had been hoping to sleep with me, and since I’d already thrown up some ‘I need to slow down’ signals, it seemed like it was about time for him to lose interest in me anyway.
And that was my real mistake.
Sure, those photos going online was the childish and shitty part, but the real fuck up here was assuming without any evidence that I didn’t mean anything to this guy.
And because I’d incorrectly made that assumption (turns out he really did like me, by the way), I’d hurt him pretty badly.
Well, at least it was a good learning experience, right?
Wrong! Because I repeated this mistake more than once.
Less than a year later
I’d gone on a couple of dates with a guy in Vancouver. He was nice and all, but I wasn’t that into him, he was a bad kisser, and I’d made lots of excuses to get out of seeing him again.
Fast-forward to a few weeks later. I’d figured he’d long forgotten about me when, at the graduation after-party for the class ahead of me, I started making out with a new guy at a bar.
And of course, bad kisser was there, saw it, and sent me a Facebook message the next day about how I apparently wasn’t the girl he’d thought I was.
He was kind of a dick and was a little bit ‘nice guy’ about it, but in fairness to him, I hadn’t had the decency to just tell him I didn’t want to date him. That’s completely on me.
Again, I hadn’t figured he couldn’t have been all that into me. Why would he have been? And it’s not like we’d been out more than twice or so.
Unfortunately, however, he’d already told all his good friends about me…
In New York
I had all sorts of strangeness in timing when it came to my dating life. I started talking with a girl online right before I met a guy in person. I started dating the guy, and the girl and I became good friends.
However, the guy and I weren’t exclusive. When he’d asked to be, I told him I wanted to keep it open for a while because part of me thought it was possible I liked girls better, and I didn’t want to make any commitments until I knew.
Well, about three months into this arrangement, there came a night when I’d finally had enough Malibu and Cokes to take this girl, my friend back to my apartment. (In truth, I’d planned on it before any Malibu had entered anyone’s system.)
But…it didn’t go that great that night. We just didn’t know what we were doing. I certainly didn’t. I also just saw her as a friend by then, so it was all very mechanical.
The next day, I told the guy I was dating, and he was a little jealous, but understanding. By that evening, I’d decided that no I wasn’t a lesbian, and he and I were officially in an exclusive relationship.
Okay, so none of that sounds that bad.
Except that what I didn’t realize until sometime later was that this girl had really had feelings for me.
And it probably doesn’t feel great that the person you like decides she’s ready to jump into a relationship the day after sleeping with you.
Hurt people hurt people
I was a pretty careless young person. As well-meaning as I may have been, I consistently managed to act in thoughtless ways that hurt people.
I didn’t do so once — I did so at least these three times, and honestly, probably more times that I’ve forgotten (perhaps willfully).
However, I also know that in each of these situations, my actions were informed by assumptions that the people involved just wouldn’t give a sh*t.
Those assumptions — beliefs, really — were so deeply ingrained that acting differently never even crossed my mind.
It’s been about ten years, and I haven’t managed to make that same mistake again. That is to say, I haven’t unintentionally hurt someone based on the assumption that they didn’t really care about me anyway.
In truth, it’s possible that if given the chance, I might have done so a few more times in my early twenties, but thank goodness, I was spoken for.
The thing is, deeply-held beliefs about your own worth and what others think about you don’t disappear overnight, and even making painful mistakes as a result of those beliefs doesn’t necessarily rid you of them.
Thankfully, however, I don’t think I would make that type of mistake again now, and the difference is only that I’ve grown into myself.
I’ve seen my competence and my value, and I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by wonderful friends who have consistently been affirming. They’ve seen the best and the worst, the embarrassing and the supposedly charming, and they’ve hit me over the head when necessary with the truth: that they think highly of me and that I’m important to them.
So while I didn’t, in my late teens and early twenties, see or believe in my own value as a person, now I do. And that changes things.