04. The Accidental Date
Jeremy* is a co-worker. We work for the same company, but not in the same building. He’s not someone I see regularly, but we play softball in the summer for our company’s league. Now that I’m a lonely single person trying to branch out and meet new people, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, I send Jeremy a message asking about karaoke. I know he and a bunch of other colleagues go out to karaoke on a semi-regular basis. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in karaoke itself, but I figure it’d be a good way to get out of my house and socialize with people I’m semi-comfortable with. Jeremy replies giving me the details on karaoke nights and references my ex-significant other. I tell Jeremy that I’d be going out solo and explain as briefly as possible that we’ve split up.
Aside: I’ve found that explaining a break-up to acquaintances is much more difficult than explaining it to people I know well. There’s a fine line between too much and not enough detail. There’s not much I can say that won’t make the other person feel awkward, and there’s not much they can say in return that won’t be equally awkward. Hearing a “good for you” in response to my story can be easily misconstrued, and a “I’m sorry to hear that” isn’t always appropriate either, so I try to be brief and to the point and hopefully nobody feels obligated to shove a foot in their mouth.
After hearing news of my break up, Jeremy immediately jumps on the opportunity, but I’m completely oblivious to this and misinterpret his asking me out for genuine friendly outreach. Jeremy says he’s sorry to hear the news and asks if I’d like to get a coffee or go bowling or something. We agree to bowling. It does not once cross my mind that bowling with Jeremy is going to be a date.
We meet up at the bowling alley and I see him in the parking lot. He says he has something for me, and he hands me a single pink rose. He says he thought it might just cheer me up a little bit. I say thank you and, honestly, I think it’s a pretty kind gesture. I still don’t think of this as a date. I think he’s just being thoughtful and friendly, right?
We bowl for two rounds. He wins both. Jeremy is definitely a nice person. He’s funny, but a little on the quiet side. He’s laid back, and I feel comfortable around him. I’m not particularly attracted to him, romantically or otherwise, but he’s fun to hang out with, like a friend. (Aside: I learn Jeremy wears size 8 shoes at the bowling alley. Isn’t that awfully small for a dude? Sorry, Jeremy. Just sayin’. In all fairness, he isn’t that tall, which I hadn’t noticed before. I’m short and everyone’s always taller than me anyway. My point is that I’m not really attracted to this guy.) We’re close to the same age. We have very different interests, but still find a lot of things to talk about. He dresses well. In fact, he’s dressed nicer than I am.
After two rounds, we head over to the counter to pay. Jeremy only has a debit card, no cash, so he offers to pay for it. I give him some cash, a little less than half the total, so we roughly split bowling. Like friends would do, right?
As we leave, Jeremy asks if I’d like to go somewhere else or call it a night because it’s still early for a weekday. I say I have lots of stuff to do, which is true, and that I should head home. He agrees. We say goodbye. No awkward handshakes or hugs, just a simple straightforward “goodnight”.
How do I rate this date?
On a scale from 1 (I’d rather be in hell, literally) to 10 (fuck me now!), I’m giving this an “N/A”. This was not a date.
Later that night, I get a text from Jeremy that says he enjoyed going out with me, that he thinks I looked “so beautiful”, and that he was a little disappointed that we had to call it a night so early. Some of this catches me off guard. The next day, he texts me asking if I’d like to hang out again, maybe go over to his place and watch a movie. I say maybe, or that it depends, and that I’m busy most nights (which is true), but I also know that based on some of the phrases he’s using that he kinda has the wrong idea. He definitely thought of bowling as a date. He texts fairly often. He asks how my day’s going. He tells me to “sleep well, beautiful”. He’s overly flirty, overly friendly, overly complimentary, and here I completely thought we were just hanging out as friends.
How did I do this? What did I do wrong?
I don’t think I did anything to indicate I was interested in anything more than a friendship, but maybe I should have made that more clear? Is that how people operate? Do I need to negotiate the terms of “hanging out” in advance of the “hanging out”?
I don’t think so.
I think Jeremy just got it all wrong, and that this isn’t my fault at all. It is, however, my responsibility to fix it. I have two choices: give him the runaround for a while to see if he backs off — make excuses as to why I’m busy, skirt around things — I’m pretty good at this, or I tell him straight-up, “I only want to be friends.” The latter is obviously the better, more immediate, and more adult thing to do, but I also don’t want to be a huge asshole, or jump to the wrong conclusions.
So, I take the coward’s way out and I try giving him the runaround for about a week. Just when I’m beginning to wonder if he’s getting the message, he texts me, “I know you don’t like me the way I like you…”
Phew. And ugh.
I become an adult and explain. I tell him I didn’t mean to lead him on, and blah, blah, blah, and I think that we’ve put things back in friendly territory.
But I think I’ve learned a lesson somewhere in this. Guys are not always on the same page that I’m on. I can’t make assumptions. They obviously make assumptions, but I should know better.
* Names have been changed, of course, to protect the innocent.
For other pieces in this Publication, check out https://medium.com/navigating-the-sea-of-singledom