Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fear Factor: The Non-Date

If you haven't been there, you're lucky. I have been on non-dates more times than I can count. Now that I think about it, most of my dates (and all of my best dates) have been non-dates. It always starts off as fun, promising, with a palpable potential, that by date's end (or "non-date's non-end" as the case may be) you're emotionally shredded by your confusion, self-doubt and by the messages that you're perceiving as mixed, but which in fact may not be clear, but which you are certainly resisting absorbing. It's like an episode of SNL's "It's Pat," where you're trying to figure out what that person is, and how they fit into your understanding of your life, and everytime you get a (romantically or) sexually charged clue, the person counters it with a term of neutrality. So why not just ask? Just summon up some courage from a nether dimension where courage abounds as a natural resource, and spit out the words into the air? Because courage is in short supply, and we're petrified. And we have good reason to be scared. Most declarations of romantic intent are met with a less than enthusiastic reception, and whatever friendship was beginning to take root usually ceases to grow; it's like our expression of honesty and yearning was death to fertile soil, the emotional equivalent of sowing the earth with salt, so that nothing will ever again grow there. Or, as Ken puts it:
So, instead of making a fool of yourself, you go on a series of these nondates and with each passing one get progressively crazier, act increasingly weirder--you fret, you hope, you worry, you moon, you envy and, yes, you even pine--until finally you just snap and say "HOLY SHIT I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE. YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY AND I THINK I LOVE YOU." And when that happens? Well, there's a very, very slim chance that the other person will say, "Oh my god. Me too!" But the smart money goes on the other response: He or she shouts "Hey, look over there! It's Steve Perry from Journey!" and then, the minute you turn your head, runs away, never to be seen from again.
Or, in the case of living in a densely packed community like the Upper West Side, you will continue to see that person everywhere. At every social event, at ever synagogue you visit, at every Shabbat dinner everywhere. Frankly, you're going to see them anyway, so there's no point in accelerating the misery by making them uncomfortable too. Better to pull away slightly, for the sake of your own sanity. Besides:
If you find yourself on the third or fourth hang-out, nondate or whatever, chances are you are dating this person only in your own mind. If the other person were as into you as you are into him or her, you'd already be holding hands on the subway, playing tonsil hockey in the park and generally making a nuisance of yourself in public.
And you, being a smart person, have realized that you are doing none of these things. Even if the other person makes you feel like no one else, even if there's a connection there you haven't felt with anyone in years, even if you have a strange conviction that this person is someone who was meant for you, you stay quiet. You wait for the signal, the one sign that will translate into a romantic green light. Sometimes you see glimmers of this everywhere...hints that the feelings run deep on both sides. But nine times out of ten, that's called denial. The signal you're waiting for will never come. You learn that marinating in your own misery is preferable to cutting yourself open and plucking out your heart to offer it to a non-receptive audience. You continue your pining and mooning, and everything else, but treat it as a process of grief. All you can hope for is that after your denial and anger, eventually acceptance will come. In the interim, you paint on your smile, hope it fools everyone else, and try to beat back the sadness. [Inspired, obviously, by Ken's post.]


Plantation said...

Hey, I haven't been over here in ages. Nice template. Seems like home to me.

T.A.B. said...

Well, this post has certainly hit a nerve. I've had more "non-dates" than I can count.

Gatsby said...

As was pointed out to me by a very wise advice columnist, and will be terribly paraphrased here: "People will risk incredible physical pain, but shy away at the smallest bit of emotional pain".
People run in marathons, get in fights, go skydiving, ride bicycles through Manhattan during rush hour, but won't face rejection.
I can't really talk, as I'm currently single, but sometimes I think it's worth the risk.

Jennifer said...

Probably because the broken limbs and other injuries heal faster and cleaner than the emotional ones.

Gufle said...

hmmn thoughts on the non-date epidemic.
1. no one likes to go out to cinema, theatre, dinner etc alone - with a non date there is no social stigma.
2. I'll take this thought even further and say that so endemic are non dates that those who don't have anyone to go to things with are made to feel even more as sad singles as they cannot even rustle up a non date.
3. many [esp girls] think they are dating a boy but to him is just a non-date [even if he is sleeping with her]. leads to lots of unhappiness and misunderstandings. talk about having your cake and eating it. Much unhappiness is caused too when girls realise that on the nights that not seeing her are actually seeing others - who might or might not be rivals.
4. the demographical inbalance and desparation of over 30 somethings UWS girls leads to these multi-dates/non dates situations being the norms with poor girls hanging on just in case the boy decides to ditch others and decide that she is the real thing. [on the other hand boys don't like it when girls they are dating/nondating date other boys] oh the hypocrasy and sadness of it all - i would weep but my shlef might warp.
5. Come the glorious and maybe rare occassion of a real bone fide date - the pressure to make it happen is so much worse.

Gatsby said...

Perhaps life is different for 20 somethings than 30 somethings, but I've been the guy non-dating a girl as well.
It's just as frustrating. Sex was never an issue with those though. Couldn't imagine having sex with someone and not dating them.

Chutzpah said...

How's this for an ambiguous situation...all nite my date of last Sat. night kepts saying things like "we can do go there next time" and "there's a good place for us to go". He even said "OUR car is still there" when we found his car had not been stolen while we were in a club(hey, I'll take part ownership of the Z28 if he wants to give it to me) BUT then.he didn't even give me the obligatory "I'll call you" line at the end of the night and instead said "drive safely". Very Pat like!

Karl said...

This seems to be the same nearly every date I'm on!
Great blog, my first time here.

Needsabetterjob said...

It is similar to job interviews I have been on. For the past year, I have been working in a much lower job capacity than I used to. I have been on 12 dates, I mean interviews in that time. In almost all of them, the hiring manager, expressed great interest in me, praised me, praised the fact that I took a lower level position, at least somewhat in my field, rather than sit at home, said in so many words, for sure you are going to be called back. Out of the 12 there was only 2 second interviews.

It is worthless for me to dwell on the BS I was handed. It is their loss and I move on w/ my studies of material that will increase my knowledge of the field. Correspondinly, those in the dating pool, should be working on their communications skills, ways of finding their inner peace, etc...

We are living through very difficult times right now. The US elected a madman, and he makes wars that are unjustified, robbing the economy.

Soon he will be gone. Patience everyone, your day in the sun will be here soon.