Less than 48 hours after praising my womanhood, the same guy who had done so commended me for my ability to “be a dude.”
To be fair, I was the one who had used the phrase originally–when we’d quasi-dated the first time about a year earlier. But I wouldn’t begrudge you some confusion. How anyone–most suspiciously, me–could get from the neuroses I express daily in this blog to the performance of any romantic behavior that could possibly qualify as “dude-like” is pretty radically dubious.
So: some background.
I first met this guy (like my avoidance of boy or man? I’m trying) on a bus from Washington to New York about six weeks before I moved from the latter to the former last November. We spent most of that time talking and feeling extremely attracted to one another.
Due to this extreme attraction, things moved rather quickly–quicker than either of us anticipated or intended.
And then, as men are wont to do (especially when they are twenty-four, as he was) he panicked: he wasn’t looking for a relationship–he’d just gotten out of one, he was in school, he had two jobs. I told him that was okay: I was about to move, anyhow–why couldn’t we just keep it casual and enjoy each other’s company? I could “be a dude” about things.
Even more incredible than the fact of my saying this is that I was actually able to do it. We saw each other weekly for the remainder of my time in DC, and after I moved I didn’t get in touch until I heard from him. I was able to do this in spite of the fact that I felt not only attracted to him but genuinely happy and comfortable in way that I knew both of us recognized was pretty extraordinary.
I’ve been thinking about how I did this, because–as you know–it’s not something that I am generally very skilled at doing. The only explanation I can muster is that I knew what the expectations were. I could handle it the same way I could handle a week-long fling with a Basque guy while on vacation in Spain: there was never any real consideration of trying to establish a relationship.
What I can’t handle, though, is when things–namely, expectations–are not so clear.
That became the case when I saw this same guy more recently. He is still in Washington, and we made plans to get together while I was back East over Winter Break. I had no idea what would happen–I thought of him as the person with whom I’ve had the best physical and emotional chemistry in the past several years, but I didn’t know whether he felt the same way.
(“I should just propose to him!” I’d said to S before my trip. “How bout you ask him to come visit?” she’d suggested–to which I replied, “Now that sounds scary.” Amazing how my mind works.)
Sure enough, before I even had a chance to bring up marriage, he said he wanted to ask me something. “What do you think about us?” he asked. “Because I think about it all the time.”
He proceeded to spend the weekend quoting directly from the Book of Things Women Want to Hear. He told me his parents were dying to meet me and asked about my five-year old niece. He said he thought we had great sex and told me I was beautiful so many times I actually felt uncomfortable. Reader, he told me that all he wanted in life was to be a dad.
Which, of course, was pretty wonderful to hear. But it was also confusing: nowhere in these remarks was any indication that he was open to a long-distance relationship. I had no idea how things would proceed. So, I asked.
This, I believe, is when he reminded me what I’d said about “being a dude.”
“I always tell people that story,” he said. “Cause I was so impressed that you said you could do that, and you actually could!”
I should have known.
We agreed that we’d keep in touch and try to see one another when possible. He said he was broke and wouldn’t be able to visit me with any regularity, but would check for flights.
And then I didn’t hear from him for three weeks. When I did, it was a short email telling me he wouldn’t be able to make it to New York on my next visit, would let me know about spring break, and observing that the Lobos had a really great game the week before.
I could’ve written back and acted like that was okay–like I hadn’t been disappointed not to hear from him, like my interpretation of “regular contact” matched his.
But of course, it doesn’t. So, even though I knew it might mean I’d never hear back from him (I haven’t–it’s been two months), I told him so.
I told him that as much as he may have been impressed that I could “be a dude” initially, the truth is that I’m not a dude. “I’m a kind of neurotic woman,” I wrote, “and I can’t apologize for that.”