Last night marked the end of what I thought was my first successful succession of real dates. Ever.
For the first time in five years (when my dating life started at 13) someone had properly taken me out. My first relationship lasted for four years, but it was your typical high school love story where no rules, reasoning, or expectation can be applied. Since that ended I’ve been struggling to understand how dating works in the real, "adult" world. Really, really, struggling.
I found myself wasting time and hope in ambiguous situations that I wasn't even sure were situations to begin with. The casual dating scene in New York City was not working out all that well; I like to be courted in a somewhat old-fashioned manner.
So when I got a Facebook message from "Ben" a couple months back saying that he was an artist based out of NYC who went to NYU, I was intrigued. Ben said he was working on an upcoming art project that he wanted to use me for. I did my research, looked at his work, saw that we seemed to have the same cyber social circle and figured, “Why not?”
Ben did two pieces involving me.
The first one he drew and posted on the Internet. He painted the second one and said that he wanted me to see it before he posted it anywhere, gave me his number, and told me to stop by his studio if I was ever in the neighborhood. I said okay, but was swamped with work for the time being and never got back to him.
He finally texted me, tired of waiting, and asked if I would let him take me to dinner and then he could show me the painting. I made time and figured I had nothing to lose if I met him in a public place first. If anything seemed weird, I could always bolt.
Ben met me and walked me to dinner, where I suddenly realized that I knew nothing about him. Like, really nothing about him. Most importantly, that he was not going to NYU for undergraduate school like I had assumed, but rather graduate school. He was almost a decade older than me.
He confessed that he knew a whole lot about me, because I had not locked down very much of my information on the Internet. We joked about how easy I made it for someone to stalk me down.
Still, he was sweet, funny and gentlemanly, and we ended up talking effortlessly through dinner, revealing to one another facts that could not be found on the Internet.
After dinner, we went back to his apartment so I could see the painting. Though this was an irresponsible move on my part, everything turned out fine -- and my gut trusted him. We sat and talked some more before I left. At one point, he kissed me. He asked first, and it was nothing too intense, but it was intimate.
The next day, he wanted to see me again. And again. We went out a few more times and it kept going exceptionally well despite a few signs that he might’ve been more into me than I would’ve hoped at this point. But, I hadn't considered it a big deal because I like attention. Sue me.
I had also introduced him to a couple friends who had all agreed he was really likable and treating me well. We had joked about how neither one of us had expected anything to come of this and how it was a pleasant surprise that we got along so well. But, I was still going at this with no expectations and with no intention of getting serious anytime soon.
Our second weekend together ended and I headed back to school in New Jersey for a long day of classes. He had texted me that day asking what I was doing and I told him I was in class until later that night. Right when I was finishing up for the day I walked out of class and opened a text message from him that said, “Can we talk?” accompanied by a photo of a street sign just a couple blocks away from me.
I stopped in my tracks as my heart immediately started racing and my hands started shaking. He had come from the city to my school an hour and a half away in New Jersey completely uninvited and unannounced. Suddenly I became really thankful for our campus security system.
We had known each other for a week. What could we possibly have to talk about that was so urgent that he had to come an hour south into New Jersey on a Monday night without warning? Nothing, I tell you. It was not possible.
I put my head down and got on the bus as fast as I could to get back to my dorm.
Where's my pepper spray? 911?
I told him that he needed to leave and that if he really had to talk to me he could call, and he did. He said that he had just wanted to talk. I stayed on the phone with him almost his whole way back to New York, not knowing what to do or say. I was creeped out.
That clearly wasn't his intention. But you know what? I don't care. It was not cool of him to do what he did. It was scary.
I told him how uncomfortable it was for me to receive that text and he apologized profusely. However, he also said that I was overreacting and that he didn’t understand why this was such a big deal. He clearly did not understand how scary it is for a new 27-year-old to plan a sneak attack to an 18-year-old's school an hour away unannounced on a Monday night to "talk."
What really bothered me, though, was when he inquired about what had happened to me that made me react that way.
What the fuck? Way to blame me, guy. Um, have you never read a newspaper? Watched the news? Seen a horror movie?
I will admit that I was somewhat rude about the whole thing (but when I told him to "Get the fuck back on a train, please," I did say please) but in my opinion, so is showing up like that. Being standoffish is a defense mechanism that I would apply to anyone and everyone in that type of situation because it is so much better to be safe than sorry.
I know he really didn’t mean any harm. But there was something very unsettling about it all, and everyone else I talked to -- men and women -- have agreed. Had we maybe been dating for a year and this was a romantic gesture or a break-up, maybe his "I'm near you" text wouldn't have been appeared so threatening. But it was not. We barely knew each other.
It bothered me that I couldn't make him understand that what he did was unacceptable.
Perhaps it’s something about being a woman that I simply could not make him understand. We are raised and constantly cautioned about these types of situations. Also, as a women’s studies major, I devote a lot of my time and energy into learning about women in shitty situations, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from that, it’s that practically anything can happen to anyone.
This may not have been a horror story, but I sure as hell felt horrified.
Tell me: Have you ever had a scary experience where someone suddenly showed up? Or an Internet date gone wrong? Am I overreacting to the whole thing?