Senior year of high school, I was purer than the pope. The after-effects of a horrific “You-slept-with-my-best-friend?!!” breakup had made the idea of dating, hooking up with or even breathing next to a guy about as appealing as taking a bath in a tub full of slugs.
By the time I got to college, I had recovered nicely. Boys were sexy again, and like a shopaholic who’s just discovered online retail, I went on a spree. Cute civil engineer who was watching a movie in our dorm’s community center? I got his number. Nerdy but weirdly appealing guy in English class who brought up my favorite author during group discussion? Yes, I wanted to watch the "Breaking Bad" finale in his room. Shirtless freshman who paused, mid-run, to ask if I knew how to get back to the main road? Straight ahead, make a left, and I jog every morning so let’s go on a running date!
It felt amazing. I’d casually date a guy, revel in the re-discovered fun of flirting and sexual tension, and then, when I got bored, move on.
My roommates’ reactions were almost as gratifying as the male attention. Between the three of them, they had the sexual experience of a ninth-grader, so my “popularity with men” was a constant source of wonder. It got to the point where any time they’d see me talking to a guy, a plague of knowing smiles and head shakes would rip through the group. One time I noticed my roommates doing the smile-shakes as I asked the janitor about our next toilet-paper restock.
The stream of dates plus my friends’ faith in me blew my confidence up to the size of Alaska. I felt irresistible, like I was the star of an ad for perfume or gourmet chocolates.
When I pointed to the hot guy in our writer’s collective and told my friend I was going to ask him out she said, “Do it! Why would he say no?”
And unfortunately, in my haze of success, I actually thought to myself, “Why would he say no?”
After the last reading, which was mostly the author throatily murmuring “la lune,” and whipping her hippie locks around, I strolled confidently up to my target.
“Hey, would you ever want to grab coffee with me sometime?” In all of the movies and shows about college I’d seen, girls fell into one of two camps: the classy ones who went for coffee, and the promiscuous ones who met guys at frat parties. I was aiming for classy.
“Like, for, writing purposes?” he asked, his face flushed. I paused, thinking how cute it was that he didn’t believe I could actually be interested in little ol’ him.
“No,” I smiled patiently. “Like on a date! I think you’re kind of cute.”
As the silence stretched on and his face grew more and more red, my misgivings grew. I frantically wondered if my friend had overlooked some key reason why this guy might reject me. Maybe he was gay?
“You can say no,” I offered awkwardly.
“See…the thing is…” he stuttered. I waited patiently but after at least five seconds it became obvious the end of the sentence wasn’t coming.
Suddenly, the revelation.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked.
It was then that I noticed the girl who was standing right next to him trying and failing to cover some serious belly laughs. In my eagerness to pounce, I hadn’t seen her at all.
“Is that your girlfriend?!”
“Hi!” she waved, between snorts.
Feeling like a wild animal who had just suddenly and bewilderingly gotten taken down, I searched frantically for an escape, my gaze ping-ponging between girlfriend and boyfriend. She was helpless with giggles, he just looked pained. I ended up charging out the door and running all the way back to my dorm room. The predator had become the prey.
I never went back to the writer’s collective. But I had the pleasure of seeing his girlfriend every week, as it turned out she was vice president of the English Club. How’s that for poetic justice.