The time I had a boyfriend and didn’t know it

Every time I meet up with high school friends this week someone inevitably asks, “So Kay, any boys in your life?”

Kay: No. Well yeah. But no not actually. But I kind of had a boyfriend for a month. But not actually.

HS friend: Whaa?

Then I launch into the story about how I had a boyfriend for a month and didn’t realize it. At first I felt a mixture of sadness and embarrassment about the whole thing, but the more I tell it, the more I’ve come to appreciate how funny the whole situation was.

So remember Mickey? He’s that cute baseball player I went on a fun, unorthodox date with back in November.  Yep, that’s right, this story is about him. I enjoyed myself on that date, but after seeing Mickey in class later that week, I realized that there really wasn’t anything romantic between us. I liked hanging out with him because he’s smart and gets my strange brand of humour, but I know from experience that for me those sorts of friendships never turn into anything more. Hanging out with Mickey was fun, but he didn’t spark any particularly powerful feelings from me. I decided we were better off as study buddies.

I was totally prepared to tell him this, but the opportunity never really came up because he never asked me on another date. At one point I asked him to come with me to see Catching Fire because I knew he loves the Hunger Games as much as I do, but frankly there was nothing date-y about it. I paid for my own ticket for one thing (I know a guy doesn’t have to pay for the girl to make it a date, but it’s sometimes a good signal) and at no point did he try to make a move. Great, I thought. It’s nice to have a guy friend to do this sort of thing with.

We continued to sit together in lecture and do our Econ homework in my dorm room every week. At one point he suggested studying in his room even though the wifi is worse, because he wanted me to meet his floor mates. In retrospect, that should have been a warning signal for me that he thought our friendship was something more. I never twigged though. I just assumed he wanted me to be friends with his friends.

Then the day of the Econ final came along. It was my last final, so I was really excited to be done. The exam was in the morning and my flight home was that evening. After the final Mickey texted me seeming upset that I had left the final without him. He really wanted to see me before I left, he added. I had a lot of stuff to cram into that afternoon because I had already planned to hang out with some friends from the debate club and I had to pack, so I told him that he was welcome to come with me while I walked to the post office to mail Lis’ Christmas gift. He seemed perfectly normal during the walk, but then on our way back he told me I had to come up to his dorm room because I had left something there when we were studying the night before.

Now, okay I’m not stupid; I knew I hadn’t left anything in his room. Maybe he was just inviting me up to give me a  Christmas card, I thought. I really hoped it was just a Christmas card. Please God, let it just be a Christmas card.

We entered his room. There were not one, but two carefully wrapped gifts sitting on the bed. I tried not to freak out.

Kay (in a careful voice): You didn’t have to get me anything

Mickey: Of course I didn’t have to. I just wanted to.

Kay: Mickey, I…I don’t think this was ever going to work out between us.

Mickey: What do you mean?

Kay: Like us dating. I didn’t really think we connected. Like that way. Like I like hanging out with you, but it never felt like anything more to me (I say ‘like’ a lot when I’m nervous)

Mickey: So…I guess…this past month we weren’t really dating then?

What I wanted to say: FUCK NO I THOUGHT THAT WAS OBVIOUS!!!

What I actually said: No, it never felt that way for me.

Silence.

Kay: I should go.

Mickey: No, you should open your presents.

Kay: I can’t accept these.

Mickey: Well I bought them for you so you have to.

I opened them. A book that the cover recommended “for fans of the Hunger Games.” A Doctor Who poster. The kind of thoughtful gifts that come from someone who desperately wants to know you, but only really knows the surface. I guess we never really talked about much more than books and TV shows. That right there really should have been a signal for him that we weren’t in a relationship, in case the lack of dates and kissing in the last month wasn’t already a giveaway.

I thanked him, we hugged awkwardly, and then I left. As I walked down the stairs of his building I found a note in the wrappings:

“To my girlfriend, love Mickey.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Girlfriend?? Seriously? It was one thing for him to think we were dating, and even getting me gifts wasn’t totally ridiculous, but calling me his girlfriend sure was. I thought it was a truth universally known that you have to FUCKING ASK SOMEONE BEFORE YOU DECLARE THEM YOUR GIRLFRIEND!!?

He had seemed so normal, too. He wasn’t socially awkward in any way, he was good-looking, and he played a varsity sport. I guess based on those traits I had just assumed he had some dating experience. Even if he had none, I had assumed that he at least knew about dating from TV or something at least. Maybe this is how dating works where he’s from? I don’t know!! I’m so frustrated because I feel bad about this even though I didn’t do anything wrong.

I didn’t, right? I mean, going on one date does not mean you’re suddenly in a relationship. Hanging out a couple times a week studying does not mean you’re dating. And aren’t you supposed to tell someone you just met that you’re buying them a Christmas gift? AND THAT YOU’VE DECIDED THAT THEY’RE YOUR FUCKING GIRLFRIEND? I’m not just making this up, right?! I’m pretty sure these are social norms!!

It’s incidents like this that make me want to give up dating indefinitely.

How to repel guys: A beginner’s guide

Who am I kidding, I have no idea what I’m doing to repel guys. Especially this time. I thought I was getting the hang of this whole dating thing. Apparently not.

It didn’t start out as a date. I really just wanted to got skating. There’s something about skating on an outdoor rink in the winter-the sound of blades slicing through the ice, that muffled sound of laughter on snow-I can’t get enough of it. All of my friends know that my winter obsession is getting people to go skating with me.

So I swear I didn’t have an ulterior motive when I invited Tim to go skating. Lis, my go-to skating partner was away for the holidays, Cor thinks skating is lame (ie. he can’t skate and is too embarrassed to ask me to teach him) and all of my city friends were, well, in the city. So I texted Nee and Tim begging them to come skating with me.

Nee was in until about half an hour before were going to leave; she got called in to work or something. Then there was this conversation:

Tim: So do you still want to go?

Kay: Uh der. I’m. Obsessed. With skating.

Tim: Then maybe we could get hot chocolate after?

Kay: Yeah that would be nice

Tim: Okay. It’s a date.

I swear that’s what he said. It’s a date. But I didn’t get too excited, I mean “it’s a date” is a generic figure of speech.

Okay, who am I kidding, I got super excited.

The thing about Tim is that I’ve known him for years now but whenever I see him it’s always briefly and with a group. He’s friends with all of my town friends, but I’ve never actually gone to school with him, so the first time I met him it was kind of like “I’ve heard a lot about you.” “Ditto.” He’s really close with Lis in particular, and Lis is always like, Kelsey,  you should get to know him better, he’s super fun but he has this super deep side blah blah blah.

I just ignored it because, well I don’t know. I mean, Tim and I always have a fantastic time together (read about our summer fair hi-jinks here) but I always pegged him for that type of guy who just goofs around and flirts with everyone and is great to invite to parties, but that’s about it. Anything about a “deep side” seemed like a load of bullshit to me to be honest.

But I mean, he’s really cute, and fun, and did I mention cute? So I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea of a date with him.

In the first five minutes my dreams were crushed. Tim started talking about this girl he met a camp in the summer who lives in Europe or something and how they totally would have dated if she didn’t live in like Croatia or something. At that point I was like, oh, I guess this isn’t a date.

Looking back, I feel like that was what made the night so amazing though. Because as soon as I decided it wasn’t a date, the pressure was off and I felt like I could say anything. So we skated and I teased him about his skating skills and we made up life stories for the other people at the rink, most of which involved drug deals gone bad and illegitimate children. Then, when our toes were blocks of ice, we curled up in comfy chairs by the fireplace at Tim Horton’s (if you’re American, I swear this is the name of a coffee chain. Just trust me on this. It’s super popular. If you’re in Canada and you want to act all Canadian go there. For real.). And we just talked. For like four hours. The store closed except for the drive through, and the drive through guy must have been entertained by listening to our conversation because he didn’t kick us out and he gave us free donuts. We started out making stupid jokes and complaining about how we couldn’t feel our feet, but then we started talking about people we both know, and then our families and our futures and who we are and who we want to be. It sounds lame when I try to summarize like that, but at the time it was really special. Part of it was because it came so naturally I think. I didn’t feel like I had to impress him or act a certain way, and because I didn’t think it was a date I felt like I had nothing to lose. I told him about how weird everyone was and still is about my mom dying, and how my dad is wonderful to me but sometimes I just get so mad at him for no reason other than the fact that he’s not mom. And Tim told me about how suffocating his family is, with his perfect older sisters and his mom who treats him like everything he does isn’t good enough, and his dad who pretends like nothing is wrong. He feels the same was as I do about the end of high school: it can’t come too soon.

Finally we both realized that we really couldn’t keep talking. It was 1am already and I had a 7am flight to catch to my grandparents house in Phoenix, and he had already missed his midnight curfew.  We were saying goodbye but then we went outside and kept talking and then it got cold so we sat is his car to warm up. I just remember laughing so hard that I was inches away from crying, and thinking that I wish we could just hang out forever and never leave. And okay, I was wondering what it would be like to kiss him. Then all of a sudden he stopped laughing and looked at me, completely serious.

“So is this like, a date?” he asked. It came out of his mouth so innocently. I wanted to kiss it. His mouth, I mean.

I told him that it kind of felt like a date. After a short pause I added that I really wanted it to be a date. So we decided that it was indeed a date, and then he asked me if he could take me on a second one. By this point my stomach was going all crazy fluttery and I couldn’t stop smiling or staring at him, but I tried to play it cool. Yes, I told him. I would like that a lot.

And then it was almost 2am and I really had to go. So I got out of the car while still smiling at him and he kept smiling at me and I walked to my car while still exchanging smiles and I don’t know who looked away first, but I know I didn’t want to.

At this point I don’t know if I can say the same for him.

To be continued…

Another post in which I don’t get relationships

I was initially quite excited when Mat got a girlfriend, because:

a) It means that people will stop trying to convince the two of us that we should date

b) He asked her out on the school trip to Europe ON THE EIFFEL TOWER! How freaking romantic is that?

c) She’s so awesome! She’s really fun to hang out with and she’s a fantastic prankster (more on that later)

And it worked out really well because they’ve never made me feel like a third wheel, even though I clearly am. For me, Mat’s relationship began to represent what I thought a healthy relationship should look like. They spend a lot of time together, but they still have separate interests and don’t need to spend every moment together.  They are clearly very close, but their PDAs are never anything more than an arm around her waist.  I wanted what they have.

Not surprisingly, when Mat said he was bringing Cat on our group camping trip, I was all for it.  I figured it would be a good time and a good way to get to know her better. What I didn’t know was that Cat’s idea of camping was living in an RV with satellite TV and running water. She had never been tenting or hiking before.

We went for two nights, and on day two we went on a really fantastic hike up a mountain. Besides Mat and Cat there were four of us on the trip, all really good friends. It is definitely up there as one of the best weekends of my life.

I’m sure it’s up there as one of Cat’s worst.

First of all, it rained the entire time. Most of us didn’t mind; we had our rain gear and our quick-dry polyester clothes. However, Cat brought nothing but jeans, which is pretty much the worst piece of clothing you can possibly bring camping. Dee and I let her borrow some of our stuff, but she still seemed miserable. She didn’t seem to like our whipped-together-over-a-gas-burner meals, or telling stories while huddling for warmth in the tent. She was especially miserable on the hike, which we had told her was going to be “easy”. Easy for us, all athletes who had climbed mountains before. However, Cat struggled to keep up on the steep, narrow paths, and by the time we made it past the tree line and onto the rocky shoulder of the mountain, she told Mat that they needed to turn around. Mat didn’t even think twice. He told the rest of us to keep going; they would find their way down and meet us at the bottom.

It took our group another hour to hit the summit, and one more after that to get down. The summit was absolutely gorgeous and the descent was a dream. When Mat and Cat made it down an hour after that, they were soaked and covered from head to toe in mud.  The rest of us thought it was hilarious until was saw the look on Cat’s face. Not only did she look miserable, but she looked angry too, and from the look on Mat’s face I’m sure she had told him exactly how she felt about this trip on the way down.

Now, I’m sure what most people get out of this story is not the same as what I got out of it. You’re probably thinking: poor Cat, that must have been awful for her, Kay you should have been nicer to her! However, what I’m thinking and what I thought the during the entire trip was why did Mat bring her? Mat absolutely loves camping. He’s the captain of his boy scout troop and he talks about camping and hiking all the time. Why did he bring her on this trip when he knew that she wouldn’t enjoy it and would just make him have a miserable time too? What is it about being in a relationship that makes people rather be miserable with that one person than happy without them?

Everyone tells me the same thing: “Kay, you’ll understand it when it happens to you. When you’re in a relationship, things change.”

But what if I don’t want things to change? I don’t want to make myself miserable for the sake of someone else. I don’t want to miss having the time of my life because my happiness is dependent on that of another. I like who I am. I like my friends and my independence and the way that I never back down from a challenge. If I changed any of that for a guy, I don’t know if I would be able to like myself anymore.