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.

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I am the love guru

My friends keep asking me for love advice. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It certainly isn’t due to my massive romantic success.

In fact, after Jo texted me for advice today, I’m starting to think that my friends are using my love life as an example of what not to do. A kind of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, if you will. Actually, more like a How to Make a Guy Fall For You and Then Confuse Him Until He Gives Up On You. It’s pure gold, apparently. Do the opposite of what Kay does, and you’re sure to find love.

A sample from my conversation with Jo, for your enjoyment:

Jo: Why didn’t you date Nob after you found out that he liked you back?

Kay: Uhhh…well you see…I did like him. But then it was kind of awkward and weird, so then I wasn’t sure if I liked him, so then I just freaked out and told him I just wanted to be friends.

Jo: Umm okay. So do you think it would have gone differently if he had just told you straight up how he felt?

Kay: No. Well, maybe. Nob is too awkward for that. I’m too awkward for that. It was just so complicated, and it just freaked me out. If you like someone and he likes you, shouldn’t it be easy and like, natural or something? Shouldn’t it? SHOULDN’T IT?

Jo: …

Kay: So, did you still want some advice?

Jo: Uh, no, I think I’m good, but thanks.

I have no idea what Jo expected to get out of that conversation, but hopefully he at least learned that if you like someone, you shouldn’t freak out and say things that make no sense, which is pretty much my trademark move. He really likes my friend Jan and she really likes him. I know this because she came to me for advice, too.

I wish them all of the romantic success that I’ve never had.