Whether it’s romantic, platonic, or professional, we’ve all encountered relationships where the other person just doesn’t quite value us. It’s in our nature to seek approval from those who withhold it. When affection comes too easily, it appears cheap and suspicious. We like challenges. The problem is, not all challenges are worth chasing. Some lead us nowhere; others lead us straight to the edge of a cliff.
I ‘ l l T a k e Y o u t o t h e C a n d y S h o p
I consider myself an independent, no-bullshit kinda girl. I do what I want. I have a strong sense of self, and I don’t waste my energy on boys who aren’t worth my time. That being said, I am human, and sometimes I do exactly what I tell my friends not to do.
There is this guy, a recurring cast member in my life with whom I’ve had multiple stints of failed dating attempts – he’s a brilliant, foreign software engineer. He works on my team, and I see him every day. Tall, handsome, charming – you know the type. The moment I met him, I knew he was trouble. But he was alluring, and I was enchanted.
As much as I’d love to go into detail about our jaded, outdated history, I’ll save that mystery for another post. The quick and dirty is: We had been mutually and overtly attracted to each other for a while, but because of bad timing and a series of obstacles, we had never successfully “made it happen.” Some of the preventative factors were general life circumstances – like me having a boyfriend and then when I was single – him having a girlfriend. Additional preventative factors included inherent personality flaws, such as – him being shady and me being an aloof mess.
One flirty Friday, however, the stars aligned, and we had the opportunity to pursue something. Post-work, my saucy software engineer (let’s call him, Mr. Wrong) messaged me. After a bit of banter, he invited himself to meet me at the bar I was occupying with my friends. Whether we were meeting as dates, hookups, or star-crossed lovers – it was unclear. But we finally had our moment, and I wanted to see where things went.
When Mr. Wrong arrived, he went through the motions of small talking my friends. Eventually my crew left, and it was just the two of us. He started getting touchy, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable diving into the physics of getting physical without the 411 on his intentions. I stopped him and asked, “Hey, what’s up? What is this? Why are we here?” He playfully replied, “Well, you’re single. I’m single. A while back you said you weren’t looking for anything serious. I thought this could be fun.” It was clear. It was simple. Not the words every girl dreams of hearing, but being newly freed from the clutches of a seven-year relationship, I had not a shred of reticence in agreeing to an exciting, no-strings-attached sorta deal. Who knew? Maybe I’d become the Natalie to his Ashton or the Mila to his Timberlake. I was down with the classic 2011 rom-com setup, so when he dove in for the kiss, I didn’t let him miss.
The next day, Mr. Wrong asked me on a real date. We went out to a nice dinner in SF at a spot called Little Gem
. Because both of us are a bit closed off, the conversation was (per usual) tense, minimal, and painfully reliant on subtext. Anyone I ever burdened with the gossip of my love life specifically complained about my interactions with Mr. Wrong, “You guys literally talk about nothing and accomplish nothing. It’s all a big game.” They were right, but I liked it.
When we finished dinner, we went back to his place, which – surprise, surprise – happened to be close-by. We had sex. As we stared at the ceiling, still unclothed, he cleared his throat and declared, “Just so you know, this will never turn into anything. We will never become boyfriend and girlfriend.” Although he was unnecessarily blunt and potentially redundant (since we already had the “thought this could be fun” conversation), I appreciated his honesty. It was nice to actually start on the same page.
The next two rendezvous were pretty much a couple of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’ams + awkward morning coffees. The coffees were especially awkward, because he loved to iterate the notion that “this will never turn into anything.” His emphasis of our doomed fate was excessive and annoying. I had never before experienced a lover so adamant about staying strictly in the bone zone, but hey, to each his own, right?
By our third week of commiseration, he was inviting me on well-thought-out dates. He began admitting he wanted me to sleep over and ceased to stress the morbidity of our relationship. Our dates evolved from fancy dinners, to disco roller skating and cozy sleepovers. At this stage of our romance, we had a very milk and cereal thing going for us – it was all about spooning.
As Mr. Wrong continued to moonlight as Mr. Right, things became increasingly confusing. At one point, he rented a Zipcar to drive me to Twin Peaks. He blindfolded and escorted me to the top. When we reached the peak, he opened my eyes to the view, grabbed my hand, and kissed me. This was no friends-with-benefits behavior (which I had my fair share of experience in). This was the beginning of a romance novel. Nothing made sense. I was thoroughly frustrated because he made me melt. He made me feel vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable, and I do what I can to avoid it.
C a n d y C r u s h e d
Due to my naturally distrustful disposition toward most people – especially boys, from the beginning I expected to be disappointed by Mr. Wrong. A couple days after the Zipcar date, we were yet again unclothed in his bed. He let a joke slip out about us being a power couple but quickly corrected himself, “Except we’re not a couple. And we never will be, because this is just temporary.” Although I’m not against anything casual, I don’t have the patience to be constantly reminded of my expiration date. I sat up in bed and said, “Ya know . . . I can see myself liking you a lot, and I don’t want to get hurt. I think it’s a good time to end this before it gets complicated.” He latched onto my waist and said, “I think you already like me a lot.”
Me: Exactly. It’s a good time to end things. I know I don’t want anything serious now, but I’m also not writing off any potential for the future. I don’t know how things are going to turn out and am open to possibilities. You, on the other hand, seem certain this will never evolve – so why did we do all of those nice things? Why even bother with Twin Peaks? Why make the extra effort? What was the point?
Him: I – I don’t know. I guess I wanted you to like me . . .
Me: So, you were insecure and looking for someone to make you feel wanted?
He continued squeeze my waist in silence.
Me: Well, I already like you, and you know that . . .
Him: I enjoy spending time with you. I could tell you all the things I like about you?
I had recently come across this gem of an Instagram post, “Don’t ever let anyone treat you like a yellow Starburst. You are a pink Starburst.”
As soon as I saw those wise, wise words, I slapped that baby on my Facebook timeline. The week prior to our bed talk, Mr. Wrong confided that he could never tell if my Facebook posts were directed toward him. Now, I’m not one to post my dirty laundry on the ol’ FB, but sometimes if it’s just vague enough – I’ll go for it. I paused and said, “I guess the post about yellow and pink Starbursts.” He smirked and said in his cute little accent, “You think I treat you like a yellow Starburst?”
Back to pillow talk:
Me: Knowing what you like about me isn’t helpful. See! This is exactly what I meant about the yellow Starburst comment.
Him: Can you please explain the Starburst thing to me? I don’t know what it means to be a yellow Starburst.
I gazed into his clueless, Nordic face and said, “Pink Starbursts are your first choice. Everyone wants the pink Starbursts. When you run out of pink and the other good colors, you go for the yellow. It’s not your top pick, but it’s there and it’s still candy. So you eat it.”
Mr. Wrong blinked blankly. “You’re not a yellow Starburst!” He exclaimed. A bit surprised, I stared back hopefully – but then he continued speaking.
Him: What’s the next best color?
Me: . . . red.
Him arms open wide: You’re my red Starburst!!
Me: Um. That’s the thing – I’m not going to be anybody’s red Starburst. I’m a pink Starburst. You should really go find yourself a pink Starburst.
Him with an air of panic and desperation: No! I don’t think I can. It’s too hard!
Me: Then find a different red Starburst.
Him clinging to my thigh as I am now out of bed in full stance ready to GTFO: But I don’t want another red Starburst. I want YOU to be my red Starburst!
As flattering as it was to have a whimpering man beg me to stick around as his silver-medal babe, I was outie 5,000. I got dressed and began to gather my belongings. From his bedroom he called out to me, “Moxie, wait!” I hesitated but walked back over. I leaned against his doorway waiting and wondering what words he would woo me with.
Him: I like you a lot more this week than I did last week.
Stop the presses! Was Mr. Wrong suddenly a true Casanova?
Me: Okay . . .
Him: I thought – that maybe if a month went by, I could start to see you as a pink Starburst, but – I’m not sure if this could happen.
Me: Well, that’s nice, but I don’t want to wait to see if I can become a pink Starburst. I want to already be a pink Starburst. There are plenty of guys out there who see me as pink, so I why should waste my time being someone’s red? Please don’t get confused and try to talk to me when you get lonely. I appreciate how honest you’ve been with me through everything, and I have no hard feelings toward you.
I gave him a hug. And then I left.
When someone undervalues you, walk away. Love is a luxury that should only benefit your life. You can’t force someone to see you the way you want to be seen. We’ve all been the red, yellow, and orange Starbursts, and we’ve all let them sit in our candy bowls. Maybe if I didn’t have so many of my own reds stashed in an old Halloween pile, I wouldn’t have fully understood the subtext. But I knew exactly how he felt. He wanted to hang onto me, because I was “good enough” to kill time with; but he didn’t want anything more, because I wasn’t “great enough” to make time for.
Don’t get in bed as red. Say hell no to yellow. And always think pink. We’ll talk about orange another time.