Why am I so cynical?
Well, a thorough investigation of this question would exceed the limits of this blog post and require the long term intensive support of a licensed therapist, but I would say that my pessimism around humankind began in childhood, a somewhat unpleasant time in which I painfully learned that people who allegedly cared about me would inevitably disappoint me. Why set my expectations high, when people would fail to meet them? Why believe the best in people, when more often than not they would show me their worst? Optimism was exhausting and burdensome. It was better to be wary and mistrustful.
This attitude has easily translated over to my views on dating cishet men, a demographic I haven’t had much experience with until recently. At this point, I had already gone on about 30 first dates with different guys, with little to no results. It didn’t matter how optimistic I was going into a date; I would usually come out of it feeling disappointed and frustrated. Either I didn’t like him, or he didn’t like me, or we didn’t like each other. Or, even worse: We liked each other until something inevitably got in the way.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to be negative about my dating prospects (self-fulfilling prophecy and blah blah blah), but I couldn’t pretend that having to start over with another guy for the umpteenth time was all that exciting anymore. Instead, I settled for a middle ground of resignation that a first date with a guy probably wouldn’t end well, but at the very least, its failure wouldn’t be for a lack of trying on my end.
This pragmatic albeit slightly pessimistic mindset was what forced me to message a guy whom I will henceforth refer to as Michael. Michael had “Super Liked” me in October of 2016, and after some brief consideration (which basically consisted of “eh, he doesn’t look very hot but my options are pretty limited so what do I have to lose”), I decided to “like” him back. We matched, and then absolutely nothing happened for several days, at which point I decided to take the initiative because of my aforementioned mindset.
Michael Super Liked You on 10/4/16
It’s been a week so I thought I’d say hi to counter the prolonged awkward silence
To my surprise, Michael quickly responded with a wall of text.
Agh! Sorry, it’s been a crazy month for me. I’ve been juggling personal projects and forgot about this. I totally love your profile pics
And I like Cyndi Lauper [referring to my chosen Tinder “anthem” at the time, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”], but I’ll have to admit my favorite from her is “Goonies R Good Enough”
Mostly because I’ve finally read the lyrics to it, and I still don’t understand what that song’s about
What’s the nerdiest thing you’re into, and how do you feel about small talk?
This was a rather overwhelming message to get, because it warranted a detailed reply that was thoughtful and interesting, which I actually hadn’t expected. Of course, I decided honesty was my best bet, and replied accordingly:
Lol no worries. And thanks!
Never heard of that song <.<
The nerdiest thing I’m into…um I guess as a lifelong thing it would be Harry Potter. But recently I did a planning session for Dungeons and Dragons and I’m excited to play as my newly made character!
Small talk…it’s an obligatory and awkward social mechanism to get to know people but it’s not as bad if I feel comfortable with the person lol
We went on to discuss nonsexual roleplaying, gaming in general, and our Halloween plans until he finally asked me out on a date, to which I said yes, then inquired if he had anything in mind for what we could do.
Nothing in mind yet, whereabouts are you? I live in Berkeley but work in SF so I could do dinner around either
Ok. I live and work in Oakland and would rather not go to SF lol [do I need to explain this? SF is touristy and gentrified]
Haha sounds great! Let’s get something to eat early next week!
My phone number’s xxx-xxx-xxxx I text faster if you want to chat! ;p
We talked more about our hobbies and interests through text messaging. We both loved the TV show Community, had backgrounds in writing, and had written screenplays. Michael also mentioned having performed standup comedy for a few years. I thought it was cool, connecting with a fellow creative who had so many different passions.
Michael suggested a few Berkeley restaurants for dinner next Tuesday. Out of the options he provided, I decided on Eureka, a semi-fancy white people food place. The night before we were set to meet, he reached out to confirm that the date was still happening. In typical millennial fashion, this led to us sending each other Pokemon emojis, which then led Michael to send me selfies of him melodramatically posing with Pokemon plushies on his shoulders.
I was slightly taken aback by these selfies. They were bad selfies, and by “bad,” I just mean he looked very unattractive in all 3 of them. Did he actually think he looked okay in these photos, or did he just not give a fuck? I marveled at his ability to instantly take a picture and send it to his date without worrying about how cute he looked in it. It definitely wasn’t something I would ever think of doing. Taking a selfie, in my experience, typically involved a long, tedious, and frustrating process requiring a series of cringe-inducing takes in which my self-esteem took multiple critical hits before bouncing back with a thin facade of self-love upon finally taking the one shot I deemed acceptable enough for me to filter and upload to social media. I was also kind of turned off by Michael’s lack of fucks, and fervently hoped that he would look better in person.
He did not look better in person. It hit me when I laid eyes on him, a messy-haired, stocky and lone figure waiting for me outside the restaurant. I swallowed this observation and braced myself for the possibility of a tiring night spent convincing myself that leaving my room had been worth it. We greeted each other with a brief hug, went inside, and were seated at a small table by a waiter.
I remember being somewhat put off by Michael’s demeanor. He seemed distracted, not quite present. He looked off into the distance with a perplexed expression often, and gave long pauses between sentences. This was all exacerbated by his long and spiky hair, which resembled a disheveled hedgehog with the way it stuck up.
Once our food was ordered, he immediately went in for the hard questions. “So what are you looking for?” he asked.
I gave what was probably a long and rambling answer that could have easily been condensed to “I’m desperate and open to anything, really.”
He then went on to ask me what my dealbreakers were. I squirmed a little. Damn. This conversation was getting a little too real. At one point in time I would have found this refreshing, but for better or for worse, I had gotten used to playing the game, even though I was bad at it. I skirted around the harsher truths: I don’t want to date or fuck a guy I don’t find physically attractive. I don’t want to date or fuck a guy who doesn’t have his shit together even though I definitely and hypocritically don’t have my shit together either. I don’t want to date or fuck guys at all, actually, but unfortunately I just happen to be a heteronormative feminist who is paradoxically disgusted by and attracted to men and masculinity. I think I mentioned flakiness as a turn-off. A safe bet.
I asked Michael the question in return. He provided answers that demonstrated much more thoughtfulness and deliberation on his part. One of his dealbreakers was cynicism. “I can’t stand cynical people,” he said. “Why would you spend so much energy on having such a negative outlook of the world? It’s a disservice to yourself and everyone else. Being cynical doesn’t do anything or anyone good. It’s not going to change things for the better.”
As he ranted on, my smile became very fixed, as if to guard against its collapse into an outright grimace. He was speaking generally, but it felt like an personal attack on my cynical ass. Well, I’m not cynical in the way that he’s describing, I reassured myself. Obviously I hold on to some kind of hope for humanity or else I wouldn’t care about social justice. Right?
I told him I “used to be” very cynical, but that my outlook has gotten more optimistic over time. It felt like a half-assed lie, but I didn’t want to be transparent about my dark and complicated worldview. Although I still wasn’t attracted to Michael and in all honesty, wasn’t particularly thrilled about being on this date with him, I was still a somewhat hopeful motherfucker, goddamnit, and that meant I was going to try my hardest to see this through.
After Michael paid for dinner, he asked me if I still wanted to hang out. I said yes, and suggested we get a drink somewhere. He asked me what I liked to drink. I replied that I was in the mood for wine. He led me inside a small wine bar nearby that was mostly empty. “You can pick whatever you want, I’m not going to get anything,” he said.
I stood there for a moment, feeling awkward and indecisive. I was hoping we could both sit down together and drink enough wine to fully buy into the fantasy of each other’s romantic and sexual potential. Instead, I felt like a sulky teenager being told by her dad to hurry up and pick the thing she wanted so he could get out of here and do things that were actually worth his time and money.
“Never mind, let’s go somewhere else,” I said hastily, fleeing the bar with Michael in tow.
We ended up at a boba tea shop just a block away from Eureka. As I was sitting across from him and drinking my boba milk tea, I realized there was no salvaging this date, no matter how much I loved boba or how many interests we initially seemed to have in common or how hard I stared at his face and attempted to will a spark into existence. I didn’t want to kiss him. His jokes were unfunny and made me wonder how many times he had been booed off the stage while attempting standup. He kept asking questions that revealed our differences: he was an optimist, and I was a cynic; he was the kind of nerd who went to anime and comic conventions to cosplay, and I was the kind of nerd who stayed holed up in her room to read and dissect sociopolitical thinkpieces for fun.
I wondered what was his impression of me. Did he find me attractive? Was he turned off because I wasn’t stereotypically nerdy? Why would he continue keeping me company if he wasn’t interested in me?
Then again…why was I continuing to keep him company given I wasn’t all that interested in him?
He noticed my growing reticence and made lighthearted comments about me not liking him. I smiled politely, uncomfortably, and told him we should head out.
We walked back to Eureka to say our goodbyes there. Along the way, he kept a running commentary on tonight’s possible outcomes: “So, are we going to see each other again? You going to try to hold my hand to show your affection? Maybe a goodnight kiss? Or maybe you’re too shy in the face of my devilish handsomeness. Or maybe you despise me and plan on ghosting me once we go our separate ways.”
“I enjoyed meeting you,” was all I could say.
He didn’t look convinced, but grinned and let me go.
I went home, feeling guilty about not telling the complete truth. I had to some extent enjoyed his company, but I should have been forthright and told him I didn’t think we were a good match. Rejection was a hard conversation I didn’t know how to have. Feelings potentially got hurt and I didn’t want any part of it. At the same time, I knew that if I really wanted to grow as a person and not be a hypocrite, then I needed to be transparent with my dates, and that meant having open, honest, and vulnerable communication.
The next day, I resolved to make things crystal clear through text.
10/26/16 1:30 PM
Me: Hey, I know you’re probably thinking, “Man that bitch lied” but I did actually enjoy meeting you. But based on the things you said, I don’t think we’re compatible. Just want to be honest. (Or is ghosting a better strategy? lol)
Michael: Haha thanks for taking the time to do this! For future reference, what did I say that was the breaker for you?
Me: When you said you couldn’t be in the company of cynics lol. I’m not the most cynical person out there but I can’t pretend that I’m a total optimist either. I also get the sense you’d be happier with someone with nerdier inclinations
Michael: Haha good call on both of those, thank you for your candor and best of luck out there!
Me: No problem. Same to you! 🙂
I felt relieved and pleasantly surprised after this exchange. I hadn’t expected it to go so well. If only all my encounters with dudes ended this smoothly and painlessly, I thought.
It was a trivial moment in the grand scheme of things, but I was proud of myself for initiating the conversation, and for balancing honesty with consideration. Hopefully I could continue mustering the courage to have these kinds of dialogues with other dates down the road. Maybe I would even work my way up to having them in person. The future would have many, many more disappointing and mediocre guys in store for me, but I had faith in my ability to tackle the onslaught of failures to come.
See? I’m an optimistic cynic.
tl;dr Learkana hates people but remains horny and hopeful! Learkana meets a guy who is well-adjusted and doesn’t hate people! Learkana acts like an adult and politely rejects the guy!
Now it’s time for…
RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Review: The inside is cute and has a nice atmosphere. Lots of small tables that are awkward to maneuver around though especially when it’s crowded and you’re just trying to get to the bathroom.
Venue: Purple Kow
Review: Okay, I’m like 90% positive that this was the boba place we went to. I definitely remember going to a two-story shop and this is the only one in the downtown Berkeley area that I found in my Google/Yelp searches. I should definitely reclaim my time and go there again, but with friends whose company I unequivocally enjoy!