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OKBye Story #16: Forgetting Learkana Chong

The year 2014 was coming to an end, and so were my hopes of ever being in a romantic relationship of literally any duration or quality. Fifteen guys in, and I was way more cynical and disheartened than when I first came onto the OKC scene a year and a half before then. I had no boyfriend to show for all my efforts, and it seemed pretty obvious to me that I had only gotten worse at dating.

I started fondly reminiscing about my early OKCupid days, when guys actually wanted to kiss me and my ideal date situation wasn’t an interrogation scene with me playing the bad feminist cop (not that there was any correlation between the two…okay, so what if there was, CORRELATION DOES NOT MEAN CAUSATION OK). I mourned the figurative loss of Steven #1, the very first guy I ever went on a date with. What the hell was I thinking, passive-aggressively rejecting him on our second date together? Sure, I hadn’t felt any chemistry or attraction to him, but he was sweet, had a job, wasn’t ugly, and he had a good relationship with his mom! I totally should have gotten with him or at least hooked up with him! Chemistry would have come in due time! Maybe! I don’t know how sexual or romantic chemistry works! I don’t know how love works! I don’t know how anything works! Gah!

If I actually believed in God, I would have ranted and cursed and yelled at Her for not making me a lesbian. But alas, I was a secular humanist who had to suck it up and keep meeting people in hopes that somebody would take a liking to me, and I to him.

In December of that year, I stumbled across the profile of a guy I had chatted with a while back, before my old OKCupid account had been removed for reasons I still do not know to this day. I recognized the picture of him posing by a nuclear reactor and inwardly rejoiced at finding him again. He was a socially aware engineer, which in my experience was practically an oxymoron. Not only that, he also looked cute, was a man of color, and his profile made him sound charming and interesting instead of boring and lifeless like 99% of all profiles by dudes I’ve ever read on the site!

But what should I write to him? Should I pretend like I had never come across him before and write something flirty and funny, or should I bring up our brief exchange from months ago and sound like a rambling creepy weirdo?

Of course I went with sounding like a rambling creepy weirdo! You know me.

CrumpleHSnorkack Hey, I found you again! (Lol, well that sounded creepy…) I think you messaged me a while back and I responded and we were going to have an actual conversation or something but then my profile was spontaneously deleted and I was like okay fuck you OKC and I swore it off for like a good 2 or 3 months and then I was like okay fine OKC you win and got back on and I wasn’t creepy enough to remember your username or personal details so I was like oh well but then I stumbled onto your profile again and kind of recognized your face and the social justice-ness of your profile so here we are anddddddd wow, I’m going to shut up now and this is going to be even more awkward if you don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 11, 2014

RandomDude16 Lol yeah I’m a bit confused…but whatever!

Hows that nonprofit life treating ya
Sent Dec 14, 2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Okay you don’t remember talking about 100 years of solitude with some Asian girl with much longer hair? Am I imagining this?

It’s all right. It has its ups and downs. Morally rewarding, financially straining work. How’s school?
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 14, 2014

RandomDude16 Oh hmm maybe…lol sorry, I have horrendous memory when it comes to remembering social interactions. Great author tho

School sucks, but now it’s over so I’m pretty content!

What kind of nonprofit work do you do?
Sent Dec 14, 2014

 

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We chatted back and forth about my current job and his future plans, which led to a discussion of social justice in general. His responses were insightful and engaging, and I could tell he was at least somewhat interested in getting to know me. Eventually he must have grown tired of exchanging greatly detailed messages about systemic racism and radical organizing with me with no end in sight, because he wrote this:

RandomDude16 Anywaays I’m not a huge fan of continuing these kinds of conversations over the Internet– you wanna meet up sometime this week/weekend and kickit? Send me a text at (***) ***-****
Sent Dec 27, 2014

Oh btw my name is Rishi.* lol
Sent Dec 27, 2014 Block them Report

*Name changed to protect the oblivious

As it turned out, we both had travel plans underway: I would be in New York for a week, and Rishi would be in India for an entire month. We decided to meet for drinks and dinner on a date that fell between the time I returned to the west coast and the time he would leave the country.

While I was away in New York, we didn’t really keep up with the textual communication. Rishi texted once, asking me how I was liking New York, and I responded briefly that I was thoroughly enjoying it (while neglecting to mention I was engaging with OKC dudes from the east coast. Shhhh.). I wondered at the time if that was a bad sign, us not incessantly texting each other back and forth like a pair of lovesick, sexually represssed teenagers. But hey, I was traveling and he was probably busy too. And maybe we both had our reservations around emotionally investing in the other person when we hadn’t even met yet. (God knows how often I’ve had to learn that lesson over and over again.)

The night before we were supposed to meet, I warned Rishi through text that my trip to New York had gotten me a little sick. ‘Do you still want to meet up or are you afraid of getting my germs?’ I wrote (something to that effect).

‘Nah let’s meet up,’ he texted back. ‘My immune system is pretty strong.’

Fast forward to the night of our first date: I put on a cute outfit and drove to Jupiter, a beerhouse in Berkeley where I had gone on my disastrous date with Connor (see OKBye Story #12: Bitch in Berkeley). Maybe I had already jinxed by myself by agreeing to meet there, who knows. Rishi had arrived first, letting me know that he had grabbed a table for us on the second floor. I climbed up the stairs of the venue, not knowing what to expect.

I spotted him sitting by the window, all bundled up in a beanie and coat, staring at the world beyond in a brooding sort of way and looking devastatingly handsome as he did so. Oh fuck, I thought. He’s really attractive and deep. Or at least really good at pretending to look deep, but definitely really attractive regardless.

I walked over. “Hey.”

He looked up and smiled. “Hey!”

I remained standing, wondering if I should initiate some kind of physical contact and realizing I’m too awkward for that and great now I look like a total ass just standing here and oh god just sit the fuck down already Learkana, when all of a sudden Rishi sensed my conflicted state and got up. “Guess you want a hug,” he said playfully, brushing off my awkwardness. We quickly embraced and sat down.

Rishi really was handsome, which made me feel shy. His eyelashes were thick and dark and gorgeous, the kind of lashes I could only dream of having (or just purchase at my local drug store along with some lash glue). I thought about complimenting them, but decided against it. I would sound creepy as fuck, probably.

As he was talking, I also observed that his voice was incredibly sexy.

Also, he was super charismatic and smooth and intelligent and just awesome all around, which made me feel super awkward and bumbling and ignorant and just pathetic all around. Even when I asked what had happened with his fingers that had Band-Aids wrapped around them and he responded by awkwardly laughing and saying he was removing the warts he had gotten and what a turn-off, huh, I still thought Rishi was incredibly sexy and super charismatic and smooth and intelligent and just awesome all around.

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At one point, I brought up the topic of feminism. He gave me two thumbs up. It was all the confirmation I needed. He would have had to literally drown a puppy in front of me to make me think anything less of him.

Clearly I was crushing hard. I couldn’t tell whether or not Rishi reciprocated my feelings. He paid for my dinner, but that was just social conditioning, probably. He offered to walk me to my car. Again, social conditioning, I’m sure. He asked if I wanted a tour of the lab where he worked. Hmm. At the very least, this meant he tolerated my company. Right?

The tour was brief. I don’t remember what he showed me. I remember avoiding eye contact every time he looked at me. My heart beating fast. All the cliches.

It was getting late. Rishi walked me out of the lab. “This was fun,” I said. “You’re a cool guy.”

“Well, you’re a cool lady,” he answered.

I blushed. “So…I can’t text you while you’re in India?”

“You could try,” he said. “Probably not though. But you can hit me up when I get back.”

“Okay.” We hugged again. I couldn’t tell what kind of hug it was. Then we said good night and I drove off, still blushing about those eyes gazing into mine.

When I got home, I gushed to my roommate Sayuri about how attractive and socially aware my date was. “He’s a socially aware engineer! I didn’t know that was a category of person that existed! Also he’s hot! Oh, and he showed me his lab, he recently graduated from UC Berkeley and he works there. Ugh, I just wish he wasn’t going to India for a whole month. He’s probably gonna forget about me.”

“Wait a minute…what’s his name?” she asked.

“Rishi,” I said.

Sayuri’s eyes widened. “Dude. I think I know him!” She whipped out her phone and pulled up his Facebook page. “This guy, right?”

I looked through his profile pictures. “Oh my god. That’s him!”

“Dude!” She started jumping up and down. “I totally support you two being together. I’ll be your wingwoman if I have to!”

“This is hella weird…what a small world. How do you know him?”

“I went to school with him. He’s a good guy. Oh my god oh my god oh my god Learkana! I will definitely be your wingwoman and put in a good word for you!”

“Oh god. I don’t know…we’ll see.”

A month passed. I was sick for weeks. Apparently I had gotten some kind of bacterial infection in New York that caused me to cough until my sides ached. From time to time, I thought of Rishi. Even when I exchanged messages with other guys on OKCupid, I guiltily thought of Rishi, even though that was ridiculous because I had only met him once and we were not in any kind of relationship whatsoever. That didn’t stop the embarrassingly G-rated fantasies I had every time I became infatuated with a guy: Rishi meeting my family. Rishi introducing me to his friends. Rishi and I strolling through downtown Oakland, holding hands and ranting about the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy. Rishi and I curled up with each other on the couch as we actually Netflixed and chilled.

rishi3

Okay I’ll stop before we all start gagging.

Anyway, it was February by this time. I was feeling a lot better, and the countdown to Rishi’s return was theoretically over. Sayuri didn’t miss a beat. “So Rishi’s back in town. Are you gonna text him?”

“I guess I will,” I said, pretending to be less enthused than I was in a shitty attempt to repress my hopes.

I hit him up and tried to sound as casual as possible. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey! Are you back in the Land of White Supremacy?

Him: Yep. Haha I would have gone with the United Snakes of Amerikkka

Me: Lol good one. Would you want to hang out again soon?

Him: Yah sure, what do you want to do?

Ack! I hadn’t thought that far ahead. “What should we do?!” I asked Sayuri, whom I had basically coerced into being my unofficial Dating Sensei.

Sayuri thought for a minute. “You should go to Plank!” she suggested.

“Plank?” I repeated.

Plank, Sayuri explained, was this cool bar/restaurant/bowling alley/video game arcade in Jack London Square. She had never been there, but had heard good things about it. They even had bocce ball courts, which when I think about it isn’t much of a bonus given I don’t give a fuck about bocce but oh well it still sounded cool! Sayuri pulled it up on Google. “The ratings aren’t bad,” she said, scrolling on her phone. “Just people complaining the service is slow, but it just opened. You should check it out with Rishi!”

“Hmm…okay!” I texted Rishi about it. He texted he was down. We made plans to meet there on a Friday night. I was excited. This thing with Rishi seemed promising. Maybe this would be the end of my mediocre OKCupid dating endeavors!

It was, but not in the way I was expecting.

Fast forward to Friday night: I was at Plank, pretty much on time. Rishi texted he was BARTing over and was running a little late. I waited outside for a few minutes, felt kind of awkward standing alone in the dark, and decided to head inside and order a drink without him. Inside was noisy and crowded, with music blaring and neon lights everywhere, which I didn’t mind because I could just be a part of the background.

He texted he had arrived. I texted I was sitting by the bowling alley. I watched him as he walked in my general direction. His beard looked a little different, but he still looked good. I was suddenly struck with the frightening thought that he wouldn’t recognize me with no glasses and my face caked in makeup. But if he noticed any discrepancies between how I looked a month ago and how I looked that night, he made no mention of it. He gave me a hug, sat down next to me, and also got himself a drink.

Things kinda get fuzzy from here. I was a dumbass and had ordered myself a mixed drink, completely disregarding the fact that my biochemical makeup could only handle beers, ciders, or one shot of hard liquor at the most. We talked about our families: he said his father inspired him to pursue engineering, I said my mother was verbally abusive. (Wait, why did I say that?) We talked about online dating: I asked him if he had met up with anyone else and he said, point-blank, “Short Indian guys don’t get messages.” I didn’t know how to respond that, so I changed the subject.

We talked more about social justice: he recommended a book on postcolonialism, and I made a note of it in my iPhone even though I was never going to read it. I asked him to define rape culture–he did a good job I think, and we may have high-fived about it. And so on and so forth until I was feeling too uncomfortable to go along with this freestyle sort of small talk everyone seems so accustomed to doing.

I suggested we play “Never Have I Ever.” Rishi initially declined. He said he was too sober, and that it would be weird with just the two of us. But by the time he was almost done with his beer, he was game. Having already finished my first drink, I was forced to order another one so we could play. Bad decisions were being made, but I was too caught up in displacing my social anxiety to care.

We took turns. I went in with the cheap shots again: “Never have I ever been to a coed college. Never have I ever been Indian. Never have I ever had a beard.”

Rishi was having trouble coming up with anything, which was frustrating him. “Let’s play this a little differently,” he said. “Instead of saying things we have never done, let’s just make a statement about the other person. If it’s true, that person drinks; if not, you drink.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

Soon it was me who was struggling with the game. “The first girl you had a crush on…was white,” I guessed.

“Wrong. She was Latina.”

“Damnit.” I drank. And drank. And drank. Rishi was unfairly better at making assumptions about me than I was at making them about him.

rishi4

 

“Ugh, I hate this,” I eventually complained. “Can we go back to how we were playing it?”

“It’s the same thing,” he insisted. “It’s about making assumptions. We’re just being straightforward about it.”

I wanted to object, but was too unfocused to articulate that at least with “Never Have I Ever,” you weren’t just sizing up the other person and drawing implicitly judgmental conclusions about them–it was more so centered on your own lack of life experiences. Unfortunately, I just shut up and let the game go too far.

“You…have a low sex drive,” he stated.

Ugh. “Well…what exactly do you mean by that?” I demanded.

“Like not wanting to have sex that often.”

“What about masturbating…once a week?” Although I’m always guilty of spewing unfiltered crap nobody wants to hear, some part of me couldn’t believe we were actually talking about this.

“That’s pretty low,” he said.

I groaned and drank.

Someone came by to let us know that Plank would be closing in fifteen minutes. We decided to head out, closed our individual tabs, and left.

Outside was quiet, still, and bitingly cold. Rishi offered me one of his jackets, since I was only wearing a sweater. I put it on, grateful, as we aimlessly walked by the pier. My face was on fire and everything I was seeing looked surreal. Fuck, I was wasted. On top of that I was feeling incredibly nauseated. We sat down on a bench overlooking the water.

“It’s still your turn,” I said to Rishi. I didn’t really want to resume this reinvented game of assumptions, but at least it would fend off the silence.

He looked at me. “You don’t like cuddling.”

“I’ve never cuddled with anyone,” I told him.

“Okay, let’s try it.” He put his arm around me and I scooted closer, both elated and frightened by his touch. We fell silent again, but the quiet was mediated by the proximity of our bodies.

I thought about resting my head on his shoulder, or putting my arms around him too, to show him how interested and attracted I was to him. But I didn’t. I was frozen by my fear of physical intimacy. This was different from letting some douchey guy stick his tongue in my mouth. This was on an entirely different level that was alien to me. So I sat there with his arm around me, stiff with desire and repression and a sobering self-consciousness. Eventually he pulled his arm away, and I knew I had somehow failed with this one gesture.

We wandered around some more until we stumbled across a diner that was thankfully still open. It was around 2am by this point. We were seated at a booth. There was cool artwork on the walls and the menu would have definitely appealed to a sober version of me. I wasn’t that hungry, but I needed something to ease the nausea. For some reason the thought of drinking water sounded awful to me, so I ordered ice in a glass to crunch, along with a salad I mainly nibbled and picked at. Rishi, on the other hand, ordered actual food he was able to scarf down. He kept trying to talk to me as he ate, which annoyed me, because I was totally fucked up from alcohol and sleep deprivation and wanted to be left alone with my hazy thoughts. Everything was slowing down. His words were taking a while for me to comprehend. I was seeing everything through a sort of fog I couldn’t fight.

“I’m going to throw up now,” I announced after we split the bill.

“Do you need me to go with you?” he asked.

“Nope, you just stay right there.” I got up and walked off, making my way around people, my stride getting quicker as I could feel the vomit rising in me. I finally reached the bathrooms and pulled on the handle for the women’s. FUCK. It was locked! Frantic, I pulled on the men’s. IT WAS ALSO LOCKED!

FUUUUUUUCK WHY THE HELL ARE THESE GODDAMN FUCKING BATHROOMS SINGLE STALL ALSO WHAT’S THE POINT OF GENDERING THEM IF THEY’RE SINGLE STALL FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK–

There was no stopping the waves of puke. I threw up all over the floor. Again. And again.

rishi5

I will be kind for once and spare you the gross details.

My eyes widened in horror at what I had done. Just as I was inwardly freaking out about what to do, the women’s bathroom door opened and someone stepped out. I ran in and locked the door behind me before I could see their shock and disgust at the new condition of the floor.

I threw up some more in the toilet and flushed. Then I rinsed my mouth as well as my shoes, which had also fallen victim to my nausea. I stared at myself in the mirror and put on a big, fake smile. I guessed the possibility of making out was now off the table. I started giggling uncontrollably at this.

Control yourself! The small yet still rational part of my brain commanded. You need to leave. Now.

But what about the vomit?

If I was a decent person, I would have alerted a waiter to my indiscretion. But I wasn’t a decent person. I was too mortified by the prospect of Rishi finding out that I had vomited on the floor, so I went back to the booth where he was still sitting nonchalantly without any idea of how disgusting and offensive I was and told him we should leave. Then I walked as fast as I could out of there.

I can never come to this diner again, I thought. Damnit, I really liked this place.

Just as I was about to exit the door, I looked behind me and saw that Rishi was trailing behind. He was walking over with such a funny, slow gait that I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Evidently Rishi was drunk off his ass like I was. Why did we think that drinking would be a good idea?

We staggered over to my car, which I had parked a couple of blocks down.

“Are you okay to drive?” he asked.

“Yes,” I lied, because at some point in the night I must have decided I was going to be a terrible person and really commit to it. To be fair, I was much more sober than before I had puked. But my eyelids were heavy and I really just wanted to sleep.

Rishi gave me his address and I somehow managed to take him home without killing anyone.

“Here’s your jacket,” I said, shrugging it off and handing it over to him as he got out of my car. “Good night.”

“See you,” he said. I drove off and miraculously made it home myself. By the time I crawled into bed, it was 5am. As I drifted off to sleep, his unoriginal parting words to me kept pointlessly playing over in my mind: See you. Did that mean he wanted to see me again, or was he just using the figure of speech?

A few days passed. Other than the obligatory text asking me if I made it home okay, I heard nothing from Rishi. That didn’t stop my crush on him from mutating into full-blown infatuation. My fantasies of being with him became more frequent and creepy: Rishi and I getting married even though I distrusted the institution of marriage and all it stood for. Rishi taking my last name in a radical gesture of gender role subversion. Rishi and I having adorable, socially conscious kids even though I’m like 85% sure I don’t want kids. “Sayuri, I really like him,” I said, repulsed by the intensity of my feelings.

“Ask him out again!” Sayuri urged.

In accordance with Sayuri’s advice, I asked Rishi via text if he would like to hang out again. He said he had gotten sick and would let me know when he felt better.

Another week or so passed. I didn’t hear from him, but even so, I remained obsessed. He began consuming a good chunk of my waking thoughts. I looked for any chance to talk about him, to analyze him and the two dates we had gone on and why the fuck he hadn’t texted me yet. At some point, even Sayuri seemed exasperated over the incessant overanalyzing and fretting and speculating. 

“If you’re still interested in him, reach out to him,” she said patiently.

“But it seems like he isn’t interested in me!” I protested. “He told me he would text me and he hasn’t. The ball is in his court!”

“If you’re still interested in him, reach out to him,” she repeated.

“Ugh okay fine I will.” I texted Rishi to ask how he was doing. He responded that he was well enough to work out. This motherfucker!!!!!!!! I had to remind myself that I actually liked him in order to civilly ask him yet again if he would like to hang out. He texted yes. ‘What did you have in mind?’ he wrote.

I texted, ‘Let’s get boba at Green Bubble.’ This was how I knew that I really, really, really liked Rishi. I had always been of the opinion that you should never, ever take a date out to one of your favorite places in case they ruined it forever, which more so speaks to my own fucked up views on dating and humanity in general but anyway the point is, I saw such potential in Rishi that I was willing to risk him ruining my favorite boba place forever. It was that serious. Furthermore, this would mark the first time a guy had ever made it past the second date with me. That was an even bigger deal. So basically, this impending date with Rishi was a momentous occasion that was breaking all the barriers, and he had no idea about any of it.

I picked him up from BART. I felt that maybe we should have hugged or something, but I was driving and just the thought of doing an awkward car side hug thing with Rishi made me all panicky. We made small talk in the car as I drove. I was bothered by the fact that we were still stuck in the awkward small talk stage, but pushed my worries aside.

We ordered separately at Green Bubble. I suggested we play Ticket to Ride, a board game I had fun playing with my friend Brad. Rishi was willing, so I set it up and told him the rules. We began playing. Within minutes Rishi was better at the game than me, which got me aggravated, being the sore loser that I am. Meanwhile, our conversation jumped around, stilted and erratic. I asked Rishi to define what “cisgender” meant, and asked him how he reconciled Gandhi’s anti-colonialist work with his anti-blackness–subconscious attempts to feel superior and cover up my insecurities, probably. He answered…well, it doesn’t really matter.

For the most part I was quiet and withdrawn, because I still felt awkward and shy around Rishi. Is liking someone supposed to be like this? I thought.

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After we were done with our boba tea drinks and the game, I took Rishi back to the MacArthur BART station. I watched him exit my car and wondered if I should have gone for the awkward car side hug after all.

I dissected the details of this date with my friends, who all agreed that I should have been more physically and verbally affectionate. “Guys are pretty oblivious,” said my friend Jackee, nodding over at her partner Evin, who added, “More hugs are always good.” So I vowed that no matter how awkward and embarrassing it would be, I would let Rishi know that I liked him-liked him on our fourth date. I even rehearsed my “I like you-like you” speech with my somewhat puzzled friend Laura to prepare for the next time Rishi and I would meet up.

Except there would never be a next time.

As Sayuri had instructed, I took the initiative once again to ask Rishi if he wanted to hang out. He said he was busy with stuff and would let me know when he was free.

A couple of weeks passed. No text from Rishi. I got the hint, but it didn’t stop me from ranting to Sayuri about it. “That fucking asshole! If he didn’t like me, he should have just said so instead of dragging it out and torturing me like this!” I started fixating on where we went wrong: Was it because I was too boring? Too ugly? Was it because I sucked at cuddling? Because I didn’t give him enough hugs? Because he had secretly followed me that one night in the diner and witnessed me puking which had turned him off from me forever? Because I didn’t shower him with praise after reading his article on police brutality that had yielded no revolutionary insights? Because I critiqued Gandhi? It must have been the Gandhi thing. Or the cuddling. Or–

“Why don’t you ask him?” Sayuri suggested. “At least you’ll have closure. Either way, it’s his fucking loss.” She promised (jokingly I’m sure) that she would kick him the next time she saw him.

So I did it. I sent a text. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey. I was wondering why you never followed up with me when you said you would

Him: Hey sorry. I just sort of forgot lol

Ouch.

Learkana Chong, forgettable.

My eyes started watering.

Oh no. Oh no. Was I really gonna cry about this? I blinked as hard and fast as I could to repel the tears.

Me: Can you tell me why things didn’t work out with us?

Him: Honestly, I didn’t think we had any chemistry. So I don’t see us being anything more than friends. :/

Chemistry.

Oh, right. That one thing I had overlooked in favor of my naive high school girl crush on someone I had pretty much put on a pedestal without even really knowing him.

Story of my life.

Was this karma for all the guys I had rejected?

Ingrid Michaelson’s song, “Girls Chase Boys,” suddenly sprang to mind. Would I spend the rest of my life chasing after guys who didn’t want me, and turning away the ones who did? Forever stuck in some twisted loop of unrequited infatuation?

It hit me right then that I really was going to die alone. It was somewhat painful to fully realize in this moment. The tears could not be completely repelled.

Me: Thanks for being honest. Seriously. I really appreciate it.

My heart wasn’t broken, but my ego had been severely bruised.

Some part of me regretted thanking Rishi. It’s not like he was being completely honest, because we weren’t friends. Friends didn’t ignore each other for weeks at a time with no explanation. Friends were two people who were equally invested in each other’s time and attention. Friends in this case was just a figure of speech. What he should have texted was, ‘I don’t see us being anything more than strangers. :/’

I deactivated my OKCupid account and never used it for online dating again. I was emotionally spent. I couldn’t bear the thought of uselessly poring over some dude’s bullshit profile, of going on one more mediocre date, of trying to know one more guy I would never see again, of once again feeling paradoxically desirable and unlovable through the male gaze.

I was done. Premature spinsterhood had never tasted so bitter.

There’s no happy ending here, but you already knew that.

tl;dr Girl messages boy, girl and boy meet up for drinks and dinner, girl becomes smitten, girl and boy meet up again for drinks, girl vomits and remains smitten, girl and boy meet up yet again for boba, girl is even more awkward but is still obsessed, girl wants to meet up with boy to confess her like for him, boy forgets about girl, girl asks what went wrong, boy “friendzones” girl, girl is crushed, girl and boy never see or hear from each other again

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Homosocial Lovin’: Confessions of a Straight Woman Who Loves Women

“We should go to a singles bar and meet guys,” my friend Natalie says over our boba tea drinks.

“You don’t need to go to a bar, you already get dates in real life,” I protest. “You have meet-cutes with guys just by walking down the street.”

“But they all end up being so shitty,” Natalie counters. “Like that asshole who reminded me that he makes more money than me. Ugh. The sex was so amazing though.” (Although we like to think of ourselves as liberatory feminists, our conversations as of late have not been passing the Bechdel Test. And yes, I know it’s for movies, but I’m a writer, the line between reality and fiction gets blurred, ok.)

“Where’d you meet that guy again?” I ask.

“From that party a few weeks ago. You were there!”

“Wait, what?” I distinctly remembered that party: dancing in the shadows with Natalie, our bodies shaking to the pounding music. Foreign bodies pressing in on us, too close for comfort. I closed my eyes and opened them again. A towering giant of a man had magically appeared in front of a tipsy Natalie. Where had he come from? Had he been there all along and I just hadn’t noticed it, being the terribly unobservant person that I am? He moved in closer to her and was eyeing her like she was a piece of meat. Ew, I thought, watching him watch my friend. He was so obviously repulsive to me I thought Natalie would just roll her eyes and turn away from him.

Instead, she shimmied closer to him. They were making eye contact, their arms on each other’s shoulders. She was actually smiling back at him.

She wasn’t dancing with me or the crowd anymore. She was in her own private world with Fucking Gross Giant Dude.

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My chest became tight. My dancing became lifeless. The room was too small. I couldn’t deal with this. I needed air. I bolted from the room, away from the deafening music, the pushy crowd, the newfound couple trying to turn me into the third wheel.

“Remember that Spanish guy from the party I was dancing with?” Natalie says.

“That guy?” I blurt out. “But he was ugly!”

Natalie gasps. “He was not!”

I backtrack. “Okay, we have different tastes in men. Which is probably a good thing.”

“I’m just really attracted to Spaniards,” she says, staring dreamily off into space.

Gross. I start feeling that same irrational sense of betrayal that flooded my insides the night of the party. That night, I ended up sulking in the hot tub while Natalie called out my name, trying to find me. “Why did you abandon me?” she asked, upset.

Because you abandoned me first, I wanted to say, but didn’t because no matter how it seemed, I was not actually a whiny melodramatic teenager in a cheesy coming of age film featuring mostly white people. “You were dancing with that guy, so I decided to leave,” I said instead.

Natalie looked at me, her forehead creased. “Did you really not like him?”

“No. It’s just…” I tried to find the right words, but didn’t. I never could. Not on the spot. “I didn’t come to the party to meet some random guy. I came here with you.”

She still didn’t get it. “But isn’t the point to make new friends?”

New friends? Really? I wanted to shake her and shout: That guy was so creepy and disgusting! He was fucking you with his eyes! Quit acting like that was some innocent platonic exchange!

I stared at her, then averted my gaze. “Let’s just forget about it,” I mumbled, all the while knowing that I would never forget and possibly never forgive.

This was not the first time this issue has come up for me. I’ve had fights with female friends over the way they “abandoned” me in favor of some guy they were romantically or sexually interested in. Wanna make out with some guy instead of having a conversation with me? Bye girl. Only interested in hanging out with me if your boy toy comes with, aka forcing his company on me without my consent, aka expecting me to share the same level of emotional intimacy with your dude that I share with you? Well fuck you.

thirdwheel4

Even when my man-dating female friends don’t commit these transgressions, the paranoia is always there, eating at me: She’s posting lovey dovey photos of the two of them and I’m never going to see her again. She keeps talking about her boring boyfriend and will soon forget all about me. If I don’t feel close enough to the friend, the feelings of resentment will rot inside my corpse of a heart until they silently leak out and make room for all the other petty nonsense I feel on a daily basis.

Why Learkana, you rhetorically say to me. Perchance are you a lesbian?

Dear reader, I respond. Sadly I am not. Trust me, I’ve pondered deeply on this. It would make way more sense for me to be a lesbian: I’ve never had a boyfriend, am incredibly wary of and cynical about hetero cis men in general, and am deeply possessive of my female friends even when they backstab me with their heteronormativity. (Actually, this just sounds like a straight person’s idea of what a lesbian is, which just proves my point.)

But I’m not in the closet. 4 years at a women’s college with zero homoerotic yearnings or encounters confirmed this. Unfortunately, I am just as heteronormative as my female friends (the ones who are heteronormative, of course, which is many of them). I’ve just….taken a road less traveled, in cliche white dudespeak. 

Although I identify as heterosexual, I am way more homosocial. Which means I value my circle of female friends much more than any hypothetical dude who wants to wine and dine me or hit it and quit it, because the power of female friendships is way more seductive to me than romance or sex. Don’t get me wrong, though–getting laid and falling in love sound pretty awesome, but in my mind, nothing beats having a girlfriend who is pretty much my soul sister.

I’m not sure how my devotion to the whole “sisters before misters” mantra came about. Given all the mean girls I had the misfortune of getting involved with when I was a kid, it’s a wonder I didn’t grow up to be a full-blown internalized misogynist. I guess some part of me craved the kindness, camaraderie, and empathy that would be conditionally given to me by my (so-called) friends. Bonding with boys was out of the question. Sure, I would hang out with some of them from time to time, but it never crossed my mind to consider them my besties. Besides, most of the boys I knew enjoyed harassing me in ways that even seven-year-old me could recognize and try to steer clear of.

For the most part, my childhood was heavily segregated by gender. If you appeared to be close with someone of a different gender, people would whisper and say that you two were in love or having (prepubescent) sex, which when you think about it is really creepy and sorry I made you think about it but anyway the point is, I was conditioned to believe that female friendships were the only authentic form of closeness and intimacy I could experience. And so a shitty female friend was likely better than the male gaze, my younger self must have reasoned (probably not in those same exact words, but you know what I mean).

Today I am lucky to have female friends who love me the way eleven-year-old me longed to be loved after being told by my “BFF” at the time that I was only invited to the sixth grade girls’ sleepover because everyone felt sorry for me. To be loved unconditionally is a powerful, powerful thing, and I’ve been able to find that through my lovely lady friends. If I had it my way, I would live happily and radically ever after in a feminist commune with all my female/queer/gender non-conforming family and friends, where we’d wear fancy dresses or suits and drink boba tea and hold hands and dance to Beyonce whenever we felt like it. Any hetero cis men we’d take on as lovers would have to wait at our pearly gates until we sent for them.

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Sadly, this is just wishful thinking. The reality is that I live in a world that privileges a certain kind of relationship above others: romantic, sexual, and social monogamy. I can’t marry my female friends. I’m not going to offer them sexual favors. What I can do is be there for them, make them laugh, do really awesome activities that their significant others for whatever reason don’t want to do, and gripe about the white supremacist heterocispatriarchy with them. But that isn’t enough. And that’s what upsets me: the fact that culturally and socially, my platonic love isn’t as valuable as romantic/sexual love. Factor in the patriarchy and I’m beyond pissed.

But look, I get it. I have to get it because that’s how it currently works: I’m not your soulmate or your partner, because I’m not having sex with you or courting you. I’m not the first person you’re going to save from a burning building or the person you’re going to spend most of your time with. All I ask is that you don’t forget about me or take me for granted. That you still hang out with me on occasion without your partner (being in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re literally attached at the hip, FYI). That you treat me with the same level of courtesy and respect you give to your partner when it comes to spending time together (You wouldn’t bring me along on a weekend getaway with your partner, right? So why would that not apply vice versa?). That hanging out with me isn’t secondary to going on a date or getting laid. Is that really too much to ask for?

Maybe it is. Maybe these are just the empty pleas of a premature spinster. Which is why I rarely go this deep in discussions or fights I get into with my friends over their partners/potential partners whom I am mistrustful of by default. It ultimately boils down to: Do you care more about me or him/them? I already know the answer. So I keep quiet and use my superficial arguments: “I’m mad that you ditched me.” “I’m mad that we don’t hang out like we used to.” Because I’m afraid my friends won’t understand. Or that they won’t care. Or that really, I’m just a weirdly possessive, codependent friend with a lot of mommy issues.

“I’m putting you in my calendar for Saturday,” says Natalie. “I know of a bar we can go to. This is gonna be fun!”

“Okay,” I agree, even though I could already imagine how it would go down: Natalie would hit it off with the first guy who approached her friendly smile and open body language. Natalie would go home with this guy. I would sit at the bar, sipping my apple cider in sullen resentment over being ditched while fending off strange men and completely forgetting that going home with a guy was the plan to begin with.

Or here’s another scenario: I sit at the bar with a shaky smile, fingers rubbing the condensation off my near-empty glass in circles, again and again and again. A guy approaches. He’s not bad-looking, and his jokes don’t make me cringe. Maybe we exchange numbers. Maybe I end up at his place. Maybe I let him in. Maybe I tell him all my secrets when he’s inside me. Maybe I wait until we’re married (for the secrets, not the sex). Maybe I keep telling myself, this will make me feel less lonely. Maybe I tell myself this enough times that it will eventually become true.

Name changed to protect the oblivious.

 

0

OKBye Story #14: Friends with No Benefits

After the whole fiasco with Colin, I decided I needed to up the levels of sociopolitical awareness in my OKCupid profile so that the sea of blissfully ignorant white boys would stop crashing against my shores and messaging me. Under one of the prompts (probably either “I spend a lot of time thinking about…” or “The most private thing I’m willing to admit”), I wrote a long rambling paragraph about how it would be kind of cool to meet the love of my life or even just like a throwaway boyfriend at a protest but also it would be kind of awkward and inappropriate given the context.

Hmm. I guess I should talk a little bit about the methodology behind my dating profile. You know how the goal is to make yourself sound as appealing and desirable as possible? I do the exact opposite of that. To me, writing a profile is just a creative writing exercise in which I try to display myself not in the best possible light, but in the most interesting possible light. That usually means lots of self-deprecating humor, feminist rants, and an oversharing of personal details.

It kind of works. I get the attention of some dudes. I pique their interest, but there’s no guarantee of sustaining it–especially because they think I’m joking in my profile but no, I really am just a neurotic, awkward individual who talks about boner shrinking topics. Sorry dudes.

Anyway. A dude I shall henceforth call Andy messaged me in response to the above profile update. Our conversation went exactly like this:

RandomDude14 i actually think it’d be awesome to meet someone at a protest. at least you’d have a better chance of having your values aligning if you’re down for the same cause haha. unawkward and romantic ways of meeting people are overrated and idealized anyways
Sent Dec 12, 2014 Block them Report

CrumpleHSnorkack Well it would be awesome BUT then I’d feel super sleazy for hitting on someone when everyone’s main purpose is to fight for justice not dates you know?
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 12, 2014

RandomDude14 you’re absolutely right, but i don’t [think] it’s too sleazy as long as you remember the main reason why you’re there. as long as those priorities don’t get mixed up. i actually haven’t done this btw if you’re wondering, i’m just open to the idea haha
Sent Dec 12, 2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Hmm maybe, but that’s easier said [than] done. Like if a guy came up to me and started talking to me while we were marching, I’d just think he was being an inappropriate doucheface lol . I guess there’s a certain way it would have to be done, although what way that is I would not know
Sent Dec 12, 2014

RandomDude14 i suppose now really imagining it, it would be pretty difficult. i wouldn’t approach it with the intent of hitting on someone primarily, so much as trying to get to know the people you’re marching with. which is important, because not everyone who joins a protest knows the politics or the issues behind it, even the organizers unfortunately
Sent Dec 13, 2014

CrumpleHSnorkack That’s a good point. I’ve always wondered about all the other individuals I’ve marched with in the past. Demonstrations have always left me with conflicted feelings. While I support the idea of a protest, in execution it sometimes feels like a reinforcement of mob mentality
Sent Dec 13, 2014

RandomDude14 yea, i feel you on that. i went to a protest recently for mike brown and eric garner in oakland, and the group was divided on what the real goal/destination of the march was. you always run into the possbility of having the (most of the time, white) anarchists join your protest, which will fuck up the real intent of your cause because all they want to do is break shit. which is exhausting, because you have white people fucking up something that’s supposed to be in support of the black community, which is caused by white people in the first place. but then again, what else is new
Sent Dec 13, 2014

I liked that Andy was actually demonstrating his sociopolitical awareness to me in our conversation instead of me just scrambling to read between the lines in the answers he gave to profile questions. We were maybe like an 80% match. I checked out his profile. He sounded like he probably wasn’t a sociopath, and he looked cute in his pictures. Plus he was a socially conscious man of color who possessed critical thinking skills and didn’t mind talking about boner shrinking topics with me! This was great!

andy1

But then I noticed that his relationship status read, “In an open relationship.”

Wait, what??? Andy was polyamorous?

Ah, shit.

While I’ve often felt conflicted about my sexual orientation (more in terms of am I heterosexual/demisexual/asexual than anything else), my monogamous nature is something I’ve never really questioned. That’s because I already know I’m petty and possessive and easily jealous and insecure about everything from my female friends to who gets the most “likes” on a shared Facebook article (if I post it first, “like” mine before sharing goddamnit!). So while polyamory makes way more sense to me in theory and sounds a lot better than being stuck with just one person for allegedly the rest of my life, in reality I could never be in a polyamorous relationship without losing my shit. Also, I hate dating enough as it is, why would I want do even more of it, assuming I find a dude who can accept me as the eccentric obnoxious argumentative awkward hardcore intersectional feminist that I am?

But Andy seemed so cool! Damnit. I had never encountered this problem before. Most guys I met on OKC were your standard-issue boring vanilla monogamous types.

Well. It couldn’t hurt to meet up, I reasoned. We had both stated in our profiles that in addition to dating we were looking for friends (although I’ve always thought that was just a bullshit option you chose so you didn’t seem too sleazy or desperate).

So when Andy eventually asked me if I wanted to get drinks with him, I said yes, and proceeded to mentally “friendzone” him. Ugh. Given the sexist origins of this word, maybe I should rephrase…okay, here goes: I said yes to drinks with Andy, and proceeded to mentally friendcast him.

Andy had suggested we meet up in some dive bar in downtown Oakland I had never been to, which was fine with me because dive bars usually meant less people and cheaper drinks. I was horribly late to this “date.” That’s because at the last minute I was still debating whether to BART or to drive my car. I ended up taking BART (which I had to drive to anyway) and forgetting my phone in the car. Fuck. There was no way for me to let Andy know that I was running late. What did people do before cell phones?! I just hoped that he would be understanding. Or maybe he would curse my name and leave before I showed up! That would solve everything, actually.

I arrived, roughly 20-30 minutes late. Shit shit shit. A bouncer at the door told me there was a cover charge for the band playing that night, which I had not known about. What the hell, Andy? I reluctantly gave the bouncer a few bucks and went inside. Spotted someone who vaguely looked like the Andy I had surmised from the handful of pictures in his profile. He looked better in his pictures, I was somewhat disappointed to find out. It only served to solidify his friendcast status with me. (Yes yes I’m shallow you should already know that by now.)

“Hey!” I called out. “I am so so sorry I’m late.”

“Oh, no worries, I was running late too,” he replied, much to my relief. “I wasn’t waiting that long.”

Did we hug? I don’t remember.

We ordered our drinks. The bar was very empty, save for maybe one other person. It was a little weird, not having to shout at him like I was used to doing with other dates. (Maybe I was shouting anyway. According to some people, I talk at a slightly higher volume than the average person.)

We dove into social justice right away. Topics ranged from API identity (he talked about being Filipino) to male privilege (not only did he acknowledge having it, he also provided insightful commentary on how he tried to minimize its harmful effects). Andy was as sweet and thoughtful as his OKC messages had suggested. Talking to him was practically effortless. There was no (sexual/romantic) chemistry as far as I could tell, but I totally wanted to be his friend. I hope that it showed. I was never someone who had been good at making friends easily, but maybe tonight I would finally make a decent first impression. 

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After the appropriate amount of conversation had ensued, Andy suggested we go to a different bar. I told him I had paid the cover fee and hadn’t realized it was optional. Thankfully, he was willing to stick around for the show and paid the bouncer. We moved to the lounge where some kind of punk/screamo duo started playing. They were decent, except they kept making unfunny, shitty jokes in between songs. The main vocalist was really hot, but sadly he had a girlfriend, who was basically the only other person in the audience besides us (and yes, the fact that I was checking out one of the band members while on an alleged date speaks volumes about my interest–or lack thereof–in Andy).

This really isn’t bad at all, I thought. Now that I’ve…friendcasted Andy there’s absolutely no pressure or stress in coming off as sexually/romantically desirable to him, and no reason at all to freak out. I should do this more often!

Over the loud music, I yelled at/asked Andy about his girlfriend, to show him I was totally cool with him having one and that I wasn’t trying to win him over with my imaginary feminine wiles or anything. They had been together for over a year, he told me. She was the one who suggested that they try being in an open relationship. I briefly wondered about this girl I would probably never meet. Was she also a cutesy petite Asian chick? (Although I would like to clarify and say that I’m more of a pseudo-cutesy scrawny Asian chick with a lot of grit and stuff. BIG difference, okay.)

The band stopped playing, or maybe we grew tired of hearing them. Either way, we ended up outside.

“You want to walk around or go to another bar?” Andy asked.

“Actually…I’m pretty tired,” I said. “I think I’m gonna take BART home.”

“I can give you a ride,” he offered.

Well, since he’s offering… “Actually…can you drop me off at the Coliseum station? That’s where I parked my car.”

He agreed. We got in his car, talked a little more. Nothing too heavy, since we had gotten most of that out of the way. I started wondering how Andy felt about me. Could he tell I had friendcasted him? Had he friendcasted me too? Or had he found my awkward blabbering somehow charming and sexually appealing and was waiting to make a move?

I found out soon enough after he dropped me off: the answer was none of the above. I was the one who had initiated a hug, thanked him for the ride, and cheerily told him to add me on Facebook. Andy smiled and nodded, but he never did.

I mentally retraced my steps. What had gone wrong? Maybe he wasn’t looking for a friend. Or maybe I wasn’t friendship material to him. But why? I had been way more friendly to him than almost any other dude I had gone on a date with!

Or had I? I thought harder. Okay, so maybe a couple of times throughout that night, Andy had expressed interest in doing other things with me, and in hanging out with me for a longer period of time, and maybe I had politely declined or outright rejected each suggestion he made that would result in us spending even more time together than was necessary, but…did that really make me a disinterested and somewhat tactless bitch?

Well, duh Learkana.

Goddamnit. I had friendzoned Andy, but he had strangerzoned me. And I had wholeheartedly deserved it–confirming that not only was I terrible at dating, I was also still terrible at making friends.

Oh, well. Time to get a cat. (Or five.)

tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy meet up at a bar, girl wants to be friends, boy does not want to be anything, girl and boy never see or hear from each other again