I want to save you the drama and skip to part where I decided I should go out with someone in my social circle.
Val (a guy: think Val Kilmer. & so named because I've previously mentioned him once on this blog as my valentine 2014) is my brother's friend. He's smart, he's funny, he's comfortably employed, he is nice. And, one night my brother hosted a tacos & board game night and Val came. I'd been thinking about Val long before taco-board game night but not in a serious way.
I'd had a few really good conversations with Val where I found myself thinking, "He'd be a good guy to date." But somehow, this thought didn't translate over to "I should date Val," until taco-board game night. What was stopping me? A thousand tiny things that I should have heeded because months later, those same things that had always kept me from seeing Val as a potential mate became my reality of why Val absolutely would not be a potential mate. Primarily, & it's stupid and vapid but still true, Val's way of wearing hoodies; always a half size too small and with the hood pulled over his head. Always.
Why does this kill me so much? No idea. None. But it does.
So, taco board game night happens. We decide we'll play clue and in a small handful of moves, so small all of us were freaked the fuck out, Val keeps winning. & when he left, I was thinking, "that was sexy. Really sexy. How smart is he?" & my inner reaction was obviously outwardly noticeable because it was followed by my brother's girlfriend prompting me to go out with Val.
& here it was: the first time I'd ever thought that it could be.
"Yeah, you should totally go out with him!" my brother's girlfriend urged.
"But like...do you think Val's funny looking? Like... does he sort of look like an owl to you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I don't know, never mind."
"He looks like an old guy," my brother interjected from outside, where he was smoking a cigarette.
"He looks like an old guy. The way he moves around; that thing he does with his mouth--like he just took his dentures out."
"Don't listen to him, he's a hater," my brother's girlfriend said.
To be clear, Val is not funny looking. I can't wholeheartedly take back the owl thing, but he's not funny looking. A better way of describing Val is that he's not my type. He's neither tall nor dark; he was hairy in a way that I didn't find sexy (which is weird, because I'm really fond of body hair); the chiseled chin that I find to be the ultimate mark of manly sexiness was absent from his face and instead, he had a soft, short, round chin.
And then there were those goddamn hoodies.
And even though every time Val and I interacted, since that conversation with my brother's girlfriend at taco board game night, I kept a mental list of all the things about Val I didn't like, a stronger force inside of me beat down the terrible person taking tallies and reassured me that dating Val was a great idea.
A couple of days later, our social circle was out on the town & any inner conflict between the terrible person (who knew dating Val was not a great idea) & the idealistic person (who thought, "well maybe,") was completely obliterated by my having drank too much. Our group had stepped away, leaving Val and I alone for a moment. I somehow managed to slur out, "You look stupid in that beanie."
"What? Really? You think so?"
"Yeah, you do. You look like one of the characters from yo-gabba gabba."
Val's expression--which was blank--alerted me at once that I'd made a mistake.
There was an embarrassing silence.
"So like...yeah," I mumbled.
There was a long pause.
"Well, we could go out some time," Val said.
It was later that same night & our circle had settled down at a friend's house. My inner terrible person was laughing, knowing I was making and had made a mess. I'd already started turning what I'd done over in my mind when Val pulled me to the side.
"If I seemed hesitant, it's because we're friends and I'm friends with your brother. If this was going to happen, I'd want it to be serious."
"Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe we'd just fuck things up for everyone. I don't know."
"Or maybe we'd be like Monica & Chandler."
& it was that line, cheesy as it may seem, that made me think this would all be okay.
I think I knew for sure that it would never be okay on our second date when Val walked me to my front and drew me to him. Oh God. He's going to try to kiss me. AND he just ate spicy chicken nuggets from a food truck. I started to cringe.
"This. This is going to be weird," Val said.
And no sooner had our lips grazed then I started to pull back. This is all wrong.
That night, I started thinking about creative ways to tell Val that this wasn't going to work but nothing sprang to mind. Eventually, I went to my brother about things. My brother, it should be noted, has a knack for being honest to a cruel fault.
"It's easy; all you have to say is, 'I don't like you, son.'"
"No, I'm not going to do that. Be serious"
"Ok, what about, 'Don't call me anymore,'? Or, 'You should find someone else, because it's not going to happen with me.'"
"What about: 'We should go back to being friends because I think you're gross.'"
"Seriously? Why are you so fucked up?"
"It may seem fucked up. It's harsh, for sure. But anything but being blunt is going to him false hope. You have to be honest with him, son."
Having decidedly found my brother's methods too cruel and still not finding a gentle way of breaking it to Val (who was becoming more serious about the very "us" I was searching for a way out of) I decided to use a friend as a scapegoat. I told Val I couldn't see him anymore because he'd once gone on a date with another mutual friend of ours who still had a thing for him. Conveniently, this was all true and revealed to me just as I was looking for an out.
So I did it. Over text. On Val's birthday.
The next time I saw Val, he wouldn't even look at me (which, considering the manner that I'd decided to end things, isn't all that surprising). Val and another member of our circle were celebrating their birthdays that night and many of our out-of-town friends came up for the occasion. Our group met for lunch that day and even Val's brother, who lives half way across the country, was there. I couldn't help but notice that members of our group were throwing a little shade at me, especially Val and his brother.
I found this really upsetting. Outside of my brother and his girlfriend, Val and I agreed we wouldn't tell our circle that we'd gone on a few dates. But the awkwardness was undeniable; everyone knew. If you need just one reason to never date someone in your social circle, there it is. Your dirty laundry quickly becomes something the rest of the group feels they have a stake in.
I decided I would show up late to Val's birthday party; it would suck to have to endure the entire night of our friends treating me weird, but to not show up at all would be to admit that I'd done something wrong.
At the party, Val pulled me aside and (drunkenly) tried to reconcile. When I told him I was going to be firm in my earlier decision, he cried. Our friends distanced themselves from me more. As I watched Val wipe tears from his eyes, I felt really pissed. "What have you been telling everyone?"
"Just what happened. I am really bummed out by your decision."
"IT'S BEEN TWO WEEKS! 3 DATES! YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL BUMMED OUT!"
"I guess we just weren't on the same page."
I left the party a little later and went home to think. I hated how our friends were treating me. The next day, I made the decision that I'd try things out with Val again. I couldn't stand to be on the outside of our circle. I told myself that I was deliberately picking Val apart because I didn't want to be happy. That if I could hang in there, we would fall in love and then I'd be set; the great guy, the regular group of gorgeous friends meeting for coffee, the witty banter. I imagined my life would be Friends.
Nothing changed, though. If anything, I became more passively-aggressively cruel to Val at every turn, and then coming back and apologizing later. For 2 months, I found excuses not to invite Val to stay over; excuses to not stay at his place; excuses not to become a real couple; excuses not to open mouth kiss or even do more than closed mouth kiss. I berated him about his clothes, his hair, that he was so fucking nice to me. I made it unbearable. But Val stayed true.
Things finally came to a head when Val came on a group trip to New Orleans for my brother's birthday celebration. Val wanted to hold hands in the car; he wanted to walk together down Bourbon Street holding hands; he wanted to share a bed in the hotel room; he wanted to dance together. None of these things were really outlandish when you consider that we'd been going on dates and spending time together for a full 3 months. I pushed back; I avoided him and when I couldn't, I was mean. & it started to take a toll.
"Why are you so pouty, Val?" our friends started to ask.
& he was being pouty. Really pouty. So pouty that our friends, who were on his side a couple of months before, began to turn on him.
I was listening to our friends make fun of Val for being so lame when I realized, I was doing this to him.
There was nothing wrong with Val. He had realistic expectations of what things should have been like between he and I. And, he is a great human. He's the kind of guy who bids on ebay for pins that look like the one you got in the girl scouts when you were four, but lost while at work. He's the kind of guy who always plays your favorite shows and movies on netflix when you come over. He's the kind of guy who introduces you to all of his friends and makes you feel included, and beautiful, and smart. My problem wasn't with his tiny mouth or wrists, or the tuft of hair at the top of his head that always stood up, it wasn't even all of his god forsaken hoodies that fit too snug. My problem was with me; that I didn't want to date him and found a million tiny things about him to validate why that was instead of just being straight with him and myself.
& I was being a heinous bitch; dragging him along while I hoped that in between being cruel and dismissive of him, I would maybe fall in love with him. In the end, dragging Val along and treating him how I did was much more cruel than my brother's suggestion of saying, "I can't date you because I think you're gross."
So Val & I talked.
Actually, my brother--tired of all Val's pouting--talked to him first and broke the ice. Then Val came and found me.
When I told him how I felt, he was cool.
"Sometimes, it doesn't work out," he said, "and that's okay."
Which really just made things worse; all that drama, all the snide remarks, all the cringing between kisses--that, had I just been honest, would never have existed to begin with.
But whatever. That's what happened with Val.
If there's anything worth taking away from this, it's: be true to yourself. Listen to the nagging voices in your head. Don't do anything you have to talk yourself into. Be kind to others, even when you think it would be easier not to be. Don't be selfish.
So like yeah.