Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I’d Like You More If You Were Her

Several years ago, during the lengthy dating dry spell that I call “my 20s,” I had a side (unpaid) gig writing blog posts for a movie website that was started by a woman my age named Rushmore. She was basically every average-looking woman’s nightmare: naturally petite, blonde, and thin, smart, funny, personable, legitimately enjoyed and understood sports, and--worst of all--genuinely nice, and therefore impossible to hate.

This was one of the years that I decided to make a New Year’s resolution, and that year I resolved to be more willing to put myself “out there” and meet new people. So during a brief email exchange with Rushmore about her site, while she was spending a year backpacking through South America with her then-fiancée, I mentioned my resolution in case she knew of anyone I could possibly tolerate spending an evening with.

“I actually do know someone you might like. And he does entertainment writing, too, so, if nothing else, you guys could talk about that.”

She said she would do an email introduction to her friend Max and suggest that he and I meet up, but framing it as a networking meeting since, “I’m not sure how he’ll feel about potentially being set up.”

Within seconds of her sending that email, Max replied with an exuberant response that declared, “Great idea, Rushmore!” and “I would love to meet your friend!” and “Wolfie, wouldn’t you agree that Rushmore is just the best?!” (actual language used, not an exaggeration)

He suggested we meet for coffee after work on Thursday, and I agreed. Figuring if we didn’t hit it off on a personal level, my pseudo-date with Max could at least prove beneficial professionally, since I was always on the lookout for a new full-time job or freelance work that would actually pay me. I made photocopies of my of the business cards I had collected from editors and publishers who either declined to hire me or offered me work where “if our traffic numbers are high enough we can pay you something,” since maybe Max would have better luck with these contacts than I had. And then feel compelled to share his network of contacts with me.

Arriving at Starbucks, I spotted Max easily from a Facebook photo I had looked up earlier. He greeted me enthusiastically with that sort of frenetic energy that some people innately have that always throws me off, being a naturally sedate sort of person. He offered to get me my drink of choice while I unbundled myself at the table, absent-mindedly bouncing on the balls of his feet while waiting in line, making me wonder if he was overly nervous, excited, or already too caffeinated.

As soon as he got back to the table he asked how I knew Rushmore. I started to explain but as soon as the words, “…write for her website…” were out of my mouth he was off and running.
“Oh, her movie website? I love that site! Isn’t it so well put together? She’s not even a web person by trade, but she still manages to pull that off. It’s amazing. I met her at a blogger’s networking event; it was kind of lame, but there was an open bar, and of course I got to meet Rushmore, so I was so glad I wound up going. She was working on another website at the time…I forget what it was about. I thought she was absolutely gorgeous, so of course I was devastated when I found out she was engaged. But she’s still awesome, and so smart and talented, so I’ve made sure to keep in touch. Besides, you never know where life is going to take you…engaged ain’t married, after all…”

A 7-foot-tall drag queen with a pink bouffant wig standing behind him holding up a neon sign declaring, “He’s in love with Rushmore, dummy!” would have been more subtle.

Having accepted that this spastic ball of unrequited love was not my soul mate, I tried to steer the conversation toward making some business connections. I offered him the photocopies of my contacts, which he excitedly accepted, promising to email me some of his as soon as he got home; that was over eight years ago and I don’t even live in that city anymore, but I’m sure those will be in my inbox any day now. We also become Facebook friends, but I never heard anything from him, and I never reached out, either, assuming that not being able to provide a direct route to Rushmore’s heart rendered me totally useless to Max.

Almost a full year later Rushmore was back in town, now sans-fiancée. She was throwing herself a party to jointly celebrate her birthday, the dissolving of a toxic relationship, and being back home. I received an invite, despite my only connection to her still being a writer for her site. Unable to come up with one of my many excuses for avoiding social situations, I went to the bar where she was reveling with her new roommate, a collection of girlfriends, and Max.

If Max was there as a guest or as her personal manservant, I’m still not sure. All night long she never saw the bottom her glass without him appearing at her side with a full one, never went to the ladies’ room without him offering to watch her bag, and never tried to sit down without him leaping up to offer her a more comfortable seat.

When I arrived she did a quick round of introductions to her lady friends, and Max stood to introduce himself, offering me his hand.

“Uh…yeah, I know, hi Max. We already met. About a year ago, remember? Rushmore emailed us and suggested we meet? You bought me a peppermint hot chocolate? I gave you pages of editorial contacts…”

A faint light of recollection rolled over his face and he proceeded to make awkward small talk with me while absent-mindedly gazing over my shoulder.

“Oh, right, I thought you looked familiar… So how’s it going? Did any of the contacts I sent you help out?” (no, primarily because that exchange never occurred) “Can you believe Rushmore’s back? And now single?! I mean, you may hope for things like that to happen, but how often do they actually happen? Oh, excuse me, I need to go get her another drink…”

For the next few months his Facebook status updates were a series of cryptically blatant lovelorn messages and quotes like, “People always say that things happen for a reason…now I know why…” and “You have found her, now go and get her.”

In an email chain with Rushmore about some site-related business, I asked her how things were going now that she was back. She replied that it was a bit strange being back and being single again, but that she was pretty happy.

“But Max won’t leave me alone, which is annoying, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.”

Unable to censor myself even in casual emails with casual acquaintances, and having zero tolerance for anything I deem “adolescent behavior” (which can encompass anything from tattling to being too obtuse to acknowledge when someone’s clearly infatuated with you) I rolled my eyes and typed back, “Are you not aware that he’s in love with you? I assumed it was one of those things that everyone knows, but no one talks about.”

She never responded to that part of my message, but words must have been exchanged with Max because a few weeks later he un-friended me on Facebook and I never heard anything from him again. Rushmore and I are still distantly friendly, despite her movie site now being defunct, and she’s happily ensconced in a long-term relationship with a man who is not Max.

And I’m still waiting on those business contacts.

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