I forget where I saw Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney, a memoir about a 25-year-old who’s never had a boyfriend or really been on a second date, but upon reading the summary, I added it to my reading list. Because up until six years ago, I thought this would be me, indefinitely.
Heaney says there are two types of people in the world, one of which is the lighthouse. Although not the best metaphor, she admits, we have all had lighthouses as friends. These are the girls that move from relationship to relationship; these are the women that could stay locked in their apartment for four months, and someone would eventually come knocking to ask them out. These lighthouses are a beacon for sailors.
What about those of us who aren’t lighthouses? Heaney says we’re the Bermuda Triangle. We don’t necessarily intend harm, but shit happens, and sailors tend to avoid us. I laughed aloud when I read this introduction. Although I’ve been in two long-term relationships, it wasn’t always apparent that I was “girlfriend” material. In fact, by my senior year of college, I resigned myself to the fact that I would always be alone. And now having just turned 28, I’m having to face that reality again.
A Series of Crushes
It’s not that I wasn’t interested in boys. I had many crushes growing up. Like Heaney, I kept a diary, and the numerous names of these crushes filled the pages. I wasn’t obsessed or boy-crazy; I mostly kept my crushes to myself, but they added something extra to the days and gave me a reason to look nice.
Just as I changed best friends every year of elementary school, I also changed crushes. I never let my feelings known. But at the same time, no one ever approached me. Maybe it’s because I was quiet, shy, awkward, unobservant, or invisible? But not one boy showed an interest in me, at least not in the obvious sense.
It didn’t help that I then went to an all-girls high school, but that didn’t stop girls from having boyfriends. And I had plenty of opportunities to meet guys. I went to dances; I worked at the local Subway; I ran cross-country; I acted in plays; I attended speech team tournaments; I went to parties and helped tutor immigrants, kids and teenagers alike.
But by the time I graduated high school and packed up my bedroom for college, I had never been “out” with a guy; I had never even had my first kiss. I thought college might change all of that.
The First Step
College was a wide awakening, for sure, but not in the way I hoped. Guys still didn’t like me (okay that’s not true – there were a few, but they were kind of shy and nerdy and not my type; I wondered for a time if guys I wasn’t attracted to would be the only ones interested in me). But more than boy troubles, I learned what it meant to be friends with girls who got boyfriends.
They disappeared from my life for a time and only re-appeared when they needed to be consoled because their boyfriend was being unreasonable or had broken up with them. I hated being that friend, and I hated guys for making my friends feel this way. By sophomore year, I told myself guys weren’t worth the trouble and I was better off being on my own. But still, I wondered.
I started drinking more my junior year of college. I liked how it eased my inhibitions, and I felt more comfortable being social in awkward situations, but I also came to depend on it. Still, I didn’t do anything stupid. I was still waiting for the “right” guy to come along. I still had my crushes but I didn’t do anything about it. I had learned that sometimes the idea of the crush is better than the actual person because once I got to know them, I realized how immature and shitty they were (or maybe that’s just my taste in crushes?).
By the time senior year rolled around, I decided I had had enough. It was apparent I would never find that “one,” and that I wasn’t “girlfriend” material. I would probably always be alone but that didn’t mean I didn’t have physical needs.
There was this guy in my year who I knew kind of liked me. He was a bit nerdy but funny, and I enjoyed his company, but I wasn’t attracted to him. We had gone on one date the previous summer and hung out on a few occasions, but the nice thing about dating a shy guy is they’re hesitant to make any moves, and since I was more interested in being his friend, I was okay with that.
I knew I shouldn’t have taken advantage of his company, but I enjoyed the companionship and the attention. I had never really had that before, and it was nice. It felt good to be liked. We drifted apart once school started. I’ve always had this huge fear of commitment, for no real apparent reason. My parents have been happily married for almost 30 years.
But in December, we re-connected and one drunken night I invited him back to my apartment. I knew then what I was going to do. It’s true I should have picked someone I was attracted to and someone who didn’t already have feelings for me, but I felt comfortable with him, and I was too nervous even in my drunken state to admit I had never kissed anyone.
Unfortunately when I confessed this, he admitted he hadn’t either. Great, I thought, now we’re both inexperienced. But I was somewhat comforted by the fact that he was surprised I’d never been kissed. So I smiled at him, and said, “Here goes.” Yes, not the most romantic moment. We were sitting on my twin-sized bed.
I leaned towards him, not really sure what I was doing. In my defense, he didn’t either. The kiss was awkward and not great. We both kind of laughed after a couple of attempts. And I felt bad because I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t know if it was because we were both inexperienced or because I wasn’t really attracted to him, but either way, I just kind of leaned against him and gave up.
Even though it wasn’t necessarily his fault, I was disappointed but also relieved. I had finally kissed someone. It hadn’t been romantic or affectionate. It was like a stepping stone, and I could finally check it off my list. Plus, I’d helped him pop his kissing cherry. I told him I was tired and actually had him sleep on the couch. In the morning, I drove him back to his apartment.
We ended things amiably, and I kept my distance after that, not wanting to lead him on. I kind of felt bad for using him (you know, that damn Catholic guilt). He was a good guy, still is, I suppose, and if it hadn’t been for his feelings for me, I would have probably maintained that friendship.
Out of the Bermuda Triangle
But that first kiss opened some doors for me. It showed me that I could take advantage of the situation and didn’t need to wait for the guy to make the first move. I also realized I would probably never find someone interested in me the way I was interested in them – maybe crushes were just meant to be crushes? In taking control of my fate, I learned a lot in the next few months. I kind of took the opposite path – instead of taking steps with guys because we were in a relationship, I took steps because I didn’t believe a relationship was a possibility.
Maybe this is how I ended up in two back-to-back relationships in the following five years? Less than four months after that first kiss, I started dating my first boyfriend. I never expected the relationship – I just kind of accidentally fell into it. And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work?
But now that I’m alone again, I think back to those years when I thought guys didn’t like me and that I would always be alone. I kind of laugh because a little over a year ago I thought I had found the “one.” And now I know I was so wrong. I don’t regret any of the relationship decisions I made, but relationships are not all I thought they were cracked up to be.
It’s true – sometimes I miss the companionship, but I never have to wonder what if or why have I never ever’d? Because I have, and I’m okay being on my own again. So I’m not a lighthouse, but I’m not the Bermuda Triangle either so that’s something.