Dating & The Single Grrl:
In September of last year, I found myself unwittingly reliving an R-rated version of my first kiss.
When I was thirteen, I went to a school dance. I wore my “cool outfit” – dark denims and a baby-tee with the Airwalk logo on it (a one-of-a-kind that a friend had made for me).
Tired from jumping around to the Offspring, Green Day and Dance Mix ’95, I went to sit at the side of the room where I encountered a boy. He was alone and wearing a toque – a rebel. I slapped him on the knee and when he looked at me, aghast, I said, “Hi!”
That brief yet sweet encounter was the start of three fast dances to pulsating techno. Rebel in a Toque could not dance, but he tried – something that many 13- and 14-year-old boys wouldn’t do. When Boyz II Men came on, we stood still and stared at the floor for a minute, until he laughed and asked me to dance again.
I had been religiously reading Seventeen Magazine that year, and I recalled an article that a girl had written about her first kiss. Specifically, I recalled the part where she described the experience as “wet, squishy, then soft and overall quite pleasant.” As Rebel in a Toque and I danced in an endless circle in a space the size of a pizza box, I felt him look at me. I knew that if I looked up, I would become the Seventeen girl – something I had wanted to be since I had read The Babysitter’s Club and Mallory and Jesse had both had their first kisses at the age of eleven – and they were only junior sitters! (Even though they’ve been eleven for the past 20 years, it’s the principle). But part of me was a little nervous – scared, even. This was a big deal. I would never again be a girl who hadn’t been kissed. Who was this guy, anyway? What was I thinking? Clearly, I was on the verge of disgrace. I could already feel the scarlet letter burning.
Then, as Boyz II Men strained their voices in their last chorus (“I’ll ma-a-a-a-ke lo-o-o-o-ve to you (hold yo-o-o-u ti-i-ight), all through the night!”), with my corruption on the horizon, I went for it.
It was wet, squishy, soft, and then… he bit me.
Fast forward to September 2005. It was almost ten years later, and I had moved on to more mature methods of meeting guys (other than the time my friend and I followed some cute guys to the Maddy). I’d been talking to a guy who I had met at my birthday party – a friend of a friend. I didn’t really remember him, but he was apparently really interested in me and wanted to get to know me from our brief encounter (red flag #1). We’d been having some good phone conversations and had formed what seemed to me to be a pretty decent connection over the course of a few weeks. He whipped out “sweetie” here and there, which I despise (red flag #2), was younger than me and occasionally seemed to act like it (red flag #3), and also “shared” things with me that he hadn’t really told anyone else, and it really “meant a lot” (red flag #4). Yes, he was one of those. And yes, there were signs that I should be cautious, or not even proceed at all, but the good parts of the conversations outweighed the bad, and I figured that once we spent time together in person, we would be more comfortable with each other and some of his store-bought generic methods of getting to know a girl would wither and die.
Instead, the flowers he brought withered and died. The date started badly. As soon as we met, I knew it wouldn’t work out. He called me from a grocery store nearby to ask me what kind of flowers I wanted. This showed me he lacked originality and spontaneity (red flag #5), but also wanted to make a good impression by getting something I liked (which potentially cancelled one flag). I wasn’t being bratty about it – I’m not a flower girl anyway; I think it’s weird when people bring me flowers. But maybe most of us can agree that if you’re going to bring them, make it a surprise.
He came to my door and thrust the flowers in my general direction. I busied myself with putting them in a vase while he decided to make himself comfortable. There are some guys who can pull off this kind of cocky arrogance, where they act like they’re in control and totally belong in the apartment, like it’s no big deal. This quality makes this type of guy hot, because you’re secretly glad he seems to be comfortable, but you act like you don’t really notice or care. And, there are other guys who are respectful and even nervous, who will stand by the door, make small talk and be cute – they make you want to tell them, “Make yourself comfortable.” The guy in question acted like the former but should have been the latter – and I still wouldn’t have told him to sit down and relax.
We got onto the subway and he immediately not only held my hand, but interlaced our fingers, although I continued to tell him not to and pulled away (red flag #infinity). Again, it wasn’t cute. So far, I was finding all of his actions intrusive. In summary, from the phone conversations to our first meeting, there was usage of generic nicknames which I protested, thrusting of flowers, uninvited perusing of my bookshelf and DVD collection, intense staring (complete with a “look at me” and a hand on my chin), and hand-holding.
When we ate dinner, I stared at him while he talked about art and the fact that he always needs to leave something on his plate. At the movies, I ignored him and bought gummies when he said, “How can you eat something after that meal?” (red flag #infinity x 2, at which point I will stop counting because I’m sure it will be easy to find the flags from hereon in). When he made actual kissing noises in my ear during the first half of the movie, I eventually obliged him once to shut him up. In retrospect, this logic doesn’t make sense, but at the time I thought I could salvage something.
I had decided that I needed dessert to end the date, so I went to McDonald’s and got a sundae. He said, “I’ll just have to have some of yours. I can’t believe you can still eat after that.” Sure, sharing is nice. But sometimes, a girl just wants her sundae. And she doesn’t want to share it with a hand-holding, kissy-noise-making, freakish-food person. He tried unsuccessfully to hold my hand as I ate my sundae. “Wow, you really killed that thing, didn’t you?” he asked, when I chucked the empty container dangerously close to his head.
We returned to my apartment to chat. Perhaps talking would open up the conversations of yore and he could relax, I could relax, something could still come out of this. We talked, and I felt him look at me. I knew that if I looked up…well, you know.
It was wet, squishy, soft, and then… he bit me.
The red flags descended upon me all at once, blanketing the room in crimson. I was seeing red – was I bleeding? Was I angry? Crazed? I started laughing, and he, thinking I was into his nibbling S&M tricks, proceeded to bite my torso.
At this point, it was too late for The Biter to go home (no driver’s license, no public transportation), so I allowed him to take a nap and set the alarm for when the subway opened again.
“You know, it’s okay if this doesn’t work out or anything…you can change your mind. Like I said, I don’t have all these expectations. I think you think I like you more than I do,” he said, before rolling onto his side.
I went into the kitchen a short while later to enjoy a bowl of Frosted Flakes with ice-cold milk – something I like to eat when I’ve had a hard day. It’s a combination that makes me happy. Five minutes later, The Biter wandered into the kitchen.
“What are you doing? Eating? Again?” He proceeded to slither his way between my back and the counter-edge, then wrapped one arm around my waist (right at the stomach) and put his chin on my head. My hands had limited mobility. I felt like I was a caged child with ADD who’d been left in the middle of FAO Schwartz – desperate to get out. “Mmm, this is nice,” The Biter said as he tried to rock us back and forth.
I awoke to find The Biter on my computer, going through my files. “Hey, you have some pretty interesting file names,” he said in greeting.
In my head, I saw one of those gag revolvers fire, releasing a red flag. I told him it was time to go home – I had plans for brunch with my friends.
“Can’t you cancel?” Reload; fire.
“Can I come with you and say hi to everyone?” Reload; fire.
Laughter, followed by, “Well, I have my socks and shoes on, I think that deserves a kiss.” Grenade, anyone?
After The Biter left, I wondered why I was feeling uncomfortable. I lifted my shirt and looked at my stomach. There they were – the scarlet letters I’d long been dreading – actual bruises on my stomach. I peered at the mirror and noticed another one, bluish, in the middle of my lower lip. I went to brunch wearing sunglasses and a sweatshirt, and when my friends asked how the date was, I showed them that I had been branded. Shamed, deeply shamed was I.
I heard later that The Biter was mad at my friend for not “fighting” for him or “standing up” for him with me. Later, I received some angry e-mails from him – one a number of months after the date; I believe his assumption is that I used him (for what?) and was a dishonest, cold-hearted tramp.
The Biter branded me with the scarlet letter, literally. I clearly didn’t use him nor was I purposely dishonest with him – how was I supposed to know he’d become The Biter?
I was branded because I didn’t heed the signs that were everywhere. I felt bad – bad that I had wasted his time, bad that I knew he had certain expectations, no matter how hard he tried to disguise it as male indifference, and bad that I kept letting the night wear on until I couldn’t find an appropriate moment to say “Get out!” I realized I should have asked the questions that plagued me when I was dancing with Rebel in a Toque. After all, The Biter raised all the red flags – whether they were little things or really big things – while the Rebel was harmless. This is the case in any situation where you meet someone new – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of having a date, or the guilt of not giving a person a fair chance and being too picky, but the truth is, those questions should always be asked, no matter what age.
There are some instances where you can take things lightly and have fun, like the story about The Rebel. Although he did bite me – accidentally, which makes it cuter – everything leading up to it was sweet, easy, and there was no weird vibe, so I tell that story with fondness because it was fun and innocent, and there’s no shame in that. ¤ Dani