Monday, 16 July 2012

When He Was Just Not That Into You, Me, Uh, Her

Once upon a time your Auntie Seraphic was in high school and she had a big old crush on an Eastern European. Actually, Auntie spent most of her years in high school with big old crushes on Eastern Europeans. Poor young Future Auntie Seraphic with her Caucasian Fixation. At least when Yugoslavia imploded, she was not taken by surprise.

Catholic students in my city usually went to Catholic schools, and in my part of Toronto at the time the smartest boys went to all-boys schools and the smartest girls went to all-girls schools. Thus the romantic entanglements of book-smart students of Catholic schools were situated outside of school, very often in the subway stations below ground and the bus stations above. Blue and green kilts fluttered like flags in the battlements of the bus stations as we hopefully waited for our grey trousered crush objects to ascend the escalators.

In one particular bus station your auntie used to lurk and hopefully wait for one particular Eastern European. Poor sixteen year old Seraphic. So hopeful, so good at English class, so dumb about boys. I have a lot of compassion for her now, poor young bespectacled shrimp. Being the future Auntie Seraphic, she had no Auntie Seraphic to guide her.

I'm sorry to say that she was very obvious. All her friends and enemies knew about her terrible hopeful crush on that particular Eastern European. They were a trifle bemused, for they didn't think he was that good looking, and they told her to snap out of it. They also deliberately mispronounced his Christian name, which drove Seraphic Aged 16 up the wall. Had I a time machine, I would merely take myself aside, lean down to look into her/my/our beautiful if bespectacled blue eyes, and say "He will marry a fellow X, you western doorknob." As it happens he did, and the likelihood of this happy fate should have been obvious even then.

But Seraphic Aged 16 was clueless, in part because she didn't know how to listen to what boys said and she most definitely did not know how to interpret what boys didn't say. She relied much too much on her imagination for information, and much too little on observation and verifiable facts. Oh, and she honestly thought boys enjoyed gentle raillery better than naive compliments, which was incredibly unfortunate from a teenage point of view.

(From an adult point of view, the only point of being a teenager is to get grades good enough for university or trade school and not get yourself/anyone pregnant. This second point is preferably achieved by Being Good, which in my high school locker room was expressed as "Don't be a putana.")

Just hanging around the bus station waiting for boys did not make you a putana, but it could make you obvious, and it never occurred to me that my crush object might have found me annoying. I would have found such a revelation deeply distressing, and in fact writing about it now, over 20 years later, is so deeply distressing I keep moving into the third person singular for safety.

Seraphic Aged Sixteen deserves some slack, for he did ask her out twice, although he stood her up the first time, and the second time it was just so he wouldn't have to help her with this school assignment he said he'd help her with. But subsequently, he was not home when she phoned (only two or three times, I hope and believe) and there was, of course, the story of the Gypsy Girl.

The Gypsy Girl (cue exotic Balkan music) was supposedly a girl with whom my crush object had a forbidden romance back home that summer. They were crazy about each other, but his parents had discouraged the whole affair, and that was it.

Sadly, Seraphic Aged 16 believed this story and did not for a second make the assumption that Seraphic Aged 39+ would immediately make today, which is that Balkan Crush Object had made the whole thing up as a way to tell Seraphic Aged 16 that he was just not that into her.

My heart is bleeding from telling you all this story, so I hope you're learning from it.

Over twenty years later, I had a conversation with a friend about why it is so embarrassing and distressing, as an adult woman, watching other adult women chase men. I have concluded that it is because it reminds us of the painful and embarrassing times we chased men ourselves. We don't want to remember those times, or admit that we ever did that, and it makes us feel vaguely ill when we do. Also, we don't like watching fellow creatures suffer.

Dear me, how very sad. Here's Nina Simone expressing the ultimate in crush-crazed female insanity. (I'm sorry the attached vid looks inappropriates like a perfume ad. Eye of newt, toe of frog would be more like it.) Take it away, Nina:


Catherine said...

Thank you for this post! It's good to be reminded every once in awhile that I'm not the only woman who has shamelessly chased after a man. It's unfortunate that any of us do it at all, but since we do, well, it's nice to not be the only one.

The short version of my story - and let this be a lesson to you all! - is that while I was in university, I spent three unbearable years chasing one NCB. In my defense, we did have some conversations and correspondences that were so personal (and, in many cases, quite flirty), I can't really be faulted for interpreting them as romantic interest. But even as the months kept ticking by and he never asked me out, I refused to back down. I continued emailing him, inviting him over, making excuses to spend time with him, etc. I could tell you stories about the absurd lengths I went to, just to get his attention, that would send shivers down your spine (like the time I took one of his notebooks when he wasn't looking, just so I could go to his house to return it to him - look, I'm not proud, okay?! - and that's not even the worst one).

Anyway, the moral of the story is, he is now a transitional deacon. Joke's on me!!

His fault for leading me on, perhaps - but entirely my fault for getting so caught up in the fantasy world inside my brain that I spent three years pouring insane amounts of time and effort into an imaginary relationship. Ugh.

Urszula said...

I love these stories. Maybe we should get these embarrassing moments out in the open - I for one was strangely comforted to see that other women have fallen into the same trap as myself.

Looking back at my teen years, I actually think my chasing after my high school crush was hilarious although at the time it inspired many awful poems. He was a musician a few years older than me resembled Chopin, was very handsome and looked like he was very profound (mostly, I think, because he had a shock of wavy dark hair that would entirely obliterate his face as he poured his soul into the piano). I connived for about three years to get him to notice me and actually succeeded in getting him to accompany me to my prom. He (supposedly) sprained his ankle a few days before the prom and texted me in desperation that he would find me a replacement, but I would have none of it. Accompany me to the prom he did - where a number of kind female classmates informed him that I had been talking about him for years. Then, when we were standing shoulder to shoulder in the dark hallway looking out into the street, I asked him "So why did you agree to come to the prom with me?" hoping with teenage shortsightedness that the answer would be like in L. M. Montgomery novels. But no, he said, "Because I just don't know how to say no".

Well, at least he was honest ;) I learned a lot from that one interaction.