He calls it a date.
He tells you that you look great.
He pays for your meal.
He tells you that you smell good.
He grins at you and says, “You’re so adorable.”
Sounds like all good things right? Things you’d find in any women’s magazine article “Things He Does When He’s Into You”. What woman wouldn’t want a man to do not just one, but all four?
Me, that’s who.
I have a crush on a guy who has a girlfriend. Not because I want to. Because it’s cliché. And because he’s so freaking cute.
It was crush at first sight. We met on the same corner I met Safa Boy (a corner that seems to bring me nothing but trouble.) There were similarities: 6 foot+, dark hair, tangible twinkle. But unlike Safa, there was no accent to distract me from red flags. Girlfriend Guy (yep, I’m calling him that; the obvious reminder will do me good) is a genuinely sweet, nice guy from the midwest. He has a great sense of humor. He has a great smile. He hasn’t been a teenager in five years. He has something about him that makes him so easy to talk to. He has…he has….he has a girlfriend. He mentioned her that very first day I met him (that’s what nice guys do), I should have been able to shake the crush off right then and there. But that’s the thing about crushes, especially those at first sight.
We’ve all been there, right? Crushing on someone who is totally unavailable. (I’ve been there before. Bet you forget Sideburns Guy.) It’s safe in a way, you know it’s not going to go anywhere. But then it’s also dangerous, because you’re probably harboring the hope that it does.
So what do you do? Never acknowledge the feelings? Know what you think is flirting, he just sees as friendly banter? Avoid spending time alone together? Leave town for a whole summer assuming when you come back the feelings will have disappeared/you’ll have a new crush/he’ll no longer have a girlfriend?
Guess which one I did.
We kept in touch that summer the way most people keep in touch these days: a wall post here, a “like” on a status there. The way we can pretend to be in someone’s life with only the smallest effort and only knowing the smallest fraction about that life. So I was excited when we were both back in the city and decided to meet for lunch. Would the feelings be gone? Or maybe the girlfriend.
He was just as cute as I remembered. Still had all his teeth, hadn’t gained 50 lbs of beer belly. Still as sweet as ever as he hugged me hello and told me I looked great. Still made me laugh, several times before we’d even ordered. Somethings hadn’t disappeared. Had anything?
We caught up over strange gourmet hotdog-wrap-things (not a Manhattan food trend I see catching on), sitting on uncomfortable-albeit-cool-looking chairs at a solid wood, modern, soda-counter-inspired table. I was looking for glimmers of hope, and I was finding them. He’d paid for lunch. We were sitting side by side. Then he brought it up, “How’s your love life?” he asked. Wah wah wahhh. I said, in not so many words, and quickly turned it to him, How’s your girlfriend? Here was the moment of truth. “Great!” He said, “Blahblahblahblah.” I couldn’t concentrate on his words, I was trying to hard to keep disappointment from spreading across my face.
We walk around Union Square after lunch. We like each others company, ok? I know he has a girlfriend, we’re just friends. It’s fine. I’m not flirting with him. I mean, I’m not a very obvious flirt ever (it can be a flaw), so no one would know if I was kinda flirting. But I’m not. Not really. He has a girlfriend so it doesn’t matter! No, there was never a moment where I kinda wanted to kiss him! The thought didn’t even enter my mind! Shut up! I’m not getting really defensive! Shut up!
When we part ways he gives me a hug. A good hug, not the kind of half-assed, I-barely-touched-you kind of hug some guys give. Maybe it’s a midwest thing, but the hug last seconds longer than the west coast hugs I was raised with. Our perspective heights mean his nose is at my hair level. “You smell good.” he says. Shut up! Don’t say that! I don’t want to hear that! I don’t want to think for a second that you have any kind of feelings for me and comments like that really don’t help! It’s not friendly! I want to say. Instead I just emit a I-don’t-know-how-to-respond-to-that! giggle. Great.
About a month later, we’re meeting for lunch again. He has to return a play he borrowed from me. He still has a girlfriend. I still have a crush on him, but it’s not a big one. Absence hasn’t made the heart grow founder. I think I’m getting over it, really I do! But the only way to put that thought to the test is to see his. “Do you want to plan the date?” he texts me. HE CALLED IT A DATE, I yell to my roommate across the apartment. WHY WOULD HE CALL IT A DATE? THAT’S JUST MEAN! She agrees. UGH. I text back, “Don’t call it a date. I might get the wrong idea. 🙂 But yes, I’ll plan.” My roommate approves of this text. “That’s good. Let him know it’s not ok to call it a date.” My phone buzzes, his response: “I’m ok with it” I read it aloud. What kind of response is that!? Neither me nor my roommate know what to make of it, but we both agree it’s annoying.
We meet for dim sum. Because it’s officially a “date”. Because I planned it. Because growing up I lived 5 blocks from Chinatown. Because I freaking love dim sum. He’s never had it before. This should make him less attractive to me, yay! Except he’s so eager and willing to try it that, nope, doesn’t help. Lunch is great, we try all sorts of different steamed and fried plates, with varying degrees of success (bean curd was a fail), exchanging stories and laughing the whole time. He doesn’t pay this time (though he tried, but it was cash-only and he didn’t have enough bills). Afterwards we wander around Chinatown. He confesses to being some what of a pothead, and this actually succeeds in making him less attractive. It feels more like two friends hanging out than it did last time. I’m proud of myself. I still think he’s cute, but so what?
We decide to go up to Bryant Park where I am working that afternoon. I’m passing out free hats, he should get one. We’re waiting at the Grand subway station and I think I’m feeding off his buzz. We start playing a game of balancing on one foot and trying to throw the other person off-balance. (Shut up, it’s more fun than it sounds.) Somewhere between me making fun off him (we tease each other all the time, which doesn’t help the crush situation) and winning the game, he grins at me and says, word for word, “You’re so adorable.”
I reflexively change the subject and 100% ignore the comment. But in my mind it drives me crazy. Why’d he have to say that!! That’s SO something you say to a girl you have a crush on! He probably does have a crush on me. WHO CARES HE HAS A GIRLFRIEND! I’m being back-burnered, is that it? Maybe he’s just COMPLETELY stupid and naive and has no idea the implications of saying things like that? SO ANNOYING.
We get to Bryant Park. We would have gone ice skating if my employee status got us in for free. Fortunately this wasn’t the case. Ice skating would have REALLY crossed the date line. I go to work, he gets his hat, gives me my play back, and leaves.
In the middle of my shift, I get a text message “I left my bookmark in your play, can you keep it safe for me?” I open my play (Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp, it’s fantastic) and find his bookmark. It’s one of those photo booth strips, comprised of four pictures. It’s Girlfriend Guy and the infamous girlfriend. They look so happy, so in love in each picture. And suddenly all the “mixed messages” don’t matter. A picture is worth a 1,000 words (which is, coincidently, approximately how many words I’ve just written). I finally, fully understand the only message that matters: He has a girlfriend.