Not long ago, I chatted with a guy I met online. We exchanged numbers and started texting. I said I wanted to speak on the phone before going out. He said cool, but kept texting. Soon I withdrew and stopped replying.
Why so cold, Julia? you wonder. Because he’s literally holding a tool for talking with me, yet still does not get the point.
And as Maya Angelou said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Life moved on and we were out of touch for about a week. Incidentally one of his photos was from the recent Adele concert. So when Hello reattached itself to my brain in an endless loop, as it does, I thought of him. Briefly.
Yet within hours he emailed me. My nuttiest, most synchronicity-inclined self thought, Amazing! How cool!
Hey, how’ve you been? he wrote, with other insubstantial nothingness.
I don’t know, I replied. Why don’t you call and find out?
We planned to talk that evening. As the appointed time neared, he texted AGAIN: I’m not sure if you’re calling me or if I should call you.
By then I was SO tempted to write, Whoever wants to get laid more calls. But that’s mean. So I muffled my frustration with, You’ve got this, dude.
Why did I bother? Clearly this guy was not all-star material. But I was curious to see where it would lead. And also wondering how spectacularly clueless he was. How far do the depths of his idiocy reach? If he's a human sinkhole, the public needs to be warned.
So, my fact-finding for humanity plus undue optimism and a desire to stay open-minded pushed me forward.
Finally he called, we talked, and it was decent. We decided to go out and that he’d let me know details. Then he texted the following morning and invited me to coffee at lunchtime that day.
I feel like a football coach scribbling plays on a whiteboard, I can't detail this horror fast enough. First, coffee. My feelings on that are clear. Second, that day? No. And at lunch? Why, because we’re former co-workers too lukewarm about each other to spend unpaid time together?
I wrote and said the plan doesn’t work for me. But the experience left me wondering. How do you navigate between Angelou’s one-shot deal policy and accepting people's mistakes? Because, the first time? Really, Maya? What about bad days? And what ever happened to living in the moment?
It’s tricky. Maybe he spent his 20s in a medically induced coma and missed prime dating years. Or he recently disengaged from a cult. Are you throwing away an opportunity or being your most brilliant self?
Or, on a somber, realistic level, what if thinking of someone is just that? Our brain wavelengths collided momentarily. I mean, who hasn't had Hello on mental repeat since its release? And he popped into my mind not as a sign of the universe correcting itself, but so we’d talk again and irrevocably close our unfinished energy loop of interaction.
Because no matter how much story rearranging we do, the facts remain: he didn’t call. He didn’t know he should call. He thinks lunchtime coffee is an acceptable first date.
The quote's value, of course, is its truth, demonstrated by how difficult it is to obey. We all wince when we hear it. Everyone’s been duped, burned, and played in countless preventable, foreseeable, clichéd ways.
But @@although hope springs eternal, rationality can, too.@@ While the “first time” aspect gives the quote impact, that rigidity is hard to maintain. And in some cases might backfire. Maybe your guard goes up the first time.
From there, you stay open by trusting everything…people do. Keep both possibilities--honest mistake and woeful incompetence--in your open mind and suspend judgment. Go with the flow without undue investment of energy. And along the way, ask yourself, Is this where I want to invest my limited time? Or is this like buying a ticket for the Titanic after finding out it’ll sink?
Or consult some ex-colleague about it over coffee. I bet they're free around lunch today.
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