That whole dating thing…

So I’m still horribly crushing on this Erica girl that I’ve only met once. I actually broke down and sent an e-mail to the common friend we share and kind of poked at her to nudge Erica to get in touch with me. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m so out of practice at this.

Then again, I never really was in practice.

Back in high middle school when (almost) everyone else was getting their dating feet wet, I was sidelined something fierce by my “friends” at the time.

You see, they convinced me that I was totally and completely in love with this girl Mandi. Not that it took much convincing–I was a 12 year old boy, after all. So I was drawn in to this elaborate fantasy where I simply had to win this girl’s heart.

This girl who, at first, didn’t even know I existed.

This girl who, once she knew I existed, wouldn’t even give me the wrong time of day.

Or breathe in my direction unless she absolutely had to.

Yeah, I was my own little mixed up Don Quixote and she was my windmill.

For two and a half years I was in that game. Pining away, consumed by the thought of her every waking moment, crushed every time she’d laugh outright at anything I tried.

Granted, most of what I tried looks pretty darn silly to me now.

I made the ever-popular mix-tape.

I wrote the “Do you want to go out with me” note. Which, of course, was subsequently nabbed by someone else and passed around gym class.

I got consistently tongue-tied any time I tried to speak to her.

I’d go to school dances just to stand in the corner and watch her dance with other guys.

It was indescribably painful back then. It all made me a laughing stock in my peer group, the butt of innumerable jokes (thankfully, none violent–we were, above all, a more civilized generation than many that have come since, at least in my neck of the woods).

That kind of set me up poorly when it came to social skills. Not helped at all by the fact that I actually liked going to class and learning stuff. Or that I was a little over-weight. Or interested in strange things (like ghosts and whatnot).

If the Internet has been around then like it is now, it would have been a very different story. I’d have pages and pages of whiny rants and laments posted in a community of like-minded social outcasts. But I didn’t have that. And so, I was alone.

About two years into the whole Mandi mess, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was worth something as a person. Granted, I head that all the time from my parents. The message wasn’t as important as the messenger.

At the end of my seventh grade year, after being once again put down in front of a crowd, mostly members of the school band (where I played trombone), I sat sullenly in a cracked and faded auditorium seat. Karen, an 8th grade clarinet player–and one of the popular girls–came over and sat down next to me.

“You know,” she said, “those guys are idiots. You’re a pretty OK guy.”

And then she got up and moved on with her day.

It took another half year or so, but that idea eventually sunk in.

By the middle of eighth grade, I had more or less gotten over the Mandi obsession (though my mouth did still go dry whenever I had to go near her for anything).

It was about then that I decided that if people were going to laugh at me, it would be on my terms.

I never became the class clown or anything, but I did cultivate my own little bits of cutting wit (well, cutting by mid-teen standards at the time). My own little brand or quirkyness would eventually earn me the title of “Strangest” in my senior year book. I also started to focus a little more on myself. Not too much, but a little.

I figured that next year, in high school, everything would be different.

I wasn’t quite right about that, but the next four years were generally quite a bit better than those first three.

Of course, there wasn’t any dating going on. Not counting the obviously botched dates that I’ve mentioned to some of you individually before (and that I’m sure I’ll mention here eventually). In fact, I think there were only two or three “real” dates in high school. And only one of those could be considered a success of any sort.

Once I hit college, well, with no dating experience (per se) I was kind of not dating people every now and then. I had some spectacular failures in the “Uh, do you want to go with me?” department that I always love to trot out for a good laugh (because they are that spectacular). My third year at college, I got into a relationship that lasted about five months or so and that was immediately followed by one that went on for the next three years.

Since then, pretty much nothing.

So I’m way out of practice with the dating thing. Or even the asking out on a date thing. And I never even came close to beginning the “Pick them up at the bar” tactics that I just find laughable. Same thing with the asking for phone numbers (how exactly does one do that without seeming like a creepy predator of some sort?).

Looks like it’s back to relationship school to me if I want to bust out of this seven year slump.

Or maybe I’ll just tune in to the voices in my head that nabbed me my last few relationships. They’ve never pointed me wrong before…

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