When it comes to relationships, everybody knows the one repeatedly-asked, often debated, cliched question: “Can men and women just be friends?”
If you asked me that question this morning – when I read that very thing in a commuter paper on the way to work – I would’ve stuck by my long-standing response: “Uh, yeah!” I firmly believe that …
Or I did. Later in the day I was reminded of why I should really change my answer to: “Depends.”
I have this acquaintance, who’s a poet and writer-in-residence at my old university. I say “acquaintance”, ’cause I believe we see our relationship differently.
For posting’s sake, I’ll call this dude Shakespeare. (Yes, I know he’s a playwright, but he also wrote poems, thereby making him a poet. Stop splitting hairs!) From my perception, Shakespeare seems to think we’re friends who were drawn together ’cause he considers me a sort of kindred spirit. Or something.
Me? I don’t trust him. Which warrants a backstory (with as many details as I can remember).
Picture it – late November, 2005. I’ve left work, and am minding my own business. He stops me on the street because he’s looking for an optical; his glasses are broken.
Being nice, I tell him where the nearest one is. As I escort him partway, he explains what he does, why he’s in town, where he actually lives, etc. He mentions my alma mater, so I pipe up, “Really? I went there!”
Before I realize it, he says he wants to get to know me better; says he wants to meet up on the weekend; I decline; we end up exchanging cell numbers; and I leave him, the tiny red light flashing in my brain, and me intending never to call him.
Fast forward three weeks. I’ve completely forgotten. (I also intended on switching phone companies – and hence cell numbers.) He calls me while I’m on my way home. I forget the conversation that transpired, but that’s probably The Point At Which I Sat On My Inituition, Smothered It And Left It For Dead.
I decide to give this weird little guy a chance at friendship. People make friends in circumstances like this, I reasoned with myself. Right?
It started with e-mails, then some picture-swapping, then more phoning (on his end, not mine), and then – MSN. In January he says we should meet. Ookay, I think to myself. I’ll go. I need to suss this guy out. (Maybe this eye twitch I’m involuntarily having is just an allergic reaction to dust.)
He comes into town and eventually picks a day to meet – the day before he goes home. I’m working late, it turns out. Anyone else would’ve rescheduled. Not him.
We meet in the coffee shop in my building. He talks. Waaay more than I do. I miss half the stuff he stays ’cause he’s also a bit of an academic.
(Guys, please note: if you choose to speak uni-English and in broad academic concepts instead of plain English, women like me will have a narcoleptic episode and pass out. Big hint: glazed eyes.)
In between all that, he apparently tells me he likes me and would like to pursue something with me. (This was probably the part where I spaced out. I thought he was talking about the type of woman he wanted to pursue. Oops.)
If by now you’re not reading another blog because you’ve figured out I’m a complete idiot, wait. There’s more.
I finally figured out what he was getting at. When he broached the subject again over MSN one night, I told him I wasn’t interested. Believe me, he’s persistent, for lack of a better word. I said if I changed my mind I’d let him know. I was being sarcastic. MSN doesn’t translate sarcasm well. (The MSN people should really work on a feature that does that.)
It was probably a couple more weeks before he started up again (didn’t I say he was persistent?) and I told him I wasn’t interested. Period.
Which brings me to the present. He says he’s okay with being friends. Given the epic I just re-told, I don’t truly believe him. I think he’s holding out to see if I’ll reconsider. I may also be just imagining things.
So it’s almost mid-May. And he’s in town again. And he wants to meet up with me. Again.
Given the fact I’ve pretty much bound and gagged my intuition, I’m going to do what any spineless, neurotic twenty-something would do: get an outside opinion. I’m hoping to drag him to meet a friend of mine for dinner, and I’ve asked her to read the vibe she gets off him.
She could very well give me a positive response, which would mean I’m overreacting and being unfair and shallow (which I won’t completely deny, but still).
But if she reads something else … he’s got to go. Given that I’ve gone past the normal range of tolerance for strangeness, I’m not how I’m going to do that.
Note to guys: Wearing a woman down until she gives in is NOT sexy. It’s stressful. It’s draining. And it probably takes a couple years off her life expectancy.
Note to self: In future, trust your intuition. Distrust strange poets you meet on the street.