I went on a double date once, although, I didn’t know it at the time, being that I was the fifth person in the group.
“Goodnight Krisi!” The foursome cried, I waved a weak hand and limped on aching heals back to the dorm. I was carrying three styrofoam boxes oozing grease, they weighed as heavily in my hands as humiliation did on my conscious.
I missed the signs. Apparently I could not tell what a double date looked like.
An hour before, I had sat squashed on the end of a booth, while my two friends and their dates discussed payment with the waitress. “Yeah, split the bill three ways, I’ll get her, and he’s got her” one of the boys animated by pointing a thumb at his chest and at my dorm mate, who cozied up to him, and then at the other pair across the booth.
At which point he glanced at me shiftily.
“And uh, I’m alone” I squawked awkwardly counting out my rumpled cash.
Self consciously I adjusted the plastic pearl necklace I was wearing and tapped the heal points of my shoes rapidly.
At nineteen, I lacked quite a bit of self awareness, I had missed the social cues from my peers, indicating they had been invited out by two freshman boys.
To me it was a group of friends eating dinner in fancy clothes.
I don’t remember the semantics of our conversation before heading out, or what we discussed in the truck as I sat pegged against the wall, watching two boys and two girls flirting.
I can still feel my lack of comprehension, of blatantly missing the passive pleads from the girls for me to not come along, that it would be boring, maybe expensive, silly even. It did not hit me until the check and takeout boxes were handed over by our waitress.
“Ohhhhhhh, this is a double daaaate,” a pang of understanding whacked me as I counted, one couple, two couples, and then me, the fifth wheel. Unfortunately it was too late to leave, for one, they were my ride.
I contemplated sidling out of my chair and hailing a taxi. But then I remembered I lived in West Texas, and I had a weekly budget of twenty dollars, which had just been capped on linguini and breadsticks.
Whatever comments I had been contributing to the conversation before my moment of realization, faltered, and I chose to sit in silent mortification and self punishment.
They wanted to go putt-putting, and I wanted to putt my peep-toe heels into the dumpster. They wanted ice cream cones, and I just wanted to not feel like I had a cone on my head.
When we finally arrived back on campus, the two pairs decided to watch a movie in the boys dorm and I decided to go crawl in a hole.
The girls asked me to carry back their left overs, across campus, and I did.
It was a painful moment. A lesson in social cues and invitation etiquette.
Humiliation is painful, but it is also instructive.
If i’m honest, I didn’t lack the knowledge of what I was walking into, but the maturity to be okay with not being invited. The courage to stay home.
There was an underlining self truth in that scenario I still struggle with today.
I want to be known.
I went on a date recently, one I was invited too, it was a single date. No other couple, I knew what I was getting into, even if I pretended it was just a friendly movie.
The moment he wrapped his forearm around my chin and began to massage my upper arm, I should have given him the slip and hailed a taxi. This time, I had the budget and the big city, but I wanted to know where it was going.
I wanted to be wanted in the way I was not years before, sitting on the end of the booth.
He paid. Pointing a thumb at his chest and then at mine, indicating to the ticket taker. He showed me attention and held my hand in the parking lot.
It felt good to be wanted, to be known.
After snuggly parking his car on my street and killing the engine, he grabbed my face and started kissing me. I was slightly startled but didn’t care enough to protest.
It felt good to be the one on the date, snuggling up in my “booth”, even if at my core I didn’t care who had my face in their hands.
In this case, it wasn’t the person but the sentiment in which I was interested.
He seemed desperate to get as much as he could before I was spooked, and admittedly my mind kept flipping back and forward. The passenger seat flew backwards and before I knew it, this situation was moving beyond takeout boxes and ice cream cones.
Eventually I managed to yank the door handle and slip out of the car, fleeing into the safety of my house.
I animately reported the story to my housemate, making sure to state my shock and innocence.
But I wasn’t that surprised, I knew what I was getting into, even if I couldn’t admit it, just as I had years before.
I wanted attention as long as I got to call the shots, I wanted to dress up and be admired, I just didn’t want to have to set a boundary.
Boundaries are statements, they are lines in the sand. And personally, I am afraid of drawing lines because I want there to be room to change my mind later.
I am afraid of declarative statements, of getting stuck in an Italian restaurant with no where to run.
I always want an out, in my job, in my relationships, in my faith.
This is a fine way to live, but nothing much gets accomplished. Somewhere along the way I have to find the courage to stay home. To be honest with myself about what I want, because if I don’t speak up, someone else will for me.