Subtitle: Why Everyone Needs Mail Goggles
Once upon a time, I was a senior in college who did not understand how relationships worked. I had been led to believe that if I prayed hard enough and followed enough rules, God the great cosmic vending machine would dispense the perfect husband whom I would recognize as my soul mate on our very first date which would also be the first and only date I ever went on because technically we would be courting, not dating.
SHOCKINGLY, this is not how life worked out. I must not have prayed hard enough/made too many of my own decisions.
I had broken up with my first boyfriend and I wasn’t sure what to do next since life was not following the script I had been given. Honestly I was probably still praying for him to come back (even though I had done the breakupping) and change his mind about the things we’d broken up over (because changing yourself for a romantic partner is ALWAYS A GOOD HEALTHY IDEA JENNIFER). At the same time I was rampaging around Match.com, vaguebooking about it to irritate my ex, and getting in cars with strangers because I didn’t have a car on campus. (Remember, I did not understand how relationships or, like, common sense really worked.)
At the end of senior year, my mother (presumably concerned that I was graduating with no mate in sight) asked if I would consent to being introduced to the son of a friend of a friend. JUST INTRODUCED.
“Well…what kind of person is this?”
“Oh, he’s a MEDICAL STUDENT! He’s going to be a RADIOLOGIST!” (I think my mom dreamed of me marrying a doctor, after I unequivocally dashed her hopes of becoming one myself in order to dispense free prescriptions and medical advice to my family. And technically I did marry a doctor, but…not that kind of doctor.)
“Do you know anything else about him?”
“Oh, he is a good Christian. And he’s very tall!”
WELL SIGN ME UP THEN.
At this point, I really should have listened to my intuition which was bellowing that “tall Christian” was not sufficient criteria for a life partner. I was already feeling like the losing team of a dating dodgeball game and I really just didn’t want to date, much less be fixed up by my parents. But I (half-)convinced myself that this was the right thing to do to get back in God’s good graces relationshipwise. Didn’t the Bible instruct us to honor our parents? Who could understand me better than my parents? (As it turns out, due to cultural and personality differences…lots of people, actually. This really should have occurred to me given the way I grew up, but I’m nothing if not good at ignoring years of personal experience in the name of FOLLOWING THE PATH.) Surely this was the road to nuptial bliss, though oddly enough, no one ever talked about what happened after the wedding. It must be smooth sailing after you just land the husband, of course.
Anyway, I grudgingly agreed to an introduction, only to be ambushed by the announcement that my mother had arranged for me and my brother to accompany her and several other church families including that of the eligible bachelor to a Mother’s Day luncheon. I promptly got hit by a car to avoid this fate. (I am not kidding.) After recovering from my bike crash, I received an email from my mother indicating that my contact information had been given to Doctorman and to expect communication shortly. Have I mentioned that apparently all the parental machinations between my mom, her friend, and her friend’s friend whose son I was supposed to marry occurred via email? Well, it did.
The next day, I received the following email.
How’s it going? Someone is trying to arrange for us to meet! My mom had told me a lot of nice things about you, including that you are a very active Christian, 6 feet tall, and very smart. I’m only mildly smart, but I am pretty tall and also an active Christian. I tell my coworkers that I’m a religious fanatic. I think hyperbole helps to break the ice sometimes.
So, I’m sorry for not calling you… I have a cold, and my voice is not working well. I do have an excellent plan, however. Have you seen the Expelled movie? Do you want to go see it Wednesday night at 8pm at Hitchcock Hall? Our mutual friend facebook friend ________ is recruiting people to go. We could meet earlier to talk and get acquainted before the movie. I think it’s a brilliant idea on many levels. What do you think?
Also, please be my facebook friend.
Attached to this message was a chain of parental machinations that concluded with the line, “I believe things are going the right direction now. Please see the forwarded message.” …written by some friend of my mom’s who was not a parent of any of the parties involved.
I promptly forwarded this to my best friend and partner in snark with a declaration that I was going to jump off a cliff. And then a slightly calmer bit about how I really really didn’t think I was ready to try a relationship yet.
But wait. There’s more.
The next day, I was being a good attentive student and checking my email during class. I used the Thunderbird mail client at the time, which I only remember because web-based Gmail doesn’t have the icons I’m about to describe which are burned so irrevocably in my memory. As I looked through my past messages, I saw the little envelope from Doctorman with a green left-facing arrow on it.
Why is that arrow green? I thought the Forward arrow was blue. And facing right.
[opens message recipient details]
Yup. Instead of Forward, I had hit Reply.
For the second time in my theretofore 22 years of living, I literally wanted nothing more than to leave the country or evaporate or just otherwise stop existing. (Maybe I will write about the first time someday. Or maybe not.) And I had to sit through the rest of my 138-minute Broadway musicals class (it was last quarter senior year, finally time for a fluff schedule!) with a straight face because I couldn’t very well skip class because I was totally mortified, could I?
Upon discovering my gaffe, I wrote a sincere (but, looking back, mildly nauseating in its desperation to make this person that I didn’t even know think better of me) apology, expecting at worst a stony silence and at best a slightly ignominious end to this whole ridiculous encounter.
Here’s what I got instead:
Hee hee hee… great email. You know, I am going to file this away and use this tactic if I ever need to push back a girl who’s showing too much interest 😀 Apparently it doesn’t work on me though. Maybe I’ll give you a call once I get over my laryngitis. I appreciate your honesty. Peace!
I probably should have been flattered. But I really just wanted the whole thing to be over. Did I decisively reply thanks, but no thanks, nothing personal, have a nice life?
I felt like I owed him a chance, particularly after being so unnecessarily rude. (With 8 more years of life and relationship experience under my belt now, I’m gonna rule that no, I didn’t owe him anything.) I also thought I had to do what my mother/his mother/random other lady who got involved expected of me. In what might have been the only relationship conversation we’ve ever had, I talked to my dad about it while he was traveling, and he told me that I wasn’t obligated to do anything I didn’t want to. I should have listened. A big part of the problem was that I didn’t really know what I wanted or needed in a partner or relationship because I didn’t really know enough about myself at that point. (That’s another post or fifteen.) So I slogged on, trying to do what I thought was right, or at least nice. I wasn’t terribly optimistic given the awkwardness of the first email, but maybe I would learn to laugh about it? Heh? Wouldn’t that be a funny meetcute someday? Heh? Heh? Heh? (I think at this point my intuition simply gave up trying to get my attention and was sitting sullenly in the corner filing her nails down to sharp points.)
I kept dodging Doctorman’s suggestions for group dates (Jesus, does anyone actually do that outside of movies and youth group dating handbooks?) and free campus events for another month before finally meeting him face to face at a group picnic for an international student ministry we both happened to volunteer with. Unsurprisingly, the awkwardness demonstrated in our electronic correspondence continued fully unabated in person. I believe his opening line was, “Hi, do you know who I am?” as he handed me a pot of rice.
Eventually, I found my big girl panties and told him I wasn’t interested. Of course, my not-so-inner approval seeker had to throw in some “Jesus says I shouldn’t date anyone” fluff to try and cushion the blow/dodge responsibility for my own choices, but at least I finally spoke my mind. Doctorman took it quite well and apparently met and married his wife not long after this whole fiasco, so good for him. I was a much slower learner, but that’s a saga for another time.
The moral of the story is, listen to your gut. I was so eager to please everyone except myself, and my intuition rebelled. Did I mean to click Reply instead of Forward? I promise I didn’t…but subconsciously I probably wanted to torpedo the whole thing as quickly as possible even if it meant blowing up my dignity in the process. I have a sometimes frustrating but generally useful inability to hide anything for long; the truth always will out, and the more I try to bury it, the more spectacularly/embarrassingly it will try to make its way to the surface. So I’ve learned to just say things. (I’ve also had to learn when to not say things, but in all things balance, right?)
The other moral is to always look over your email recipients before you hit Send. And to not allow dating introductions via email. (The irony, of course, is that I met Science Guy through online dating.)