Most of us have played the Dating Game, which is really more of a marathon with rules and uniforms and referees (yeah, I'm mixing sports metaphors, bear with me). You know this game - it's the one that goes, "Well, I want you to know that I like you, but only if you like me back, because if you don't, then I don't want you to know that I like you." And because of this rule, fear, whatever you want to call it, we do things like call and hang up, text and pretend it was on accident, flirt with them, but not too obviously, et cetera. When we like someone, we're consumed with the fear that they'll find us out, and at the same time, consumed with the fear that they won't. And if they do find us out, and don't return the feeling (which happens most of the time), we're completely and totally mortified, as if by our liking them we are issuing a grave and unforgivable insult:
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe I've told you that you're so wonderful you've caught my attention. I'm sorry to have made you feel so special by my innocent, heartfelt confession! You must feel terrible that you're so awesome people like you!" I mean, really?
I was talking to a friend the other day about this, saying to her how frustrating this whole game is. We both shared how foolish we have felt in the past for liking someone that may or may not return the favor. But shouldn't we be proud of our declarations? Are we really so self-loathing that we think it an insult to say we (who are wonderful just as we are) like someone? Shouldn't that person be honored by such a confession? But no, it doesn't work that. We're too scared, self-conscious, defensive or some other paralyzing excuse. Instead of being true to our feelings, we bury them so deep that not even a bit too much alcohol can pry the secret loose. We hold the feelings close to our heart, praying that if the person returns the favor, they will somehow find the courage to be honest with us... in the same way we wish we had the courage to be honest with them. But if our confessions never come out, if that person never pursues us, what then? Then the regret starts to seep in, nice and slow, pulling a couple dozen "What if's" behind it.
So why can't we just be honest with each other? Why can't we tell the truth, get our feelings out, be confident and see what happens? Because that would be breaking the rules. And what happens to rule breakers? They get disqualified. Or more realistically, we have a reeeally awkward moment with the person in question, and if that person happens to be a friend, then there are all kinds of continued awkward scenarios to be had if you stay friends. And so instead, we lie, or at least conceal the truth until we do one of three things:
1. Give up.
2. Find courage and fess up (perhaps motivated by the possibility that the love of a lifetime may be lost if you remain silent).
3. Combine 1 and 2, or create some other personal strategy that somehow gets the two of you to come together naturally.
And those that get to number 3, are truly blessed indeed.
How do relationships even begin? I can't remember. All I know is that they must begin out of awkwardness, nerves and disbelief. All I know is that I will continue to play the game, will continue to play by the rules, and will probably be grateful to all the men who let me down by lying.
"So lie to me once again
And tell me everything will be alright.
It's the same old story."
- 12 Stones