I could win an award for walking around New York with resting bitch face. So last summer, when an attractive gentleman came up to me on the corner of West 33rd and 6th asking where I got the Starbucks cup I was holding — well, really asking where I got the cup and what was inside of it — I was shocked. Could I, a 5-foot-4 Godzilla wearing leather boots in the city heat blasting acoustic Nirvana through my cheap earbuds, be so approachable? I knew he was hitting on me because there’s a Starbucks on every block in Midtown Manhattan and he didn’t give off touristy vibes. If I was holding a Mason jar with a blended green concoction inside, I would have understood his inquiry. But I was holding the symbol for commercial America in my right hand and my iPhone in my left, so it seemed to be that it had to be true — he was interested. I pulled out my earbuds, and told him I got my iced coffee on 27th, but there was another Starbucks just a block thataway.
Before I walked back into the 5:06pm rush, he pivoted a step in my direction. “I know this sounds crazy, but is there any chance you want to get dinner with me tonight?” I had dinner plans with the person I was seeing at the time, so I politely declined his offer and told him I was booked. “Well, can I have your number, then?” I had no intentions of hooking up with him, but without a second thought, and actually without a first thought, too, I gave the guy my digits.
I walked away feeling exhilarated. It was one of the things that only happens in movies or happens to people with Cara Delevigne eyebrows. It wasn’t that I was going to pursue it, and I didn’t even think or know if he would text me. It served as a late-afternoon espresso shot of ego boost.
A few hours later, I get a text. “Hey, it’s blahblahblah. Are you around to grab a drink tomorrow?” I never answered. I didn’t want to for various reasons: I had a boyfriend and I didn’t know anything about this person. We’re so used to meeting people through mutual friends on Facebook, or mutual friends from school, or from family friends, or from summer camp ten years ago that we’ve never learned how to court and be courted by people we don’t know. It seems scary and dangerous to me to be alone with someone who I have no mutual friends with — on Facebook and in real life. But back in the day, I guess that’s how things worked.
Like the good nerd I am, I told my parents about my Sex and the City moment and the text that followed. They weren’t proud of me, nor did they praise me for my eyebrows. They each broke out into seizure, explaining that now I was surely doomed for this person would surely find my longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates now that he had my cell phone number, and I was surely going to be stalked and kidnapped and murdered.
“Do you know how powerful technology is today?!?!?!?” my dad yelled. Yes, Dad, I know about technology.
The thing is, though, that they were right. But when you meet someone random and decide you want to meet them again, how else are you supposed to go about it? There’s no time to stop and pause for a quick Google search and background check when you’re standing in the vortex that is Midtown.
Two months later, I was walking in Providence when a man — five years too old for me, walking three dogs on leashes — walked up to me while I was on my way to the gym. “I know this sounds crazy,” he said, “but you’re one of the cutest girls I’ve ever seen and I was wondering if I could have your number.” More abrupt and less attractive than the last. I froze with Mom and Dad’s wishes in mind. How are you supposed to tell someone that you don’t want them to have your number? Do you say no and walk away?
Well, I did. Or I guess I kind of did. Three male friends of mine who I didn’t see standing across the street saw me from the distance, sensed my discomfort, and called me over. My response to this strange pursuer ended up along the lines of: [To friends] “Hey guys!!!!!!!!!!!” [To strange man] “Sorry, I’ve gotta go!” And I ran away before he could get in another word.
I felt like an asshole. When I told my best friend the story, she confirmed that, yes, I was an asshole.
But if you don’t want to say no, and you don’t want to say yes, what do you say?
Looking for suggestions to answer the question, “Can I have yo numba?” in sticky situations. However, the likelihood of this ever happening again is slim. Love at first sight tends to be a twice in a lifetime thing. So take your time with getting back to me — I doubt I’ll ever need the advice, anyway.
Everyone shacks up in the winter. Those single ladies? That girl whose milkshake brought all the boys to the yard? They’ve put flash-tats on their ring fingers.
Now, you’re the only one who finds the chemical radiation from her laptop warmer than a big spoon with five o’clock shadow. Your girlfriends who used to be your girlfriends are now somebody else’s. Your Snapchat-ready sister wives relationship could only last so long. Winter is coming, so she decided that it was time she did, too.
Suddenly, you’re left in the dark. And don’t forget that we have three less hours of sunlight than we’d like to. The dark lasts a long time.
The problem with winter-ships isn’t that our friends get a quarterly boyfriend. It isn’t that this quarterly boyfriend becomes the priority. It’s the how and why girls think it’s okay to do it like that.
Putting your boyfriend first is as passive aggressive as “k.”: You schedule your plans with him first and then fit your friends in wherever it’s most convenient afterwards. You don’t commit to anything until you weigh your social options in case his is better. If nothing is going on, you’d rather do nothing with him than with your friends. The second your friends’ plans fall through, you’ve already sent an emoji his way. Do you need to print something? Does he have a printer? Then you’ll ask to use his, right?
I know I’ve hit the nail on the head because I’m retracing my own methodological thoughts from years passed. In other words, I’m not denying it, so you can’t either. I’ve told you before, girls are insane. Our brains work in mysterious ways. We aren’t that evil, though, because none of this is a conscious stream of thought. It isn’t that we don’t love our friends, it isn’t that we’d rather SoulCycle with him, it isn’t that he’s more fun to talk about pooping with. It’s just that it “happens.” It’s convenient for it to, and it’s easy.
We aren’t trying to be shitty and manipulative. But we still are!
Girls put their boyfriends first because they can always grab lunch with a girlfriend. Grabbing lunch is a metaphor for like, everything: all cuisines, juice bars included, all time spent together, every bagel, every coffee run, every toenail painted, every hair given the deuces at your shared bikini-waxings. While still retracing my old trains of thought, I can tell you I’ve also hit this nail right back on the head — they tell me I’m great with a hammer these days.
No matter how much your relationship feels like a room without a roof, there is a laden, looming ephemerality. If you’ve always been wondering why Allie and Noah lay in the middle of the street for ten minutes, it’s precisely because of this. You do everything because you never know how much time you have. This is why he comes first. Because he’s not permanent, but ~sisterhood~ is.
This is just as unconscious as our friend manipulation. We don’t all think we’re going to break up with our boyfriends. A lot of girls don’t, actually, and that’s the magic of a relationship: if it’s so good, you don’t even really imagine the end because you don’t see why there would be one. However, clinginess comes from being afraid that if you let go of whatever you’re holding on to, it’s gonna fly away and give you the deuces just like that waxed bikini line. Bye, Felicia. (That’s what the kids are saying these days, right?)
What makes us think that our friends are going to be permanent no matter how much we forget about them between daylight savings times? Is it that we’re so used to being heartbroken, post-breakup, with a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie in one hand and your BFF’s hand in the other?
I don’t have a seasonal allergy to oxytocin. I am oxytocin. But have we been shitty friends to each other for so long that we’re accustomed to being the lone front wheel on the tricyle? Is that why we’re not only willing to hold the hand covered in melted ice cream and salty tears, but we showed up with the ice cream in ten minutes or less?
Or maybe it’s just that we’re so used to boys being shitty to us that they’re inherently temporary:
-She’s dating Liam now. I think it’s going to be more like her vegan phase than her gluten-free one.
-Oh, cool, so like two months and then epic mental degradation and anemia?
This could be a “Cut her some slack, she’s shacking up for winter” sitch, or it could be a “Girl World is an animal kingdom” sitch.
All I know is that I’m going into hibernation.
“No. No. Hannah, you can do so much better than him.” It’s an iMessage response we’ve all gotten before. You talk to a guy who’s familiar — you kinda know him, or you know of him — and you text your friend in search of approval before putting in the mental energy it requires to flirt for the rest of the night. All is takes are those two letters us stubborn girls are all too familiar with, the N and the O, to make you run for the hills.
But waaaaait…!!!! I really liked him. I really liked our conversation. I really liked that immediately after introducing himself to me, he asked if I was Jewish. And I really liked that he tried to play it off like he was kidding, but he obviously wasn’t. I really liked the chemistry. But then I received a text that shattered my dreams of Friday night Shabbat dinners and romantic debates about the pervasiveness of normcore. This is when we become un-attracted and uncomfortable. So I, and you, and every other girl who’s ever experienced the “You can do so much better” reply, went from sweetheart to psycho in a matter of seconds. He gets the picture, walks away, and we — you and I — are both standing alone, wondering if being alone and not not doing good enough is better than being happy and not “doing better.”
When you get the “You can do so much better” reply, you lose control of your own libido. Even if you want to keep liking someone, or if you did a minute ago, you won’t like him nearly as much anymore. The reverberating voice of your suddenly authoritative BFF sits like a Quest Protein chip on your shoulder. Even if you want to keep liking him, you find all of his flaws. Or you do whatever you psycho girls do to convince yourself that you knew he wasn’t good enough in the first place. (On the inside, though, you look like a depressed emoji.)
Let’s think about what “You can do so much better” really means. Well, first, it means that your friend thinks you can do so much better. Secondly, it means one of two things: that your friend thinks you have poor taste when the guy you’re actually interested in doesn’t meet your socially assigned standards, or that the guys who go after you aren’t good enough — as in, there are other, better guys out there, but they just aren’t the ones who are openly interested.
So when you tell me that I “can do so much better,” do you think I have low self-respect? That I’m insecure because my standards are too low? That I have poor taste? Does that make me a bad lady? Do you also think I’m the kind of person who makes piles of her gum wrappers on the Starbucks communal table instead of throwing them away? You must assume that I go commando under jeans and opt for the sweetened coconut flakes rather than the unsweetened ones on top of my fro-yo too, right? I must defend myself in that I do always go for the unsweetened flakes and I’m not insecure. In terms of the rest — you got me.
And on what articles of judgment can one friend tell another that she can do better? Attractiveness is the most explicit category, of course, but past that, how do we determine if someone if good enough for us? Maybe the friend asks herself if she would hook up with the suitor herself. If we wouldn’t, and we tell our friend that she can do better, then we are good friends. If we wouldn’t, and we don’t tell our friend that she can do better, then we are bad friends. If we would, and we tell our friend that she can do better, then I don’t even know. Then we need to go to therapy, or something.
I don’t know what would make me a more inferior person — if I only pursued guys whom my friends insisted I could do better than, or if I never trusted my instincts and listened to my friends. Luckily, my friends never really say this to me. We very rarely say it to each other, which could influence my indecisiveness about how kosher the “You can do so much better” reply is.
It could, actually, be very likely that if one of us finds herself in a situation where someone needs to tell her that she can do so much better, and no one tells her, she’ll one day wish that someone did. But she might be the only one who has the authority to realize that, and she won’t realize it until after the fact.
My advice? Do what makes you happy. Also make wise decisions with the recognition that drunk goggles are a very real thing. Then, you’ll be set.