Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ring My Bell

I had a few moments (okay, hours) of obsessive self-doubt this week, during which I became convinced that I would never hear from my Brazilian beau again. This despite the fact that he told me that he wants to help me trim Green Bean's wings next time he needs clipping, go for a picnic when it gets a little warmer, do some experiments to determine why my car keeps growing a pond in the backseat, and has sent me several text messages since I last saw him. AND I'm not even sure if I like like him yet, and we've only gone out three times. To help me through this obsessive moment, I turned to several girlfriends, who assured me that everything will be fine one way or the other, and I need to lighten up; which of course I knew already, but still it helps to hear it from a friend.

One of my dating gurus, Li'l JC, had an additional piece of advice. She objected to my preferred mode of communication, the text message, and told me (or rather her handsome new boyfriend told me, through her) to “nut up and call him.”

To say that I am allergic to phone calls is to put it mildly. I frequently daydream of throwing my cell phone into a body of water, possibly the pond in my car since it's so conveniently nearby, especially when it is ringing. It is not unusual for me to notice with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I have sixteen voicemail messages that have piled up, or more. I would rather send an e-mail than make a phone call, rather receive a text message than listen to a voicemail. Besides, it can be stressful for people whose first language is not English to talk on the phone in English, as I well know from many experiences on the other side of the fence. (My new squeeze's English is astonishingly good, maybe even better than mine; still, his accent makes mundane statements like “I have to go to the bathroom. Be right back,” sound impossibly romantic.)

The strange terror that filled me at the thought of picking up my phone and calling the boy who 48 hours before I was comfortably recounting my life story to hearkened back to an earlier moment of receiving romantic advice, nearly 20 years ago. I was eleven years old and in the fifth grade, and my dream had come true: my crush of the past six years had asked me, through a friend, to be his girlfriend (it was the old-school form of a text message). I had been in love with him since I first spotted him in soccer practice at age five, and had remained in the thrall of his black eyes, full lips and bad-boy reputation ever since. I raced home, eager to share the thrilling news with my sister. I could hardly believe this was really happening to me, and I thought that my whole life, from that point forward, was sure to be changed forever.

My sister was exuberant when I told her, but then gave me the advice: “If you want to have an open, communicative relationship, you have to call him and tell him you accept in person,” she counseled. I have no idea where my sister got this misplaced, weirdly precocious wisdom from; it would have been great advice if only I had been a college student instead of an elementary schooler. However, she was my big sister, and even though I would have preferred to jump into the ocean in mid-February than call him to accept his offer, I knew I had to follow it. After all, didn't I want an open, communicative relationship, fifth grade-style?

So I called and did the deed, and it was one of the most awkward conversations of my life. “Umm, hi, T? This is Heathen. So, I heard you wanted to go out with me? Well, yeah, that would be fine. Okay, bye.” It wasn't exactly an auspicious beginning for a healthy, communicative relationship. I can't recall exactly how long the relationship lasted, if it was two weeks or three, but I do recall that we did not speak for the duration of it, except once when it was my day to collect hot lunch tickets; when T got to the front of the line we mumbled “hi” to each other while studiously avoiding each others' gazes. After a few days of this torture, T's friend called me to break things off. No, he didn't even have the decency to call me himself to break up.

Well, sorry Li'l JC, but I have decided to disregard your advice. You can blame my sister. It's possible that my new love interest will become the most recent victim of the Disappearing Man Syndrome, but in the meantime, I'm working on diversifying my assets so I won't mind as much.

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