Do Be Cruel

Do Be Cruel

Nick gives us more insight on his dating life, and what a lady should do to snag him.

Ladies, be mean to me.

I know it may seem counter-intuitive but trust me, ultimately, it's for the best.

I say this not out of any sort of wish-fulfillment sado-masochistic fantasy, though that would be nice and convenient given the history of my love life and its abuse.

Rather, I say this for clarity's sake. I'm like a puppy; kick me and I'll run away sadly, but pet me and I'll try to follow you home.

In high school, I longed after the same girl for years, the nicest girl in my grade -- though that wasn't much of a contest, at the school I went to. As I've mentioned before, in high school I was misanthropic, slouched over, and anti-social bordering on hostile, after the Pavlovian training of middle school instilled into me that none of these people were my friends.

This girl just had a "serial niceness" to her. None of these things could keep her away from talking to me, from seeming to show some genuine interest beyond the simple "How's the freak?" passes I'd get from my classmates. She'd even sometimes invite me to things on the weekends. No one did that. And in me, beyond all that self-loathing, it touched that part of me, that part of every errant high schooler, that still holds out and believes they can be loved, that morsel of self-respect, preserved.

And so I fell into a deep, unrequited love for this poor girl, whose intentions were noble, that lasted for several years throughout high school. I pined alone and sometimes with friends. I felt special when she talked to me. It made me want to burst. But I never acted on it, because I knew somewhere she couldn't be in to me. And she wasn't.

When we emerged from high school, during the winter break, we went to Serendipity together (her suggestion, not mine), and I told her walking back to her house, realizing I'd lost my sneaker in the thick blizzard snow and tension that "I lost my sneaker and I love you." I had to say it twice, both times with my sneaker aloft. And she told me she loved me like a brother -- when she heard me -- in as nice a way as she could. And in that moment in the snow after, I felt gloriously free, before I felt crappy. Because now I no longer had to follow her.

In college, the same thing. As a newly minted junior at NYU-Film, I had a sophomore black and white hit. The teachers would let me show it in the classes to pitch for assistants for my new movie, along with a rousing speech about my theory about working on films and not being exploited. A freshman girl came up to me afterward and told me how much she enjoyed my speech and my film. When I went with my producer that night to check the list of freshman who'd emailed the name I'd left on board, she had done so, but written me a letter deconstructing why she loved my movie.

Of course, this poor girl just loved my movie and thought I was cool. And she did assist on my film and nothing happened. But when she invited me to hang out in the days after we were done filming, I was smitten. She was a talented filmmaker, a smiler, a weirdo. I loved the films of hers she showed me and her passion for lesser-known works of the masters (though I didn't know why she'd often watch "New York, New York" in her dorm room and sing-along with friends). But I was done. For the next, six months or a year, I was there around her, seeing her, going out, seeing movies. In the beginning she even had a boyfriend, which should of dissuaded me, but that other thing in my brain told me "No, if she still wants to see you like this, there's gotta be something there." And there wasn't, of course, even when she broke up with her boyfriend. There was just a girl who liked my movie and liked me, just not in the way I wanted.

In my brief and mostly disastrous romantic experience, the girls who I have ended up doing something with are often the one's who aren't nice to me -- who don't seem interested at first, the one's whom I'm forced to talk to, or talk to by accident, or whom I'm too drunk to remember manners for. I may have pined over that girl in high school, but it was another girl who unsuspecting to me, stuck her tongue down my throat senior year on the sidewalk in front of the old Joe's.

I've become more aware of this dichotomy, this thing which could be boiled more easily down to the confidence or casualness that I often lose when talking to someone I have some feelings for. But all I can say in my defense, is that it's nice to feel that warm glow of "niceness" for that time. In improv terms, it's a big "yes, and" that unlocks you to be yourself. But ultimately, I prefer truth to beauty, or at least not to waste time. But that's the thing about being an insecure dog.

The other day, I was waiting for a friend to get out of class and feeling depressed by my lack of things planned on a Saturday (silly, but who I am). When I stopped by the training center and saw that my friend was still in class for a while, the girl in the office invited me to sit down and talk. She'd had a bad day and so had I, but she listened to how I felt about the different ways my life could go and how frightening I felt this age was, and she told me how she got there and encouraged me to find a community like the one she was in.

By the time, Teddy, my friend, got out of class he found us still talking in that office. And me, pretty thoroughly smitten. All that girl had to do was pat me on the head when I pouted, and I was ready to follow her and smile.

But as nice as that day was, it wasn't worth learning the subsequent lessons of the types of guys this girl actually is into, of seeing her go to other crowds, find a Brazilian or an Italian in a bar, while we played, comically, beer pong. Ultimately, it was just another situation I walked away from feeling I wasn't good enough.

In summation, I know how crazy this all is, the good intentions involved, the poor self-esteem resolving from my end. But if online dating has taught me anything, it's that it makes it a lot easier for ladies to express what they think of you, which is usually not enough to reply to a message or say hello. Which sucks and is difficult. But it's the sort of thing you get over and leave behind. A "strong decision," my teachers would call it. It's better for dumb guys like me, if you just make yourself clear, say you're married, say you're "busy till November," drop the word "boyfriend" into casual conversation. I'll get the point.

Otherwise, you'll just have me or someone like me, puppy-like, there, waiting to follow you, even knowing he might get kicked.

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