The Perils of Friendly Familiarity

Now I’m not much for dating. Shocking, I know, but my general disdain for most people tends to limit most of my options. Hell, I’ve got another blog entirely devoted to it. Now I could lament about a life of self-imposed loneliness, but what’s the use of that? Fact of the matter is, it’s gotten pretty comfortable. I like being self-sufficient. I like living on my own. I like the quiet that comes from the company of my dog and the occasional friendly exchange with the Chinese delivery guy. I’m sure some people could turn my J.D. Salinger-esque recluse lifestyle into a negative thing, but I’ve kinda gotten used to blending into the background and sticking to myself.

So this morning kinda took me by surprise. It was my usual morning of going to the nearby coffee shop to write, but this morning, I was awkwardly greeted by one of the other regulars. I’ve never been outwardly rude to any of them, but I’ve also never been overly loquacious; a couple of “hey, how’s it goin’?”s and a “nice to see you” or two, but I’ve never engaged too much. Still, there are a couple of regular fixtures (besides myself) at the coffee shop, so I always make it a point to be polite and exchange a pleasantry or two with them.

So this morning when one of the other regulars started talking to me, it was nothing extremely out of the ordinary. He’s always been a little more friendly than I am, but I’ve always taken it at face value and stuck to the “smile and nod” approach to social interaction. But this morning, it was a little awkward. his sentences, which were normally a jumble of words clumsily strung together, were even more rushed. Every so often, I’d catch him looking over at me.

Now, I’m not saying this because I think I’m God’s gift to mankind, but it’s a simple fact, the guy was staring. Eventually, he warmed up to the usual niceties and I thought nothing of it. It was only when he paused and said, “Ya know, I was wondering if you’d wanna go out sometime?”

I froze.

I don’t get asked out much. I’m not saying it as a matter of self-pity, it’s just a fact. The only occasion that’s more rare than me getting asked out has gotta be me saying yes.

Before I knew it, I was responding. Not with words… no, that would be too rational. My only reply was a slight chuckle. I was mortified. I’ve never been good with people expressing interest or paying me compliments or anything like that. Seriously, the first guy who told me he loved me got the sincere and heartfelt response of ‘… neat.”

I’m a laugher when it comes to uncomfortable situations so I don’t know why that instinctual response surprised me, but there it was.

Uncomfortable.

Unpleasant.

But undeniably there.

I think I pretty unconvincingly passed it off as a slight cough before saying something along the lines of, “Oh, well, I dunno…” Genius, right? But who are we kidding? The worst part isn’t that he asked me out. In fact, it was kinda sweet in an ‘oh God, no” sorta way. It isn’t that I laughed in his face… which I feel awful about. No, it’s the fact that he did it here. You know, the “here” that I come to every day. The “here” that we see each other at, just about everyday.

But you know what they say, when life gives you a bitter, unusable fruit, you try to make lemonade or whatever. So I’ve decided to turn this social faux pas into a learning experience. Now I could warn you about how laughing at someone may hurt their feelings… but that would imply some sort of social responsibility. Even worse, it would imply some sort of personal responsibility. No, instead what I’ve taken away from this whole ordeal is that this is what happens when you’re nice to people around you. I’m not saying all friendly people will eventually end up asking you out in one of the most awkward declarations of interest that mankind has ever seen, but if I can spare even one person of the awkwardness of that encounter, then I’ll have done a service to humankind.

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