“I hate to tell you this.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that phrase but I think I could go the rest of my life without hearing it again and not feel like I’ve lost out on anything.
As hard as it is to hear I have to admit that it’s rarely been a surprise. By the time I go to the doctor I’m already bracing myself for the worst. Whenever I hear it in a relationship I’m usually aware that I’ve been on borrowed time for a while. You know how excited you get when you wake up and smell bacon cooking? Sometimes I wake up and smell the Bacon of Breakup. I’m not kidding. I can smell a breakup that’s about to happen. I don’t know exactly what it smells like but it’s not bacon. The other day I saw a guy try to high five his girlfriend and she walked right past him. That’s what breakup smells like.
Anyway, the most awkward moments for me are not when I’m being dumped, it’s when I’m trying to tell a woman how I feel about her. It’s the “I love you” moment. Or the “So, you know I have a crush on you” moment. I think I have a special talent for choosing the wrong person to fall for.
Once I was sitting on a bench with a lady I had a crush on and as we were looking across the water I said, “You know I’m kinda sweet on you.” Without even looking at me she said, “Why don’t those condos have windows on the side facing the bay? Who wants to look out over an ugly parking lot?” I don’t think she was purposely comparing me to a parking lot but it did sort of create that impression.
Another time a woman I was head over heels for wrote to ask if I’d like to get a house and be roommates with her. I couldn’t say no fast enough. I said, “Look, if we were roommates I would spend every waking moment trying to charm the pants off you. I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. I mean literally charm the pants off you.” In my head, this was the best way to say I had a huge crush on her. To her credit, she matched my glancing heartfelt confession with an admission of platonic misdirection. She sent back emoticons of three baby chickens and a puppy gif.
You can never tell how these hard talks are going to be received. Honesty is scary. And it’s not always rewarded in the way you want. I was going to write this month’s story about the time a doctor told me my mom had cancer but I don’t have the emotional energy to dig that one up. Then I thought I’d talk about the time I had to call my dad and tell him I got someone pregnant. There’s a big difference between calling your dad to tell me he’s going to be grandparent and calling your dad to tell him you got a girl pregnant. It was a hard call but it was met on my dad’s end with surprising grace. I don’t have the energy to tell that story either, though.
Tonight I want to go to bed thinking about the times I put my heart on the line and told someone how much I cared about them. Every time I’ve done that it’s paid off. Not always in the way I wanted but it was always good in the end. The lady on the bench who got nervous when I said I liked her? A few years ago, in the depths of the worst depression in my life, she and my buddy Mark came over and gave me the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. The woman who sent me three chickens and puppy gif? I saw her the other day. She’s as beautiful as ever and we still get together as often as we can. She didn’t run from being my friend and I never treated her any different because that’s all she wanted to be.
I’m grateful to all the people who let me start an awkward conversation and to all the people who had to start one with me. It means a lot that you trusted me enough to say what you had to say even if you knew I wasn’t going to take it well at the time.
And that’s the kind of story we’re hoping you bring to the next FGS, Thursday, December 10 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.
The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.
Remember to keep it clean and under 8 minutes.
I hope to see you there.