You know the old saw: sometimes you get the elevator, sometimes you get Shaft.
Shaft seemed great on Tinder–funny, smart, attractive in an accessible way. He played guitar in a band, he liked my sassy mouth, and he owned his baldness in his profile pictures. All in all, I was psyched to meet him… not so much because he was relationship material (which I would not recognize if it bit me on the leg), but because I figured he would be fun. New people, new adventures, a reason to put on big-girl clothes and leave the house. I count those as successful relationships too!
We made a plan to meet for dinner in his neighborhood a few days hence. I had bronchitis, though, and was feeling pretty bad as I was getting ready for the date. Just taking a shower had exhausted me. How was I ever going to get myself together, drive to the train, ride the train, walk to the restaurant, be all sparkly for dinner, and then make the long trek home? As I was drip-drying on the toilet trying to muster the strength to straighten my hair (that ship has now sailed), he texted.
“I’m not feeling well,” he wrote. “Can we reschedule?”
Periodically I would cough so hard I would pee myself, which really puts a crimp in your date-night underwear options. I realized that rescheduling was probably best for me too. Plus, I thought he meant it.
I’ve mentioned that I’m pretty dumb about dating. In fact, I’m pretty dumb about people in general, because my cabbage-headed, Midwestern sincerity means that I take it for granted that people are telling me the truth. Turns out, people lie all the time! Despite my hard-nosed cynicism in other areas, this still catches me by surprise.
I took Shaft at his word that he was sick, because, Hey! I was sick. It happens. If he didn’t want to meet me, he would just find a nice way to say that, right?
With that sad set of assumptions in mind, I reached out a week later and suggested we try again. I was going to be in the city near his work getting my ‘do done. Maybe we could meet for lunch? He wrote back enthusiastically that he was game for meeting me. I took that to mean, “I would like to meet you.” I left the house correct: ass jeans, no food stains on my sweater, full yet light makeup, and shitty hair–because soon it was going to be Salon Hair. It was on.
While I was sitting in my stylist’s chair, less than an hour from date-time, Shaft texted to tell me that he had to cancel…
Because he had dropped his wallet down an elevator shaft.
“Gee, that sucks,” I thought, as I texted him with sincere concern.
“God this woman is dumb,” he thought, as he deflected me once again.
He said he didn’t have any means of paying for lunch.
I said it didn’t matter, I’d be happy to spot him.
He said he didn’t want to be “vexed” (full disclosure: I still like that he used that word!) and ruin our date. So he just cancelled it forever instead.
Part of me knew he didn’t want to meet me. But the hopeful part of me would not be silenced. For all the sturm und drang surrounding my fraught relationships, my low self-esteem, and my professional dissatisfaction, I am at times a ridiculously optimistic person. Hope rises in me like a buoy, ever springing back to the surface no matter how hard life tries to push it down. And when my dark humors seek to drown it–you will look foolish, you will be hurt, just let it go–I settle the debate with this:
I have to do me.
And doing me means erring on the side of other people’s sincerity and decency. Someday this annoying tendency is going to pay off.
Someday! But not that particular day.
I wrote Shaft a day or two later, asking whether the wallet ever turned up. I have a hard time crawling into the mind of person who can’t muster a simple sentence like, “You seem like a lovely woman, but I’m not interested in meeting you after all” to extricate himself from an unwanted engagement. What was he thinking when I wrote to him yet again? If I were such a person, someone incapable of being forthright, whose default mode is to dissemble, and who lacks the moral courage to be unliked–even by someone he never planned to see again–I might think that this lady asking about my lost wallet was trolling me.
She wasn’t. Part of me really thought, “Maybe it turned up, and we can go out now.”
He never wrote back.