I never dated in high school. I’m not sharing this to receive pity, not having a significant other in high school was mostly a personal choice. I say ‘mostly’ because I could have dated—there were people who expressed interest in one way or another. However, as anyone from a small town can tell you, the dating pool is painfully small and your friends have probably already dated any person you’re interested in. With these circumstances, the easiest choice for me was to remain single and to take my sister to my senior prom.
I never thought I was missing out on anything. My friends had boyfriend problems ranging from petty to scary to violent. Not having a significant other put me in the best place possible. I learned the lessons and red-flags of dating without actually having to deal with any of them first-hand. Without my own boy drama, I got to focus on school, giving me a 4.0, and spend time with the friends I would leave behind when I left for college. Not to mention I avoided heart break.
I eventually had my first boyfriend. It was the summer after I graduated high school and I had fun. I had my first kiss and I had my first break up. I was feeling like more of a relationship goddess than ever. That was before I went to college and was thrown into uncharted waters: a giant dating pool with no friends to warn you about the dangers of cute 20-year-old philosophy majors.
Before I jump into my naïve misfortune, I want to establish a code name for my knight in shining Vans. In an effort to protect his identity, I will refer to him as Socrates from here on out.
Now, without further ado:
The Tale of a Freshman and Socrates
Socrates and I met during improv tryouts. He asked to do a scene together and after that, he asked for my number. I felt over the moon flattered and we started hanging out often. I went with him to grocery shop, the library, and even the laundromat. At the time, I didn’t realize that we were only doing things that were convenient for him. I was falling into a pattern of saying yes to whatever he asked to do and letting him take charge of the power dynamic of our relationship and, ultimately, my trust. Freshman year me thought I was just being chill and spontaneous, when in reality I was letting myself be lead around by a guy with a cracked phone screen.
When Socrates asked if I wanted to come over to his apartment to watch TV after a group hang-out, I didn’t even register the 25-minute walk to his place or the directions it took to get there. Aptly, I gathered my stuff and went on my way.
Lesson one: if a guy gets rid of everyone else you are hanging out with, definitely don’t blindly follow him to his home. Especially if you are in a town you don’t know very well.
Even with my small-town trusting nature, I had a few alarms going off in my head. Here is where I can give myself a little credit. Before we started walking to his apartment, I made sure to insert that if I came over I didn’t want to stay all night and asked if he would give me a ride home. Socrates, in all his wisdom, assured me that he would.
Lesson two: even Socrates lies.
After watching one episode of an obscure Netflix show, Socrates was drifting off to sleep. The clock ticked past 11, so I assumed the night was naturally wrapping up. I sat propped up on my arm in his bed, which was just a mattress on the ground, as he dozed. I was waiting for the end of the episode and for him to get up. This gave me time to openly look around and take stock of his room. There were a cluster of empty Perrier sparkling water bottles on his desk and at least three anime posters that acted as his room’s décor.
I didn’t feel worried until the episode ended and the next started. I didn’t get uncomfortable until the next episode came and went. Still no movement from Socrates. My wrist was aching from staying propped up for so long and my eyes were starting to droop. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t just shake him awake and ask him to take me home. I don’t think I felt ready to admit that something was wrong and that as long as I just waited he would come around and prove that I was not foolish to trust him.
Also, my Midwestern upbringing taught me to not solve problems with confrontation. In my experience, people thought of others. All it should take is a passive aggressive signal to make people realize they are in the wrong. To me, torturing myself by not laying down with Socrates was a clear and obvious sign that I didn’t want to be there and that he needed to adjust his behavior.
Lesson three: not everyone speaks passive aggressive or even cares to try reading how you feel.
Another 20 some minutes passed before he shifted, but this time he just turned off the TV because it made it hard for him to sleep. I laughed, for some reason. Probably from my need to remain more passive than aggressive. Before I could think of anything, he began slinking back down into his blankets. “Hey,” I said in a somewhat light tone, interrupting his slink. “When are you going to drive me home?” He didn’t even lift his head to respond. “I work in the morning and just needs two hours of sleep.” He sets an alarm for two hours and he settles in.
I’m still in shock by this dismissive response when he reaches behind himself for my arm and pulls it around him, making him the little spoon and me the big idiot. I have exactly two hours to think about how much of a spineless fool I am. How did I, a relationship expert, fall into this trap?
Lesson four: thinking you know everything can bring a false sense of security. More importantly, you do not know everything as a freshman in college.
When his alarm goes off, I calmly watch him switch it off and groan. I sit up and he mutters something and pulls me onto him, pleading to me that staying in bed is so much nicer than getting up. I hated that in that moment, part of me wanted to stay in bed with him. It would have been so easy to just fall asleep. But I was done with doing what was easy. I untangled myself from him and said, “How important is sleeping to you.” He looked confused by this sudden change in my mood, but answered, “Very.”
“Okay, seems like a lovely night for a walk.” As I spoke, I slid on my shoes and walked out of his room. I was at his front door when I heard his voice behind me. I looked at him as he dramatically dragged his feet toward me. It was validating to see him finally coming around. That was until he said, “I have to lock the door behind you.”
Lesson five: just get mad already, girl.
I tore open the door and headed out into the dark and unfamiliar street. I heard him again behind me, “Wait, are you mad?” In any other context, he looked very innocent standing in the doorway. His hair was messy, his eyes were sleepy and he was wrapped in a soft blanket. I didn’t know where I was and here was a soft looking boy offering me not only a place to stay, but maybe even a relationship. I looked him in the face and said, “Yeah, I’m mad”, and I stormed off into the dark.
Call me Plato, because I had learned a few things from my time with Socrates.
The high of anger started to wear off a block later. Now lost, I pulled out my phone to open my map and saw that it was past four in the morning. I stood alone at four in the morning in unknown territory filled with a mixture of regained independence and insurmountable disappointment in boys.
I noticed then that my inbox had a message. Being that it was the infamous fall of 2016, I opened it to see that it was an Emergency Message from my University stating: “Warning: Reports of persons dressed as clowns in Downtown area, stay alert.”
Last but Not Least
The warning signs are almost always there, especially when it comes to killer clowns and self-absorbed philosophers, so please take care of yourself.