By senior year, most of us have mistaken a rude dude for one of the good guys. Maybe that’s because of a natural human desire to see the good in people, or the fact that both people often feel responsible when things don’t work out. Either way, we usually don’t see that person clearly until long after we’ve distanced ourselves from them, and by then it’s too late.
On a cold January night during my freshman year at UW-Madison, I went to a party with a classmate and some of her high school friends. She’d known most of these people her entire life, so when I pointed out one of the guys and told her I was interested, she immediately gave up all the dirty deetz on him. She said he was smart, sweet and—most importantly—one of the fabled “good guys.”
He returned my interest when I approached him, and we hit it off. There weren’t many people at the party, but it was one of Wisconsin’s more brutal winter nights, and it was too cold to go anywhere else. So, we did what Badgers do—we drank and laughed the night away. The party was at his apartment and, rationalizing that the weather was a perfect excuse to spend the night, I did.
Despite the fact that we hooked up the first night we met, my freshman-self didn’t see it as a one-night stand. It wasn’t awkward at all in the morning, and he even texted me shortly after I returned home. We met up again the following weekend when my roommate was out of town, which, of course, led to the inevitable sequel.
He knew that I liked him, and it seemed like he liked me, too. He just didn’t want to date me. It seemed like the night we met was the only time he was truly interested in me. The second time we met up, he told me that he wanted the next girl he dates to be his wife. “Not that I’m saying that couldn’t be you,” he said, but I knew what he meant.
That couldn’t be right though, could it? My friend told me what a nice guy he was… He surely wasn’t the type to hit it and quit it. Plus, he wanted to see me again after the first time, which meant something. Didn’t it?
The unfortunate answer: no. But, I was young and naïve, and for months I convinced myself otherwise. No matter how many times he said “we” weren’t a good idea, I told myself he didn’t mean it. I was sure that he just needed time to see my quirks and learn to love them, like the way I lean my head back like a dog when someone scratches my head and how excited I get about new kitchen appliances. Then, he’d realize he really liked me and that I was worth more than just a hookup.
What made this situation different from most is that he was honest with me. He stopped texting me shortly after our second hookup, but we ran into each other at parties frequently after that. Every time, I practically threw myself at him. And every time, he let me down easy. He made it clear that I shouldn’t expect a relationship with him and that he didn’t want to hurt me. Unfortunately for my dignity, that only contributed to the “good guy” image that I was painting of him.
After months of no contact with him other than short conversations at parties, I gave up. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t like me, but I finally accepted it. I needed something to distract me from him and in my desperation, I threw myself at someone else.
Unfortunately, that someone else wasn’t my Prince Charming either. I handled the situation the worst way possible—I lowered my standards and rebounded with another one-night stand who turned out to be a total dead-beat.
I’m now two years older, wiser and more confident. I just got out of a year-long relationship and although it didn’t work out, I can honestly say he always treated me the way every girl deserves to be treated. College doesn’t have to be all about hookups – being in a meaningful relationship with someone you can call your best friend is just as rewarding. But the next time I do stumble upon a casual hookup, I’ll ditch the fantasy version of our relationship in my head and quit while I’m ahead. I learned first-hand that if a guy wants to see me, he does; and if he tells me he isn’t looking for a relationship, I’ll believe him.