1. The Friend of a Friend of a Friend of an Ex of a Friend
This is the girl you meet at the bar when you’re too tired and too sober to be at the bar. The friend you came with swears on her mother’s dildo that this is the last place tonight, and then she promises she’ll pay for your cab home. The friend you came with is newly single and wants to prove to herself and the world that she’s still got it, that the wounds her ex left are capable of healing over, that she is attractive and loveable and valid and human. These are big long-term goals that you don’t have the heart to tell her can’t be attained in one drunk evening, but you owe her a favor and if you weren’t here, you’d be asleep, a behavior that your therapist says is “antisocial.”
This girl is cute, and you can’t tell if she’s hitting on you when she asks if you’ve met before. You do the first dance of the Queer Mating Ritual, the stumbling waltz down a chain of people you both know, the messy spitwad network of who knows who, who dated who. It only takes a few minutes to realize that you both know the same people, that she’s that friend of a friend of a friend of an ex of a friend that you might have heard about a few months back.
This is the girl you go home with and it’s okay, it feels pretty good, it’s only a little weird. It’s weirder when you wake up and she recognizes the coffee mug your ex left in the kitchen. Her ex had the same mug, with the exact same chip on the handle! You say your ex’s name, and wouldn’t you know, her ex has the same name as your ex! And that’s when you realize that the friend of a friend of a friend of an ex of a friend also dated your ex. She asks if you’re the one who peed the bed that one time, because your ex used to make jokes about it.
“I was really, really sick,” you say, and then run full tilt out of your own house.
You will definitely run into her on multiple occasions in the future, usually in situations where you have to say hi. Each time, you exchange shellshocked looks that silently acknowledge the ominous truth you have both come to know. It’s awkward.
2. The Horrible Person
She is a horrible person. On paper, you shouldn’t be able to stay in the same room as her. She hates your favorite movie and your favorite band. Her opinions are prickly and in direct opposition to yours. She reminds you of the mean girls who made fun of you in middle school, except she has an edgier haircut and more piercings.
Your friends don’t like her. Most of the time, you don’t like her. You don’t like talking to her, and you don’t like listening to her. You can’t imagine actually having to socialize with her outside of hooking up.
Her dog is super cool, though. You think you might still be sleeping with her because her dog is so goshdarn awesome. He does tricks and everything! So, because you’re in your twenties and you don’t know any better, you keep doing things with the horrible person so you can hang out with her dog. Everyone is mad at you for this and you’re mad at yourself for this, but also, that dog.
3. The Straight Girl
The straight girl is so beautiful. She’s so beautiful that you want to poke your eyeballs out and swallow them whole. Her hair is so shiny that baby angels must weep magic tears into her tresses. When she smiles, you can hear harps playing. She adjusts her nose ring and the heavens sigh. You watch her float in and out of your life, and you are entranced.
Because you are at the point in your life where you are usually foolish and often masochistic, you invite the straight girl into your bed. Worse yet, you invite the straight girl into your heart, where you choose to ignore that she won’t hold your hand at the farmer’s market. You go to the expensive bar in the gentrified yuppie area and you listen to her gush about its faux-dive bar aesthetic. You pay for the overpriced concept drinks while she tells her friends about the cute guy at the yoga studio. She talks about how much she hates being single and you say nothing, smelling her perfume and wondering if it is bottled by mermaids.
You are putty in the straight girl’s hands. You are ready to make all kinds of irresponsible decisions on her behalf. She sees a cute puppy in the store window and you have to physically restrain yourself from buying her that cute puppy. She kisses you in front of everyone and then tells you that she’s just drunk, that it doesn’t mean anything. And because you’re young and stupid and punishing yourself for internalized homophobia or something, you let that straight girl walk all over your gay ass.
4. The Actual Grown-Up
This girl isn’t a girl; she’s a woman. She has a 401k and wears pantyhose. You met through a mutual friend who thought that you would balance each other out. She makes you feel like a failure, and you remind her of what happens to people in the “creative field”.
She’s ahead of her scheduled student loan payments. Ahead of them. At first you thought this was sexy and alluring, the sheer foreignness of someone who had their life totally together, but now she gives you a panic attack every time she asks you how your internship is going. You still don’t completely know what she sees in you, besides an escape from corporate culture. You used to meet her and her work friends for happy hour, but wearing a food stained Waxahatchee shirt in a group of people talking about acquisitions and strategies makes you drink too much.
Her plan is to get married by 26 so she can get pregnant by 27. She says she doesn’t want to be one of those “older moms” but she also doesn’t want to fall off her career track. She calls you from a company retreat to make sure you’ve washed your hair in the last week. You lie and say yeah, duh. You’re standing in the kitchen in a pair of swim trunks and the t-shirt you got at your eighth grade graduation. You’re eating an unheated can of Spaghettios. She wants to have phone sex before the team-building exercise at 3.
It doesn’t last because she says you don’t fit into her “big picture.” She’s always referencing this big picture as if it’s something tangible, a widescreen television that broadcasts her inevitable future successes. Her last text to you makes a few pointed comments about your aimlessness and your “challenging” personality. You delete her from your contacts and go back to watching Antiques Roadshow in your underwear.
5. The OkCupid Date
She viewed your profile. You don’t think much of it.
Then, it happens. You see her at Trader Joe’s. You immediately recognize her as the girl who viewed your OkCupid profile. She’s stocking the kettle corn you want. You debate not getting the kettle corn, even though you want the kettle corn so badly. She sees you. You make eye contact. Okay, now you have to do something. You reach for a bag of kettle corn. She hands it to you, staring you down. You say thank you and run to the freezer aisle like you’re an Olympic sprinter, never looking back.
That night, you get a notification. She’s viewed your profile again. You realize that you’d seen her picture in your search results and never clicked through to her profile. You feel bad, so you refresh her profile page a few times to make it look like you’ve been viewing it a lot.
You’re only a 30% match. Not a great start. Her profile is very long, with whole paragraphs dedicated to explaining herself and her choices in favorite foods. You typically skip over profiles like these because the idea of someone spending more than five to ten minutes on their OkCupid profile makes you think they’ll hate your inability to wash dishes within 24 hours of using them. Her favorite book is Twilight. You stop yourself from immediately judging her. She’s written a paragraph defending the characterization of Edward Cullen. You tell yourself you are a terrible person for wanting to immediately close your browser. You feel like you owe her a chance or something, just because you made eye contact in Trader Joe’s and she handed you a bag of kettle corn.
She messages you. You message back and forth, because you’re desperate to find a connection of some kind. You settle for the fact that you’ve both seen Parks and Rec, even though she made a comment about how she thinks Amy Poehler is “unfunny.” It turns out that you live in adjacent neighborhoods, and she wants to meet up for a drink. You feel bad that you’re bored and uninterested in the messages, so you agree to the date. You immediately regret this, but you feel bad about regretting it.
The date is not good. She’s not abrasive or mean or even a bad person, but you’re just not feeling it. You feel bad that there’s no connection, so you try extra hard to be an interesting and attractive person. She’s touching your forearm a lot and laughing too hard even when you’re not saying anything funny. You give her the benefit of the doubt every time she brings up her dead cat. When you leave the bar, she goes in for a kiss with a lot of tongue. You sigh and let the wet gross kiss happen because it’s one of those days where this might as well happen. You feel bad that you don’t enjoy the kiss, so you make sure that when you kiss her back, it’s a really good one.
The encounter is not bad but it’s not great, and in the morning you feel really bad that you didn’t like it that much. You make breakfast because you still feel bad, and you put a lot of effort into making fancy pancakes and well-seasoned eggs. She keeps saying how nice you are and how impressive it is that you cook. She goes in for another kiss. You feel bad that you’re not into the idea of kissing her ever again, and because you feel guilty about feeling bad about not being into her, you kiss her really passionately. You end up making out in the kitchen for a while, even though you don’t feel the chemistry and you don’t really find her attractive. Every time you want to pull away and try to end the morning early, the bag of kettle corn is sitting on your counter, staring you down.
She leaves and texts you later and you don’t want to text her back. You feel bad about not wanting to text her back, so you text her back. Thus begins a horrible cycle of feeling bad about how unmotivated you are in pursuing this girl, until you have to avoid Trader Joe’s altogether and change your phone number.
You miss cookie butter, but you learned one of the most important lessons you will ever learn: Don’t do anything you don’t want to do just because you feel bad about not wanting to do it.
Header Image by Rory Midhani