I don't like to make waves. I'm generally the last person to fly off the handle when ripped off by a company. Just ask T-Mobile. Telephone solicitors love calling my place because I politely wait for them to finish their schpeel before I say "You know what, I'm not interested, but thanks so much. Have a good day." Courtesy often makes a victim of those that stubbornly wield it.
This principle thrives in the dating world--at least in my dating world. I made reference to the fragile social state of a recently returned Mormon missionary in a previous post. For those of you not familiar with the wholly unique experience of a returned missionary, I would encourage you to reread "Blind and Dating." My return to life in Utah was a shocking one. I had left at least six months before most of my friends, leaving my social life sparse in the first few months of rebirth as a civilian.
An older friend, Jake, took pity on me in my lonely plight, and extended an invitation to hang with a group of his friends. I was excited to actually go out and hang with kids my own age. I loved my brother's company, but I, a 21 year old, began to feel fairly pathetic to ask a 14 year old to hang with me every weekend for five straight weeks.
I spent some time with Jake and his roommates and met a girl from his ward named Melody (names have been changed, but only slightly.) She was from a small town in Northwest Washington called Marysville, a town I had frequented often in the previous two years as a missionary. Want to make a returned missionary happy? Give him a chance to start talking about his mission.
There are many conclusions of general dating fact that I would like to pull from this story. I pause here to articulate the first:
Returned missionaries have no concept whatsoever of flirtation, are totally blind when it is done to them, and participate in flirtatious interaction only in accident and ignorance
Melody harangued me with questions. She was impressed that I drove a Durango, was thrilled that we knew some of the same people from her hometown, and wanted to know if I had a phone number she could call me at.
When girls ask for a number, they're looking for more than the casual hangout.
A week later she gave me a call. "Hey Stu, I'm going to be having a party on Saturday night. Do you think you could come?"
"I'd love to!" I responded. The prospect of spending a second weekend in a row with people my age was exhilarating. "But I work Saturday night. I don't get off until around 11. Won't be down to Provo until 11:30. Does that still work?"
"Oh totally," she said, "We'll probably go until 1:30 or later."
"Great! I look forward to it!"
For the first time in months, I was eagerly anticipating the weekend. As my shift ended Saturday night, I sped down to Provo, arriving at Melody's apartment about 11:45. I was disappointed upon arriving to find that neither Jake nor anyone else I had met the week before seemed to have been invited. The only face I recognized amid the crowd of strange people was Melody's. And that face was glowing like a tiger's about to make a kill.
She came and hugged me--still an awkward gesture, though I had been home eight weeks. "Stu! So glad you could make it! Sorry you couldn't come until late. Do you have to leave soon?"
"No, I've got all night!"
Never Never Never hand a girl a blank check like that. I don't care who she is!
As the minutes slowly stepped by, I discovered a few things. First, this particular group of kids was slightly eccentric. And by slightly eccentric, I mean complete psycho weirdo lunatics. Second, Melody fit in with this particular crowd very naturally. After arranging a Monty Python impersonation contest (no exaggeration. I wish I were exaggerating.), she situated herself next to me on the couch. She placed her hand on my knee.
Forward girls are annoying. Aggressive girls are terrifying.
I jumped up, "I think it's time for me to get some more cake!!" I ran to the kitchen and muscled down some German chocolate cake and stood in the corner, far away from Melody vaguely aware of a kid reenacting all parts from the Knights Who Say Nee sketch.
They played some awkward games, laughing at moments that were curiously not funny. About 12:45, I had seen enough. For once I was convinced that my remedial returned missionary social skills had no bearing on the discomfort I was feeling. It was time for me to go. I turned to Melody. "Well, I better be off! Thanks so much for having me."
"Hey, Stu, did you drive your Durango?"
In some circumstances, lying is perfectly viable and appropriate. I wasn't aware of this at the time.
"Do you think you could take me for a ride in it?"
The room grew quiet and I felt the gazes of a dozen weirdos rest on me. My fight or flight response was no match for my unflinching courtesy. "Yeah, sure. No problem." I promised myself that I'd take her for a quick spin around Provo, dump her back at the apartment, and never see her again. But it wasn't to be.
As soon as we were in the car, she started giving directions. "Left here. Right here. Why don't you park us right over there?"
Again, giving girls blank checks, like letting them choose where you’re driving your car, is an exceedingly bad idea.
I brought my Durango to rest on a scenic overlook of Utah Valley, the Wasatch Mountains looming behind us. The lights from Provo stretched on until the blackness of Utah Lake under a sky of brilliant stars. I looked over at Melody, who was shockingly only inches from me, leaning over the console dividing our seats. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asked huskily as she leaned towards me.
"Sure is!" I exclaimed as I jumped out of the car, away from her assault. "What an incredible view!"
Undeterred, she jumped out too. "Let's go for a hike!" She pointed back towards a trailhead that wound up the mountain.
No. No way. My threshold had been reached. "Um, you know, my mom actually waits up for me. And I work in the morning. I'm a little tired too. Also, I'm mostly night blind, so probably wouldn't work well."
She looked crestfallen. "Ah. I thought you said you had all night."
I'm a complete, hopeless, spineless loser.
A few minutes into our hike, she was walking next to me, advising me to duck around trees and other obstacles. I hadn't been lying about being partially night blind. She seemed to trip and reached out to steady herself. By trying to grab my hand. I threw them in my pockets. "You ok?"
She assured me she was, but started to trip. A lot. Much more, I may point out, than the visually impaired hiking partner next to her. It seemed that the only thing that could possibly steady her was the hand that I stubbornly kept in my pocket, because she kept reaching for it. At one point she stopped me. "Stu, look."
We were on the curve of a switchback that jutted out somewhat away from the dense brush we had been in, giving us a wide view of the valley below. It was beautiful. Any sense of serenity it brought was shattered when I looked over, shocked again to see Melody mere inches from my face. "It's so pretty," she whispered as she stared into my eyes. I was tempted to throw myself over the ledge. But my phone suddenly rang.
The fortuitous phone call was from my mom, who, it turns out actually had been waiting up for me. "Hey sweetheart," she said cheerily, "where are you?"
"Still in Provo." I was fighting the urge to beg her to save me.
"Really? It's getting kind of late, isn't it? Don't you think you should start thinking about coming home?"
"Mom, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to worry you like that. Really, I'll be home right away. I'm so sorry. I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"It's no big worry, Stu, just wanted to check up on you."
"No, really Mom, I'm way sorry. I'll be home as soon as I can get there."
There was a pause on the line. ". . . are you alone with a girl?"
"You got it," I confirmed.
My mom did her little Mom chuckle. "Going that well, huh?"
"You have no idea."
"Alright then. Get home soon or, um, you're grounded."
"Will do, Mom. I love you!"
The magic of the moment satisfactorily destroyed, I informed Melody I had to run. We made our way back to the Durango, and I dropped her at the apartment, knowing deep inside that I'd never see her again. It was the only bit of pleasure I got from that evening. To this day, I can't see that trailhead without getting a small anxiety attack. Courtesy isn’t worth it!