Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Still Pathetic

Awkward. Twenty-fucking-three, and still awkward; physically, socially, and emotionally. One of my best friends was married - married, for Christ's sake - and the fact that I actually got along(at all) with a bridesmaid was cause for celebration. In the classic1 film Little Giants, the titular team of misfits and outcasts manages to finally run a play that isn't a turnover or a huge loss, prompting one parent in the stand to yell "They gained a yard!". That was me, chatting up a tipsy bridesmaid; gaining only one yard, but maybe building some momentum. Fuck, I needed it.

While still working at HSA, I had a crush on a bookstore cashier. Every week I'd drive across the street to the Hunt Valley Mall, blunder around the store for a bit before finally buying ESPN the magazine, making sure at no point to actually make small talk or ask her out. After all, what good would come from that?

I actually went on a double-date with an old co-worker from the Loews Theater. The double-date was with my brother and his girlfriend - my younger brother was giving me dating advice while the girls were in the bathroom(writing this makes me cringe). Despite my horrible lack of dating experience, dinner went pretty well. However, due to my horrible lack of dating experience(combined with insecurity and an insatiable need for outside validation), I called her many times after(despite not getting calls back), before finally going over to Loews to ask her out again, in person. Instead, I was publicly(but sweetly) rejected.

So, there I was, twenty-three, convinced I'd be girlfriendless forever. I'd been working as the web master at a small government contractor for a few months. My father had gotten me the job; he worked there installing security and fire alarm systems. It was a shitty job, but these were shitty times - for me, the economy, the country. Enron, Robert Hanssen, the fresh memory of 9/11, the DC Sniper; if Peter Jennings had announced on the evening news that the apocalypse was officially starting in ten minutes, I think most of us would have thought 'Yeah, that sounds about right'.

But ANYWAY, while working at my shitty job(in addition to web master, I was in charge of shipping and receiving in the warehouse) I managed to get a date with a friend of a friend. Up to this point in my life, getting a date was like finding a goddamn Leprechaun. We met at a party, I got her number, and we agreed to go out the next Saturday. I could hear Al Micheal's voice screaming 'Do you believe in miracles?'.

The girl bore a slight resemblance, in a fuzzy-photo kind of way, to Julianna Marguiles. So let's call her Julianna(though I guess you can refer to her however you want, call her Susan if it makes you happy). She drove to my parents house, as I had moved back in during my time in-between working at HSA and my new job2.  I still remember the expression on my mother's face when she saw what I was going to be doing that afternoon: finally, praise the fucking lord, finally.

Julianna and I went to an Egyptian Art3 exhibit at the Smithsonian4. For the first time, my awkwardness faded to the background as our conversation came easily. She laughed at my jokes, we both said (seemingly)interesting things. Somehow my date was going really, really well.

The only snag came later, when we talked about music. After the museum, we'd gone to Arundel Mills Mall to wander around(a real high school thing to do, but I didn't know any better). In a music store, Julianna went through CD after CD and asked if I liked them. I'd never even heard of most of them. My HSA musical education had not included any of her bands: The Me First and The Gimme Gimmes, Ben Folds Five, the Dave Matthews Band, and Better Than Ezra. If it wasn't metal or hard rock, I didn't know it(with the Insane Clown Posse being one of the only exceptions, because my younger brothers had somehow become obsessed with them - but even I knew not to bring up ICP on a date). Her bands were college bands, the soundtrack to smoking in quads and drinking too much at Lit parties. My soundtrack was from a different generation, handed down by co-workers.

The only common ground we found were The White Stripes, and that was only because I had stumbled upon "Hotel Yorba" on MTV2 before.

Anyone who goes through a "metal" or "hard rock" phase will tell you that, in the midst of their power-chord obsession, they had convinced themselves that anything that wasn't sufficiently "hard" was pure, pussified crap(often these same people go through a phase of reading nothing but science fiction novels, only buying Marvel comics, and other nerd-elitisms that keep them virgins until college).  Then they'll tell you about the song that broke them out of that muddled, constipated way of thinking. For me, that song was "Hotel Yorba."

The song was catchy, raw, and earnest(he sings about being "tired of acting tough/and I'm gonna do what I please"). It felt "real" in the same way Guns N Roses felt real, while sounding so completely different. Still, I don't know if I would have taken to the Stripes as much as I did if it wasn't for "Fell In Love With A Girl." That two-ton heavy riff and Meg White's attacking drums melted my face and flattened my eardrums. Going between the Stripes and my other CDs, a lot of my metal records started to sounded sluggish, old and tired. They were "heavier", but Jack White was out-rocking them with only one fucking guitar.

Still, I wasn't yet the kind of music consumer who bought lots of albums, even if I liked the singles - but I was the kind of pathetic, never-really-dated, virginal man-child who would gladly lay down a twenty at the Best Buy to get a CD he thought would make a girl like him. Christ, how pathetic.

I bought "White Blood Cells", listened to it, called Julianna to talk to her about it and ended up leaving a message saying I was listening to it. I paced my room wondering why she never called back. Chris, so pathetic.

Julianna disappeared. No return calls. Nothing. I hung out with our mutual friends(my best friend and his wife), and in the pretense of hanging out with them for a weekend tried to get the bottom of this sudden reversal of affection. They offered the usual niceties: she had a history of erratic behavior; she has just got out of a relationship; I may have come on too strong; universally, though, my neediness was not sexy. My friend's wife summed things up with the best advice about women I've ever received:

"Kris, sometimes, girls are just bitches."

So, I listened to "Cells" alone. Luckily for me songs like "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground", "Hotel Yorba", "I'm Finding It Harder To Be Gentleman", "The Union Forever" and "The Same Boy You've Always Known" are perfect listening for a broken heart. Well, in as much a heart can be broken after one date. I listened to that album all the way through every night, over and over again. A new love for music was born. I started to explore, a little, and discovered another garage-rock band, some new outfit from New York called The Strokes...

Around that same time, a couple months later, Julianna actually called me back. She wanted to apologize, explain herself.

But by then, I was dating my future first wife.


1I'm using the word classic in the loosest sense.
2Explaining to potential dates why I lived at home while not going to school was a lot of fun.
3I impressed her with a bit of Egyptian history I had gleamed from a recent episode of Gargoyles.
4I'll always regret not using the Smithsonian for more dates while I lived in DC. A lost opportunity.


Ian said...

Smithsonians = best date place ever. Classy, cultural, easily accessible, and . . . FREE!!!!!

they always have movies and stuff on evenings and weekends. "You wanna check out a subtitled foreign film over at the Freer/Sackler Gallery of Art?" YOU CAN'T BEAT THAT!!!!! And it's free

this week is the Iranian Film Fest 2010: http://www.asia.si.edu/events/films.asp

Kris said...

Man, I should have taken advantage!! All my friends in DC area, don't repeat my mistakes :)

I'll be doing my best not to repeat them here in NYC.