We travel the world, keep to our own
Everyone stares into their drinks
And beautiful girls and men on their own
and nobody’s saying what they think
I’ve never been brave enough to ask them
I doubt I’ll find my courage now
Maybe I will and maybe I won’t
There’s bears that dance and bears that don’t
-Jerry Joseph, Bears that Dance
I remember I was traveling back from Alaska with a stopover in Seattle on one trip. Aside from the fact that flying is faster than driving anywhere, I really cannot stand to fly. I’m not scared, but I just feel that I’m out of control of everything; and nothing about it is convenient. Maybe one other redeeming value is that it is good for people watching; at least while you’re still in the airport. I had already boarded the plane and was sitting in an aisle seat in an unaccompanied row. I was secretly hoping nobody else would breach my space, so as the people shuffled by without looking my way, I was quite content. Then a very beautiful girl approached my aisle with a glowing smile. I asked her if this was her row. She said, “No,” but that she loved my hair. I’m an average looking guy with curious hair. Most of the time it is greeted as an oddity, occasionally it is fawned over. But never by beautiful girls. Her smile was simply electric, but alas, she passed.
Shortly into the flight, I got up to use the restroom, scanning the back rows for her. Was that just a fleeting, shared moment, or was there something more? I saw her, unfortunately sitting next to a guy that likely was her boyfriend, but her face lit up again with that beautiful smile. We didn’t make eye contact again until I stood up to leave the plane, and again once more in the terminal, where she was indeed with that guy. What is so important about this you might ask? In two words; wishful thinking.
This beautiful girl with a beautiful smile that loved my hair, well, I had seen our whole life unfold between us in a millisecond. I actually envisioned that this could be the love of my life. This would be the perfect story of how you meet the one you spend eternity with.
I had succumbed to an ephemeral crush. But just as soon as I had fallen in love without ever exchanging any real dialog or interaction, the moment passed. This wasn’t the first time this had happened to me, and it surely will not be the last. But what does it mean? Why does it happen time and again? Why does my brain (or my heart) allow for these moments of intense feelings and unrealistic expectations when the likelihood of the scenario actually coming to fruition is slim to none? But most importantly, can I benefit from these experiences by taking stock of them and their impact, if only fleeting, on my life?
I doubt it. I’m far too cynical. But sometimes I look around at people and wonder how they ended up together. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty strange connections out there. I’m always curious about how those fleeting moments were capitalized on by strangers; how much is serendipity and how much is gusto and courage? I had a friend a while back that was looking to get into a new relationship and he read somewhere that you should approach 100 women (or men) in a month to become comfortable with seizing those moments that we so often let slip. At the end of it, his ‘count’ was pretty good. He got about 25 numbers, ended up going out with about ten of them and marrying one. Now I’m not saying that these would all qualify as ephemeral crushes; in this instance, it was more an exercise in growing a pair. But I guess the desire to reach out to someone has to be founded in something, so maybe there are potential for connections with multiple people out there, not just the ones situated in animal attraction.
But let’s get back to what I want to talk about – the ephemeral crush. Every one of us has had that passing glance or smile to or from another (unless you’re really ugly, then sorry). And maybe that’s all it is, just a glance. But how do you know how to react in those situations? There’s the camp that will say to seize the moment, then there’s the camp that says not to invade people’s personal space; this camp is either libertarian or of the politically-correct ilk. But how do we make connections anymore when there are so many social rules?
I did this online dating thing for a month or two – that was weird – and I went out with a few girls and had some fun. I was talking to one about how hard it is for guys to approach girls and after all the social evolution that has occurred, it still falls on the guy to do the heavy lifting in that domain (or maybe I’m just one of those ugly guys I dissed a few sentences ago). I asked her if she went out with every guy that contacted her. She said “no” as there were so many (a bit of an ego on this one). I told her I thought if we were good people (male/female, ugly/attractive) we should go out with everyone who asked us (assuming we’re not in a relationship) because it takes so much effort and courage to ask someone on a date. She half-agreed because she knew that we shouldn’t be making snap judgments on appearance or a few stupid one-liners in an online profile. I don’t think either of us changed our strategy though.
I learned to approach women in college; always drunk and almost always after midnight. Now that I’ve grown older, I drink less and have little desire to be up that late too often. So I never learned how to recalibrate for the dating scene I’m in now. It’s as if I had to put the training wheels back on the bike after riding for more than a decade. A fish out of water as they say.
Nowadays, when I get that rare glance or smile, I think about opportunities that I’ve missed and consciously acknowledge the ones I’m not taking advantage of in the now. But at least I’m being reflective. Falling in love in the moment; what does it mean? These aren’t rational reactions, they’re purely from the heart (loins?). I guess they speak to desires I have for myself (both good and bad intentions) but why do I lack the mojo to act (without a social lubricant)? Perhaps the real education growing up in school would be to learn how to navigate social interactions and differences. But I guess there aren’t too many grade schoolers (hell, even high schoolers) that can handle psychology (maturity, emotions and hormones are too blame). And after re-watching the Sex in the City series, Carrie didn’t let me in on any tips about how to navigate these ephemeral moments. What good was that show?
So that leaves me with this parting thought: Maybe I’m reading too far into it. A pretty face with a pretty smile is just that. But if you (I) think there’s something hiding behind it, maybe you (I) should just act. What have you (I) got to lose? We try to save face too much in this culture. Perhaps we (I) should learn to have comfort in defeat, to learn a little humility if it doesn’t go as planned. After all, they say it will only make you stronger….