Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Will Friday at 7:00 work for you?

[A real post from Dave? Imagine that.]

I think it behooves us to give thought to the plight of the single adult male. Sure, there is the obvious benefit of not being responsible for childbirth (and all of the biological processes that it entails and requires), but there are many difficulties and trials inherent in being male.

One particularly grievious task is the responsibility of asking.

We are traditionally expected to take initiative, to create momentum, to get the ball rolling. We are tasked by God and society to take the lead in a romantic relationship. We are relied upon to produce the ring, and to ask the all-important question: Do you think you can put up with me consistently for the next 30-40 years?

My friends, do not pass lightly over such a calling. It can be a highly dangerous and psychically damaging thing, if all does not go well. Just ask this guy. Granted, one should not approach a proposal of marriage without some solid assurances of the answer.

But isn't that the essence of being a man? To charge headlong into the fray, choosing the door that opens on our fate, not knowing whether we get the lady or the tiger (or, in that guy's case, the tiger-lady)?

Even asking a woman to dinner is an activity fraught with peril. I remember one particular time, a while back. There was a girl with whom I had a good working relationship, and we seemed to get on well. She had many admirable qualities, and I was interesting in getting to know her better, so I decided to ask her to dinner.

Now, this is not a simple thing, if you tend to analyze and overthink things as I do. If you think too much about the asking, you get nervous. You start wondering what could go wrong. You ponder the potential awkwardness of all future interactions if she says no. Will she feel pity? Contempt? And then, on the other hand, what if she says yes? How high will her expectations be? What if you find that, during dinner, she's an interminable bore? What if she thinks so of you? How can you function on anything other than a politely distant level from that point on? The possibilities are disastrous.

(It's worse yet to ask out strangers. At least with friends and acquaintances you have an opportunity to reveal to them your sparkling personality, your rapier wit, your kind and gentle manner. With strangers, it's all about first impressions, which means you have to look fabulous enough to even be given a fighting chance. And a male model with a chiseled chin, I am not.)

So, like all young men, I had to cast "thinking" to the wind, and spur on impetuously toward the precipice. One afternoon after running into this girl, I half-blurted out, "So, would you like to get together for dinner on Friday?" She said, "Yes, that'd be good."

Joy! Relief! I allow myself the luxury of a smile and an exhaled breath.

There was a pause, and she added, "Yeah, I've been wanting to talk about that project you're working on."

That, as they say, was that. Game over. I didn't realize it at the time, but later it became clear. The young lady did not see the question, "Would you like to get together for dinner?" as anything romantic or intentional. She merely saw it as an opportunity for two co-workers to chat about work over tacos, and clearly that's all it would ever become. In the end, excuses were made, and dinner wasn't shared.

In the time that's elapsed since then, I have even second-guessed whether she misunderstood me at all. In some way, it could have been a non-confrontational brush-off. Which sticks in my proverbial craw, really. Because honest and forthright offers should be met in turn. Anyway.

This is the risk we men run: we have to put ourselves on the line, at the mercy of women who have (historically) proven quite cruel at times. We men, admittedly less skilled in the verbal and relational arts, must extend a clear and yet unintimidating proposal of dinner, or companionship, or marriage, all the while taking off the armor, putting down the shield, and exposing our bare chests to the mortal blow.

Sure, I may be overstating the case. Perhaps I'm making a fuss about nothing. And I'm not meaning to diminish the pressures and difficulties single women face in finding a mate. Much. But, it takes some degree of courage to face that lovely face and wait for it to speak words of joy or disappointment. To put your pride aside and give this other person, who contains confounding mysteries imperceptible and unfathomable to mere men, the ability to accept or reject not only your offer, but your very self?

Men throughout the ages have gladly fought bloody armies, climbed perilous mountains, run into burning buildings, all without hesitation--but asking for the favor of a woman? Scary, man.

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