Word to the Wise: Avoid Boys Who Avoid Eye Contact


IT’S 9 p.m. and I am coming to grips with the fact that I am royally f’ed up, possibly unsalvageable. Though that should hardly come as a surprise. For the last eight months, I have masochistically subjected myself to hanging out with a boy who never wanted to hold my hand and who struggled, most of the time, to look me in the eye when talking to me. On a few occasions, he would listen to me from across the expanse of his living room, and he would look at me then, safe in the ten feet of distance between us. Still, a palpable guardedness lived just behind the stare, nervously peering at me from behind a wall he built, as though if he engaged with me in a real way, he would fall down some rabbit hole. I watched him cling to that edge for months on end, waiting for him to slip, to connect, to commit in some way. But he was unyielding. And so now, thanks to him, I have my own walls.

Drinks are the text messages of dating; dinners are the phone calls.

Right now, I’m sitting across from a boy—another boy who seems to have no qualms about looking at me in the eye—at dinner, another miracle, considering the last guy also never invited me to a real meal at a table in a restaurant. It was always casual, non-committal, a text reading “drinks?” or “oysters?” or some various suggestion of a piecemeal consumption that was indicative of the piecemeal relationship we were doomed to have. Drinks are the text messages of dating; dinners are the phone calls.

Sitting across from this new guy, sharing plates of food and talking about summers growing up in the Northeast, I have no idea what to do with myself. I feel vulnerable, overexposed, trapped. This is what the first boy had been avoiding all these months, and my proximity to his relationship neurosis is something I adopted by overexposure. Which sucks for me, and sucks for this guy. Because my learned behaviors are the direct result of adopting someone else’s self-preservation tactics. Because I learned to work my way around them for so many consecutive days.

But that’s my problem; I could have and should have quit ages ago.

It’s frightening what you’ll condition yourself to think as being okay, as being enough. When you want to be around someone, when you want someone to like you as much as you like them, you’ll inevitably make concessions. You begin to become a person who claims to not need certain things. After enough chronic disappointment, you’ll settle for crumbs when you should be getting the whole cake. Everyone needs love, not in fractions or pieces, not in sideways glances and drinks at a bar or slippery oysters, but dead-on, full frontal, fearless.

Right now I’m working on taking down the walls and raising the bar.

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