Readers, I need your help: Relationships

Blogworld, I seek your generous assistance in the comments section. I need help in learning something about human interaction, introverts and college relationships. You are in for a long story, comprising of three characters (self included). Spoiler alert: includes my secrets to a successful relationship, unparalleled matchmaking skills and a guide to mathematical/engineering terminology.


Preface

Specimen A: The central antagonist is this guy who has been friends with me for about a year or so. We share several classes and have grown closer over time. He speaks an average of 5 words an hour and is not exactly the most articulate of speakers. He is often (painfully) awkward and the multiple pauses in conversations almost always makes me overcompensate. But I make him laugh and he likes poking fun at me, at my clumsiness and at my miscellaneous struggles with life, door handles and plastic bottle caps.

A has had a huge crush on the next important character in our story, whom we shall label B.

Specimen B: is a sweetheart. I met her when A was talking to her and couldn’t hide his embarrassment himself fast enough from the approaching me. B and I ended up being close independently of A, though we talked about him often. When A was still worshiping the ground B walked on, she was in a relationship with someone else. Therefore it took me months of encouragement to get him to cough up his feelings so that he could move on with her (and I would be spared the cheesy background narratives). I discovered later from B that A had this tendency to leave very dramatic messages such as “We need to talk. Let’s meet?” and end up talking about the “beauty of Euler’s equation“.

After nearly a semester and a half of pining over her beauty/her intellect/ everything which made her The Woman, he finally mustered the ability to confess his feelings. I particularly remember that night because B called me on the phone and narrated frantically what had happened at the same time that he was awkwardly messaging me on Facebook.  This resulted in an impressive diplomatic maneuver which resulted in the simultaneous pacification of both parties involved.

I learned that B rejected A.

B, who has spent most of her adolescence being bound to one relationship only, has never had the experience of declining a friend’s interest or asking someone out. She also considers A one of her close friends. A, who has had only one “long-ish” high school sweetheart is still coming to terms with rejection and also considers B one of his closest friends, and has a quota of speaking to 1.5 romantic interests a year.

They come to me for advice. I have not had a boyfriend and continue to uphold an impressive history of intimidating people with emotional honesty. Obviously I am graduating with honors in solving relationship problems. Call toll-free number 3141592653 and enter discount coupon WORDPRESS to get your free consultation.

B eventually re-acquired her mental equilibrium after having been “ambushed” by unexpected romance. I sympathized very deeply with A (having been in the same situation), so I decided to cheer him up by feeding him extraneous calories. He was unsure of how to proceed with talking to her and I suggested that they both give each other space (because I’m not very good at being a conversation conduit).

In the short span of a week or so, A deigned to inform me that he was now dating someone else. Dating. Not even asked out, but dating. If his story was to be believed, more than once. This person is a tertiary, minor character in the character in the story but let’s label her B+, because she followed B and because this is not an algebra problem.

I don’t know anything about B+ except for the fact that she outperformed A at the introversion game and is “extremely pretty”. They have been on numerous ( x > 1) dates and one very promising “Want to meet at midnight?”  request which resulted in a posthaste homework session in the densely populated Applied Mathematics library. Relevant relationship advice to prospective date-seekers: know your equations


Here begins the problem statement.

B+, as it turns out, is studying abroad at Hong Kong this semester. A has been complaining of loneliness and has been badgering me to “hook [him] up with one of my many attractive female friends”. Sympathetic to his situation and willing to comply, I asked him to choose a prospect (his tastes fluctuate wildly).

My match-making process is an intricate three-step procedure:

  1. I introduce two people with their full names in a well-lit public space.
  2. I bring up a topic of mutual discussion (classwork, weather, etc.)
  3. I flee.

Among all my achievements, being a good Mrs. Bennet is not one of them. The endeavor failed rather spectacularly, but it did not deter A’s ambitions to acquire a date before Valentine.  He begins to start asking questions about me. A very odd 1:30AM text message about requiring “a cuddle-buddy” was delivered to my phone, and it followed a long series of tangential evaluations of what I should be doing for Valentines’ Day. Subtly, the questions ranged from whether I was dating anyone currently (I am not) to which particular Valentines’ party would I be attending (The only thing I was invited for on Feb 14th was to submit my theoretical computer science homework.)

I usually like to eat meals with my friends because it gives me time to catch up with them without hurting too much of my study time. Casually, I asked to meet him in order to figure out, in-person, what was going on.

What happened next will amaze you. Or maybe not. It amazed me.

We began the conversation with worries of graduate school admissions and as the conversation progressed, he began to express more of himself: his favorite food, his favorite color, places he recommended I visit, etc. He also began to punctuate his sparse conversation with compliments of me, such as (and they made me somewhat self-conscious): how tall I am, how well I write, how nice I am to underclassmen and how pretty my handwriting is. Now you know that being tall, writing well, offering unasked but well-meaning advice to underclassmen and having good penmanship are skills worth complimenting.

In a separate but similar instance, he not only dressed for Chipotle, which is not a locale suited for fine sartorial tastes, but he had also put on cologne. Without loss of generality, he continued to talk of his favorite movie and how we should watch it together.We continued to text each other after that and a very weird thought occurred to me: A might like me.

But why should he? I’m loud, relatively more annoying and verbose. Am I just a replacement for B/B+ gone by? What is all this confusion leading to? Does he even like me? Should it matter to me? What do I do with our friendship?


Testing the hypothesis

“When a weird thought first occurs to a scientist, they either acquire data or perform experiments to test the results of the situation” -(self attribution)

I will not deny that the thought of being admired was flattering. Besides, I needed more meals with him to figure out exactly where all his meandering was leading to, particularly since the days to Valentines’ were ticking down. I had several long, worn-out conversations with myself about what I would do if the friendship was changing. I am not physically attracted to him but I also come from the school of thought which says that personality >> jawline. I was not going to ignore my years of painful rejection history to serve the same treatment to him, at least without a balanced, well-reasoned evaluation of the situation. Did I even have the time for this sort of thing? Why would someone as quiet even find a chatterbox like me attractive? Did he even like me or was he just using me as a replacement for the B/B+ who have gone before?

In the midst of the overwhelming confusion, I sought the assistance of fellow scientists (B included) to gauge the matter. They all indicated, with a confidence interval greater than 90%, that he probably had feelings for me. In aspiring to be a data scientist, I have learned that until the source data says something is true, you can never trust a prediction. While what they said confirmed my suspicions, I was not willing to accept it until A admitted it himself.

A proceeded to ruin my calculations by specifying most certainly, but also vaguely, on the day before Valentines’ Day that <a person like me> could never be his type. There was no more of that conversational luster or cologne or questions about personal interests. I felt very confused because all the data I had collected thus far said otherwise, and surely I must have done something overnight to be so aggressively friend-zoned. Not only did he do that, he brought up his ex and discussed his preference for girls of a certain stereotype in great detail.


 Aftermath

I shrugged my shoulders and tumbled on with life. A week passed during which I didn’t try to speak to him at all, and then I remembered that we were still friends so I shouldn’t be mean. This was a grave mistake. We ended up with “movie night” scheduled to happen in my room. My dorm room is located on the 10th floor and overlooks the Harlem Skyline. He wanted to sample the view.

What started as a very rushed apologetic explanation from him in semi-darkness, because the view couldn’t be seen properly with the internal light reflecting off the window and how he could stay only for 30 mins. We sat at opposite ends of my bed and this huge awkward silence appeared from nowhere, parked itself in between us and remained so heavy that I was sure the mattress bent under the weight. I wanted to make it go away, but it didn’t want to.

When you are living mysterious moments in your life, always cut through them elegantly using my bravery-inducing formula. 

  1. Decide that you want to straighten things out and be annoyed with all this mysterious cue-dropping subtlety.
  2. Rationalize this brashness by declaring that life is too short
  3. Ask for the truth. Up front.

In the semi-visible neon ambiance and from the far reaches of the other side of the bed, I looked up and said, “Hey, do you like me?” as though I was asking for the time. He denied it. He said I was “just a friend” as I always had been.

Then, as the said movie we wanted to watch began, we moved next to each other on the bed, in order to not fragment my laptop. His arm decided to navigate to my shoulder and then proceeded to my waist. The reason why I was so surprised is this: I know for a fact that A is the sort of person who hugs a person once a year. I was to discover that apparently grabbing someone on the waist and then letting your hand stay there for nearly an hour is also completely friendly.

Because I am singularly a very terrible person and because I had some remnant of disbelief as to his first response, I asked the question again. Cue the cringing that is the predecessor of all cringes in the world.

There you go, this is why I will never manage to get along with people. Amazingly enough, he denied it even after his arm had returned to its rightful spot by his shoulder, and he departed with a very tight, long and involved hug. That’s when I metaphorically flipped the table and decided that I had survived internship interviews which were more decisive. What resulted was a very long, awful conversation in which I learned that 21 year old human males have no idea what the evolutionary concept of emotions are about. Or maybe I don’t. I don’t know.


Please feel free to provide your input on what you think is going on. I trust that a group of articulated, wise , blog-maintaining folks like you have more experience in this matter than me.

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Religion Realism

A guest post by Jo-Anne Loh as she tries to come to terms with some of the fundamental forces in her life. 

The Church of St. John, the Divine.  Image Credits: Jo-Anne Loh

The Church of St. John, the Divine.
Image Credits: Jo-Anne Loh

I have been largely defined by two words all my life. ‘I’m Christian.’ There’s a photograph at home of my 6 month old squalling self being blessed by a pastor with holy water. Right next to it hangs a certificate stating the date of my dedication to the Lord.

There is a fundamental difference between my parents’ faith and mine. Their Christianity is not my Christianity. I was born in to it. They found it at the mature ages of 18 and 19, almost adults, able to make a decision about paths they wanted to follow. And they have done so unflinchingly, unwaveringly, without once looking back. I wish I had that privilege. I have known no other way.

What a difference teenage me was compared to my parents! I started telling people that I was ‘spiritual, not religious’. I can almost hear my father scoffing in the distance. “Either you’re in it entirely, or you’re out of it.” Don’t get me wrong. I believe in an almighty, benevolent God. I believe in miracles and angels; sins and demons. What I don’t believe in is the rigid set of rules and regulations that make you ‘Christian.’

I want to desire to go to church. I don’t want to feel like I should. At what point does religion start becoming less about faith and more about duty? Back in high school, I received one of the highest grades in a subject simply called ‘Bible Knowledge.’ Amidst the congratulatory wishes from friends and church elders, a solitary thought leeched itself into my mind. There’s nothing more to this than brainpower. It does not stem from the heart.

A close friend of mine recently admitted that he was bisexual. There was no sense of relief, no peace at making concrete something that would define him for a long time to come. He was shattered, scared. Born and raised in an orthodox Catholic family even more religious than mine, he quailed at the thought of telling his family. Does that make him a lesser child of God? I would be among the first to fiercely defend him if anyone questioned his morals. Does that make me a sinner by association?

However, there are times when I feel an outburst of passion and an all-abiding gratefulness for having Christianity in my life. When tears fill my eyes at the familiar lyrics of ‘Amazing Grace’. When I feel an ethereal peace settle over me in the tranquility of church.  When I open my Bible in times of need and a verse jumps out at me, implants itself in my heart and soul. “Yes, that is what God wants to say to me.” Isn’t that true faith? Beyond rites and community service and Sunday school sessions, is that not what religion is?

I can see the roads that lie in front of me. I can see the paths, I know where they will take me. But I do not want to make the choice.  I am a totally different kind of lost.