Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I could easily skip over the chapter of my dating life that encompasses my early 20s.  There were a fair share of crushes and an equal number of rejections from said crushes.  It was an extremely long learning moment and I thought it was going to never end.  While I didn’t necessarily have problems talking to girls in college or in the years after, I had trouble asking them out, or making it clear that I wanted to date them and not just hang out.  A lot of the experiences kind of blur together but I remember one thing in particular very clearly.  Being obsessed with Julia Roberts romantic comedies or Sex in the City was a huge turn off for me.

I couldn’t immediately recall why.  The first thing that came to mind about my younger self is that I must’ve been especially elitist at the time, since Julia Roberts and Sex in the City were very much in the mainstream.  On top of that, romantic comedies, starring Julia Roberts or otherwise, and Sex in the City skew towards a female audience, so they’re naturally something a guy scoffs at.  I know that I didn’t fault girls for liking  “girly” films and TV shows, and I remember having some sort of respect for Sex in the City, perhaps because it was on HBO; I don’t think I’ve actually seen a whole episode.  I eventually realized that these oddly specific films and this TV show became a surrogate for my failures and not because of my elitist tastes.  They were a common trait in a lot of the girls that rejected me and because of that, I probably thought there some sort of warped feminist message in them, not that I’m particularly familiar with either.  It was why girls went to brunch with friends over going on a date with me.  That’s what I told myself.  It wasn’t them or me, it was Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker’s fault.

I eventually got over that.  It’s nice to see how far I’ve come since those days in the early 2000s, but it’s strange to connect how pop culture has been part of my dating process from the beginning.  I’ve always tried to be about finding a quality person with a good sense of humor and that sharing a love for the same kind of music or films would just be an added bonus.  It took a long time to realize that I was lying.  My humor, my interests, all tie in to my favorite bands and my favorite films.  There’s not much you can do to separate the two.  It’s not that I need someone that likes all the exact same things, but there needs to be some common ground.  Besides, I haven’t met a single Pavement or Replacements fan that I haven’t gotten along with.

When I first started my online dating experience, girls would ask me if I went to a lot of concerts. Based on the girl, I would tailor according to what I thought they wanted to hear.  My answers would range from a simple “Yes, all the time” to “I used to go to a lot of shows but I think that I’m starting to slow down.”  Neither answer was a lie, but the former is definitely a lot closer to the truth than the latter.  I think I believed the latter when I said it, hoping that whatever girl I said it to would somehow quell my love of concerts in some other way.  It might have worked, but I’d most likely end up at my usual spots, or waking up at odd hours trying to get Radiohead tickets.

My initial tendency on a date is to try to make things go as smoothly as possible, which is not necessarily a bad goal to have.  Unfortunately for me, when I started going on these dates, I was trying too hard, to the point where I started compromising who I was just to please some person that I had just met, and had no mutual connections to.   I wasn’t lying, but I was shuffling my interests around to better my chances.  This is not a bad initial strategy, but I was pretty awful at keeping up the charade, so it probably wasn’t the best strategy for me.

For instance, I once went on a first date with a girl at a wine bar.  It was a cordial date.  No sparks were flying, but it was far from a disaster.  While we didn’t have a ton in common, we were getting along, we were laughing, and then “Jenny and the Ess Dog” by Stephen Malkmus started playing overhead, and I had to bring the conversation to a halt.

“Sorry, but I really love this song.” I said.

“Oh don’t worry about it.” she replied.

I believe she asked a couple of questions about what we were listening to.  Instead of answering them quickly and moving on, I went on about Malkmus, then about Pavement, then probably about indie rock as a whole.  She graciously allowed me to go on and on about music, even though I know she didn’t appreciate music on such a geeky level.  In fact, I was trying to shy away from the subject all night until fate decided to intervene.  It didn’t sink the date but instead of following my plan of showing her what similarities we had, I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes highlighting a huge difference that we had.

We kept in touch and I tried to see her again.  We tried to set another date but her work proved to be quite a controlling mistress.  I know that if she really wanted to see me again, she could’ve made more of an effort, but I’ll stick with her story that work was swallowing her whole.  She was working at an advertising agency in LA so it was entirely in the realm of possibility.  While she wasn’t a perfect match, it sticks with me that I probably killed some of my momentum with my Stephen Malkmus tangent.  I’ve moved on happily since then, but it’s a reminder that I can’t run from who I am, whether it’s hating on movies and TV shows in my early 20s to nerding out about “Jenny and the Ess Dog” on dates at 30. 


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