Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date is her true account of the dating near misses and almosts that brought her to this point. And, of the kick-ass friends who've been there with her through it all. Ultimately, her stories are relatable and pretty damn funny — she brings you along on all the moments of over-analysis, self-doubt, and personal triumph that make dating both a little bit soul crushing and totally worth it. So, we strongly recommend going out and
The following is excerpted from the book Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney. Copyright © 2014 by Katie Heaney. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
If I’m being totally honest (and I suppose I might as well continue to do so at this point), one little, tiny, minuscule part of the reason I decided to go back to graduate school was so that I could fall in love. It was second (fifty-seventh, really) to the desires to learn more, to become better qualified for what I thought I wanted to do with my life, to assuage my college nostalgia, and to make more friends, but that silliest reason was there all the same. Sorry, parents. Sorry, pursuit of knowledge. Sorry, Sallie Mae. It is the sad truth.
It took me exactly six months of living with my parents and working various short-term jobs in predominantly middle-aged female workplaces to decide that I had had enough of the “real world” and wished to return to living in some kind of bubble — where everyone would be young and hot and studying and making out — as soon as possible. It didn’t matter that four years of college had not been enough to arrange a meet-cute with the man of my dreams — it would be autumn, when we were both strolling across campus with our arms full of books, only to collide into one another, softly and gently, eyes meeting over the mess we’d made, delirious with the heady smell of textbook paper — but surely two years of graduate school would do the trick. Boys (men?) there would be a little older, a lot smarter, and, most likely, one billion times hotter. They just had to be. They would probably also have one very important trait that none of the boys I liked in college seemed to have: an interest in dating me.
So because I missed being around young people and boys, and because I was interested in being a student again and having goals that I understood, and because I was, I promise, actually interested in the coursework and learning how to further my career, I decided to apply to graduate school.
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Opener: Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
We met (for real) because Rylee made me sit down with him at a happy hour after school. First we sort of pranced around the perimeters, her telling me to just pick somewhere to sit like a normal person and me putting too much thought into which table would seem like I hadn’t thought too much about it. Toward ten o’clock, Rylee told me that if we didn’t go over to his table, where a small group had formed, we were leaving. And I do usually respond well to ultimatums. So we pulled up chairs to the group (where two other students we knew sat, thankfully) and introductions went all around, and he said, “Me and Katie are practically old friends. We had orientation together, do you remember?” And I was a goner from there on out. He said my name in a way that put us in a pair. I couldn’t hear much of anything else for a while, because I wasn’t listening to anybody, but I know that at some point it came up that Rylee and I played tennis and were thinking about starting an informal tennis club— an idea that Spruce enthusiastically supported. (They always get you with the tennis!) He told us to keep him posted. When he left he said, “Katie, always a pleasure,” which was simultaneously bizarre and adorable. He fit that description a lot.
The next day in statistics lab he sat near us, and asked us if we still wanted to play tennis. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to play the next day, Saturday afternoon. It would be a doubles match: Rylee and I against Spruce and a friend of his. Then, someone (I can’t remember who) suggested we switch up the teams: Rylee and the friend, Spruce and me. It was perfect. We talked just enough for me to know that I was basically in love, but not enough for me to know any real information about him, except for the fact that he had incredible cheekbones— which is really all I needed to know anyway, right? A good set of cheekbones can take care of me, encourage me, make me laugh, raise my children.
He asked us to go out with him that night, to a bar in Minneapolis where he was meeting some other friends. Conveniently, we had no other plans. I was over the moon, and Rylee was over the moon for me. And if you are having trouble understanding why this was monumental (because it was, it just was), remember that this was the first time ever that I’d had a crush that seemed like it might actually turn into something more plausible than it once was. For starters, we met, which, I was coming to learn, was a really important first step. We were talking to each other, and easily. He was single. But not only that; we exchanged numbers, we hung out, and then he asked me (okay, fine, us) to hang out again. In the same DAY.
The bar was too perfect to be true. There was a drinking spelling bee going on, and Spruce was participating, so we sat at a booth with his friends (all girls, all coupled, thank GOD) and watched him spell. Every time he came back to the booth I’d get to make more of that eye contact with him, only now it was better because I knew him and I could smile as big and happy as I felt. He smiled big at me, too. Because he kept getting up to participate in the bee, our conversation was in nervous, hard-to-hear segments on disconnected topics, as if we were playing Jeopardy! He was Alex Trebek. Animals, for 100 points: Are wolves better, or bears? Politics, for 500: Your favorite constitutional amendment is? The Nineteenth, I picked—the one that granted women’s suffrage. He nodded and smiled. “Mine, too.” That’s a gold medal for a political science feminist nerd like me. The easiest, weirdest pickup line. I know I’m gushing, but it was just so goddamn great. I mean, we played cat’s cradle. His friend had string with her (?? Artists.), and after she and I played a couple rounds, Spruce told us that he didn’t know how to play. So of course I taught him, hand grazing more than what was necessary to the game’s function, giggling like an infatuated maniac. Don’t even try to tell me that if that scene took place in a movie starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it wouldn’t make 300 billion dollars. You cannot get any more sickeningly twee-cute. If I had been watching any other boy and girl play cat’s cradle in a bar booth, I would have been like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” But it was me and him, so I just beamed all night, and probably for several days after. When Rylee and I left that night, he shook our hands. See? Bizarre. Adorable.
My love/depression-themed iTunes playlist got SUCH a workout that week.
On a chart of this “relationship’s” progression, we would have been just barely above the X-axis at this point. (But also, somehow, the line was so much higher up than what it must have looked like with me and everyone else I ever liked.) We had met, and he didn’t visibly detest me, so we weren’t negative. We’d had a bit of a downturn after the previous weekend’s excitement, but I still felt good, some of the time. It was a hospital-monitor heart rate. But the next weekend took the chart to new heights. It was exciting but also terribly nerve-wracking. You know, like the top of a rollercoaster. Right before you plummet to your death.
Excerpted from the chapter, "Now I Hate Spruce Trees."