My Life (So Far) Without A Date

Twenty-five years old. No relationship. No dates. Fine. Change the number in that equation, and we've probably all been there, right? But, what if we were talking about no dates (at least no second dates) or relationships, ever? That's a little bit tougher. Not entirely uncommon, but definitely something that makes brunch with friends, girls' gossip weekends, and the like, a little bit frustrating at times. That's not to suggest that any of those occasions revolve entirely around talking about dating, but we have yet to spend a weekend with girlfriends when the topic hasn't been discussed fairly extensively. So, what do you do? If you're Katie Heaney, you write a book.

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 picking up downloading a copy of the book today. But, before you do, read the excerpt from one of most representative chapters, below. You'll see what we mean.

Never_Had_A_DatePhoto: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing; Designed by Ly Ngo.

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.

Never_Had_A_Date_3Designed by Ly Ngo.
I walked over to school on the first day of orientation and right into an enormous mess. He was in my group that first day, skinny and tall. Unlike almost every other crush I’ve had, I learned his name on the very same day that I torpedoed into one of my progressive bouts of infatuation. I never used it, though—well, not to anyone but him. Instead, obviously, I used a code name. My new grad-school friend Marie would pick it out while we studied statistics in the lounge. “Spruce,” she said. “Because he’s tall. Like a spruce tree.” Though we technically met on our first day at school, Spruce and I didn’t talk to each other until a full month later. It was one of those weird things where two people know they know each other’s names and realize, inwardly, that they should probably be acknowledging each other’s presence, but decide not to anyway. It’s never clear who’s responsible for these decisions. It’s all one person being too scared to say hi to the other, and then the other being all, “Well I can’t say hi NOW or she/he will think I am an actual serial killer,” and then the first person feels justified by her/his decision but also a little sad because, hello, does the other person not remember that they’ve MET before? And then both people just keep ignoring one another for the most part, but also making fairly intense and regular eye contact, from safe distances, until the effort to not say hello like normal human beings becomes too conspicuous and introductions must be made. It was like that for us. We looked at each other, across the classroom, every Monday and Wednesday morning, and sometimes in the hall. I kept trying to explain, via eye language, that he should come talk to me already. His eyes were like, “No, YOU.” It was a disaster.
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.
Never_Had_A_Date_2Photo: Courtesy of Louisa Podlich; Designed by Ly Ngo.
The week after that, we played tennis again. But when we didn’t do anything else over the weekend because he didn’t ask us to (and I...well I didn’t suggest anything for the same reasons I ate that smoky chip, which is to say I have a problem), I panicked. If it seemed to be too good to be true, I figured it was. I called the support team, which is what my group of friends turn into when I have a crush for which I need consistent analysis and encouragement. Each friend serves a special purpose: I have Rylee to address things from a heartfelt and cautiously optimistic but reasonable angle. When asked if a Spruce-less weekend meant that “everything is ruined,” she is apt to say something like, “No, it doesn’t. It’s one week, it’s fine. Just remember that he’s a student, too, maybe he has work to do, and he is from here so he has other friends. He is still enthusiastic about seeing you at tennis and school. Just be patient.” I have Bri to be unreservedly enthusiastic, to reply to any/all concerns with “Oh my God, don’t even, he is so clearly already in love with you and just waiting for the go-ahead to declare it. People don’t just, like, make all that eye contact for nothing.” I have Colleen to talk circles around herself and to stress me out further, if I’m feeling like I want to be really stressed out (which happens more than you might think). I have Jenna to echo my concerns back to me and make me feel justified in being crazy: “I would be worried, too. But you shouldn’t worry, but I would be worried, too. Totally reasonable.” And then I have two or three people on reserve who are probably less invested but whose advice I’ll seek anyway when I’m truly desperate for positive feedback. They’re benchwarmers who would probably leave the field, if only I’d let them.
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."

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