For a flash, a fleeting moment at the tender age of 18, I saw the possibility of me having success with ladies. One defining moment put me into such a state of euphoric confidence that I was already laying out my life as a hustla’—the rap term for “he who woos many a woman who, in kind, loveth him greatly, fan him with giant palms, and drop succulent peeled grapes into thine gullet.” It was a relatively innocent experience, punctuated by black leather pants, blonde highlights, and—perhaps most relevantly—cherry red lips, but it was enough to introduce me to what I’d later find out was “college romance,” loosely defined. Ahh, memories…
This all happened about midway through my freshmen year of college, shortly after being cheated upon by my first college girlfriend. My understanding of myself at this age was that several women in the world would make ideal mates, but none of them knew it yet. Other than with my wife, I’ve always been the kind of guy who harbors crushes, holds onto them privately for months until the object of my affections either dates someone else, moves to Turkey, or simply dies. It was always one of the three.
It always felt “too soon” to relay my feelings, and I never wanted to hurt the friendships I had with these girls, so rather than take any sort of risks whatsoever I just kept my mouth shut. As you can imagine this was not an effective girl-grabbing technique.
So when some high school friends and I drove about an hour to visit buddies at a different university, I went into it with extremely low confidence. I’d just been cheated on and most of the freshmen couples had found each other by that point of the year, meaning all the good ones were already wrapped up. There were zero expectations of this party being fruitful. This is why what actually happened ended up being one of the more pleasant surprises of my young love life.
Before the evening’s festivities, my friends and I convened at a La Bamba’s nearby and consumed burritos as big as our heads. Actually, most of us consumed regular-sized burritos but my one friend—we’ll call him “Adam,” mostly because that’s his real name—was at a point in his life where he liked taking on food challenges, so he ordered the biggest burrito they had. This would later prove to be a mistake.
But at this dinner I remember sharing with my friends how nice it was to be back together with the old gang (who, by the way, I haven’t seen in much too long and miss dearly) and how nice it was to be away from my own college, which had become depressing. “Let’s have some fun tonight, guys,” I said. Or something like that. I needed an escape. That’s what this night was all about.
So we head to the apartment hosting the gathering. It’s a nice place—white couches, white walls, sparse art, and a little spiral staircase leading up to a loft. Pop music thrummed through an impressive stereo system, sending rattling bass vibrations through my feet, and the crowd was a diverse smattering of people I had never seen before. I was happy about this.
An hour or two into the evening I pointed out a girl to Adam that I thought was cute—this was the young lady with the black leather pants and blonde highlights I mentioned earlier—and he suggested I go over and talk to her.
Now, “going over and talking” was not something I had ever done in my life at that point. While I consider myself a generally amiable guy in social situations, talking to girls I don’t know but would like to is not my strongest suit. My bottom jaw turns into gelatin and my stomach flares up like I’m in trouble. Seriously, the exact same feeling you get when you’ve done something really wrong and just gotten caught. This is the sort of anxiety women instilled in me as a youth.
But I had had a couple of “sodas” at that point and was feeling the effects of the “caffeine,” so I thought, What the hell? And I approached the lovely young lady to ask her to dance.
I know that sounds ridiculous, like I’d be in pantaloons and tails with a ponytail pulled tight and white powder on my face, but other people were dancing and getting pretty into it. She was standing up against the wall talking to a friend, which was the same thing I had been doing just a short moment before, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I was in a town I almost never visited talking to a girl I’d almost certainly never see again, so the risk was low.
Her answer to my query: “No, thank you.”
Ouch. Usually I would’ve been like, “Okie-dokie!” and hummed nervously back to my spot on the wall, but I was feeling oddly assertive this night, causing me to ask the follow up question, “Why not?”
Her reply: “Because I have a boyfriend, and I don’t feel like dancing.”
I see. Here’s what I do when I don’t think I’ve got any chance with a girl—I befriend her. Better that than nothing, I’ve always told myself (though we all know males and females can’t be platonic friends unless they’re married or one of the two is particularly unattractive. Women think this is possible, which is why they let the friendships happen. Men know better, and remain friends in hopes of someday breaking through into boyfriend mode. Or at least make-out and feel-up mode.)
So we chatted for the rest of the evening. I was utterly charming and looked especially so when Adam regurgitated the entire carcass of that big-as-your-head burrito on our friends’ white couch (he recuperated by lifting his body out of his vomit pose and flipping me a double thumbs up—it was awesome). In our conversation I found out that she and her boyfriend had been having a hard time lately, which was why she went out with her friends that night and specifically chose the leather pants, and I also discovered that she was 21—three years older than me, making me even more proud of myself for having approached her.
On the whole, I felt good about the evening because I had been able to talk to a girl, even if I couldn’t even get her on a dance floor, let alone to anything else a strapping young 18-year-old lad might have had in his agenda book (in my case, it wouldn’t have mattered even if I wanted more to happen—I told you, no game). Eventually this lovely girl gathered her purse and informed me it was time for her to go. So I said goodbye, and that was that.
Or so I thought.
A few minutes later, after I thought the girl was out of my life forever, she tapped me on the shoulder, turned me around, and planted a fat one right on the lips. She just said, “Thank you,” and then walked away, for good this time.
I stood there confused, my insides burbling gelatinous heat like a lava lamp, and just smiled. To this day I’m not sure what I did—maybe she just needed someone to listen to?—but that’s how things ended up that night. Up to that point in my life I had never kissed a stranger, let alone a much older one. My confidence boosted from there, and I spent the rest of that year trying to meet girls back at my own college. Those efforts were met with extremely minimal success, but I was out there trying, dagnabbit, and there’s something to be said in that.
It all started with the girl in the leather pants. I suppose I could’ve taken a road to full time hustla’ at that point, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I’ve always valued love and the perks of relationships more than the idea of the one-night-stand, so I make a crappy hustla’. Somehow, I got the gumption to ask out my wife four-and-a-half years ago, and who’s to say that this experience wasn’t the first domino to fall in letting that happen? My wife should be thanking me for kissing random college women. Yes, I’ll have to have a conversation with her about that…