Friday, June 27, 2014

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The Tall Girl- Guest Author Patrick Andrew Chambers

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I fell in love with the tall girl I saw at the grocery store two days ago. She must've been about 6'4". She was wearing short running shorts, so I fell in love with these incredibly long, slender, wonderful legs, among other nice things. Not to be a total pig (just a partial one).

I fell in love with her for the first time when we entered the store. She walked in just ahead of me. And then we walked past each other it seemed like every other aisle. She needed coffee. So did I. So I fell in love with her over and over again, every other aisle.

I fantasized about shopping with her. About walking side-by-side through the store. I'd say things to her like, "I think I need orange juice." And I'd make a disgusted face when she bought spinach.

But then I was done shopping, and I went through the checkout lane and to my car and home. The tall girl became "the tall girl," and I went back to being in love with the waitress at the restaurant I go to late at night, the one who sometimes sits down with me and steals my fries.

And who knows who I'll be in love with next week.

I'm about 5'8". So there's a certain reality about me and the tall girl. I doubt either of us would pine for that moment when she'd take a knee so I could actually kiss her.

I'm also 26 and single, which means friends are often keen on offering me dating advice. I asked out a girl back in the fall who shot me down. Weeks later, a friend asked me how it was going with her, and seemed surprised I wasn't pursuing it anymore.

"She doesn't want to date me," I told him.

"You've got to make her want to date you," he said.

The general consensus from all my friends seemed to be that I'd done everything wrong. I had asked her out wrong to begin with. And then I needed more assertiveness. More confidence. More swagger.

There's a weird notion buried in all the advice I've gotten that somehow dating is all about winning. It's a game. Really, you can get anybody you want, you just have to want it enough. You just have to employ the right strategy. I'm not sure how true that is. But I'm not sure I do want it enough. I'm pretty sure I have no strategies.

I mean, sometimes I think I'd really like a relationship. It seems like a nice idea. I'd really like someone to do errands with. Someone to go with me to the grocery store when I need coffee (and possibly orange juice, but not spinach). She could even be really tall. How handy would that be, you know, if I needed something from a tall shelf?

But the reality is messier. The last relationship I was in was a disaster. I was always disappointing her. I wasn't outraged enough at some celebrity. I ate bacon (she was vegetarian). My politics were never liberal enough. Conversations became labyrinthine attempts to avoid arousing her anger. My failures piled and piled.

But as much as I want to hate her now (and frankly, I do hate her stupid guts for so many reasons), I'm not sure how unreasonable any of that stuff was. People make compromises all the time in relationships. People move states and pass up jobs and watch unbearable TV shows to make relationships work. People change religions and find god to make relationships work.

I just don't know where that leaves me. I really don't think I want it enough. I have no desire to watch whatever travesty Lena Dunham is inflicting on the public, or to pretend that I do, for example. Maybe that just makes me a cliché. Mid-20s guy who can't commit. Doesn't want to settle down. Doesn't like Lena Dunham.

But I do think there's value in contentment. I think there's value in being alone, and being comfortable being alone. My ex-girlfriend and I were a terrible match. We were only together because we didn't want to be alone.

Sure, there's a part of me that's too invested in the idea of a relationship. Fantasizing about doing errands, etc. And that's probably not so healthy. And not pursuing a relationship to preserve that would be pretty sad. So maybe I should have tried to strike up a conversation with the tall girl.

But the opposite I think may be just as harmful, the delusion that you can make anything work if you just want it enough. Because I know things about myself. I know I'll never stop eating bacon. And I know the tall girl being so tall would be too weird for me. I'd be too self-conscious all the time. I'd feel awkward (and that's just my hang-up; I'm sure other people could make it work).

The thing is, when I fantasized about shopping with the tall girl, about walking side-by-side with her through the store, in my head, we were the same height. And I know I couldn't spend my reality that way, pretending to be the tall guy.

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 Patrick Chambers is a PhD candidate in literature and criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is also the co-founder and editor of the literary journal Profane.