I got through high school and college without a boyfriend. I had a few dates, but no one you could call a boyfriend. (By boyfriend I mean someone who would actually refer to me as his girlfriend.)

those college days

So after dating (and I use the term loosely) guys who seemed incapable of anything resembling a actual relationship, I was willing to be someone else.

A friend set me up on a blind date–the reason she decided he and I would make a good pair was that he was taller than me, the general belief being that no relationship begins when the woman is taller than the man. Fine. All my blind dates had been based on height.

We went on a double date to see a play, and while sparks didn’t fly, when he called me to ask me out again, I said yes.

The thing about seeing a play is that you don’t talk much. And when you’re on a double date, you can let the other established couple do all the talking. You can end the evening not revealing much about yourself at all.

He showed up for our second date wearing running shoes, jeans, silver belt buckle, and a plaid short-sleeve shirt. I wore a copper-colered silk blouse, dressy black shorts (pleated and almost to the knee), black stockings, and black flats. And he said, “It’s too bad that’s not a skirt.”

My roommate said to him, “The thing you want to say is, ‘You look great.'”

He looked back at me. “You do. You do look great.”

This, I thought, was going to be a wasted evening.

But okay. Open mind! Positive thinking!

Then I had to climb up the steps of his oversized pickup truck with gun rack.

Open mind! Ooo! Look at that red flag! Isn’t it pretty?

When we pulled into the Denny’s parking lot, my mind made a foolish decision. I decided to barely speak to him and to tell him next to nothing myself. I decided not to be me. I would be the way I thought a desirable girl was supposed to be.

I’d be rubbish at it, of course, and he’d never want to see me again.

All through dinner he talked. I’d ordered a salad, which I’d never done before on dates because salads are too girly and I like to eat. I nodded, and said things like, “Really?” and “Hmmm.” and “Oh, interesting.”

He said, “So, you’re working on some kind of paper thing?”

“Yeah. My Master’s thesis–but you know, I like have to do it.”

He changed the subject. “You’re thinking of joining, what is it, the Peace Corps or something?”

I shrugged. “I’ve filled out the paperwork and had my interview.”

“But you might not go, right?”

I shrugged and changed the subject.

At the end of the evening, I let him come upstairs. My roommate wasn’t home. When he said I was amazing, I assumed this was just talk to let him stay until morning. He told me I was the most interesting girl he’d ever met. “Maybe so,” I said, ” But you’re still going to have to leave soon.”

He said he thought I was “the one.”

He said a few more ridiculous things. They were things no one else had ever said to me, the sorts of things a lovestruck boyfriend ought to say. But he wasn’t my boyfriend and after a while I made him leave.

And that, I thought, was that. I’d talked about almost nothing and let him think the night would end differently than it did. And he lived over an hour away. Surely he wouldn’t call back.

Well, he called. A lot. He sent flowers. He sent a teddybear. He sent a poem. He told my friend that he knew I was the right woman for him.

When my friend asked what I had done to the poor guy, all I could say was, “I wasn’t even me!”

I did feel bad I’d led him on, but I hadn’t thought it would actually work.

I was angry though that apparently the only way I could get a guy to pursue me was to lie. From the moment I’d ordered that salad to the moment I kissed him goodnight at the door, I had been faking who I was. The fake me was called amazing.

The real me…not so much.

All these years later I remember this and wonder about my writing. All the rejections and no agent calling me, I wonder–what about my writing should I change? What would make my work desirable? Maybe I should write about completely different things in completely different ways.

I worry that I would have not to be me.

And then! And then I would have an agent.

But it might be an agent who likes teddybears holding heart-shaped balloons.

12 thoughts on “Faking

  1. I don’t mean to kill the mood here. Your post was very well written and a delight to read. I hope you get an agent who is head over heels for you.

    But I’ve got to admit this.

    That stereo looks pretty sweet…

    1. hahaha.

      The essentials. The best thing about commenters is that they boil it all down to the important things.

      Oh. And I’m sorry to say the stereo is long gone. Poor stereo…

  2. I wonder if any authorial nervousness surrounded the crafting of this post…?

    One of these days I shall have to unload some of the long-simmering draft posts at my own place, having to do with dating memories and boyhood crushes and the like. (Not that I’ve got a lot of dating memories; I dated almost not at all until I was well into college. Alas, though, I had more than my share of crushes!) (And yes, I’m suddenly aware how often I talk about draft-and-unpublished blog posts.)

    Nice, unforced connection to the writing world, too. It’s awful to think about having to cut one’s work into shapes demanded by others.

    In some movie I saw within the last few months, or was it a book I read???, a guy thought he was too X, too Y, and not enough Z to get girls, or a particular girl. He worked on each problem one at a time until he’d eliminated that one. And then he was left with just one “fault”: he was too tall (or was it too short???). So he underwent leg surgery and follow-up rehab therapy, the only purpose of which was to make him the proper height. It was very unsettling.

    Oh, also — we’re watching the Mad Men TV series on DVD. In an episode we just saw, one of the copywriters at the ad agency gets a short story published in The Atlantic even though “short fiction isn’t my strong suit.” It drives the others crazy with jealousy — almost literally crazy. They become these catty little S.O.B.s whenever someone mentions his success — especially when he does, even glancingly.

    Greener grass and all that.

    1. I thought my authorial nervousness might be showing…

      Long simmering posts sound good! I’ll be hopeful.

      Other folks can certainly help shape one’s work in a good way. I’m not opposed to trimming a wee bit here and there. I’ve got no perspective, after all, and way too much nervousness for my own good. But trimming is one thing. A whole new cut something else.

      Hard to know what one would do when faced with the possibility of being published…

      Oh my the height thing. How the world often seemed to want me to change my height. How often people ask me to give them some of my height. I’ve had plenty of people say they wish there was some surgery where they could take some of my height. That story you mention would unsettle me.

      I know the episode of Mad Men! Oh the cringe moments. Sometimes the guy does act like an ass, but other times I felt his pain.

  3. Well, being a Stepford date is never a good idea, but I do think that looking for someone to spend the rest of your life with is a far cry from finding someone to sell your work. 😉

    Something to remember though, whenever you do have a contract, the one offering the advance makes the rules and you’d have to play by them if you signed the contract. So in a way, you do sort of have to be a Stepford writer, in the sense that a publisher wants you to write something that sells, even if it’s not exactly “you.” You also have to meet their deadline, even if you don’t feel like it. The one with the gold making the rules and all that.

    On the bright side, dating will never be an issue for either of us again! 😀

    1. I don’t know if finding someone to love and represent your work for the length of your writing life is really all that different from finding a life partner. Sure, there are important differences, but also important similarities.

      Well, I’m thinking of the agent here, not the publisher. And I’ve come across unique books with strong voices and visions that you’d think would be unsellable and yet there they are. So there is room for the quirky book in the industry. Actually I think that’ll be my next post!

      Truly. I never want to date ever again. If my husband should be tragically abducted by aliens tomorrow, I don’t think I would date. God help me.

  4. Vaughn Roycroft

    My friend and crit editor ( and fellow WU FB member) Cathy Yardley once told me something wise. I had been railing about how I wouldn’t sacrifice the heart of my story, not even for publishing success or big bucks.

    She said: “We write the first draft for ourselves, in my opinion: we revise and hone and polish in order to communicate and share the story, and the emotion, with others. Otherwise it’s literary masturbation, fun but not all that productive. The readers are the challenge, and communication is ultimately the point. Money (if you’re not trying to pay rent) is merely a way of measuring reach, a tracking tool. It’s also a way of proving to the reader that you value the thing you’re sharing, and showing them they need to sacrifice something in order to receive it. Anything gained without effort is easy to marginalize.”

    I actually went to the email, cut it and pasted it. (I hope she doesn’t mind, I just thought it was appropriate.) Don’t change the ‘you’ in your writing, just seek to communicate with your ideal reader–the rest will follow. Believe!

    Oh, and great, well-written post (and cool stero–still have my 80’s college stereo out in my shop–it’s still awesome! 🙂 ).

    1. Cathy has good things to say. I read most of her posts. And she’s right. My first novel I cut 40k words. Well, no one asked me to. I don’t have an agent, but I could see that certain things needed to go. I am not against revising, cutting, learning, all that. Just like I wasn’t against dressing well, wearing makeup, and fixing up my hair for a date. Put your best self forward! ha!

      But I wouldn’t have breast implants or pretend to love football. There’s a limit.

      Must say that the stereo wasn’t mine. That picture was taken at a friends. Not even sure that stereo was hers, but I’m sure it is long gone. 🙂

  5. I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school either. None of them wanted to date the smartest girl in the class who was also President of the Girls’ School Student Counsel. Based on my girlfriends, I assumed they were all interested in sex, which they were. I made one good guy friend who had a girlfriend and our friendship was completely based on humor. I kind of had a crush on him, but no one available. I just love your story. It is so perfect. The ideal woman is a Therapist. She just listens. It’s also a brilliant metaphor for “should we change our voices to get published?” The problem is, I wouldn’t know how.

    1. I wish I could say I was that smart. My grades were average and I not only wasn’t president of anything, I wasn’t a member of anything. My home life didn’t allow for much school involvement.

      I was too tall, too flat, too plain, with an odd family and address. As one guy said, “I want someone who will impress my friends.” Yeah.

      College…I don’t know what my problem was but most dates I found horrifically boring.

      But I didn’t know how to fit in then, and I’m not super good at it now. Can’t seem to change!

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