Everyone has a tale of dating gone wrong. Whether it happens on a blind date or three months into a blooming relationship, these disasters usually strike out of the blue and leave you stunned, slack-jawed and, often, downright offended.
And that's exactly why they make for such good stories. Hopefully they teach us a thing or two about the pursuit of love.
I had known Billy for five years through mutual friends, and at some point we started hanging out independently. I was still sailing on the friend boat when Billy indicated his winds were now blowing from a different direction. I wasn't interested in him romantically then, but we did seem to get on quite well. And so ensued several months of friendly, flirty hangouts, during which I grew more and more fond of the fellow.
We spent one Friday night playing pool with friends, drinking beer and chatting on the front steps of a house party. We talked about the benefits of therapy and shared our respective "here's what made me need therapy" stories (dutiful New Yorkers that we are).
And then we kissed. We went to his apartment to walk his dog and, inevitably, kissed again. It was exciting, after the months of build-up. That is, until he suddenly pulled away and said, "I can't do this."
I thought he might be joking. "Um, what?" I asked. "Why not?"
"Well," he responded, without so much as a stifled smile, "You look exactly like my aunt."
After an awkward, hasty exit that night, the questions began swirling: Was the aunt story a cover? What did Billy actually not dig about me? Why did he pursue me despite this look-alike hang-up? What was he thinking? All good questions; no great answers.
As penance, I made Billy send me a photo of my purported Doppelganger. Eliminate the Farrah 'do and, say, thirty years and, sure, I could see a resemblance.
When Billy (or my nephew, as now prefer to call him) and I talked a couple days later, there wasn't much to address aside from my wounded pride and his sincere acknowledgement of wrongdoing. He hadn't stopped the flirtation from progressing because he didn't know the familial attraction would actually be a problem.
A decade of dating lent me the ability to bring a halt to the potential fall down the rabbit hole of "is it me?" self-doubt and "men are jerks" cynicism that can happen (and, certainly for me, has happened) after love affairs gone awry. At the end of the day, questioning an inexplicable disconnection only leads to more questions.
But years of experience give us the answers that querying oneself cannot: attraction is fickle; things don't always work out how we'd hoped, and sometimes, often, that's entirely for the better. I don't do it for Billy; ultimately, that means he doesn't do it for me.
Billy and I are friendly. No need to lay blame or vilify when there's fate to thank, after all. Waste of a crush aside, I walked away with a good story and an early escape from a potentially messy, incest-reeking situation.
As my Indian friend who dates exclusively non-Indians put it: "Girl, that's why you have to date outside your race. None of my boys are telling me I look like their aunties." She makes quite a point.