Happy Confidence Pants Week, Sparklers! This is YOUR week to do something brave. Need a nudge? Here's some inspiration from writer Josh Perilo. —Sparkitors
To say that I was an awkward 18-year-old would be a grave disservice to awkward 18-year-olds everywhere. I was beyond socially inept, and because of this, my circle of friends was small. Don’t get me wrong, the friends I had would fight for me to the death, but it was a miniscule group, to be sure. So it wasn’t surprising that my dating life was essentially nil.
Then, I got to college and I knew that everything was going to be different. I walked through the campus during those first days of my freshman year with a cocky smirk as if to say “Oh you have no idea, North Carolina School of the Arts. You have never SEEN a Cassanova like me before!”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. If I was a dork before, now I was a dork among dorks. Somehow I had fallen to the bottom of the desirability totem pole in a place that professed there was “someone for everyone.”
There was one girl in particular that I was crushing on hardcore. We’ll call her Isabella to protect her from any further embarrassment. She was also a freshman and was in the ballet program. And she was beautiful. She looked like a Precious Moments doll that some witch had cast a spell on and had sprung to life. And, of course, she had no idea who I was.
I had taken to hanging out with Isabella’s best friend, Gretchen, an equally beautiful ballet dancer, and complaining about my infatuation with Isabella between tear-filled binges of Matthew Sweet and Morrissey. One night, Gretchen said she had an idea:
“You should get her something. Like, a present. And just leave it for her.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said without consulting North Carolina’s stalking laws and statutes, “what does she like?”
“She likes sunflowers.”
The image of a gigantic sunflower plant sitting outside of a dorm room left me feeling less than romantic. And also, what a terrible thing to do to someone! Leave them with a gargantuan plant that takes up half of their already cramped room that they now must care for and tend to? It’s like gifting someone a baby with a glandular problem.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that extreme, but it didn’t feel like the right kind of “hey, you don’t know me, but I’m kind of obsessed with you” gift.
“She also likes Jimmy Hendrix,” Gretchen continued.
“Of course she does,” I thought, “All the ladies love Jimmy Hendrix. He’s so cool. So smooth. Basically, everything I’m not. Why shouldn’t he be the ambassador of my obsessive feelings towards this girl I’ve never met?”
So I bought a CD the very next day (a rare, live import, I might add), wrote my name and phone number on a slip of paper, opened the CD, and put it inside the case.
Then I realized I had to actually give it to her. I freaked out. It carried that CD around in my backpack for a whole week. Jimmy’s disappointed face looked up at me every time I went in for a book, as if he were saying “What’s wrong with you, baby? Grow a pair a sock it to her, my man!”
Even Gretchen was urging me.
“You don’t have to even say anything. Just slip it under her door! She’ll love it!”
So, early that Sunday morning I marched over to Isabella’s dorm and walked right up to her door. I took a deep breath and readied myself to slide the CD under her door and bolt. But, sadly, that wasn’t what happened.
In the second before my knees were about to bend to allow me to place the CD on the ground… in that moment that my brain fired the electrical pulse to the neuron that would move my muscles and bones into motion, her door swung open.
And with that, the door slammed shut. I stood there, my face white. My heart pounding in my teeth. My grip on the CD almost crushing the jewel case. Then, the door creaked open a tiny crack. Isabella stood in the doorway, wrapped in a towel with a shower caddy in her hand. And there I stood, pasty and sweaty, a complete stranger, standing silently outside of her door.
So, of course, I took the opportunity to make the situation even worse by actually saying something.
“Hi,” I squeaked and stammered, “I’m Josh Perilo. I heard that you like Jimmy Hendrix, so I got you this CD.”
I shoved the CD into her shower caddy, like I was flyering for the President’s Day sale at a mattress store.
“I put my number on the inside, so you can call me,” I added, “if you want.”
She looked at the CD, then at me, then said, without any change in emotion.
The door closed. And my soul died a little bit.
After a week of no calls from Isabella, I finally told Gretchen what happened. I had been avoiding her, because I was so embarrassed. Gretchen actually smiled and shook her head.
“I know what happened. I heard from Isabella. She actually thought it was kind of sweet, but I don’t think she really wants to date anyone right now.”
“That’s code for ‘she doesn’t want to date any STALKERS right now,’” I thought.
“But,” Gretchen continued, “I think what you did was really amazing. And really cute. And I think someone should give you a kiss for that.”
Before my dumb mouth could open and say, "Who would want to give me a kiss,” Gretchen leaned in and did the deed herself. I couldn’t believe that I had completely overlooked Gretchen this whole time. She was just as pretty as Isabella and, it turns out, way cooler. And because of the huge risk I took putting myself out there for a girl that I THOUGHT was perfect for me, I ended up actually dating a girl that WAS perfect for me.
Risk always, always, always generates reward. But rarely in the way you expect it to.
What's your Confidence Pants Week goal?