A couple of weeks ago, I attended a drawing class. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for years, basically ever since I had to choose between art and music at school aged 15 (due to timetabling reasons) and chose music. I’ve always suspected I’d love drawing and would relish the opportunity to have a proper go. I’ve modelled for countless artists over the last decade but have been keen to try my hand at the other side, and signed up to the mailing list of a local artist, planning to go when my diary aligned with his class, which happened a couple of weeks ago.
When I pulled up outside the artist’s studio for the group class and the door opened for me, I was startled by the artist who welcomed me in… He was utterly dreamy, twinkly and greeted me with what felt like possible excitement. The class was really fun. I was terrible at rendering the model’s portrait at first but got gradually better under his tuition; I managed not to faint at his biceps when he stood close to demonstrate (who knew artists had biceps?) and listened, rapt, to his not-from-round-here accent. We made shy conversation (well, he was fine, in his element, telling me about measurements and how to line things up on paper; I was shy, obedient, enthusiastic). The small class was mostly conducted in silence (pity the model who later told me he passed the time by counting) and so all flirting had to be minimal and understated; touching knees as he showed me what he would do differently, small questions about my week/life/interests, a slight bit of flusterment on his part when I asked about the paintings of his that lined the walls.
I went again the following week. This week it felt as though there was even less of a chance to even attempt to flirt; again, the silence was oppressive and my frustration that the masterpiece in my head was not materialising on the paper was high (whether I used charcoal, conté or pencil – trust me, I tried them all).
After what felt like a lifetime of not finding anyone I fancy (I literally once went to a therapist and asked if there was something wrong with me; she said I was fine, just fussy – as much as I would love a boyfriend, I enjoy my life and am not willing to settle for someone who doesn’t feel right), I fell hugely in lust with this passionate, artistic soul who looked deeply into my eyes, shook me up and dutifully tried to guide my artistic inclinations. (Spoiler: as creative as I am, drawing may not be my calling.)
The problem (one of a few) was that I had no idea if he was single or not (someone said I should just ask him; I recoiled in horror at the idea). It also dawned on me that he might have no idea I was interested and that I had better make this clear; I’ve been told throughout my life that I’m hard to read and far too subtle even when I think I’m being enormously bold and forward. Finally (and if it sounds like I’m mounting a case, I am), I realised he would be very unlikely to make a move in a teacher/student context without me making some clear ‘green light’ signal first (no decent man wants to cross the line without some assurance of success), and that he certainly wouldn’t do it in an otherwise silent room full of eavesdropping students.
So, I resolved to do something I’d thitherto never done before. At age 33, I had never before asked a man out. (My friends find this alternately shocking, un-feminist and hilarious.) My excuse: I am a massive old-fashioned romantic with this stuff. I think the man should take the initiative and pursue; it’s not a power thing, it sorts the men from the boys. However, with all the factors mentioned above, it was clear I needed to step up, and after being single for a million years now, I clearly could do with trying a change of style.
I drafted a text message (his mobile number was on his website) and verbally recounted it to my friend in Canada. It went (as I told her) a bit like this:
I’ve never sent a text like this before and have no idea if you’re single or not(!), but if you are, I’d love you to ask me out for a drink sometime.
I thought this was perfect; it’s sort of playful-ish, unconventional, honest and somewhat diva-like (very me), but also vulnerable (not usually me) and to the point (very man-speak).
My friend was horrified: why on earth does HE have to ask YOU out? she asked. She also told me she thought it was too passive, putting the ball too much in his court when I could just be bold and ask him out for a drink. We had a little to-and-fro about this over the ocean, as I explained that I thought I was being the opposite of passive, and that to ask him out then (horror) wait for his answer would be unempowering. I even alluded to the time I suggested to a man that he should ask me whether I wanted to go for a walk with him along the beach (reader; it worked and we dated for a while!). It’s all in the delivery (playful smile, hand on hip…). My Canadian friend doesn’t understand me on this to this day. Probably no one does. I re-explained my foolproof reasons (above) but she wasn’t sold. Being open to instruction in this matter (clearly I need help), I tweaked it in the end and typed how about we go for a drink/coffee/tea?, which I hoped was more inclusive/democratic/feminist/communist.
The deed was done.
While I waited nervously for his reply, I buoyed myself by recounting the various times he’d shown he might not be horrified by the idea of dating/kissing me, and went about my life with metaphorically crossed fingers…
..For nearly three days.
Today, he finally replied, and said ‘Hi, thanks for the message. I’m sorry but I’m not really feeling it.’
… Seriously, WHAT?
Clearly I’d been having a different experience from him (those knees touched with tingles! I was so sure!!) and massively misjudged it all. Oops.
I re-read his message. No explanation whatsoever, no ‘you seem lovely, but…‘, not even ‘I’m flattered, but…‘, just a nope, thanks, bye.
I replied straightaway with far more maturity and grace than might have been due, and felt a bit rubbish (plus a bit relieved that I didn’t have to wait in limbo any longer, and even more relieved that I didn’t have to school my future lover on appropriate response-times… 3 days to reject a girl?!), but yeah… mostly I feel as though I’ve experienced the world’s biggest anti-climax. Still, I’m stubbornly cheerful; I’ve actually had a REALLY good day today here in Holland, where I’m currently stationed for a week of photoshoots.
Responses from friends, who I dutifully updated, have been along the lines of ‘fool!‘ (him, not me), ‘I don’t like him. I don’t like him one bit‘, critiques of his grammar and ‘Is he gay?’ which is exactly what I needed to hear, of course, but the most confusing thing about it all is how ‘off’ my intuition was. My intuition is normally A* grade.
This is obviously a lesson, blah blah blah, and so I’m forcing myself to go full circle and recount/list some reasons to be grateful, blah blah blah. Here’s one: I feel proud that I’ve proven to myself that I can ask someone out, and that I survived to tell the tale (though not sure how soon I’ll want to repeat the experience…).