Enter, then, Exhibit A: The Television Date.
Back in the early months of 1996, I started spending a bit of time with a man I’d met at a philosophy conference the previous summer. He was a frequent presenter at a philosophical salon I attended with some regularity, and came across as a responsible, stable, kind person. I don’t recall the exact trajectory of events, but I remember talking to him on the phone and possibly sending e-mail back and forth for a week or two (this was back when e-mail was still relatively new, not at all as ubiquitous as it is in 2006), but mostly driving together to the philosophy salon. At some point, it became clear that TVBoy (name to be explained later) was particularly interested in going out on a date with me, and despite the fact that his car was something like a hideous gold 1976 Oldsmobile, he worked at Kinkos, and still lived at home with his parents (at age 28), we made plans to do so. I wasn’t all that into him, but I was also coming out of an abusIve first marriage & it seemed like the right time to take a leap.
So the day comes for our first official date, and he called ahead of time, telling me he was going to be a few minutes late because he had something special he wanted to pick up for me. Thinking it was flowers or candy or something, I didn’t think much of it. Imagine my surprise, then, to see him barreling up my sidewalk carrying the box for a 27″ television (in addition to a dozen roses). At the time, all I had was a tiny 10″ black-and-white TV that had been my uncle’s when he was in high school (i.e., in the late 70s), and apparently he felt bad that I loved movies and television so much (I do) and didn’t have a better medium in which to enjoy them. [Never mind that my roommates had a large-screen projection television, so I wasn’t exactly condemned to watching Friends, ER, and Melrose Place in black-and-white on the small-small screen. But I digress.]
I didn’t like TVBoy all that much. In fact, he was kind of a dork. But I’d known him for so long, and we ran in the same circles (meaning we’d have to see each other ALL THE TIME regardless) and he was such a nice guy (I mean, he BOUGHT ME A $500 TELEVISION!!!) that I didn’t really know what to do, other than, well, keep dating him. And so I kept the television (for a while anyhow; eventually I sold it to my next boyfriend, who ended up being world-famous AFTER I broke up with him and introduced him to his wife) and met his parents and hung out at his house watching – I kid you not – old 70s sci-fi movies on LASER DISC, and I was even was the recipient of hundreds of pages of erotic stories and love letters elaborating on how I was the PERFECT PERSON for him. All the while, I was totally and absolutely NOT into him because, as I’ve mentioned, he was a dork, and by that I mean not one of those cool guys whos into dorky things but is equally into cool things, like the heavy metal drummer dudes who also play D&D in their spare time. Ultimately, over time, it became clear (to me) that I was going to have to be honest with TVBoy and break things off. Of course, I did this in the most cowardlyway possible (e-mail) with the lamest excuse (I wanted to focus on me and wasnt ready to be In Love, which – in reality – translated into I want to sleep with the guy-who-will-one-day-be-famous because he’s much cooler than you are and doesn’t drIve a gold grandpa car), which produced the only logical next step: TVBoy turning into a complete emotional wreck who left twenty-two messages a day on my answering machine (remember those things? back before voice mail?) with increasing desperation, pleading his case about how we were SO GOOD TOGETHER and how could I NOT SEE that HE WAS THE ONE?!?!?!
Now, I realize this isn’t the traditional UL situation I mentioned yesterday, but I mention it because its a crystallization of what it’s like to play the role of OoYA. Notice the elements at play: (1) regular contact is being made because youre part of the same social circles, (2) theres a reluctance on someone’s part because of (1), (3) one person is totally disinterested, and (4) the other person CAN’T LET IT GO. And so the question that becomes obvious is: Why was I such a bitch? Or, more globally, why can’t the OoYA ever just STOP stringing you along, flirting with you, and otherwise dropping molecules of crumbs which s/he HAS TO KNOW you are going to magnify into SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT when s/he knows PERFECTLY WELL that s/he couldn’t care less? Good question.
The thing is, I don’t really know WHY I did all those things (or why I’ve done them with an impossibly long list of boys/men in my life), other than (1) I didn’t particularly set out to deliberately hurt someone else’s feelings, (2) since I felt bad that I didn’t like him more than I did, it’s possible I overcompensated, (3) it was fun and felt exciting to have someone SO interested in me that I could completely fuck with them, string them along, and keep them hanging and they would STILL LIKE ME. In short, it was an ego-power boost, and it felt good.
And so let’s go back to the general mindset of the OoYA. The reason that these people string you along, flirt with you, touch you in suggestIve ways, and generally gIve you little signals that gIve you the slight impression that they are interested in you is BECAUSE THEY KNOW you will conflate that into THIS IS THE PERSON FOR ME!!! and that makes them feel really, really loved and important. [Those OoYA who refuse to engage in these tactics are probably the ones you SHOULD end up with, because they are KIND and NOT MANIPULATIVE so it is rather ironic that the ones who are the asshats (because they are fucking with you) are the ones who make you want them more, whereas the non-asshats (because they are not fucking with you) become immediately unimportant and unappealing.]
So what’s a gal/guy to do, given this insight into the OoYAs behavior and mindset? I see only two options: (1) sit his/her ass down and set things straight (which will make you feel like a complete idiot since s/he will likely play dumb and make you believe that you have MADE THIS ALL UP IN YOUR HEAD when s/he knows damn well s/he’s been purposely stringing you along) or (2) COME TO YOUR SENSES and acknowledge you’re being toyed with, and JUST MOVE ON.
In essence: the OoYA isn’t a normal person. S/he gives off signals s/he knows are interpreted as ROMANTIC LONGING in any other rational and sane context for the sole purpose of MAKING YOU WANT THEM with no intent of following through with anything, unless it’s a drunken kiss in 1998 that No One Ever Talked About Again.
And so my advice remains the same, since I know the evil that exists in the mind of the OoYA. GET OVER IT.