The following is factually true. Right down to the part where it ends with me face-down in a snowbank.
Prologue: Fedora-Tipping at the Pabst Theater
So, this past Tuesday, I attended a Sam Harris/Eric Weinstein speaking event (Nuke the Chimps. Its funny in context). It just so happened to be in my city (milwaukee), and while I'm not a raving Sam Harris Fanboy, I didnt see any good reason not to check it out.
The talk itself was entertaining, but did drag in a few places. Apparently the Chicago event was already cancelled because of the upcoming White Frost Nega-vortex Heat Death of the Midwest, so they went into a lot of subject matter that was gonna be in chicago. I wound up sitting next to two friends who were kinda banter-y, and we got to talking before the event, a few whispers during, and we hit up a bar down the street after, talked for an hour and a half (automation removing jobs, UBI, "antifragility", and personal banter about our jobs. Yes, I'm aware how pretentious this sounds). The bar did last call early, we tipped our fedoras to each other (note: none of us actually had fedoras) they cleared out, and I started up an uber. I found that if I postponed the pickup by 15 mins, I'd save $10, so I slouched against the window near the door doing Pokemon Go stuff.
Part 1: In Which We Talk To A Girl, and She Doesn't Run Away At The First Opportunity
Then I look up and see a girl kinda lingering by the door, looking outside. Willowy, 5'9," wearing mostly black, un-fancy stocking cap shoved down over long auburn hair. I remember seeing her further down my row at the event. Normally, I'd have studiously ignored her and hoped my existing didn't make her feel unsafe, but I had two beers in me and my mood was elevated from actually having socialized successfully. So I said "Hey, were you at the Sam Harris thing?"
She turns to me and immediately says "yeah! How'd you know?" Said I remembered seeing her, on the 2nd level. I never found out exactly why she was in that bar, she hadn't been with anyone, but apparently she'd stayed for the meet&greet, which I hadn't even been aware of. "I got to shake sam's hand and everything!" She said, holding out the appendage.
"Cool!" I said "except now, you can never wash that hand again. Ever." She laughed, I pinched myself internally to make sure this was really happening. She has slightly-dreamy light brown eyes and one of those narrow-jaw/big cheeks faces with tart little berry lips. Straight, kinda limp hair that goes wavy at the tips down past her shoulders, makes her look very young. But her complexion, dress, and manner says mid 20s or older. Grunge? I'm not good with fashion descriptors.
Then she started Talking, and I began to figure out what I was dealing with. You know those mousy flat-affect kinda young-seeming women? Gawky might be a good descriptor. Remember that quiet girl in high school with no female friends, doesn't wear makeup, not great at eye contact? She's thin because she keeps forgetting to eat; too busy playing World of Warcraft. Lives on a hummingbird diet of Pepsi and dry cereal. Probably has an anxiety disorder. And if you get them started, they'll talk and talk and talk about their various subjects of interest. That's what I'm strongly reminded of.
The rare full-blown female autist. A Pre-Social Media Nerd Girl, one who somehow escaped the virus that turned an entire generation of nerd girls into bubbly corset-wearing bi-polar Manic Pixies who wanted to Work In Tech, but can't because of all the Toxic Masculinity from those Straight White Male Techbro Nerds, so they became instagram models and buzzfeed bloggers instead. Ho. Ly. Shit.
(you have no idea how rare it is to find one of these both unattached and outgoing enough to hit up a bar with a random dude after a Sam Harris Live Event. Forget Shiny Bidoofs, this is Alpha Lightning Bolt-tier stuff.)
She's kicking herself for not having the courage to ask her question about Sleep Paralysis, since Sam Harris is a neuroscientist. Apparently it happens to her a lot (like, once every year or two), but a few weeks ago, she had a full-blown faceless-white-humanoid hallucination along with it. "If I was a lot dumber, I would probably be saying it was an alien abduction" she says, embarrassed, "but I was terrified, and it still has me rattled, not wanting to sleep."
It'd have been a better question than my own. My only idea for the Q&A had been "Sam, as an Intellectual Blackbelt, maybe you can finally settle this debate: Are Traps Gay?" and luckily an opportunity never appeared, so I was never tempted to be That Guy. (I always get really really amused whenever Sam Harris runs into the edgy shitpost-y contingent of his fanbase and just doesn't know how to deal with it.) I keep this to myself.
Then she asks what I'm doing, standing here. I say "harassing women," she giggles, I explain that I'm waiting for an Uber to take me home - oh shit, the car is actually outside and the driver is calling me. She says "yeah, but I wanna go to another bar, this one's closing." I say well, I think I can change the destination. "cool," she says "lets go."
Interlude: A Lengthy Self-obsessed Aside
At this point, some additional details about me would be helpful in adding context to the situation. skip this if you're getting bored: I'm 30, I moved to milwaukee a year ago from Green Bay (small industrial city), and I'm originally from Door County (smalltown touristy place). I have a degree in Biology but wound up doing wireless sales the past few years because there's more demand for that than Naturalists. You can see my profile pic. 5'11" 220 lbs.
I get called a "nice guy" a lot, which eventually made me start shouting at anyone who called me that. I've been deliberately, meticulously, pre-meditatively strung along for attention. I've been used as emotional and logistical support by a woman in an abusive relationship. My ONE long-term relationship I've had was straight out of a magical girlfriend anime, except with more meth and mood disorders. It was like I'd made an unwise monkey-paw wish for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to turn up on my doorsteep needing a place to stay.
I am, in short, a romantically frustrated man. At the moment, I feel like I'm slowly dying of one of those ironic vitamin deficiencies where you're getting not quite everything you need to stay alive.
Part 2: In Which I Am Happy, Hopeful, and Confident
We last left our protagonist in a redirected uber with a possibly-spergy sam-harris fangirl. The above auto-biography should serve to illustrate how elated I feel at this point, and what uncharted territory this is for me. A woman went out of her way to spend more time with me than strictly necessary. She's also into all the atheist skeptic geek internet culture war stuff that is my equivalent of watching football. In the car we exchange names and shake hands, and she shows me some photos she got with the speakers. Sam Harris with his eyebrow raised. She's paranoid about how taking off her hat for the photo made her face look fat. (I kinda see what she means, but she's being too hard on herself. She has cute chipmunk cheeks. its that the hair framing her face is totally straight, then goes curly past her shoulders, so it just looks slightly awkward without the hat.)
We get to...Moe's? I think it was called Moe's? Busy for a tuesday night to my eyes, but it was probably actually quite dead. We order drinks, and that's where the first red flag kinda pops up. we both get standard rail mixers, and she doesn't go for her wallet at ALL. My normal experience is of women apologetically asking me if I can buy them a drink, or them insisting they pay for their own drinks. depending on the situation, I'll let them pay, or insist I pay and let them cover the tip. Here, she let me pay, completely unacknowledged, no objections.
I found out a little more about my new drinking companion. She was from a really small town in central Wisconsin, 28, had been here for six years but was considering leaving because she missed the countryside. (rural geek. It all makes sense now.) Couldn't bear the idea of leaving the state though, loves it too much. I have similar feelings, and we talk about how underrated Wisconsin is. She brings up serial killers. I bring up that Neil Gaiman likes Wisconsin, who would dare to disagree with Neil Gaiman? She's surprised, and I explain how he lived here for a while, parts of American Gods take place at the House on the Rock, a North Woods town, and Madison. She love his work, but never read Amercian Gods, only Sandman.
In case you can't tell, we were geeking out on eachother. she was doing 60% of the talking. Something I said was obliquely related to Dr. Who, and her eyes lit up, asking me if I was into Dr Who. I admit that Dr. Who is the one sci-fi thing I HAVEN'T seen, but I apologetically say that I know the general outline of it, and I like Red Dwarf and Hitchhiker's Guide. She says "that's okay, relax, it doesn't disqualify you."
This thrills me vaguely, and I remind myself that I should probably be taking the conversation more personal, maybe test the waters with some physical escalation. I start up the puppy dog eyes and make sure we're at a good intimate proximity to eachother.
This is the problem when two geeky autists meet. They get too sidetracked geeking out on eachother and forget to say things like "You're pretty" or "I like your beard." And nerds (especially male ones) tend to assume that attention means affection, which I've learned the hard way isn't the case. We're sitting side-by-side at the bar, and I move so that our knees are touching and we're leaning into eachother. I think an old person would call it "canoodling." My plan is that if she escalates any further, I'll put my arm around her waist or something. The goal is to get a phone number and solid plans for this weekend, MAYBE a kiss right before we part ways. But in the back of my head is also the possibility that she'll suggest grabbing another drink at my place. With the polar vortex happening over the next two days and everything shut down, including probably her work, that's a really good excuse to stay the night. And the next morning. And the whole day, night, and morning after that. By then we'd probably be really low on fluids, but that's exactly how my other long-term relationship started. (Minus the sub-zero nega-storm).
Then she brings up Game of Thrones and Star Wars, and all my dumb plans go out the window. She HATES the Last Jedi. The last time I brought up that I hated The Last Jedi in mixed company, an adult woman literally said "what, do you have a problem with Strong Role Models for Girls? Was it too Diverse?" This is a real thing that happened. She also hates the later seasons of game of thrones because they changed it from the books, the writing went downhill, and everyone travels everywhere instantly. I'm in love. At this point, there's some mutual shoulder bumping/rubbing going on. Some giggling from her. This is what I've been dreaming of; a pretty, awkward geek girl who'll snark at things with me and not scold me for using improper pronouns or unironically call me a Straight White Male.
Part 3: In Which Things Go Back To Normal
Then she recognizes someone walking behind us. Its this older, well-dressed guy in a suit, grey hair. Apparently he was ALSO at the meet-and-greet for the Sam Harris event. In fact, he's the EVENT ORGANIZER. They'd talked briefly. He sits down next to her and we both start grilling him about the inside scoop. He travels around doing all these events, he's talked to Sam quite a few times, and he's spent a LOT of time with Jordan Peterson. Turns out she's also a huge Jordan Peterson fan.
At this point, my memory of the details of the conversation blur a bit. I am two drinks in (as is she), after two beers some hours ago. But this guy's answering all our questions, discussing with both of us, and it goes on for a bit. At one point, she leans back against me, and I put my arm on her shoulder. This is fine, the guy is interesting. I'm not a Jordan Peterson fanboy, but I like that he exists and I'm baffled by how much hatred he receives. Then she gets up to go to the bathroom. I keep talking to the organizer guy, and when she comes back from the bathroom, that's when it all starts to go horribly wrong. She doesn't sit down where she originally was, (between me and the older guy), she sits OPPOSITE me. I internally panic. Its possible I'd moved too close while talking to him while she was gone.
Crap, now I'm kinda out of the conversation. I'm panicking that I've massively misread the situation. She's not the least bit interested in me. From her perspective, I'm as dime-a-dozen as they come. A sarcastic bearded dude who likes Neil Gaiman? At a Sam Harris talk? Stop the f-ing presses, we've got a unicorn over here.
I tell myself to calm down. Last call is happening soon. Women don't just randomly get in ubers with dudes they hate. She let your buy the drinks. That's an old-fashioned thing. You'll get her phone number, say good night, make plans for the weekend. Worst case scenario, you made a new friend.
I quickly go to the bathroom, come back, five minutes later, last call happens. they're still talking. I close my tab, 4 drinks in total. I hear her ask how he got here, he says he has a rental car, something something ride, something something hotel. She says that her place isn't very far, that'd be nice of him. They both stand and head for the door. I no longer exist.
Yeah. I couldn't believe it. Its like a stranger walking up to your table at a restaurant and eating your fries; its not a thing that happens. I get up to follow, catch up as they open the door. I ask "uh, I'm not part of that ride offer, right? because my place is in the opposite direction, I think its better if I take an uber." She says nothing. he says "uh-huh, yeah, have a good night, buddy."
I'm thunderstruck again, watching them just keep walking. I call after her "[NAME], I just wanted a phone number?!" They get into a car. I panic, figure there must be something I missed, and move to catch up. The car is idling for a bit, I'm on the sidewalk, there's a giant snowbank separating us. That's good, safe distance, make it clear I'm not going to tap on the window. THAT would be creepy. I gesture for her to roll the window down. There's got to be some kind of misunderstanding. I see her look at me and wave. Maybe awkwardly. Maybe cluelessly. Maybe nervously.
The car drives away. I'm left standing on an empty sidewalk downtown at 2AM on a tuesday night. I clutch at the empty space in front of me, palms up "Wh.....wh....Why? HOW? Whatthe...WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?" I fall forward into the snowbank, a broken man, crying out in pain at a sterile, uncaring universe. There is no kindness, no redemption, no meaning. All is Void.
In the Grim Darkness of the Skeptic Dating Scene, there are only spergs, and the laughter of heartless bitches.
There's two possibilities for what happened after this: she went back to his hotel room and they fucked, or he dropped her off at her place. Which one happened isn't particularly my concern.
Key information missing: What happened while I was in the bathroom?
Possible theories on the whole scenario:
1. I massively misread the situation, she was just being friendly, and when I put my arm around her, she got scared that I was getting ideas. She asked the nice older man to rescue her from this clingy dude who she doesn't know, oh what ever might I do when I find out she's not going to fuck me?
2. I was cool. But then a cooler guy came along who'd met Jordan Peterson, and I simply didn't exist anymore. Like the ending of Ex Machina, she'd gotten what she needed from me (2 hours of entertainment and $15 of alcohol, I guess?) and that was the end of me in her mind. Like an NPC in a level you just exited from.
I feel strangely fixated on the drinks. Obviously me spending a few bucks on drinks doesn't mean that she's Obligated to give me anything, but...I'm pretty sure common human decency warrants some kind of "Thank you." And you don't just up and leave without a backwards glance after spending two hours laughing and drinking with someone. I feel like if I asked her to explain herself, she'd say "what? a thank you? You're the thing that buys the drinks. He's the thing I go home with and fuck. That's the natural order. thanking you would be like thanking a coat-rack for holding my jacket."
As to her mental state, I really don't get it:
- akwardly, cluelessly oblivious? This strains credibility.
- heartless sociopath? This is also kinda a stretch, but consistent with the events. I just don't want to walk away from this muttering "heartless bitch" to myself. The last thing I need is to get even more bitterly MGTOW-y.
- paranoid, gutless coward? This just doesn't fit, and feels like me just falling back on my anxieties. that was some pretty good acting from her if she was terrified the whole time.
Also, double-irony that Sam Harris is a man noted for making principled ethical actions, but his fangirl is notably spineless and inconsiderate.
That's all, folks. May the Ghost of Christopher Hitchens be with you.