I am not what you would call a brave person. I am also not what you would call a romantic person. So when the need arises for me to be brave in a romantic situation, I generally run the other way.
I have three times in my life gone way out of my comfort zone and attempted to initiate romantic contact with a stranger to which I bore some form of physical attraction. And generally, I have crashed and burned. Hard core.
Allow me to expand on these three times.
One: The Accordion Player
The Scene: A young Mackenzi Lee, with her improbably red hair and a poorly-put together outfit1, has returned home from her first year of college. She sits in the audience of the MT’s middle school choir concert. The choir is accompanied by a band of college-aged looking gentlemen, including a very handsome accordion player. Mackenzi Lee, in her misguided, naïve, just broke up with her college boyfriend way, watches the accordion player more than she watches the actual show, and gives him what she thinks is a coy, flirtatious smile. He never meets her eyes, so that goes unrewarded. Thank god.
After the show, as she greets the MT:
The MT: Did you like the show.
Mackenzi Lee: Yeah, great—hey, what do you know about the hot accordion player? I mean, the normal accordion player?
The MT: He’s in college, and all the girls in choir have a crush on him.
Mackenzi Lee: I must have him!
The MT: I’m out.
Mackenzi Lee writes a note to the Accordion Player on the back of a piece of the MT’s sheet music. It contains several borderline cheeseball phrases she probably stole from the one Nicholas Sparks novel she ever read, and concludes with the invitation to phone her sometime for a date. She also draws copious smiley faces, because nothing says true love like a well placed emoticon. She leaves the note on the Accordion Player’s accordion, then walks out to the car with the MT.
Upon arriving at the car, she is struck with a terrible realization:
Mackenzi Lee: I DID NOT WRITE MY PHONE NUMBER ON THE NOTE!!!!!!
Mackenzi Lee rushes back into the auditorium, muttering “idiot, idiot, idiot” under her breath and vowing to destroy the note, since this folly is certainly a sign of the fruitlessness of her quest. She rushes up to the accordion, reaches for the note…and finds herself face to face with The Accordion Player.
Mackenzi Lee: Hi.
The Accordion Player: Hi.
Mackenzi Lee: (Looks at note, still lying folded on the accordion. Then decides to screw her courage to the sticking place and go for it) So…you play good accordion.
The Accordion Player: Thanks.
Mackenzi Lee: And you’re…really cute.
The Accordion Player: …
Mackenzi Lee: And I left you this note to tell you I think you’re cute and you should call me sometime so we can go out.
The Accordion Player: (eyes shift to the exits, as though plotting his escape route, as he reaches for his rape whistle)
Mackenzi Lee: But I forgot to write my number on the note, so…I came back to write my number on the note so you can call me and we can go out.
The Accordion Player: I’m going on a mission.
Mackenzi Lee: …Great. (stares awkwardly at the Accordion Player, then, without breaking eye contact, picks up the note, scrawls her phone number on it, and replaces it on top of the accordion.) Well…just in case.
Mackenzi Lee flees.
Two: British Boston Burberry Boy
The Scene: Mackenzi Lee, a few years later in a Boston bus station, hardened by her failed romantic exploits several years previous with the Accordion Player has sworn never to give her number to strangers again. It is nightfall, and she reads on a bench, certain the bus will never come and just about ready to get a taxi. A young man appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and approaches her.
British Boston Burberry Boy: Excuse me?
Mackenzi Lee: (internally curses stranger for interrupting her reading, and also reaches for the hairspray in her bag, since she doesn’t have mace) Uh, what?
British Boston Burberry Boy: Have you got the time?
Mackenzi Lee: (aside) He is British. And also handsome. I shall answer him. (To British Boston Burberry Boy) 8:45. (Panics, and returns to book)
British Boston Burberry Boy: Any idea what time the bus will be coming? Only, I’ve just moved here, and I don’t know how the buses work.
Mackenzi Lee: (aside) Ah! Frustration over busses! Common ground! I shall bond with him!
Mackenzi Lee and British Boston Burberry Boy discuss the atrocious Boston bus system until a bus comes, which they both board, and sit by each other. They spend the entirety of the bus ride discussing England, the Wars of the Roses, Shakespeare, and their shared love of Burberry, where British Boston Burberry Boy works. Mackenzi Lee watches two, then three, then four stops past her own fly by outside the window, but says nothing, because she thinks she is flirting successfully for the first time in her entire adult life.
Finally, knowing she will be walking an extra mile home in the dark at this point, she speaks up.
Mackenzi Lee: Sorry, but this is my stop.
British Boston Burberry Boy: Oh, I’ve got some friends going out for a drink this weekend. Would you like to come?
Mackenzi Lee: Obviously.
British Boston Burberry Boy: What?
Mackenzi Lee: Yes. (scrawls phone number down for him) Give me a call.
British Boston Burberry Boy: I will.
He never called.
14 once pointed out that you really have nothing to lose by giving a stranger your number. Best case scenario—they call, you date, fall in love, marry, live happily ever after. The worst that could happen is he says no, and you say okay, and you never see each other again. So this is how I’ve always tried to think of it, but she’s kind of wrong. Because seriously, if he says no, or doesn’t call, it is SO MUCH WORSE THAN THAT. It is pain, agony, self-loathing, humiliation, wanting to bury yourself in the sand and die a virgin.
And so, after these two missed connections, plus another slew of failed love affairs that resulted from situations where I did not have to be brave, I was leagues away from being inclined to solicit dates from strange men.
And then, last weekend, I met someone that I really hit it off with. We talked, shared mutual love of Star Wars and Sherlock, and parted ways. I wasn’t sure we’d speak again, but I wanted to. And I only had seven days before I flew back to Boston.
And so, in an entirely out of character move, I gave a stranger my number.
And he called. And we met. And we had dinner. And I had a nice time.
And then we parted. And Monday, I go back to Boston, and he stays in Salt Lake, and it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the start of some passionate, romantic love story, because for once, when I was brave, it paid off. Everything worked out roughly the way it was supposed to2.
Moral of this story is that sometimes you don’t learn anything—you just fail.
And other times….well, other times, you don’t.
- This story takes place before she had anything resembling fashion sense.
- I could have done without the flu and catastrophic snowstorms, but hey, life isn’t perfect.