Sometimes I look back on my adolescence and wonder if I was a budding sociopath. I wasn’t killing critters or anything, but throughout middle school and high school I had a bad habit of leading girls on. Sometimes it was by accident. Other times I knew exactly what I was doing, but I didn’t quit because I enjoyed the attention – despite the fact that I wasn’t interested in the girl giving it to me.
It’s horrible. I don’t condone it. I’ve considered writing a series of posts apologizing to each and every one of these girls. If The Brantley Blog has one purpose, it’s for me to take a good hard look at the steps I took to grow up, even (and especially) the embarrassing ones.
This story begins in the awkward aftermath of my Mallory saga. After the dust settled and the permanence of the friend zone was established, I was hesitant to get my heart set on any one girl in particular again for a little while. I tried to be a little more guarded with my love disbursement.
This led me to pursue four girls at once all at half speed, rather than one at full speed. Not to diminish the unique character of each of these lovely ladies, but I will list them (in no particular order) A-D because most of them come back around and feature prominently in later points of my journey.
Girl A: A social butterfly semi-interested in me but devoting a lot of attention to masking her penchant for drama. I overheard her telling an acquaintance about the other guy that she preferred over me. This is prime, Grade-A Brantley that we’re talking about here, ladies. Even amidst my self-esteem struggles, I wasn’t interested in being the backup plan boyfriend. Most telling of the whole experience was the look on her face when I asked about the other guy. Talk about caught red-handed!
Girl B: The most amazing girl in the entire world, The One…only not just yet.
Girl C: A girl that became less attractive the more I got to know her, the lack of interest was mutual, though we remained friends.
Girl D: The Last Girl I Ever Led On.
These lovely ladies weren’t necessarily listed in order of importance (duh), but Girl D was Girl D for a reason. I was least interested in her. So naturally, she was the most interested in me!
A petite girl with big blue eyes and an innocent sense of humor that betrayed her immaturity anytime she tried to make a dirty joke, Girl D and I met through her roommate Maggie – Star of one of my favorite posts: The Awkwardest Lunch Conversation. Ever.
D was involved with the Campus Activities Board movie club, which hosted almost weekly screenings in the Pegasus Ballroom (seriously, I have no idea why anyone would go to a school other than UCF). The club also distributed passes to sneak previews of movies at the nearby multiplex. At the invitation of Maggie and Mallory, I began attending these events regularly because they were equal parts free and awesome. D and I got to know each other in this way, and despite her initial periphery within my burgeoning and doomed group of friends, she and Maggie eventually became regulars at all of our shenanigans.
With only about a month before Summer, I began spending time alone with D. She was from up north and she didn’t have a car, so I chauffeured her around and relished in her boredom when neither of us felt like leaving campus.
The first whiffs of crazy came when I overheard her talking to her parents on the phone. She reverted to full blown 13-year-old bratty teenage girl caricature within just a few sentences from her dad. It wasn’t attractive. At all.
Further emphasizing this immaturity was her picky toddler eating habits. Our group of friends would have a meal together and she would always have to be accommodated, because she pretty much only ate chicken tenders and plain pasta with parmesan cheese.
This is where my tendency to lead girls on reared its ugly head. I should have bailed, either telling her I wasn’t interested (like a grown up), or just avoiding her and pretending like she didn’t exist anymore (like a 19 year-old Brantley).
Instead, I went to SeaWorld with her.
And her parents.
It was miserable. She bickered with her dad the entire time. Right in front of me. Right in front of everyone at SeaWorld. Constantly.
At this point, you might be picturing her parents as evil-ass people. They weren’t. They were regular-ass parents. Her dad would tease her and pick at her, not in a cruel or pointedly mean way, but it got perfectly under her skin every single time. Maybe he was a bad person, because that never stopped him from continuing to do it to my sole embarrassment (I don’t think that she or her family bothered to become self-conscious).
Another enormous red flag was that night at mini-golf when I was joking around with Girl B: The One. It was harmless (or so we thought), but we always flirted all the time every single second that we were within flirting range of each other. This didn’t go over well with D, but I didn’t even realize it at that particular moment. See, she had been on and off the phone with her parents that night, so I assumed that her dad was making her upset, not me.
Don’t worry, D and I talked it through…after she sulked silently in the back seat of my car the entire drive home (30 min+) to the palpable social discomfort of the other two passengers and me. As we approached campus, sobs began to bubble forth from that little perpetually sad place inside her. By the time I parked, she bolted out of the car as tears started to pour from her eyes. Remember, I had no freaking clue what this was about.
I was in a bad spot. I didn’t want to be a bad guy, so I kept trying to repair this girl and make her happy again even though I really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to be with her. Eventually, we had to sit down and talk about the whole mess.
Summer was fast approaching, and soon she would be on a plane headed north and I would be moving across the street to a different dorm. I figured, “Why bother treating this girl like a human being and telling her I’m not interested? That would be kinda uncomfortable and grossly mature.” So I told her, “Summer’s coming up, so let’s not do this right now. Maybe next Fall?” with absolutely no intention of maybe revisiting this next Fall. She agreed.
That settled it.
We parted ways, the whole group of friends committing to stay in contact through Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger (God I feel old right now).
D lurked on AIM, day and night. She waited for my screen name to pop up. Once it did, she ambushed me within 3.5 seconds of me signing on.
We weren’t in a relationship. I never kissed this girl or did anything that I couldn’t take back or anything that would complicate me not dating her. I thought Summer would give me a clean break. It did not. She still came to me with her problems and I talked to her but I never knew what to say. She was always determined to stay upset. There was no cheering her up. Ever. Eventually, I started responding to her messages less and less.
That’s when she started harassing our friends about us. Soon after, I was bullied by just about everyone I knew to cut her loose rather than leaving her hanging for the next three months. It was that obvious that I didn’t want to be with her.
And so I manned up and let her know that I wasn’t interested. Through AOL Instant Messenger.
Totally not cool, I know. I was a coward. I stopped using AIM for a long time after that. Without a Brantley to take out her incessant upset-ness on, D started bashing me to our friends. And I mean bashing. You have to remember the immaturity factor.
Examples of how I ruined her life:
She could no longer find joy in SeaWorld. I ruined that for her because we went there with her parents that one time.
At the time, I wore cheap flannel jackets when it was cold out. I called them “Lumberjackets.” She promptly developed a hatred of that pattern.
She once cried when she saw a Dr. Pepper commercial (this beverage was quite the vice for me for a long time). Cried. Tears spewed forth. From an emotional response. To a Dr. Pepper commercial.
D had crafted a strange collage of every semi-interesting or clever thing that I ever said in her presence. It was now practically ruined by salty, heartbroken, malicious, confused tears.
Most of these things she spewed to The One, who eventually decided she had had enough. “Brantley’s a good guy. You’re being crazy,” she told D (I’m totally paraphrasing, but this is probably accurate because my girl is the kindest person on the planet). Soon D was complaining about both of us to all of our friends as she concocted conspiracy theories about how our flirtation was far more insidious than it actually was at the time.
Girl D was the last girl I would ever lead on. I decided that even before realizing that I already knew the love of my life. What seemed to be crazy behavior at the time looks even more insane now. I think that if this had happened to me today, I would now have enough sense to fear for my life.
I shouldn’t be so harsh about her. She certainly had a lot of issues, but I was somehow managing to exacerbate all of them. It was one part god-complex (determination to cheer her up and fix her) and one part cowardice (too chicken shit to let her know the truth – that I didn’t want to date her). What started off as an amusing, albeit manipulative game on my part landed me in exactly what I deserved: a lot of freaking social turmoil.
Next Post: A rebounding Brantley finds $100 in his pocket and concocts a foolproof plan to impress a girl.