So I was invited to this party on Friday night by my friend Mark, who I've gotten to know since signing up to do tech stuff for this theater production of Oklahoma. We've worked closely enough together that I feel like he's an alright guy, but at the same time, I'm not an idiot. I know he pushed for me to come along because he's probably nursing a bit of a crush on me. I've been in this life long enough to know that boys look at this body with desire.
I can't blame them. I don't encourage them - I dress modestly and act pretty neutrally toward them - but I know that guys at that age are capable of taking any remotely positive interaction and turning it into an infatuation. Now, I've been hit on casually, I've had my looks remarked on, and I've been called a bitch for turning guys down. It doesn't bother me. These guys are nothing to me, and the plan to keep them at arm's length was working.
Mark is a good dude. He's not overly macho, he seems respectful. At first, I paid him little attention, the way I do all the guys around here, but I guess you can't have the barrier up 100% of the time, and he caught me on a good day and we got to talking about music, which led to a really nice conversation about Queen. The only reason I could tell he had a crush on me is because he went out of his way to hide the fact that he had a crush on me, making any threadbare excuse to make conversation with me that he could, and I got to feeling safe around him so I let him. Dang.
Eventually, I caught onto what he was thinking, and it wasn't hard. He started to seem pretty clearly nervous when we'd be one-on-one, and then there was his insistence that I go to this party. And I feel for the kid, so rather than no-show (and basically torpedo my chances of being "in" with these people,) I went. I guess I'm just a social guy at heart.
Friday night, I stressed over what to wear. I wanted something comfy and un-provocative, so I ended up with a black t-shirt under a grey cardigan and jeans. No make-up.
I went over to the girl whose house it was with Dana, my friend who's the female lead. I didn't feel comfortable arriving alone because not only do I not really know these people, I don't even know if Lauren really knew them much, they certainly don't seem to have thought much of her. There was various people from the cast and crew, a few beers and some liquor going around, but it wasn't some crazy drunken madhouse. It was just a lot of deflated kids playing video games and drinking games under the roof of a set of real permissive parents.
Mark noticed me as soon as I arrived - he had been playing Xbox and passed the controller to someone else to greet me. Yeah, subtle. He offered to get me a drink, and I said I wasn't sure if I was going to drink tonight.
I'll address the alcohol issue right now... for obvious reasons, I have indulged a fair bit since I've been here. I try not to get trashed, especially since Lauren's little body can't candle it the way my real one can. But that's on my private time, mostly, with Meg or "the girls." While I don't really have much problem with underage drinking, actually participating with them seems as inappropriate as dating. Still, it was a tough social situation, and maybe if I was feeling tense I could get a beer later.
Mark and I hung out near the fringes of the party, and we had a conversation that kind of danced around the topic. I gave him a chance to come clean by asking him what girls he was into, and he played it off like he didn't have anyone in particular in mind. I said there was plenty of girls at the party, and he said "Yeah... there sure is" kinda half-heartedly. Then he picked a loose hair off my sweater.
I officially needed a drink.
Once I had one beer's worth of confidence in me, I decided it was time to drop the hammer. I asked him if he wanted to take a walk, and of course he did. Once we were out of the house, he got real quiet, and I took my opportunity.
"Hey man, just so you know," I said, "I know you're into me."
He was flustered. "No, what? Um, I... yeah, a little, I guess?"
"I'm not gonna lie," I said, "I'm flattered as hell. You're the first guy I've met in a while who doesn't suck. I mean that. But I'm really, really not the girl for you. I'm just... not in dating shape right now, you know? It's not about you, it's just me."
He took a moment to process this. "Is this because of what happened last year?"
Now "what happened last year" is something I know about but haven't said much on this blog, but maybe later if I'm comfortable, I'll tell you some more of Lauren's backstory. But everyone at school know it.
"Partially," I said, "I mean, it's a complicated thing, there's a lot of reasons. But I want to be your friend. Hell, I want to help you find a girl. I just need you to know that between you and me, this isn't happening. Are you okay?"
Another long pause, "Yeah... I guess I'm okay."
We got back to the party, and Mark gave me some breathing room, although the mood was changed between us. He seemed to sulk, and I felt bad, but it was beyond me control. This was the first guy I've had to turn down that I felt guilty for, because I think if I was really the girl he thinks I am, he would've been in good shape. Then again, it's not like the real Lauren would have given him a shot either, so it's kind of a mercy.
I went home with Dana and slept in her bed, but I was up all night wishing I was still a man and that she was a grown woman. The events of the party haunted me for the rest of the long weekend.
The worst part for me is that I halfway considered it. Mark's a harmless enough guy, and we get along fine considering the age gap. He would probably worship me, and that would be my defense against other guys. And if I told him I couldn't do certain things, he'd probably respect that because he'd feel lucky to be with me... but he wouldn't be lucky, he'd be screwed. Because whatever I think of him is really the most non-sexual, platonic friendship I can imagine, and I know he's thinking of me on a whole other level. Whatever would happen between us would purely be using him, deceiving him, completely disregarding his feelings.
And look, I tease Meg sometimes for continuing Tasha's thing with Wade. He's a decent guy, and if she has no problem with it then I don't (or at least, I try not to.) She was put in that situation and she wants to do right by Tash. Me, I want to do right by Lauren and that means no. And I want to do right by Mark, and that really means no.
He should do fine. He's tall and thin, and he's... I dunno if I'd call him handsome but he's got okay features I guess? Look, I'm new at this, and I still don't know what I'm into. That's not a joke. All these kids look like, well, kids to me, so to even suggest I'm attracted to any of them is out of the question, and while that goes doubly for the guys I'd be lying if I said it didn't apply to the girls. As much as I enjoy the company of the girls, and can see how pretty they are, I'm not exactly tripping over my tongue around them either. I've been in the company of girls in gym class (and overnight stays) and all I see are these half-formed bodies that are close facsimiles of adult women, but not quite ready for the world. That includes my own appearance. There's urges... and a lot of loneliness... but that's fighting my rational side, which knows it's smarter to say no. It's hard to feel sexy, or to have sexy feelings for anyone else, when you're stuck in the middle of this.