The Return of Mixed Signals, F**boys, and Feelings of Failure

Welcome to December, the final level of 2020. Are you surviving as well as I am? If so, I’m sorry. That sucks because I am barely hanging on by a thread. I’ve got some life updates for you, one of which is one of your favorite kinds of stories, a dating story. Spoiler alert, like the rest of my dating stories, this one didn’t go well. 

It’s also not exactly a new story. Because of the pandemic, we shouldn’t be meeting up with new people or strangers. So I have shamefully attempted to keep physical connections (and emotional connections) with people I already had a history with and were honest about their current social distancing circles. 

“Motor Boat,” the king of mixed signals came back with his mixed signals bulls**t. 

A Recap

“Motor Boat” is someone I have gone through similar cycles with over and over again. We met years ago and have been friends in one form or another ever since. At one point, we even matched on a dating app. This story started about a year and a half ago when he slid into my DM’s, and we slept together. Afterward, my anxiety got the best of me, and he decided he wasn’t interested in anything. Which sucked, but rejection is part of life. 

Since then, we go through the same cycle over and over again. “Motor Boat” will flirt with me or invite me over and have sex with me. Then I’ll get my hopes up and lean into it real hard, and then he tells me he’s not interested. Inevitably we would end up embracing being just friends. And I liked him enough that just being friends was something I was genuinely okay with and enjoyed. People don’t owe you affection just because you have a crush on them. 

Now to the Present

Every time we would get to the part of the cycle where he showed interest in me or initiated sex with me, I would perilously throw myself at him. I assumed it was apparent it wasn’t just a sexual attraction on my part but a real crush. And because we kept coming back to each other and repeating the cycle, I hoped that he felt the same on some level. Or at the least was comfortable with friends with benefits.  Which I know is foolish to believe.

So a month and a half ago, when “Motor Boat” again told me he wasn’t interested. I let it go. I realized how stupid I had been. I wasn’t going to push someone into wanting me. I went back to embracing friendship because I respected his boundary and wanted him in my life in any capacity. 

For a while, it was going great. Occasionally we would chat, go to each other for support when stressed, share memes and jokes. I was surprisingly comfortable in the dynamic.

A New Job

This dynamic hit a nice stride in my recent life when I needed the friendship. Restaurants closed again, and I found myself losing one job and jumping into a new, more challenging one. A film set PA. 

I was scared and overwhelmed and had no idea what I was doing. And it showed. I kept messing up, and I was struggling to keep up. It felt like I was failing. 

Originally it was just supposed to be for a week while I waited for restaurants to open back up. However, I found the challenge something I wanted to rise to. I got lucky, and through people on set who believed in me, I managed to get hired on for the rest of the show. 

I was struggling every night. I would come home and break down, feeling like I was failing. I would send out messages and snapchats, letting out my frustrations and self-doubt. My friendship with “Motor Boat” was going well, so he was one of those people. 

The Cycle Started Over

One of those snaps was me coming back to my hotel at 7 PM after a 15 hour day. I had drawn a shower and whole appropriately clothed, informing my snap recipients of how I had another day full of mistakes and how I was going to shake it off with a shower beer before cheersing the camera. 

I was fully clothed, and nothing about it was sexual. When I got out of the shower, “Motor Boats” had responded. He said he shouldn’t have told me he wasn’t interested in being friends with benefits. That he overreacted. 

Followed by how he wished he could have joined me in that shower. 

This time I did the mature thing. I didn’t engage with the flirtation at all. I sidestepped and changed the subject. I assumed “Motor Boat” was drunk that he came back because he was interested in me on some inebriated level. 

Thanksgiving Holiday

The next week was Thanksgiving. If I’m honest with myself, deep down, I was still hoping that friends with benefits was back on the table. So I was vaguely flirtatious in my texts. 

Friday, the next day, he invited me over. Being sober, I reminded myself not to get my hopes up. To be careful. He is notorious for mixed signals, after all. When I got there, it was clear he just wanted to hang out. 

And it was great. We talked about board games and the holidays, how we handled waiting through the election results. 

Truth Starts Coming Out

That’s when he started telling me a story about a recent ex-friend he had. This long story about a girl he met a while ago that he initially had a connection with when they met at a wedding. Because she lived out of state, they agreed just to be friends. 

“Motor Boat” told me that she would come to visit and stayed at his house over the past year while she looked for jobs here. That she was looking to move here. 

He explained that this other girl repeatedly had the wrong idea and how she kept getting frustrated that he wasn’t into her. That every time she would come to stay at his house, she would start talking to him and bossing him around like she was his girlfriend. And he INSISTED that he NEVER did or said anything to give her the wrong impression. 

On one level, it felt as if he was passive-aggressively telling me this story to make sure I knew he wasn’t into me. On another, I’m listening to this story, knowing our history, and struggled to believe this girl was making this connection up in her head. It was nearly identical to what I had gone through with him. 

When I gently hinted at that, he made sure to tell me that this happens to him all the time. He has always been close to girls, and they get the wrong idea all the time. 

He told me one of the big reason he and his ex-fiance broke up is that she felt like “Motor Boat” was too close to other girls, and he felt it was unfounded. 

The conversation continued to get weirder. “Motor Boat” kept bringing up things he had recently struggled with that he insisted we had talked about before when we hadn’t. He maintained that he had brought up both his ex and this other ex-friend before. I assured him he had me confused with someone else. 

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was so uncomfortable. I remember texting my friends about how awkward it was while I was sobering up to drive home. He was so caught up in talking about himself he didn’t even notice I was glued to my phone. The second I was sober enough to drive, I bolted. 

Difficult Feelings

Something about our entire conversation left me feeling insecure. I just couldn’t quite put it into words. At first, I thought it was the continuous disappointment that “Motor Boat” wasn’t actually into me. And if I’m honest, that was a big part of it. But it wasn’t all of it. 

It felt important to remind him that he had recently tried to start our cycle over again. 

I texted him the next morning to remind him. I didn’t say I was upset, just that I wasn’t sure if he was aware that he was doing this to myself and these other girls. After our conversation the day before, it sounded like its something he wanted to know. That telling me he wanted to shower with me was confusing and I wanted to help make sure he wouldn’t confuse anyone anymore. Clearly, this is a pattern for him. 

His response? 

“Oh, yea, I was just joking. “

That’s when I felt like I got hit by a cannonball. Right in the stomach. I was so taken in by shock; I didn’t know what to say. 

I reiterated that I only wanted to bring it to his attention. That we had been through that cycle a few times, and I wanted to make sure he understood that every time I thought there was something more going on, I didn’t get there on my own. 

The conversation was incredibly brief. Mostly because I didn’t feel right, and I didn’t know why. Which I even pointed out. 

The conversation ended with him asking if we were cool. I told him:

“I think we will be, but I don’t fully understand how I’m feeling right now.”

I Continued To Unpack Emotions

I went to bed that night feeling sucker-punched and hollow.  

A joke? 

Was all of it a joke? A few months ago, when I thought we were just friends and I came over to vent about “Casper,” and you kissed me, was that a joke? When you pulled me on top of you that night, was that a joke? Was sleeping with me after telling me you weren’t interested in me a joke? Was sleeping with me at all a joke? 

Was I just a joke to you? 

I thought… how was telling me you wanted to shower with me after recently creating a boundary any different than the times we slept together. 

And how was it a joke? 

The next morning on my drive back to the film set, he texted and asked why I didn’t bring it up when we were hanging out since it clearly had been on my mind. 

I was honest. It hadn’t entirely been on my mind until after our conversation. I had a two-hour drive, and as s I drove, my mind continued to unpack why I was feeling gross after our recent discussions. 

I realized how absurd and painful it was that it was all just a joke. Or that his excuse was “it was all a joke.” How it made it worse. 

I thought about how there was no way he didn’t know how I felt and how he was playing games with me. Since he had texted, asking why I didn’t say anything when we were hanging out in person, I assumed we were still in a place to keep talking about it. 

Things Took a Turn

After my long drive and spending that time unpacking the feelings I didn’t understand. When I reached my location, I sent him a long message detailing all of the new things I was starting to understand fully. 

I wasn’t trying to fight or attack him. I consciously made an effort to use “I feel” statements. I didn’t think he was someone who would do anything like that on purpose. I made sure to add that I acknowledged and accepted his apology from the day before. 

I felt like I was unpacking and sharing my feelings. Continuing a dialog to move forward. 

He, however, tore me apart. 

He was furious with me for continuing to talk about it. Tried to tell me that I was also just looking for attention. He said he wasn’t going to repeatedly apologize and how I clearly didn’t really accept his apology. 

I Tried to Explain

I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking for him to apologize more. That you can accept an apology and still need to let out how your feeling. That’s how emotions work. 

I tried to point out that, for me, it was never about attention. That I honestly really really liked him. That’s why I kept throwing myself at him when I thought “Friends with Benefits” was on the table. And why I was truly okay with just being friends because having him in my life was a gift. 

Suddenly I realized we were not arguing about him stringing me along. In reality, it was an argument about the fact that I continued to need to talk about my feelings. 

He posted something on Facebook about people “Deleting themselves from his life,” which worsened my anxiety. 

A Battle Over Anxiety

He texted me that he ” had anxiety and continuing to talk about what happened was making him feel worse.” He added that he made those inappropriate “Jokes” because rejecting people made him more anxious and sex jokes were his way of breaking the tension. That he had nothing more to say to me. 

Which made my anxiety go into overdrive. I kept texting, trying to explain that letting it all out is how I handle my anxiety. I talk it out until it’s no longer festering inside. 

I tried to apologize and point out that fighting or making him upset wasn’t my intention. I tried to clarify if he needed space or was actually cutting ties. He never responded. 

I definitely sent more texts than I “should have.” (which in the world of our current communications, I don’t consider trying to clarify texting too much.)

The next day I asked him if he hated me. Because I was still anxious. 

He told me to stop. 

I didn’t understand. 

He got to lean on his anxiety in a way that left me feeling like I was treated poorly. But I was a terrible person and disposable for the way I expressed my anxiety. 

I felt disposable overall. 

Being a joke. Being used. 

What Hurts The Most

But the part that hurts the most is that I was left feeling like a terrible person for needing to keep talking about my feelings. I honestly don’t think the “jokes” or the “cycles” were things he was doing consciously. For that, I meant it when I said I accepted his apology. “

But I don’t think I can ever excuse or understand condemning me for having and expressing my feelings. 

“Motor Boat” undoubtedly has an obvious pattern for doing this to other girls. I didn’t make this up in my head. I know from this blog alone, I have a dating pattern myself. But I’m really proud that I do my best to see things from other people’s perspectives and never played with someone’s emotions if I wasn’t sure about them. 

I keep asking myself how I could have handled this differently. How did I contribute to this event? And honestly, I don’t think I could have done anything differently. I could have checked in to make sure he was in a space to keep talking. I could have broken it up into smaller texts. However, if that’s all I needed to do, he wouldn’t have completely cut me out of his life. No matter what, I still needed to talk about how I felt and won’t avoid talking about feelings just because it’s uncomfortable. In reality, the only thing I should have done was cut the repeated cycle off a year ago. Except I don’t regret not doing so because I still believe he was someone worth the effort. 

Despite the fact that he basically told me: 

“I said I was sorry. Now get the f*ck over it.” 

That is purposefully malicious. In a way that is clearly him avoiding facing the consequences of how his actions made other people feel. 

If, by some miracle, you read this and made it this far. There is no way you didn’t know you were playing games with me or any of those other girls. I understand that you didn’t do it intentionally, and for that, I give you space. 

I repeatedly made it clear it was okay that you didn’t feel the same way about me. And I never ever asked or expected you to feel the same way.

However, lashing out at me for how I handle my anxiety by continuing to talk my emotions till they’re all out of me, is inexcusable. Especially since you are leaning on your anxiety as an excuse to use people and avoid dealing with it. It’s self-centered and narcissistic, and blatantly cruel. It makes you a F**ckboy

It was Gaslighting

I found myself in a lot more pain from this encounter than I expected. Not so much heartbreak like in some of my other posts, but this made me feel small and hallow. My friends reminded me that I was carrying too much of the guilt from this encounter. One person pointed out that flirting with me and then turning around and telling me is inherently gaslighting. He did something and then, when faced with the consequences pretended like it didn’t really happen. For anyone who doesn’t know, gaslighting is a form of abuse. 

I keep thinking about “Motor Boat’s” story about his now ex-friend and his ex-fiance. My heart goes out to them. They weren’t crazy. They weren’t the only people this happened to. Her side of the story has been so erased by his inability to take accountability for himself. 

Moving Forward

To make everything worse, I carried the energy from this encounter that I wasn’t good enough into my new job. I hated that I turned into someone that spent every day complaining and making excuses for myself. That’s not my natural personality. Going back to work after that conversation made me feel like I wasn’t even worth trying. Which made it even harder to learn and grow and create a better name for myself. 

Fortunately, I have a bit of a break before I have to go back to work, and I have time to grieve. Even though it wasn’t a romantic relationship, it was still something that was ripped away from me that I didn’t want to lose. “Motor Boat” might have used me, but I saw him for his actual worth. Even if he didn’t see it in himself. 

And as I have some time to let go of the mistakes I’ve already made at my new job and get to start fresh next week. It really is something I am excited to get better at for the simple reason that I really love a good challenge. 

Please leave a comment on both this page and the Facebook post. If you find this a nice piece to read, share it with your friends. Do you think I could have handled this differently? Do you think I was wrong for continuing to express myself?

Tell me how you are getting through the struggles of this year. What have you lost that you weren’t ready to lose? How are you dealing with it? Did someone break your heart recently? Have you tried anything new yourself? How do you handle failure?