Lesson 1: Empathy

I started understanding humans romantic dynamics!

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

Somehow in the process of growing up and becoming what I am now (I think I’m a human being and a very sleepy and hungry bear cub at the same time), I deleted something important from my basic human skills. I wouldn’t know how to explain it but I basically sucked at doing simple things others did, like asking strangers for directions, saying I was sorry or dealing with sad persons.

Cam’s Sidenote #1: Specially dealing with sad persons, most times I would pretend everything was ok because that would make them stop crying (it was not a good idea) and I’m currently in level 2: I awkwardly hug the person in silence until something else happens (either cries more and asks me to leave or cheers up a little bit).

All this general awkwardness and confusion humans caused me lead me to believe I was somehow broken (not in a bad way though) and would forever be unable to be in a relationship because how was I going to deal with someone else? And ON PURPOSE!?

“Is he being nice? Are they flirting? Is she mad at me?”

I never knew, I never understood (I still don’t). How’s that everyone could do it but I couldn’t? I specifically sucked with this kind of easy, really obvious questions and it was a little troubling because consider this but now related with romantic dynamics (I’m throwing it in a test form):

Can Cam figure out when someone likes her? Can she be aware of any flirting attempts towards her?

a. Mostly on the weekends if the light is right and there’s also a full moon coming.

b. Totally, I mean why not?

c. Not at all, she’s got the perception skills of Donkey’s rock in Shrek.

That’s right, I’m the rock. It’s not an entirely bad thing because that way I don’t have to consciously reject anyone (if at some point there was anyone but how would I know, I can’t notice that kind of things, that’s the whole point of this article!) but at the same time it leads me to believe no one liked me, at least for the first 15 years. It didn’t bother me that much (maybe I’m lying but you’ll never know) but it made me wonder if I was… I don’t know, too pale? Too quiet? Too weird?

I solved this question later in a not so nice way: I was indeed able to know when someone liked me! But way too late, in creepy ways, when they were already knocking on my door (this actually happened once and it was… god, no) and it was my fault, though it’s not fair to blame it exclusively on me.

Cam’s Sidenote #2: This is not my issue alone but a problem with persons in general (and in my experience with guys mostly). Being nice, saying “hello” back or simply having a conversation can be often misunderstood as interest (romantic interest) and I’m totally against it, you CAN be nice without any hidden intentions.

Thinking I was romantically interested too (which I was not) there were guys that took it too far and started going all in: Letters, love confessions and other strange behaviours that totally freaked me out and made me think the flirting process and dating, in general, was always going to be like that, which made me use a really extreme strategy the following years.

WARNING: DANGER AHEAD

In presence of anyone interested abort the mission, change your name and move to another country

I became mean in panic situations. As soon as someone liked me (more like as soon as I found out), I started being mean (as mean as I could) to kill all expectations or hopes towards any kind of relationship with me, not even a plain friendship was listed as an option.

Avoiding all contact, reading messages without replying, pretending I was always busy and answering all nice comments with an awkward laugh and a subject change became the usual, and it got out of hand at some point. I behaved like that with more and more persons because I felt like I should make it a complete disguise: “Make everyone think you’re a mean girl that likes no one and you’ll be safe from all the creepy ones forever (currently I’m 65% a mean girl that likes no one)”.

The strategy backfired anytime I liked someone. I’m not going to talk about how much I sucked at flirting the few times I felt like it (I really sucked, I still really suck) but it was even harder with this image of mean, heartless, rude girl that’s not interested in relationships at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I was not dying to be with someone so it was a bit true. Dating was not a top priority and I’m a picky person that rarely likes anyone enough to actually do something about it but when I do it’s for real, I’m all in.

Then the magical gods of the universe did the thing

I met someone in my first year of college and everything you’ve read so far happened: I liked him and he liked me back (I had no idea) but I thought he didn’t because well… I suggest going back a few paragraphs if you have doubts. I had also embraced the permanently mean attitude so he thought I didn’t like him either, which kept everything still for two years (we were both equally dumb). We talked from time to time and had some things in common, but it was distant… friendship, if I can call it like that.

Then the magical gods of the universe did the OTHER thing

We started talking a little more, but nothing important. One day he asked me out for a coffee. Then we exchanged phone numbers. Next month we had lunch together. We visited a museum once. He held my hand because he was freezing. He was such a good friend, right? He told me he liked me but as friends, right? I liked him too. Then we kissed.

WHAT…!? THAT’S NOT WHAT FRIENDS DO.

The riddle finally made sense: He liked me and not as friends, he indeed liked me! I felt just as if I had discovered a new particle.

Hanging out, chatting until midnight on the phone while hiding under the covers, going out to eat, sharing private jokes… “That’s how you flirt”, I told myself. There’s no proper way to do it and that was what my stubborn brain took so long to understand. There’s no formula, explanation or guidelines (unless you want to be tacky and creepy and use pick-up lines).

Cam’s Sidenote #3: I’m tacky and creepy and use pick-up lines because I know he can deal with it and also I always wanted to have someone to send those Valentine’s Day internet cards to, I love a good odd tacky Valentine’s Day card when the right person is sending it.

I’m still not a master at reading humans but I’m learning how to do it (in a really very extremely slow way). I observe more, judge less and ask when I need to. I listen, more than anything. I feed up on stories and try to think as they do, put myself in their place and absorb not just facts but vibes. I try to picture feelings too, get inside their brains and hearts.

Let me introduce you to “empathy”

In the adventure of getting to know people, understanding what was my friend thinking when she got back with her lame boyfriend or why did he break up with her if he’s still in love, I ran into the word “empathy” (actually he told me about it one day I was asking how to understand a sad person).

“ Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference” — taken from Wikipedia

It made complete sense, that’s what I was missing! I needed empathy in order to process all the data I was receiving. My advice (I’m an expert now, you know) in case you’re struggling to understand why some things happen and how can you fix half of the problems in your life, be empathic:

A friend’s crying? Try to think like him before asking what’s wrong or giving an awkward hug.

Did you make a mistake? Analyze it, what was the worst part? Who did you hurt? Figure out the right way to fix it.

Are you wondering if that special person likes you back? Do you want to know if he’s creepy by nature or having a huge crush on you?

No. This is not going to help you this time. Love is weird.

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