Illustration by Hannah Kang
Amsterdam-based writer Wen Hsiao's dating & relationships column: "I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing."
Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
I hate hearing “I told you so” from my friends. While they have indeed “told me so,” it went in one ear and out the other, so clearly, the rebuke is meaningless.
Those who have known me since high school know that, up until a year ago, I used to almost exclusively write about my personal life (read: relationships). Whenever I found myself between a rock and a hard place — before I could even process my own emotions — I would go running into the arms of my editor with a pitch. I took the whole “write what you know“ thing quite literally.
I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing.
This column is one of those pitches rushed off to an editor, conceived to capture the lessons we learn the hard way, with a little help from my friends.
I met Harlow at a lecture.
Well, “met” is a strong word. What I mean is we stared at each other from across the lecture hall because we were the only two Asian girls there.
Soon after we met properly, at the library killing time between seminars, we became inseparable. Whenever we’re invited to a house party, we are automatically each other’s plus-ones, showing up an hour early with a bottle of Jägermeister.
At the corner of every house party were Jack and Harlow. The nights would fall, eyelids would grow heavy, and the bottles would run dry-- but their spark never seemed to fizzle. After three years of watching them dance around each other, everyone knew they would end up together. It was just, we all reasoned, a matter of time.
But for those three years, the two of them were never single at the same time, each always one foot in and one foot out of a situationship or relationship of their own.
Until two months ago.
Unbeknownst to each other, they’d both left their respective relationships in the same week: Jack didn’t think his girlfriend was paying him enough attention; Harlow didn’t think her boyfriend was obsessed with her enough.
From ‘f*ck it’ to ‘not it’:
When Jack discovered this from their mutual friend, he asked Harlow out immediately in what might be a new low in modern courtship rituals: “f*ck it”.
Their first date was, in Harlow’s words, “not it."
I was receiving live updates from Harlow, sent from the bathroom and under the table. My plan was to be on standby should I need to call and rescue her from Jack (perhaps I needed to make a third visit to the emergency dentist?).
Harlow, despite all the house parties they’d spent together, had never seen Jack in the daylight (or sober). Apparently, sun and sobriety were unkind to Jack. By the end of the night, after she kissed him goodbye, she unfollowed and removed him as a follower before he could make it out the front door.
A week later, Harlow was sitting at her favorite bar, just down the street from her house. It was a busy Friday night, and she was tucked in the corner of the terrace between two underclassmen.
The three of them were working their way through a pitcher when she spotted Jack in the corner of her eye. At first, she wasn’t sure, but when their eyes met, his eyes widened, and his mouth cracked into a grin, she was sure.
“Hi, I’m Jack,” he greeted the three, “I went on a date with Harlow a week ago and she ghosted me.” Harlow’s jaw dropped.
“We don’t have to do this here,” she cut in hurriedly.
“I mean where else are we going to do this, Harlow? I thought we had a great date but clearly, I was wrong.”
Harlow’s face flushed pink and her feet dangled from the barstool. If she could dig a hole and jump in, she would, but she’d just gotten a shellac manicure.
Their awkward encounter happened two more times in the following two weeks. Needless to say, Harlow doesn’t go to that bar anymore.
Maybe no one has spelled it out for Jack yet, but she’s just not that into you.
As my mother likes to say, “don’t sh*t where you eat.” (Ironic for someone who fell in love with her co-worker during a night shift). I am a firm believer in the cautionary boilerplate. It does not matter how cute your downstairs neighbor is or how funny your lab partner is: I think the sheer risk outweighs any benefits.
Even the romantic in me didn’t stand a chance against the anxiety in me.
Jack and Harlow served as yet another cautionary tale. Not only has Harlow lost her favorite bar, but she is also scared of Jack hiding behind every corner and every corridor at school.
With all biases considered, for Jack to embarrass Harlow in public, to atone for the way he felt embarrassed in private, was a low blow.
To be clear, I don’t agree with Harlow’s approach — ghosting stems from the inability and unwillingness to communicate, and what she did was no doubt hurtful towards Jack. But Jack took it a step too far and was determined to damage Harlow’s reputation for what it was worth.
Why should Harlow — or anyone else for that matter, be retaliated for their lack of reciprocation?