• Christopher M. Tantillo

The Non-Meet-Cute: Or How I Manage to Make Things Awkward and Creepy


Photo Source: Max Pixel

I’ve never been skilled in the department of love or romance. Which is weird, considering I’m a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. While we’re at it, I’m a writer of Young Adult romance novels. My bookshelf and Blu-ray collections are filled with stories of destined love, doomed love, brief love, sexual love, awkward and quirky love, sick love, you name it. From John Hughes to John Green and shows like One Tree Hill to You’re the Worst, I’m obsessed with the idea of having this forever, destined kind of love.

I want to make a girl a mixtape of my favorite love jams and stand outside her bedroom window holding a boom box blasting “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. I want to go on night drives with no destination in mind, playing some soft indie or emo band with the windows down, driving to some off-road pasture to catch fireflies. I want to post adorable Instagram and Facebook selfies that annoy all my friends and family as I literally cannot talk about anything else but my girlfriend and how crazy yet loveable she is and how much she frustrates me yet also breathes the air into my lungs.

Let’s just get this out in the open: it’s not the kind of love I’m likely to get. I’m inherently bad at it. I’ve always been inside myself too much: self-doubt, thought spirals, always weighing the pros and cons, and too often never speaking up or acting out for fear of rejection.

See below for examples.

January 2009:

There was a girl in my sociology class that lived in my dorm. I was a freshman in college, eager to start a relationship after trying to get over a girl I’d loved in high school that ultimately left me empty and numb for far too many months.

I’d see her: curly chocolate hair, dark Italian skin, and a full figure––a mole on her right temple and thick lips. She was so sexy. I’d watch her in the dining hall––watch her on the elliptical machine at the campus gym when I would be on the treadmill behind her. But I never had the courage to talk to her. One day while packing up our books after class on a Monday afternoon, she asked to borrow my notes to study, and she returned them the next Wednesday with her phone number in pink gel pen on the last page.

My nerves were on fire. Do I call her? Do I text her? Should I friend request her on Facebook (then a new commodity in my life)? Do I text her right away or be super chill and cool and wait two days?

Or is it three?

No, definitely two.

Long story short, we texted. I came to her room so we could “study” together, but I had zero idea how I was supposed to act. Normally, I’d sit with another friend in sociology. Now, was I supposed to sit with the girl or invite her and her friend to sit with me and my friend? Would my friend or her friend be offended at this sudden onslaught of new friending? During meals in the dining hall, should I change my schedule to eat with her? Did she want me to?

I had no idea. I was so lost. I was confused. In my head, I kept going over the whats and the ifs and the sos. I even passed her once when she was walking out of the gym and I toward it. I nodded my head when what I really wanted to do was stop and tell her I wanted to take her on a proper date, but my brain and my body and my mouth were all on different agendas.

Unsurprisingly, I never did. I kept walking. And a week later, she messaged me on Facebook to tell me she was seeing someone else because I kept ignoring her.

Alas, I fucked up.

November 2010:

After a night of drunken debauchery with a girl from my Literary Criticism class my sophomore year while at a house party:

“I want you to push me against the wall forcefully, yank my head back, and just stick your tongue into my mouth,” she said.

“You want me to force myself on you?” I slurred.

“I want you to be rough, but do it when I least expect it.”

After a few shots of Grey Goose mixed with some kind of fruity concoction, I pinned her against the wall so hard she thunked her head, and without realizing it, forced my tongue so far into her mouth it actually made her gag. Not the best way to start off a sexy role-play while in front of the Stoner Couch, but, she was drunk enough to be nice about it. The stoners got a good laugh.

Fast-forward for what felt like hours of making out sloppily in a bedroom alone. In the heat of the moment, I pulled back and said the most romantic thing I’ve ever told a girl just as she asked the most intimate thing she could:

Her: “Do you have a condom?”

Me: “I have to pee really freaking bad. Like, my dick is gonna explode. Bye!”

I never did hear from her again after that night…

April 2015:

Long after I’d graduated college and got my first full-time job working for The Man and #adulting, there was a girl at work I was obsessed with. Long, brunette hair, blue eyes, and a smile so wide it made the corner of her eyes crinkle. She was adorable, and I had no idea how to strike up a conversation.

We’d see each other in the hallway, in the break room, or when I’d walk the floors fielding questions from other coworkers. Sometimes there’d be a locking of eyes, a polite smile, maybe an awkward wave, but never an actual conversation.

Then one day she came into the break room smelling of coconut, wearing some kind of white work blouse. I was heating up chicken parm as she came to pour a cup of coffee. Instantly I froze, unsure what to do or say or how to act.

Do I pretend like she’s not there? Wait for her to say something? Lock eyes again? Awkwardly wave again? Polite smile? Ask her about the weather?

Then she said, “You dressed down today. It looks nice.”

Right away I looked down, as if I had, indeed, unknowingly worn blue jeans and a green Hollister pullover. What a revelation!

I went to open my mouth but found no words. What could I come back with?

Hey. No, too casual.

Hiya! Simmer down now, too excited.

Coffee… yum. Do you want to come off as creepy, Chris?

After what seemed like hours of absolutely nothing, she put down the coffee pot, pursed her lips, and awkwardly waved. “Well, see you later.”

Last chance, Chris. You got this.

And then I came back with an absolutely, outstandingly, mind-blowingly awesome, “Yup.”

Alas again, I had fucked up.

In The Breakfast Club of characters, I’m definitely the nerd.

I haven’t learned from my experiences. I still overthink and wonder if any of them really liked me. If they did, was it the real me they liked or the one I present to the world that makes it seem like I have any fucking idea about how to attract the opposite sex? I still run through millions of word combinations in my head trying to be the Shakespeare of shit that will make a girl melt but secretly thinking I’ll sound stupid and awkward and have nothing important to say and then she’ll tell everyone she knows and everyone that I know and I’ll be deemed a no-game loser. I over-calculate every move––running over all the things I never said and the things I shouldn’t have said. I think about the missed opportunities.

Does the girl stretching in the gym who locks her eyes with mine find me attractive or creepy? Does she want me to come up and say hi or tell me she has a boyfriend and thinks I’m a perv? Am I creepy? Am I awkward? Do I look fat? Do I need to pluck my unibrow again? Does my breath smell like butthole? Am I supposed to kiss her? Does she want me to? Goddamn just give me a clue! One clue! What do you want? Why can’t I be like Mel Gibson from What a Girl Wants?

Maybe I’m destined to stay single forever. Maybe staring at all those girls with a closed mouth while they said “hi” was a bad move.

But also: I’m really bad at romantic gestures.

Christopher M. Tantillo

Bio: Christopher M. Tantillo earned his MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He currently lives in Buffalo, New York where you will find him forever in search of gelato to eat. He is a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, and he loves the misuse of the term literally. When not devouring Young Adult literature or writing it, he spends his time binge-watching Netflix shows, writing poetry, adoring independent films where characters talk endlessly about life, and people watching for fun. He takes his love for tea seriously, and enjoys partaking in awkward conversations with anyone willing to humor him. He is currently attempting to sell his first two novels.


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