The first thing I did when this happened to me was text my best friend Mei, “I feel so humiliated. The most humiliating thing just happened to me.”
Let me explain.
My so-called friend — let’s call him “Dr. No” — texted me asking if I would show him around NYU and tell him about my experience. It made perfect sense since I went there for undergrad and am currently there getting my graduate degree. He’s looking at MBA and certificate programs for business, and NYU has a lot to offer. Therefore, I agreed because I love my school and I love to talk about the things I am passionate about.
That was my first mistake. See, Dr. No and I have a little bit of a history, for lack of a better word. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, girl realizes that she doesn’t actually want a relationship with boy, girl politely but firmly rejects boy.
Why, then, did I say yes? Because Dr. No is about a decade older than me. So when he said that he was OK with being friends, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I met Dr. No at the NYU bookstore, so that I could charge my phone (because I’m not ever prepared for life). We had a fine time — I talked about NYU, he asked me questions and I answered them. I showed him around the East Village and we ate Chipotle — all signs pointed to a regular evening of fun and light.
Things started to change when we got to the NYU Stern School of Business.
I dropped him off at the courtyard and he leaned in for a hug first. I gladly reciprocated and backed away. He then tried to go in for a kiss. Since I’m not in the business of publicly embarrassing people, I curbed him as gently as I could, leaning in for another hug, telling him to hurry inside before he missed the open information session that was to begin soon.
I felt good about it — I was subtle enough that no one saw the curve, but I was firm enough that everyone got the message. So, I turned to walk away after my goodbye. I was almost at the stairs when I heard from behind me:
“Wait, you’re actually serious? Can I have a kiss?”
I cringed internally. I was so close to escaping. But instead, I was forced to say, “Wha—no, we’re not together.”
I explained this to my friend, and she asked me an extremely important question: “Why are you embarrassed?”
Why was I? I had no idea. I didn’t know what was making me feel like I had done something wrong. I felt like I had let him down. Almost like I had promised him a kiss and went back on my word. I felt like even though I’m in a committed relationship, and I could never do anything to jeopardize that, I somehow needed to apologize for making Dr. No feel bad.
Did I somehow give him the idea that I could ever be unfaithful?
But the more I reviewed the events, the more I realized that I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. I hadn’t promised him anything. Nothing in my behavior indicated a desire to move forward romantically. I met up with him, we talked, joked, and ate — this is what most friends do together. I don’t think that I should have “watered down” my personality just so that it wouldn’t be assumed that I wanted a kiss.
Too many things are assumed about relationships. If she’s friendly, she wants you. If she’s cold, she’s a bitch. If she’s distant, she might be playing hard to get. I wish we lived in a world where no meant no instead of yes — where a woman’s “no” was respected, on any and every level. Because most of the time, it really is that simple: no means no, not maybe or kind of.
I mean, imagine what it would be like if you told someone you didn’t want guacamole on your burrito and they put it there anyway.