The Summer We Didn't Date
You’ve heard the classic stories of an idyllic summer spent in romance; well this isn’t one of those. In fact, the best part of this summer was that there were no romantic complications what so ever! Yet it is still one of the best summers in my memory.
Matt and I had been friends for a awhile, and I’m not really sure what changed between us that summer. We’d gotten off to a rocky start years before over some religious differences, but I’d grown as a person since then (I freely admit the problems were my fault), and we’d since gotten to know each other fairly well. The time we spent together was usually in large group settings though. We were both swing dancers and we’d spend hours with our friends dancing, sometimes out in dance halls, other times at parties, and sometimes in just whatever random place the mood hit us.
That summer something changed. I don’t remember any specific event that triggered a change, it just happened. Slowly we started hanging out and doing things together just the two of us. I suppose our schedules were just compatible, we liked many of the same things, and we felt safe together.
We had some crazy adventures that summer. I don’t remember what movies we saw, but I know there were three or four times I’d get a call at some random time (like 9 am on a Monday) saying “Hey, want to go see…” and next thing I’d know it would be just the two of us in the theater watching the latest flick. After all, who else is awake, and not at work, for an 11 o’clock showing on a Monday?
I do remember that we saw the second Matrix movie. That’s the only one I remember and I remember it vividly because there’s a sex scene (that I didn’t know about ahead of time) in it. They weren’t kind with the scene either, no, they wove the sex scene in with a dance scene where something important was going on. So there I was, still a rather sheltered girl, never having seen a sex scene on the big screen before, alone with a guy in the theater, and not having a single clue how to respond!
Another time Matt and I went on a day trip to Seattle. Now I should mention that I grew up in a very sheltered home, so going on a road trip with a guy was a rather shocking concept for my Dad. I went anyway. Dad wasn’t happy, but after all, I was an adult, out on my own, and I knew Matt was a safe guy. Plus it wasn’t like it was an over night trip!
Matt wanted to go to Seattle to check out the university he was applying for. I don’t remember if he didn’t have a car at the time, or if he simply didn’t want to make the trip alone, but I had a friend I could visit in Seattle, and I always loved road trips, so we had decided to go together.
We got up early on Sunday morning to beat the traffic and give us plenty of time up there; it’s a three hour drive after all. I dropped him off to wander around the campus and went to go spend the day with my friend. We met up again, swapped stories, and drove home. But the day didn’t end there. No, it was Sunday, our traditional night to go dancing!
We had planned it all out ahead of time. When we got to town we stopped at his Grandparents house, where he was living at the time, to get food, freshen up, and put on our dancing clothes. I remember being in a small bathroom, changing and putting on deodorant, and catching myself blushing in the mirror as Matt insisted to his Grandparents that I was just a friend, they weren’t allowed to get all excited, and they needed to behave themselves! It was hard to keep a straight face when I came out to eat burritos with everyone else, but I had no clue if he would know that I could hear them through the walls, so I never said a word.
That night we danced into the wee hours of the morning, and then went out for pie at Shari’s with a bunch of our friends, another tradition for our group. I don’t think I dropped him off at his place until around 2:30 in the morning. I remember thinking it was the longest day I’d ever spent with a guy. 6am to 2:30 am. I was exhausted the next day, but I’d had fun, so I didn’t really care. In those days I had lots of energy to spare (and drank lots of caffeine when I didn’t) and I was known for pulling crazy stunts like that.
Like Matt had insisted to his grandparents, we weren’t dating. I know that sounds strange with us going to the movies and taking road trips, but we really weren’t. I’m not sure it’s something we ever consciously discussed, but it was something we both were very aware of. In fact, quite a bit of our time was spent discussing past relationships and current crushes. It was funny, in a way I became Matt’s “wing man” for the summer. Not only did I know every detail he knew about every girl he liked, he would often dance with me to “show off” for them!
I don’t think our friends really understood. I don’t blame them either! They all thought I was crazy. He was a very cute guy after all. At the very least they thought that I should be hurt that he spent so much time with me, but was so obviously interested in other girls. What they didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, was that our friendship was very healing for me.
I’d been through a bad relationship that lasted for years longer than it should have. The details aren’t important now, but I was left with a scarred heart. I didn’t really think I was worth anything, and I didn’t expect to be treated like I was special. I also did not trust my own judgment in guys any more. Not in the slightest. So anything with even a hint of romance to it tended to scare me out of my wits. It didn’t help that around that time most of the guys I did figure out were interested in me were obviously only interested in me on a sexual level, and that was not somewhere I was willing to go.
So Matt was like a safety net for me. I was extremely confident that he wasn’t interested in me, he wasn’t the type to try and get in a girls pants anyway, and I didn’t fit into his “mold” for the type of girl he liked either. At the same time, he was always a gentleman around me. Matt was always a little old fashioned, he could make suspenders look hot, and was the type that opened doors for girls.
Matt always treated me like I was special. I may not have been the one for him, but that didn’t change that I was a special person in his eyes. I can’t even begin to tell you how healing that was! I began to slowly believe again that I was worth being treated like I was someone special. I began to learn to accept it.
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