No guts, no glory
Throughout almost my entire time as a student in the Netherlands, I was a bar tender. And as the cliché goes – you get a lot of attention as a bar tender. You’re easy to flirt with because people have to talk to you to order a drink (“2 beers and your phone number?” Guys, it will never work), and you’re less likely to throw a drink in the person-trying-to-clumsily-ask-you-out’s face, since that wouldn’t be very hospitable and all. When I first quit my bar tending job and moved abroad, I felt so at ease; nobody was bothering me, nobody trying to hit on me, I didn’t have to worry about dodging groping hands going for my bum, etc. But after about two months, I started thinking; wait a minute, what’s going on? Do guys here not like me? Am I still fun? I felt like I went from bar tender to invisible.
My friends all encouraged me to take control of my life and start asking guys out myself, some male friends were even claiming it was sexy when a girl asked them out. But as much as I wanted to believe this, I would be lying if I said that the sudden lack of guys flirting with me, didn’t take its toll on my self-esteem. (I have to add that the German way of flirting is very different from the Dutch way – direct and obvious -, something I still haven’t fully grasped after 2,5 years.) First of all, I had never asked a guy out before, and second of all, I figured if guys didn’t ask me out, they must not be interested.
Since getting up in the middle of the night to ask my neighbor out for a coffee via Facebook after chewing on the idea for 6 weeks and literally getting tired of being nervous just thinking about it last summer, I have gradually taken small steps in the right direction. Last July I was away for a month in a cottage in the woods in Canada with a very good friend of mine, and as happens when you’re away from you day-to-day life for so long, I started thinking and reflecting about all aspects of my life. It had already dawned on me that I should just take control, and as my friend had said to me about life in general: ‘if you put yourself out there and go after what you want, you will have a successful life’.
Towards the end of my trip I met a nice guy on the bus from Toronto to the town close to the cottage. On the bus trip, we talked for two hours and he offered that I could wait at his place until my friend was picking me up. I had kind of hoped that there would be a kiss involved in there somewhere, since I liked him and I got the feeling that it was mutual. By the time my friend came to pick me up, there had been no kiss. We said our goodbyes, I got in the car with my friend and told him about my bus trip. My friend asked, “so did you guys kiss?”, I was disappointed to admit that no, we had not. My friend responded, “well, that’s not a nice ending to this story. You know what you should do? You should go back to his house and when he opens the door, just kiss him. Now THAT’s a good story.” I didn’t give myself time to think – I was in a foreign country, leaving in a few days, and had nothing to lose. So I said, “yeah, you’re right, let’s do it.”
In the few minutes it took to drive back to his house and prepare myself for this ridiculous moment, I went through all kinds of levels of terror, anxiety, and doubt of my mental health. But I went there nevertheless, and when he opened the door, I clumsily stumbled that ‘I had kind of wanted to kiss him… but I didn’t…’, he stepped out onto the street mid sentence and kissed me right there – yes, just like in the movies. I felt so empowered, bold, and downright ballsy, that this was a turning point for me.
A few weeks after coming back to Berlin I decided to tell a friend that I had a thing for him and after he turned me down (gently but still), I had expected to feel sad and insecure, but quite the opposite happened. I felt so good about just coming clean and not dragging this information around with me anymore, all the while turning this mosquito into an elephant. I had put myself out there and got it off my chest. And the positive feeling I had after a negative response was quite astonishing.
I feel like I’m finally fully grasping what it means take risks in life, put yourself out there, and even if the outcome is not positive or exactly what you want, if you allow yourself, you can feel so empowered by the simple act of doing it, that you feel like you’re on top of the world anyway, and the feeling you get from taking control of your life, is mind-blowing.
Just remember that you will not die doing things like this, and have you ever felt that when someone asked you out, they shouldn’t have? Probably not as much as you feel flattered that they did.