I’ve managed to almost entirely avoid that annoying stereotype of being increasingly-not-young and yet also not-increasingly-attached. Nobody really tries to set me up. It’s nice, really. No blind dates. No, “She’s got a nice personality.” None of that garbage. It’s nice. My family and friends largely let me do my own thing without assuming they know better than I what I should be doing with my life.
This isn’t to say that it hasn’t happened. It’s just that it’s happened twice. Unfortunately one of those times has been a five year long odyssey of slight annoyance.
It might shock my readers to learn that I’m Norwegian. I mean, partially Norwegian. It’s not something I talk about since, once you get past the Vikings and the rather cool Norse storytelling tradition, there’s really nothing to talk about in re: being Norwegian. Mostly it’s awful food made almost entirely out of lard and potatoes and, well, I can’t think of a second thing. Also, to a native English speaker all of that awful food actually sounds like -- or at least contains a syllable or two that sound like -- things that you don’t want to actually eat. It's like the terribleness advertises itself.
My grandmother, however, cares about being Norwegian. She’s a member of an organization that mostly sits around and does Norwegian things and/or talks about Norwegian things. The people involved are mostly old enough to be my grandparents. It’s also, as many such organizations are, a group that exists in order to perpetuate itself.
As someone who has sat around in a lot of meetings in which the conversation goes to, “How do we get more people to care about this in order to keep this going?” I often take a step back and ask the question, “Why would anyone want to join this group?” My answer for the Norwegian folks is, “I have no freaking clue.” It amounts to a bunch of people sitting in a church basement eating bad food and talking about being Norwegian. You have to really give a shit about Norway to want to do that.
Anyway, as it turns out, I am also a member of this august organization. My reasons for being a member involve getting signed up before I was old enough to realize I don’t give a shit about Norway. Ever since then I’ve been getting their monthly magazine, the occasional newsletter, and a lot of junk email. So it’s basically like signing up for a JCPenney’s card, but with more Norwegian-themed crap and less Ellen DeGeneres. I don’t really have to care about it, it’s just a thing. However, I will say this: if you’re forced to choose, go with Ellen. She’s fun. And married to Portia de Rossi. And it’ll apparently piss off conservatives. Some of whom might be crotchety old Norwegians.
But you don’t want to hear about the group dynamics of Norwegian-themed organizations. Or, hell, maybe you do. Leave something in the comments and I’ll seriously consider working up a post on group dynamics. It’s one of those things that actually does fascinate me. But I’m not here to talk about Norwegian group dynamics. I think. Wait, what was I talking about?
Oh, yeah, my grandmother.
About five years ago my grandmother got it in her head that I totally needed to meet this one girl. Her reasons were as follows: 1. She’s Norwegian. 2. She’s nice to old people. 3. She’s the daughter of my grandmother’s friends. If you’re not already as excited as I am about this girl I don’t know what the fuck to tell you.
Oh, yeah, also, I was still kinda-sorta seeing Her at the time, for some variety of “seeing” and “still thinking for some damn fool reason it might work out.” My grandmother didn’t like Her. You might think that means my grandmother is an astute judge character, since, y’know, She’s kind of a bitch. But it’s kind of like…well, it’s kind of like Ron Paul. Yeah, he wants to end foreign wars and I, also, want to end foreign wars. But Ron Paul’s reasoning is totally crazy-go-nuts and not really connected to any sane stance on anything. And, yes, I just compared my grandmother to Ron Paul. I’m okay with that.
One thing you need to know about my grandmother is that she’s really big on expectation management. Another thing you need to know about my grandmother is that she doesn’t know how to do expectation management. Shortly after learning that the girl in question was Norwegian and liked old people I got an actual description. As I recall, it boiled down to, “Well, she’s kinda homely looking,” and, “She’s not the skinniest girl in the world. She’s a bigger girl, really.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy shit, an ugly, fat chick who loves old people? Sign me up!” I have, however, known my grandmother for a while. What she was attempting to do was set up a scenario where we’d meet and I’d discover that the girl was actually significantly more attractive than I’d thought and I’d be all, “Yay, grandma! Thanks for introducing me to this totally amazing person!”
Alas, my desire to meet a fat, homely girl who’s main advantages involved being Norwegian and nice to old people was very low. I mean, I still thought I had a chance to make things work with a not-fat, pretty girl who was a bitch to everybody at and was probably of British descent or something. Hey, a guy’s got to dream big, right?
I ended up getting to sidestep that bullshit from time-to-time. My grandmother was still trying to push it even after the girl moved downstate somewhere. I’m sure that she was harboring plans about how it could still work out while I was living in Texas. It was a minor annoyance, but in the grand scheme of things it was the only thing of that sort I had to deal with other than a brief period when I was in Texas and one of my friends decided to try to hook me up with someone she knew and I was all, “Nope, not interested.”
Over the last month the whole thing came to a head, though. My grandmother managed to introduce me to the girl’s parents in January. They liked me, so my grandmother decided it was time to really push things. She very nearly managed to get me and the girl in the same room a couple weeks ago, but I avoided it almost entirely by accident.
So my grandmother accelerated the process. She called me, gave me some crap about how the parents really liked me and she wanted to meet me and would I want to meet her. My response was, “Not really.”
At that point my grandmother browbeat me for about five minutes, convinced me to at least talk to her on the phone (and by "convinced," I mean, "Convinced me that it was the only way to get the fuck out of the conversation"), and then ended by telling me that I’d better not screw things up. Or else. I’m assuming that the “or else” means, “Marry this girl or you’re out of the will.” Fortunately I wasn’t expecting anything, anyway.
Why am I writing about this? I mean, other than the fact that the whole thing is vaguely amusing and it gave me a chance to make fun of Norwegians AND the English AT THE SAME TIME? It’s because this is actually a fairly good example of a serious problem those of us who are single face. As such, this is addressed to you, well-meaning friends and relatives who want to set the singles in your life up.
This sort of shit puts the set-up-ee in a really bad position. Those of us who are single are usually single for a good reason. In some cases it’s because we want to be. In some cases it’s because we’re picky. In some cases it’s because we’re totally fucking crazy and no one wants to date us. It kind of depends, really. In general, we know why and we know what sort of scenario would be required to cause us to decide to stop with the single thing.
You do not actually know what that scenario is. You might think you know. Hell, you might think you know better than I do exactly what I want and need.
Unless you have sat down with your single friend and had a long talk about what they’re looking for and what they want all you’re working from is your assumptions and observations. That’s not enough. Especially since, for the most part, the thought process of someone trying to set their friends up is limited to, “Hey, John is single and I like hanging out with John. Jill is also single and I like hanging out with Jill. I’d bet John and Jill would make a great couple. Then we’ll do couples shit together and it will be awesome.”
You’ve now put both John and Jill in a bad situation. See, the likelihood is that John and Jill won’t actually end up liking each other. It might be that John is a Christian and Jill is a Buddhist. It might be that Jill reminds John of that girl who totally broke his heart in the 8th grade and it’s just too weird for him. It might be that John eats his French fries with a fork and that totally weirds Jill out. It might be that John is terrible in the sack. Who the fuck knows, really? My point is that there is a whole constellation of failure points out there and a comparatively small collection of points of possible success.
Now you’ve made hanging out with you in the future really awkward for both John and Jill. You’ve also made it potentially awkward for John and Jill to both come to your birthday party. Moreover, if things get really acrimonious, chances are that you’re going to end up having to pick a side.
Meanwhile, John and Jill are also your friends. So there’s a good chance that they’re both going to feel really bad about telling you, “No, I don’t want to be set up.” They might do it just to make you happy.
So while you’re thinking, “I’ll bet John’s going to be so happy that I set him up with Jill,” he’s thinking, “Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck, there’s no chance this is going to end well.”
This has been your handy advice for the care and handling of your single friends for the day.
Oh, for the record, if you really DO think that John and Jill would get along famously, try to introduce them without the baggage of expectations. Invite them both to your birthday party. Make sure they meet. Then get the fuck out of the way. If there’s an interest they’ll figure it out. If there isn’t, well, that’s life.
It’s really not that hard.
I’m even worse than Rick Perry in that respect. Wait, are we still making Rick Perry jokes?
This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with that age bracket, per se. As a storyteller I mostly hang out with people a generation or two ahead of me whilst engaged in storytelling-esque things. The thing about storytellers, though, is that age often translates into skill, experience, and a lifetime of looking at the world as a storyteller. In short, an old storyteller is still a storyteller, which often makes the storyteller fantastic. An old Norwegian is, well, an old Norwegian.
Remember that thing about Norwegians mostly being known because of the Viking thing and the terrible food thing? Yeah. Old Norwegians are kinda cranky.
I do not give a shit about Norway. Several years ago I declared myself Scotch-Irish on the flimsy pretext that we don’t actually know my dad’s ancestry and my love of redheads, Irish rock music and, well, scotch, probably meant I was Scotch-Irish. I proudly proclaim my adopted heritage any chance I get. Occasionally I cuss at the damned English. Mostly just that bastard Colin Firth, though. He knows what he did.
And if you think for even a minute that my initial reaction wasn’t supposed to be, “Yay, grandma!” you’ve never met my grandmother. I’m sure there was some thought in her head that she wanted me to meet someone special and all that BS, but the main thought was that she wanted to be the one to make it happen. Which, for the record, was a huge part of the reason that grandma wanted me to drop Her and get with the Norwegian girl. Like I said, right attitude, wrong reasons.
The wee bluidy sassanach!