Pick Up Lines
“Your eyes. Zey are so blue. I could sweeem in dem.”
I remember where I was dancing with friends in our early post-college years when a swarthy Mediterranean man with just enough chest hair showing to make his point that he believed himself to be quite the Adonis approached me to, uh, chat, and laid that line on me.
What exactly did he think I was going to do … swoon in a dead faint at his feet and say, “Oh, yes! I’m yours forever now!”?! (Of course, I’m not sure that Adonis there was looking for forever, but that’s another story.)
Brian has my heart for many, many reasons, but one of the biggest has to be saving me from lines like that.
It started in college, the Hall of Fame lines. I guess in high school it’s more about everyone trying to figure out feelings and flirting and making eye contact and leaving notes in lockers or under windshield wipers. College and post-college life take it to a whole new level.
Once, my senior year in college, I had an unexpected visitor knock on my door. It was a friend of mine from one of the clubs we’d both joined the year before. Having absolutely no idea why he had showed up right then – or why he’d put on an extra layer of cologne – I let him in and we started to talk.
He sat strangely close to me – what’s he doing?! he knows we’re just friends, doesn’t he?! – while we talked and while I kept scooting back a little at a time until there was no more room to go. I wasn’t in danger of being assaulted – except possibly by his overactive cologne – but it was definitely awkward.
The stresses of senior year spring had gotten to me, and I was a little under the weather, feeling stuffed up and really just wanting to sleep. But I let him stay for a little bit while we chatted and I tried to figure out why exactly he was there.
At one point, I sniffed a few times before reaching for a tissue and then said, “Sorry, I have a cold.”
He leaned in. “That’s OK. Maybe I’ll catch it,” he said, moving dangerously close to my lips.
“No! That’s OK! I’ll just grab a Kleenex. Thanks.” I stifled a laugh behind the tissue.
Smart as he was, he didn’t get the hint that I wasn’t into him, and so the cheese ball attempts to woo me continued. The worst was the one about his hands. It’s a line that has, for these two decades since, had A Place In History.
This guy was really muscle-bound and pretty proud of how bulked up and buff he’d become over the years. All that lifting had left him with semi-permanent callouses on his hands, which I had never noticed because I hadn’t cared to, but which I noticed that night because he showed them to me as he told me tales of his lifting exploits. Then he changed to what can only be described as a bedroom voice, accompanied by bedroom eyes, leaned in toward me, and said, “But when I’m with a woman, they turn to silk.”
Oh. My. Gosh.
Twenty-plus years later, that line still kills me. I remember nearly choking on my laughter as I found a way to let him down easy. And I remember calling my older brothers as soon as that guy left just so I could share with them The Line to End All Lines.
People say what they think they need to say to get what they think they want. There’s nothing new about that. But the fact that it’s an old familiar concept doesn’t mean that it’s a good one to build a life on.
Yesterday, Mariana was on the receiving end of some real ugliness at the hands of a girl who said what she thought she needed to say to seem cool and popular. The biggest hurt came because this girl had said for a while now that she was one of Mariana’s best friends; the second biggest hurt came because the other girls she recruited to join in the bullying had always acted to Mariana like they were her friends, and what they did to her was anything but friendly.
But there was another girl, a girl who had truly always been one of Mariana’s friends. She saw was what happening and ran after Mariana when Mariana ran away from the brutish verbal onslaught. She reached out for Mariana and said, “I’m your friend, Mariana. I’ll always be your friend.”
Oh. My. Goodness. Brian and I will never forget that sweet girl’s kindness to Mariana in a very hurtful moment. Oh, to have more girls, more boys, more people like that in the world.
To have more of us look for the hurting and find a way to show kindness.
To have more of us use the words that build up, not the ones that tear down.
To have more of us focus on doing the right thing – and we do tend to know what the right thing is even when we don’t act on it – rather than on doing what seems like the cool or popular thing in the moment … because here’s the thing: the coolest and best and most worth-remembering people in the world are the ones who did the right thing in the right moment, not the ones who joined in the teasing or the bullying or the generally being a jerk just to seem cool.
To stand up for the ones being picked on, whether they get picked on all the time or it’s the first time they’ve ever been on the receiving end of cruelty.
To dish out an entirely different kind of line, the kind that picks someone up. Lines like, “You matter so much to me.” “You are God’s child.” “You make me smile.” “You make my heart happy.” “You are one of my favorite people in the world.”
Clearly, those are better toward the people in our homes, in our families, than, say, complete strangers at the grocery or in the pet store. But there are lines to pick them up, too. Not in the swarthy Mediterranean chest hair man way or in the calloused-hands / silken-hands weightlifter way, but in the do-unto-others-as-you’d-have-them-do-unto-you sort of way. We can figure those lines out as we go. And when we do, it could be a real pick up.