Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Out of My League

That’s a funny phrase when applied to potential relationships – “Out of my league.” Or at least, it’s funny now. When I was in my 20s, it seemed like a perfectly sensible concept. One heard it all the time, usually in reference to extremely stylish-looking women. The reference was usually spoken by men who were anything but stylish – or it was spoken by men who thought that YOU were anything but stylish.

The phrase could actually mean several different things. It could mean “You are not what she’s looking for, so don’t waste your time” – which now strikes me as an extremely presumptuous attitude. It could be an insult meaning “You’re a schlub who should be looking at either the back of the bar, the bottom of the barrel, or the personal notices in the alternative newspaper. You have nothing to offer to someone classy.” Once again, an extremely presumptuous attitude towards both the men and the women.

Once, I was told by a guy I knew that a certain woman was out of my league, and when I pressed for a clarification, he told me that the woman in question was looking for a man with a lot of money, and men of modest means – such as myself – should not apply. Well… if that was a true picture of her, I’m not sure she occupied a league that could be described as higher than mine.

But I suppose that’s part of what we do in our youth – and hopefully, for the rest of our lives – we figure out who we are, who other people are, what might be the truth, and what just might be a lot of widely accepted BS.

With regard to the topic at hand, I gradually came to the realization that this “out of my league” concept fell into the BS category. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anyone who could be described that way in relation to anyone else. Now, having said that, there are myriad other reasons why relationships don’t work out, or never even start. Among them: immaturity, self-centeredness that the other half of the relationship doesn’t wish to indulge, lack of common interests, lack of commitment to working through issues, and unfaithfulness. And let’s not forget this one, which has got to be at or near the top of the list – one or both parties isn’t being honest with themselves about what they’re looking for and are thus doomed to pinball from one unsatisfying relationship to another until they get a little smarter about themselves.

As I considered this topic, an incident from my 20s came to mind. It’s one of those memories that reminds me of how far I’ve come – and a possible blind spot I probably still need to guard against.

She was one of those women I considered at the time to be “out of my league” – classy, sassy, smart, stylish, personable, sexy – the whole package. She and I had a lot of friends in common, so we were often at the same events. I’d spent enough time with her that I’d become comfortable with this “out of my league” concept. And then, one night…

…We were out with a gaggle of theater friends after a play I’d performed in earlier that evening. The restaurant was a couple miles from the theater. As the evening was wrapping up, she asked me if I could give her a lift back to her car, which she’d left at the theater. Well of course, I said, thinking nothing of it. I could, for example, have wondered why she wasn’t catching a ride back there with whoever had driven her to the restaurant. But I didn’t think of it at the time.

We pulled into the theater’s parking lot, which was at a dark and desolate suburban intersection. The lights in the lot had been turned off at this late hour, so we had to carefully navigate over to where her car was parked. I stopped my car and assumed she would get out. Only she didn’t. She was suddenly inclined to make cute small talk, showing no inclination to move on. Then she sat there in silence, and a sudden realization dawned on me – she thought we’d come there to make out! A sudden flood of images from the preceding couple hours made it clear that she’d been working this angle, or so she thought, for some time. I realized all this as I was in the middle of wishing her a good night and telling her to drive safely (since she had at least several drinks in her). She abruptly clambered out of my car and got into hers, with only the tersest of Good Nights directed my way.

I sat there until she’d started her car and driven off, and I tried to figure out how I’d missed what ought to have been some pretty obvious signs.

Did we see each other after that? Of course we did. As I said, we had many friends in common. But she never again made so much effort to engage me in conversation, and she never again asked me for a ride. As for me, I didn’t quite know what to do, since we hadn’t actually had any overt disagreement or unkind word between us. It would be easy to say that it’s all for the best, it never would have worked, etc. – and that might all be true, but that’s not really the point, is it?

It was a curious moment, a dully painful moment, but an instructive moment. It was a lesson to me in several aspects of my own personality, including an implicit suggestion that there were some things I needed to learn about listening to people and observing their unspoken cues. But to the topic at hand, it was also a lesson about what nonsense this whole “out of my league” business was. In the end, someone actually is out of your league only in the moment either of you believe it to be so. After you’ve dealt with that, you may find other reasons to accept or reject them, but you can then do it while they’re at eye level.

As for me – ah well, I still have plenty to learn. But I think maybe I’ve learned a little bit along the way, so I offer it here for the edification of any who may find it.

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