Hey Dude, Is That Your Girlfriend?

Scientists say that in times of extreme stress, your perception of time slows down.

I was experiencing this – the restaurant around me was frozen, my salad fork hovering over my plate. The world disappeared into a tunnel and nothing existed but Hot Yoga Girl’s eyes, boring into my forehead while waiting for an answer to the question that is the anathema to every bachelor heart.

“Is this your girlfriend?”

You know it’s coming. We’ve all been there. There will always be a waiter cruel and heartless enough to roast you on that spit. Like a predator, they can smell fear.

I could try and avoid restaurants, but the only thing in my refrigerator was half a bottle of Chardonnay and some expired mustard. Dining out was a necessity.

I might cook, but why? Eating Salisbury Steak out of a plastic tray in my underwear is not exactly the image of the man-about-town I was hoping to promote.

It was our sixth date. We were firmly entrenched inside the nebulous area between “just-met” and “boyfriend-girlfriend.” Make no mistake, this is an important question. The wrong answer could halt all progress immediately.

Don’t expect any help from the woman. Thirty-nine years of intermittent bachelorhood has produced one solid piece of certainty concerning women: They will never, ever, help you with this question. They like to watch you squirm.

I looked her over. She was wearing a baby-doll shirt with Daisy Duke cut-offs and cowboy boots, which showcased her tan, sculpted thighs.

Was she claimable? From a purely superficial perspective, it seemed so.

She was completely Looney Tunes, but that’s never really been a problem for me.  She’d also been spending several evenings at my house, but no sanitary napkins or feminine hygiene products had mysteriously appeared in one of my bathroom drawers, so I surmised full co-habitation was a few weeks away.

But was she my girlfriend? What did that even mean? Did she want to be my girlfriend?  What if she wanted to be my girlfriend, but didn’t want me to know it? What if I didn’t want her to be my girlfriend but didn’t want her to know it?

It was too confusing. I started imagining incredibly creative ways to torture the waiter with my salad fork. That rotten bastard had cornered me. It was a precarious situation.

Leaving this question hanging would destroy the relationship before it began.

“Yes” would mean “Yes, I want to continue having sexual relations with you without actually making a commitment.”

“No” would mean “No, I don’t want to stop having sexual relations with you, but I’m not willing to make a commitment.”

The room started spinning around me like some kind of carnival ride. I was being crammed into one of two pegs, neither of which was appealing.

I had a flash of inspiration.

“We’re dating.”

It was certainly not definitive, but it was beyond reproach. We were on a date. You couldn’t argue with that!

The problem was that I didn’t know whether I really wanted to give up my bachelorhood. It’s difficult to invest that level of commitment into somebody you barely know.

Pursuing a woman as your girlfriend requires a certain level of desire and long-term attachment. Did I like her? Yes. Did I trust her? Hell no. But who can you really trust?

The look on her face was telling. This was not the preferred response. It was the beginning of the end.

I have no regrets. If I’d wanted to be her boyfriend, my answer would’ve been different. This wasn’t Junior High. We were adults. The stakes are higher. We all have more to lose.

We would quickly drift apart after that. Sometimes there’s no getting around it. If you’re not willing to make that leap in front of a waiter at Café Mimosa, you aren’t ready to have a girlfriend. No matter how sexy she is. There are times when every bachelor will measure his life by the women he didn’t end up with.

But by then, he’ll already be in a committed relationship. How’s that for irony?

You should never make a commitment unless you are 100 percent sure that’s what you want. If you do, it will only be that much more painful when you both realize it isn’t going to work.

It’s OK to be single, if that’s what you want. Be true to thyself, and all things will work out. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Contact R. Chase at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.