I have a story to tell you that I think is true yet hardly believe myself. I’ve been reminded of it because I’m re-reading through the entire archives of the webcomic xkcd, going back to make sure I haven’t missed any. I’m fairly certain I’ve gotten back past the newest comic from the last time I did this and then some, but I’m heading all the way back to the beginning just to be sure. It’s been an entertaining look back in history, seeing references that are now actually kind of dated or would be confusing to younger readers. I’m all the way back to 2008 now, which doesn’t sound that old but is 8 years, almost a decade. There have been a lot of comics that focus on ways of making the readers or the people they interact with feel old, but now simply realizing the comic itself is that old is hitting me in the same way.
I’ve reached a comic that’s prompted this story now; the comic is titled “Regrets”:
The story this comic prompted is not mine, so I won’t be using names and am keeping details as light as possible. If I’d seen it in a movie or book I wouldn’t have believed it, but I swear this story is true to the best of my knowledge, or at least the person relating it was telling me about her own life and presented it as true. This was not a third-hand “friend-of-a-friend” story; it came straight from the horse’s mouth.
At a previous job we had a new coworker start at our office. She’d recently moved to the area with her husband and I asked her how they met. Her story: she grew up on an island that is popular with tourists, but remote enough that people must arrive by boat or plane, and not a ferry boat either, usually cruise ships or private yachts. She was a member of a small but growing church that was new to the island, and one summer a youth group came from the mainland to help spur the local church’s growth. Among the group was a guy who was immediately smitten by her. Unfortunately for him, she did not return his feelings. He kept trying to strike up a conversation with her, but she kept telling him, “no, I don’t like you, you’re weird, don’t talk to me.” Finally, the night before the visitors were supposed to leave, the local youth group and the visiting youth group went bowling together. During the evening she went to the bathroom, and when she came back out the spurned young man walked up to her and kissed her full on her mouth. She was shocked! At first she was shocked that he was kissing her, but then she was more shocked to realize that she liked it and was kissing him back! Finally she broke it off and asked him what he was doing. He replied, “I’m leaving tomorrow, and I might never see you again, so I had to kiss you now or I’d never get the chance.” Somehow that flipped the script. He went from being the creep she couldn’t stand to her boyfriend, then fiance, then husband. When I last saw her she was about 6 months pregnant with their first child. They were still with the same church, too; they’d moved to our area to help support a new branch of the church that was just getting off the ground.
I was dumbfounded when she told me her story. It sounded like something out of a dumb teen romantic comedy, something where I’d sit there and say, “no way would that happen in real life!” To me there’s no way that story shouldn’t end with her giving her unwanted suitor a hard slap as soon as he tried to kiss her. And yet, somehow, it ends with them married and starting a family together. I still have a hard time believing it, and told her that. She realized it was an unbelievable story, but insisted it was true.
So does the bold move pay off? I still think that for every one story like hers where the bold move was successful, there are thousands every day that go the other way, ending in a slap, a drink in the face, or maybe even some pepper spray. It’s certainly not something I’d ever try (I hope), although I wouldn’t mind having a few less regrets about missed opportunities (mine are generally of the “should’ve gotten her number” variety). If you, dear reader, know of another story where the bold move had a surprisingly positive result for the person who dared, please share it. Be prepared, though, for a strong dose of skepticism. Or if you have a story of a bold move failing spectacularly, in an entertaining way, share that too!