Overheard in the Atrium

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Ah, the good old HBLL atrium. Sorry, this picture was the best one I had.

In a nod to my friend Emily’s recent post, I’m going to describe something interesting I observed in the Harold B. Lee library last night.

There I was on the first floor of the atrium, the big, three-story glass enclosure with trees and ferns and seats for studying. All was peaceful, I was happily being semi-productive, and in comes this couple. They sit down in the armchairs about 35 feet from me. They started talking, pretty quietly, but in the coffin-quiet of the library late on Saturday night I could hear just about every word. And it was quite the conversation to overhear.

It was a DTR. An agonizing, lopsided DTR. For the uninitiated, DTR is BYU/Provo/Orem/lots of other places-speak for “Define The Relationship”1. This guy was a manly man, with a deep bass voice that carried far. The girl started trying to explain why she had wanted to talk. She was just about to get to it when a text message or something came in on her phone, so to stall she went off on some tangent. Just do it! I was thinking, though I’m certainly guilty of the avoid-the-point-of-the-conversation-by-talking-about-something-else thing.

Anyway, when she finally got around to, it was some blather about how she just thought maybe like there was maybe perhaps possibly something he was looking for, but she didn’t have to offer… and how glad she was they were friends, but… and how this and that and, oh! how strange! but she was just thinking…. As she tried explaining what was going on without actually explaining what was going on, the guy responded with these perplexed, bass-rumbly questions that she answered with equal vagueness. On about the third approach she decided this method was doomed to failure, so she set out to use a radical new approach: the honest truth! (gasp!)

“So, okay, I’m just gonna be really honest with you. We’ve been doing all this stuff together and it’s been lots of fun, from how you were treating me at the party I could tell you were way more into it than I was, so I thought I should talk to you about it.” I don’t remember her exact words, and it was still really vague, but the dude started to sort of get the hint. His string of follow-up questions and almost pleading were still in that deep bass voice, but now it was sort of gravelly and strained, like he wanted to keep the emotion out of his voice but couldn’t manage it. Been there. Done that. I started to really feel sorry for the guy, because he was clearly in deep and was taking it like a heavy blow.

Dang, what can you do in that situation? You’ve fallen deeply in love with someone who will never love you back, in your mind the relationship is what you hope it can someday become. In other words, your perception is totally disconnected from reality. And the other person has no clue, or maybe suspects but doesn’t want to just come out and say, “Hey, I’m not interested!” Anyway, I was really tempted to go over to the couple in the throes of non-relationship and say to the guy, “Dude, I’m sorry, that’s rough. But it’s obviously going nowhere. Let go!” I guess that’s because I wish somebody had done that for me the last time I was in his shoes. She had the wisdom to eventually tell me very clearly to move on, but the heartbreaker last night seemed to not yet understand the importance of a clean break.

That was rough for him. It was rough for me, back about two years ago. Maybe it’s a bad sign that I haven’t really been in love since.

  1. I’ve been in the BYU bubble for a long time now and don’t really know how widespread the use of this term is. It clearly goes beyond BYU (see 1, 2, 3) though I mainly see it in sites that seem to be overtly Christian—probably an indication that the DTR corresponds to groups that practice more traditional types of dating, like we LDS and other socially conservative people []

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