by Niall Doherty

This is the story of the first girl I ever hit on.

I grew up in the Irish countryside with no sisters and very few neighbors, and I went to all-boys schools all the way up until college. So by the age of eighteen, I was terrified at the thought of talking to women. To me, women were these exotic creatures that spoke a completely different language and you couldn’t look directly at one you found attractive for fear of bursting into flames.

But I liked women all the same, and I wanted to know more about them.

My final year in secondary school, there was one woman in particular that fascinated me. I’d see her every day as d’Mudder drove me to school. We’d pass her at some point as she was walking over the Rice Bridge and up the hill, on her way to the all-girls school at the top of it. She was maybe a year younger than me at the time, had dark hair and looked more cute than sexy.

I called her Bridget, because she walked over the bridge every day.

Day after day and week after week I’d see this girl walking to school. I’d always sneak a look at her out of the car window. I started imagining what I’d say to her if I ever had the opportunity. How would I start the conversation? How would I keep it going? In my imagination, I was fantastically suave and charming, but the reality was that I always made an awful fool of myself when I tried to talk to girls, struggling to utter even one coherent sentence.

But I really liked this Bridget girl (based solely on the way she looked and the way she walked) so one day I up and decided I would overcome the terror of actually approaching a female of the species. I promised myself that the very next morning, I would join Bridget on her walk across the bridge and up the hill. I’d somehow manage to engage her in the best conversation of all time and she’d fall madly in love with me.

So, that very next morning, I got up early and spent about two hours in the bathroom making myself look the loveliest I’d ever looked. My eyebrows were near groomed to perfection by the time I was finished. I hurried d’Mudder so we’d leave a few minutes early and I’d be able to intercept Bridget at the bridge.

But disaster struck: Bridget was already crossing the bridge as we drove over it. It was a minute before I could get out of the car, muttering something to my mother about it being a lovely day for a walk, and then I was off in hot pursuit! As I rushed back over the bridge, I could see Bridget already making her way up the hill. I figured I had about ten minutes before she reached the school and my opportunity would be lost forever. Luckily, there was an old shortcut up the side of the hill, and I knew that I could run up that way and catch up with her.

So I did. I sprinted up the side of this hill like a madman, a bag full of school books in tow.

Now imagine the scene: I get up to the road, only to find that I’d run too fast, and I now had to stand there sweating and heaving for about a minute as Bridget walked up towards me. In her mind, she must have been thinking, “Oh my God! I hope this sweaty weirdo doesn’t try and talk to me!”

But talk to her I did. I turned to her as she came close and asked, “Do you mind if I walk with you?” She was a little stunned, but said okay. Maybe she was just afraid to say no, or maybe she was dazzled by my amazing eyebrows, I’m not sure. Regardless, there I was, walking up the hill with Bridget.

Happiness… for all of five seconds, after which I remembered I had to make conversation. I knew we didn’t have much time, so I thought I’d better impress upon this girl just how deep and sensitive a guy I was. So, noting the people sitting in their cars in traffic on the road, I asked Bridget, real mystically, “Do you ever wonder about the people in the cars? You know, what they’re thinking about as they’re sitting there? I mean, we look at them and form some quick judgment based on their appearance, but do they do the same of us? Are they thinking about what we’re thinking about? Do they realize that we’re wondering if they’re thinking about what we’re thinking about? You ever think about that?”

I believe her response was, “Uh… not really.”

I tried throwing a few more questions at her, but she just seemed to look at me a little more strangely each time as she quickened her pace. Two minutes later, we were at the gate of the school. And despite having just treated this girl to perhaps the worst conversation of her entire life, I somehow found the courage to ask her for her phone number. To which she replied, “Uh… I don’t think so.” With that, she turned on her heels and disappeared into the school, never to be seen by me again.

But I didn’t feel bad after that experience. On the contrary, I felt great about myself. Yeah, I’d gotten rejected, but I’d overcome a big chunk of that strange fear I had of women.

And that’s the moral of this story. It doesn’t much matter what happens when you face your fear, whether you emerge looking like a fool or a champ. The important thing is that you faced that fear in the first place. You stepped out of your comfort zone, maybe suffered some embarrassments, but discovered that the world keeps on spinning just the same.