Love may disappoint when “happily ever after” can’t be found with the same ease that Cinderella and Prince Charming discovered it with. Quite frankly, fairy tales are not an accurate depiction of reality… usually.
Once upon a time, on the quaint campus of UR, wandering students couldn’t help but notice a plethora of signs posted in nearly every well-populated location. The sign’s most prominent words: “Help Me!” That universal phrase, the hand-written message and the black and red color palate worked harmoniously to catch the eyes of passersby.
Not surprisingly, this story’s protagonist is well versed in harmony; Ethan — the guy behind the signs — is a sophomore at Eastman. (All last names and a few first names have been left out of this article to protect those referred to in the story.) Born and raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, he attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools from nursery through 10th grade and hated it.
“It’s a great school, but it’s a terrible place,” he said, explaining why he left. Ethan transferred to Cranbrook, a school in Michigan, where he began to take lessons on the double bass at age 16 and where he chose to pursue music.
Ethan and his best friend, Ben, ventured away from Eastman — their musical home — on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 28 and wound up at Jay’s Diner. Neither Ethan nor Ben wanted to spend too much money.
“I’d never been there,” Ethan said. “I’d heard it was pretty good, and it was actually really good… I love diner food so much, I really do.” But Ethan’s first Jay’s Diner excursion did not ultimately revolve around a love for diner food, but rather around love itself.
Ethan and Ben sat at the booth closest to the door; Ethan faced it and Ben’s back was to it. In the middle of a casual conversation, Ethan’s jaw dropped and he sat, stupefied.
“What?” Ben questioned. “You’re clearly not listening to me right now.”
“You’re right,” Ethan said. “Dude, this girl… she’s beautiful.”
Ethan declared, in an impulsive moment, that he would talk to the girl who had just walked in, but he continued to change his mind. He even consulted his waitress for advice, who told Ethan that she does not want her own granddaughter talking to boys until after college.
Not until he was already in his car, watching the girl and her mother walk toward theirs, did Ethan finally decide that he could not possibly drive away without talking to her. He hopped out of the car and bolted toward them.
“Excuse me, ladies, listen,” he said. “This might be weird, and I don’t want to be disrespectful…”
“Hey honey, what’s up?” The girl’s mother asked.
“I just… you just… you have a beautiful daughter.”
The three of them — Ethan, the girl and the girl’s mother — talked for a short time, though Ethan can’t remember the bulk of what he said. The signs posted all over campus explain it further. “I was so nervous,” he wrote. “I forgot to ask for her number, all I know is that she’s a UR student.”
Convinced that he was going to marry the girl, Ethan did not originally know what to do upon realizing he’d forgotten to ask for what could have been the 10 most important digits of his life.
“This girl,” Ethan told Ben, “I’m meant to be with her. I promise.”
“You say that three times a week,” Ben replied. Ethan agreed that Ben had a point.
Still, Ethan had to do what he could to find the girl, and so the signs — perhaps better thought of as glass slippers — were posted.
Within the hour, UR students had uploaded the sign to Facebook with captions such as, “Jay’s Diner: Provider of food and love 24/7.” The signs asked for the girl — or anyone who knew anything about her — to send an email to HelpEthan2012@gmail.com.
About four hours after posting them, the girl’s best friend sent a message providing Ethan with the coveted 10 digits and instructing him to call, but also notified him that the girl had a boyfriend. Ironically, the girl and her boyfriend had been together for one year, to the date, as of that Saturday, Jan. 28.
While understandably bummed, Ethan did call the girl and told her that he could not be upset after having so much fun trying to find her. He’d been honest with himself and with her the whole time, and though he never would have sought her out had he known she was in a relationship, he doesn’t regret anything.
During this past winter break, Ethan decided he wanted to be more honest in every interaction. Now, he is done with games — no more debating if enough time has passed before responding to a text, or how many y’s to use in the word “hey.” He already spent two years in a deceptive relationship with a previous girlfriend, and what does he have to show for it? “Three kisses, an ulcer and a whole lot of dishonesty,” he said.
“I tried to be cool and suave,” Ethan admitted with regard to his previous relationship. “That’s bullshit,” he knows now. “I’m a dork who plays the bass.”
Whether it’s a few months of dating or a 20-year marriage, Ethan believes that a relationship — 100 percent of the time — will fall apart if dishonesty comes into play.
At the very least, Ethan hopes that people will begin to act similarly. There’s no need for grandiose gestures, he explained, but honesty needs to take the lead. A girl should not need to wait for a guy to initiate conversation, he said. If a girl wants to talk to a guy, she should talk to him — that would be honest.
“I’ve been a hopeless romantic since I was 13,” Ethan said. “I didn’t surprise myself when I did this, and I’ll keep doing this stuff until I find the girl I’m looking for.”
Maybe Cinderella and Prince Charming are merely two fictional characters, but Ethan — the bass-playing dork from Hyde Park — knows that he will, in reality, live happily ever after. “I’m going to find the girl that’s out there for me,” he said. “Even if it’s the last thing I do.”
Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.