Dating Episodes 0.8, 2, and 3: The “In-person Kind”
What a different place I was in a year and a half ago when I was dating. Maybe this is why it’s so damn hard to write up these experiences. I feel arthritic -- it’s painful, even on rewrite, and the words seem calcified and foreign -- nothing like the hot waterfalls of “update” that I poured into my girlfriends’ ears each Monday morning.
My encounter with YachtGuy was confounding but transformative. I was free, safe, and satisfied. Absurd, modern, whatever, phone sex was a step toward taking good care of myself, something I’d aspired to for a long time.
There were other dates, some of them real, and a few even provided me with decent material. I had an outlet, of sorts, but I knew YachtGuy and I would never get beyond “friends” IRL (after our second phone encounter he told me he’d never use a condom. Dealbreaker!).
Now I was in a hurry. I knew what I wanted and had a sense -- perhaps for the first time in my life -- that I could get it.
Episode 0.8. Wade in the Water.
I met a widower early on, on Plenty of Fish. His wife had died shortly after giving birth to their son, now 4. We talked on the phone sporadically for several months. I wasn’t sure how compatible he and I really were, but he was considerate and gentle. I felt it would be stressful to date him because he worked in law enforcement, at a high level, and I am your classic big mouth liberal artsy chick. My idea was, I guess, to just try to talk to a man and be friends. There was nothing intense but our backstories and there was at least as much hesitation about meeting from his side as mine.
Finally we made a date for coffee during the workday. He canceled the night before: “It’s too much.” He’d scheduled to meet me on his son’s birthday (and therefore the anniversary of his wife’s death, too). I was sympathetic but a little pissed. Soon afterwards he went West to see family for Thanksgiving, and was talking about moving back there in the very near future. I wrote him about my nice Thanksgiving and sent him my nutty gratitude list (“I am thankful for onions…” etc.). No response.
I am pretty sure he still lives on this coast. It just took him a while to realize I was too weird. (He didn’t get out much.) Maybe he was playing it the same way I was and didn’t think there was much chemistry, either. Or perhaps, he disappeared into some clandestine “op.”
Episode 2. 2Good 2BTrue.
After my “experience” with YachtGuy I was desperate to actually meet a man in person. I found 2Good, a fellow HippieCollege alum, on Match.com. He was 38, beautiful, clever, and funny. He had a dream job and recognized the obscure reference in my username. He was fresh out of a bad marriage with a truly crazy woman, in love with their new baby. He was burned, with lingering open wounds. 2Good repeatedly described the divorce settlement as "gnawing my own arm off to save my life." Eager, green, and dumb, I enticed him to join me for coffee. “Maybe we can help heal each other without being too serious,” I toyed.
I was not playing fair. Nonetheless we had a pleasant two hours at coffee and walked back to the train in the rain. He said he’d like to see me again. With glee I tried a goodbye hug, but it didn’t take. Over the next few days I sent him two emails and three voice mails. On Monday 2Good sent a “I’m really busy with work right now, have a nice life!” email.
He’d been humoring me all along, or, more likely, thought I was as loose as my game. This story shows me as stupid and sad as I actually was, but it’s part of the tale.
Episode 3. Still Water Runs Shallow.
I flirted with a widower on Match. He was very into me and wrote a long ode to my small square portrait photo. His ad named some smart books and showed him in front of Big Ben. We had coffee and talked about work, widowhood, and his passion for Irish Set Dancing. He followed up with some romantic poetry about how he wished he’d kissed me in the rain as we left. For my first second date ever I met him for dinner at a Latino fusion restaurant near me. Although half-Cuban, he did not know what “salsa amarillo” was. Hmmmm… I drew him out a bit. The “last read” in his Match profile… had been audio books. He referred to the “uppity” kids at the State College. And all of a sudden I discovered I couldn't ignore my dates’ politics.
I sat still, across the table from him in the warm half-light. The picture started to come together: this guy was just plain dumb.* His poetic emails must have taken hours to write. And I’d looked up Irish Set Dancing; it was the most boring crap, a style of co-oed Morris dancing.
Even though I knew there would be no third date, we walked arm in arm in the freezing cold. I kissed him several times in an architectural niche on my own initiative. I didn’t talk much because that was all I wanted.
“WHY did you kiss him?!” my friends asked me, exasperated.
“Because he was there!” I couldn’t see what the problem was.
Had I ever dumped anyone? I couldn’t remember. Two days later on the phone I tried “it’s not you it’s me” and several configurations of the widow card. “I’m really messed up… I’m not ready for a relationship.” After two freakin’ hours I was down to “okay, it really is you.” He wouldn’t listen. He said he wanted to see me three more times, “no wait, two… purely for selfish reasons.” No shit. I tried, “I’ll only end up hurting you.” He told me that he always got his heart broken after a few months. I told him I couldn’t volunteer to play out that game. He quoted Felix Unger: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” It would have been comic but he was dead serious.
I suggested we both take a week off and then decide about the next date. My friends were sure he was psycho (the poetry), that he would stalk me. But my gut told me, with uncharacteristic confidence, that he was just sad and deserved one more respectful contact. I figured if I told him I had herpes that would get rid of him. I rehearsed my lines and waited out the week.
A few hours before the “deadline” he sent me a note saying that because he valued me so highly and because he was so hot for me -- he stated specifically how -- he knew he must tell me right now -- he had herpes. My patience had helped me dodge a bullet.
* I thought of the Seinfeld where Elaine is in a relationship with a guy who's hiding something... a wife? Way worse: he’s poor.
* Read the next installment in this series! *
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