#17 Dismiss the Potential

When it comes to choosing a drinking establishment, if there’s a pub in town, that’s where you’ll find me, just beyond front row of the live band, drinking a cider, and bouncing my curls. I don’t know why I love pubs so much, maybe because I lived in England for a while, maybe because their historic community presence lends a thin mask to alcoholism, but we have a lovely Irish pub here in town, and half the time that’s where we spend our Friday nights.

Last time I dropped by Nelson O’Donnel’s, I went with my roomie Summer, her boyfriend, and my best friend Anne. I was anticipating a good time, but I don’t always know what that means when I go out. Going out for me means trying to strike a weird balance between quality time with the friends I went with and getting to meet someone new. And in truth, a bar [or a pub] is not a good place to talk to anyone. The music is too loud, and my processing skills are… sluggish.

Since I was out with a couple and my taken best friend, I anticipated a low key night. And I didn’t mind. I hadn’t seen Anne in nearly a week and was looking forward to catching up.

Summer had other plans.

“So, who you going to hit on tonight?”

“What? No, it’s not going to be like that tonight.”

Summer crinkled her nose at me. Like my behavior was some how reprehensible.

“Why not? You look hot, there are lots of hot guys here, go get ’em.”

I protested. I wanted to talk to Anne. It was loud. I didn’t see anyone cute. But most of all, I wasn’t interested in losing out on talking to people I actually know and love to hear about some MBA student from Ohio who likes watching NCIS and going to the gym in his free time.

Booooooring.

Well, friends, guess who got to eat her words.

Mere minutes later, I laid eyes on a tall, scruffily handsome, built, tattooed, tall guy. And I turned to Summer, poked her in the ribs, and said, “Well, if I was going to hit on someone tonight, it would be him.”

Tell me that if you saw that smile from across the room, you wouldn't be interested.

At which point she started incessantly taunting me to go talk to him. At THIS which point I realized–

I have zero game.

I couldn’t talk to him. I couldn’t. Even after I made eyes at him, after him and his wingman walked by, HESITATED by me, then kept walking. Even though I wanted to, I couldn’t think of what to say. Summer threatened to do it for me, and I’m pretty sure the only thing worse than being unable to construct your own opening is to have your friend do it for you.

But I turned my back on her, and when I glanced over at Mr. Tall and Tattooed again, Summer was there. And I barely had enough time to grab Anne and whisper, “WHAT DO I DO?” before he sauntered over.

Let me tell you, friends, he was no MBA student from Ohio.

Jake was a veteran, lived in Germany for two years, did two tours in Afghanistan, and currently lives in BAGHDAD as a BODYGUARD for American diplomats. He works three months, then gets a month, and had just flown in that day after spending a few days on the way back in Dubai.

One would almost think this was too fantastic to be real. But it also seemed way too complicated to make up.

He was nice and funny and interesting and tall. And then, at the end, so lovely, he asked for my phone number, which I hope I programmed into his phone correctly [don’t laugh, it sometimes happens when I’ve been drinking]. And he said goodbye, then leaned in, kissed me twice, and walked away with a swagger and confidence that left me dizzy.

I’ve met boys at bars before, sometimes nice and interesting, sometimes boring and kinda rude. I’ve kissed boys at bars before, somethings the nice and interesting ones, sometimes the boring and rude ones. But this was the single most perfect bar encounter I’ve ever had. And I didn’t even mind if he never called me, either because he wasn’t interested or because I had accidentally given him a wrong number, because, as a completely contained moment, I found it wonderfully surprising, refreshing, and satisfying.

I didn’t need a follow up. I didn’t need to go out with him. I didn’t need to hope for more and be disappointed [cynicism is integral to single shiksa-dom]–and even if it did work out, I didn’t need to be involved with someone who was only available one month out of every four. What I need was an excellent hope that there are interesting boys out there who can keep up with me, ones worth meeting, ones who would want to talk to ME, and who know how to execute a perfect goodbye.

Intimidatingly attractive, and he wanted to talk to ME. Not gonna lie, I'm proud to brag.

Later I found out Summer’s opening line had been, “Hey, my friend over there needs a new drink.” And while it wasn’t the suavest opening, it sure made possible one hell of an ending.

#16 Worry about the Girls

The problem with having an amazing community of women to go through this whole single thing with is that sometimes you come up with a conflict of interests.

Especially when you’re all on eHarmony.

My lovely friend Rachel and I are single sisters. We both have a lot of the same wounds from past relationships, we both want a lot of the same things in our future relationships, and we both joined eHarmony around the same time. Despite being in the same Bible study, where we talk a lot about boys and dating anyway, Rachel and I usually get together once a week to talk dirty specifics.

Both of us are at the end of our eHarmony subscriptions, and we’re hesitant about renewing since we’ve had zero luck so far. But the best stories always start in the eleventh hour, and we’ve both recently connected with a match. Yesterday we got together to log onto eHarmony in public places and swap stories. After Rachel shared about her slightly older, sophisticatedly handsome concert pianist, we turned to my match, Josh.

Rachel lit up. “I was matched with him! He’s got the most beautiful blue eyes.”

You cannot tell the color of his eyes from his profile pictures. Which caused me some concern.

“Wait,” I said. “You were matched with him, or you went out with him?”

“No, I sent him a message but he never responded to me. I’m a little bit jealous. He’s SO cute.”

“So… How do you know what color his eyes are?”

Rachel looked at me, a little surprised. “He came to the church picnic in the fall. Didn’t you meet him? I thought he was so cute.”

Beautiful eyes, beautiful smile, beautiful--well, you know.

This is not the first time someone in our Bible study has been matched to someone else in our church. Rachel had previously gone on an eHarmony coffee date with a guy who’s an associate pastor at our church. And it gets even better, because when she related this story at Bible study, ANOTHER of our other members piped up, “Hey, I was matched up with him too!”

In FX’s show The League, you and another guy sleep with the same girl you become Eskimo brothers. In our church, if you and another girl get matched with the same guy you become Match Sisters.

This does not actually promote sisterhood.

Josh is a straight shooter, and he asked me out for a drink right away. I gave him a few possible times and waited to hear back. And while needling another friend for information about Josh, since she too had met him at the beginning of the year at that church picnic where I was too busy talking to Zamboni Driver about plastic bag littering, she said–
“Oh, Hilary was matched with him on eHarmony!”

No way. NO WAY. I didn’t mind that Rachel was matched with Josh, but Hilary? Hilary of Logan persuasion? Is Hilary always going to have some prior–if vague–claim on the guys that I’m interested in? Is she always going to have some involvement in my relationships here in Michigan? I feel like we’re circling each other over guys. Kinda like vultures. Or tigresses. Some sort of metaphor that involves boys being either dead or lunch. Just BACK OFF!

Hello, I'm Hilary. I'm exceptionally pretty and funny and fashionably hipster, and I can look at ease and adorable at any sporting event.

The awkward thing is, I don’t know how much Hilary knows. If she knows that I was spending a ridiculous amount of time with Logan. If she knows that we talk all the time. That we hang out after midnight. She definitely doesn’t know about Josh. But I do. I know it all, and it makes it really difficult to sit next to her and have a small talk conversation. I feel bad. I feel bad for her, and I feel bad about myself.

I know it’s dumb. I know it’s just a match from a dumb computer compatibility software program, and all of us in our church get matched with the same people. It’s just an understood consequence of a group of women looking for the same thing in guys. We’re going to find, literally, the same guys. But it’s HILARY. And I have a history with there being “other girls” in a relationship. Another girl that likes my boyfriend or a girl that an ex sleeps with a week after he told me he loved me or a girl in another country or WHATEVER. There’s always another girl, and Hilary’s starting to feel like the other girl not of any relationship I’m in, but of my life.

She’s really nice, but she recently applied for a job in Boston, and I hope she gets it. Hilary, maybe we could be sisters, but I think first I’m going to need a little time and a little space.

** If anyone has a better term than Match Sister, hit me. **

#15 Drink and Deflect

PART TWO

I’ll give anyone at least one date.

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve EVER turned down a first date. Maybe strongly discouraged people from asking me out, but once it’s out there, usually I’ll take the offer up.

The thing with Rick is, I’m not used to the people I make out with taking me on dates. Even the repeat offenders, make out buddies, Ethan the Fireman (we’ll get into that, don’t worry), we would rarely go on DATES. Even if we hung out together, the boy would never pay. And because I used to think dating like a boy was a good idea, I’d let this slide by. Because I was that cool girl who didn’t force labels.

Anyway, I decided that in order to give this date the best shot, I’d not be my naturally ambivalent self about it. I picked a cute outfit, I curled my hair, I plastered my make up on all nice. Rick picked me up on Tuesday in the middle of a blizzard. Excellent, Midwest, thank you for FINALLY getting your winter act together.

Because of said blizzard, Rick was a little late in picking me up. This might not have been so bad if my roomie wasn’t having her own dinner date in our apartment and I was trying to find the right balance between not be a recluse creeper and giving them their privacy. When Rick finally arrived, we spent a few minutes kissing in the car before he pulled away and said, “We’d better go, or we’ll end up staying here in your parking lot all night.”

No one has ever buckled a seat belt faster. Girl’s gotta eat.

He held my hand, which was nice. He ordered margaritas, which was excellent. I was hoping that the lack of sparks between us was MY fault, my reluctance to open up, and not an actual reflection of the relationship. I was hoping that what I had interpreted as clinginess before was simply a nice guy who was being genuinely interested.

Margarita. Always a good choice.

Except… There were a few moments that stuck out as winners in an otherwise pretty blasé conversation.

The Too Forward Thinking Moment–

We were talking about places we had traveled to, and Rick’s only European conquest was the only Western European country I hadn’t been to, Germany. I, of course, went on and on and on about how I’d love to go.

Rick: Well, maybe if you play your cards right, I’ll take you.

Me: Hahaha—WTF? Is that something you really say to someone on a FIRST date?

The Too Clingy Moment–

Rick: So, since you’re not working, there’s no reason why you can’t text me all day long.

Me: I hate texting.

I DO dislike texting, for many reasons which we talked about so he wouldn’t feel like I was shutting him down, and the one reason we didn’t talk about. Namely, just because I’m not WORKING doesn’t mean I can just fritter my day away texting. I’m not that accessible. I have stuff to do. I have a blog to write, dammit!

The too Intimate Moment–

My birthday was that weekend, which I mentioned to him as I was turning 25 and it had been been kinda dominating my thoughts.

Rick: Oh man, now I have to do something nice for your birthday!

Me: No you don’t.

Rick: Of course I do!

If he wanted to do something extra for me in an attempt to woo me, I get it. But there’s zero obligation for a guy I’m on my first date with to do anything special for my birthday. I hadn’t even invited him to my party yet.

Rick. Not as mysterious as Bob.

After dinner we went back to his apartment to watch a movie. I picked Iron Man because he had it on Blu-Ray and he had an HD-TV and I’ve never actually seen such high res in action, but also because I had seen the movie before and knew I wouldn’t be missing anything while we made out. Which was what happened.

And then he pulled back and said, “At the party you told me you wanted to kiss me from the first time you met me.”

I froze. “No I didn’t.”

“You most definitely did.”

“No way.”

“Yes way.”

And I started to laugh. “I did, I did.”

This is what was really going through my head–OH SHIT.

It’s true. I did want to kiss him from the minute I met him. But this is why. It’s complicated and probably more than just a bit shady.

Rick used to be good friends with Ben. The Ex. The Engaged Ex. I never met him when he was friends with Ben, but I knew about him. And when I was in my angry revenge mode post breakup, Rick was one of the guys that I thought would be a perfect revenge date. And even though it’s been years since I’ve had that thought or felt those feelings, this instinct to want to kiss Rick remained. So what I really meant when I told him that was that I had wanted to kiss him for YEARS. And THEN I met him.

But that’s not something you tell someone. Especially when you’re in their bed and they’re saying, “Don’t be embarrassed, I had basically the same thought too.”

Um, I don’t think you did, Rick.

Maybe this should have been a sign to me. Maybe I should have realized that I’m not meant to date this guy. Maybe the lack of emotional connection should have tipped me off. But I think if you haven’t been bored, creeped out, or emotionally scarred in a first date, if the guy asks you on a second date, even if you haven’t felt the fireworks yet, it’s completely acceptable. First dates are awkward, and everyone deserves a second chance.

Except, I almost felt bad about going out with him again. I felt like I’m leading him on. But I also really wanted to give this time to develop. I wanted something to work–with a NICE guy. If only he realized that his strong statements (like, “What do you like about me?”) are actually pushing me in the other direction.

I went with him to his friend’s birthday part. And this is exactly how our night went down [don’t worry, I’m just cutting out the boring bits. Which I think is ALSO a sign]–I showed up at Rick’s apartment as soon as he got back from work, SuperSmash Brothers, make out make out make out, quick dinner, party, back to Rick’s where I completely ruined him at Mario Kart even while drunk, make out make out make out, break up.

Only, as I pointed out to him, we weren’t really breaking up because we never really dated dated.

Here’s the thing, the most astonishing thing of all, and how Rick went from a level three (out of five) clinger to a really respectable guy. We were all snuggled up together, and he says, out of completely nowhere–

“I don’t think I’m what you want.”

And it was so completely honest and out of the blue, that I didn’t really know what to say. Besides, “What?” I think I said “What?”

Ad naseum discussion about what that really means aside and whether or not we were far enough into knowing each for it to be accurate, never ever has a guy who’s been getting what he wants out of me thought enough about what I want to even discuss it.

Once Rick realized that he and I wanted different things in our relationships and our lives, he had two options. He either could have continued to take me out on dates, pay for dinner, then manipulated my emotions to get what he wanted out of me. Or he could just man up and break it off clean. I don’t know why he did it. Maybe he was protecting me. Maybe he was protecting himself. Maybe he was scared of what Matt would do to him if I got hurt. But regardless, it was the right decision, the decent choice, and the most hopeful outcome.

Because, Rick, you restored a little bit of my faith in guys, that some of them actually want real relationships and that some of them see me more than just a pretty girl to spend the next few hours with. So for that, and the giant margaritas at Casa de Fiesta, I thank you.